Thursday, August 16, 2018

As homelessness grows the city and county struggle with ways to combat it, Greg Gallion hangs it up at Houchin Blood Bank and animal rescue groups push for new laws

Friday, August 17, 2018

 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 such a special to live. Send your news tips to

 * ... HOMELESS: Was the big county meeting on the homeless a sincere effort to deal with a serious problem, or a political stunt aim at putting on a good face so close to the November election?
Jeff Heinle, the firefighter running against Supervisor Mike Maggard, called it a cynical stunt put on by a board who has wasted a decade doing nothing. Heinle said homelessness is the county's No. 1 issue, and I for one agree with him. And what would he do to tackle the problem? Dig into the county's emergency fund and pay for programs that were set up - but largely left unfunded - almost a decade ago. "We have to do something," he told me on KERN NewsTalk 96.1 FM. "This is why I am running. I am not a career politician and I want to get something done."

 * ... POOP PATROL: Meanwhile, one of the potentially harmful side effects of homelessness is all the urine and feces left on the streets, creating a health hazard reminiscent of some of the worst Third World cities. And it is happening in California now in San Francisco, where the city has created a full-time "poop patrol" to clean up feces left by the homeless. Seriously. And all that at a cost of $700,000 a year. Let that sink in.

 * ... HOUCHIN BLOOD BANK: After overseeing explosive growth at the Houchin Blood Bank, Greg Gallion is hanging it up as president of the local non-profit. Gallion joined Houchin in 2001 and was instrumental in the opening of the blood bank's new facilities off Buena Vista Road. A graduate of East High School known for his signature handlebar mustache, Gallion has been the public face of the organization while serving on the board of multiple boards and non-profits. Among other things, he is a past president of the Rotary Club of Bakersfield, former member of the Kern County Fair Board and a board member with JJ's Legacy. No word yet on who will replace him.

* ... ANIMAL CONTROL: Meanwhile, the folks in the local dog and cat rescue world are starting to come together to demand the county and city adopt tougher laws to protect stray dogs and cats. Some of their top priorities: make breeders take out permits before they breed dogs (exceptions allowed for AKC breeders), make the tethering of dogs more restrictive and form an animal control cruelty task force to impose harsher penalties on those who abuse their pets. This is one issue that can we solved with some forward thinking policies.

 * ... FOREVER HOME: And speaking of animal rescue, congratulations to the folks over at the Bakersfield Boxers and Bullies Rescue for finding a "forever home" for Shadow, a pit bull who lived the first five years of his life chained to a stake in the ground. Left in the sun all day, Shadow spent his days trying to chew through the huge chain, losing most of his teeth in the process. Donna Carpenter, a former Bakersfield resident now living in Alaska, adopted Shadow after money was raised to get the pit transported to his new home.

 * ... AH THE IRONY: The irony in this scene is rich. On the day the county's Homeless Collaborative met to discuss our growing problem with the homeless, I pulled into the radio station parking lot to find our parking lot had been taken over by eight to 10 homeless and all their belongings.

 * ... PROVIDENCE: Hats off to Gabriela Gonzalez, most recently a staffer for state Sen. Andy Vidak, who has now joined Providence Strategic Consulting, Inc. as its new Government Public Affairs Manager.

 * ... MEMORIES: You just have to love this old photo/postcard.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Dwight Yoakam and Lucinda Williams pay tribute to the Bakersfield Sound, car thieves get a lot smarter (and busier) and NOR scores a hit with its new eight-court "pickleplex" at Greenacres Park

Monday, August 13, 2018

 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 such a special to live. Send your news tips to

 * ... SELF ESTEEM: So you probably heard the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce has launched a branding campaign aimed at making us all feel better about living in Bakersfield. We are
our own worst enemies, and the study has shown that those of us who live here are harder on ourselves than outsiders. The late Los Angeles Times food critic Jonathon Gold adored Bakersfield and our Basque food culture, and of course there is always the Bakersfield Sound to take pride in. And pride in our hometown was on full display at a recent concert at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles featuring Dwight Yoakam, Lucinda Williams and and Steve Earle, where the song set was almost entirely devoted to Merle Haggard, Buck Owens and other Bakersfield Sound greats. (And someone was making a killing by selling Bakersfield Sound T-shirts.) Plus this: did you know that Yoakam now has a channel on SiriusXM satellite radio devoted to the Bakersfield Sound? Note to Chamber president Nick Ortiz: you can start and end your branding campaign with music and Basque food.

 * ... CRIME: There's not a neighborhood in town that hasn't been affected by crime. Burglaries, car break-in, porch thefts, you name it crime is rampant these days. The rash of car break-ins is worrisome, and now comes word that the thieves have gotten even smarter. Some folks will place their laptops or other valuables in their trunks, believing when it is out of sight, it is safe. But now thieves are breaking into the cars, going through the glove compartment and then popping open the trunk to make sure there is nothing valuable inside. It has happened twice to friends lately, once in La Cresta and once in Rosedale. Beware.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "If your relationship status says, 'It’s complicated' maybe you should stop kidding yourself and change it to 'Single.'"

 * ... JEAN FULLER: I ran into state Sen. Jean Fuller at Uricchio's Trattoria the other night where she was gathered with staffers from both Sacramento and the local district office. Down from the Sacramento office was Dana Culhane Brennan, one of a handful of bright young people I think should consider running for office. Fuller will be termed out of office in November and will likely be succeeded by former Assemblywoman Shannon Grove.

 * ... PICKLEBALL: The opening of a new pickle ball complex at Greenacres Park has been a huge success, reviving what was once a little used tennis center into a vibrant eight-court pickle ball center drawing dozens of new players each day. And now word on the street is that the North of the River Parks and Recreation District, which runs the Greenacres complex, is considering a second "pickleplex" center in the northwest. Stay tuned.

 * ... MEMORIES: Enjoy this photo of the old Southern Hotel at the corner of 19th Street and Chester Avenue around 1888. It burned in the great downtown fire a year later. Photo courtesy of the Kern County of Old Facebook page.