Wednesday, March 29, 2023

A new poll finds Americans are less patriotic and religious and also are less likely to tolerate others, Stockdale High's uber successful debate team and will the ancient Tulare Lake be recreated by the rainstorms?

 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.

 * ... OUR CHANGING WORLD: Sometimes it seems the world is in turmoil, and nothing reflects that better an annual University of Chicago and Wall Street Journal poll that takes the pulse of what is

important to Americans. And chances are you might not like what it found. First the bad news: patriotism, religious faith, having children and other bedrock priorities are no longer so important. Today, just 38 percent of the respondents said patriotism was really important to them and 39 percent said religious was equally important. In 1998 when the same survey was conducted, 70 percent said patriotism was important and 62 percent said religion was important. And here is another bad trend: "confidence in others" was deemed very important by 80 percent of the respondents two years ago and today, it has shrunk to just 58 percent.

 * ... BAKERSFIELD MARATHON: Were you among the thousands that lined the streets to cheer on the Bakersfield Marathon, or were you among a cranky minority who got stuck in your homes when streets closed along the route? First the good news: the race was a huge success and the weather was cooperated, yet once again folks along the route complained about the lack of notice that their streets or neighborhoods would be closed. We have passed the time where the marathon should be a surprise and instead we should be cheering an event that shows off the best of our city. If it was a mess, it was a glorious mess.

 * ... STOCKDALE DEBATE: If you want to feel good about something look no farther than Stockdale High School and its phenomenally successful debate team, which recently won its 10th consecutive Central Valley speech and debate championship. (photo courtesy of The Bakersfield Californian)

 * ... TULARE LAKE: All eyes are on the "resurgence" of Tulare Lake, the old lake bed that existed for thousands of years until the Kern River was damned and water diverted for agricultural uses. Here is a good explanation of the Tulare Lake and a couple of old pictures: "Then and Now, the Tulare Lake south of Kansas Avenue, Kings County, California.  Then image taken in 1938.  Now image taken earlier this week.  I've always said that the Tulare Lake will return, it just needed Mother Nature to remind everyone who's in charge.  The lake existed for tens of thousands of years as the drainage point for the Kings, Kaweah and Tule Rivers, along with numerous other creeks such as Cross, St. John's, Cameron, Deer and White.  It's going to be an interesting year."

 * ... MOSQUITOES: With all this rain we have had you can expect a huge mosquito season this year. Experts are warning this could be the worst mosquito season in years in Kern County.

 * ... OUR WORLD: Here are some more pictures taken by our citizen photographers about town. The first is by Jim Eggert, the second of a snow capped Mt. Able was shot by Pam Taylor, and  the third another beautiful photo by JoJo Paredes Butingan. The picture of the snow on Interstate 80 is provided by the CHP.

 * ... MEMORIES: John Kelley is a local historian who regularly shares his rich collection of photos and knowledge of our area. Here, John shares three pictures of an old 76 gas station that once stood mid way up the Grapevine headed south toward Los Angeles. Enjoy these amazing pictures.

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

The diminutive French Bulldog is now top dog in America, weather caster Alissa Carlson has a scary fall and we celebrate all of our citizens photographers with some awesome pictures of our green valley

 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.

 * ... ALISSA CARLSON: By now almost everyone has seen the scary tape of TV weather anchor Alissa Carlson fainting at her desk. Carlson is a former KGET employee who had a long and favorable run in

Bakersfield and recently left to work at KCAL in Los Angeles. Last week, while live, Carlson's eyes rolled up in her head and she fainted. Carlson assures us everything is fine, but the video was difficult to watch.

 * ... NATURE'S WORK: The intense rain storms that have blanketed California have made for some spectacular moments for citizen photographers. The first was taken by Brandon Taggart in Kernville, the second by Pam Taylor out near Taft and the third and fourth by Jojo Paredes Butingan. Finally, John  Kelley treats us to some wildflowers he captured off Highway 46 with the last two pictures.

