Wednesday, January 19, 2022

The Post Office takes out drop boxes citing theft and problems with the homeless, dog and cat food is in short supply at grocery stores around town and remembering the time that Babe Ruth made a stop in Bakersfield, or did he?

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 represent any other company or publication. 

 * ... THE INDIGNITY: Nobody in Kern County needs to be reminded of how out of control homelessness is here, or how our City Council and others have simply failed to make a measurable dent in the problem despite millions of dollars spent. While some in the homeless effort applaud a handful of once

homeless now residing in apartments, the drumbeat of crime, trash, harassment and inconvenience is piled at the doorstep of our citizens. Businesses are trashed, neighborhoods are invaded by swarms of drug addicts and the mentally challenged, and little changes. Want more proof? Citing theft and safety, the U.S. Post Office has now taken out postal drop boxes at the downtown postal facility and other facilities, the latest indignity caused by rampant crime and homelessness that we have allowed to grow worse daily. (photo behind the downtown Post Office where drop boxes once stood)

 * ... EMPTY SHELVES: The ongoing supply chain issues coupled with grocery stores struggling to retain employees has led to the empty shelves around town. The shortages seem to affect almost all items, including chicken and meat and in many places, pet food. Both dog and cat food are in short supply across the nation and when you can find it, the prices have skyrocketed. Said Fox Business: "The continuing shortage of aluminum and shipping issues have led to shortages in dog and cat food across the country, with several local papers reporting bare shelves at the pet stores. According to Fox Business, even big retailers like Target and Amazon are facing shortages of pet food, leaving many pet owners scrambling for their furry friends’ staple food and treats."

 * ... CUTTING THE  CABLE: Paying for cable television is going the way of the typewriter as thousands of Americans turn in their cable boxes for app-based streaming services. As recently as a decade ago, fully 85 percent of all U.S. households subscribed to cable whereas now the percentage is closing in on 50 percent.

 * ... SUPERVISOR RACE: One of election campaigns to follow this year will be the race to succeed Mike Maggard in District 3 on the Board of Supervisors. Jeff Flores, Maggard's longtime aide and a trustee on the Kern High School District, announced his bid this week, following former CHP officer Brian Smith and former homeless center director Louis Gill. The office is bipartisan in name only, and it will be interesting to see how the election breaks down between the Republican Flores and the Democrat Gill, both of whom enjoy widespread name recognition. Smith, for his part, wanted to run for sheriff but opted for District 3 when Donny Youngblood announced he was running for reelection. Gill also wanted to run for another office - the congressional seat held by Rep. Kevin McCarthy - but opted to enter the supervisor's race at the last minute. For his part, if it is worth anything at all, Jeff Flores is the only candidate who has been consistent about what role he wants: District 3 supervisor. (photo of Flores)

 * ... KEVIN HART: Comedian Kevin Hart has apparently grown found of Bakersfield, or at least the historic Fox Theater downtown. After holding two sold out concerts last week, the comedian has announced he he returning to the Fox on February 4, apparently using the Fox to rehearse a new act. 

 * ... BABE RUTH: Did you know Babe Ruth came to Bakersfield in 1919 to play an exhibition game? At least that appears to have happened according to an old newspaper clipping that heralded the Boston slugger's trip out west. The Los Angeles Evening Herald reported on its front page that Ruth was visiting Los Angeles but also planned to make side trips to San Diego, Santa Barbara and Bakersfield. Did the Babe ever make it to Bako?

 * ... MEMORIES: More memories of the old Hotel Lebec from the Kern County History Fans Facebook page.

 * ... MORE MEMORIES: And for our friends over at KBAK, how about this trip down memory lane?

Wednesday, January 12, 2022

Leticia Perez jumps into the race for the state Assembly, supervisor Brian Smith is questioned about his non political columns in the local paper and who would stead life sized statues depicting the war on cancer?

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 represent any other company or publication. 

 * ... LOCAL POLITICS ROUNDUP: This year will be an important election year as redistricting and retirements have introduced both confusion and opportunity in local political circles. First, Supervisor Leticia Perez make it official this week she is running for the 35th Assembly District, which has also

drawn interest from Taft Dr. Jasmeet Bains. Rep. David Valadao will be running in the 22nd Congressional District instead of the 21st, where Assemblyman Rudy Salas is running. And on the Board of Supervisors, Mike Maggard's retirement has opened the door to a hot race featuring Maggard aide Jeff Flores, former Homeless Center director Louis Gill and retired CHP officer Brian Smith. In the 16th state Senate District, former Assemblywoman Nicole Parra is running after briefly flirting with a bid to unseat Rep David Valadao. Stay tuned because things are just heating up.

