Sunday, December 29, 2019

Bakersfield Observed looks at the top stories to follow in 2020, from oil to groundwater to crime and homelessness ... a guide for the top stories to follow

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.

 As we look toward ushering in 2020, Bakersfield Observed takes a look at the top ten stories we will be tracking this year. It will be an important year, so hold onto your seats.

 10) CITY MANAGER: Bakersfield city manager Alan Tandy retires Jan. 10 after almost three decades as the city's top administrator. To say Tandy's retirement is significant is an understatement, and in fact on a local level, one insider likened it to the rise of a new pope. "In our form of government no one is more powerful than the city manager," said one city employee. "This is a chance to set a new tone." Tandy's list of accomplishments is long, but his personal "take on prisoners" style rankled many and did little to improve relations with the county. When the City Council hires his successor, it will set the mood for possibly the next three decades. Expect that decision in the first quarter of 2020.

 9) LETICIA PEREZ: We will also learn the fate of Supervisor Leticia Perez, who is facing a misdemeanor charge related to charges she did not disclose that her husband (Fernando Jara) was representing cannabis interests while the Board of Supervisors was considering legalizing the retail sale of it. Many had written off Perez, expecting her to fade out of the public limelight, but she has signaled she is back and appears reenergized after her near fall from grace. Perez is the incoming chair of the Board of Supervisors and many are expecting an out of court settlement on the misdemeanor charge, clearing the path for Perez to go forward. Perez is smart, ambitious and not to be underestimated. Among her off-duty goals: grooming young Latino and Latina candidates for office as Kern County grows younger and browner and more diverse.

 8) THE HOMELESS: This will be a critical year in the battle against homelessness. The county's low-barrier navigation shelter will open in early February and the city is moving forward with its own plans to open a similar shelter. County CAO Ryan Alsop and Mayor Karen Goh are at the forefront of the local effort to combat the problem and hundreds of thousands of dollars have been allocated for everything from "poop patrols" to daily cleanup crews to additional prosecutors to handle misdemeanor cases. This will be the year when we determine just how committed we are as a community to reclaim our streets.

 7) FATHER CRAIG: Will 2020 be the year when we learn if Father Craig Harrison will either return to St. Francis Parish or be defrocked from the clerical state? Let's hope so because the uncertainty surrounding his status is a boil on the public consciousness that needs to be lanced. The problem: the final decision will be made by the head of the Diocese of Fresno, Bishop Joseph Brennan, and he is keeping his own counsel for making a decision. Word is that Brennan is waiting for the authorities in Firebaugh to first indicate if they will prosecute Harrison for a decades-old allegation of sexual abuse. But in truth, it will be Brennan's call in the end and Harrison will either find himself "laicized" (it means a person loses the clerical state and no longer has the right to exercise sacred ministry) or he will be returned to St. Francis or possibly moved to another church. If Harrison does not return to St. Francis, as many expect, what will be the second act for this once popular priest who - despite allegations from multiple men of sexual abuse over several decades - remains beloved by so many?

 6) ABUSE ALLEGATIONS: While we wait on word on Father Craig, expect a virtual flood of lawsuits to be filed as victims come forward to tell their stories of sexual abuse dating back decades. Thanks to a new state law that goes into effect Jan. 1, the state has given victims of sexual abuse a new window to file lawsuits against their abusers. Expect dozens of people to come forward across the state, and some of those cases may come locally against priests in the Diocese of Fresno.

 5) KEVIN MCCARTHY: With impeachment haunting President Trump, there are few people in the country with more to win or lose than our own Rep. Kevin McCarthy, who as House Minority Leader has been the tip of the spear defending the president. McCarthy may be criticized by the left for his defense of the president, but McCarthy remains wildly popular in his home district and few work harder on forging local ties than "KMAC" as he is affectionately known. If Trump wins and the Republicans take back control of the House of Representatives, we could be referring to KMAC as "Mr. Speaker."