 * ... FRENCH BULLDOG:  For years the regal and lovable Labrador Retriever has held the top spot in the hearts of America's dog lovers. But now there is a new top dog in town, the diminutive French Bulldog. The new most popular dog was crowned this year when the American Kennel Club reported that the French  Bulldog and moved into top spot among dog lovers. The French Bulldog has been steadily climbing the AKC’s rankings over the last decades, hitting No. 14 in 2012. In 2021, the breed held the No. 2 spot, behind the popular labs but ahead of Golden Retrievers.

 * ... TULARE LAKE: In the aftermath of the string of rainstorms there is a lot of discussion about the old Tulare Lake bed, which was home to wildlife and native Americans years before the west was settled and the water damned and claimed by agriculture. Thanks to my friend Sylvia Cattani I am attached this explanation of the old lake, and how the record precipitation may be bringing it back.
 "A lot of the younger generation have no idea that the area west of Corcoran was once Tulare Lake, the largest fresh water lake west of the Great Lakes. It would be filled by the Kern, Kaweah and Tule rivers. The last 2 times it flooded enough to see Tulare Lake was 1983 and 1997. Going further back, The Tachi tribe, or Tachi Yokuts, once thrived with a population of 70,000 living on the banks of Tulare Lake, prior to the American and Spanish colonist settling. In 1849 the lake was 570 square miles and 690 square miles in 1879. There was a huge market for fish from the lake that would ship through Hanford to the Bay Area. Settlers started settling and started diverting the water for Ag and Municipal uses. The lake was nearly dry by 1900. In 1938, heavy rains flooded the San Joaquin Valley causing the levee to break near Corcoran and flood 28,000 acres of farm land. With this incident and a repeat flood in 1955, it prompted the construction of the Terminus Dam on the Kaweah River forming Lake Kaweah, and Success Dam on the Tule River forming Lake Success.  A lot of the water was diverted for multiple reasons including a large amount being diverted to the Los Angeles area. Bottom line, so much water was diverted that Tulare Lake, the once bustling eco system with elk, deer, antelope, marine life and countless other resources, disappeared over time. Who knows, we may get a peak at Tulare Lake again."

 * ... MEMORIES: Who remembers the Union Avenue plunge? Enjoy this old photo thanks to the Kern County History Fans Facebook page.

 * ... OILFIELDS: And finally we have this undated aerial view of the Sunset oilfield around 1910, courtesy of the Kern County of Old.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Water level at Lake Isabella rises amid predictions we will have water in the river through the summer, a former priest has a bad day in court and Bakersfield loses two prominent businessmen and notables

 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.

 * ... LAKE ISABELLA: All this rain is finally having a positive impact on filling some of the states reservoirs, which were drained dangerously low during the long drought. Closer to home the rains almost doubled the amount of water stored at Lake Isabella, going from a low of about 135,000 acre feet to

around 265,000 acre feet now. Mark Mulkay, Kern Water Master, told KGET it was "a once-in-a-generation event that’s going to happen this year. There’s going to be a lot of water in the river all year long.” Mulkay said. Depending on the depth of the water in the river, that means we could be seeing a lot of kayaking, canoeing and swimming this summer along the Kern River through town. (file photo of Lake Isabella)