 * ... CAMPAIGN SHENANIGANS? Brian Smith is a retired CHP officer who has been talking about running for Kern County Sheriff for at least two or three years. So far, so good. Knowing that he intended to run for office, Smith teamed with our local newspaper, The Bakersfield Californian, to begin running a weekly series of seemingly non-political stores focused on life as a law enforcement officer. So far, so good, but just to be clear, let's assume Smith knew he was a virtual unknown who needed name recognition to run for a countywide office, and what better way than a weekly column in your local paper? But now some are questioning if Smith didn't skirt the law when the paper kept running his column (it has since killed it) while he was openly running for the District 3 seat on the Board of Supervisors. (Smith made it clear he would not run against Sheriff Donny Youngblood, and when Youngblood said he would run again, Smith turns his eye on the supervisor seat held by retiring Mike Maggard.) Former city councilman Mark Salvaggio was among those questioning his intent and he sent Smith this email: "Brian, Who is guiding, advising your campaign for District 3 Supervisor? Has Brandon Martin moved on? Your last "Cop Tales" column was published in The Bakersfield Californian on December 12, after the Oildale Christmas Parade, where you campaigned with a banner proclaiming "Brian Smith for Supervisor." You have been campaigning for several months. This is true. You filed your Campaign Form 410 with the Secretary of State to officially run for Supervisor on October 21; 6 "Cop Tales" were published subsequently (October 31-December 12). You did an endorsement interview with the Kern County Prosecutors Association on September 10. You also interviewed with the Kern County Firefighters Union on October 4 for its support. What tangled webs we weave when we first practice to deceive," to borrow an applicable line from Sir Walter Scott." Now here is the ironic part: Smith had his hands full already in the District 3 race where incumbent Mike Maggard's chief aide, Jeff Flores, is expected to run. Flores enjoys wide name recognition, has served on the Kern High School District and is deeply involved in Republican circles. Flores was trouble enough for Smith and it just got worse when Louis Gill, former head of the Bakersfield Homeless Center, just entered the race, another formidable opponent.

 * ... DECISION 2022: Local elections and how Kern's demographics are changing will be the topic of this week's Bakersfield Observed podcast, which will be released Thursday. Joining me to review the political landscape will be Russell Johnson, a former Bakersfield city councilman and now head of Common Sense Consulting. Tap into your account on Spotify or Google, or wherever you access your podcasts, to Russell and I chop it up about local politics.

 * ... SMELLY HOMES: For the past two years the pandemic has forced most of us to spend more time at home. Home gyms and offices have proliferated, more of us are working from home, some of us have acquired more pets and some of us are home schooling our children. In short, home is where the heart is and in that case, it means our homes can get stinky with so much activity. So said the Wall Street Journal: "Housebound Americans are buying more air fresheners, scented candles and pungent cleaners to overcome one of humanity's deep social fears - that visitors will think their abodes stink to high heaven." 

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Remember the old days before free social media when we had to buy newspaper ads to publicly announce our courage, thoughtfulness, virtue and nobility? It’s so much easier now!"

 * ... CANCER STATUE DISAPPEARS: Just when you think people can't stoop any lower, sure enough they do something that simply astonishes you. This time it appears a group of people took the time to plan and execute the theft of a series of life-size bronze statues that once stood in Beach Park as a testament to those who fought cancer. That's right, the statues of men, women and children gleefully emerging from a maze to celebrate beating cancer have disappeared, and no one seems to know what happened. One of the first to notice was local clinical  psychologist Cory Gonzales who posted this on Facebook: "I remember the grand opening of this inspirational tribute to cancer survivors. I also remember making a speech (here) on how important this was for us survivors & the culture of our community. I just heard that all of these statues were stolen, absolutely heartbroken! Is there anything sacred? Are there no more ethics in our society? Where is our collective conscience? A sad day indeed."

 * ... MEMORIES: Now take a look at these historic pictures from the Kern County History Fanssite. Just look at that armory at Gordon's Ferry back in the day.

