Trump to visit, talk water with Bakersfield farmers Wednesday

President Donald Trump will make a stop in Bakersfield on Wednesday, a White House official confirmed for The Californian Thursday morning.

Trump will join House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy at an unconfirmed location in the city to speak to Central Valley farmers about efforts to improve the supply and delivery of water in California and other Western states, the official said, speaking on background.

In his first visit to the West since his State of the Union Address, Trump will also travel to Nevada, Arizona, and Colorado, the official said.

On Tuesday, the President will meet with members of the LA28 Olympic Committee in Los Angeles for an update on their efforts to prepare for the 2028 Summer Olympic Games. 

On Thursday, Trump will deliver remarks at the Hope for Prisoners Graduation Ceremony at the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Headquarters, where he will highlight his administration’s efforts to provide previously incarcerated Americans with second chances, the official said.

Trump was last in the Valley when he visited Fresno for a 2016 campaign rally. Since then, Vice President Mike Pence has visited Lemoore and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has visited multiple locations in the San Joaquin Valley, the Fresno Bee reported.

Health Department shuts down Tehachapi’s Blue Ginger Pho for dead cockroaches, grease buildup

Blue Ginger Pho restaurant in Tehachapi was closed Tuesday after the Kern County Public Health Services Department observed violations during an inspection.

According to the department’s Inspection Violations Report, the popular restaurant, located at 1121 W. Valley Blvd., Suite D, was found to have dead cockroaches in numerous areas of the restaurant, “severe” grease buildup on the filters in the exhaust hood, on the floor and equipment, and a pot of soup on the kitchen floor without a lid.

In addition, a box of frozen raw meat was found sitting out in the kitchen prep area and no sanitizer was found in the three-compartment sink and no sanitizer buckets were observed in the kitchen prep area.

According to the report, the owners, manager and cooks did not demonstrate the ability to care for the facility and protect it against vermin.

Blue Ginger Pho received an inspection score of 67 percent. The restaurant was previously shut down last July after inspectors found no hot water for cleaning equipment and utensils or warm water for washing hands.

Houchin Community Blood Bank to host three day ‘Sweetheart Date Night’ event

Houchin Community Blood Bank will host its first ever three day ‘Sweetheart Date Night’ event. Pairs who donate will have the opportunity to win a grand prize to see Blake Shelton in concert, according to a Houchin news release.  

The three day event will take place Thursday, Friday and Saturday at both of Houchin’s donor centers, located at 5901 Truxtun Ave., and 11515 Bolthouse Drive, according to the blood bank. 

The blood bank is inviting donors to come in twos. Pairs will have the opportunity to pic a date night off the blood banks date night trees, according to the release.

More than 150 date options will be available and will range anywhere from dinner dates, activity dates, movie dates, ice cream dates, tickets to Dancing with the Stars, and the grand prize date to see Blake Shelton in concert, according to the release. 

Hours of operation for the three day event are: 

  • Thursday 11 a.m. to 7 p.m.
  • Friday 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.
  • Saturday 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

PG&E pays $900,000 for damages stemming from 2014 Way Fire in Kern County

Southern California Edison has paid $900,000 to resolve the federal government’s claim for damages resulting from the 2014 Way Fire, which burned more than 4,392 acres, including Forest Service lands in Kern County, U.S. Attorney McGregor W. Scott announced today.

According to the settlement announcement, the fire, which ignited on Aug. 18, 2014, in Wofford Heights, was a result of SoCal Edison’s negligence, as an insulator broke free from its pin on the cross arm of a SoCal Edison power pole, allowing the conductor to come into contact with another conductor.

“This settlement goes a long way toward compensating the public for the damage to public lands caused by the fire and the expense of fighting the Way Fire,” Scott said in a news release. “This office will continue to pursue recovery against those whose carelessness results in fires that place public lands and communities at risk and require public funds to suppress.”

“I’m pleased that this issue was resolved in a positive manner for our agency,” said Randy Moore, Regional Forester for the USDA Forest Service Pacific Southwest Region. “A lot of time and resources go into both fighting fires and cost recovery, and recouping these costs is important.”

Since 2012, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California has secured settlements in more than 25 different cases involving wildfire damage to federal lands, with settlements valued at nearly $200 million.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Vincente A. Tennerelli handled the case.

ELECTION 2020: Salas and Cotta to face off in March primary, but is it just a dress rehearsal for November?

The March 3 primary election between 32nd District Assemblyman Rudy Salas, D-Bakersfield, and Republican challenger Todd Cotta of Hanford might be accurately characterized as a dress rehearsal.

No matter how it turns out in March, the two names will reappear on the general election ballot and voters will have to do it all over again. That’s because, according to the rules, the two top vote-getters advance to the general election, and as there are only two names on the ballot, Salas and Cotta will be back for opening night in November.

In the heavily Democratic 32nd District, which includes all of Kings County, the rural, Latino communities in western Kern County, as well as Arvin and Lamont, Democrats have a 21 percent registration advantage over the GOP.

