Friday, July 21, 2023

Bakersfield's homeless population moves to the suburban southwest, the killers of Jose Arredondo remain free after four years and Anchor Steam Beer calls it quits

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.

  * ... HOMELESS BAKERSFIELD: Have you noticed the homeless population has found other "hot spots"around town to camp and beg for money? Several years ago the intersection of Gosford and White Lane became a homeless haunt - at one time there people begging for money on all four corners in traffic on all four sides - and now it looks like the Southwest Sully's and the Trader Joe's shopping center across the street have become popular venues for vagrants. On Friday morning of this week alone, three

homeless men on bicycles hauling grocery carts were spotted at the the Sully's parking lot while two others rested on the small lawn along Gosford across the street. And a sixth was spotted off the bike path at Gosford with his pants around his knees taking care of business. 

* ... STATE OF THE CITY: Meanwhile it is time to thank Mayor Karen Goh who played the role of the adult in the room at the recent State of the City. While other speakers either dismissed the homeless issue or just mentioned it casually, Goh brought up "the elephant in the room" in the homeless crisis and the weariness many feel with the level of filth, disease and trash the problem attracts. Goh cited efforts to build more affordable housing and applauded a group the city contracts with to clean up biohazards like human feces.  (picture of Goh by The Californian)

* ... REMEMBERING JOSE: It has been four years since Bakersfield car dealer Jose Arredondo was found murdered in Baja California. He had been tortured, a fingernail had been pulled from a finger and his right ear was mutilated, all evidence his death was both violent and grisly. In the time since, a suspect was charged and jailed and since released after a Mexican court found there was a lack of evidence to charge him. And now the family waits for answers, as reflected in a Californian story this week. No doubt Arredondo was a controversial figure in town, known both for his generosity and his tendency to belittle people in public, and meanwhile is family awaits answers. (photo courtesy of The Bakersfield Californian)

 * ... RIP ANCHOR BREWING: San Francisco is about to lose another of its signature local businesses, and this time it is beer maker Anchor Brewing. The company is closing down and this time the culprit is a challenging craft beer industry and changing tastes. Anchor willl shut down after 127 years in business, making it America's oldest craft brewer. The San Francisco-based company announced Wednesday it’s ceasing operations and liquidating the beloved business “following a combination of challenging economic factors and declining sales since 2016,” a press release said. Craft brewers, in particular, have been struggling for a variety of reasons including changing consumer habits, rising costs and lingering supply-chain challenges. Another problem has been Sapporo, the Japanese beer company that bought the brand in 2017. Employees complained to VinePair last month about Sapporo’s alleged mismanagement and lack of understanding of craft beer in the United States. In addition, a 2021 rebrand of Anchor was criticized for pivoting too far away from the brand’s classic look.

 * ... OUR SHAME: The sheer number of abandoned dogs and cats in Kern County is astounding, and experts in the field will tell you it is not getting any better. Is it our culture here? Are pets now "disposable" once we lose a job or have to move? Well this picture of this sad Doberman, taken to the city animal shelter, pretty much says it all.

* .... SHOT OF THE DAY: Check out this amazing picture of the Golden Gate bridge that appeared on the "My Home Is California" (MHIC) Facebook page.

 * ... MEMORIES: And check out this amazing old photo of Chester Avenue at 18 Street. How many buildings do you recognize? Thanks to the Kern County History Fans for this shot.

Thursday, July 13, 2023

A former city councilman lashes out at Assembly candidate Andrae Gonzales, citing homelessness, Fentanyl use and his "perverse reverse racism" while the Soda Crackers woo the crowd at the Fox Theater and the FDA approves an abortion pill available via the mail

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.

 * ... ANDRE GONZALES: Politics makes curious bedfellows, and there are few better examples of that than the curious relationship between Andrae Gonzales and Leticia Perez. Gonzales is the city councilman for Ward 2, and Perez a county supervisor. Both progressive Hispanic Democrats, there has been no love lost between the two for years. In fact, they flat just don't like each other-until now. Why? The answer will either make you even more cynical about politics or leave you totally

bemused. It turns out that Gonzales is challenging fellow Democrat Dr. Jasmeet Bains in the 25th Assembly, and other Democrats (including Perez) have rallied around him. What deal did the Democrats cut to make Gonzales and Perez become pals again? Did Gonzales pledge not to challenge Perez for supervisor, a job he has pined for? So is this politics as usual or yet another example of how self serving politicians can be? Well here is a take on that from former City Councilman Mark Salvaggio, an advocate of open government, who took off the gloves to criticize Gonzales. "For years, the gross enmity of Leticia Perez toward you has been has not been some kind of best kept secret," Salvaggio wrote. "I always considered it mere political jealousy. But now, the two of you have become the proverbial strange bedfellows. This is revolting political chicanery. The rumor mill has several people telling you not to run against her for D5 Supervisor." Salvaggio didn't stop there, suggesting that racism may play a role. "Did they also tell you to run instead?'  he said. "This is also some kind of perverse reverse racism against a woman of Indian descent? It's not all about you Andrae. It should be about character and integrity. " (photo shows a smiling Gonzales and Perez)