Tuesday, January 4, 2022

Mike Maggard announces his retirement, Tesla has sold almost 1 million cars in the United States and the median price of a home in California reaches almost $800,000

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 represent any other company or publication. 

 * ... MAGGARD RETIRES:  Kern County Supervisor Mike Maggard is retiring after a long career on both the City Council and Board of Supervisors, opening the door for a June election when his his chief aide Jeff Flores will attempt to fill the seat. Up until today, Flores likely thought his opponent would be

retired CHP officer Brian Smith, who has no elective experience. But all that changed when Louis Gill, the former head of the Bakersfield Homeless Center said he was joining the District 3 race instead of challenging Rep. Kevin McCarthy in the 23rd Congressional District. Kudos to Gill who should have seen his challenge of McCarthy has nothing more than a costly political suicide mission. Joining the District 3 race at least gives him a shot, while rendering Smith a curious afterthought. 
Maggard's retirement was expected - he cited spending time with his family as one of the reasons to let go - and it sets up free for all with Flores, Gill and Smith. By all accounts, Flores should be considered the odds-on favorite: he is a politically savvy known commodity, has served on the Kern High School District for years and he has carefully nurtured political allies over the years. And, let's be clear here, Flores is a Republican  and Gill a liberal in a conservative part of the state. Smith, by contrast, is not that well known outside of the regular readers of the local newspaper where he ran a "Cop Tales" weekly column. But given the realities of the newspaper business the number of readers has shrunk so considerably, that what once seemed like a grand idea to capture eyeballs likely provided a lot less than he expected. Others could enter this race, so stay tuned.

* ... TESLA: If you live in California, then you know just how popular the new lineup of all electric Tesla sedans are, and now the company says it delivered 87 percent more cars in 2021 than it did the previous year. The now Texas based company said it delivered more than 308,000 vehicles in the fourth quarter alone, a 71 percent increase from the same time a year earlier. In all, Tesla said it had delivered 936,000 cars in the United States. The overwhelming majority of Teslas sold in the United States are purchased right here in California.

 * ... KERN RIVER: Have you noticed there is some water in the Kern River, particularly west of Beach Park as the river winds through the southwest? Recent rains have no doubt contributed to this, but it is a constant reminder of the efforts under way to have water in the river year around. But there is one problem: the sheer number of homeless encampments in the river bed, along with mountains of trash, pose a problem and safety hazard to water entering the riverbed. Despite the city's best efforts, and this should not be minimized even though it has been an abject failure, the homeless live where they want, use the riverbed as their personal toilet and soil the place with mounds of trash without any repercussions. (photo by The Bakersfield Californian)

 * ... CALIFORNIA HOUSING: Last year was a difficult year on many levels but the price of housing in California continued its almost ridiculous rise. The median sales price of a single-family home in California has now reached $798.440, up 12.3 percent from a year earlier. Suburbs like in Sacramento and Riverside showed the highest increases while population centers like San Francisco posted more modest gain. According to Zillow, the typical home in San Francisco is now selling or $1.53 million.

 * ... MEMORIES: Who remembers Lake Isabella when it was just a sleepy outpost back in the day. Enjoy these old postcards.

 * ... MORE MEMORIES: And from the Kern County of Old Facebook page comes this note about the old Pennys building on Chester Avenue: "Exterior and interior photographs of the J.C. Penny's store at 2018 Chester Ave. 1930 and 1927, respectively."

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

What is your traditional New Year's meal: black eyed peas and greens? Tamales? Plus a great white shark kills a surfer off Morro Bay and volunteers clean up a mess on the off road trails on the east side of town

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 represent any other company or publication. 

 * ... NEW YEAR'S TRADITIONS: Does your family have a New Year's traditional meal? If you are from the South, as I am, that would mean black eyed peas, collard greens and cornbread (hold the sugar,

please). If you are from Mexico, it may be fresh, homemade tamales. If you are from Spain, you will no doubt enjoy 12 grapes on New Year's Eve to ring in the new year. A quick search found these regional favorites: for the American South it would be black eye peas and greens for Mexico count on tamales, for Spain twelve grapes and for Japan Soba noodles. What is your tradition?