But it’s not quite as dire as it sounds for Republican candidates because GOP voters in the district historically head to the polls at a higher rate then Democrats.

Despite that caveat, Salas, who in 2012 served as the first Latino City Council member in Bakersfield, has won in the district four times. The last time he ran, he easily defeated Republican challenger Justin Mendes in the 2018 general election, 56.5 percent to 43.5 percent.

And yet, he barely squeaked by in the primary with a 252 vote margin, suggesting again that voter engagement among Latino Democrats is uneven.

On Friday afternoon, Salas, 42, spoke with The Californian after a busy morning convening the Homelessness & Housing Roundtable Discussion at the Kern Housing Authority in east Bakersfield.

“My main priority at the Roundtable was making sure we don’t leave money on the table,” he said.

Millions in state funding has been allocated to address homelessness, so Salas invited Alicia Sutton, deputy secretary of homelessness from the Business, Consumer Services and Housing Agency, to help ensure that doesn’t happen.

“The worst thing that could happen is for us to leave money on the table because we didn’t have our act together,” Salas said.

Despite the uphill fight in the heavily blue district, Cotta, 49, believes his 20 years of experience in law enforcement, 12 more as an elected supervisor in a water district, as the current owner of King Gun Center indoor shooting range, and his family background in farming brings a lot to the table.

“After seeing what the democrat supermajority is doing in Sacramento and the attacks on Proposition 13, I just couldn’t stand by anymore,” he said of the motivation to run.

As part of his business, Cotta teaches classes for holders of Concealed Weapon Permits.

“In each class, I ask, ‘Hey, how many people here in the last few years have had friends of family members leave California?'” he said.

“Every single hand goes up,” he said.

“This is not the state that I love,” Cotta said. “Our government is making our state a laughing stock — and it has to stop.”

But Salas knows his district and he’s willing to buck his party leadership on key issues. He opposes high speed rail, co-authored the 2014 water bond and continues to work for water solutions. And he voted against his party on California’s road improvement tax.

“It’s about trying to make life better for families in the valley,” Salas said of his central aim. “I always tell my staff, ‘Go out and do the most good you can.'”

Cotta acknowledges the race is an uphill battle, running against an incumbent Democrat in a blue district. But Kings County, Cotta’s home turf, is heavily Republican and its voters are active.

If Latino voters in Kern County stay home on Election Day, his chances increase.

Last time around, the issue of family separation at the border was a key issue for Latinos. Health care was also huge for that demographic.

David Binder Research, a Northern California company that conducted research on behalf of SEIU California, found ample evidence in 2018 that efforts to bring out the Latino vote were effective.

But that was then and this is now.

ELECTION 2020: Kern County voters get second shot at overturning medical marijuana ban with two measures

For the second election in a row, voters will face conflicting medical marijuana measures that could reshape the cannabis industry in Kern County once again.

One measure, Measure D, qualified for the ballot after a successful signature campaign led by medical marijuana advocates Cecilia Latu and David Abbasi (who is also running for Fifth District Supervisor).

The second measure, Measure E, was put forward by the Board of Supervisors as an alternative to the Latu and Abbasi option.

Each measure would overturn a ban on marijuana sales in unincorporated Kern County areas that was instituted by the Board of Supervisors after recreational cannabis became legal.

While both measures would maintain the ban on recreational marijuana sales, both would overturn the ban on medical marijuana dispensaries.

However, that is effectively where their similarities cease. The measures differ greatly in which dispensaries would be allowed to open if approved by voters.

The county’s measure, Measure E, aims to provide a “clean slate” for new dispensaries, while Latu and Abbasi’s measure seems tailored to benefit dispensaries that have already operated in Kern County.

Measure E would effectively shut out any new dispensaries from coming into the county, and provide the opportunity for dispensary owners already in the area to reopen easily. Proponents say this method prevents county officials from picking and choosing their own preferred dispensaries.

An analysis by the county said Measure E would allow for as many as 60 dispensaries to reopen, most of them clustered in Rosamond and Oildale. Abbasi has disputed the county’s figures, saying the number of dispensaries that would be allowed to reopen would be significantly less.

Each measure is required a 50 percent yes vote in order to pass. If each measure passes, the one with the most yes votes will go into effect.

Below are the main aspects of both measures.

Latu describes Measure D as the “people’s initiative.” She claims the passage of Measure D would bring jobs and economic growth to Kern County.

“It’s more so the veterans and patients that we are deeply concerned about, because those are the ones that are impacted by this ban,” she said. “Providing safe access to medical cannabis is a focus.”

Provided owners can show documentation that proves they were open prior to Jan. 1, 2018, all previous medical marijuana dispensaries would be allowed to reopen.

The initiative also:

  • Requires dispensaries to be located 1,000 feet from schools, in a zone where pharmacies may operate.
  • Gives supervisors the option to enact a special tax on medicinal cannabis businesses for up to $37.50 for each $1,000 of adjusted gross income. The proceeds would be deposited into the county’s general fund and may be used for law enforcement and drug abuse education and treatment.
  • Authorizes commercial cannabis activity by cannabis testing laboratories
  • Allows for delivery services and off-site cultivation or manufacturing
  • Allows dispensaries to relocate if they are more than 1,000 feet from an existing dispensary and not in a neighborhood commercial zone

Supervisor David Couch described Measure E as the only option for voters who want the community to have some say in the permitting process of medical marijuana dispensaries.

