Thursday, October 17, 2019

Expect a flood of new abuse cases against the Catholic Church as California ushers in a new law to give abuses more time to file lawsuits, a storm is brewing with the downtown elementary school and how about that Hunter's Moon this week?

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. 

 * ... ABUSE CASES: Thanks to a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, victims of childhood sexual abuse now have a new three year period (beginning Jan. 1, 2020) to file lawsuits against their
abusers. In addition to that, the law will extend the age limit of the victim filing from 26 to 40 and the time limit of when the abuse is discovered to when the case is filed from three to five years. Attorneys say almost every Catholic Diocese in the state will be hit by lawsuits, including the Los Angeles and Fresno dioceses that have long histories of covering up abuse cases by transferring clergy from one parish to the other. Will this have an immediate impact on Kern County? Who knows, but it will certainly allow alleged victims of any Kern County clergy (including the embattled and suspended Monsignor Craig Harrison) to come forward with legal action. All this comes as Harrison's legal team continues its scorched earth policy of slapping lawsuits on anyone who dares criticize Harrison. Attorney Craig Edmonston has already sued a Benedictine monk (Father Justin Gilligan) who testified against Harrison, as well as an organization that follows and tracks clergy abuse cases. It should be noted that neither the monk nor the organization claim to be victims of Harrison but rather have either cooperated with police or opined publicly on the matter. Pay attention to the Harrison case because I hear that new information is about to come out, and I am also told the Diocese of Fresno will rule on Harrison's future once the Firebaugh and Merced police departments wrap up their investigations into allegations that Harrison inappropriately touched young men while serving there. (file photo of Father Gilligan and Monsignor Craig Harrison)



 * ... IT HAS GOTTEN UGLY: If you are among those who wonder why victims of sexual abuse take so long to come forward, consider the intimidation of facing a lawsuit simply for speaking up, and the public humiliation when a community rallies around its accused priest and publicly shames the victim. Case in point: witnesses in the Father Craig case say they have been verbally harassed and followed, threatened and scolded by Harrison's true believers. (Note this is an accusation that cannot be independently verified and there is no evidence that Father Craig personally directed any of this, if indeed it ever happened) The support for Harrison is so strong that a local businessman paid $27,000 at a fund raiser to dine with Father Craig to benefit Dignity Health. When major institutions don't flinch to be associated with an accused abuser, it is no wonder that witnesses or alleged victims are wary of coming forward.

 * ... DOWNTOWN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: There is one truth above all others: do not mess with parents when it comes to where their children go to school. And Bakersfield City School District Superintendent Harry "Doc" Ervin is learning that quickly as parents at the Downtown Elementary School react to news that the original mission of the school - to serve children whose parents live downtown - may be abandoned. We are talking about the dismantlement of one of BCSD's top performing schools, and for what? So the district can earn a little more money by serving lower income students?  Could there be another motive? Consider this: the school is so popular you have to enter a lottery to get your kid in, the parental involvement factor is huge, kids and teacher and parents are happy, the scores are excellent ... and we want to leave all this behind? The school is 44 percent Hispanic, so it is hard to argue it serves only the well heeled, and a lottery systems determines who gets in. That's right, a judge picks out names from a lottery to see who gets in. Hard to get more democratic than that. So here is where we are:  Irvin should be warned that these parents are committed and will give you a run for your money. Stay tuned.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Only in California do they generate power from the wind, but when the wind blows shut the power off."

