Saturday, January 10, 2009

Father (now Monsignor) Craig gets a new robe

Good news for Father Craig Harrison, the popular pastor of St. Francis of Assisi Church downtown. The Californian reports today that Craig and Perry Kavookjian, pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Parish, were conferred the title monsignor this week by the pope. Outside of the church, this is only news because of the wide popularity of Father Craig, who seems to transcend doctrine and is the most popular religious figure in town. He's glib, witty, down to earth and can bring laughter to the most somber funeral. If he ever wants to leave the church, he could have any political office in town. I even had a close friend (not sure if he's agnostic, probably more likely a Deist) remark that if Father Craig were anything but Catholic, he'd attend his church. Aside from a new robe with some purple trim, we assume Monsignor Craig will retain his sense of humor.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Wendy watch: a good day for Ms. Wayne

I spotted Wendy Wayne on the way to work today. She was bundled up in a stocking cap and chatting with a friend (with dogs in tow) at the corner of Oak and 21st Street, headed to Beach Park for brisk walk. She's back from Cedar's Sinai and another round of chemotherapy and is thankful for every good day. She shot me an email:

"I've been trying to walk at least an hour each day. Working up to a 1/2 marathon on 1/25/09 in Carlsbad with a large group of Dominic Ambriz supporters. Next week is the big one ... in LA for at least six days" for more chemotherapy.

Seeing Wendy out and about brightened my day. Life often deals us bad hands, but few handle them as well as Ms. Wayne.

Enough thumb sucking: time to reinvent newspapers

Mark Potts posts some intriguing questions on his blog the Recovering Journalist about how some folks in the newspaper industry are still resisting the inevitable change. Mark is right: the thumb suckers among us have to get over it and move on. We're going to survive, but the newspaper as we know it will go away. He writes:

"In other words, there's no natural law that says the traditional newspaper business model - hire large staff, report news, sell ads, crush trees, smear ink on them, throw on doorsteps, collect some circulation revenue, reap 20 percent-plus profit margins - is inviolate. Unfortunately the reality may be that it's not the Web news business model that is broken-it's the print business model that's screwy."

Potts is right but I'd add there remains a good future for a blended print-digital product, albeit on a different economic scale. The print product of the future will be smaller and cater to a finite but influential group of "loyal" readers, no longer a one-size-fits-all product. That might mean no more TV grids, comics and fluff but a more serious and indepth magazine-style product that speaks to a more affluent and engaged audience. And that could be fun even if it's a smaller version of its former self.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Ecstacy, cocaine and the local doctor

The story of the arrest of Dr. Jeff Freesemann and his wife Shelly on multiple drug charges has to remain one of the weird stories of the day. He's the (now former) chief of staff at San Joaquin Community Hospital and she's the attractive yoga instructor who - at least to their neighbors in Haggin Oaks - lived the typical quiet suburban life: two kids, a dog and a nice home. That was before they were busted Sept. 17 in connection with an investigation of Ecstacy, meth and cocaine in local night clubs. They've been charged with two felony counts of conspiring to commit a crime, three felony counts of transporting a controlled substance and one felony count of transporting/selling a narcotic. Others were nabbed in the case but this one's a head scratcher right out of "Desperate Housewives." Stay tuned to for what's up next.

The Brain Drain, Part II

One of the disheartening aspects of calling Bakersfield home is watching the steady exodus of bright young people who go off to good schools and never return. It's not that they don't have soft feelings for Bako; it's just the simple lack of opportunities. And despite what our city leaders may say, it takes more than an affordable home to attract young people here. Things like culture, a nightlife where you won't get shot or stabbed and a crowd of the similarly educated would be a good start. It's why I started the "brain drain" list farther down on this page to note those who chose not to come back, and these were just the names that came to mind over a 10 minute period. Some kids do of course return, but it doesn't hurt if there's a family business in town. Joe Hay (son of Mikie and Dan Hay, owners of Jim Burke Ford) went to Notre Dame and is now back in town working at the dealership. Kelly Loyd, daughter of Steve and Pat Loyd of Loyd's Aviation, is back in town after graduating from UC Berkeley and working for Gap in San Francisco. Morgan Clayton, owner of Tel-Tec Security, has three children including one of whom, Tasha, is working at the company after graduating from Pepperdine. (His two boys are both working in Los Angeles.) It's just a shame that there aren't more opportunities for our best and our brightest to return home.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Care packages for our troops overseas

There's a lot of good that goes on in this community that never makes the paper or local TV. Folks making the right decisions, sacrificing for others and doing it all without an ounce of press. Consider Pam Binns, commercial and operations manager with the local Walter Mortensen Insurance office, who has been sending care packages to our troops (Army Company C, Alpha Company)in Iraq the past couple of years. She does it all out of her living room through donations from dozens of friends. She emailed this picture of some of those goodies (black beanies for the cold, pistachios, Christmas stockings shown with a smiling helicopter airman.

Wendy Wayne's courageous battle with cancer

I hear that Wendy Wayne is back at Cedars Sinai in Los Angeles for another round of chemotherapy in her ongoing battle with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. The former chairman of the First Five Commission is commuting back and forth and doing so with her trademark good attitude and courage. Wendy (her husband is political consultant Gene Tackett) has long been one of the more progressive voices of our community. She's a fulltime volunteer and activist who puts us all to shame in her good deeds around our community. She has worked with the Rotary Club International on the polio eradication program in India, done charity work in Africa and been involved in about every community charity of note. (Not to mention her stint in the Peace Corps out of college) There is not a bigger and more gracious heart in town. Our prayers are with you, old friend.

Ford: The good, the bad and the really ugly

There's more bad news for the car industry, and it's no longer relegated to the Big Three. Toyota and Honda also report plummeting sales. But there could be some good news for Ford, and I am unabashedly pulling for Ford's recovery. Why? Locally Jim Burke Ford is a family company that over the years has done a lot to improve our community. They are good stewards who have always given back when others have not. So let's hope they stick around for many more years. Ford reported today that sales dropped 32.4 percent in December from the period a year ago. That's tough but there is some good news: the company said its market share increased to 14.6 percent in December, up 0.7 of a point from a year ago. In addition, the Ford F-Series pickup has maintained its position as the best selling model in the United States, and on the horizon in the incredible Ford Fusion Hybrid that promises gas mileage in the 40-plus range. We'll take the good news when we can get it.