Thursday, November 14, 2019

A UC Berkeley instructor lashes out as rural America, calling the farm life a "bad decision," the city bickers over a low-barrier homeless shelter and local CPA Andrea Hill expands her practice and moves into new digs

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 community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of any other individual, organization or company. 

 * ... COASTAL ELITES: And you wonder why this country is so divided? Sometimes you don't have to look far, like a recent Twitter post from a grad student and lecturer from UC Berkeley who
took to social media to declare half the country brain dead. That's right a young graduate student named Jackson Kernion took time to remind the world that rural Americans are "bad people who have made bad life decisions. Some, I assume, are good people But this nostalgia for some imagined pastoral way of life is stupid and we should shame people who aren't pro city?" I am not sure where to start with this, given the stupidity of Kernion's post, but it speaks to the arrogance and narcissistic navel gazing so common by certain segments of our society.

 * ... HOMELESS: The city's on and off again approach to homelessness is beyond frustrating. Yes, our city has done a lot of combat the crisis - helping fund more beds at local shelters, helping pay for emergency response teams and even funding a "poop" patrol to wash feces and urine from our streets - but a divided city council just can't seem to reach consensus on where to locate a low barrier shelter. We thought we had a location - the old Calcot facility on East Brundage - but Ward 1 Councilman Willie Rivera led a spirited opposition and the council voted 6-0 to go back to the drawing board. Meanwhile winter is here and the suffering on our streets continues. And our city council bickers. So here is a novel idea (I wish it was my idea but I stole it from a friend): why don't we challenge all seven council members to suggest ONE place in their ward which is suitable for a homeless shelter. If East Brundage isn't good enough, what is your suggestion Councilman Bruce Freeman? How about a shelter near Seven Oaks? What about it Ken Weir? Care to turn over the old East Hills Mall into a shelter? It's easy to say no. Let's put their feet to the fire and see what they suggest in their own backyard.

 * ... GAS PRICES: Gasoline prices have spiked in California, soaring well above what most Americans are paying at the pump. In some locations, Californians are paying $5 for a gallon of gas.
A number of refinery outages tightened gas supply in the market. The average price of regular gas in California rose to $4.18 a gallon, the highest level since May 13, 2014, according to the Oil Price Information Service, which gathers data for the AAA.California's gas prices are the most expensive in the United States: The national average is currently $2.65 a gallon.

 * ... MOVING UP: Congratulations to Andrea R. Hill, a local accountant who recently absorbed another CPA practice and moved her office downtown. Hill purchased the practice of Jerry W. Kemp, who had been practicing for more than 30 years and was previously Sheats and Kemp. Kemp retired and Hill loved into his office at 2200 19th street. Hill has been practicing since 1985 when she graduated from CSUB. She was previously a tax partner at Brown Armstrong and prior to that in partnership with Cathy Brown, at Brown and Rutherford, CPAs.

 * ... TAFT: Check out this very old U.S. Mail Box in Taft just off 8th Street near Kern Street. Thanks to reader Pam Taylor for getting this shot.

 * ... MEMORIES: Some more historic photos as we walk down memory lane. Enjoy.

Monday, November 11, 2019

Despite its Christian stand Chick-fil-A is one of the nation's most popular restaurants, Julie Crawford gets a surprise birthday, trucks are being stolen in droves around town and Dick Taylor bows out of a county supervisor race

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 community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of any other individual, organization or company. 

 * ... CHICK-FIL-A: Just how popular is Chick-fil-A? Well, the restaurant industry says the popular chicken restaurant is now the third most popular fast food eatery in the country, right behind No. 1
McDonald's and No. 2 Starbucks. But it is also one of the more controversial ones simply because its corporate mission is to "glorify God" and it is closed on Sundays. A national research groups showed that Chick-fil-A posted double-digit sales gains in 2018, passing Subway to claim the No. 3 spot in terms of toppling revenue. The company was founded by Truett Cathy, a Christian businessman who incorporated his faith into the company’s practices.