 * ... HUNTER'S MOON: So did you check out the full moon this week? Known as the Hunter's Moon, it follows the Harvest Moon and is reportedly the best time for hunting deer and other animals, according to the Farmer's Almanac. According to NASA: "In northern locations, leaves have fallen, deer have fattened and harvesters have cleared the fields, making it easier to see the animals under the light of the big bulb in the sky, according to NASA. But people of different cultures and regions gave their own names to full moons. The Algonquin tribes, for example, called October's full moon the Travel Moon, the Dying Grass Moon and the Sanguine or Blood Moon; the latter three are thought to be named after the changing colors of the leaves and dying plants, according to NASA. "


 * ... PASSINGS: A trio of of local iconic businesses are shutting their doors, bringing an end to their downtown footprints that served customers for years. I got the word that Red Door Interiors on 23rd Street, an upscale furniture store that flourished since 1977, is calling it quits. And last week we learned at Joseph's Italian restaurant on F Street was also leaving the scene. Add to that: Beverly Crafts and Fabrics on F Street, a mainstay of businesses along that corridor, is also calling it quits.





 * ... DAVE AND BUSTERS: Coming soon to Valley Plaza: Dave and Busters, the popular arcade and food center that caters to young kids and their parents. The new franchise is expected to open at Valley Plaza next August.



 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: Check out this list of local high schools and other facilities built over the years, and their construction dates.




 * ...MEMORIES: Some fascinating old photos, courtesy of the Facebook page Kern County of Old. The famous clock tower was damaged beyond repair in the 1952 earthquake and was later demolished, as seen in the first photo.





Sunday, October 13, 2019

Gov. Gavin Newsom performs a "bait and switch" with the state dollars meant for road improvements, Countryside Market opens to serve the east side of town and North High and Stockdale hold some high school reunions

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. 

 * ... BAIT AND SWITCH: If you voted for the state gas tax under the assumption the money would
be used solely for road and bridge improvements, how do you feel now? In yet another Sacramento bait and switch, Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed an executive order allowing him to siphon off at least $5 billion for "environmentally friendly" alternatives to projects associated with fossil fuels. That's right, those taxes we were promised would go to infrastructure are now going for softer, more green friendly pet projects. Among the project that were killed were several in the Central Valley, including the widening of the "blood alley" portion of Highway 46. And they wonder why the public is so cynical.




 * ... COUNTRYSIDE MARKET: There is finally some good news for those folks living on the east side of town, particularly those in the Tuscany and City in the Hills communities. Countryside Market has opened a new branch at the corner of Comanche Drive and Highway 178, featuring gas, fresh coffee, groceries and even a Smith's bakery. Countryside Markets are always top shelf, and you can expect this one to benefit from some very grateful neighbors.



 * ... REUINIONS: Congratulatons to the North High School class of 1989 that celebrated its 30th reunion at Woolgrower;s, and the Stockdale Class of 1999 which held its 20th this weekend as well.




* ... THEFT: I spotted this post on Facebook. Beware of your surroundings during this surge in crime.

 * ... PORTER RANCH FIRE: Check out this picture of a partially burned edition of The Los Angeles Times, scorched in the fire that engulfed part of Porter Ranch in the San Fernando Valley. The banner headline reads, in part: "...blackouts raise anger... high fire danger affect millions" (Screen grab from KTLA live footage)


 * ... MEMORIES: And how about these pictures of some old theaters, starting with one  on North Chester back in the mid 1950s. The second shot shows movie goers outside of the California Theater at 1816 Chester Ave. Next to the theater was the Opera Meat Market and the Union Stage Depot. The photo is dated 1923 and is compliments of the Kern County of Old Facebook page. Enjoy.









Friday, October 11, 2019

Are rolling blackouts the "new norm" in California and will Gov. Gavin Newsom pay a political price? Plus Kelly Ardis leaves The Californian to join CSUB and another trip down memory lane with some old photos

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. 

