Thursday, July 28, 2016

A new downtown infill project of luxury apartments heads toward the final stretch, remembering the remarkable Betty Leonor and new guidelines for giving blood

* ... PROGRESS: A new project to bring semi-luxury apartments downtown looks like it is entering
the final stretch. Siding has gone up on the new 17th Place, a 44-unit complex that sits between N and O streets off 17th, just a block from the Rico Bowl. The project, targeted to millennials with apartments in the 1,200 square foot range, is the brainchild of Ward 4 city councilman Bob Smith and his son, Austin Smith. It will be an important test in the concept of urban 'infilling' for Bakersfield and, if successful, will undoubtedly spark more investment downtown.

 * ... ROSEDALE: And speaking of progress, road crews are busy trying to complete the widening of Rosedale Highway between Highway 99 and Coffee Road. New asphalt and striping has been completed west to Mohawk and the center dividers are now in well past that.

* ... GOOD FORM: This was a scene at Dewar's downtown the other day when a reader and her brother were enjoying some sodas at the bar. "A film crew was present at one end of the counter. We were at the opposite end when a nice man came over to us and asked if he could hide behind us while the film crew was there. He picked up his 'to go' order and disappeared. When we attempted to pay for the sodas we were told the gentleman paid our bill. That has never happened to either of us before and we will never forget his kind act. As we were leaving my brother commented, 'Why do you suppose he did that?' I smiled and said, 'because we are old and he felt sorry for us!'"

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "If women think all men are the same, then why do they worry so much about picking the right one?"

 * ... OVERHEARD: At the Bakersfield Racquet Club a man is telling a partner: "I gave blood yesterday and now they ask if your current gender is the once you were born with. A real sign of the times I suppose."

 * ... BETTY: It was a year ago that cancer claimed the life of Betty Leonor, an incredible talent and artist who did some of her best work while living and working in Bakersfield. A native of the Dominican Republic, Leonor landed in Bakersfield almost by mistake (she followed her husband here) but immediately attracted a large following for her stunning series of oil paintings, many self portraits. Leonor died of liver cancer at the age of 44, but her legacy lives on via her paintings that hang on walls throughout our town.

 * ... TRIBUTE: I posed the question earlier about legacies, and how we believe we will be remembered when we are gone. Most of us will never be famous, or well known beyond our immediate circles, but that doesn't determine the impact we live. Consider this note from John Moore of Moore Farms/White Wolf Potato, who wrote to note the passing of his secretary and bookkeeper Margaret Morrison. "Margaret passed away at age 85 one week before the end of our potato harvest earlier this month. It would have been the finish of her 60th season working for our business. She was a dedicated employee who worked with four generations of Moore's. A Canadian by birth, she began working for my grandfather in 1956 and finished her career working with my children. She was the mainstay of our office for many years and she witnessed many changes in the way we do business. From the days of adding machines, hand typewriters, and landlines to today's world of cellphones, computers and accounting programs, she saw it all. Margaret never had children of her own thus dedicated her life to the success of our business and the well being of all her associates here. Her passing marks the end of an era. Her longevity was matched only by her loyalty. Such people are rare and hard to find and she will be greatly missed!"

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Keep an eye on those tax raising proposals on the November ballot, Kyle Carter picks up an important endorsement and the Bako Sweet mini seedless watermelon shows up on the streets of New York City

 * ... TAXES: Here's yet another reason to pay attention to what your local government is doing these days: despite the defeat of the proposed library tax in June, more proposes to raise your taxes are headed to the November ballot. Bakersfield College is pushing one measure to improve its facilities, and other groups (public safety unions and Sheriff Donny Youngblood) tried unsuccessfully to increase the sales tax
to fund public safety and transportation projects. For taxpayers, this looks like death from a thousand small cuts as politicians use the ballot box to push vital decisions back to the voters. I found this response from former city councilman Mark Salvaggio noteworthy: "There is an old idiom: You never let a serious crisis go to waste.  In this vein, our county government needs to make some structural budget cuts to remain solvent.  If it is not done now during this budget crisis, it will never happen; it will be government as usual. Now is the time to cut back on dozens of unfilled public safety positions that are still funded but have little hope of being filled in the future.  These funds are used to pay for expensive overtime for the rank and file in these departments, the hiring of temporary employees to complement the current permanent employees, i.e., the Probation Department and who knows what else... The Kern Community College District Board of Trustees just voted to put a $503 million dollar bond on the ballot in November.  If passed, this will add another tax on our property tax bills which already have numerous bond taxes on them.  For example, this college district currently has 3 other outstanding bonds on the property tax rolls along with 1 maybe 2 for the Kern High School District as well as dozens of elementary school district bonds throughout Kern County."

 * ... ENDORSEMENTS: Kyle Carter has picked up an important endorsement in his quest to succeed Harvey Hall as mayor. The country's largest police union, the Kern Law Enforcement Association, said it was supporting Carter because of his commitment to landing new funding for local law enforcement. Meanwhile Carter's opponent, Karen Goh, picked up a less weighty endorsement when she won the support of local attorney Milt Younger, once a kingmaker in local Democratic politics and a longtime voice for liberal causes throughout the region.

 * ... SMALL WORLD: My oldest daughter, a graduate of Garces Memorial High and later UC Berkeley, now lives in Brooklyn but carries a piece of Bakersfield in her heart. So I should not have been surprised when she texted me a picture of a seedless, organic mini watermelon with the brand "Bako Sweet" that she found in a local New York City street market. It turns out the melon she purchased in Brooklyn is from Valpredo Farms here in Kern County, founded by Chester and John Valpredo and carried on by the family to this day. Check out the family's website at

* ... GOOD FORM: If you already love Trader Joe's, this note from Bonnie Farrer will make you love it even more: "Is Trader Joe's a great store or what? Today I needed a few items there but was not allowed to put my small dog in the grocery cart. I couldn't leave him in the hot car so one of the  clerks stood outside the door with Toby on a leash while I shopped. Bravo to that young man!"

* ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Stalking is when two people go for a long romantic walk together but only one of them knows about it."

 * ... BAD FORM: Fred Valenzano weighed on our litter habit with this thought: "Your Friday column (7/22) has a slight error in your comments about plastic bags: quite a few smokers STILL throw away cigarette butts like they are nothing! I know and am related to current and ex-smokers who are/were always thoughtful. But I see people everywhere who still treat our world as their personal ashtray. Ugh!"