 * ... HAPPY BIRTHDAY: Happy birthday to Julie Crawford, one of the owners of Pyrenees Cafe and the Silver Fox Starlite Lounge downtown. The longtime entrepreneur was surprised on her birthday by husband Rod Crawford with a surprise party at The Bell Tower club downtown. The Crawfords bought Pyrenees a few years ago (and later the Fox Starlite Lounge) and restored both to their former beauty.

 * ... SUPERVISOR RACE: Former county veterans affairs director Dick Taylor has taken his hat out of the race to succeed Mick Gleason on the Kern County Board of Supervisors. Taylor had been courted to run but said Saturday he had decided against it. "Based on my 27 years running our family business, military record, experience service as a county department head, and knowledge of the district, I've been urged by many community leaders and friends to run for District 1 of the Kern County Board of Supervisors.  Having first moved into the district in 1979 after my honorable discharge from the Marine Corps, I consider it a great honor to be approached to run for this office.  However, after a lot of thought and research, I have decided to not seek election in March 2020 as District 1 Supervisor.  My hope is that a candidate arises to represent this incredible district who possesses the necessary experience, character, trustworthiness, maturity, and statesmanship befitting the highest leadership position in the county.  I want to sincerely thank everyone who has offered their support and I continue to be proud of all the work happening in our great county."

 * ... CALIFORNIA: Few people outside of those of us living in California understand just how big a state we live in. Check out this map that explains it all.

 * ... TRUCK THEFTS: Want to know how bad car thefts are in Bakersfield? I randomly collected pictures of pickup trucks that have been stolen in the last couple of weeks. Here is a selection. Be careful out there.

 * ... MEMORIES: Some old pictures as we walk down memory lane.

Friday, November 8, 2019

The city of Bakersfield punts on deciding on the site for a homeless shelter (again), Phillip Peters enters the race to succeed county Supervisor Mick Gleason and RIP Dennis Mullens, local water lawyer

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 community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of any other individual, organization or company. 

 * ... WAITING ... AND WAITING: The city has once again punted on the long overdue decision on where to locate a low-barrier homeless shelter. First the city walked away from a small park off Golden State after a handful of people objected, and now it has done the same after opposition arose to buying the old Calcot facility on East Brundage for a 450-bed shelter. Understanding no one
wants this kind of shelter in their neighborhood, the situation calls for bold leadership which seems to be lacking on our City Council. The city will not resolve this until January, while in the meantime homelessness grows and becomes more visible and serious by the day. By contrast, the county under CAO Ryan Alsop has moved with more urgency, and its 150-bed facility off Golden State should be up and running in just a couple of months. Consider this quote attributed to President Theodore Roosevelt: “In any moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing, the next best thing is the wrong thing, and the worst thing you can do is nothing.”

 * ... DISTRICT ONE: Campaigning has started early in the race to succeed Mick Gleason as the District 1 county supervisor. Phillip Peters, a longtime aide to Gleason, has announced he will run and he is already picking up support, and a fund raiser has been scheduled to build his war chest.  Some of Peters' early supporters include Ken Small, Wes Bradford, Terry Hearron and Dr. Sarabjeet Singh. Another potential candidate, former county veteran's affair coordinator Dick Taylor, has yet to decide if he will run.

 * ... EXODUS: It is no secret that people and businesses are leaving California in droves, fed up with high taxes, outrageous housing costs and overbearing rules and regulations from Sacramento. But you might be surprised where they are going. In 2018, the top destination for Californians was Texas, which absorbed 86,164 Californians, then Arizona (68,516), Washington (55,467), Nevada (50,707) and then Oregon (43,058).

 * ... SPOTTED: I spotted this on the Bakersfield Thieves Facebook page: "To whoever tried to ransack my grandmothers garage on the south side and stole two of her giant laundry detergents and whatever else you might have taken. I hope you rot in hell."

