Thursday, December 5, 2019

More local restaurants close around town, theft at retail stores skyrocket, attorneys are warning of a "very public" trial exposing alleging sexual abuse by Father Craig Harrison and looking at the rock at Morro Bay ia a time capsule

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of any other individual, organization or company. 

 * ... SHOW TRIAL: Is Bakersfield ready for a "very public" trial detailing the allegations of sexual abuse against Father Craig Harrison? That is what San Diego attorney Paul Jonna said may be
coming as he defends his client against a defamation lawsuit filed by Harrison and his attorneys. Harrison claims that Stephen Brady, head of a group called Roman Catholic Faithful, defamed him during a press conference Brady held to talk about the allegations against Father Craig. The ultimate defense of a defamation charge, Jonna said, is the truth. And getting to the truth during a trial would involve a "very public" examination of the charges from multiple men that Harrison subjected them all to sexual abuse and inappropriate touching, including testimony from the accusers themselves. Is Bakersfield ready for this? Our community has been ripped apart already, and a show trial would only serve to drive a larger wedge between those who blindly support Harrison against those who want to see all the facts before they make up their minds. Would a "very public" trial and all the accompanying allegations of sexual abuse help Father Craig reestablish himself in the community? Is this what his defense lawyers envisioned when they sued Brady? Time will tell. Meanwhile, the ultimate decision on Harrison's fate will be made by Bishop Joseph Brennan of the Diocese of Fresno, and we await that call.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "I’m not shy, I’m just really good at figuring out who’s worth talking to."

 * ... CLOSINGS: More local restaurants have shut their doors, joining a growing list of local eateries that just couldn't make it in today's competitive environment. First, the Corner Bakery on California and Easton Drive shut down at the first of the month (no word on what will go in its place). I also learned that Steak and Grape over on Coffee has apparently closed for good. The popular steak place closed August 1 but indicated they were remodeling, and now word is it has closed. They join Cafe Med and Joseph's Italian restaurant on the list of eateries that apparently have served their last meal.

 * ... GETTYSBURG: A Kern County man is headed to Gettysburg to become superintendent of Gettysburg National Military Park and Eisenhower National Historic Site in Pennsylvania.
Steven Sims, a 1992 graduate of Tehachapi High School and later West Point, will be responsible for managing both of the national park sites. Sims, who was born and raised in Tehachapi, said he is excited about his new appointment. "It was an honor, and quite humbling," said Sims, a longtime National Park Service employee. "Gettysburg is a very important place in our nation's history."

 * ... WILDLIFE: Enjoy this shot of a group of coyotes out near Taft, captured by Pam Taylor. It is a healthy looking posse.

 * ... ANARCHY: Near anarchy reigns on our streets, as people feel free to pop into a local store and steal what they want without consequences,.Check out this post from the Bakersfield Thieves Facebook page: "This POS walked in and walked the store picked what he wanted and walked out with 2 scooters and whatever else the 2 cows that were with him. Sad part they doing it with children. Guess they raising the next generation of thieves. Guard tried to get our stuff back but dude was threatening. BPD won't help as long as something physical don't happen in store. Ummmm. Laws need to change. Retailers beware. Remember that ugly face and the cows he with."

 * ... MEMORIES: Just look at this old picture of the rock at Morro Bay from the 1890s.

 * ... MORE MEMORIES: And finally from the Kern County of Old Facebook page, a look at the old Monte Carlo bar on Taft Highway, known as the place that served the coldest beer in Kern County back in the day.

Sunday, December 1, 2019

The exodus of people and businesses from California continues, street racing becomes a public nuisance and some historic photos of the crash that claimed the life of actor James Dean

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of any other individual, organization or company. 

 * ... GOODBYE, CALIFORNIA: The exodus from California by people and business continues wth no end in sight, sign of growing discontent over a spendthrift government fond of higher taxes and heavier regulations. According to the Dallas Business Journal, some 660 companies moved 765
facilities out of California in the past two years, and yes the Dallas-Fort Worth has been the beneficiary of many of the relocations.  "The departures from the Golden State between January 2018 and now involve corporate headquarters, manufacturing facilities, data centers, research hubs, software and engineering centers and a few warehouses, according to business relocation expert Joe Vranich, president of Spectrum Location Services." California companies large, midsize and small are shifting their regional or corporate headquarters to North Texas because of the DFW area’s generally lower taxes, more affordable housing, lower expenses, central location, access to an international airport and other factors.

