Thursday, December 29, 2022

Las Vegas Raiders bench local boy Derek Carr, California loses population in the latest Census, the founder of the Gilroy Garlic Festival dies and the real estate market cools as interest rates rise

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.

 * ... RAIDERS SAY GOODBYE TO DEREK CARR: Bakersfield loves its heroes - veterans, police and firemen, historical figures, gifted kids and of course athletes - so there was a collective sigh of

resignation when the Las Vegas Raiders decided to bench hometown boy Derek Carr. The 31-old Carr, a graduate of Bakersfield Christian High and Fresno State, holds virtually every passing record in Raiders history but was benched (and could be traded) after a disappointing season. Stay tuned for Chapter 2 in the NFL for Derek Carr.

 * ... BLUE STATE EXODUS: Americans are on the move again, making decisions about where they live and where they leave or stay depending upon politics, cost of living and personal preferences. And the verdict is in: Americans are leaving predominantly Democratic controlled states like California and moving to cheaper and more conservative venues like Texas, Florida and North Carolina. According to the latest Census, the U.S. population grew by about 1.2 million between July 2021 and July 2022 with foreign immigration accounting for a million of that. California lost 343,000 residents, New York lost almost 300,000 and Illinois 141,000. By contrast Texas grew by 470,000 residents following by Florida with 416,000 and North Carolina with 133,000. Other states losing population including New Jersey, Massachusetts, Louisiana, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Minnesota. Others gaining population include South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Arizona, Idaho, Alabama and Oklahoma.

 * ... GILROY GARLIC: Don Christopher, whose fondness for the special aroma of garlic led to a lifetime love affair, has died at the age of 88. It was Christopher who founded the world famous Gilroy Garlic Festival in 1978 and led to the renaissance of the ingredient that has come to define different types of cooking. Thanks to the festival, Gilroy is now known as the Garlic Capital of the world. From 1974 to 1995 America's annual garlic production more than tripled to 493 million pounds. For years Bakersfield leaders have tried to emulate Gilroy's success, at first trying to brand Bakersfield as a "carrot capital" but the idea simply didn't catch on. (file photo of Christoper)

 * ... REAL ESTATE MARKET COOLS: Not long ago it seems like the era of low interest rates and a hot housing market would be with us forever. But everything changes and now the slowdown is upon us, both locally and nationally. Rates have spiked north of 6 percent and sellers are finding that buyers have become picky. Across the nation home prices declined in October and most economists expect that trend too continue. So far this year prices are down 3 percent from their June highs. The average rate or a fixed rate mortgage was 6.27 percent just before Christmas.

 * ... INFINITI CLOSES: Bad news for Infiniti customers in Bakersfield who have just learned that the local dealership is closing. The family that owns Infiniti of Bakersfield sent emails to existing customers say the company is in the process of finding a new home for the Infiniti franchise. In the meantime if you need your Infiniti service, they can do so at the Nissan of Bakersfield location on Pacheco Road.

 * ... ADVENTURE WAITS: The new Cuban coffee shop downtown opened just recently but has already undergone a name change. Founded as Paper Plane coffee shop, the name of the 19th Street business has been changed to Adventure Awaits after its owner learned the previous name had been trademarked. 


 * ... MEMORIES: Take a look down old 19th Street from the Kern County of Old Facebook page. Its caption: "Early 1900's - Old Meets New In Bakersfield - 19th Street ...Horse and Horseless Carriages
It looks like a REDLICK'S sign upper left"

 * ... MORE MEMORIES: And take a look at this old snow day picture from 1927 up on Breckinridge Mountain. From the Facebook page by Kern County History Fans: "Breckenridge Mountain 
Kern Sports Club - "On the trail"  January 23, 1927"

Friday, December 23, 2022

Private investment sparks a renewal in the "Eastchester" zone, Pastor Roger Spradlin addresses his church while battling cancer and the never ending battle to clean up trash and debris

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.

