Monday, April 18, 2022

Easter is celebrated as America becomes less religious, the building housing the old Trout's honky tonk goes up in flames, Measure N fuels big spending in Bakersfield and celebrating the sculptures of Ben Victor

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.

 * ... RELIGION AND AMERICA: We just celebrated Easter and worshipers throughout Kern County turned out at parks, in their homes and in places of worship to express their faith. There is no doubt Kern is a very religious place, with 49.4 percent of residents identifying themselves as religious with 30 percent of them saying they were practicing Catholics. But there also is no doubt that America is becoming less religious by the generation. By far, the least religious generation in the U.S. today is Generation Z

where 42 percent of respondents identified themselves as unaffiliated. Older Millenials come is second in terms of not believing in God (30 percent) followed by Generation X (21 percent), the Boomers (15 percent) and the Silent Generation (9 percent). The most religious states in the nation, according to Pew Research? That would start with Vermont with New York, Massachusetts and Utah close behind. The least religious states: Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Nevada and West Virginia.

 * ... ERIC SIMPSON? Speaking of religion a former counselor at the Bridge Bible Church has found himself in legal trouble over allegations of sexual misconduct. According to KGET, a lawsuit alleging sexual misconduct against former counselor Eric Simpson has been settled for an undisclosed sum. The suit alleged that Simpson manipulated a woman who had initially gone to him for marriage counseling sessions with her husband. Simpson, the lawsuit said, insisted on private sessions and eventually ended up sexually abusing the plaintiff. Simpson has apparently left the church and local attorney Gabe Godinez, who represented Simpson, told KGET his client admitted no wrongdoing in agreeing to the settlement. 

 * ... MORE SIMPSON: Meanwhile, Simpson may have left the Bridge Bible Church but he has shown up as a person involved with CityServe of Bakersfield, a popular and influential non-profit that seeks to help the most needy in our community. The organization, which brings churches and non-profits together to serve the under privileged, owns the old Montgomery Ward building on F Street where officials announced new homeless housing would be created. Exactly when Simpson went to CityServe is not clear but he was identified on the organization's Facebook book page as director of the CityServe Educational Collaborative. In the Facebook feed, Simpson is quoted as saying that CityServe is in a partnership with Bakersfield College where "we are able to offer them quality education and opportunities to learn, develop, and utilize their skills to better our community, both in employment and as a person." Attempts to reach Pastor Wendell Vinson at CityServe for comment were not successful.

* ... MEASURE N: Remember Measure N, the city sales tax proposal that won voter approval by the narrowest of margins in 2018? Now also remember that the tax was passed by a public weary of soaring crime and chronic homelessness. Proceeds from the tax, the city assured us, would go primarily to combat crime. Then came the pandemic when tax revenues sunk and the city was fortunate to have another source of money. That tax now generates about $113 million a year, and it is largely responsible for a long laundry list of improvements across the city, some crime related and some not. This year, some of the Measure N money ($400,757) will go for mental health counselors at BPD, with another $3.8 million earmarked for enhancements to the downtown corridor. The Brundage homeless centers will get $1.8 million, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Park gets $1.6 million, $2 million is set aside for city of living adjustments and $1.3 million is set aside for public art. 

 * ... OVERHEARD: At the Alberton's on Coffee Road and Stockdale Highway an employee is heard explaining why they were completely out of shopping carts: "We're so sorry but the homeless people take them all. It's been like this forever."

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Wow, so when you answer the door naked to scare away Jehovah's witnesses, it's funny but when I do it with Girl Souts, I get arrested. Is it because I'm brown?" 

 * ... TROUT'S BURNS: The building that once housed the old Trout's honky tonk on north Chester went up in flames the evening of Easter, yet another blow to the rich history of the Bakersfield Sound and the remarkable musicians who put our community on the map. For folks interested in preserving local history this is yet another blow to a community that at times doesn't seem to honor its past. No word on the cause of the fire.

* ... BEN VICTOR: Last week we told you about a new statue that is being made for a World War II memorial at a downtown park,  and it turns out the artwork yet another piece by local Bakersfield product Ben Victor. Son of "Doc" Victor (president of a local bible college) and wife Joyce, Benjamin Victor is a Foothill High graduate who has emerged as one of our country's premier sculptors. (The public response to his work has been overwhelmingly positive so we will share more here). He already made the bronze Roadrunner sculpture at at CSUB  and he is the only living artist to have three works on display in the U.S. Capitol building. The new sculpture will go up at Jastro Park and will depict a wife and mother who just received a telegram that he husband had been killed in action. Victor's work is stunning, and in addition to the new sculpture, I am including some of his other works of art for your enjoyment.

* ... MEMORIES: The old Motel Bakersfield on Union Avenue, thanks to our friends at the Kern County History Fans Facebook page.

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