4) NEW ENERGY, NEW JOBS: Is Bakersfield beginning to shake its image as an "oil and ag" backwater? Some say it is, and they point to the new Amazon distribution center across from the airport and the fact that Bakersfield is outperforming 46 other metro areas in net job and business creation. Helping in that evolution is Bitwise Industries, a Fresno-based tech academy and software startup that hopes to create 1,000 jobs in the city. Bitwise is renovating the building across 18th Street from the old Padre Hotel as part of its Bakersfield investment. With our traditional job centers like oil and agriculture under attack, this is the stuff that could decide our future.

3) CRIME: Every indication is that crime is on the rise, particularly "petty" and "non violent" crime that the state has largely decriminalized. We now live in the state that has decriminalized everything fro possession of heroin to prostitution, and suddenly our communities are full of "petty" criminals stealing indiscriminately, breaking into cars and trucks with impunity and waltzing into grocery stores and Rite-Aids and filling their arms with whatever they desire. Locally, we are thankful for people like District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer who throwing the weight of the DA's office to maintain law and order, but all this will come to a head this year as things will undoubtedly go from bad to worse.

2) WATER: This will be an important year for water in California as local water agencies begin establishing protocols to track water inflow and outflow within their jurisdictions. Huge parts of the Central Valley are literally sinking as local water agencies continue to draw down groundwater supplies, and for the first time the state is trying to get a handle on balancing the needs of agriculture against the reality of groundwater levels and the needs of urban population centers. This could lead to hundreds of thousands of acres of productive farmland being taken out of production.

1) OIL: And finally, 2020 could prove to be a pivotal year in the war against fossil fuels being waged by Gov. Gavin Newsom and the ruling Democratic party in Sacramento. Never before has California had a governor so openly hostile to the oil and natural gas industry as Newsom is, and his actions could directly impact the exploration and production of oil here in Kern County. For oil path communities like Taft and to a lesser extent Bakersfield, Newsom's decisions could have a devastating impact on our tax revenue, our growth, the value of our homes and our future.

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Harold Meek, a giant among local car dealers, dies at the age of 83, snowfall creates a traffic nightmare after Christmas and cancer takes the life of Shelly Rodriguez

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.

 * ... RIP HAROLD MEEK: Harold Meek, one of the giants of the local car industry who headed
Three-Way Chevrolet for years, died Christmas Eve, his family said. He was 83. His wife of almost 50 years, Kay Meek, told The Californian that Meek's family was with him when he died. Meek joined Three-Way in 1971 and served as the dealer-operator until his retirement in 2008. In recent years Meek struggled with near blindness but he soldiered on and never lost faith. His wife, Kay, is a force to be reckoned with herself and has served on the Kern Community College District board for the past 20 years. Together, the Meeks gave generously to various local charities while staying deeply involved in civic affairs.

 * ... LEGAL CANNABIS: Questions are being raised about how California set up its program to tax legal marijuana, and it appears we got something wrong. In fact, things are so bad that regulators are suggesting the state may have to go back to the voters, with an initiative, to correct the problem. The issue: tax revenue from the sale of legal cannabis is about a third of what was expected, and a huge illegal market has arisen to fill the gap. Regulators say taxes are simply too high, leading to a flood of illegal pot sales that now account for as much as 80 percent of the entire market. Statewide, California is expected to earn some $3.1 billion from pot sales, but that is far short of the original estimate of $8.7 billion.

 * ... SNOW CLOSURES: The storm that swept through California left a heavy blanket of snow across the Kern Count highlands, forcing the closure of both the Grapevine and Highway 8 and disrupting the travel plans of thousands of motorists. People were forced to sleep in their cars on the Grapevine while thousands of others used Highway 166 or Highway 46 to divert to the coast. How bad was the traffic on 46? Just take a look at this picture. Other pictures show conditions on Highway Highway 166 and the Grapevine.