 * ... STREET RACING: How bad is street racing in our town? Pretty bad, and even more widespread than I ever imagined if you read Bob Price's "Sound Off" column in The Californian this weekend. The latest tragic incident happened on Ming Avenue near Old River road, taking the life of a 58-year-old woman and injuring two children, when street racers plowed into her vehicle. Ming Avenue has long been plagued by street racing, but readers indicated it was going on across town. Other favorite sites for racing: the stretch between Stine Road and Ashe Road on Ming; the Westside Parkway; Oswell Street and Panama Lane.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Your relationship can overcome any obstacles as long as you have separate bathrooms."

 * ... RIP PHIL WYMAN: Former conservative assemblyman Phil Wyman has died at the age of 74. Wyman was a beloved arch conservative, supporting legislation to require patent notification of teenage abortions, all the while backing the claims of some religious conservatives that satanic messages could be heard by playing rock music backward. He was beloved by many but that sentiment that has largely been overtaken by demographics that are making Kern County more Democratic and politically progressive. Wyman was a rancher and a camp operator.

 * ... NEW PUBLISHER: Cliff Chandler has been named publisher of The Bakersfield Californian after serving as its general manager for six months. Chandler is the first publisher since the Fritts-Moorhouse family sold the newspaper to Sound News Media last July.

 * ... MEMORIES:
Check out these old photos of the day James Dean crashed on Highway 46.

 * ... MORE MEMORIES: And finally, feast on this wonderful old photo I spotted on Facebook with this caption: "Eagle Creek Gusher No. 1, Fellows, California. Image taken 1909-1910. Well strikes like this one were exciting and dangerous moments for the workers. The roar of the oil shooting out of the ground was deafening and the potential for fire was great. Shown here is the gusher in full force. To give you the size of the derrick, I placed a red dot under a man walking next to it."

Friday, November 29, 2019

The county moves forward with its homeless shelter despite concerns from the High Speed Rail Authority, Tiler Peck shows up in the Ray Donovan series and ABC23's Tim Calahan calls it quits

* ... THREE CHEERS: You just have to love the county's response to the California High-Speed Rail Authority who signaled it has a problem with the county's location for a new low barrier homeless shelter. The Authority warned it may need the land over off Golden State Highway where the shelter is being built. The county's response: we are going forward. Said county communications director Megan Person: “The talk about the high speed rail has been going on for 20 years. So the
county is just saying we are not going to be holding our breath anymore. We have a crisis that we need to address. We understand we’re in the pathway. We’re moving forward... ” This is exactly the kind of response we need, and I for one applaud it. The idea that this state boondoggle called high speed rail could de-rail (pardon the pun) an important project is absurd.

 * ... WAS THAT TILER PECK?: It's not every day when you are watching one of your favorite cable shows and you spot a Bakersfield girl in the cast. But there she was, our own Tiler Peck, a member of the New York City Ballet, appearing on a Showtime episode of Ray Donovan. Peck appeared in the season debut of Ray Donovan's new season called “Faith. Hope. Love. Luck" as the friend (girlfriend?) in a character pursued and beaten by Ray Donovan. Peck is not only a star with the ballet, but she regularly dabbles in TV and movies.

 * ... TIM CALAHAN: Adios to Tim Calahan, ABC23's evening anchor who brought wit, dignity and insight into our homes nightly. Calahan won't say what his next move is, but he appears to be staying in town and looking for a new chapter that does not involve the demanding hours of being a TV anchor. Calahan previously worked for KGET and the Mission of Kern County before joining KERO TV.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: From Wheel of Fortune host Pat Sajak: "In order to save our planet, I’m asking everyone in America who’s 73-years-old or older to join me in pledging not to have any more children. #SignThePledge."