 * ... GOOD NEWS? Is there finally some good news for our beleaguered downtown? Did the powers at be finally listen to the people and businesses who have been crying for help for years? Hopefully that answer is a firm yes now that the City Council has authorized city staff to  place bids on 13 different properties that are deemed eyesores, and potential fire hazards. This is a terrific start and it deserves our applause, but we should all be aware that the city may need to pony up yet more money to buy and refurbish these old properties. It's a start in the right direction.
 * ... CRAIG HARRISON COURT LOSS: It has been a bad - and expensive - week for Craig Harrison following yet another loss in court, the latest setback for the embattled former monsignor who is fighting allegations he spent part of his career as a repeated abuser. Harrison and his civil defense team, led by local attorney Craig Edmonston, have been ordered to pay $219,800 in attorney costs after their defamation lawsuit against Stephen Brady was tossed out of court. Brady was among a handful of people that Harrison sued for defamation, and so far his defense team has struck out in court, racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees without a single win show for their efforts. In addition to the lawsuit against Brady, Harrison's defamation lawsuit against former monk Ryan Gilligan was also thrown out of court. If Harrison is ordered to pay those attorney fees as well, he could be on the hook for almost a half million dollars in fees. And all this before Harrison even steps foot in trial to defend two civil lawsuits from men who claim to have been abused by the former priest. Those cases, and thousands of dollars in attorney fees, are making their way through the courts. Edmonston told KGET it is unlikely Harrison can pay the fees. “He spent his entire life in the church, and he was compensated slightly above subsistence,” the attorney said. While that may be true, Harrison's lifestyle has been anything but subsistence level. He lives in a downtown home valued at more than $700,000 (owned by supporters) routinely posts pictures of himself on an oceanview property on the central coast and often takes long excursions to Italy with friends. Stay tuned to see how all that plays out in court. (file photos of Harrison and Craig Edmonston)

 * ... REST IN PEACE: Our community has lost some good people lately, business men and women and community members whose individual sweat and toil helped make Bakersfield a better place. Some of these names may not be familiar, but each deserves a recognition for being part of the fabric of a community we call home.

  HENRY MARTIN "MARTY" MAYFOHRT Jr.: Marty Mayfohrt lost his battle with cancer on March 10 after spending a lifetime raising his family and working in the San Joaquin Valley. He was a graduate of West High and CSUB and worked as an accountant with Lou Barbich and Geoff King before he got "the car bug" and became general manager of Bill Wright Toyota and later Family Motors. In 2000 Marty realized a lifelong dream and purchased the Madera Auto Center and moved to Clovis where he lived with his wife, Lela, and daughters Lauren and Michelle. A proud graduate of CSUB, Marty was a member of the downtown Rotary Club, Seven Oaks Country Club and other civic organizations. He was 68. Marty is shown here with his wife, Lela.

 JOHN  BROCK JR. A descendant of the family that ran the famous Brock's Department store, John Brock Jr. was a lifelong resident of Bakersfield and a prominent member of the business community. After his family sold the department store Brock joined Gregory Bynum and Associates in 1988 where he was integral in hundreds of developments around down. John graduated with a BA degree from Stanford and a Master's degree in business administration from the University of Southern California. A true gentleman with a soft touch and dry wit, John is shown with his wife, Ginette. John was 75 years ago.

 * ... MEMORIES: From the archives of the Kern County History Fans' page on Facebook comes this look at Guarantee Shoe Center over the years.

Friday, March 10, 2023

Former Bakersfield priest Craig Harrison, accused of sexual misdeeds, is ordered to pay $219,000 in attorney fees to a critic who was investigating the sexual abuse allegations against him; it is Harrison's latest loss in court

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.

 A Kern County Superior Court judge has ruled that accused sexual molester Craig Harrison must pay $219,000 in legal fees to a man who criticized Harrison and was promptly sued for libel by Harrison and his team of attorneys.