 * ... RIP DENNIS: Dennis Mullens, a local lawyer with an expertise in water law, died unexpectedly in his sleep this week. Mullen, 67, worked for Tejon Ranch and Klein DeNatale before retiring recently, Mullen, a quiet but firm force, was active in local water politics. He leaves a wife, Melanie, and a daughter, Anna, who recently graduated from Indiana University.

 * ... PANORAMA BLUFFS: Hats off to Supervisor Mike Maggard who helped coordinate a beautification program up on the Panorama Bluffs. Various artists from the Arts Council of Kern
(Iva Fendrick, Jorge Guillen, Taya Morroquin, Kristen Montoya and Jennifer Williams Cordova) painted power boxes on the bluffs to discourage graffiti and give the park some extra pizzaz.

 * ... GOODBYE CALIFORNIA: So what do some Californians think of their governor and his policies that drive people and businesses out of the state? Chck out this meme I spotted on Facebook.

 * ... MEMORIES: Check out this wonderful first old photo from the Kern County History Fans Facebook page. Just love it. The second shows a group of what could be football players from the old Kern County Union High School.

Monday, November 4, 2019

BREAKING NEWS: A Superior Court judge orders the Diocese of Fresno to produce Father Craig Harrison's personnel files that pertain to sexual abuse with minors and gambling in a potentially devastating blow to his efforts to clear his name

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 community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of any other individual, organization or company. 

 In a potentially devastating blow to the efforts of Monsignor Craig Harrison to clear his name, a Kern County Superior Court judge has ordered the Diocese of Fresno to produce all records in Harrison's personnel file pertaining to sexual abuse of a minor as well anything related to Harrison having a gambling problem.
 The order from Judge J. Eric Bradshaw was handed down Monday, ordering the Diocese to turn over all records pertaining to Harrison having sex with a minor, sexually abusing a minor or having a gambling problem.
 The ruling could be devastating to Harrison if it produces records pertaining to allegations of sexual abuse against Harrison dating back 30 or some years. Among other things, it would answer questions from critics and Harrison supporters who doubt the validity of past allegations, and it could also provide lurid details from the accusers themselves.
The court ordered the Diocese to produce:
 a) Complaints and records pertaining to plaintiff having sex with a minor
 b) Complaints and records pertaining to plaintiff sexually abusing a minor, and
c) Complaints and records pertaining to the plaintiff gambling or having a gambling problem
 The court order, curiously, was a direct result of Harrison's legal team (attorney Craig Edmonston) filing defamation lawsuits against two Harrison critics: Stephen Brady of the Roman Catholic Faithful and Brother Justin Gilligan, a lifelong friend of Harrison's  who is studying to become a Benedictine monk. (Gilligan has since turned on Harrison, providing testimony that claims Harrison groomed young men with money and favors, talked openly about pornography and homosexuality and engaged in chronic gambling)
 Edmonston's lawsuits against Brady and Brother Gilligan opened the door to discovery motions like the one San Diego attorney Paul Jonna filed on behalf of Brady. Judge Bradshaw did not agree with everything that Jonna asked for, but he did agree with what Jonna and the defendants most wanted: the Diocese personnel files.
 In addition to providing details of any allegations against Harrison in Firebaugh, Merced or Bakersfield, where Harrison served, the personnel files may show the central question of: what did the church know and when did it know it?
 Judge Bradshaw ordered that the records be brought to court on Nov. 25, during which time he would meet with attorneys for both sides and hear arguments about how the files should be made public.
 SOME BACKGROUND: What we do know is that several young men have come forward alleging inappropriate contact with Harrison when he served in Firebaugh, Merced and Bakersfield Those cases are currently being reviewed by law enforcement authorities in Firebaugh and Merced. The Bakersfield police department closed the local investigation, saying it was impossible to establish exactly what happened in the local case.
  The Diocese of Fresno has been waiting for authorities to rule on the Firebaugh and Merced cases before it rules on the fate of Father Craig. The release of the personnel files will shed new light on those old cases, potentially provide details of exactly what the contact between Harrison and the accuser was, and possibly provide insight into how the Diocese responded when a priest in its realm has been accused of sexual impropriety.
 From a legal standpoint, some legal observers see this as a repudiation of Harrison's aggressive tactic of filing defamation lawsuits against Brady and Gilligan, which opened Harrison to discovery.
 Said one prominent local attorney: "It was a risky strategy and I am sure they (attorney Jonna, Brady and Gilligan) see this as a gift from (Craig) Edmonston. It's not a good day for Father Craig."