 * ... BAD FORM: I spotted this post on Facebook regarding some alleged thieves at The Marketplace. It read: "So today at Vons at the Marketplace, I saw management kicking three known shoplifters out. I decided to take a few pictures of their plate as they left. The fat one in the pictures below rolled down the rear window and struck me in the face and chest with an unopened bottle of Gatorade as they fled. Unfortunately, BPD doesn't have the ability to run the numbers on the temp plates the DMV uses now like they can a regular plate. They did take a report for assault with a deadly weapon. If you know where these pieces of trash live, please let me know.
Vons management stated these three have stolen around $12k in liquor from them this year and are known to hit multiple stores in a day."

 * ... FIRE MUSEUM: Have you heard about the proposed new fire museum downtown? It will be located directly behind the Fox Theater and across from the downtown fire station on G Street. Check out the artist rendering.

 * ... BRATCHER: A new home design business has opened on 18th Street next to Sequoia Sandwich Co. downtown. Bratcher design studio was founded by creative director Brooke Bratcher, who has worked in residential interior design for more than eight years. The store is open from 10 am. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, the studio offers "grab and go" items and exclusive furniture lines, as well as a space for planning customized interiors.

* .. MEMORIES: Yet another trip down memory lane looking at 19th Street back in the day.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

A breakthrough in solar technology could spell trouble for fossil fuels, Cafe Med closes abruptly and Mexican drug cartels are now focusing on the latest cash crop: avocados

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of any other individual, organization or company. 

 * ... SOLAR BREAKTHROUGH? A story that didn't get much play this week involved a potentially game changing technology in the fight against global warming. Backed by Microsoft founder Bill Gates, the technology uses concentrated solar energy to exceed temperatures greater than
1,000 degrees Celsius (1,800 degrees Fahrenheit). Said one story: "For perspective, that kind of heat is about one-quarter of the temperatures found on the surface of the sun. At that temperature, the energy company—Heliogen—can replace the use of fossil fuels in critical industrial processes, including the production of cement, steel, and petrochemicals, dramatically reducing greenhouse gas emissions from these activities. This singular scientific achievement was accomplished at Heliogen’s commercial facility in Lancaster, California." Keep an eye on this techonology.

 * ... AVOCADO CARTEL? Are you ready for this? Apparently avocados have become so valuable that Mexican drug cartels are now adding the popular fruit to the list of other products - marijuana, cocaine and other drugs - that they want to control. According to a piece in The Los Angeles Times, Mexican cartels have beens seizing hundreds of thousands of acres of land to plant avocados in Michoacan state, already a region notorious for cartel activity. Said The Times: "Mexico's multi billion dollar avocado industry, headquartered in Michoacan state, has become a prime target for cartels, which have been seizing farms and cleaning protected woodlands to plant their own groves of what locals call 'green gold.'" (LA Times photo)

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER :Saw a rival dad unloading a turkey fryer so I brought him a fire extinguisher.

 * ... ADIOS CAFE MED: Cafe Med, the iconic Mediterranean eatery on Stockdale Highway, is closing after three decades in business. Owner Meir Brown said business had grown soft in recent years and factors out of his control - increases in the minimum wage, skyrocketing utility costs to name two - had made going forward untenable. The closing triggered a tsunami of criticism on social media over customers who held Cafe Med gift cards, some purchased recently, that are now virtually worthless. Brown first announced he was closing this Wednesday but the doors were shut for good on Friday, leaving fans torn between sadness and anger over being stifled with gift certificates. The closing of Cafe Med is just the latest in a long string of local businesses to shut their doors. Others include Joseph's Italian Restaurant, Red Door Interiors and Beverly's Craft store.

 * ... GOOD FORM: Hats off to Gary and Deborah Leary, who celebrated their 49th wedding anniversary this weekend. If you have attended a fund raiser where steaks are involved, chances are you spotted Gary and his son Anthony tending to the grill, while Deborah worked the room making sure the trains ran on time. Whether it is CSUB or the St. Francis du Paul homeless shelter, the Learys are among those who have contributed to its success.

 * ... MEMORIES: Here are a few pictures worthy of a walk down memory lane, thanks to the Facebook pages Kern County of Old and Kern County History Fans.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Judi and Rob McCarthy's generous gift to the Kern Community Foundation, Linda Jay retires from the Bakersfield Association of Realtors and we get our first snow of the season

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of any other individual, organization or company. 

