Sunday, June 23, 2019

More than half of Kern County's homeless describe themselves as drug users or mentally ill, get ready for a new hike in gas prices and Jastro Park set to get six new pickle ball courts

Monday, June 24, 2019

 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. Send news items to

* ... HOMELESS: Here are some statistics from the latest homeless census that will depress you: 51 percent of the Kern County homeless identify themselves as drug abusers, 27 percent say they are
mentally ill, 24 percent say they have a chronic illness, 71 percent say they have no income, 10 percent say they are victims of domestic violence, 10 percent say they are fresh out of jail or prison, 2 percent were in a mental health facility recently and 2 percent are out of a hospital. All of this points to one conclusion: housing alone will not solve this crisis. Those addicted to drugs or suffering from mental illness will be harder to get off the street.

 * ... MORE HOMELESS: An speaking of the homeless, former homebuilder and mayoral candidate Kyle Carter, who lives downtown, posted this as a sign of our times: "Well, I’ve seen it all now. I was driving home from work today, Saturday, 2 p.m. and noticed a young girl in her 20s just drop trow and defecate right on Mary K. Shell's front lawn. Right on the corner of 21st and Elm streets.  This business is beyond out of hand. I want to be a good Christian and show God's love. But does that include putting up with, cleaning up after and paying for the shenanigans of these people that choose to destroy their own lives ? I’ve done all I can. I’ve worked all of my life to make this community a better place for people to live. This is not safe. It is not healthy. I am sure that this is not what God condones. We have got to do better as a community."

 * ... GAS TAX: Think gas prices in California are high enough? Well think again because the price is about to jump another six cents a gallon in line with the transportation initiative approved by the voters. The price per gallon will jump another six cents on July 1, yet another insult in a state already overburdened by state taxes and fees.

 * ... ARCHITECTS: Congratulations to Paul Skarphol and Gregory Frank, who have merged their businesses to create Skarphol/Frank Associates, specialists in architecture, planning and interiors. The new business relocated to a building in the emerging "EastChester" area of downtown.

 * ... PICKLE BALL: Bakersfield is getting six new pickle ball courts at Jastro Park. The city stripped the old tennis courts on Truxtun to create six pickle ball courts and two tennis courts to accommodate the growing popularity of pickle ball around town. The courts will be dedicated next Saturday at 8 a.m. with City Manager Alan Tandy (himself a big pickle ball fan) doing the court dedication.

 * ... BUCKET LIST: Congratulations to Pam Taylor, who works at Elk Hills, for scratching off skydiving from her bucket list. Taylor did the jump Skydive Taft.

 * ... MEMORIES: Enjoy these old pictures from the Facebook Kern County of Old and Kern County History Fans pages.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Layoffs at The Bakersfield Californian as a sale looms, more details on the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino and is the "homeless" crisis really all about drug addiction and mental illness?

Friday, June 21, 2019

 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. Send news items to

 * ... HARD ROCK HOTEL AND CASINO: The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino is coming to Kern
County, but we are all going to have to show some patience. Scott Nielson, manager for the project, appeared on The Richard Beene Show to talk about the scope of the project and when we can expect to see in completed. Nielson said clearing the environmental hurdles will take at least 18 month and construction another two years. Eventually, it will provide 2,000 jobs when the 400-room hotel is built, complemented by a dozen restaurants and bars and a concert venue. The Hard Rock empire is owned by the Seminole Indian tribe in Florida, and currently has worldwide revenues in the $4 billion range.

 * ... TBC SALE: Only the most ill informed thought the sale of the family owned Bakersfield Californian would turn out to be a good thing. And with each passing day, that truth is born out as we head to June 30, the day the sale will close. This week, the new owners met individually with staffers to tell them their fate. It was a scene not unlike the 1982 movie Sophie's Choice, where a young Meryl Streep wept as the Nazis forced her to choose which of her two children would live, or die. One who didn't make the cut was executive editor Jim Lawitz, a highly unpopular fellow who won't be missed. Thankfully, senior editor Bob Price and columnist Herb Benham did survive, as did graphics editor Glenn Hammett, one of the most valuable (and popular) members of the staff. Losing their jobs were copy editors Ron Stapp, Tim Heinrichs and Dennis Wynne, graphic designer Kent Kuehl and sales rep Lisa Lee. The entire pressroom and mailroom staff are also being laid off as the paper gets ready to move its printing operations to Palmdale.

