Wednesday, February 23, 2022

Plans for affordable housing run into a firestorm of resistance in Westchester, Coachella plans for a mask free concert and California grants parole to a man who stabbed his mother more than 30 times in a horrific local killing

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.

 * ... AFFORDABLE HOUSING: There is unrest brewing in Ward 2, which arguably encompasses an area of town hardest hit by the homeless issue. Confrontations between homeowners and vagrants are on the rise and crime in the downtown neighborhoods is out of control. And now, amid all this, CityServe has announced plans to build affordable housing in the parking lot of the old Montgomery Ward building on F Street. Part of the project includes counseling services to help the homeless, turning the CityServe offices into even more of a magnet for the homeless. It's hard to argue against the need for affordable housing,

and NIMBY protests are both predictable and inevitable, but this one has enraged residents of the Westchester area who have traditionally taken the brunt of the homeless crisis. The problem, according to residents Felix Adamo and Chris Lowe who both penned their objections to The Californian, is that there was simply no attempt by Ward 2 Councilman Andrae Gonzales or CityServe to warn the residents the project was being considered. And here is another odd thing: apparently the project was funded under a state program that bypasses local control and renders impotent any local opposition. In other words, once CityServe accepted the money for the project it was a done deal, no matter what the neighbors think. This lack of transparency has triggered grumblings in Ward 2 aimed at Gonzales, who is in favor of the project. Where will all this go? Who knows but there is a growing concern about town that the city has lost control of its streets, that the new city-county homeless bureaucracy is deaf to the concerns of residents, and these kinds of things eventually make their way to the political arena. Stay tuned.

 * ... PARKER CHAMBERLAIN: Its hard to argue that some reform in criminal sentencing were not necessary, but the case of Parker Chamberlain shows just how far off track the whole thing has become. Chamberlain learned this week that he was granted parole after serving only part of his prison sentence. What was he convicted of? Well, Chamberlain was convicted of using a kitchen knife to stab his own mother, Torie Knapp, to death on July 3, 2001. That's right, even someone who kills their own mother in an unspeakably horrific way can be granted parole in today's California, despite opposition from the Kern County District Attorney's office. And so it goes. (Photo off Chamberlain by Alex Horvath of The Californian)

 * ... LEAST EDUCATED: In a new survey of California's counties it turns out that Kern County ranks No. 8 among the "least educated" counties in the state. As it turns out just 16.4 percent of Kern's population 25 years and over has a Bachelor’s degree or higher and 26 percent of adults have less than a high school diploma. Kern's high school graduates account for 27.8 percent of the population and only 5.4 percent have a graduate or a professional degree. The "least educated" California counties: Tulare, Green, Merced and Lassen.

 * ... MASK FREE COACHELLA? Are we finally turning the corner on the coronavirus? Are we nearing the end to the long, two year dance with masks and social distancing? That is what the organizers of the Coachella music festival are banking on as they announced that Coachella 2022 will be mask and vaccine free in April. That's right, no masks will be required and no need for proof of vaccines.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "You ever get road rage standing behind someone in a grocery aisle?"

 * ... TYLER WILLIAMS: Tyler Williams is local Bakersfield boy who has turned his passion for cycling into a full-time career. After racing on the European circuit, Williams is now racing for the L39ION, a UCI Continental Cycling team. This week, while training Williams bumped into retired NBA superstar Reggie Miller and posed for this picture.

 * ... DUTCH BROTHERS: Dutch Brothers Coffee has opened a new location on S. Chester, the fifth location for the coffee brewer in town. Other Dutch Brothers locations include Columbus, California Avenue, Calloway Drive and Panama Lane.

 * ... MEMORIES: A couple old pictures to share, the first coming from the Kern County History Fans Facebook page and the second an historic shot of the Garces Circle back in the day.

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