20190427-bc-westsideparkway

The Westside Parkway has been a favorite spot for street racing in the evenings. During the first quarter of 2019, the Bakersfield Police Department said it received about 21 calls regarding street racing in the area, compared with a total of about 20 for 2017 and 2018.

Reader: In response to your column about the city's street racing problem ("Deafening street racing has southwest Bakersfield residents fed up," Nov. 20): We live in a condo community on Ming Avenue called Piñon Springs. Each Thursday night at precisely 11:30 p.m., the race is on! Some nights, especially recently, the number of racers is at around 20 but we have seen more than 100 at any one time. We have counted them. Neighborhood security has also counted.

Most recently, my 10-year-old and I were discussing that just maybe we could turn this into a Girl Scout service project and redirect their racing to any safe arena. Since our pleas for help to the BPD are not being heard, we thought maybe we will attempt to take it into our own hands. Speak to the racetrack owners, negotiate with farmers on back roads. Anything to get them off the streets being shared with families.

The negative attention they are currently receiving does seem to curb them. However, it is Thursday night — only three hours to race time. And, if you don't believe me, come sit here at this time, bring your camera and ear plugs. I am referring to the stretch between Stine Road and Ashe Road on Ming.

Thank you for taking the time to draw attention to what many of us already know. For me, I am just tired of being tired.

— Susanna Gardner

Price: That's one ambitious Girl Scout you have, but I'm guessing Bakersfield police would rather not have to concern themselves with green-uniformed 10-year-olds directing street racers toward the outskirts with "that-a-way" placards. It's a great visual, though, don't you think?

The idea does underscore the fact that street racing is a pervasive and exhausting problem that demands creative solutions. Maybe just not that creative.

Does your daughter have any plans to run for Bakersfield City Council in, say, 2040?

Reader: Your Nov. 20 column on street racing was so right on. We live in the Greens and our home backs up to Old River Road, and every night we deal with cars and motorcycles that start racing around 9 or 10 p.m. every single night. We also have called and called to report on racing. Some nights we have even called 911.

We have had at least three people die at Ming Avenue and Old River Road and many accidents caused by people going so fast they run the red light, even though it has a camera. We have friends who live in Brighton Estates and they said it goes on every night on the Westside Parkway freeway, so I think we have a serious problem in Bakersfield.

I know some parents have said their children are scared to death at night. When this noise starts it wakes them up and scares them, and I can see why. The noise makes sleeping with your windows open at night not an option. We are thankful our windows, when shut, stop some of the noise, but not all, because the noise is horrendous.

I appreciate your article and hope it brings attention to car racing and motorcycle racing at night.

— Norma Sacchini

Price: We can now make that four fatal crashes near that intersection. Your letter arrived a couple of days before Maria Blaney Navarro, 58, of Bakersfield, was killed when a driver lost control of his car while racing another vehicle and knocked Navarro's minivan into the path of an oncoming crane truck.

We need a more aggressive approach to enforcement and better prevention techniques before we add a fifth.

Reader: I thought your piece on street racing was timely. Not to be forgotten is that Oswell Street, in east Bakersfield, is another "track." There are probably others. We live a block to the east of Oswell, so we don't see, but we certainly hear, the whine of these mechanized yellow jackets. Also, this track intersects a crosswalk for Compton Junior High and Harding Elementary School. A lot of children use those crosswalks.

I'm not an expert on distinguishing the sound of a revved up motorcycle from that of a Civic, but at 8,000 rpm (estimated), does it really matter? I dread the day when vehicle meets body.

— David Campbell

Price: Factor Bakersfield's street racing problem with its astounding frequency of pedestrian deaths, and, yes, it would seem like a matter of time. Bakersfield is the seventh-most dangerous city in America for pedestrians and the single most dangerous west of the Mississippi, with 2.83 pedestrian deaths per 100,000 population, based on 2008-17 data crunched by the National Complete Streets Coalition.

Reader: Work is being done to help stem illegal racing and associated dangerous driving. A prime example of this was the recent work and partnership between the BPD and the Albertsons shopping center on Panama. The city and shopping center stakeholders developed a plan which resulted in the installation of parking stops (helps stop cross-lot driving and burnouts) and speed bumps, along with painted stop areas. Just with these minor design changes, it has almost completely eliminated this area as a racing meet and burnout spot.