 * ... GUITAR STOLEN:  If you shake your head about how bad crime is these days, consider this: A guitar once owned by Buck Owens has been stolen from the Oildale post office that was renamed after the late country music star. According to the Kern County Sheriff's Office, two suspects wearing hooded sweatshirts and face masks broke into the post office and stole the red, white and blue guitar that had been displayed in a case. The post office is located on Minner Avenue and a the guitar was donated in 2008 by the Owens family.

 * .. SHARK ATTACK: Did you year about the latest shark attack near Morro Bay? Well officials now think the victim was killed by aa great white shark. The victim's name has not been released but his body was pulled from the water near Morro Bay on Christmas Eve. (photo courtesy of The Los Angeles Times)

 * ... CHICK FIL-A: With the possible exception of the burger joint In-n-Out, Chick fil-A may be the most popular fast food franchise in town. When the company closed its Stockdale Highway location for a remodel a few months ago, the restaurant's legions of fans were bereft, but they stormed back when the place was reopened. And now comes word that a second Chick fil-A will be opening on Rosedale Highway where Pier 1 once did business. No word on exactly when it might open.

 * ... BRAVO! Let's end this year with a shoutout to everyone who contributes to the common good, who chooses not to run with the herd but to be honest and make a difference. That was seen two weeks ago with a group of citizen volunteers descended on the dirt roads off Morning Drive, popular with cyclists and off road motorbike enthusiasts, who spent the day picking up tons of trash. That's right, the group collected just over 14 tons of trash in an area that has long been a favorite dumping spot. Bravo and thanks to award winning local photographer Felix Adamo who caught all this on his camera.

 * ... MEMORIES: This is a photo of a building the old armory, that I never knew existed until I saw it on the Kern County History Fans Facebook page. Feast on this for a second.

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Did the Diocese of Fresno fail to include five more priests on its list of "credibly accused" priests who have been accused of preying on young men and women? And what secrets will the church personnel files reveal about how the church covered up and concealed priest abuse?

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 represent any other company or publication. 

 * ... SEXUAL PREDATORS: One thing seems certain about the ongoing sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church: it just never seems to end. And it gets worse virtually every day. Communities like Bakersfield who have seen priests outed because of accusations of sexual abuse - the rise and dramatic fall of former priest Craig Harrison is a classic example - are understandably weary of hearing how a once

beloved priest has been accused of such sickening deeds. But all this isn't ending anytime soon, and now new allegations have emerged implicating five more priests who were once assigned to the Diocese of Fresno. Jeff Anderson and Associates, a law firm that specializes in priest abuse, alleges the Diocese omitted five priests who had been accused of sexual abuse over the years. They include Rev. Efren Cirilio Neri, Monsignor Anthony Moreno, Father Gaspar Bautista, Rev. Orlando Alberto Battaglioia and Father Edgardo Arrunataegui.  Battaglioia and Baustista have since died while the other three are believed to be alive. Anderson & Associates said the names of these priests were left off the list of "credibly accused" priests issued by the Diocese of Fresno. That list, which included Harrison of Bakersfield, is viewed as important because with it the church is acknowledging that there is credible evidence to believe the men who have come forward to accuse the priests.

 * ... AB 218: What's the point in outing dead priests as abusers? Lawyers for victim advocates hope that by doing so more victims will come forward to take advantage of the California Child Victims Act (Assembly Bill 218) which gave survivors of childhood sexual abuse a chance at justice and healing. 
The law opened a three year window, beginning January 1, 2020, for survivors of any age to pursue justice, no matter how old they are, when the abuse occurred, or if their abuser is alive or dead. It also 
increased the time limit for commencing an action for recovery of damages suffered as a result of childhood sexual assault to the age of 40 or within 5 years of the date the survivor discovers that psychological injury or illness occurring after the age of 18 was caused by sexual assault (whichever is later).

* ... PERVERT PRIESTS: This may not come as a surprise but the sex scandal in the Catholic Church is taking its toll on parishioners who seem to be increasingly either boycotting Mass or leaving the church altogether. According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, 27 percent of U.S. Catholics said they had reduced their Mass attendance because of the abuse crisis. In fact, a survey by Georgetown University found that 31 percent of all U.S. Catholics said the abuse crisis "made them embarrassed to identify themselves as Catholic." And there is this: 26 percent of U.S. Catholics have reduced the amount of money they donate to their local parish. That seems to be happening locally over at St. Francis Parish in the fallout of a former local monsignor, Craig Harrison, who has been accused by multiple men of sexual abuse over several decades. While Harrison seems to enjoy the loyalty of a small group in town, some of whom are withholding their weekly contributions to the church, the once popular priest faces a future that looks nothing like his past. The lesson: sex and abuse scandals are easier to ignore until they come to your town.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "My daughter: Can we stop for ice cream, and then not get any for John? Me: Stop being awful to your brother. Someday you might need a kidney. Her: Mom, you know how much water I drink. I will never need that."

