Thursday, January 28, 2016

The Wounded Warrior Project is in crisis mode after a damning investigation into its lavish spending, Wiki's Wine Dive offers a lunch special and the Bakersfield Arts District Foundation gets off a big night

 * ... VETERANS: One of the largest and most prominent non profits that serves veterans - the Wounded Warrior Project - is in crisis mode after a damning report that calls into question its spending on lavish dinners and parties.
Among the findings of a New York Times investigation: the charity flew 500 employees to Colorado Springs for an "all hands" meeting at the exclusive Broadmoor Hotel, employees routinely buy business class seats and others stay at $500 a night hotel rooms. More troubling: the charity spends 40 percent of the money is raises on overhead, as opposed to other groups like the Semper Fi fund that spends just 8 percent on salaries and overhead. The organization raised some $372 million last year, mostly small donations from people over the age of 65.

* ... BOB ELIAS: I spotted an interesting picture on social media the other day that originally appeared in the Taft Midway Driller. The fading black and white photo showed local celebrities Buck Owens, Don Meridith, Frank Gifford and Gifford's mother, Lola, at a Bob Elias Hall of Fame banquet in 1976. Thanks to Sheri Horn Bunk, director of the Taft College Foundation, for sharing.

 * ... GOOD MESSAGE: And speaking of Sheri Horn Bunk, I can always rely on her to pass on some inspirational wisdom. From her Twitter account: "A person will soon forget what you said, and people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel."

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "There was a glorious time, before social media, when you would just lose touch with people."

 * ... FOODIE BEST BET: One of the best lunch deals in town is over at Wiki's Wind Dive and Grill in the Sully's shopping center at Seven Oaks. Simply cut out the coupon that has been running in The Californian and get enjoy a "buy one, get one free" lunch. The popular watering hole also features more than ten items at under $10 each.

 * ... ARTS DISTRICT: It was nice to see a good turnout for the new Bakersfield Arts District Foundation kick off reception at Metro Galleries the other night. Among those who appeared to support this new foundation focused on the downtown arts district included former Supervisor Karen Goh, Dignity Health's Robin Mangarin, Assembly candidate Vince Fong, the Art Council of Kern's David Gordon, David Cohn and George Barrientos from Chain Cohn Stiles, Lisa Kimble Edmonston, the Tree Foundation's Melissa Iger, Bakersfield City School District board member Andres Gonzales, Bike Bakersfield's Jason Cater, the Bakersfield Chamber's Nick Ortiz and Hillary Hanes, Kati McKeown from Congressman Kevin McCarthy's office and her husband, Bakersfield High teacher Sean McKeown, Mento Buru's Matt Munoz and Miranda Whitworth from the Kern Federal Credit Union and finally D.R. Horton's Jason Martin and daughters Ellie and Lillie.

* ... GOOD FORM: Congratulations to Deborah Durkan, who recently retired as head of MARE (Mastering Abilities Riding Equines). Durkan spent more than 20 years at this important non-profit, helping it grow and expanding its programs serve a greater number in our community with special needs and disabilities. In a letter to MARE supporters and staff, Durkan thanked everyone "who has blessed my life through MARE ... and 'May the Horse be with you.'"

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Despite our fascination with tiny houses, American's prefer bigger homes with more rooms and garage space, and a former Kern County deputy shares his near death experience at the hands of a gang banger

 * ... HOUSING: Despite the popularity of reality television shows like HGTV's "Tiny House Hunters," Americans still have a love affair with bigger, wider open spaces. According to The Wall
Street Journal, the average size of a new American home increased to 2,720 square feet, up from 2,660 just a year earlier. About half of the new homes had four or more bedrooms, and 25 percent of them had room for three or more cars. Analysts said one reason is that many of the new homes being built now are at the high end of the market, but it's clear a nation of tiny house hunters is little more than a dream.

 * ... TOM MORGAN: I spent part of Tuesday morning interviewing Tom Morgan about his brush with death and how - many years later - he has found forgiveness for the gang banger who critically wounded him while he was a deputy sheriff. Morgan is now deputy county counsel, but his ability to forgive, and even express pity, for the now 34-year former gang banger was inspiring. It turns out Morgan's kindness is well known in our community, as Tom Pavich told me after listening to the interview on KERN NewsTalk 96.1 FM. "Tom Morgan is one of the finest persons I have ever had the pleasure of meeting," Pavich wrote. "I met him as the result of an unfortunate event in my life: a mountain bike crash during a race in the Hart Park foothills five years ago. There were no witnesses to my crash and somehow I picked up myself and finished the race without any memory of the crash.  It wasn't until I crossed the finish line, when Tom and others questioned me, examined my helmet and jersey, that they realized I had crashed. Tom, without hesitation, volunteered to take me to the ER at Bakersfield Memorial for examination and stayed with me for over four hours of X-Rays and MRIs.  With no broken bones and only a minor concussion, I was released and Tom returned me to my vehicle so that I could drive myself home. Although I thanked Tom at the time, I would like to take this opportunity to thank him again publicly. After listening to your interview with him, one can see it is obvious that this man possesses a caring, loving and forgiving exceptional character. You are a good man Tom Morgan."