 * ... MORE SALVAGGIO: And Salvaggio wasn't done yet with Gonzales, using his digital newsletter as a way to rally around Bains and the bipartisan work she is doing in the Assembly. Listen to Salvaggio's logic as he posed these questions to Gonzales: "What more would you have the County to do about homelessness? The County has the M Street Navigation Center AND the Safe Sleeping Camp. The City does not have the latter. The County is building the Tiney Oaks Village, while the City of Bakersfield sits back and lets the excess Bolthouse property sit vacant.  Where are the City’s shovel ready housing projects for the homeless? All the while our Assemblywoman Dr. Jasmeet Bains secured $2 million for your City of Bakersfield, $5 million each for McFarland and Wasco and more.... Bains is fighting the Fentanyl epidemic and Child Trafficking. Assemblywoman Jasmeet Bains works across party aisles. Bains has the support of fellow Assemblywoman and Dr. Akilah Weber. It is important to have someone in the State Assembly with medical expertise. Bains and Weber give the people a twofer. The proof is in the pudding.  From the Valley, for the Valley. She's one of us, for all of us."

* ... OPEN DOOR: The Open Door Network, formerly known as the Bakersfield Homeless Shelter, has secured a classic old restaurant and converted into an 11-bed facility for women in need of a safe surrounding. Open Door CEO Lauren Skidmore found herself surrounded by others this week in dedicating the new facility, located in an old restaurant building on 19th Street.

 * ... ABORTION PILL: There is good news for those who believe in a woman's right to choose. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) a birth control pill to be sold without a prescription for the first time in the United States, a milestone that could significantly expand access to contraception. The medication is called Opill and will become the most effective birth control method available over the counter — more effective at preventing pregnancy than condoms, spermicides and other nonprescription methods. Experts in reproductive health said its availability could be especially useful for young women, teenagers and those who have difficulty dealing with the time, costs or logistical hurdles involved in visiting a doctor to obtain a prescription. How important is this? The New York Times: "Since the Supreme Court overturned the national right to an abortion last year, the accessibility of contraception has become an increasingly urgent issue. But long before that, the move to make a nonprescription pill available for all ages had received widespread support from specialists in reproductive and adolescent health and groups like the American Medical Association, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Family Physicians."

* ... SODA CRACKERS: The Soda Crackers, a band of local musicians whose lively blend of Western swing and the Bakersfield Sound has taken our community by storm, performed before an appreciative crowd at the Fox Theater this past weekend. Local photographer Felix Adamo, who has two sons in the band (Cooper and Zane) provided these pictures of the Crackers in action at the historic Fox. (photos by Felix Adamo)


 * ... SOUTH HIGH REUNION: Heads up to your South High Rebels from the decades of the 1980s.


* .... MEMORIES: Who remembers Haberfelde Ford? The folks over at Kern County of Old posted this picture of a valuable Ford Shelby at the old car lot.

Tuesday, July 4, 2023

While Bakersfield breaks out Old Glory to celebrate the Fourth of July vagrants and thugs have a field day vandalizing local businesses and the sad case of Bitwise that everyone just wants to forget

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.

 * ... FOURTH OF JULY: Make no mistake: few communities top Bakersfield when it comes to Fourth of July celebrations. Virtually every neighborhood in town has one (Stockdale Estates, Riverlakes, La Cresta to name a few) and the queen of them all, the downtown Westchester parade celebrated its 34th

edition. The downtown parade was started three decades ago by former City Councilperson Sue Benham, a humble potluck for a few families around 20th Street. It's all grown up now, and some residents say the emphasis on "bigness" - the mayor kicks it off, other politicians are part of it, there is now a parade of Corvettes, multiple bands, floats for veterans, yard orchestras etc  - has robbed the Westchester event of its emphasis on kids and decorated bikes. But the public must disagree because it grows larger every year as Bakersfield turns out to celebrate the Fourth. (photos courtesy of Karen Goh)

