Thursday, October 17, 2019

Expect a flood of new abuse cases against the Catholic Church as California ushers in a new law to give abuses more time to file lawsuits, a storm is brewing with the downtown elementary school and how about that Hunter's Moon this week?

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. 

 * ... ABUSE CASES: Thanks to a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, victims of childhood sexual abuse now have a new three year period (beginning Jan. 1, 2020) to file lawsuits against their
abusers. In addition to that, the law will extend the age limit of the victim filing from 26 to 40 and the time limit of when the abuse is discovered to when the case is filed from three to five years. Attorneys say almost every Catholic Diocese in the state will be hit by lawsuits, including the Los Angeles and Fresno dioceses that have long histories of covering up abuse cases by transferring clergy from one parish to the other. Will this have an immediate impact on Kern County? Who knows, but it will certainly allow alleged victims of any Kern County clergy (including the embattled and suspended Monsignor Craig Harrison) to come forward with legal action. All this comes as Harrison's legal team continues its scorched earth policy of slapping lawsuits on anyone who dares criticize Harrison. Attorney Craig Edmonston has already sued a Benedictine monk (Father Justin Gilligan) who testified against Harrison, as well as an organization that follows and tracks clergy abuse cases. It should be noted that neither the monk nor the organization claim to be victims of Harrison but rather have either cooperated with police or opined publicly on the matter. Pay attention to the Harrison case because I hear that new information is about to come out, and I am also told the Diocese of Fresno will rule on Harrison's future once the Firebaugh and Merced police departments wrap up their investigations into allegations that Harrison inappropriately touched young men while serving there. (file photo of Father Gilligan and Monsignor Craig Harrison)

 * ... IT HAS GOTTEN UGLY: If you are among those who wonder why victims of sexual abuse take so long to come forward, consider the intimidation of facing a lawsuit simply for speaking up, and the public humiliation when a community rallies around its accused priest and publicly shames the victim. Case in point: witnesses in the Father Craig case say they have been verbally harassed and followed, threatened and scolded by Harrison's true believers. (Note this is an accusation that cannot be independently verified and there is no evidence that Father Craig personally directed any of this, if indeed it ever happened) The support for Harrison is so strong that a local businessman paid $27,000 at a fund raiser to dine with Father Craig to benefit Dignity Health. When major institutions don't flinch to be associated with an accused abuser, it is no wonder that witnesses or alleged victims are wary of coming forward.

 * ... DOWNTOWN ELEMENTARY SCHOOL: There is one truth above all others: do not mess with parents when it comes to where their children go to school. And Bakersfield City School District Superintendent Harry "Doc" Ervin is learning that quickly as parents at the Downtown Elementary School react to news that the original mission of the school - to serve children whose parents live downtown - may be abandoned. We are talking about the dismantlement of one of BCSD's top performing schools, and for what? So the district can earn a little more money by serving lower income students?  Could there be another motive? Consider this: the school is so popular you have to enter a lottery to get your kid in, the parental involvement factor is huge, kids and teacher and parents are happy, the scores are excellent ... and we want to leave all this behind? The school is 44 percent Hispanic, so it is hard to argue it serves only the well heeled, and a lottery systems determines who gets in. That's right, a judge picks out names from a lottery to see who gets in. Hard to get more democratic than that. So here is where we are:  Irvin should be warned that these parents are committed and will give you a run for your money. Stay tuned.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Only in California do they generate power from the wind, but when the wind blows shut the power off."

 * ... HUNTER'S MOON: So did you check out the full moon this week? Known as the Hunter's Moon, it follows the Harvest Moon and is reportedly the best time for hunting deer and other animals, according to the Farmer's Almanac. According to NASA: "In northern locations, leaves have fallen, deer have fattened and harvesters have cleared the fields, making it easier to see the animals under the light of the big bulb in the sky, according to NASA. But people of different cultures and regions gave their own names to full moons. The Algonquin tribes, for example, called October's full moon the Travel Moon, the Dying Grass Moon and the Sanguine or Blood Moon; the latter three are thought to be named after the changing colors of the leaves and dying plants, according to NASA. "

 * ... PASSINGS: A trio of of local iconic businesses are shutting their doors, bringing an end to their downtown footprints that served customers for years. I got the word that Red Door Interiors on 23rd Street, an upscale furniture store that flourished since 1977, is calling it quits. And last week we learned at Joseph's Italian restaurant on F Street was also leaving the scene. Add to that: Beverly Crafts and Fabrics on F Street, a mainstay of businesses along that corridor, is also calling it quits.

 * ... DAVE AND BUSTERS: Coming soon to Valley Plaza: Dave and Busters, the popular arcade and food center that caters to young kids and their parents. The new franchise is expected to open at Valley Plaza next August.

 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: Check out this list of local high schools and other facilities built over the years, and their construction dates.

 * ...MEMORIES: Some fascinating old photos, courtesy of the Facebook page Kern County of Old. The famous clock tower was damaged beyond repair in the 1952 earthquake and was later demolished, as seen in the first photo.

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