 The ruling by Judge Eric Bradshaw was handed down last week and made public by The Church Militant, a national organization that is devoted to outing sexual predators in the Catholic clergy. The ruling came in the case of Stephen Brady, who runs the organization The Roman Catholic Faithful, which helps track and report on priests accused of wrongdoing.
 In the ruling, the court named two Harrison attorneys: civil attorney Craig Edmonston and criminal lawyer Kyle Humphrey. Both were part of Harrison's defense team that worked to silence critics by slapping them with lawsuits, several of which were thrown out of court.
 Brady was represented by the San Diego law firm of Limandri & Jonna, which specializes in church abuse cases.
 Brady was accused of libel after he held a press conference in Bakersfield to talk about the accusations against Harrison. At the time the libel suit was filed Humphrey said the intent was "to restore the reputation and good name of Monsignor Craig Harrison and to hold accountable these defendants for their false, malicious and reckless accusations." 
 The court disagreed.
 Harrison's lawsuit claimed Brady published false defamatory, libelous, and slanderous statements about Harrison, including that he had sex with two high school students while a pastor in Firebaugh. The lawsuit also claimed that Brady said Harrison would examine boy's private parts every morning. Another claim stated that he had sex with a minor in a Ford Explorer and that teen committed suicide following abuse by Monsignor.
 Brady's attorneys argued the case against him was frivolous - they claimed it violated his First Amendment rights to speak about matters already in the public arena - and that they should be reimbursed for attorney costs. The judgment presumably will be paid by Harrison or his group of local supporters.
 The $219,000 judgment comes in the Brady case, and a similar outcome could be expected in a second libel case that Harrison lost against Ryan Gilligan, a former Benedictine monk and confident of Harrison's who accused the former priest of sexually inappropriate behavior. Harrison sued Gilligan and lost that case as well.
 All of this harkens back to when Harrison, once a wildly popular monsignor, media darling and accomplished fund raiser, was suspended by the Diocese of Fresno in April 2019 after a man came forward to say Harrison abused him when he was a young man. After that numerous other accusations from once young men followed, the church launched a formal investigation, Harrison sued the church and lost and Harrison eventually voluntarily left the church.
 So far all of Harrison's lawsuits against his detractors handled by Edmonston and his team - The Catholic Church, Stephen Brady, Ryan Gilligan and a diocese employee - have failed in the courts.
 Once Harrison had surrendered all of his priest duties, the church responded by removing all memories of Harrison at St. Francis Church, including taking Harrison's name off the side of a youth center that had been named after him. Harrison is shielded from any criminal charges because of the statute of limitations, but two civil lawsuits by men accusing Harrison of sexual impropriety are making their way through the courts and appear headed to trial.

Wednesday, March 8, 2023

Concerns are raised about a out of control spending on the homeless, Bakersfield's air is ranked worst in the nation and do you know how to get to Rosedale?

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.

 * ... MEASURE N: It's nice to see some sobriety seep into the discussions about the money our city and county are plowing into fighting homelessness, as well as a new emphasis on how the city is spending its Measure N sales tax money. First, a big shoutout to Clayton Campbell, a local businessman who serves on the city's Public Safety and Vital Services' Citizens Oversight Committee. During a discussion of how to spend $19 million in tax money, Campbell expressed fears that the recurring costs of programs to fight

homelessness would set a dangerous precedent in the future. "I'm not satisfied that this money is being spent in a way that actually resolves any homelessness," said Campbell. "I'm not convinced that there's information to support that." Echoing that sentiment and cheering on Campbell was former City Councilman Mark Salvaggio, who has been warning of an out of control "homeless industrial complex that has become the third rail entitlement in our local city and county governments." Campbell and Salvaggio represent a growing faction of local leaders who are wary of the millions being poured into homeless while issues like crime and safety get short shrift. It is a conversation that is long overdue and some taxpayers are wondering how crime and homelessness remain so hopeless after we have spent millions, and whether we are spending too much time trying to find housing for the homeless rather than providing safe streets and quicker response times.

* ... AIR POLLUTION: One of the benefits of these winter storms has been the incredible crystal clear skies that are ushered in during the storm's aftermath. But these picture postcard days hide a hard truth that says despite progress we have made, Bakersfield remains one of the most polluted cities in America. According to a survey run by The Guardian newspaper in Longdon, "America’s top spot is not a traffic-clogged metropolis or renowned heavy industry zone but a small town surrounded by farmland and mountains." The survey found that in many cities, the high pollution areas are homes to minority families. Rounding out the top five worst polluters after Bakersfield were south Los Angeles, southwest Chicago, northwest Indianapolis and central Midwest industrial zone.

 * ... DOWNTOWN SHOOTOUT: The downtown homeowner who exchanged gunfire with three men who allegedly were trying to break into his home has been identified as local custom home builder John Dovichi. The Feb. 23 incident, which happened at the end of the Pine Street cul-de-sac on the south side of 24th Street. was triggered when Dovichi drove home after dinner only to find a strange car parked in his driveway and three men outside. Shots were exchanged and one of the suspects, 43-year-old Melvin Carter, was shot in his thigh and arm and is at Kern Medical Center. Also arrested was 36-year-old Frederic Minnoy III of Bakersfield. A third suspect has not been identified. Police are trying to determine if this incident is related to other home invasions or if this incidents stands alone.