 * ... SHELLY: Our community lost a wonderful spirit recently when Shelly Rodriguez, known for her megawatt smile and good cheer, died after a brief battle with cancer. She was just 42. I first met Shelly when she worked at Seven Oaks Country Club and she later migrated to The Petroleum Club where she was reunited with her longtime mentor and friend, Lili Marsh. I learned of Shelly's passing from Lili on Facebook, where she wrote: "I can’t believe I will never talk to you again. My heart is broken. You were quite simply the most kind, thoughtful, generous and upbeat person I ever knew. I never saw u in a bad mood in 26 years. I will say again that every professional and personal success that I have experienced has been because of YOU. The absolute best assistant - but really we were a team - your daily efforts made me look good and every time I had a crazy idea from Honor Flight to Bakersfield Unites festivals- YOU were all in! I couldn’t, wouldn’t or have wanted to do any of it without you. I love u sooooooo Much and I am truly broken...."

 * ... VINCENT'S: I spotted this wonderful old picture on the Kern County of Old Facebook page. Who remember's Vincent's?

 * ... OLD BAKERSFIELD: Gilbert Gia is a local historian, and he posted an excerpt from a 1915 book in which the author traveled across America. Enjoy: "At Bakersfield we stopped at the New Southern Hotel, which is, like most Western hotels, European in plan. We found a delightful cafeteria known as the Clock Tower Cafeteria, kept by two women, and with most appetizing home cooking. Bakersfield is one of the most Western of California towns. Something in the swing of its citizens as they walk along, something in the wide sombreros and high boots which the visiting cowboys wear imparts a general breeziness and Western atmosphere. It is a little town with the clothes of a big town. It has very wide streets and is laid out on a generous scale. Its fine Courthouse, its beautiful new schoolhouse, its pretty homes, its residence streets with their rows of blooming oleanders, pink and white, make it an attractive town. But it must be confessed that it is very hot in Bakersfield, as it is in most towns of the San Joaquin and Sacramento Valleys. The most interesting thing to me in Bakersfield was a leather shop, where I saw handsome Mexican saddles, very intricately and ornately stamped. When we left Bakersfield we saw just outside the town a perfect forest of oil derricks towering into the air, some of the wells being new ones, others having been abandoned. Bakersfield is the center of a rich oil territory, from which much wealth has flowed. In leaving the town we turned by mistake to the right instead of to the left, and found ourselves traveling toward a Grand Canyon on a miniature scale. We were driving over lonely country where the water had worn the hills into fantastic shapes and where the whole country was a series of terraces. Sometimes small tablelands stood up boldly before us, sometimes cone-shaped pieces of plateau, like small volcanoes, appeared in long rows beyond us. Beautiful purple mists and shadows hung over these carvings of nature as the sun began to decline.”
(Effie Price Gladding, Across The Continent by the Lincoln Highway, 1915)

 * ... MEMORIES: Sone delightful old pictures found on the Facebook page Kern County of Old.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Bakersfield Observed's 2019 Winners and Losers: the high, lows, challenges, setbacks and victories in a wild year in Kern County

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. 

 WINNERS AND LOSERS: It was a year to remember in Kern County. A longtime District Attorney retires, a federal court orders the supervisors to rewrite their district boundaries, homelessness surges, the locally owned newspaper is sold, the question of legal cannabis roils the community, some iconic local restaurants close and a beloved local priest is accused of sexual impropriety. So today we look back on 2019 and present some of the winners and losers for the year. Enjoy.


 10)  ... CYNTHIA ZIMMER: After a divisive election which pitted her against another member of the District Attorney's office, Cynthia Zimmer became the new DA and immediately set a law and order tone in sync with a community dealing with a sharp spike in crime, gang activity and homelessness. Zimmer is on my "watch list" of those public officials whose prominence will only grow in stature.

 9) ... EAST CHESTER: It's hard to find a better example of resilience, challenge and grit than the emergence of the "east Chester" business district (east of Chester on 18th Street). Young people with vision, drive and working capital moved into this previously sleepy part of downtown and created something new and magical. First there were the 17th Street Townhomes, a project by City Councilman Bob Smith and investors, followed by Cafe Smitten, Dot & Ott, The Angry Barnyard BBQ, the new Metro Galleries and others. The aptly named East Chester is fast becoming one of  "the" places to shop and be seen.