 * ... SPOTTED DOWNTOWN: In full view of customers going to a leaving three of downtown's best restaurants - Uricchio's Trattoria, The 18Hundred and Mamma Mia - a vagrant is spotted with his pants down defecating on the street. Remember: we do not have a homeless crisis. We have a drug addiction and mental health crisis disguise as a homeless crisis.

 * ... ZARDES: How fun was it to watch Gyasi Zardes, a player for the U.S. national team, score a head goal in the game against Guyana in the 2019 Gold Cup soccer tournament. Zardes, with his signature blond mohawk, took a header and scored to help the Americans to a 3-0 win. Zardes was a standout with the CSUB soccer team. He graduated in 2012.

 * ... GRIMMWAY FARMS: Did you know that every carrot sold at Costco, anywhere in the world, is a Grimmway Farms carrot? That's right, the Bakersfield-based carrot company is the exclusive supplier of carrots to Costco's no matter where they are located. Under the leadership of CEO Jeff Huckaby, Grimmway just recently closed on the purchase of an organic food company in south Georgia, near Valdosta, which will allow the company to produce organic carrots and other vegetables to Publix and other Southern-based supermarkets.

 * ... MEMORIES: More pictures compliments of there Facebook pages devoted to Kern County's history.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Where is our homeless crisis in the national political dialogue, a virulent anti-church campaign involving Monsignor Craig Harrison emerges on social media and new pickle ball courts coming to Jastro Park downtown

Monday, June 17, 2019

 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.

 * ... HOMELESS: Does it strike you as odd that homelessness is never even mentioned among the
top candidates running for president in 2020? On the Democratic side, they talks about raising the minimum wage, universal (and free) healthcare, guaranteed housing for all Americans, reparations, open borders, dismantling ICE, capping credit card rates and forgiving student loans. All worthy aspirations I suppose, but what about the homeless scourge sweeping the nation? Not a peep, and it is happening all over. Meanwhile, just check out some of these photos of what is happening right here in our community.

"My husband would take a bullet for me. But he would also criticize my driving on the way to the hospital."

 * ... TBC SALE: The folks over at The Bakersfield Californian are a nervous bunch these days as they wait for the sale of the family-owned newspaper to take effect at the end of this month. Will they stay in the building on Pegasus after the sale (the family retained ownership of the building)? Where will the paper be printed? Will the new owners cut the number of days the paper is printed? Will the new owners hike the subscription rates and go more digital? Will the employees be forced to reapply for their jobs? Already the new owners have told employees they will cash our their accrued vacation pay (sorry, no money for accrued sick pay) and they have pledged to find a local CEO. Stay tuned because big changes are coming.

 * ... MONSIGNOR CRAIG: The accusations of sexual abuse against Monsignor Craig Harrison have become part of a nationwide campaign to discredit and hold the Catholic Church responsible for its actions. The anti-Harrison campaign has turned virulent, hijacked by anti-church militant groups hellbent on exposing church corruption. Consider, for example, this online video making the rounds and collecting literally thousands of views. Harrison, meanwhile, continues to push back and proclaim his innocence, and has returned to Bakersfield and is making limited public appearances. Stay tuned.

 * ... PICKLEBALL: The city is getting ready to christen new pickle ball and tennis courts downtown in Jastro Park. On the sight of the old tennis courts, there will now be six new pickle ball courts and three new tennis courts to serve the community.

 * ... MEMORIES: Enjoy these photos from our local history Facebook pages.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Will the state of California force businesses to open their parking lots to house the homeless? (and yes, that is no joke)... Ryan Alsop notes rising pension costs are hurting the sheriff's and fire departments, and welcome to a Bakersfield summer of heat

 * ... HOMELESS: Are you ready for homeless camps in the Marketplace parking lot? How about in the Grand Island Village parking lot near Wiki's and Wood-Dale Market? Think it can't happen? Well
think again because a pending law in Sacramento would do just that, forcing cities with populations greater than 300,000 to "provide a safe parking lot, including access to bathrooms, to those with no place to stay." It is Sacramento's way of shifting the homeless problem to private companies and businesses at the expense of taxpayers. Assembly Bill 891 has already passed one house of the legislature and is pending in the second. If you think it's bad now, just wait.

* ... COUNTY PENSION: In all the talk about why we are losing so many of our Kern County sheriff deputies to other agencies, we seem to have missed a key central point. At least that is what county chief administrative officer (CAO) Ryan Alsop told me recently during an appearance on The Richard Beene Show. Alsop said the chief culprit behind the budget crisis is rising pension costs, which have added $20.5 million to the sheriff's department's budget over the past four years, eating into the county's ability to provide substantial raises to needy deputies. "It is crowding out our ability to do anything with the money," the CAO said, adding that the same was true in the Kern County Fire Department, where pension costs have spiked $19 million over the same period. Until that is addressed, Alsop said, the county will continue to struggle with its budget and budgetary priorities.