 * ... MERRY CHRISTMAS: One of the winners of 2022 was downtown Bakersfield, pockets of which have shown remarkable growth and improvement thanks to private investment that seems to be going block by block. Homelessness, vandalism, crime and graffiti remain a problem to be sure, but the downtown

area east of Chester (known as "Eastchester") has enjoyed dynamic growth despite the problems. Call it "the Sage" effect because none of this would have happened without the vision of City Councilman Bob Smith and his company Sage Equities. Smith helped put his daughter Stasie and husband Shai in business with Cafe Smitten coffee shop on 18th Street, a development that seemed to spark other private investment in the area, including Sage's 17th Street Townhomes. Sage is also about to open another apartment complex, The Que, further down 18th and three other projects are in the planning stages. Add to that a flurry of downtown shops opening - PaperPlane Coffee on 19th and The Botanist on 18th just opened recently joining the 18th Street Bar and Grill, Zama, BottleShock and others  - and we have what one calls a positive trend. 


 * ... HOMELESS TRASH: Next time you see a city maintenance vehicle around town, you might want to thank the driver for pitching it to help fight the mess that homelessness creates. Check out these photos posted by the city highlighting the Support Team for Operations, Rangers and Maintenance (STORM) , which assists Park Rangers in trash removal. Here, more than 500 pounds of trash was removed from the San Miguel Grove off the Kern River Parkway. The last picture shows the Grove after cleaning.

 * ... WELCOME HOME: Pastor Roger Spradlin of Valley Baptist has been courageously fighting a tough battle against cancer and recently returned home to the church to preside over services once again. Faced with a fatal prognosis, Spradlin has displayed amazing courage and compassion as he fights the battle of his life.

 * ... RIDGE ROUTE: John Kelley knows more about the old Ridge Route, the curvy and dangerous road that connected Los Angeles with Bakersfield before Interstate 5, and he has access to hundreds of old pictures and drawings of the old road. Here are three John highlighted on his Facebook page.

 * ... MEMORIES: Check out this old advertisement for the grand opening of the Rice Bowl downtown, compliments of the Kern County History Fans Facebook page. The caption: 1948 - Grand Opening Rice Bowl... 1119 19th Street ... Bakersfield, Kern County, California ... Owners: William "Bill" Leong (1904-2003) Helen Leong (1913-2004)

Friday, December 16, 2022

A younger, more diverse group of leaders take office following our elections, the city cracks down on neglectful landlords and the undefeated 1993 Roadrunners are honored

 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.

 * ... NEW CITY ORDINANCE: Will cracking down  on absentee landlords downtown help curtail fires and other vandalism that has plagued our community? Well City Councilman Andrae Gonzales believes so

and the council voted unanimously for a new ordinance that will use code enforcement to make sure the buildings are in compliance. It's hard to argue with this approach, but it is worth noting it does absolutely nothing to deal with the root problem of homelessness. And while it is a cure for the symptom, not the problem itself, a homeless-weary community should welcome this approach.

 * ... MEANWHILE, AT RIVERWALK: While the city dickers with how to reach absentee landlords, life on our streets goes on as usual. In the picture here a sharp reader captured a homeless encampment just yards from the Park at RiverWalk - arguably the nicest park in town - where a generator hummed away and the residents enjoyed the park for bathing, begging and "borrowing" useful objects not bolted to the ground.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "My husband went to a lawyer luncheon thing and the lawyer he sat beside turned out to be my ex boyfriend from college. When they realized the connection he told my husband, 'She always had me laughing. Is she still funny?' And my sweet husband said, “Not in the slightest.”