 8)  ... ROB AND JUDI MCCARTHY: Former Bakersfield residents Rob and Judi McCarthy,  owners of Lightspeed Systems who took the company to Austin where it was sold, never forgot their hometown and generously donated $2.5 million to the Kern Community Foundation and the Women's and Girl's Fund. That's called walking the walk.

7)  ... KERN COUNTY: Props to the county of Kern that proved itself more nimble, aware and aggressive in dealing with our homeless crisis. While city officials fretted and flirted with paralysis, the county charged forward and is on the verge of opening its 150-bed low barrier homeless shelter off Golden State Avenue. This is a testament to the entire Board of Supervisors for getting it right.

 6)  ... TBC STAFF: With the newspaper industry in turmoil, some of the most talented of The Bakersfield Californian's staff have fled to jobs outside the industry, and many of them are already making their mark on the community. Among them: ranking editors Jennifer Self and Christine Bedell to CSUB, Trevor Horn to Garces Memorial High School, Jason Kotowski to KGET, James Burger to CAPK, Harold Pierce to Adventist Health Tehachapi and Lois Henry to the non-profit SJVWater.Org, devoted to the politics of water in the Central Valley.

 5)  ... CSUB: CSUB lost president Horace Mitchell to retirement, but the school didn't miss a beat when Lynnette Zelezny came from Fresno State to replace Mitchell as the school's new president. The campus is booming, entering into a partnership with Bakersfield College, expanding its academic offerings and continuing on its quest to evolve from a sleepy commuter school to a true major university. Zelezny may turn out to be the idea choice for CSUB at just the right time.

 4) ... VINCE FONG: It must be hard to be a Republican legislator serving with the Democratic majority in Sacramento. But Assemblyman Vince Fong does it with ntelligence, focus and grace, a tireless advocate of the lifestyle, priorities and morality of the Central Valley in an increasingly hostile setting. Never an ideologue or bomb thrower, Fong works with both sides of the aisle to get things done.

 3)  ... DAVID COUCH: Supervisor David Couch drew the short straw in the battle over drawing new districts at the Board of Supervisors. His district was gutted and he lost relationships with voters and communities that took years to establish. And, he was forced into running for re-election prematurely in a predominantly Hispanic district. Yet Couch defeated Grace Vallejo handily and proved once again that focus and commitment will always trump skin color at the ballot box.

 2) ... THE 18HUNDRED: Hard to find a better example of urban renewal, vision and infill that the opening of The 18Hundred restaurant at the corner of 18th and Chester downtown. This elegant old bank building, once covered up by an ugly facade, has been completely restored and his now one of the hottest eateries in town.

 1) ... RYAN ALSOP: And the biggest winner of the year: Kern County chief administrative officer Ryan Alsop, who has made a name for himself as a person who gets things done with razor-like focus. He brings to the CAO's role the same discipline and determination that he brings to his personal workout schedule, which in itself is impressive. Alsop was the tip of the spear in the county's aggressive efforts dealing with our homeless crisis, the rebuilding of Hart Park and putting the county back on sound financial footing.


 10)  ... DAVID ABASSI: Local businessman David Abassi went from vocal marijuana advocate to erratic (and some say potentially dangerous) gadfly over the course of the year. Once merely a cannabis advocate, his behavior is increasingly under question as he levels charges of fraud and conspiracy against countless people. And among other things, Abassi was cited for drawing a gun in public and he once went before the supervisors with a bizarre rant taken from straight from the soundtrack of the move "Pulp Fiction."

 9)  ... CAFE MED: Meir Brown's Cafe Med went out of the business this year, in itself no sin given the brutal competitive nature of the restaurant business, but when it went belly-up it left dozens holding useless Cafe Med gift certificates, some sold to support local schools.