“Access to legal medicinal cannabis can be done right,” the supervisor wrote in the official ballot argument distributed to voters. “A YES vote on the Kern County Medicinal Cannabis initiative is a vote for community involvement to decide where retail medicinal cannabis stores locate and operate in your community.”

Measure E would require dispensaries to obtain a conditional use permit before they would be allowed to open. The permit would apply for three years, and involve a public hearing.

The initiative also:

  • Requires dispensaries to be located only in industrial zones, and bans dispensaries from being located within 1,000 feet of schools, day care centers, public parks, youth centers, libraries, city limits, places of worship and other dispensaries. Dispensaries are also banned from being located within 350 feet of residences.
  • Only allows retail sales of medical cannabis. All other commercial cannabis activity would be prohibited.
  • Imposes a general tax of $35 per $1,000 in gross receipts. The tax revenue may be used for general governmental purposes decided by the Board of Supervisors.
  • Sets development and performance standards for lighting, signage, noise control and hours of operation.
  • Allows the county to revoke the conditional use permit if dispensaries fail to meet performance standards or sell non-medical marijuana, along with other grounds.

City: Little improvement needed at Calcot homeless site, preparations begin for fall opening

Less than a month after the Bakersfield City Council voted to purchase the headquarters of local cotton cooperative Calcot Limited for the city’s newest homeless shelter, plans are solidifying for opening the facility this fall.

While the city hopes the shelter will be a one-stop-shop for homeless individuals seeking a pathway to permanent housing, corporate neighbors plan to increase security and change company policy to mitigate potential impacts of the shelter.

“In the end, they are going to have the homeless shelter, and as a neighbor I’ve got to adapt. And that’s what we plan to do,” said John Sacco, owner of Sierra Recycling and Demolition which is nextdoor to Calcot. “They claim they want to be a good neighbor so I’ll take them at our word.”

Sacco plans to upgrade the fences around his property and increase security in the morning and at the end of the workday to keep his employees safe. To address concerns over trucks hitting homeless individuals who may wander onto the road, he said the company would issue new safety tips to drivers.

Whether or not the city helps with any of these upgrades remains to be seen, but he said he’s had good conversations so far with city staff, with indications the city would aid the company in the upgrades.

“I am very hopeful that this will succeed, and they will be a good neighbor,” he added.

The city itself does not think Calcot will need much work to transform into a shelter. Assistant City Manager Jacqui Kitchen said the interior of the building needed relatively minor renovations.

“I don’t think it will require a lot. From what we know so far,” she said. “It’s mostly taking a lot of that interior office space and making it a little bit more durable and usable for a shelter facility.”

The city will hire a third party to run the shelter, betting that an organization with experience administering homeless issues will be better equipped to operate the facility than the city, which has never made such an attempt before.

Both Kern Medical Center and Kern Behavioral Health will provide physical and mental well-being services inside a shelter, to help homeless individuals grapple with substance abuse disorders and mental health issues. The city also hopes to partner with Bakersfield College and Cal State Bakersfield for job training programs.

“There was a perception out there for a while that the city, the county, the Homeless Shelter, The Mission, were all running down these different paths,” Kitchen said. “Through this process, we’ve all really come together.”

After initially proposing a maximum occupancy of 450, the city now says it will cap the number of beds at 150. The number is expected to be much lower at the outset, with a gradual increase up to 150 as the operator of the shelter works out the kinks in the system.

No walk-ins will be allowed in an attempt to limit the number of homeless individuals present in the immediate area.

Only those referred to the shelter will be let in. The city hopes to create a “referral network” of local agencies that will bring individuals to the shelter when they need assistance.

“We’re all pretty excited to actually move forward in this direction and get something done,” Kitchen said. “We’re starting to move toward the goal of having this online.”

Houchin Community Blood Bank to unveil the ‘Big Red Bus’

Houchin Community Blood Bank will unveil a new addition to its line of mobile blood buses with their new ‘Big Red Bus’ on Monday.

The unveiling will take place at 10 a.m. at 11515 Bolthouse Drive, according to the blood bank.

The new bus will be the fourth addition to the center. It will allow Houchin to serve more donors and locations throughout Kern County, according to the blood bank. 

“We live in the third largest county in California, and the blood donations from our local communities provide 100 percent of the blood to all of Kern County,” said Dr. Brad Bryan, President and CEO of Houchin Community Blood Bank. “From Frazier Park to Ridgecrest to Delano and everywhere in between, we use our fleet of buses to provide convenience to those willing to donate blood and help save lives in our county.”

Houchin was able to make the purchase in part by donations from the Harry and Ethel West Foundation, and the Ben H. and Gladys Arkelian Foundation, according to the blood bank.