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.

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