 8)  .... TATYANA HARGROVE: Add this Millinneal to the list thanks to her arrest for tampering with food where she worked at the McDonald's on Stockdale Highway. Hargrove sued the Bakersfield Police for false arrest (she lost that case) and later retaliated by spitting on an officer's to-go order, only to be discovered by her boss who turned her into police. Real class that girl.

 7) ... DOWNTOWN BUSINESS ASSOCIATION: The DBA earned its reputation as a do-nothing local organization by hosting a series of expensive luncheons where it featured city officials, proving once again the DBA's main mission seems more about paying its own salaries rather than serving its business members.

 6) ... ELAINA SOSA: Add the name Elaina Sosa to our list after being charged with animal cruelty for dragging her dog behind her while she used a scooter to drive down 20th Street downtown. The dog's paws were swollen and bleeding after Sosa was caught on video dragging the poor thing down the street while on a leash.

 5)  ... KERN COUNTY FAIR BOARD: Yet another fall from grace was the Kern County Fair Board, which was cited in a state audit for gross mismanagement of funds. Led by Fair director Mike Olcott and board chair Blodgie Rodriguez, the fair board was cited for spending lavishly on expensive meals and booze on out of town junkets.

  4)  ... WE, THE PEOPLE: This list would not be complete without including us - yes, you and me - on the list of losers. Thanks to liberal policies that decriminalized everything from heroin possession to prostitution, crime is exploding in California and yes, we are the true victims. Petty crime, car theft and vandalism, retail theft, public urination and drug use are all on the rise in California.

 3) ... BOARD OF SUPERVISORS: In the list of "winners," we rightfully recognized the county of Kern for its singular focus on getting its financial house in order and addressing the homeless issue. But the Board of Supervisors also earned a "loser" nod for two boneheaded decisions: they showed short sightedness in failing to approve a concert venue off Interstate 5 (choosing instead to cow-two to a handful of influential farmers) and failing to approve the retail sale and delivery of cannabis products, a decision that has benefited other communities by the millions.

2) ... OIL INDUSTRY: It's now official: the state of California has declared war on the oil industry and seems more determined than ever to shut down the exploration and production of fossil fuels in the state. Gov. Gavin Newsom has made it clear that the future of California - if he gets his way - will be oil free, and the Democratic legislature agrees. The next few years will be crucial as we see just how fast this movement will surge, and what it will mean for oil patch communities like Bakersfield.

 1)  ... FATHER CRAIG HARRISON: It's hard to find a bigger loser this year than Monsignor Craig Harrison, who was suspended from St. Francis Parish in April after a handful of men accused him of sexual abuse when he served in Firebaugh, Merced County and here in Bakersfield. Although his fate remains uncertain and Harrison has retained the support of a core group of local Catholics, including some of the richest and most prominent people in town, Harrison is on the verge of losing everything if he is not re-instated. Whatever Bishop Joseph Brennan decides, the damage to Harrison's once unblemished reputation has been done, a dramatic fall from grace that has no peer locally. Today Harrison is a man without a portfolio, a man of the cloth at heart who can no longer practice in the Catholic church as he awaits his fate. If Harrison is cleared and returned to the pulpit, no doubt he will head next year's list of "biggest winners," but the odds are clearly against him.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

County CAO Ryan Alsop invites the city to explore a partnership on its homeless shelter, one of the killers of an elderly east Bakersfield woman may be paroled and the San Francisco 49ers show some real class to the family of Christopher Kreiser

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.

 * ... AN OFFER YOU CAN'T REFUSE? Here's an offer that just might be too hard to refuse. County chief administrative officer Ryan Alsop has invited the city to partner with the county in building a low barrier homeless shelter off Golden State. The county is well on the way to opening
the facility, which will eventually feature 150 beds, while the city has been dickering for months about finding a location. During an open ended discussion on The Richard Beene Show, Alsop invited the city to join with the county in operating one joint facility, instead of two competing ones. The advantages: the city could avoid getting into the shelter business, it would avoid ponying up millions for land and it would not have to worry about angering neighborhoods who don't want a shelter near homes. Ward 1 City Councilman Willie Rivera has long wanted to explore a partnership, while City Manager Alan Tandy and Ward 2 Councilman Andrae Gonzales are pushing for the city to buy land on East Brundage at the Calcot plant to erect its own shelter.