 * ... WINDS: Hey California, does it feel like we are becoming the next Venezuela, a nation-state of endless shortages, uncertainty and bloated bureaucracy? It sure looks like it when we wake up and
find the power has been shut off and the state bureaucracy is telling us to shut up because this is the "new norm" in California. It is all because of Pacific Gas and Electric, the utility that cannot seem to shoot straight, has instituted rolling blackouts during the windy season to prevent wildfires. That's right, after the lack of maintenance led to horrifying fires in northern California, the utility has decided to pass the buck to us instead of doing what we expect it to do. But here is the ugly truth: historically the utility has put the pockets of its investors over routine maintenance of its power lines, creating a system that puts shareholder profits over safety. (Thankfully that practice ended recently thanks to a federal judge), Now you know what I mean when I say California is starting to look a lot like Venezuela.


 * ... RECALL NEWSOM: So where does all this leave our Gov. Gavin Newsom, who has long been eyeing a run for the presidency at some point? Will the rolling power outages lead to more pressure on Newsom, and act as a catalyst for the "recall Newsom" movement? Recall supporters point to Newsom's moratorium on the death penalty (after being upheld by voters), his decision to take gas tax money meant to improve highways and divert it to pet rail projects, and now this. Time will tell but the pressure is growing on Newsom as the state struggles to keep the lights on.



 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "You're an adult now. That means nobody can stop you from putting shrimp in a bowl of melted butter and eating it like cereal. Not anymore."

 * ... MOVING UP: Congratulations to Kelly Ardis, a longtime Bakersfield Californian features reporter who is joining the ranks at CSUB in a marketing position. Ardis is the latest TBC alumni to join CSUB, closing ranks with Christine Bedell who works in alumni affairs, and head communications director Jennifer Self. Ardis will work for the school of Natural Sciences, Mathematics and Engineering, reporting to Dean Kathleen Madden and working closely with Jennifer Self, director of public affairs and communications. The school of NSME is on the rise at CSUB, having earned a prestigious engineering accreditation in 2018.


 * ... THE POLITICS OF WATER: If you live in California, you should pay closer attention to water policy and how politics plays a role in who gets this precious resources, and who doesn't. And now there is a comprehensive new non-profit that offers in-depth reporting and writing on California's love/hate relationship with water. It's called SJVWATER.ORG and it is run by award winning journalist Lois Henry, who has devoted her life to reporting and writing about water in the Central Valley. Go to the website and support it, financially, by becoming a subscriber. I did.



 * ... MEMORIES: And what do you think of this, a shot of "West side girls" back in the day. Thanks to Art Moore and the Kern County History Fans Facebook page. And check out this second photo of the old Ridge Route back in the day.


Sunday, October 6, 2019

Lois Henry creates a non-profit to focus on Central Valley water issues, Bob Price takes a swipe at House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy and some really bad form by our local Downtown Business Association

 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. 

 * ... SHE'S BACK: How great was it to open the Sunday Bakersfield Californian and see Lois
Henry's mug on the front page? That's right, more than a year after she unceremoniously left the newspaper (more on that later) Lois is back writing as a contractor representing her new non-profit, SJV Water, devoted to California's long and complex history with water. The Sunday story is yet another Lois must-read, exposing how local water agencies and officials are struggling to comply with tough new regulations on groundwater. Lois understands, as few do, that the issue of water and water rights is more than just a simple question of who gets the water: farmers or city folk? Even in years of severe drought, our farmers and water agencies have been selling water to other agencies and cities (losing it forever) all the while increasing the acreage under cultivation via drip irrigation that allows cultivation on land that heretofore was unsuitable for farming, like the west side of Kern. While this is going on, farmers draw on groundwater that is gradually sinking the valley floor- literally. Lois is a local crown jewel resource who should never have left the newspaper (former editor Jim Lawitz wins my 'bonehead of the year" award for allowing her and Eye Street editor Jennifer Self to walk out the door at a time newspapers are struggling to stay relevant) but having her back in print writing about water is a good compromise. Check out Lois' non-profit website at SJVwater.org. And by the way, Lois appears on The Richard Beene Show every Monday at 1:30 p.m. on KERN NewsTalk 96.1 FM.




