Sunday, January 19, 2020

Facial recognition technology is here and chances are they know who you are, the city of Bakersfield faces a decision on the homeless issue, Kevin McCarthy loses a beloved pet and Stockale student Ishaan Brar gets some top honors

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 represent any other person or organization.

 * ... FACIAL RECOGNITION: You know how they always say the future is here? Well when it comes to facial recognition technology, it is true. According to a story in The New York Times, a company called Clearview AI has broken new ground in facial recondition technology, scrolling through Facebook, LinkenIn, YouTube, Venmo and other sites to grab pictures of all of us and
compile them in huge databases that make it relatively easy to match any face to a real name. Police departments love it - some have already signed on to solve numerous cases - but civil libertarians are alarmed because of privacy concerns. But think for a minute, what this technology can do in the hands of responsible law enforcement. That picture of the scumbag who broke into your car? Clearview AI would give police a name in seconds. That couple who shoplifted but were caught on camera? Ditto. It is all here, and the truth is, if you are on social media at all, it is likely your identity has already been catalogued in Clearview's vast database, for better or for worse.

 * ... HOMELESS QUESTION: Will the city of Bakersfield finally decide what to do about building a homeless shelter this week? Rightfully so, the city council has come under increasingly harsh criticism for its failure to address the issue, postponing and delaying it time and again as it struggles to find a location to build its shelter. This Tuesday we may get an answer and it appears to come down to two choices: purchase 17 acres of land on East Brundage and build a shelter there, or join the county to help fund the county shelter set to open next week. Councilman Willie Rivera opts for joining the county, while Councilman Andrae Gonzales is in favor of the old Calcot facility on East Brundage. Stay tuned.

* ... RIP MAC: Kevin and Judy McCarthy are mourning the death of their longtime pet Mac, a tri colored Australian Shepherd who passed away of cancer. The House Minority Leader posted this picture of Mac on Facebook to announce his passing. Mac was the familiar companion of McCarthy when he would make his daily walks through the CSUB campus while visiting his home district.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "One minute you are young and cool, maybe even a little dangerous, and the next minute you are reading Amazon reviews for birdseed."

 * ... RISING STAR: Congratulations to Ishaan Brar, a Stockdale High School student who has been named one of the 35 global teens making a difference. Brar, son of Dr. Sumeet Bhinder, was named to the prestigious 2020 Global Teen Leaders group representing 18 countries on six continents. They were recognized for "harnessing creativity to positively impact the world."

 * ... MEMORIES: Yet another picture of the old Bakersfield Inn thanks to the folks of the Kern County of Old Facebook page. Enjoy.

Friday, January 17, 2020

A deeply divided City Council nears a decision on how to deal with our homeless crisis, a Democratic activist goes on a bizarre rant before the Board of Supervisors, radio producer JR Flores breaks a big story and crime runs rampant in the Golden State

 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. 

 * ... CITY SHOWDOWN: Will the city of Bakersfield go it alone an build its own homeless shelter or will it throw it with the county and partner on the new county shelter expected to open next month?
This decision is coming down to the wire and has split our City Council. On one side is Ward 2 Councilman Andrae Gonzales who is leading an effort to buy 17 acres of land on East Brundage (the old Calcot facility) for a low barrier homeless shelter. Gonzales says he will make a motion to buy the property at the Council meeting next week, but he faces opposition from Ward 1 Councilman Willie Rivera, who wants to throw in with the county on its facility off Golden State an M Street. Make no mistake but there is
plenty of bad blood between Gonzales and Rivera, who is supported by Supervisor Leticia Perez and we all know that Perez an Gonzales are like oil and water. Watch the votes on this one, because it will tell us a lot about where the council may go under newly appointed City Manager Christian Clegg.