Sunday, November 3, 2019

More lurid details emerge as the case of Monsignor Craig Harrison plays itself out in court filings, the state of Texas seeks to benefit from California's ongoing woes, and Olvia LaVoice leaves KGET for greener pastures in Seattle

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 community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of any other individual, organization or company. 

 * ... FATHER CRAIG: Are overzealous supporters of Father Craig Harrison harassing and intimidating those who speak out against the suspended priest? Those are the allegations made by a San Diego lawyer who wants to have a Harrison defamation lawsuit dismissed because it targets free speech. The allegations came in two statements included in a legal filing (called an anti-SLAPP motion) filed in response to Harrison's defamation lawsuits against two critics. Those two men are
Stephen Brady, head of a group called Roman Catholic Faithful, and Ryan Dixon, a former friend of Harrison's who is studying to become a monk and is now known as Brother Gilligan. Both have been sued by Harrison because of their criticism of Harrison. The anti-SLAPP motion seeks to have Harrison's lawsuit dismissed, and it provides Harrison's critics a new platform to raise questions about the monsignor's past behavior. Furthermore, the new charges by Brady and Dixon reveal a potential dark underside to the widespread support Harrison enjoys in the community. Some supporters, the motion alleges, have taken matters into their own hands in an attempt to harass and intimidate Brady and Dixon. Among the allegations:
  * Brady claims he received a long series of rambling emails from Harrison's brother, Rick Harrison, in which he brags about hundreds of thousands of dollars raised for his brother's defense. In one email, he refers to Brady as "Satan."
 * The more troubling allegations come from Brother Gilligan, in which he provides details about the time he and Harrison were close at St. Francis. Gilligan alleges Harrison lavished him with money and gifts to buy his allegiance. Gilligan also said Harrison would "befriend older wealthier people for financial gain." A one time, Gilligan said he felt betrayed ... when he (Harrison) asked me inappropriate questions to see whether I was homosexual." One other time, Gilligan said Harrison asked him, "What kind of porn do you watch?"
 * Gilligan went on to allege he grew suspicious that Father Craig was sexually abusing kids at St. Francis and was told by another man that Harrison "would take his temperature by grabbing his testicles." Gilligan also claimed that during one trip, he shared a bed with Harrison and that the monsignor "sexually caressed" his chest for about 10 minutes.
* Gilligan also alleges that Harrison "told me directly that he wanted to tell people the sins I confessed to him so that I would be kicked out of seminary... Fr. Craig threatened to break the seal of confession because he was upset with me for threatening to tell authority figures about how he mishandles money, how he would give young guys, including myself, large amounts of cash, and particularly how he would manipulate me."
 * Since giving testimony against Harrison, Brother Gilligan said his mother had been fired from her position at St. Francis and that his mother's home had been vandalized, her tires had been slashed and that his mother woke one morning to find her yard filled with "We Support Msgr. Craig Harrison" signs. He said his mother and grandmother were living in a "constant state of fear" and were forced to move to Oklahoma.
 Harrison and his attorneys have denied all of these allegations and have indicated they are building a strong case against Brother Gilligan to refute the charges, one by one. It should also be noted that nowhere in Gilligan's statement does he or anyone allege that Father Craig personally directed or was involved (or even knew about) in any retaliatory behavior toward his critics.
 THE NEXT STEP: The judge hearing the case, Judge J. Eric Bradshaw, is weighing a request to have Harrison's personnel file made public. Harrison's attorney, Craig Edmonston, opposes the move and dismissed it as an overly broad fishing expedition. At stake: the personnel files might include past reports of inappropriate behavior as well as how the Diocese of Fresno responded to any previous allegations. (file photo of Father Craig with Ryan Dixon)

 * ... BIRTHDAY:
As an aside, it should be noted that Father Craig continues to enjoy enormous popularity in Bakersfield, and that many of his followers are willingly contributing to a defense fund on his behalf. There is open talk of his attorneys suing the Catholic Church itself, and as a show of support, several hundred people (one person estimated the crowd at 600) turned out for a surprise birthday party on Father Craig's 60th birthday last week.