* ... DOWNTOWN WOES: While you were enjoying your Fourth of July weekend, thieves and vagrants were having their way downtown, busting out windows at Luigi's Delicatessen and other establishments. Windows were smashed and merchandise stolen at a local antique store, and Blue Oak Coffee behind the post office saw its front entrance door window smashed for the umpteenth time. Business people are sharing a sign asking where their councilman is (Andrae Gonzales) but critics note he's busy running for the 35th Assembly District. Some downtown business people have turned on Gonzales, seeing him as more interested in advancing his political career than ruffling feathers on the council to fight crime. They are hoping if Gonzales moves on, the next Ward 2 representative will take downtown and east Bakersfield crime more seriously. Unfair? Perhaps, but when you are the incumbent and it happens on your watch, the buck stops with you. Will the checkered, crime-riddled reputation of downtown affect Gonzales' bid for the Assembly? We will see.

* ... JIM DAMIAN: Here's some good news coming out of the disastrous fall from grace of Bitwise, the once wunderkind of the local tech world that collapsed into a heap of lost dreams, broken promises and potential illegalities. Jim Damian, founder of the tech company Stria, has been named Kern County's new chief economic development officer effective the end of July. Stria, if you remember, was a solid high tech company based in Bakersfield until it was purchased last year by Bitwise. With the collapse of Bitwise, Damian and other investors likely will not be paid in full for the sale of Stria, but the new job gives him a shot at starting over.  “To be a model of excellence in managing our business and workforce, we must attract top talent to our organization and employ the very best,” said James Zervis, incoming Kern County Chief Administrative Officer. “We believe that is what we’re getting with Mr. Damian, who will be a key factor in the economic success of our entire region.”

 * ... RIP BITWISE: Speaking of Bitwise, city leaders in Fresno are furious and up in arms over the collapse of Bitwise and the loss of city investment. And yet meanwhile in Bakersfield, there is scarcely a peep from any elected leader about what happened, how it happened and how we can prevent it from happening again. And yes, Bitwise did receive public money (YOUR money) and we have yet to learn exactly how much in public assistance and contracts were lost in the deal. And while our political class moves on from an unpleasant topic, the moving vans pluck what they can from what remains of the Bitwise offices.

 * ... BEST SHOT: Take a look at this lovely picture of the Alabama Hills,  taken by Susan Walker Bell this year, and posted in the My Home Is California (MIHC) Facebook page.

 * ... OLD GLORY: Take a look at this beautiful shot by photographer Karen Unruh. God Bless America!

 * ... MEMORIES: And finally, the folks over at Kern County of Old bring us this terrific old picture of The Plunge on Union Avenue.

Monday, June 26, 2023

Another free speech brouhaha at Bakersfield College, the craze over Ozempic as a weight loss drug and meet Scooter, winner of the world's ugliest dog contest

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.

  * ...  BAKERSFIELD COLLEGE: What in the world is going on at Bakersfield College? The community college is no stranger to controversy among its faculty - in fact clashes over First Amendment and woke issues there seem to happen more often than at its cross town cousin CSUB - and now another brouhaha has erupted on Panorama Drive. In this one, professor Daymon Johnson filed a suit against BC after claiming he was target for being outspoken about his political believes. The suit was filed after

Johnson replied to a post from another faculty member who called America a "f***ing piece of shit nation." To make it worse, a California school administrator who was named in a lawsuit brought by Johnson said he wanted to bring voices who opposed diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives 'to the slaughterhouse.'" These types of free speech issues on campus are always tricky for both faculty and administrators, but this is the type of controversy that draws conspiracy theorists like KNZR host Terry Maxwell who enjoy nothing more than fanning the flames of division, mistrust and dissent. Stay tuned to the nuances in this story .

 * ... AUTO RATES: If you live in California you are probably thinking: where does all this end. First, State Farm and Allstate announce they will write no new home insurance policies in the state, and now we learn that auto insurance rates are soaring across the country. In Georgia, Allstate raised its auto rates by 40 percent and in California Nationwide Mutual Insurance is looking for a 32 percent bump. Experts say the insurers are suffering high losses and rate hikes are needed to offset the increases. And meanwhile, the California consumer takes the hit.

 * ... AMERICA IS OLDER: The median age of an American has reached 38.9 years, a record high and yet another indication of an aging population. And the rise of older Americans has been a rapid one. In 2000, the median age was 35 and if you go back to 1980, it was just 30. Among states, Maine is the oldest (44.8 years) with Utah (31.9), the District of Columbia (34.8) and Texas (35.5) the youngest, according to the Census Bureau. If you didn't feel old before, you probably do now.

