* ... HOUSING WOES: We got some more bad new on housing when the February numbers showed that sales of previously owned homes had dropped for the third straight month. Add to that more homes on the market and it's more evidence of an anemic market. On the other hand, it's a terrific time to buy a house. Prices have dropped dramatically (some local homes are going for half what they sold for a few years ago) and interest rates are near historic lows. So on some level, there may not be a better time to invest. There are terrific deals even in large cities that have been slammed with foreclosures. CNBC's list of the top ten cities to get a great deal on foreclosures (starting with No. 10 and counting down to the worst) San Francisco, Kansas City, Mo., Riverside, Los Angeles, Denver, Phoenix, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Columbus, Ohio, Cincinnati and finally at No. 1, Pittsburgh.
* ... NORMAN LEVAN: One of our community's most generous benefactors is Dr. Norman Levan, a dermatologist and philanthropist who has given $6 million each to Bakersfield College, University of Southern California, St. John's College in Santa Fe, N.M., and the Shaare Zedek Medical Center in Jerusalem. Last week, a wide circle of friends gathered at Bakersfield College to celebrate Levan's 94th birthday. His donations have been used to advance the humanities at all institutions and just last month the Levan Center for the Humanities opened at BC.
* ... CRIME LAB: Lisa Green, the chief deputy district attorney who is running unopposed to succeed Ed Jagels as our new District Attorney, spoke at the downtown Rotary Thursday about the benefits of DNA testing and keeping the Kern Regional Crime Lab fully funded. It was DNA testing that led to the quick arrest of Anthony Ray Graham Jr. in the horrific "Babies R Us" rape case, which featured a kidnapping and rape in broad daylight. Green put everyone on notice that as DA she will fight to keep the lab funded.
* ... SAYING THANKS: Reader Donna Rice wrote to tell me about the sudden death of her husband of 31 years. Her thoughts are powerful in their simplicity. In her words: "While a personally difficult burden to bear, the loss brought with it unforeseen comfort to me and my family. The support, help, thoughts and prayers of family, friends, colleagues, the professionals who assisted us and even complete strangers gave me and my family great comfort in the days that followed .... At a time when so much of the news we see and hear is negative, a personal tragedy such as this brought out the innate kindness of so many people in this city." Well said and thank you for sharing.
* ... LONG COMMUTE: How would you like to commute from Bakersfield to Santa Monica? Well Carl Nicita has been doing just that for six long years, and he loves it. Carl and his wife Beverly have lived in the Southwest for 25 years and both their boys graduated from Ridgeview High School. Six years ago Carl left his job at the Kern County Fire Department and became a traffic officer with the Santa Monica police. He works 10-hour shifts and leases a rent-controlled apartment in Venice Beach just minutes from work. How's the commute? "Actually I have been totally blessed and I have the absolute best of both worlds. I get to work and stay at the beach. And then I get to come back to Bakersfield and enjoy being away from the hustle and bustle of the big city. Believe me, being able to park in my own driveway and not having to worry about traffic is one of life's most simple pleasures!" Next step is looking toward retirement and Nicita says Bakersfield is looking good.
* ... BAKERSFIELDISM: You know you're from Bakersfield when: "You've seen the Stairway to Heaven lights when returning to Bako at night on the Grapevine. And you know to call it Bako and why we call it that."
Dr. Levan is one awesome human.
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