* ... YOUNG ACHIEVERS: BakersfieldLife magazine is recognizing some of the brightest young professionals in town with its annual "20 Under 40" tribute. This years bunch is a quality group, and they all deserve our recognition. Here's the group:
• Amy Travis, CASA executive director
• Tiffany Chatman, Aera Energy facilities engineer
• Jennifer Williams Cordova, Willis and Williams Design Studios graphic designer
• Shannon LaBare, Purveyor House founder and creative director
• Jasmin LoBasso, Kern County Library marketing division
• Derrick Miller, POM Wonderful general manager
• Jack Bertrand, North High School director of vocal music
• Lizbeth Barajas-Gonzalez, coordinator for social emotional learning
• Ariel Dyer, Beale Memorial Library associate
• Christie Ludwick, Vibe Stitch owner
• Analicia Torres, Bakersfield Train Robbers front office manager
• Blake Goehring, Merrill Lynch financial adviser
• Jaime Doniaz, Multicultural business development officer
• Eduardo Vargas, Bidart Bros. health and safety technician
• Jessica Mathews, League of Dreams executive director
• Valerie Caudillo, Centric Health peripheral vascular disease program coordinator
• Lesley Bonds, Bakersfield College student success and equity director
• Brandon Grimm, Grimmway Farms director and general manager
• Zach Skow, Marley's Mutts founder
• Manpreet Kaur, Jakara Movement leader/Greater Bakersfield community organizeral place.

 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: "Woman who ignore me just haven't learned to make the best of a bad situation."

 * ... HEAT: A central coast television station posted this graphic showing Bakersfield a tad, well, hot. Remember, it's a dry heat.

 * ... SICK BAY: Local cyclist Richard Picarelli is recovering after being hit by a car on Calloway at the Westside Parkway last week. Picarelli, who works at State Farm, suffered a broken pelvis but is at home recuperating.

 * ... RAISING CANES: It looks like we will be getting a second location for Raising Cane's, the fast food franchise devoted to all things chicken. The city has confirmed that Raising Cane's will build on the lot where Mimi's Cafe stood next to Barnes and Noble on California Avenue. Mimi's is being demolished to make way for the new chicken restaurant.

 * ... MEMORIES? How about these pictures from the Vintage Bakersfield Facebook page?

Sunday, June 9, 2019

The homeless take over the bike path through Bakersfield, the county flirts with regulating medical marijuana, Miranda Whitworth is hired by Townsend Design and get read for excessive heat this week

Monday, June 10, 2019

 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.

 * ... HOMELESSNESS: Think about this the next time you drive by a homeless person's stolen grocery cart filled to the brim with junk: Despite billions of dollars of tax money, the homeless
population in California is spiking with no end in sight. According to the Wall Street Journal, the homeless population in Los Angeles jumped 16 percent last year. There are a staggering 56,000 homless people in LA county alone, and while there are far fewer in Kern County, there is no doubt it is growing here as well. The sheer amount of trash and litter from homeless encampments on our bike path (once heralded as one of the jewels of our city) is our collective shame.  It's no surprise that California has more homeless than any other state, and the reasons go far beyond our mild weather. Well intentioned state laws to reclassify crimes and reduce prison crowding have backfired, and our streets have turned ugly and dangerous.

 * ... OH, THE IRONY: Does it strike you as highly ironic that the Kern County firefighter's union has refused all efforts to cut back on overtime while the Sheriff's Department has been forced to shutter its gang unit because of budget cuts? While firefighters earn tens of thousands of dollars in overtime, the sheriff's department is losing deputies who find better paying jobs elsewhere. The county has now declared an "impasse in its negotiations with the firemen's union. A tad greedy ya think?

 * ... SAY WHAT? And just what is going on at the county where the supervisors are now weighing their options for overturning the ban on the sale of cannabis in Kern County? That's right, you heard that right. Even after multiple pro-legalization ballot measures failed, it appears we may be moving in that direction. At Tuesday's board meeting, the Planning Department is expected to recommend that staff draft a medical marijuana ordinance for the March 2020 ballot.

 * ... HEAT: This graphic pretty much explains what we can expect this week. Stay cool.

 * ... CRIME: Running a business is hard enough these days, particularly in regulatory heavy California, but dealing with a surge in crime just makes it even more daunting. In the last week, two prominent local restaurants - Pyrennes Cafe and Moo Creamery - have been broken into overnight as petty crime continues to plague local businesses.