 * ... UGLIEST DOG: The ugliest dog in America has been found, and the crown and glory belong to Scooter, a 7-year-old Chinese Crested that was dumped at a Tuscon dog shelter to be euthanized. "In the cutest way possible, he kind of reminds me of a hippopotamus," one judge told the New York Times. The contest is held to promote adoptions and imperfections in the animals we all love. Scooter, you will be happy to know, has been adopted and is leading a marvelous life, thank you.

 * ... WEIGHT LOSS: The next time you see a friend who has struggled with weight but now looks like a million bucks, chances are they have joined a national trend and used Ozempic to lose weight, even though the drug was produced to fight diabetes. Hollywood is on it, and across the nation people are shedding significant weight on Ozempic, making it the new wonder drug for folks who find it hard to shed weight. Well, it now looks like they are researching a way to offer Ozempic in pill form (it is currently injected in the stomach) to make it more palatable for those who hate needles. Said the Wall Street Journal: "Novo Nordic's Ozempic and Wegovy therapies and Lilly's Mounjaro have emerged as viral sensations-touted by celebrities and discussed on Facebook and Tik-Tok-because of their potential to help people lose significant weight."

* ... MEMORIES: Enjoy this old postcard of the Bakersfield Inn from the Kern County of Old Facebook group.

Wednesday, June 21, 2023

The idea of "housing first" to solve the homeless issues comes under fire, an organization that feeds the homeless has its offices ransacked by its own customers (the homeless) and Assemblywoman Jasmeet Bains gets another challenger

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.

 * ... HOUSING FIRST UNDER FIRE: It's been a long time coming but there is finally a growing and strong backlash to the "housing first" idea of how to deal with homelessness. Across the nation, and including here in Kern County, those dealing with the homeless have held that putting then in housing is all important, even though many street people are dealing with such addiction and mental health issues that they should not be candidates to live alone. But the idea of "housing first" has been our nation's

policy, and now critics are pointing out its failures. Listen to The New York Times on this issue: "
The bipartisan approach that has dominated federal homelessness policy for more than two decades is under growing conservative attack. The policy directs billions of dollars to programs that provide homeless people with permanent housing and offer — but do not require them to accept — services like treatment for mental illness or drug abuse. The approach, called Housing First, has been the subject of extensive study and expanded under presidents as different as George W. Bush and Barack Obama. President Biden’s homelessness plan makes Housing First its cornerstone and cites it a dozen times. But Housing First has become a conservative epithet. Republican lawmakers, backed by conservative think tanks and programs denied funding by Housing First rules, want to loosen the policy’s grip on federal dollars. While supporters say that housing people without preconditions saves lives by getting them off the streets, critics say it ignores clients’ underlying problems and want to shift funding to groups like rescue missions that demand sobriety or employment. Some even blame Housing First for the growth in homelessness." It is long past time that Kern County and others wake up to the fact that the promise of "housing first" was just that- a promise with no guarantees.

 * ... BAINS VS GONZALES: There's nothing like some inner party squabbling, old grudges and unrestrained egos to liven up the political season, and we have a doozy in the 35th Assembly District held by Dr. Jasmeet Bains. Bains is a Democrat, and a freshman at that, and you'd think the Democratic Party would be happy about that. But alas, old feuds and political grudges came into play and Bains is now being challenged by Bakersfield City Councilman Andrae Gonzales, who will challenge Bains in the March 2024 primary. If you remember, Bains had little problems turning back Supervisor Leticia Perez, beating her soundly, and one wonders how Gonzales plans to avoid a similar fate. (file photos of Bains and Gonzales)

 * ... JAMES ZERVIS: James Zervis has been promoted to the role of Chief Administrative Officer for Kern County, replacing Ryan Alsop who has taken another job in Napa County. The Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to hire Zervis starting August 5. Alsop starts his job on August 7. Zervis was appointed Chief Operations Officer by Alsop in March of 2000. Previously Zervis held jobs as a chief financial officer, treasurer and interim city manager in Shafter, as well as serving as the city manager in Wasco.

 * ... DOWNTOWN CRIME: The Burrito Project is a no-frills, volunteer-run organization that depends on donations to continue its mission of bringing a healthy meal to the homeless. So it is particularly cruel to think that this group that gives so much, has been hit so hard by the very vagrants and homeless it serves. The project co-founder, Belinda Lopez Rickett, told Turnto23 News that the group's downtown  offices had been hit a half dozen times, wiping out of the very food and necessities collected for the needy. "We don't have much, but whatever we have, they took, and what left we have, we're willing to give it away still," said Lopez Rickett. "We're still here to help. If they would've asked us, 'Hey, we want hygiene products,' we'd give it to them. There is no reason to steal from us." Since 2009, the Bakersfield Burrito Project has been providing food, hygiene kits, and other necessities to the homeless community in Bakersfield. The nonprofit has been broken into seven times just this month.

