Monday, May 2, 2022

Restless downtown business owners and residents say the recent bike path mugging of a cyclist is indicative of a crime wave not being addressed, former NFL quarterback Kurt Warner to speak at Hoffmanns Voices of Inspiration and remembering the old Joss House

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.

 * ... CRIME AND SAFETY: The recent mugging of a local businessman on the Kern River bike path, coupled with the unrelenting wave of petty crime, theft and vandalism downtown, is leading many people to wonder if we have lost the war on homelessness, crime and vagrancy. The story of Frank Marr, the 57-year-old man mugged last week by two young men on the bike path, is illustrative of how ineffective our policies and rhetoric have become. The only place where Marr's mugging has been mentioned is on this

blog, begging the question: are we so immune to violence now that our local TV stations, our local newspaper and our city officials no longer deem a bike path mugging newsworthy? And did Marr hear from Ward 2 City Councilman Andrae Gonzales after he was sent to the hospital with his injuries? Did Gonzales, whose ward has the worse homeless and crime problem in the city, even address it publicly? The answer is "no" to both. (To be fair we can't expect the councilman to check on every crime victim but it would have shown good form here) For Gonzales, his cross to bear is representing the ward most impacted by crime and homelessness. No one blames Andrae for the crime wave, but they do judge how he reacts and what he does, and many frustrated downtown businesses are weary of hearing about affordable housing and "having patience" when they are losing their livelihoods. The real issue here is this: yes we have a housing issue but we also have a very serious crime issue, and a one-size-all approach is not working. The young men who mugged Frank Marr likely do not need housing, nor do the vagrants who break out windows, defecate on sidewalks or harass passersby. So while we work the affordable housing angle, crime continues to spike and stories like the one involving Frank Marr may become more common. When you are Frank Marr, you might see it as exactly what it was: a midday mugging at the hands of two young criminals. Sometimes things are just as simple as they look.

 * ... POLITICAL BLOWBACK: One thing seems certain, and that is local business owners and residents are long past being weary over the crime and filth that has descended across town. While many of these issues were born in Sacramento when the Legislature passed laws making many crimes misdemeanors, the responsibility of safe streets remains with local government, in this case our City Council. Listen to some of the voices from residents in response to the Marr bike path mugging.

---  "It doesn't surprise me. I also experienced group of guys on small motor bikes and quads try to push me to the shoulder. When I wouldn't move out of the way they got pissed. Thankfully they didn't pursue me I stood my ground. Things could of ended differently. In Dallas officers patrol the bike paths on bicycles or in this instance an ebike would work as well."

 ---  "Shame on the Supervisors, city officials (Mayor Goh) and the Governator for allowing one of the few recreational options we have to become unsafe. I see the tents snd vagrants everyday when I cross the river bridge at Chester, along the river at Golden State Highway. and have thought to myself, there is no way I would go on the path like I used to. It makes me sad and angry to see what the officials have allowed to happen in our community. "

--- "The city council keeps assuring us that we don't have a homeless problem. This is getting completely out of hand. Westchester and downtown are overrun with them. They are allowed to take over our city parks and everyone turns a blind eye. They build bonfires, throw trash everywhere, defecate and urinate, discard drug paraphernalia, and wander our streets at all hours of the night screaming and shouting obscenities. A few well-meaning organizations disperse toiletries, water and food to them while they are trespassing and committing these criminal acts. The BPD's hands are tied and the agencies that are supposed to address these issues never return phone calls. Unless we want our city to become like the dredges of SF, LA, Washington DC and Seattle, we need to get a handle on it."

 --- "If this was in Haggin Oaks, or any other nice area of town, I guarantee it would be taken care of so fast your head would spin."

 --- "I wish Andrae (councilman Gonzales) was as enthusiastic about fighting crime as he is about buying that train depot on Baker Street. I mean, really Andrae?"

 --- "We have to advocate for ourselves. Our leaders don’t care."

 --- "Not too sure what the Board of Supervisors can do since almost all of these incidents are almost exclusively within the city limits of Bakersfield. What happened to all of the Measure N money that was going to keep Bakersfield safe? All one has to do is drive through downtown during the day or in the evening and you drive right through not wishing to stop due to the things you see. Drive across the Kern River on Golden State Avenue and look to the north and to the south and you can see warming fires throughout the riverbed and there's no response from the city of Bakersfield. Try lighting your fireplace in the house you pay taxes on and the air quality resources board will be giving you a ticket."

 * ... VOICES OF INSPIRATION: Hoffmann Hospice has announced that former National Football League quarterback Kurt Warner will be the keynote speaker at this year's Voices of Inspiration gala set for Sept. 22. Last year's event was canceled due to Covid (former president George Bush and wife Laura were set to appear) and in the past Hoffmann has featured such luminaries as actor Mark Wahlberg, swimmer Michael Phelps, Navy Seal Marcus Luttrell and actor Michael J. Fox.

* ... GOODBYE PEP BOYS: One of the landmark businesses downtown, Pep Boys at the corner of F Street and 23rd Street, has been sold to Advance Auto Parts. The building is currently undergoing renovation. No date yet for the opening of the new business.

 * ... MEMORIES: The Kern County History Fans group has a Facebook page that is a gold mine for history lovers. Enjoy these two nuggets I saw on their Facebook page, and enjoy our local history.

 * ... JOSS HOUSE: And finally there is this little piece of history from the Kern County of Old Facebook page celebrating the old Joss House. "On April 19, 1903, a tragic shoot out between town marshals and outlaw Jim McKinney, took place at the Chinese Joss House, on L Street between 20th and 21st Streets. Two marshals and McKinney were killed as a result of the action. The Joss House was a religious shrine, clubhouse, tong headquarters, and rooming house. It was an awkward looking building with porches on first and second floors. The building in the foreground of this picture was a general merchandise store, with the Joss House in the background. This photograph was taken immediately after the shooting.

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