 * ... PEREZ: Speaking of Perez, the supervisor has agreed to a deal with the District Attorney's office to resolve the conflict of interest case involving her failure to disclosure that her husband (Fernando Jara) was involved in the cannabis business while she sat on the board. The deal calls on Perez to pay $30,000 in fines to a non-profit involved in the homeless fight, another $4,000 on top of that and community service. Perez is eager to put this embarrassing chapter behind her - it came near to derailing her career - and has positioned herself as a realistic moderate in the ongoing effort by the state to shut down the oil an natural gas industry.

 * ... JULIE SOLIS: Well, it's election season and that means odd behavior, the occasional rant and stunts like the one Julie Solis pulled before the Board of Supervisors. Solis is running against 34th Assemblyman Vince Fong and went on a bizarre anti-oil rant, prompting board chair Letica Perez to try to shut her down. It was then that Solis, who like Perez is a Democrat, accused Perez of wanting to have sex with her because of her "big titties," or something of that nature. Seriously. She actually said that, and this is a woman who wants to be taken seriously as a candidate. It turns out even her own Democratic Party has turned against her, not only refusing to endorse her but kicking her out of the local party. Every election season needs a few oddballs, and Solis proved this week she is here to entertain us all. Stay tuned.

 * ... NEW CITY MANAGER: What was our City Council thinking when it offered the city manager's job to Christian Clegg of Stockton and then decided to wait three days to announce it? What did our council think, that no one would leak it? That they could sit on it for a few days and the reporters about town would sit quietly? Well that didn't happen, and credit goes to J.R. Flores, producer of both the Ralph Bailey and Richard Beene Show on KERN NewsTalk Radio, to dig up the truth. It only took Flores a few hours before he revealed that Christian Clegg, assistant city manager of Stockton, was the pick to succeed the retiringAlan Tandy. Producers of talk radio shows like Flores normally work quietly behind the scenes and rarely get credit for the work they do. Flores deserves credit for tracking this one down with his impressive network of local newsmakers.

 * ... SPELLING: Someone over at the Downtown Business Association needs to learn how to spell, or at least how to proof read.

* ... SEX TALK: I spotted this on Facebook posted by state Sen. Shannon Grove and it certainly got my attention. It alleges, among other things, that the state of California has approved new sex education guidelines for six graders that include such topics as "kinky" sex and "sex toys." The problem? According to The Californian's Bob Price, it is all bogus. As in not true. As in Shannon Grove allegedly fell for an internet hoax. Grove later took the post down and apologized. We all fall for internet hoaxes, but one would hope our local legislators would have a better grip on pending legislation.

 * ... THEFT: I spotted this post on Facebook. "These scumbags ran out of Albertson's on Panama Lane with stolen merchandise. There was a female passenger already waiting for them when they ran out. I notified Albertson's and PD to give there location. However I ended finding them in a residential neighborhood near the intersection of Sweet Water and Alum. The 3 guys unloaded all that stuff they are carrying and the female took off in the truck." Yet another sign of the times in the Golden State.

 * ... MEMORIES: How about this old shot of the Noriega Hotel?

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Longtime Bakersfield businessman Mike Stier dies after a protracted battle with cancer

 Mike Stier, a longtime Bakersfield businessman, avid golfer, patron of the arts and philanthropist, has died after a long battle with cancer. He was 71.
 Stier's wife, Cathi, announced his death in a short message on Facebook.
 Stier was known as the owner of Stier's RV and later Barry's RV. He was diagnosed with squamous cell carcinoma in 2005 after he found a lump on his neck after a workout.
 An avid golfer and member of Bakersfield Country Club, Stier was generous in his support of the arts. In addition to his wife Cathi, he is survived by daughters Kaylee and Stevie.

Hundreds expect to show up to support the oil and gas industry before the Board of Supervisors, will the city ever make up its mind on a homeless shelter, and a crackdown on street racing nets some arrests

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.

