Sunday, September 22, 2019

Bakersfield is a house divided over the allegations against Monsignor Craig Harrison, District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer is laser-focused on the homeless and crime issue and Gene Voiland is honored by Washington State University

Sunday-Monday, September 22-23, 2019

 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, news organization or business. Send news items to

 * ... FATHER CRAIG: How bad has the rift in our community become over the investigation into molestation charges against Monsignor Craig Harrison? Well, it is hard to believe it could get any worse. Friendships have fallen by the wayside as the community has taken sides: those who believe
Father Craig without reservation, and those who have taken a wait and see attitude to give respect to the accusers. There simply is no in between with some people. Disagree and you are the enemy, worthy of being ostracized, isolated and ridiculed. Stand by Father Craig and you are spitting in the face of young people who may have been victimized by his own hands. While we wait on the Diocese of Fresno to rule on his fate, Father Craig's legal team papers critics with lawsuits, a tried and true legal strategy meant to intimidate others into remaining silent. (Some even talk openly of suing the Roman Catholic church) Many Craig supporters are withholding support from the church, feeling that if they can hurt the church financially, it will force the Diocese of Fresno to bring him back. When his supporters speak of the worse case scenario (that Harrison is not allowed back in his old position) there is even talk of Father Craig opening his own church. Would cradle to grave Catholics actually leave the church to follow Father Craig, a move that seems more evangelical in focus than Roman Catholic? Does the person trump the faith? This is likely more of an emotional reaction than reality, but the mere fact it is being talked about speaks to the level of discord this whole case has left in our community. Let's all hope this issue is resolved quickly before more damage is done.

 * ... HOMELESS: If there is one person who understands the public frustration over homelessness, it is District Attorney Cynthia Zimmer. During an appearance on The Richard Beene Show, I asked her to respond to people who say our community lacks compassion in dealing with this crisis. Zimmer didn't blink, referring to all this as a drug, crime and safety issue. "I am not a social worker," she told me. Rather, she is here to make our community safe. Bravo! Zimmer spoke at length about her plan to prosecute, and jail, repeat misdemeanor offenders, not the end-all solution but certainly a start. Count me in as one of those who has reached the boiling point. The photo below shows a vagrant in the alley behind my house, resting after shooting up. It is all too common these days. And then I spotted this post on Facebook: "I had a homeless drug addict high on heroin walk through my front door in broad daylight telling me,  'I had what he wanted and he was here to get it' over and over as I ran out screaming my face off and my kids were upstairs. This was on 18th street south of 24th. I found needles in the alley, was awakened by shouting in the middle of the night, someone had a party on my lawn... I could go on and on. This is a DANGER to our community."

 * ... GENE VOILAND: Congratulations to Gene Voiland, retired CEO of Aera Energy, who was honored by his alma mater, Washington State University, with a Foundation award recognizing his contributions to the university. A 1969 graduate of WSU, Violand has given generously to his alma mater and in fact the engineering school was named after him: the Gene and Linda Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering.

* ... GO RUNNERS: The CSUB men's basketball team unveiled its new schedule this week, and it features some terrific matches against top ranked teams. On Nov. 23 the Runners will travel to Spokane, Wash., to play Gonzaga, always a top 10 contender, and on Dec. 7 they travel south to play Ole Miss, where CSUB Coach Rod Barnes played and also coached, earning SEC coach of the year honors.. Finally, our Runners will play Texas Tech in the Lone Star state on Dec. 29.

* ... BARBECUE: The arrival of fall and cooler temperatures means it's barbecue fundraising season again in Kern County. One of the biggest with perhaps the worthiest of causes is the annual St. Vincent de Paul Homeless Center Fall BBQ. It will be held Thursday, October 3 at the facility at 316 Baker Street. Doors open at 5 p.m., and guests can enjoy a NY steak or Teriyaki chicken and all the trimmings, grilled to valet parking will also be available. The day-facility receives no federal funding and relies on this event to provide two hot meals a day, access to restrooms and showers, and social services to upwards of 200 men, women and sometimes children every day. As everyone in our community grapples with the growing homelessness problem in our area, consider the ticket the most important $35 you'll spend all year. Tickets available at the door and at the Thrift store next door.

 * ... MEMORIES: Take a walk down memory lane with me and feast on these photos of Bakersfield back in the day.

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