 * ...COURTING TEXAS: The state of Texas has wasted no time in exploiting Calfornia's troubles, erecting billboards across the state to lure businesses to move to the Lone Star state. The billboards promise a steady supply of electricity as opposed to the ongoing blackouts and power outages that have bedeviled California during the fire and high wind reason.

 * ... ADIOS OLIVIA: Olivia LaVoice, one of the better investigative TV reporters to come around in a long time, is leaving KGET for another gig at a Seattle television station. LaVoice will join KCPQ in Seattle, her hometown, after four years with KGET.

 * ... BAD CITIES: Check out this map I spotted on Facebook, which identifies Bakersfield as the "worst" city in California. Who makes these maps anyway? I can think of a hundred towns "worst" than Bakersfield ... have you ever been to Compton, or Inglewood, or Brea, or Modesto, or Riverside, just to name a few? You get my drift.

 * ... MEMORIES:A couple of historic cool old photos of our town back in the day.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Father Craig's attorneys are accused of trying to intimidate witnesses and censor free speech and now face an anti-SLAPP measure, the power blackouts may lead to a new exodus of businesses from California, and our hero military dog heads to the White House

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 community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of any other individual, organization or company. 

 * ... FATHER CRAIG: It has been more than six months since Father Craig Harrison was suspended by the Diocese of Fresno because of allegations of sexual abuse, but the time is quickly coming when the general public will have access to all of the allegations. The reason? The case has now entered in
the legal realm, thanks to Harrison's attorneys filing defamation cases against Brother Gilligan, who is studying to become a Benedictine monk, and Stephen Brady, head of Roman Catholic Faithful, a group that tracks sexual abuse cases among the clergy. The lawsuits opened Father Craig to discovery, and Brady's attorneys are seeking Harrison's personnel file at the Diocese. Presumably, those attorneys are banking on the personnel file containing lurid allegations of abuses and possibly even information on how the Diocese covered them up. And now, Rancho Santa Fe attorney Paul Jonna invoked the anti-SLAPP statute in defense of Brady, saying Harrison's lawsuits were intended to intimidate witnesses and censor free speech. (Ironically, the anti-SLAPP action was filed on Harrison's 60th birthday). So did Harrison's attorney, Craig Edmonston, do the right thing by filing these lawsuits and opening a potential Pandora's box of bad publicity for his client? Time will tell, but stay tuned because thing are moving quickly. (photo of Stephen Brady and Craig Harrison)

As if things in California aren't bad enough for businesses, you can add the power blackouts to the reasons businesses are fleeing the state. That's right, high tech firms in the Bay area are warning that they may leave because of the unreliability of having 24/7 electricity. That is the same message that Barry Hibbard, a commercial real estate broker with ASU associates, told me on The Richard Beene Show last week. "First we had ABC (anywhere but California) and now we have the uncertainty of power," Hibbard said.  “The uncertainty is the greatest threat they face to running their businesses in Silicon Valley today,” added Tim McRae, Vice President at the Silicon Valley Leadership Group. McRae is in charge of the organization’s energy policy. The impending power shutoffs were a frequent topic of discussion at the organization’s annual luncheon Friday, which brought together hundreds of business, political and community leaders.
“I think I join every leader in California to express my deep concern that this cannot be the new normal,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaff when asked about the impact of PG&E’s policy to turn off power to prevent wildfires when faced with high-wind events.