* ... OVERHEARD: At a local restaurant a man is telling a friend: "The older I get, I care less about more."

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Nothing tests that whole 'for better or worse' thing like the question, 'Does this look infected?'"

 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: A sign is posted along a road that reads: "Just because you are offended doesn't mean you are right."

 * ... TRUMP: Retired oil executive F. Lynn Blystone had this thought about Donald Trump: "It appears that Donald Trump is becoming the political equivalent of Lawrence Welk, about whom it was said that nobody liked him except the audience."

* ... DOWNTOWN: Good news for all you art lovers: a new non-profit has been formed to promote the emerging arts district, the first of its kind locally. It's the brainchild of Don Martin, owner of  Metro Galleries on 19th Street and the man who created the concept of First Friday, the popular monthly celebration of the arts that has helped rejuvenate downtown. Called the Bakersfield Arts District Foundation, the non-profit has picked up funding from Dignity Health, which is sponsoring a "Breath of Fresh Air" campaign, a public art exhibit designed to raise awareness about lung cancer screenings, early detection and treatment. Martin's organization fills an important void downtown by focusing solely on the arts, moving the entire First Friday operation under the non-profit and introducing new arts educational programs for younger students.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Thomas Morgan, assistant county counsel, comes face to face with the gang member who tried to kill him years ago. What constitutes justice? And mercy?

* ... TOM MORGAN: Back in 1997 Thomas Morgan was working as a Kern County deputy sheriff when he was shot by a 17-year-old gang member. The weapon: a single shot .410 derringer. The shot entered his neck, causing traumatic damage to his larynx, pharynx and vocal chords. In the struggle,
the gang member grabbed Morgan's backup weapon and tried repeatedly to shoot him again. Morgan survived, miraculously, and recently found himself face to face with the assailant during a parole hearing for the shooter. In the end the shooter was denied parole, but he will be up again soon. The question: what is justice? And should the shooter be eligible for parole after serving only a fracture of a life sentence? Morgan is now an assistant county counsel, and Tuesday he will join me at 9:15 a.m. on KERN Newstalk 96.1 FM on First Look with Scott Cox. Join us in a conversation about our criminal justice system as we dive back into this dramatic event.

 * ... OUR IMAGE: Peter Wollesen had a smart reply to the negative view of Bakersfield portrayed in the new dark comedy called Baskets. Said Wolleson: "I remember that old business proverb: Under-promise and over-deliver. Baskets, Johnny Carson, et al have set up the under-promise, and when visitors see Rancheria Road or Wind Wolves (Preserve) in the spring, or see a show at the Crystal Palace, or have a Basque dinner at Woolgrowers, the over-deliver is easy."

* ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "By the time you learn the rules of life, you’re too old to play the game."

* ... GOOD FORM: And Shirley Castro had this shoutout to some of the folks over at the Bakersfield Police Department. "The car seat that I have in my car for my grandson had become loose to the point it would be dangerous. I called the Bakersfield Police Department and was able to make an appointment with Rachel Rivera to adjust it for me  She was able to give me an appointment for the next day. Once there, she and Alysen Gelinas worked to secure it very tightly. If you have ever installed one of those, you know this is not an easy task. I really appreciate their friendly, professional manner in handling this for me. What a great free service this is to Bakersfield's citizens to help keep us safe. My sincere thanks to Rachel and Alysen. I hope you will be able to publish this in your column to let people know about this service."

 * ... MORE GOOD FORM: Meanwhile over at the Maui Pho restaurant off Ming Avenue Frank Fish and his wife were treated to a free dinner by a friendly (and anonymous) party of four. "Our server told us of this gracious gift when we asked for out bill. Wow, were we shocked. Thank you so much, whoever you are. We look forward to doing that for someone else.

 * ... DISEASE: And Donna Cazacus wrote with this warning about a a disease called pulmonary histoplasmosis that her cat contracted. "Warning for all pet owners: My indoor cat has pulmonary histoplasmosis, an extremely rare disease here in California. There's a blood test for it, if you suspect it. We had to do an extremely expensive test to discover it. Our vet has seen very few cases of it over her career, but has seen six or eight in the last six months to a year, mostly in southwest Bakersfield.  She's wondering if all the construction and the Westside Parkway have contributed to this. You can't get it from a sick animal, but you can get it from the same spores that affected my cat."