During a ride-along with the police, I saw, firsthand, similar issues at the WinCo shopping center on Panama and I know the BPD has been regularly working with them and other businesses, too.

I also believe that a robust police motorcycle unit is an important component to help address issues including: pedestrian/bike and motorist safety, illegal racing, red-light runners, DUI enforcement and removing abandoned curbside cars. Unfortunately, this unit has dwindled to almost nonexistence, when more than a decade ago there were more than 20 motorcycle officers, which was a very effective tool to address road safety issues.

The council is aware of this and I think there’s a growing willingness to have discussions to bring back this vital police program, as the department starts to gain strength within its ranks again. Thanks to this community’s support!

— Bakersfield Vice Mayor Chris Parlier

•••

Reader: You wrote a brilliant expose that highlighted the shameful hypocrisy of some of our Bakersfield city leaders ("It's cold, they're homeless and we'll study it," Nov. 10). Meanwhile ... it's getting colder, to paraphrase someone I respect, a lot.

The world's best-known homeless advocate also said, "the poor will always be with us." I don't think he meant they were with us so we could all watch them starve and freeze.

Solution: so simple, so very simple. Our city leaders have to pull their heads out and do what ever is necessary, right now, to shelter and feed the homeless. Then, put on the next city ballot, a unique tax proposal to pay for it. I am optimistic that the Bakersfield voters will be willing to support their city's leaders in their endeavor to help the homeless.

— John A. Caminiti

Price: I was certain Bakersfield would never vote to tax itself beyond residents' present burden and then voters approved Measure N last year, so anything is possible. Homelessness is certainly a problem that will take an investment of public funds — be it state funds, existing municipal funds or something new.

Reader: Even though we’re no longer in Bakersfield, my heart and Pam's are still with this community. My having served as a local pastor for a decade and being a member and chairman (one year) of the Kern Behavioral Health and Recovery Services board, I’ve seen first hand how important services, offered with understanding, compassion and kindness, are for encouraging those on life’s margins. Living hope is crucial for all of us! I’m pleased to see that you are bringing more light to the situation.

This is an interconnected issue with no simple solution. I believe that a way to realistically approach this multilayered situation is a willingness by community members, institutions and leadership to engage this as though a marathon. The life of a marathoner is one that honors and embraces life practices. It’s with this type of mindset that Bakersfield will need to approach community wellness. Lived hope is known in practices of compassion, kindness and justice. I believe that encouraging this type of vision, Bakersfield and even the nation, may be better able to see our neighbors as we see ourselves.

Thanks again for shedding more light!

— The Rev. Dave Stabenfeldt, Clarkdale, Ariz.

•••

Reader: Tom and I just read your column on Don Galey and it was terrific ("Galey has enough stories to float any boat," Nov. 24). For us, having come from Los Angeles, hearing about the history of this city is just plain interesting. These stories are what give Bakersfield its roots.

Los Angeles has a great history, too, but life there is so transient and fast-moving that those stories really do not filter down to the people, nor does the importance of having these stories.

— Irene Edmonds

Price: Don Galey, 86, has seen a lot. I'm glad I was able to mine a few of his stories. How many other great stories have been lost to the passage of time and people? Journalists are, in essence, historians, too, and I like that part of the job description.

•••

Reader: I echo Alvin Gregorio's comments about your Sound Off column, especially his comment about not wanting Sound Off to end, and his characterization of left vs. right political reporting. And I very much miss reading the paper form of The Californian out here in Los Osos. Continued kudos to you and the staff for a great paper.

— Bill Matthew

Price: Maybe you have also experienced that feeling of melancholy when you get to the end of a good novel and you realize you have to say goodbye forever to characters you'd come to love over the previous 300 pages. Their stories are done, finished, and you'll never hear from them again — unless the author has written a sequel, of course. Well, take heart, Bill and Alvin: This week's Sound Off was so long I had to cut it in two. The sequel, with many of the great characters we've all come to love (Jack Balfanz, anyone?), is in Sunday's Californian.

The Californian’s Robert Price answers your questions and takes your complaints about our news coverage in this weekly feedback forum. Questions may be edited for space and clarity. To offer your input by phone, call 661-395-7649 and leave your comments in a voicemail message or email us at soundoff@bakersfield.com. Include your name and phone number; they won’t be published.

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