Tuesday, April 5, 2022

New York City learns the hard way that most homeless want to remain on the streets, downtown Bakersfield retailers turn to private security to fend off crime and vagrants and sculptor Ben Victor gets some well deserved recognition

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.

 * ... DO THE HOMELESS WANT HELP? One of the more vexing issues facing our city is determining to what extent the thousands of homeless and vagrants actually want real help. Housing for the homeless is in woefully short supply, yet affordable housing remains one of the primary focuses by those charged with getting people off the streets and back on the road to self sufficiency. But what if all

those drug addicts, petty criminals and mentally challenged individuals could care less about finding a roof over their head? What if - gasp - they actually prefer being on the street? Before you dismiss the idea, understand that this is exactly what authorities are finding out in New York City where Mayor Eric Adams has launched a major push to clear the subways and get people off the streets. So far, according to the New York Times, of the hundreds of homeless moved from more than 239 homeless camps, only five have opted to move into shelters. That's right, just FIVE people have agreed to go into a city-run shelter out of hundreds. The others? They just want to stay on the street. This is the reality on the ground, and the sooner the powers that be in Bakersfield realize it, the better off we all will be. Shelter is the way to go for some, but for others it simply isn't realistic.

 * ... DOWNTOWN CRIME: And speaking of the homeless and rampant, out of control crime, you have to feel for all those downtown business people who have been struggling with graffiti, vandalism and petty theft for four years now. So far, the city has failed these businesses miserably, leaving retailers to fend for themselves as they battle chronic lawlessness. And now comes this: the Downtown Business Assn. is experimenting with an idea to have a local private security guards walk the streets downtown, hoping the mere presence of a rent-a-cop will bring order to the streets. Well, it's certainly a better idea than the DBA had a few years ago when its solution was printing cards that retailers could give vagrants telling them where they could get a hot shower and warm meal. That was an astonishing bad idea. The hard truth is this: both the DBA and city have been unable to make a real dent in this problem, and it won't be until the state legislature deals with a series of laws that decriminalized almost everything from heroin to street drugs before things will get better.

 * ... COVID TESTS: If you have not used that free Covid test sent to you by our government, make sure the test kit has not expired. It turns out all these Covid test kits are printed with an expiration date, but be careful because different tests have different expiration dates.

 * ... BEN VICTOR: One of the truly talented people to come out of Bakersfield is Ben Victor, son of Joyce and Doc Victor, and he received some overdue recognition recently by Assemblyman Vince Fong. Victor is an amazing sculptor, and he is the genius behind the Roadrunner sculpture out at CSUB as well as some remarkable work that now grace the halls of our nation's Capitol. Said Fong on his Facebook page: "Honored to be able to give an early surprise recognition to world renowned sculptor Benjamin Victor who is getting inducted into the Foothill High School Hall of Fame this weekend! He is the only living artist to have three sculptures in Statuary Hall in the U.S. Capitol and he is the artistic creator of the Oil Worker Monument in Taft! Amazing work! Victor was just 26 years old when his first statue, Sarah Winnemucca, a Paiute activist in Nevada, was dedicated in the Hall in 2005, making him the youngest artist to ever be represented in the Hall. In 2014, his sculpture of Norman Borlaug, "the father of the Green Revolution," was dedicated in the National Statuary Hall and in 2019, his statue of Chief Standing Bear, a Native American rights leader, was dedicated in the National Statuary Hall making him the only living artist to have three sculptures in the Hall. (a few of Victor's works of art) 

* ... THE NEW AMERICAN HOUSEHOLD: The number of Americans who live in multi-generational households is skyrocketing and demographers say it just may become the norm. Since 1971, the number of us living with relatives has quadrupled. In March, says the New York Times, nearly 60 million people were living "with" multiple generations under one roof. Financial issues and caregiving are the top reasons why we live together, but overall those who do live with relatives are happy about it. "More adults living in multigenerational households say the experience has been positive (30 percent) or somewhat positive (27 percent) than say it has been somewhat negative (14 percent) or very negative (3 percent)," said the Pew Research Center.

 * ... MEMORIES: Enjoy these shots of some of our old hospitals, captured in vintage photos. Thanks to the Kern County History Fans.

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