 * ... ALAN TANDY: Alan Tandy has accomplished a lot during his 27 years as Bakersfield's city manager, but if forced to choose, he is most proud of the road improvements associated with the Thomas Road Improvement Program (TRIP) and the construction of the Rabobank Arena downtown. Tandy made those comments on The Richard Beene Show and confirmed he will be retiring on December 1 of this year.

 * ... MIRANDA MOVING UP: Congratulations to Miranda Whitworth who has joined Townsend Design to work in marketing. The company, now owned by a French firm, makes state of the art custom knee braces. Whitworth previously worked in marketing and communications for Kern Medical.

 * ... MUSHROOM CLOUD: Check out this rather unusual cloud formation captured by Jack McGee this past week.

 * ... MEMORIES: Check out these old pictures from the Kern County History Fans Facebook page.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Californian staffers fear big changes as the newspaper changes hands after 122 years, a new Hard Rock Hotel and Casino is coming south of Town and the homeless who have seemed to take over our streets

Friday, June 7, 2019

 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.

 * ... RIP TBC: A
fter 122 years The Bakersfield Californian has been sold, ending a long and distinguished period under the Harrell-Fritts family. The new owners, based in Canada, have pledged no major changes but we can expect just the opposite. In fact, staffers at The Californian are expecting the new owners to force all employees to reapply for their own jobs, a common event in an asset sale. Sound Publishing, the new owners, also operate newspapers in Palmdale and Lodi, so you can expect "back office" jobs like those in human resources, circulation and accounting could go away and replaced by a corporate shared services model. The bottom line: big changes are coming, and not all of them will be good for current employees.

 * ... TEJON CASINO: So be honest here ... just how excited are you about the news that the Tejon Indian Tribe will open a Hard Rock Hotel and Casino just 20 minutes south of town? The project will be built on 350 acres at Highway 99 and state Highway 166 (Mettler exit), with the hotel on 52 acres and an adjacent RV park on 22 acres. It will feature 13 restaurants and bars as well as a live concert venue and employ some 2,000 people. No word on when ground will be broken.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "It's so hot I almost called my ex to be around someone shady."

 * ... ALAN TANDY: City manager Alan Tandy is retiring in December, and no matter what your opinion is of him, his legacy will be a lasting one. After 27 years in the position, consider some of projectsTandy will leave behind: completing the hotel that is now the downtown Marriott, Rabobank Arena, McMurtrey Aquatic Center, Valley Children's Ice Center, the senior housing at 21st and R streets, the new federal courthouse in Central Park, the Westside police station, Maya Cinemas, the Amtrak station, the Park at River Walk, the Mesa Marin Sports Complex, the Kaiser Sports Village, the Mill Creek developments, Yokuts Park and let's not forget the 24th Street widening.

 * ... FOODIE: If you are a fan of Uricchio's Trattoria downtown, check out their roasted vegetable ravioli which is beyond delicious. It's not on the menu yet, but this gluten-free vegetarian dish will knock your socks off.

 * ... GAS PRICES: Think our gas prices are high? Check out this telling graph.

 * ... LAUREN MAE: Congratulations to Lauren Mae Skidmore who has been appointed to the Kern County Planning Commission by Supervisor Mike Maggard. Mae is one of our community's rising millennial stars and has already established herself as a talented leader who knows the workings of government.

 * ... DOWNTOWN: Well now, here is a snapshot from downtown that is becoming increasingly common these days. How long, as citizens, will be put up with this before our civic leaders respond?Or is this the new norm in California? Thanks to my friend Dee Rhodes for sharing.

 * ... MEMORIES: Enjoy this old photo of one of our downtown churches back in the day.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Rep. Kevin McCarthy honors local students graduating from one of our service academies

House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy gives us his weekly update from Capitol Hill. In his words:

"Every year Members of Congress have the privilege of nominating local high school seniors to attend one of our U.S. Service Academies. These students strive for greatness and go above and beyond in their desire to serve our country.

Four years ago, I had the distinct honor of nominating several outstanding students to receive a nomination to attend one of our nation’s most prestigious academic institutions. Now they graduate from their respective schools as members of the Class of 2019, prepared to lead our men and women in uniform across the different branches of our armed services.

