Thursday, November 5, 2020

Kern County election returns show the county gradually trending more Democratic, California makes a list of the worst states to retire in and the show American Pickers is returning to Bakersfield

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 company or publication.

* .. PURPLE KERN: The image of Kern County has long been this: rock hard conservative, Republican, big on law and order and not a friendly place to be a Democrat. But that is changing, and no where was that more on display than this week's election. First consider this: did you know only 1 percent separates President Trump and Joe Biden in Kern's popular vote? That's right, as of right now the president won Kern County with some 71,000 votes, but Biden was nipping at his heals with 69,000 votes. How can that be in a red county? Here in red state Kern County, the Republican president beat his Democratic rival by just 1 percentage point. Let that sink in. Even Assemblyman Vince Fong, wildly popular and a "centrist" Republican by most standards, handily run his race against Democrat Julie Solis but she still managed to win some 38,000 votes. And then consider this: Democrat T.J. Cox outpolled Republican David Valadao in the 21st Congressional District race 62 percent to 38 percent in Kern County.

There are still some 80,000 to 100,000 Kern ballots yet to be counted, but these numbers speak for themselves. These are numbers that not long ago would be unthinkable, but they reflect the hard truths about Kern County's demographics: we are getting younger, browner and more likely to vote Democratic. Supervisor Leticia Perez, a Democrat, was widely ridiculed when she said two years ago that Kern was becoming a purple county, meaning a bled of red and blue. Who is laughing now?

* ... 21ST CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT: With up to 100,000 votes still left to cast in Kern County, the race between Rep. T.J. Cox and challenger David Valadao remains too close to call. As of now Valadao leads with 51.4 percent of the vote while Cox has 48.6 percent, but that is a scarce 3,000 vote lead. Anything can happen. Expect anything. 

* ... TIMOTHY MOORE: Now here is another head scratcher. Remember Robert Forbes, the Black Lives Matter protester who was run down by a car and killed on California Avenue last June? Well the man who hit Forbes, Timothy Keith Moore, was found dead in Baja, Mexico, in September and now police say his death was caused by either an "accident or violence." Moore was known to hang in shady circles, and there is no reason to believe the death of Forbes was anything but an accident, but who knows what happened in Mexico. (photo courtesy of The Bakersfield Californian)

* ... GOOD STATES, BAD STATES: California made another list of being among the worst states in America for retirees. That's right, the website Moneywise (no relation to the local Moneywise Guys) ranked California in the Top Ten of the worst states for retirement. As usual, high taxes combined with high home prices and an overall expensive cost of living put California on the list. Other less desirable states for retirees include New York, Maryland, Alaska, Nevada, New Jersey, Rhode Island and New Mexico.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "If we are going to have a really old president, why can't it be Betty White?"

 * ... AMERICAN PICKERS: The popular TV show "American Pickers," where the hosts travel the country looking through garages, barns and attics for valuable antiques and keepsakes, is returning to California in December and looking for places to visit. If you know of a place where the pickers might go, call 855-OLD-RUST to get in touch with the producers. The hosts are Nike Wolfe and Frank Fritz who specialize in antique "picking."

 * ... INGA BARKS: Former conservative local radio host Inga Barks died this week at the age of 53. Barks struggled with personal issues, had a bout with cancer and had been in general bad health for some time when she passed away. No cause of death was given. Barks worked at both KERN and KNZR radio over her long career.

 * ... MEMORIES: Thanks to the Kern County History Fans Facebook page for posting these old images of the Bakersfield Inn in the 1940s.

Sunday, November 1, 2020

A stressed out nation prepares to vote, a Bakersfield man who has accused Monsignor Craig Harrison of sexual impropriety takes to the airways to discuss deviant priests, Rep. Kevin McCarthy and the GOP hierarchy celebrate Halloween and did you catch the Blue Moon this weekend?

 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 company or publication.

 * ... ELECTION EVE: This probably won't come as a surprise but did you know that almost seven out

of 10 Americans have experienced crushing stress over this election? That's the word from the New York Times that reported Sunday that never before has the general electorate been so stressful as in this election year. Families and friendships have been torn apart, the cancel culture is in full swing and perhaps never have people on both sides considered themselves so right, and the other side so wrong. If you are a stressed out voter, rest assured you are not alone.