 * ... LOW BARRIER SHELTER: Meanwhile as the city dickers, the county shelter is well under construction and could open as early as February. Alsop said the construction of the facility, located off Golden State on a parcel of county land, will open either in late January or early February. The facility will be called a Low Barrier Navigation Center and will be run by staff of the Community Action Partnership of Kern.

* ... PROP 57: Here is yet another example of the unexpected consequences of the passage of Prop 57: a young lady who was involved in the brutal death of a helpless 81-year-old woman is about to be released from prison. That's right Katila Nash, convicted of taking part in the murder when she was 15 years old, is set to be released from prison any day now.  If you remember, Nash acted as a lookout when she and two other teenagers entered the house of Dorothy Sessions in east Bakersfield and brutally killed her. She wasn't eligible for patrol until 2030 but thanks to Prop 57, she is now eligible for release.

 * ... BAD FORM: Shame on the Kern County Fair board for its lack of discretion in spending lavishly on lobster meals and booze, and now a state agency says its has to make suitable reimbursements. According to KGET, which broke the original story, the California Department of Food snd Agriculture (CDFA) is tracking an auditor's recommendations on action taken against CEO Mike Alcott, a deputy manager and a maintenance supervisor. The auditor also noted that members of the fair board have agreed to repay $1,259 for alcohol purchases. How did we get here anyway? Board chairwoman Blodgie Rodriguez should explain that instead of dodging the cameras. When the auditor reveals what board members have repaid for what, we will report it here.

 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: "You know what’s more annoying than cops? People who buy old refurbished cop cars and keep the spotlight attached. We all hate you."

 * ... CHRISTOPHER KREISER: Hats off to the ownership of the San Francisco 49ers for showing some real class, and love, for a Bakersfield man who died of cancer a year ago. In memory of Christopher Kreiser and his love of the 49ers, his wife Katie, their children and friends attended last week's 49ers game against the Atlanta Falcons and were granted field access by the team owners. Rick Kreiser, Christopher's father, said the 49ers went out of their way to recognize Christopher and his fight against lymphoma.

 * ... MEMORIES: And who remembers the old Bakersfield Inn on Union Avenue. Just take a look at what it once was.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Will Lyle Martin run for Sheriff, H.A. Sala confronts David Abassi at a local political fund raiser, street racing in Bakersfield, the Yard House opens in the Southwest and the original owners of Guthrie's on Guadalcanal during World War II

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. 

As we head into a colossal election year, both on the national and local level, there is lot of movement as potential candidates start positioning themselves to make the run - or not.  One of the hottest rumors around town is that retiring Bakersfield police chief Lyle Martin may be
eyeing a run for Kern County Sheriff once Donny Youngblood retires at the end of his term. Martin will join the District Attorney's Office as chief investigator and word is he is considering a run for Sheriff if Youngblood retires as expected in two years. Martin's entry into the Sheriff's race would turn it on its head, and he would immediately be crowned the front runner. On the Board of Supervisors, Emilio Huerta held a fund raiser last week in his bid to unseat Supervisor David Couch, and Mayor Karen Goh has two challengers in her bid for reelection. Looking farther down the road, Supervisor Mike Maggard has not indicated if he will retire when his term expires in two years, but if he does Jeff Flores is expected to enter that race. Flores serves on the Kern High School District board and is chief of staff to Maggard. Another name being talked about for Maggard's seat is Louis Gill, the director of the Bakersfield Homeless Center. Gill notes he has his hands full preparing to move the homeless center (the site was purchased by the High Speed Rail Authority) so this may be wishful thinking by Gill's supporters. But his entry into the race should not be taken lightly: he has the name recognition and gravitas to make a serious run.
 MY PREDICTIONS: It's far too early to make predictions, but for the fun of it here is what I see: Mayor Goh easily wins reelection, Couch handily turns back Huerta and Martin enters the Sheriff's race and waltzes to an easy victory.
 SHERIFF'S RACE: Two other names said to be eyeing the Sherif's race are Shafter police chief Kevin Zimmerman and Brian Smith, a retired California Highway Patrol officer.
 DUST UP: Did you hear about the confrontation between cannabis promoter David Abassi and defense attorney H.A. Sala last week at the fund raiser for Emilio Huerta? Abassi showed up at the fund raiser - held at Sala's Bakersfield Country Club home - unannounced and was quickly confronted by Sala. (Remember, Sala is defending Supervisor Leticia Perez who has had a long beef with Abassi) I am told Sala told him to leave his house, several times, which Abassi finally did. Later, Abassi claimed on Facebook that Sala pushed him down the stairs and basically assaulted him. Too bad for Abassi but I am told Sala's security cameras captured the whole thing and Sala is now considering having Abassi charged with filing a false police report.