 * ... MCCARTHY GIFT: One of life's true joys is being able to give something back to the community when you can, and few do it better than Judi and Rob McCarthy. The McCarthys formerly owned and ran Litespeed Systems, Bakersfield's premier high-tech firm before moving it to Austin several years ago and selling it. Now they have dug into their pockets to give generously to one of Judi's favorites local non-profits, the Women's and Girls' fund and the Kern Community
Foundation. In all, the McCarthys gave the Foundation some $2.5 million, including a $400,000 matching grant to the Women's and Girls Fund. Said Judi: "When I served on Kern Community Foundation’s board, my eyes were opened to the ways a community foundation can benefit its community: specific initiatives like the Women’s and Girls’ Fund or Kern Futures (student scholarships) or strengthening nonprofits; and encouraging citizens to keep their philanthropy local. I knew back then that, if we ever had the means to give back to the place where we’d raised our family and built our business, we’d do it through the Foundation. We reside in Austin, and this is now home, but our hearts still live in Bakersfield." For some of us, $100 may seem like a big donation, but size does not matter, intent does. Give when you can.

 * ... FIRST SNOW: It took a while but we finally got some much needed rain - and snow - in the higher elevations. The storm that passed through dusted Frasier Park with a blanket of snow while given the lower elevations a good soaking. Bakersfield received .37 of an inch, a good way to start the rainy season.

 * ... IN-N-OUT BURGER: You might have heard about gays and lesbians boycotting Chick-fil-A because of its corporate contributions to family value groups, but how much did you know about In-n-Out Burger and its commitment to traditional values? Instead of backing down as Chick-fil-A did, the popular California burger chain has doubled down by printing more biblical verses on its packaging. This from a Christian website: "In-N-Out Burger owner and president Lynsi Snyder, 37, says in a new interview with The Christian Post that she has expanded a tradition started decades ago when then-company president Rich Snyder printed Bible references on packaging. 'It was my Uncle Rich who put the Bible verses on the cups and wrappers in the early ‘90s, just before he passed away,” Snyder said. 'He had just accepted the Lord and wanted to put that little touch of his faith on our brand. It’s a family business and will always be, and that’s a family touch. In later years, I added verses to the fry boat, coffee, and hot cocoa cups.” The verses are discreet – on the bottom of a cup, for example – but easy to find with a quick search. The company has used well-known Bible references like John 3:16 (“For God so loved the world …”) but also less-popular ones like Nahum 1:7 (“the Lord is good, a refuge in times of trouble. He cares for those who trust in him.”).


 * ... WELL DONE: Congratulations to Linda Jay who retired as head of the Bakersfield Association of Realtors. Jay, wife of Bruce Jay of Valley Republic Bank, has worked for the BAR or years, seeing the organization through the digs and valleys of the local housing market.

 * ... THANKSGVING: So what is your favorite Thanksgiving pie? Pumpkin? Chocolate? Pecan? Check out this map and see where you are.

 * ... MEMORIES: Here we have an old picture dating to 1910 of the Arlington Hotel Building
at the southeast corner of 19th and Chester.

 * ... MORE MEMORIES: And as long as we are looking at pictures of old 19th Street, check out this one of the Hughes Druggist location in 1915 at the southwest corner of Chester Avenue and 19th Street that would become the permanent home for Vests Drugs Store in the early 1940s.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Father Craig Harrison gets some good news defending himself against abuse allegations, a McDonald's worker is arrested for spitting into a police officer's food order and gas in California spikes to $5 a gallon

Welcome to Bakersfield Observed. Our mission is to celebrate life in Kern County by focusing on newsmakers and events and the local characters who make this community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of any other individual, organization or company. 

