Amazing as it is, we’ve all made it through another year.
Time to take stock of 2016.
Or, as I like to put it, “Where the heck did those 12 months go?”
Twenty-sixteen started off with a bang, so to speak, for me.
I was solicited for prostitution after dropping my car at the repair shop early one Monday morning in the very first week of the year.
I suppose you could look at that like, “Things can only improve from here!”
I’m still amazed that dude thought I was a hooker as I waited for a cab in my sensible shoes, wrapped to my eyeballs in sweaters.
A hooker, really?!
Anyhow, I turned the episode into a column, noting this happened smack during human trafficking awareness month.
Human trafficking is a huge problem in Kern County, which is, apparently, a well-worn stop for pimps moving “product” around the state and over to Las Vegas.
The problem is so pervasive in some parts of Bakersfield, it wasn’t shocking that I was solicited that Monday morning.
Several local groups have banded together to try and help the poor souls trapped in that world.
If you’d like to know more or find a way to help, start with the Kern Coalition Against Human Trafficking. You can find out more through its Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/kcaht.
Another column I did early in the year (I promise I won’t go over them all!) was about the new STAR court in Kern County.
This is a special court that meets once a week to work with mentally ill people who have committed crimes.
The idea is to get them in treatment rather than warehousing them in jail.
A key factor of the STAR court is intensive services for clients willing to stay the course.
The program had just gotten started in 2016 but Judge Susan Gill, who oversees STAR court, was extremely hopeful for its future.
Her enthusiasm wasn’t misplaced.
Of the 23 people accepted (the parameters are narrow), 20 are still in the program.
This is a very difficult population, so the fact that nearly everyone who got in has stayed in is a big deal.
“They are working so hard to address their illness and improve their lives so they permanently leave the criminal justice system,” Gill wrote in an email. “And they have come so far!”
This is definitely a story I will come back to in 2017.
By far, most of my columns covered a single topic — water, water, water.
Or, more accurately, the lack of water and what that’s meant to “business as usual” here in Kern County.
In a word: Upheaval.
For the first time ever, California’s groundwater will be managed, measured and meted out according to as-yet-unknown methods.
The fear among agricultural water users is palpable.
The prolonged drought also spawned my most read, shared and “top trending” column ever.
Recycled oilfield produced water used to irrigate crops.
I’m not sure if this topic got play from environmental groups who hate my contention (based on multiple rounds of testing) that this water is perfectly safe for irrigation, or from oil company folks stunned they weren’t the subjects of yet another beat down.
Either way, it was trending.
And I’m pretty sure that's a good thing.
Hopefully, we’ll all be here, trending together, in 2017.