 * ... BAD FORM: And speaking of boneheaded moves, shame on the Downtown Business Association for seeking to profit on our homeless crisis. The DBA, never missing a chance to feather its own nest, is having a luncheon to address homelessness, featuring people like DA Cynthia Zimmer and City Councilman Andrae Gonzales, two public officials who are always accessible to the media and others. The DBA is charging the princely sum of $65 for lunch, held at a venue owned by one of the DBA supporters and officers Bob Bell. Do we really have to pay the DBA to hear our public officials talk? And there you have it.

 * ... BOB PRICE: One of the handful of award winning journalists left at The Californian is Bob Price, who used his column Sunday to criticize House Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy for his unwavering support of President Trump. "It is well past time for McCarthy to cautiously extricate himself from the circle of support around this president, toward whom I believe history will not be kind. I understand attempting such a maneuver is fraught wth challenge, but lingering near this looming implosion will be further detrimental to McCarthy's career and yes, his legacy." McCarthy replied, citing the robust Trump economy, the loosening of regulations to the benefit of business and his renegotiation of trade deals with other countries.



 * ... SEMPER FIDELIS: Congratulatons to Phililp R. Brandon, a local boy who graduated from the U.S. Marine Corps boot camp this weekend in Parris Island, S.C. He now heads to Camp Lejeune, N.C. for eight weeks of rifle and munitions training. Phil went to grade school at Our Lady of Perpetual Help and was a 2010 graduate of Garces Memorial High School. He now lives on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts, where he volunteers for the Edgartown Fire Department and works Eversource, the local utility. His parents are Esther and Rogers Brandon of La Cresta and his brother, Sam, also graduated from Garces Memorial.



 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: Here is something to think about, lifted from Facebook: "Do you think Bakersfield could get away with this today? I lived on a street named Monitor and walked to my grade school named Plantation, which was on a street named White Lane. My Jr High was named Greenfield and my high school was South High. South was surrounded by streets named after the Confederacy. At that time (early 70s) our mascots where Johnny and Jody Rebel... for half of the four years I attended we actually had the authentic Confederate flag, which the Rebels twirled behind the marching band at every football game and parade. Our student body was at least (guessing) 30 percent black. I often wonder how they felt about their school.?Times were different then to say the least. Trying not to make a judgment just an observation."

* ... HOMELESS: Meanwhile the vagrant curse in our community continues unabated. Missing a trash or green waster dumpster? Chances are it is being used by one of our street vagrants.





 * ... MEMORES: Here are some more random shots of the old Hotel Lebec on the old Grapevine Road. Enjoy.









Sunday, September 29, 2019

The first Sikh deputy in Texas is shot and killed, Bakersfield gets its own 'poop patrol' to help clean up the streets and the Milk Carton Kids come to the Crystal Palace this week

 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, news organization or business. Send news items to rsbeene@yahoo.com.

 * ... RIP OFFICER: Do you remember when a group of local Kern County veterans and others drove to Texas with supplies in the wake of Hurricane Harvey? The group - among them were Chad
Garcia, Christopher QuiƱones, Julio Torres, Kenny Sanders and Richard Joseph Forrester - were met in Rockport, Texas, by local Harris County deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal, a friendly Sikh deputy who helped coordinate the delivery. Garcia called him an "amazing man and a true humanitarian." It turns out deputy Dhaliwal was shot and killed on duty recently, yet another senseless killing that leaves us all speechless. Police said Dhaliwal was shot in the back during a routine traffic stop by a suspect identified as 47-year-old Robert Solis. Said Garcia: "Sad, sad news which also angers us that such a good man is taken from the nation and our world."



 * ... CLEANUP: I stand in awe of the dozens of people who volunteer their time every weekend to help clean up our streets of trash and other debris. It may be a losing effort in the end - after all who can keep up with the homeless and vagrants trashing our streets? - but it points to a level of civic pride that we should all admire. Here are some shots of the Saturday clean up, thanks to Mayor Karen Goh who is always at the forefront of these efforts.