 * ... THE ANGRY CATHOLIC: Ryan Gilligan, a former Benedictine monk who is among a group of men accusing Monsignor Craig Harrison of sexual improprieties, was featured on a podcast devoted to cleansing the church of deviant priests. A graduate of Bakersfield High School and a former confidant of Harrison's, Gilligan now stands as one of the few accusers who has gone public against Harrison, who was suspended by the Diocese of Fresno in April of 2019 after multiple men came forward to accuse him of lewd sexual behavior. Gilligan was the featured guest on The Angry Catholic podcast and spoke to the intimidation of men who come forward to accuse priests and the long history of the Catholic Church in covering up abuse cases. Harrison has since filed a slander suit against Gilligan, and he has slapped a lawsuit on the church itself. Kyle Humphrey, one of Harrison's attorneys, has likened accusers to "pigs" lining up at the trough for payoffs, a point which Gilligan cites as another example of the type of intimidation and slander that has become the focus of the defense of Harrison. At this point, going on two years since his suspension, it appears unlikely Harrison will ever return to St. Francis and his future in his hometown of Bakersfield seems uncertain. (The good news for Harrison: the statute of limitations has expired in most of the cases so Harrison will likely avoid any criminal prosecution, although we may see some civil lawsuits against him) For this part, Gilligan has since left the monastery but remains committed to exposing wayward priests, including his old mentor Harrison. Gilligan is featured twice during the 50-minute podcast, at the beginning and the end.   (file photo of Gilligan and Harrison in happier times at St. Francis Church, Bakersfield)

 * ... LIST OF ACCUSED PRIESTS: Meanwhile pressure is mounting for the Diocese of Fresno to publicly name the priests who have been accused of sexual misconduct. The Fresno Diocese is only one of two in the state that have yet to release the names of the accused priests, saying it remains a "work in progress." But lawyers for accusers are demanding to see the list. Attorney Jeff Anderson, whose firm specializes in clergy abuse cases, said it is long past time when "the identities, histories and current whereabouts of all clergy accused of child sexual abuse who worked in the Diocese of Fresno to be known." The Diocese of Fresno serves some 1.2 million Catholics in 87 parishes in eight counties: Fresno,Tulare, Kings, Kern, Inyo, Madera, Merced and Mariposa.

* ... HALLOWEEN: Rep. Kevin McCarthy and some of the local Republican hierarchy were out to provide a safe Halloween for hundreds of local children this weekend. McCarthy and his staff provided a drive-through Halloween and campaign rally Saturday afternoon at his local office off Empire Drive, drawing hundreds of cars, many festooned with Trump flags and even a masked Trump impersonator. Helping the congressman work the crowd were Mayor Karen Goh, Assemblyman Vince Fong, Kern High School District trustee Jeff Flores and David Valadao, who is running to return to Congress after being ousted by Democrat T.J. Cox. KERN radio producer J.R. Flores (pictured) was among those who brought their children to the event.

 * ... BLUE MOON: Did you catch the full moon on Halloween night? It was spectacular, and it turned out it was the first Halloween full moon since 1944. The Oct. 31 full moon is also referred to as a "blue moon," which means a second full moon in as single calendar month (also called a Hunter's Moon). The full moon was visible across the United States.

 * ... TRASH CLEANUP: Hats off to all the volunteers to fanned out across our community this weekend to help pick up trash. Peter Wollesen, a cyclist, posted this comment along with the pictures below: "While volunteers from the Kern River Parkway Foundation were cleaning up trash around the Adobe House at Hart Memorial Park, I joined up with cyclist volunteers from Team Action Dad and Kern Wheelmen Bakersfield to pick up trash in the foothills above Hart Park. With help from county staff and dozens of volunteers, we made a huge impact! Big thanks to Adrian Monge for organizing this!"

 * ... MEMORIES: Check out this 1910 circa photo of old Bakersfield with the Beale clock tower in the distance. Thanks to the Facebook page Kern County History Fans for this one.