 * ... CITY COUNCIL: The new additions to the Bakersfield City Council represent a further changing of the guard, as many of our older more "seasoned" office holders begin to step aside to make way for a new generation of leaders. Two of the three council members sworn  in this week are under 30; Ward 1's Eric Arias is 26 and Ward 7's Manpreet Kaur is just 29. Robert Smith was the third council person sworn in, and he is 67. Ken Weir, another longer term councilman, is 66 years hold. Over on the Board of Supervisors, retiring Supervisor Mike Maggard is 63 and his successor, Jeff Flores, is 51. (Californian photo of Arias, Smith and Kaur)

 * ... PAPER PLANE COFFEE: A new coffee show specializing in the intense flavors of Cuban beans has opened downtown, the latest in a string of new retailers to open on the evolving "eastChester" zone. Called PaperPlane Coffee and located at 819 19th Street, the store is owned by Army veteran Hector Miranda who runs it along with his girl friend, Margaret. PaperPlance also offers Cuban pastries and custom cookies. And now, opened less than a month, Miranda said he is being forced to rename the coffee shop after he learned the "PaperPlane" name and logo is already in use in another market. Miranda is considering "Adventure Coffee Shop."

 * ... CSUB ROAD RUNNERS: The 1993 CSUB men's basketball squad, winners of a national championship and a perfect 33-0 record under Coach Pat Douglass, has been selected for the Bob Elias Hall of Fame. It will be first time ever that a team, rather than an individual, has been admitted to the Hall of Fame.

 * ... MEMORIES: This is one of best pictures I have found of the original Beale Clock Tower before the 1952 earthquake partially destroyed it.

 * ... MORE MEMORIES: And who remember's Booth's appliances on F Street? This photo from the Kern County of Old shows us what it looked like back in the day.

Thursday, December 8, 2022

McCarthy votes against protecting gay marriage and interracial marriages, more older Americans than ever are living alone and The Botanist eatery opens on 18th Street

 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.

 * ... RESPECT FOR MARRIAGE ACT: Rep. Kevin McCarthy joined 168 other Republicans in opposing legislation that would protect same-sex and interracial marriages, a curious and questionable vote given the influence and general acceptance of gay men and women in Kern County. Joined by the

more conservative members of his caucus, McCarthy was on the losing end of a vote that would protect same-sex marriages, a monumental step in a decades long battle for nationwide recognition of such unions. President Biden is expected to promptly sign the measure, which requires all states to recognize same-sex marriages, a relief for hundreds of thousands of couples who have married since the Supreme Court’s 2015 decision that legalized those marriages nationwide. The bipartisan legislation, which passed 258-169, would also protect interracial unions by requiring states to recognize legal marriages regardless of “sex, race, ethnicity, or national origin.” Rep. David Valadao, like McCarthy a Republican who won reelection, broke with McCarthy and votes for the Respect for Marriage Act, reflecting the sentiments of his largely Democratic leaning district.

 * ... THE SNUB: Speaking of McCarthy, presumedly in line to become the next Speaker of the House, he was publicly snubbed by the family of fallen Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick during a ceremony honoring the presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal. Gladys Sicknick, the officer's mother, and her family members chose not to make eye contract with either McCarthy or Sen. Mitch McConnell for allegedly appeasing former President Trump and his right-wing followers.

 * ... PRIESTS ACCUSED OF SEXUAL ABUSE: Time is running out for victims of sexual abuse to file legal actions in accordance with a California law that will expire by the end of this year. On September 14, 2019, the California Child Victims Act was signed into law. The Act reformed the statute of limitation and opened a window for previously time-barred survivors of child sexual abuse to seek accountability and compensation in civil courts for the pain and suffering they’ve carried for decades. The California Child Victims Act window closes on December 31. One of the leading law firms that holds wayward priests accountable, Minneapolis based Jeff Anderson and Associates, represents numerous men who claim to have been abused by priests over the years. This is the same law firm that included former Bakersfield Monsignor Craig Harrison in a list of Diocese of Fresno priests who have been accused of sexual misdeeds. Harrison, whose picture and background is included in the law firm's roundup of accused priests, faces two lawsuits from men who are seeking civil damages against Harrison, who has denied the allegations. Harrison was suspended by the Catholic Church after sexual abuse allegations arose and a church investigation later found the allegations "credible." Harrison responded by suing the church - that lawsuit died when it was tossed out - and he later left the church. 