 * ... THE FUTURE OF OIL: If you are concerned about the future of our community, as well as the long history of Kern County and fossil fuels, pay attention to the Tuesday meeting of the Board of
Supervisors. It will be there when a group of state energy regulators, as well as a representative of Gov. Gavin Newsom's office, will get an earful from local residents about the importance of oil and natural gas to our community. Expect to hear about Big Oil's safety record, its adoption of best practices, its commitment to solar and other forms of alternative energy, and its role in providing well paying jobs to thousands of people in an economically distressed part of the state.

 * ... THE HOMELESS: Meanwhile, over at the city there seems to be a clear lack of consensus on how to move forward to combat homelessness. Does Ward 2 Councilman Andrae Gonzales have the votes to approve the purchase of 17 acres of land on East Brundage for a homeless shelter? Does Ward 1 Councilman Willie Rivera have the votes to block it? Or, as some people fear, will the city drop the whole idea of building its own shelter and partner with Kern County on its low barrier shelter off Golden State? That shelter, meanwhile, is well under way and will open in February.

 * ... MORE DECISIONS: The city of Bakersfield faces two more big decisions this month: it is expected to name new City Manager to replace Alan Tandy at its Jan. 22 meeting, and the new city manager will then face the task of appointing a new police chief to replace Lyle Martin.

 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: "Common sense is like deodorant; those who need it most don’t use it.":

 * ... STREET RACING: It's nice to see that Bakersfield police are cracking on street racing across town, an epidemic that has already cost the life of one woman during a crash on Ming Avenue near Old River Road. Over the weekend, police officers conducted sweeps Saturday night into early Sunday morning, stopping 18 cars and issuing 10 citations. Two people were arrested on suspicion of grand theft auto.

 * ... OUR WORLD: Check out this lovely picture from the Panorama Bluffs, taken by hiker Esther Brandon on her early Sunday hike. And who says Bakersfield's isn't beautiful?

 * ... STOLEN CAR: How many of us live with the nightmare that our vehicles will be stolen in the middle of the night? Here is what happens, compliments of a post in the "Bakersfield Thieves" Facebook page. The caption reads: "My poor Car... door panels removed 2 missing, wheel and tires missing, speakers missing. Battery gone. Dog hair and starburst candy rappers inside. Got into my car with a slim jim. Found on the east side 604 Tanner street."

 * ... MEMORIES: I am stunned by these two old pictures of Kern County back in the day, compliments of the Kern County of Old Facebook page.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Could Leticia Perez be the ally the oil industry is looking for to deal with Gov. Gavin Newsom? Plus supporters of Father Craig Harrison launch a petition drive to bring him back, the Wolf Moon is upon us and remembering the mighty dust storm that hit 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.

 * ... LETICIA PEREZ: The new chair of the Kern County Board of Supervisors, Leticia Perez, may find herself in a unique position to help the oil and gas industry, which has been put on the defensive by Gov. Gavin Newsom and the state legislature. If this sounds a bit odd, it should. First, Perez is a loyal Democrat serving in a non-partisan post, but her politics are clearly to the left of
those who traditional support fossil fuels, particularly in this state. Second, Perez is still facing a misdemeanor charge for failing to disclose that her husband was involved in the cannabis industry while she was voting on marijuana related issues before the Board. Yet, in some odd way Perez could be the best ally the oil and gas industry has as it fends off assaults from Sacramento. Appearing on The Richard Beene Show, Perez told me she is urging Gov. Newsom to approach this issue cautiously, arguing that the oil industry should "be a partner, not the enemy" in helping the state reach its energy goals. The oil industry has some of the brightest minds and engineers in the world, she argued, so why not allow those people to help us find a way to ween ourselves off fossil fuels in a responsible way. "We have it all here, Richard," she told me, explaining that Kern County also leads the state in renewable energy. In this time of chaos, our oil industry should look to people like Perez as allies who may be able to talk some sense into the environmentalists and Sacramento Democrats.