 * ... STREET RACING: Take a good look at Israel Maldonado. Is he the new poster child for street racing in Bakersfield? This is a grown adult, a 34-year-old man who should be well on the path to a successful life, yet prosecutors claim he was racing another car at more than 100 mph on a busy Ming Avenue when one vehicle slammed into another car, killing a woman. The judge ordered Maldonado to surrender his license and stay away from establishments that serve alcohol. Maldonado pleaded not guilty to first-degree murder, vehicular manslaughter and three misdemeanors at his arraignment before Judge Rick Brown The Californian said Maldonado was driving a Dodge Ram pickup truck when he allegedly began racing a Ford Mustang driven by Ronald Pierce Jr. on Old River Road in southwest Bakersfield on Nov. 24, according to police reports. Pierce struck a minivan, police said, sending it into the path of an oncoming crane truck, killing the driver, Maria Blaney Navarro, 58, of Bakersfield, and seriously injuring her two grandchildren.

 * ... SEASON GREETINGS: Only in Kern County would you find a holiday light display with a little attitude.

* ... YARD HOUSE: The new Yard House restaurant opens today (Monday) on Stockdale Highway, and you can expect a typical Bakersfield welcome: standing room only. The new eatery will open daily at 11 a.m. and will feature a regular Saturday and Sunday brunch. General manager Brian Cable says the Yard House is known for its selection of more than 100 craft beers, and the restaurant features a little bit of everything: steaks, fish, burgers, vegetarian and vegan options and burgers.

* ... HOMELESSNESS: Just how fed up are we with the vagrant issue? Just look at this post I spotted on Facebook and the accompanying pictures. "This is fun having to deal with on a daily basis.  Congregating on my property again. I just spent a-whole lot of money cleaning it up. I’m getting tired of this crap. When I asked them to leave one man threatened to throw his soda on me. This Has to stop!"

 * ... MISSION EXPANSION: But there is good news, and it came last week when ground breaking was held to add a 40-bed facility to the Mission of Kern County. Mayor Karen Goh joined Mission director Carlos Baldovinos in the ground breaking ceremony. It's only 40 beds but it is a good start.

 * ... MEMORIES: Check out this photo from World War II involving the original owners of Guthrie's. The caption reads: "Jack and Shorty Guthrie the original owners of Guthrie's Alley Cat in the late 40's. It was called Oscar's Alley Cat in 1940. Later Papa Jack sold the Cat to his son-in-law and opened the Skylark Lounge in Oildale across from Meadows Field until he retired and his son Jack took over. I worked there for both, 6 different times, and adored them, so very much."

Thursday, December 12, 2019

City attorney Ginny Gennaro among the applicants to replace city manager Alan Tandy, Tracy Leach works overtime to combat misleading information on the oil industry and a UC Berkeley instructor thinks rural Americans are cursed

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. 