 * ... POOP PATROL: Meanwhile, the city has contracted with a company to clean up feces in the central business district. City Councilman Andrae Gonzales said the poop patrol will start Monday, but he cautioned it will only pick up feces, nothing else. So if this city-paid workforce walks right past trash or vomit they just leave it? Seems like we could have done better with a more all inclusive trash patrol, but at least this is a start. Gonzales noted: "As the City of Bakersfield continues to work toward addressing homelessness concerns, the City has contracted with a private cleaning service to remove human excrement from areas of Downtown Bakersfield and Old Town Kern. Starting Monday, September 30, a service will be available in response to reports for cleanup between 6:30 a.m. and 10:30 a.m., Monday through Friday.The crews will ONLY clean up human feces (no other waste or trash) during those hours, and within the area ..."



 * ... CONCERT: If you are into live music, you might consider checking out the Grammy nominated Milk Carton kids who will appear at the Crystal Palace on Thursday evening. The show is being presented by Rick Kreiser's Guitar Masters and Passing Through Productions. The opening act is Madison Cunningham, an up and coming arts worth checking out. Go to the Crystal Palace website for tickets.



 * ... MEMORIES: Enjoy these random pictures of the old Hotel Lebec on the old Grapevine Road between Bakersfield and Los Angeles.





Friday, September 27, 2019

Turmoil at the Kern County Fair as an audit reveals gross mismanagement, Robin Fleming is hired by state Sen. Shannon Grove and remembering the late great Mexicali West ...


 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, news organization or business. Send news items to rsbeene@yahoo.com.

 * ... FAIR SCANDAL: You can bet some heads are going to roll following a state audit which claims that hundreds of thousands of dollars may have been misspent by management at the Kern County Fair. The audit did not specifically say who was responsible, and it remains to be seen if we
are talking about Fair employees or perhaps members of its Board of Directors, which has always comprised a "who's who" in Kern County. The audit put the spotlight on board chairman Blodgie Rodriguez, who declined to comment, as did fellow board member NaTesha Johnson. Also remaining silent is Fair CEO Michael Olcott, who seemed to be singled out by the audit in one case for failing to provide receipts for dinners. The audit alleges that people enjoyed sumptuous dinners of lobster and expensive wine, charged air travel and alcohol and left lavish tips. To say this is serious is an understatement, and while Olcott is much beloved in the community, many are expecting him to be an early casualty of all this. Members of the Fair board are appointed by the governor (it's why the board is so weighted toward Democrats or Republicans at any given time). In addition to Rodriguez and Johnson, other members of the Fair board include Ned Dunphy, Jared Britschgi, Cesar Chavez, Lucas Espericuetea, David Lidgett and David Torres.









 * ... LATE BREAKING: After the above item was filed, KBAK reported this on its website.

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) - A California State audit found that the Kern County Fair CEO Mike Olcott and maintenance supervisor Joe Hebert reportedly "allowed—and often participated in—the gross mismanagement of state resources" in a report published August 20.

The audit found more than $300,000 in questionable spending between 2016 and 2018, much of it spent on travel, expensive meals, and alcohol.

While the report doesn't say which California fair they audited, to protect the identities of the employees named in the report, multiple sources tell Eyewitness News it was the Kern County Fair that is at fault.

The audit found that the fair, funded by the California Department of Food and Agriculture, had no receipts for $132,000 worth of credit card purchases, over $30,000 in "excessive and unauthorized" out of state travel, and more than $1,200 spent on alcohol.

Christopher Medellin, a maintenance mechanic who worked at the fair from July 2017 until he quit in June 2019, said the fair was the most unethical place he's ever worked.

"Nobody felt like they can actually say anything, and anything happen," Medellin said.

He claims he reported misuse of funds and vehicles to Olcott and was later yelled at by his supervisor for saying anything. The audit mentions instances when employees denied using state resources for unauthorized purposes, but auditors saw them doing it.