 * ... MEMORIES: This post is compliments of Mark Peterson who shared it on the Kern County of Old Facebook page. It's all about Gordon's Ferry here: "Gordon's Ferry was located on the Kern River and was later replaced by the China Grade Loop Bridge: Actually 4 bridges have been built over the history: The first was a wooden bridge that replaced the ferry in about the 1930s (If I am correct) That bridge later replaced with a Cement bridge that was washed out during the flood in the 1950s and rebuilt, then replaced again in 1992 with the current bridge of today."

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

California brings back the mask mandate but don't expect compliance in Kern County, a son of Bakersfield is running for office in Texas and a new study finds that 75 percent of all coronavirus deaths occurred with the elderly

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 represent any other company or publication. 

 * ... MASKS ARE BACK: So are you ready to wear a mask again indoors? Are you willing to comply with a new state mandate that requires wearing a mask indoors regardless of your vaccination status? Well if you live in Kern County, the answer likely will be a resounding "no!" In the past, local authorities have

made it clear they won't do the state's dirty work in enforcing the mask mandate, and given our reputation for bucking the mandates of Sacramento, I bet very few local businesses will comply. Some of the most popular restaurants in town will simply ignore the new rule and there will be no consequences. Meanwhile in other parts of the state the mask mandate will be rigorously enforced, but don't expect to see much of a change here.

 * ... BAKERSFIELD LOVE: Bakersfield got some love recently when The New York Times published an article highlighting our lower cost of living and the influx of younger couples looking for affordable housing. The piece mentioned the cost of housing, urban development, downtown development and geography as reasons why Bakersfield remains a destination for Californians desperate to find affordability and a lifestyle conducive to all ages. You never know where these stories from out of town media will go, but this one was no doubt helped because the writer, Jill Cowen, worked at The Californian as an intern a decade ago and is well versed on our lifestyle.

 * ... ELDERLY AT RISK: After all the politically inspired debate about the coronavirus, and resistance to the idea of wearing masks, we come to find that the most vunlerable are those age 65 and older. That's according to a report in The New York Times that said we are on the cusp of hitting 800,000 deaths nationwide due to the virus. But when you look at the numbers more closely, you see fully 75 percent of those who died were 65 and older. That means 600,000 of the 800,000 deaths are among the most vulnerable of the population. Wearing a mask, then, is more about protecting the older population if not yourself. Said the Times: "Seventy-five percent of people who have died of the virus in the United States — or about 600,000 of the nearly 800,000 who have perished so far — have been 65 or older. One in 100 older Americans has died from the virus. For people younger than 65, that ratio is closer to 1 in 1,400.
The heightened risk for older people has dominated life for many, partly as friends and family try to protect them. “You get kind of forgotten,” said Pat Hayashi, 65, of San Francisco. “In the pandemic, the isolation and the loneliness got worse. We lost our freedom and we lost our services.”

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "So apparently, telling a woman 'I wanna rock your body' makes women happy in the USA and scared in Afghanistan."

 * ... ROB MCCARTHY: A former Bakersfield resident whose family moved to Texas is running for a seat in the Texas legislature. Rob McCarthy, son of Rob and Judi McCarthy, announced his bid to run for Texas House District 47 as a Republican. The district includes the cities of Austin, Bee Case, Lakeway and western Travis County. McCarthy is a graduate of Garces Memorial High School and USC and later served as a senior aide to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. After earning his MBA McCarthy worked as business development director for Lightspeed Systems, a family owned educational software business. Fed up with California's high taxes and burdensome regulations, Rob and Judi McCarthy left California more than five years ago and moved the company to Austin. Judi McCarthy was one of the founders of the Women's and Girl's Fund, a philanthropic arm of the Kern Community Foundation that funds programs to help women in need.

 * ... MEMORIES: Check out the scenes from old Bakersfield back in the day, compliments of the Kern County of Old and Kern County History Fans Facebook pages.