* ... REPARATIONS: So how do you feel about the state of California paying out millions of dollars in reparations to people who descended from slave families? Well, that is exactly what the state is doing via its nine member Reparations Task Force which is exploring inequities in housing, incarceration, running black businesses and health care. In one scenario, the committee threw out a figure of $223,2000 each just to address housing for black residents.

 * ... LIVING ALONE: A growing percentage of Americans are living alone as they enter their golden years, continuing a trend that has been accelerating for decades. Consider this: in 1960 just 13 percent of American households had a single occupant but that figure today is around 30 percent. For those our 50 that percentage rises to 36 percent. "Nearly 26 million Americans 50 and older now live alone, up from 15 percent in 2000. Older people have always been more likely than others to live by themselves, and now that age group - baby boomers and Gen Xers- makes up a bigger share of the population than at any time in the nations history," the New York Times said. 

 *... RIP ROB BAKER: We lost a prince of a man over Thanksgiving when longtime Paramount Farming manager Rob Baker died while cycling with friends through Hart Park. Friends said Baker, 66, collapsed on his bike while heading back into town after a tour of Hart Park with two other riders, who were in town with their families visiting for Thanksgiving. Baker apparently died at the scene. Known for his wit, kindness and devotion to family and to Bakersfield High where his children went to school, Baker was a fixture downtown where he grew up and lived. Self deprecating and known for his rapier like sarcasm and wry smile, Baker was blessed with an endless source of empathy and kindness that he doted on his family, friends and acquaintances. He is survived by his wife Sally Baker and their four children Thomas, Katie, Sarah and Maggie.

 * ... COLLEGE DEGREES: Kern County has one of the lowest percentages of colleges graduates in the state. By point of comparison: 35 percent of adults over 25 hold a bachelor’s degree in California; in Kern County, it’s 17 percent.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Per the SCOTUS case today, I ask this only to spur conversation:
Should the government be able to force a Jewish graphic designer to design invitations to a “The Holocaust was a hoax” party? Or force a Muslim designer to design a “Muhammad was a pedophile” poster?"

 * ... THE BOTANIST: A new restaurant has opened downtown on east 18th Street, a popular stretch of eateries, restaurants and shops dubbed "Eastchester." Owned by the same couple that runs Cafe Smitten, The Botanist is an old style food and drink place with loads of charm and an inviting menu. The Botanist plans on a Sunday brunch menu soon.

 * ... MEMORIES: A couple of wonderful old pictures here, thanks to the Kern County of Old Facebook page. The first is Chester avenue around 1890 and the second is a shot at Dewar's candy shop around 1909.

Friday, December 2, 2022

Oil and gas industry fights back against attempts to eliminate it, assessing the filthy aftermath of the downtown Christmas parade and the non-profit journalism site SJV Water seeks support for its reporting

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.

 * ... OIL JOBS: A new grass roots campaign has been launched to protect hundreds of thousands of job in California associated with the oil and gas industry. Expect to see black and white bumper stickers that say "My job depends on oil" as the industry fights back against attempts by Gov. Gavin Newsom and

others to drive it into bankruptcy. Consider this: nearly 366,000 jobs in California are supported by the oil and gas industry, which paid out $226 billion in wages. More than $152 billion in total economic output was added to the California economy in 2017, and $21.6 billion in tax revenue helped fund essential services like schools, roads and public safety. Yet despite all this the state continues on its hell-bent way to destroy the oil and gas industry.  “It’s impossible to overstate the importance of the oil and gas industry in the Central Valley and California,” BizFed Central Valley CEO Clint Olivier said. “California could be a leader in environmentally-safe and humanitarian oil and gas production, but it has unfortunately chosen another route. Worse yet, the state has done so without any realistic plan for a just transition, leaving hundreds of thousands of hard-working Californians feeling massive job insecurity.”
For additional background, please visit:

 * ... HOME OWNERSHIP: If you own a home in California, and can afford to make the payments, consider yourself lucky. That's because the value of California housing is rising so quickly that few people can muster enough money for a down payment. Consider these statistics: the median price of a home in California is now nearing $850,000, a reality that puts housing out of the reach of most first time buyers, seniors and almost all categories of consumers. Fewer than 55 percent of Californians live in homes they or their families own. The bottom line, according to Cal Matters columnist Dan Walkers, is that only 18 percent of California households can afford a median-priced single-family home of $829,760. That’s because it requires an income of at least $192,800 to make payments on a 30-year mortgage with a 5.72% interest rate. Since those data were calculated, mortgage interest rates have climbed to more than 7%, reducing affordability even more.

 * ... CHRISTMAS PARADE: On the morning after the annual Christmas parade, the streets downtown take on all the charm of a college frat party: debris and trash everywhere, food wrappers and cups tossed aside with no thought, a mountain of garbage left behind by an unthinking mob. The city cleans is up all right, albeit at considerable expense, but once again we earn our reputation as one of the trashier cities in the valley. All that said, the parade was a huge success, drawing thousands, and who wouldn't appreciate our District Attorney (Cynthia Zimmer) in her Grinch like costumer clutching an adorable puppy?

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "How would people in the Homeless Industry Complex earn a living if they actually reduced homelessness?"

 * ... SPOTTED ON FACEBOOK: "Dating after 40 is like trying to find the least damaged thing at a thrift store that doesn't smell."

* ... BRING BACK THE KERN: Bring Back the Kern is a local organization dedicated to protecting and enhancing the riparian area where the Kern River cuts through our community. Its Facebook page, Bring Back the Kern, recently posted this picture of the old Gordon's Ferry at the base of the bluffs. The photo caption: "Bakersfield has a beautiful and wild history. In this 1918 photo of the Kern River you see both a large body of water and a thick riparian forest. This is probably taken near the Gordon's Ferry Bridge (current China Grade Loop). The forest has been diminished over the years but Panorama Vista Preserve is restoring it in some stretches. There is a lot of potential for further restoration like this along the Kern River."

 * ... YOUTH VOTE: Cal Matters, a non-profit investigative journalism site out of Sacramento, recently took a look at voter turnout with special attention to voting by young people. While young people are engaged and voting, Cal Matters said they still are not outnumbering seniors. "Looking just at California, among the ballots we have recorded so far, there were 3.2 million seniors who cast ballots among the 5.1 million registered, but of the 6 million voters under 35, only 1.3 million voted," it noted. "Seniors comprise 23% of voters but 36% of ballots cast; younger voters are 27% of voters and only 15% of ballots cast. This gap will narrow a bit as we get final numbers from county registrars, but the story will stay the same: young people are massively underperforming." Still, they are having an impact simply because so many vote the same way: liberal.  "While youth turnout is disappointingly low, young people put their stamp on this election nonetheless – and it is because of their much more strident ideological stances," it said. "Seniors are balanced in their political leanings, with recent polling from Capitol Weekly showing that approximately 40% of voters over 35 years old identify as moderates, with equal numbers considering themselves either liberal or conservative. This in contrast to the 25% of younger voters who identify as moderates and are more liberal than conservative at a 3 to 1 ratio. Most strikingly, upwards of 40% of these young voters consider themselves very liberal, while other age groups are in single-digits."

* ... SJV WATER: SJV Water is a Bakersfield-based non profit focused solely on covering all things water in California. Founded by award winning journalist Lois Henry, SJV Water has gained an impressive following as it has evolved into one of the trustworthy sources of unbiased news coverage of California water. This month SJV Water is having a matching fund raiser campaign that will last through Dec. 31. All individual donations will be matched to a cap of $20,000.

 * ... MEMORIES: Not what year this photo was taken, but we do know its on Chester and it was the Fourth of July. This photo is compliments of the Kern County of Old Facebook page. In the second picture, from the same Facebook group, the old road between  Los Angeles and Bakersfield (the Ridge Route) is shown in 1908 long before the completion of Interstate 5.