I am proud to announce the graduation of six cadets/midshipmen from the U.S. Service Academies. Ensign Kiani G. Espiritu who will graduate from the United States Merchant Marine Academy at Kings Point, NY with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Marine Engineering on June 15, 2019. He is a graduate of Stockdale High School in Bakersfield, CA. After graduation, he will be joining the Marine Engineers’ Beneficial Association Union as a USCG-licensed Third Assistant Engineer. He will also be fulfilling his military obligation with the Navy Reserve as a Strategic Sealift Officer.

Ensign Joshua L. Bailey graduated from the United States Naval Academy with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Ocean Engineering on May 24, 2019. He is a graduate of Frontier High School in Bakersfield, CA. After graduation, he will be joining the USS BAINBRIDGE (DDG 96) homeported in Norfolk, VA.

Ensign Nelson J. Chandler also graduated from the United States Naval Academy with a Bachelor of Science Degree in English on May 24, 2019. He is a graduate of Bakersfield Christian High School in Bakersfield, CA. After graduation, he will be attending Naval Pilot Training at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Pensacola, FL.

Second Lieutenant Samuel J. Oliver graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nuclear Engineering on May 25, 2019. He is a graduate of Frontier High School in Bakersfield, CA. After graduation, he will be attending Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course at Fort Benning, GA.

Second Lieutenant Samuel J. Oliver graduated from the United States Military Academy at West Point, NY with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Nuclear Engineering on May 25, 2019. He is a graduate of Frontier High School in Bakersfield, CA. After graduation, he will be attending Infantry Basic Officer Leader Course at Fort Benning, GA.

Second Lieutenant Anna C. Leland will graduate from the United States Air Force Academy with a Bachelor of Science Degree in Systems Engineering on May 30, 2019. She is a graduate of Desert Christian High School in Lancaster, CA. After graduation, she will work as an engineer at Lackland Air Force Base in San Antonio, TX.

We are proud of them and are cheering them on as they embark on the next chapter of their lives.

Sunday, June 2, 2019

We will be skiing at Mammoth into August thanks to the snowpack, CNN will focus on Tom and Christy Morgan and Dignity Health wins Corporation of the Year at the annual Beautiful Bakersfield awards

Monday, June 3, 2019

 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.

 * ... SNOWPACK:  How much rain did we get this summer? Enough to make the snowpack in the
high Sierras 202 percent of average, or 33 percent bigger than last year. That's right, that means there is enough snow to keep the ski lifts at Mammoth open until August. It's all great news for the spring and summer runoff that will feed rivers and reservoirs, water crops and fill bathtubs.

 * ... WATER, WATER EVERYWHERE: The Kern River is bank to bank with water through town, giving all of us a sneak peak into how our city would look with year-round water. Kayaks and canoes were out in force this weekend, but they had to contend with the visual pollution of literally dozens of homeless emcampments along the river, a kind of homeless "House Hunters" episode where everyone gets a waterfront camping spot.

 * ... DIGNITY HEALTH: It's been a great week for Dignity Health. First, it won the coveted Corporation of the Year award at the Beautiful Bakersfield Awards, and later it was announced that Derek and David Car had signed on to continue their sponsorship and endorsement of Dignity Health Central California. Not a bad week I would say.

 * ... MONEYWISE GUYS: And speaking of the Beautiful Bakersfield Awards, it was great to see the Moneywise Wealth group (known as the Moneywise Guys on KERN NewsTalk radio) recognized as the Small Business of the Year. Outstanding people and outstanding service.

If you watched CNN's Redemption Project Sunday night chances are you spotted a few familiar faces. The project focuses on victims of crime facing their accusers, and among those featured was former Kern County deputy (and later county counsel) Tom Morgan, who was shot and left for dead by a gang member more than 20 years ago. In the series, Morgan comes face to face with the shooter and talks about forgiveness, hope and salvation.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Welcome to middle age. Prepare to pay for all the damage  you did to your body over the past 40 years."

 * ... MORE SPOTTED: "Got one of those laser pointer things for my cat, and now I'm having to sit through all these presentations."

 * ... CLIFFORD AND BROWN: There has been a mass exodus at the law firm of Clifford and Brown, where eight attorneys have left to form their own firm. Leaving to form the new comprehensive law firm called Zimmer and Melton were Charles Melton, Richard Zimmer, T. Mark Smith, Nicholas Street, Victoria Trichell, Jeffrey Travis, Dennis Gallagher and William Zimmer. The head of the firm, Steve Clifford, died last year and his son, Dan Clifford, recently left the firm to become house counsel for Bolthouse Properties.

 * ... FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Think about this for a minute.

 * ... MEMORIES: Courtesy of the Facebook page Kern County History Fans,. check out this picture of the old Vincent's across from the post office.