"The maintenance supervisor and the CEO claimed that the maintenance supervisor took the state-owned vehicle home at most twice a week when he needed to pick up work-related materials on his way to or from the fairgrounds. However based on our observations and witness statements, he used the state-owned vehicle nearly every day as if it were his personal truck," the audit claims.

Medellin said he and others were coached on what to tell the auditors, or they'd be fired.

A receipt collected in the report shows a fair employee paid $400 for steaks, $125 for a lobster surf dinner, and spent more than $600 on wine vodka, hard cider, and cocktails.

"They definitely overspent. They wouldn't do that with their own money," Medellin said.

Three sources tell Eyewitness News that Hebert paid fair employees for side jobs, instructing them to clock in at the fairgrounds, work offsite for the day, and return at the end of the day to clock out at the fairgrounds. They reportedly used state trucks and materials to do those jobs.

Medellin was complicit in these tasks, claiming he worked on vehicles, billboards, and even helped move Olcott's daughter's furniture with a fair truck.

The audit recommended that Olcott and Hebert be appropriately disciplined and pay back the money, and added that more oversight by the board of directors and the CDFA is in order.

In response, the fair board of directors said they would work to find an equitable way to pay back the money and better oversee future spending, but did not report than any disciplinary action would be taken against Olcott or Hebert.

 * ... ROBIN FLEMING:
Congratulations to Robin Fleming who has been appointed director for state Sen. Shannon Grove's 16th State Senate office here in town. Fleming is well known locally, a respected voice, and a good addition to Grove's local staff.



* ... CODY KESSLER: Good news for Centinnial High and USC graduate Cody Kessler: he has been traded to the New England Patriots to serve as a backup to Tom Brady. Kessler previously played for the Jacksonville Jaguars and the Cleveland Browns.


 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Whenever I lose my wife in a busy shopping mall, I just start whispering to myself 'You're right' and she immediately appears to tell me that I'm wrong."

 * ... FACEBOOK: Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg spent last week on Capitol Hill defending the social media giant's privacy policies, and he dropped by the office of House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy for a chat. When McCarthy wanted to share a picture of him with Zuckerberg, he did it on Facebook of course.



 * ... SHOOTING SPORTS: The Kern County Gun Club is once again offering a terrific course for young shooters, opening its skeet, trap and sporting clays courses to youths aged 12 through high school. The courses run for six months (starting now) and classes are held once a month. The cost is just $75 and includes ammunition, targets and lunch. A shotgun will be provided. The class director is Bruce Binns, an accomplished skeet shooter, who will train the youths in basic gun safety and techniques. Call Bruce at (661) 333-4980 for more information.

 * ... MEXICALI WEST: Did you see that old Mexicali West building has been demolished? That's right, the Gamez family sold the iconic restaurant and it will not be replaced by an office building with two small restaurants. Mexicali West had a strong local following, and this Facebook post testifies to the loyalty its customers had for the place. Said Mariane McLucas Reyes: "I actually got 2 roof tiles from Mexicali West as mementos, from a job foreman when they started the demo. I worked there as a teen, had dozens of birthday dinners there and though we still eat at the downtown location, West was just a wonderful respite from your day. Calming views sitting by the glass window of the California Room, staff that never let your water or tea glass go unfilled (thanks to Esther Gamez's rules for service). West was always magical at Christmas and just a beautiful restaurant, unlike any other we have in town. I will miss it, always."


 * ... TRASH: Here is an ugly scene taken on Chester Avenue in front of the Stars Theater. The craziness continues but at least in this case, the city was quick to clean up the mess.




 * ... MEMORIES: Check out this photo from 1969 showing the Wheeler Ridge pumping station, compliments of the Kern County of Old Facebook page. And then there is the second picture, from the 1930s or 1940s, of the old water wheel at Hart Park.