Thursday, April 30, 2020

The Kern County Fair board, tarnished by scandal, warns the Fair may go out of business, more on those controversial Accelerated Urgent Care doctors and Cafe Smitten to reopen for curbside service next 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 represent any other person or organization.

 * ... RIP KERN COUNTY FAIR?: So will the coronavirus kill the Kern County Fair? As crazy as that sounds, members of the Fair board of directors are warning they don't have enough money to
continue, and they are asking you to write a check to keep them afloat. But here's the problem: the current Fair board, led by chairwoman Blodgie Rodriguez, has been completely discredited following an audit that found members of the Board had spent lavishly on travel expenses: booze, dinners, tips etc. It's an old story of people on public and quasi-public boards abusing the public's trust, and it's hardly the position you want to find yourself in when you need the public's help to stay alive. After all, it's hard to come to the public with your hat in your hand when you have been publicly dinged for wasteful spending. My two cents: if the Fair is to survive, the current Board, and Olcott, need to resign and we should start fresh with a new group untarnished by past misdeeds. (file photos of Rodriguez and Fair director Mike Olcott)

ats off to the historic Fox Theater for finding a creative way to generate revenue during the shutdown. Manager Matthew Spindler decided to rent out messages on the Fox sign, and the avid Dodgers fan started with this, earning him a front page mention in The Los Angeles Times.

* ... COVID-19: So where do you stand on the statements by the two Accelerated Urgent Care doctors saying that the coronavirus is nothing more than just another flu and that the country should immediately reopen for business? It's certainly a stand that appeals to the millions of people who are out of work, or if you are a small business owner watching your life's worth go down the drain, but their statements have been roundly dismissed as quack science. Virtually every prominent medical professional in Kern County - from Dignity's Dr. Hemmal Kothary to Bakersfield Heart Hospital's Dr. Brij Bhambi to infectious disease specialist Dr. Navin Amin - have denounced all or parts of the statements made by Dr. Dan Erickson and Dr. Artin Messihi. Even the American College of Emergency Physicians and the American Academy of Emergency Medicine issued a rare rebuke of the doctors, implying that their statements were motivated more by greed and eagerness to open their clinics than a genuine concern for the health of the community. "These reckless and untested musings do not speak for medical societies and are inconsistent with current science and epidemiology regarding COVID-19. As owners of local urgent care clinics, it appears these two individuals are releasing biased, non-peer reviewed data to advance their personal financial interests without regard for the public’s health,” the statement read. Given the economic and emotional stress this pandemic has created across our community, the urge to reopen is understandable, but relying on "false prophets" (as Dr. Bhambi called them) is ill-advised during a worldwide health crisis.

 * ... BLOWBACK: But you have to give Drs. Erickson and Messihi  credit for being able to parlay their grassroots appeal to a national audience. So far, by my count, they are the darlings of the Fox News channel, having appeared with Shanon Bream, Tucker Carlson and Laura Ingraham.  Other news sources have reserved nothing more than scorn and ridicule for the "two doctors from Bakersfield." Take a look at this cartoon lifted from a national news site. And if you think these two doctors won't face some form of retribution from the more established Kern County medical establishment, my money says you should think again.

 * .... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Brian Williams is back in the news and I haven't thought about him since that time he pulled me out of the rubble on 9/11."

 * ... CAFE SMITTEN: Here's some good news for you: Cafe Smitten plans to reopen its two restaurants next week for curbside and take-out service. That's the word from Stasie Bitton, who along with husband Shai own both the downtown and Seven Oaks locations. The 18th Street location will be open from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday and Saturday and Sunday from 8 5 p.m. The Grand Island location will be open Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

 * ... GRAPEVINE: My friend John Kelley turned me onto this photo by Joe Karibian of Interstate 5 headed south. Enjoy.

 * ... MEMORIES: Feast on these pictures of the old Beale clock tower as it was under construction.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

The resistance to the shut order grows louder in Kern County, Noriega's closes its doors for good, business owners say the homeless are running amok downtown and we mark one year since a local priest was suspended because of sexual abuse allegations

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.

More than a month into the lockdown, the calls are growing louder to allow businesses to reopen before the pandemic puts everyone out of a job. The latest move came in a four-
page letter to the Kern County Supervisors, demanding they reopen the county or face possible legal action for violating the 1st, 2nd, and 5th amendment as well as the "fundamental right" of freedom of movement. The local movement reflects the national frustration with the stay at home order that has put 26 million Americans out of work and threatened the viability of businesses across the nation. The letter to the Supervisors was signed by 20 local business people and attorneys, among them Cassie Bittle of KC Steakhouse, Clayton Campbell, Mark Carroll ,Isaac L. St. Lawrence, Mark J. Bigger and others.

he Noriega Hotel, the grand dame of the Basque eateries that once won a James Beard Award, has closed for good. The startling announcement was made this weekend by the owners who said a combination of factors - a tough business climate even before the pandemic, the hassle of running a business in old town Kern and now the coronavirus - had convinced the owners that now was the time to shutter the place for good. Of all the Basque eateries, and there are some great ones - Pyrenees Cafe and Woolgrowers to name two - the Noriega Hotel was my favorite. Family style seating, the best garlic chicken found on the planet and a priceless atmosphere that we may never see again. Will someone with deep pockets swoop in to save the place? Stay tuned.

 * ... FATHER CRAIG: Can you believe it has been over a year since Monsignor Craig Harrison was suspended by the Diocese of Fresno because of allegations he sexually abused young men over the course of more than 30 years? Or is it more remarkable that the anniversary passed without so much of a whisper of recognition? What was yesterday's biggest story hardly deserves a mention today as the community has moved on. So where are we now? The Diocese seems in no rush to pass its final judgment on Harrison, who in the meantime remains in some kind of Dantesque inferno of suspended animation, a priest without portfolio who must be content to spend his days tapping out Instagram posts from his front porch. It's a far cry from when Harrison enjoyed the perks of  being one of the most beloved figures in town, but that increasingly seems only a distant memory. In fairness to everyone - Harrison, the St. Francis parishioners, the accusers, the families of the accusers and the community at large - the Diocese needs to make a call: defrock him, retire him or allow Harrison to return. It has gone on long enough.

 * ... JORDAN LOVE: Bakersfield has landed another player in the National Football League. Jordan Love, formerly of Liberty High School and later Utah State, was selected in the first round by the Green Bay Packers.

 * ... HOMELESS: There are many who believe the coronavirus lockdown has simply emboldened the homeless, pointing to yet another rash of break-in and vandalism downtown. Ask any downtown property owner and they will tell you harrowing stories of lurching from one break-in to another now that the enforcement of homeless encampments has pulled back because of the pandemic. Some random shots of those who live on the streets.

 * ... MEMORIES: Of all the pictures of the old clock tower, few top this one which I spotted on the Kern County History Fans Facebook page. I could gaze at this for hours.

 * ... SAN ANDRES FAULT: An amazing shot of a section of the San Andreas fault, from about 30,000 ft. over the Carrizo Plains.