Father Craig Harrison got some good news last week when the Merced County District Attorney's office said it would not pursue charges of sexual impropriety dating back to a 1987 incident. Harrison's supporters cheered the news, even though authorities said it was
impossible to determine what happened - given the years that have passed - and the fact that the statute of limitations had expired. The decision was well short of a full exoneration for Harrison but it was still welcome news for a priest who has spent seven months trying to salvage not only his livelihood, but also his reputation. Harrison, 60,  was removed from his position at St. Francis Parish last April pending an investigation into multiple charges of sexual impropriety over the years. What we are witnessing now is a public relations battle, being played out not in the courts or in a legal sense but in the court of public opinion. It pits defense attorney Kyle Humphrey, Harrison and Harrison's legions of followers against those who argue that the accusers should not be summarily dismissed simply because of Harrison's immense popularity. Given that the statute of limitations has expired in virtually all of the cases, there was never any doubt that Harrison would be cleared by authorities and that the final decision - in reality the only one that matters - is in the hands of the Diocese of Fresno, which suspended Harrison. What we have now is a spirited local campaign to clear Harrison's name, even if - as many speculate - he never holds mass ever again in a Catholic Church. Will we ever know the truth about what happened between Harrison and these young men decades ago? Likely not, given that all these cases seems to devolve into a he said/he said. Take your pick: you either support Harrison or you believe there may be a grain of truth in the stories of multiple men over several decades dating back to the 1980s in Firebaugh, Merced and Bakersfield.
 WHERE WE ARE NOW: In a local television interview Kyle Humphrey called out unnamed members of the press who he criticized for alleged slanted reporting. And he dodged a question if more lawsuits against Harrison's critics were forthcoming. Will he slap a lawsuit on the Catholic Church itself since - let's be clear here - it was the Diocese of Fresno that started this whole thing by removing Harrison from the church? That is not as far fetched as it seems since Harrison enjoys the support of some of our community's wealthiest and most influential business owners, as well as CEOs and vice presidents of some of Bakersfield's most prominent companies who have not been shy about publicly supporting their priest amid multiple allegations.
 WHAT IS NEXT: A big date is coming up Nov. 25 when the Diocese of Fresno will have to release Harrison's personnel file, which could do two things: add potentially damaging details to the charges by accusers, and tell us what the church knew, and when it knew it. Attorneys for both sides will meet with a Superior Court judge to determine how much - and when - of the personnel files will be released. One thing is clear: Humphrey and his team will deal with each accuser individually, cast doubt on their motives and impugn their credibility and do everything to win the public PR battle going forward.
 THE DECISION: At the end of the day, it will be Bishop Joseph Brennan who will decide Harrison's fate. Unlike prosecutors who look for evidence that could sway a jury, Brennan could decide he believes Harrison's reputation has been damaged bad enough that he could no long serve effectively, and cut him loose. His options: return Harrison to the pulpit, move him to another church, kick him out of the church or simply do nothing and let the case drag on for years. At the end of the day, and this is the pity in all this, we may never know what really happened to the men who came forward.


 * ... BAD FORM: Remember Tatyana Hargrove, the young woman who sued the Bakersfield police alleging excessive force a couple of years ago? You may remember her sitting alongside her attorney looking pained as she sought a jackpot for her alleged mistreatment. Well now -and you know where this is going don't you? - she has been arrested on suspicion of tampering with food at a local McDonald's where she worked. The charge: a coworker saw her spitting on food and rubbing a hamburger bun on the floor before serving a police officer. Hargrove was bitten by a police dog during the incident, sued the police and lost in court. And there you have it.

 * ... GAS PRICES: Well, it has happened. The price of a gallon of gasoline in California has spiked to $5 in some place, more than double the price in some other parts of the country. A Mobil station in West L.A. advertised gasoline for $5.29 per gallon of regular unleaded on Tuesday morning, video from the location showed. A gallon of supreme cost $5.69.

 * ... MOVNG UP: Congratulations to Chelsea Lewis who has passed the California bar exam and is headed to become a working lawyer. Belden is the daughter of Leanne and Scott Belden. Her father is a partner in the Belden Blaine Raytis law firm. She graduated from UC Santa Barbara and later the UC Hastings Law School.

 * ... DENNIS MULLINS: The funeral service for Dennis Mullins filled the chamber at Trinity Anglican Church in the southwest this weekend, a final goodbye to a quiet lawyer whose word was his bond. Mullins, 67, died of a ruptured aorta a week ago, leaving a wife (Melanie) and daughter Anna. Mullins worked for Tejon Ranch and Klein DeNatale Goldner before retiring recently and devoting his time as a water lawyer. He was considering going into the seminary at the time of his death.

 * ... MEMORIES: This is one of the most remarkable photos I have seen posted on the Kern County of Old Facebook page. There is no date attached. The second photo also is undated and appears to show Chester Avenue (or possibly 19th Street) downtown.