 * ...  CHICK-FIL-A: The second location of Chick-fil-A is getting ready to open at the Northwest Promenade. Company officials have tagged July 19 at the official opening date. This will be the second Chick-fil-A location in town, joining the popular first franchise at Stockdale and California.

 * ... GONE TO POT: Did you know that since 2012, 23 states have legalized cannabis for recreational use (including California) and three dozen have approved it for medicinal purposes?

 * ... PICTURE PERFECT: Check out this dynamic picture of the Merced River in Yellowstone, snapped on June 20 by Farhana Hamid for the My Home Is Californian (MHIC) Facebook page.

 * ... MEMORIES:: Lastly our friends over at the Kern County History Fans Facebook page posted this postcard image showing the old Bakersfield Inn during the 1940s. Enjoy.

Saturday, June 17, 2023

Kern County loses its top CAO to Napa County, Generation Z goes to pot (literally, cannabis) and order some popcorn to watch the Democratics fight each other when Andrae Gonzales challenges Dr. Jasmeet Bains in the Assembly race

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.

* ... FAREWELL RYAN ALSOP:  Ryan Alsop, the county's chief administrative officer since 2017, is leaving his post to take a similar job in Napa County. This is a huge lost for the county, which enjoyed a

period of steady, adult leadership during a period of great challenge, from the issues over firefighter's pay, to balancing the budget, the historic snowmelt and the threat of flooding and his efforts to successfully past a tax increase in unincorporated parts of the county. Alsop is just 52, a prime age for county administrators, and he was a unique fit for Kern County: he grew up in Bakersfield, went to Highland High and Bakersfield College, and knew the players. Next up? Stay tuned. (photo courtesy of The Californian)

 * .... GONZALES VERSUS BAINS? The worst kept secret in local politics is the emergence of Bakersfield City Councilman Andrae Gonazales as a challenger to freshman Assemblywoman Dr. Jasmeet Bains in the March 2024 primary. The richness of this scenario is that they are both Democrats and we are about to have a front row seat to watch the Democratic Party cannabalize itself in this Bains-Gonzales matchup. So what is behind all this besides Gonzales' outsized personal political ambition?  Can Gonzales run on his record on the City Council when his downtown Ward 2 is awash in lawlessness, crime and vagrants, and his efforts to combat it have been largely ineffectual? And what is the Democrats' beef with Bains, who easily defeated Supervisor Leticia Perez to win the Assembly post but has quickly irked Sacramento Democrats by showing an independent side aligned with Valley sensibilities? Who knows but it's serious enough to bring together Perez and Gonzales, two Democrats who have been at odds with each other for as long as I can remember. And wasn't Gonzales thinking of running against Perez for her supervisor seat? And of course, what happens to the Ward 2 seat if Gonzales vacates it? This is all going to be fun to watch and it doesn't cost us a nickel. So grab a popcorn and join me.

 * ... GENERATION Z GOES TO POT: When it comes to cannabis consumption, it appears that Generation Z is fully on board. Gen Z - born between 1996 and 2010 - is the first generation to grow up with widespread legal access to cannabis. A recent study found that 65 percent or Generation Zero smoke marijuana and 51 percent consume cannabis infused beverages. Gen Zers are just as likely to visit a marijuana lounge as they are a bar. Gen Zers are also drinking less than past generations.

 * ... MOVING ON: Michael Burroughs, head of CSUB's Kegley Institute of Ethics, is leaving to join the University of Southern California as Executive Director of Organizational Change in the Office of Ethics, Culture, and Compliance. Burroughs siad he was "excited for this new chapter in life and opportunity to lead the strategic vision for USC's focus on values and engagement with the entire university community to guide the USC Culture Journey."

 * ... DOWNTOWN WOES: You can add Smith's Bakery on Union Avenue to the long and growing list of businesses that have suffered at the hands of the lawlessness of downtown. Employees came to work to find the windows smashed out.

 * ... PHOTO OF THE DAY: Once again local photographer JoJo Paredes Butingan blows us away with this incredible picture, a virtual carpet of green.

* ... MEMORIES: These two cool old photos of  Bakersfield back in the day come to you courtesy of the Kern County History Fans Facebook page, a treasure trove of good stuff.