 * ... HOMELESS PROBLEMS: Did you hear about the homeless guy who broke into the downtown Post Office and spent the overnight hours trying to break into lockers and urinating on the floor? Well it happened at the Merle Haggard post office on 18th Street and the unidentified homeless man was taken to a local hospital for psychiatric examination. All of this might even be funny were it not for the toll of destruction left behind by homeless vagrants. Things are so bad downtown that the Post Office removed the street mail boxes because they were not secure. And so it goes. (A random homeless person takes care of business in town)

 * ... WHERE IS ROSEDALE: If you live in Bakersfield, you have some idea of how to drive to Rosedale. Or do you? It turns out the boundaries of what we now call Rosedale have changed over the years, and a man named Mark McGowan schooled me on the rich history of Rosedale in a recent post on the Facebook page of the Kern County History Fans. Listen to McGowan describe old Rosedale: "When I was a kid, there were distinct communities along Rosedale Hwy. west of 99. Then, in the 90s, along came the developers. I guess they figured it was easier to call everything Rosedale to avoid confusing people. Here, however, is the way it was before that.
 The area from 99 (or Pierce Rd. before that) to the tracks was called Fairhaven. There was a Hancock service station, Hagestad Drilling, and Reagan Reese oil tools there. My friend, Gary Stites, was a Fairhavener!
 From the tracks to Coffee Rd (which only went south from Rosedale Hwy to Brimhall Rd) was Fruitvale. That's where we lived until I was seven. We had Fruitvale School (now Vista West) which boasted an Olympic sized swimming pool with low and high diving boards, an annual BBQ, a church, a store (Hudson's Market) with Sunland gas pumps, a Mohawk gas station, and Bookout's Wrecking Yard. There were also numerous wood and steel standard oil derricks in the area.
 From Coffee Rd. to the Santa Fe tracks (there was no overpass back then) was Greenacres. We would live there a couple years too. The area incuded the power plant, a drive through Milk Jug dairy outlet, a store (Clem's Market), Perry's Drive In (now Super Tom's), a fire station, a coffee shop, a church, a barber shop, and Greenacres Primary school (now Fruitvale Jr. High), which had a huge recreation area behind it that hosted "Rec" at night during the summer.
 From the tracks to Renfro Rd. was ROSEDALE! It included a school (where our Cub Scout troop met), an annual BBQ, a church, a store, gas stations, and a coffee shop, but it was primarily, alfafa fields. My first sweetheart, Bernadette Fregeau Parks Angelo was a Rosedalian, even though Fruitvale and Rosedale were rivals!
 From Renfro to Superior Rd. was called Greely. It was mostly farms and the families who ran them, but they did have a store and a church. It's where we met for Weblows (between Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts).
 Beyond there was Rio Bravo. They had a school (still there), a church and a gas station.
 So, now you know that it's not all Rosedale!"
 (Thank you Mark and thanks to the Kern County History Fans for this fascinating look into our collective past.)

 * ... TOBERLONE: Did you hear the Swiss chocolate maker Toblerone is changing its iconic branding by removing its famous mountain peak on the wrapper. First, let's state that this is not a reaction to any Swiss wokeism, but rather a response to a Swiss law that prevents images of national symbols to be on packages sold out of the country.

 * ... PASSINGS: Two local restaurants have called it quits, both popular among diehard fans but apparently that wasn't enough to stay in business. Famous Dave's barbeque and Randy's Donuts have both called it quits locally. 

* ... MEMORIES: Check out these old photos from our friends at the Kern County History Fans Facebook book page. Always an interesting journey.

Thursday, March 2, 2023

A crazy week brings snow to the Valley floor, conspiracy theorists turn out to oppose the use of Dominion Voting Systems and a shootout in a quiet neighborhood shakes the confidence of downtown homeowners

 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.