 * ... ALAN TANDY: Is City Manager Alan Tandy standing in the way of a faster, cheaper way to build a low barrier homeless shelter? That's what City Councilman Willie Rivera thinks, and he articulated it during an appearance on The Richard Beene Show this week. Rivera claimed that Tandy
is hellbent on the city building its own shelter with Measure N money, and has ignored overtures by the county to work together to attack the problem. Both Supervisor David Couch and county CAO Ryan Alsop have offered to work with the city, and Rivera himself asked city staff to look into a city/county venture. What happened? According to Rivera, it fell on deaf ears as Tandy pushed ahead to build a separate city shelter. Rivera, if you recall, opposed a city staff recommendation to buy property on East Brundage, a move that likely irritated Tandy to no end. Meanwhile, the city continues its quest to find a suitable site, but Rivera made it clear he is waiting for Tandy to retire Jan. 10, 2020, to get a fresh start on this nagging problem.

 * ... REPLACING TANDY: Meanwhile the city has more than 20 applicants to replace Tandy, and at least one of them in an inside candidate. I am told that city attorney Ginny Gennaro has thrown her hat into the ring to replace Tandy. No word on if our two assistant city managers, Chris Huot and Jacqui Kitchen, have also applied. Gennaro is well respected and well liked on the city council. (file photos if Gennaro, Kitchen and Hot)

 * ... FULL MOON:
Are you ready for the last full moon of the decade? Well that is happening this week so get ready to cast your eyes toward the sky to catch it. Known as the "cold moon," this one will appear larger and brighter than usual, according to NASA. "Cold Moon" is a name the Algonquin tribes gave December's full moon as a way to mark the long, cold nights that accompany it. Other nicknames for this month's moon include Oak Moon, Moon before Yule, Long Night Moon, Uduvapa Poya, the Karthikai Deepam Moon and the Chang'e Moon.

 * ... ARE WE 'BAD PEOPLE?':  If you come from a farming family or one involved with oil, do you consider yourself a "bad person?" Well, apparently Jackson Kernion does and she should know because - well, you know - he teaches philosophy courses at UC Berkeley and he is prone to deep thinking. "I unironically embrace the bashing of rural Americans," Kernion wrote in a now deleted tweet. "They, as a group, are bad people who have made bad life decisions ... and we should shame people who aren't pro-city." Okay, let that sink in for a minute. This is a teacher at an elite university who apparently has no shame. Kernion also said rural citizens should pay more in taxes and be forced to live "uncomfortable" lives for rejecting "efficient" city life. Kernion later deleted the tweet and said he would "reflect" on it. And there you have it.

 * ... SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT: If you work in the oil and gas industry, it is hard enough dealing with distortions and half truths when it comes to the fossil fuel industry. And that is what happened when former Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger went on 'Meet the Press' last week and proclaimed - inaccurately - that Kern County produces more jobs in the solar industry than the oil and gas. Among those who were livid was Tracy Leach, head of Providence Consulting, who represents fossil fuel interests. Said Providence: "In the Meet the Press interview, Schwarzenegger stated as fact that the solar industry provides more jobs for our area than oil. The truth is our oil and gas industry provides 23,900 direct and indirect jobs whereas solar has only 1500 permanent jobs created since 2007! Clearly there is no comparison and how the former California governor got this so wrong is very unfortunate."

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Tonight I'll be drinking wine from the skull of the guy that wouldn't stop asking questions during the webinar."

* ... BAD FORM: Just when you things could not get worse, you learn that people who received gifts from non-profits are returning them to retailers for cash. That's right, just check out this post I spotted on Facebook: "I just witnessed the most sickening thing... a woman returning multiple 'gifts,' clothes, bikes, skateboards, dolls... all given by Angel Tree. Walmart didn't give her cash, but they gave her a gift card to be used for ANYTHING Walmart sells! After almost crying (seriously), I asked the Walmart associate how often they saw this, the answer was ALL DAY the day after Christmas... IF you do give to ANY of the multiple organizations that give to the needy children, please take time to mark through the bar code with a black Sharpie (Walmart says they look for this)...(I copied and pasted this from a friend. Sickening!) Mark through those barcodes.":

* ... MEMORIES: A walk down memory lane in pictures, looking first at the old Kress building and later an old theater back in the day.