 * ... MENTAL HEALTH: It appears an organization is pushing for a statewide ballot initiative that would bring back mental health facilities for many of the homeless that wander our streets. That's right, former Assemblyman Mike Gatto is behind a proposed 2020 measure that would require a person who commits a public nuisance violation to a sentence to "be served in a hospital or other mental health treatment facilities." This is bound to be controversial, pitting those who want to bring back institutions for the mentally ill against those who feel this is a cruel and inhumane way to deal with a very serious issue.

 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: "My wife and I decided we don't want to have children. We will be telling them tonight at dinner."

 * ... HERO DOG: Here's a good news story we can all enjoy. This is the military dog that helped chase down the ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi before he detonated a suicide vest died during a special forces raid. The dog, named Conan, was wounded but is recovering at an Iraqi medical center and will make an appeared with President Trump at the White House.

 * ... MEMORIES: Check out this old photo of the Tejon Theater, thanks to the Kern County of Old Facebook page.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Thousands evacuate as the Kincade fire burns in California wine country, Taft College honors Bob and Judy Hampton and a walk down memory lane in pictures

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 community such a special place. The views expressed here are strictly my own and do not reflect the views of any other individual, organization or company. 

 * ... KINCADE FIRE: The Kincade fire in northern California continues to burn, leading to the evacuation of the city of Healdsburg and dozens of local wineries. Thousands have fled the fire's path
(some coming here to Bakersfield to wait out the worst of it) and in the meanwhile many Californians are putting the heat on Gov. Gavin Newsom, already the target of a recall effort. Newsom toured parts of the areas devastated by the fire, putting the blame directly on PGE for decades of mismanagement, as well as climate change. "The hots are getting hotter. The dries are getting dryer. The wets are getting wetter, and the winds are becoming more and more a factor... Climate change is wreaking havoc," he said. Leaders of the recall effort will try to link Gavin to these wildfires, but it remains to be seen if state voters will connect the governor to it all.

 * ... ALWAYS A DRILLER: Congratulations to the Bakersfield High School class of 1979, which celebrated its 40th reunion in style this past weekend.

 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: "A dog never dies. He is just sleeping in your heart."

 * ... MORE FACEBOOK: "Is an argument between two vegans still called a beef?"

 * ... HONORS FOR THE HAMPTONS: Congratulations to Bob and Judy Hampton, who were honored by the Taft College Foundation as recipients of the Community Spirit Award. The Hamptons, longtime businesspeople in the Taft area and strong boosters of Taft College, were honored at a recent cookout on the campus. (File photos of Bob Hampton with Cynthia Zimmer and Bob and Judy Hampton with L..J. Radon)

* ... COUNTY SUPERVISORS: Mark Salvaggio, a former city councilman and a former field representative for county Supervisor David Couch, knows local politics and he keeps us all updated with his periodic email blasts. In a recent post, he talks about Emilio Huerta, son of Dolores Huerta, eyeing the seat of Couch in District 4. Said Salvaggio: "The petition in lieu period, as it is called, to avoid paying filing fee of $1,072.10 began several weeks ago with local attorney Emilio Huerta (District 4), Kern Valley resident David Fluhart (District 1), former Western Pacific Research employee Natalie Noel (District 1) and Richard Herrera (District 5) having taken out papers to gather petition signatures. Huerta reportedly has 15 people in District 4 circulating petitions for him.Supervisor Mick Gleason's District Director has announced he is running for his boss's seat. The popular Gleason is retiring after serving two terms. The rumors continue to be bandied about that Dick Taylor will run. Taylor is a former Field Representative for Supervisor Mike Maggard and retired County Director of the Department of Veteran Affairs. Taylor told me he is thinking about running. Political consultant Cathy Abernathy will line up behind Taylor with her Western Pacific Research political consulting firm juggernaut. "

 * .... CALFORNIA LIVING: Some fun memes I have spotted on social media speaking to the state of affairs living in California.

 * ...MEMORIES: Just look at this very old picture of Bakersfield along H Street, Thanks to the Kern County of Old Facebook page for posting this. The second picture shows the old Highway 99 back in 1939 looking south toward the Grapevine.