 * ... DOMINION VOTE: The Board of Supervisors meeting turned into a donnybrook this week when the board approved a new three-year deal with Dominion Voting Systems on a 3-2 split vote. With Phil Peters and David Couch dissenting, Supervisors Jeff Flores, Leticia Perez and Zack Scrivner voted to

continue using Dominion systems to count the votes. Despite there being not an inkling of evidence that Dominion Systems have been compromised (they contain no modems or internet access to allow them to be compromised electronically) speaker after speaker appeared before the board to oppose Dominion, some refusing the leave the speaker dais and engaging in shouting matches. This is what happens when the business of running a county runs smack into wild conspiracy theories not connected to reality. Kudos for Scrivner, Flores and Perez for doing the right thing. (photo by The Bakersfield Californian)

 * ... DOWNTOWN CRIME: Poor Ward 2 doesn't seem to get any respect. The downtown district is already home to the lion's share of homeless and vagrants, city parks have become safe zones to inject drugs, the shadows of burned vacant buildings are now commonplace and crime runs rampant. But a gun battle in front of a downtown residence? Is that what it has come to? And yet that is exactly what happened around 7:30 p.m. last Thursday (Feb. 23) at a residence on the south side of Pine Street at 23rd Street. According to police, the homeowner (armed with a CCW and sidearm) pulled into this driveway to find three men breaking into his home. A shootout followed (that's right, bullets were flying) and one of the suspects was shot and the homeowner was apparently grazed by a bullet. (Two of the suspects are in custody, one at Kern Medical Center) If this is a random act of violence in a normally sleepy neighborhood, then we have a real crime problem that threatens the entire city. The real threat here, it seems to me, is the lack of political will to deal with a very tricky problem that requires more than press conferences and self congratulatory selfies. Where are the BPD foot patrols to protect businesses? Who is reaching out to the owners of vacant buildings? Where are the new city lights promised so long ago? The reaction among some downtown residents? Groups of women are arming themselves and taking gun safety classes to be prepared. And who blames them?

Here are a few more random pictures of our recent snowstorm including a flooded Highway 99 near Pixley and some shots from Posey and Tehachapi,.Thanks to Peter Hunt for the shot of traffic backed up on Highway 58, Julie Malcomson Theriault and Michele Brown-Magyar for the use of their photos. The shot of the Hollywood sign was produced by an unknown photographer but the first shot, apparently taken by drone by local photographer Richard Joseph Forrester, is spectacular.

 * ... FRUGATTIS: The new location for Frugattis, that popular Italian restaurant that is now moving to new digs after a few decades at Coffee and Truxtun, gets a frosting of snow during the recent storm. The new location is located at Gosford Road and the Westside Parkway.

 * ... BOYS AND GIRLS CLUB: Congratulations to Ken Carter and Janice Meek for being recognized by the Boys and Girls Club of Kern County for their roles on the board of directors. The two were feted at the organization's “Open Doors & Open Hearts” event last weekend. Congratulations also to Robert Branton, who won the “Youth of the Year” award. Carter is the long time head of Watson Realty fFile photo of Ken Carter along with friends)

* ... CHRIS WILSON: Congratulations to Chris Wilson who was recently honored as Humanitarian of the Year 2022 by the Plank Foundation. Wilson is chairman of the Tigerfight Foundation, which raises money for a crippling childhood disease.

 * ... PYRENEES: The couple that owns Pyrenees Cafe are pushing what they believe is the cafe's secret: breakfast. Long known for its stiff drinks and Basque food, Pyrenees has a large and diverse breakfast menu that the Crawfords are promoting via this billboard near Costco. And the best news? Breakfast is served all day. Breakfast for dinner anyone?

* ... MEMORIES: Take a look down Chester Avenue in the old days and you can see that iconic Coca-Cola sign atop the Sill Building. This picture comes courtesy of the Kern County History Fans Facebook page. And lastly, the History Fans page did not disappoint again with this shot of an advertisement for beautiful new and old homes in Bakersfield.