 * ... FATHER CRAIG: A petition is being circulated among local Catholics to demand that Father Craig Harrison be returned to the pulpit at St. Francis Church. While this might be nothing more than a long shot to restore Harrison to St. Francis, it speaks to the loyalty that some parishioners have toward their embattled priest. It has been nine months since Harrison was suspended by the Diocese of Fresno after allegations arose from multiple men that Harrison had touched them inappropriately, and there are few signs that he will return anytime soon. At least one police department continues to investigate allegations of sexual impropriety involving Harrison and young men, and some Harrison followers have resigned themselves that he may never preside over another mass. In fact, insiders tell me that those around Harrison are talking openly about what the next chapter is for Harrison, outside the Catholic church. And there is this: I am also told that an out of town attorney may be considering legal action against Harrison on behalf of several young men, bringing with it yet more potentially salacious details that his supporters and defense team will be forced to refute. Stay tuned. Things are about to heat up.

 * ... NUDE FOOD: The country of New Zealand has taken the war on single use plastic a step further by getting rid of the plastic bags used for fresh vegetables and fruits. That's what one New Zealand grocery store company did, calling it "food in the nude." Said one story: "The initiative is part of the war against plastic. In New Zealand the days of single-use plastic shopping bags are numbered – most supermarkets are no longer providing them at the check-out – while the government late last year agreed to regulations for a mandatory phase-out across all retailers from July 1.

 * ... WOLF MOON:  Are you read for the first full moon of the year? It's right upon us, debuting Friday, January 10 and they say it will be spectacular. It's call the full "wolf moon" and it will rise from the horizon at sunset.

 * ... POOP PATROL: This City Council has voted to renew the contract for the "poop patrol," a program that sends workers out into the city to clean up feces left by the homeless. Yes, that is what it has come to, using our tax dollars to pick up the pool left by legions of homeless. The program will be extended an additional three months and the hours per week will increase from 20 to 26. The city also moved to enter into a contract with the The action also included a deal with the Bakersfield Homeless Center to perform general clean-up services in those areas as well.

* ... JEOPARDY: You know you have made it in this world when your name becomes an answer in Jeopardy!

 * ... MEMORIES: Who remembers the 1977 historic dust storm in Kern County. I was not living here, and these pictures make be grateful I was not.

Sunday, January 5, 2020

Good news for the California snowpack, the state wants to limit your indoor water use, thieves run amok about town with near impunity and two F-18s fly low over town

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.

 * ... SNOWPACK: Here's some good news on the California snowpack: experts say the frozen
water supply is at 97 percent of normal. This comes after California was hit by a series of storms that brought some much needed rain in December. We are now at 33.5 inches deep, ,which state officials say is 97 percent of average for this time of year. And we will need it, because officials say the rest of the year will be drier than normal. The snowpack provides 30 percent of the annual water needed for the state.

  * ... WATER NAZIS: Speaking of water, the California nanny state has passed a new law that will make it almost illegal to do laundry and take a shower on the same day. That's right, our state Legislature passed a law that will limit personal usage of water to 55 gallons a day. Just so you know, if you take a shower and do your laundry on the same day, chances are you will exceed that 55 gallon limit. Of course, this being California, there is no way for the state to determine how we actually use water in our homes. Water meters measure gross usage, including both inside and outside, but that doesn't seem to matter to the powers at be. And guess what? By the year 2025, that limit drops to 52.5 gallons day.

 * ... THAT SOUND: That deafening sound of aircraft heard about town on Saturday around 10 a.m. apparently came from two F-18 Eagles that took off from Meadows Field on a training flight. Facebook lit up after the planes took off, and no word yet on where the planes are stationed or why they landed at Meadows Field.

 * ... BAKERSFIELD THIEVES: Petty theft is rampant across town now that the state of California has basically decriminalized (that is, classified it as a misdemeanor) any theft of goods with a value of less than $950. Across town people are waltzing into stores, filling the carts and walking out, almost daring employees to confront them. Take a look at this woman, wearing an ankle monitor no less, caught on camera. The photos were posted in the Bakersfield Thieves Facebook page. The captionL "And here it is,,, Fun Zones 1st and dumbest Dildo of 2020! Stole lingerie and forgot to leave her ankle monitor at home! And since her ankle monitor is putting holes in her stockings Will someone please let her know I'll kindly give her a new pair of stockings so she can wear back to jail if she returns the lingerie!"

 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: Now here is some redneck ingenuity. This was spotted on Facebook: "I was at the Tractor Supply Store and saw this pick-up that got its side window knocked out. Hooray for duck tape and the removable Tupperware lid to see the the side mirror. A redneck solution in action."

 * ... MEMORIES: Check out this old picture of the Angelo National Bank at 18th and Chester Avenue, home of the law offices of Chain Cohn Stiles.

Thursday, January 2, 2020

LA lawyers file suit against St. Philips and the Diocese of Fresno for allegedly covering up sexual abuse, Father Craig and three others make a list of accused priests, and another development is planned for Stockdale Highway and Coffee Road

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.

 * ... SEXUAL ABUSE: It didn't take long before a lawsuit was filed against the Diocese of Fresno
for allegedly covering up the sexual molestation of a young Bakersfield girl at the hands of a priest at St. Philips here in town. Filed by Jeff Anderson and Associates out of Los Angeles, the suit was filed under the new California Child Victim's Act which opened a new three year window for victims to
come forth to face their abuses. According to the lawyers, Father Anthony Moreno abused a young woman at the church in the late 1970s. The victim's family reported the abuse to the church, the lawyers said, but the church simply moved Father Moreno to another church and covered up the abuse. Legal experts say this first lawsuit is just the tip of the iceberg as victims come forward seeking justice.

 * ... LOCAL PRIESTS: Monsignor Craig Harrison of St. Francis, already suspended due to allegations that he sexually abused young men over a 30-year period at multiple locations, is among a couple dozen priests in the Fresno diocese that were listed in Anderson Advocates' list of accused priests. The lawyers complied their own list after the Diocese refused to account for all the priests who have been accused of sexual impropriety. Harrison is not alone among accused priests who served in Bakersfield. Also on the list is Father Eric Swearingen who served at Our Lady of Guadalupe, Father Robert Gamel who served at St. Ann in Ridgecrest and Father Miguel Flores who served at St. Joseph. (file photos of Harrison, Swearing, Gamel and Flores.)

 * ... ROUND TWO: Are we ready for another fight over development at the corner of Stockdale Highway and Coffee Road? Last year a developer wanted to build student housing there, but well organized opposition from residents of Stockdale Estates helped shut it down. Now, a skilled nursing facility wants to build a facility at the same spot, directly across from the Trader Joe's shopping center. Pursue Health is hosting a neighborhood meeting at Stockdale Country Club on Jan. 9 to address residents and hopefully get them to support the project. Stay tuned to this one.

 * ... MUERTOS: One of our community's iconic locally owned restaurant's, Muertos in the Wall Street Alley downtown, has rebranded itself and opened as "Two Goats and the Goose." Owner Shawna Haddad said some of the old favorites at Muertos - including its classic Hudson burger named after her son - would return along with new items, including some vegetarian offerings. The new digs open this week.

 * ... STARBUCKS: Just what is Starbucks' beef with Christmas anyway? Each year the Seattle based company, which already opened its bathrooms and facilities to the homeless, unveils a holiday themed cup that doesn't use the word Christmas. And this year is the same, as I witnessed when I ordered a latte and received a "Merry Coffee" cup. Here are the company's themed cups this year:

 * ... MEMORIES: Now here is a great shot taken of the old Santa Fe railroad station. The caption read: "Undated photo of the Bakersfield Santa Fe station taken from the top of what we used to call the Shop Building (Industrial Arts) on BHS campus. It looks like a few BHS (KCUHS) students walking across the tracks in the photo. Mercy Hospital is in the background and the street the tracks crossed here was "F" Street with 14th Street out of the photo to the left."