Via Arte26

The band Scotch & Soda performs during Via Arte Saturday afternoon at The Marketplace in southwest Bakersfield.

Reader: Thank you for highlighting the beginning of what appears to be an innovative and thoughtful way to promote higher education in our community ("It's an emergency, but BC and CSUB are responding," Oct. 23). I do take exception with your characterization of what is being done to the Central Valley.

"The twins of Kern County's (mostly) two-headed economy, agriculture and oil, both face the very real possibility of state-imposed decline."

We the sheeple of the great state of California have forgotten that it is we, not the self-anointed few, that are in charge of our destiny. The mighty few (elected and unelected bureaucrats) in that great wasteland called Sacramento have decided that this bucket of deplorables that inhabit the flyover land they call the Central Valley must be brought to heel. Why should we think that we can utilize our God-given rights to use our own property to provide an honest living for ourselves and our employees? Heaven forbid. We need Sacramento to spend millions on studies to decide how they are going to take care of us after they have legislated us all, in your words, into "a state-imposed decline."

If we the sheeple don't wake up and remember who is really supposed to be running the show, we are going to wake up with nothing more than the ability to receive handouts from our rulers to the north. You are right — this state is regulating and legislating us right into to decline that will eventually lead to the death of what makes this valley great.

Bob, that's not an emergency that you're noticing, it's premeditated murder, and trying to conflate the two issues doesn't help stop the problem. We can have success in our goals to better educate our fellow citizens and continue to do what we do best here in the Central Valley, which is to feed and power the world.

— W. Tracey Chance

Price: The imminent threat of "murder" does not constitute an emergency? You and I apparently define those words differently, Tracey. 

The theme of my Oct. 23 column was the need to elevate local educational attainment levels as quickly as possible. You seem to agree with that.

But I guess you wanted me to write a different column entirely — one that focuses on the state's apparent determination to shut down or significantly diminish the oil industry, and the negative implications for Central Valley agriculture that the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act ("Sigma") represents. Those are the halves of Kern County's (mostly) two-headed economy that I referred to. 

Well, I've already written that column — several times, actually. Forgive me for giving the topic a mere passing reference on this occasion. Wednesday's column was supposed to discuss the meaningful and evolving collaboration between Bakersfield College and CSU Bakersfield.

I have bad news for you. The "self-anointed few" are, if not in charge of our destiny, highly influential in its direction. The California Environment Protection Agency is heading up a study whose goal is to orchestrate the managed decline of the oil industry, and the state Department of Water Resources can (and will) impose significant restrictions on valley agriculture if the region's growers can't produce realistic needs assessments on their own.

I agree with you that we do have some control over our own destiny as a community. As I have expressed more than once, we must continue to insist on a seat at the table as these proposed oil and water restrictions are being discussed. No matter what the outcome, we must also work harder to diversify our economy beyond oil and ag. That means figuring out how to train a next-generation workforce. That's why, as I tried to express in that column, the collaboration and collective vision of our local institutions of higher learning is vital.

That's my solution. As nearly as I can tell, Tracey, yours is howling about bureaucrats and private property rights. Many undoubtedly agree with you. But then what?

•••

Reader: Your Oct. 24 article (by The Associated Press) titled “Republicans disrupt impeachment deposition" failed to mention the real reason for the protest: that the Democrats did not follow the House rules for the impeachment process, i.e., there should be a vote among all House members to proceed; the meeting should be open, not behind closed doors; the accused should be represented by counsel; witnesses should be identified; etc. By the way, there were many more Republicans than the two dozen mentioned; several times that many were pictured on the news. The emphasis in the story seemed to be more on the carrying of cellphones than the real purpose of the protest.

No matter what the political leanings of your readers, they are entitled to hear both sides of every story. As 60-year subscribers to The Californian, we expect to read news that is always fair.

— Jean Dodson

Price: Democrats failed to follow House rules governing the impeachment process? What rules? There are none.

The U.S. Constitution provides that the House of Representatives "shall have the sole Power of Impeachment" (Article 1, Section 2). Period. No further guidance is provided.

According to Senate.gov: "While the framers very clearly envisaged the occasional necessity of initiating impeachment proceedings, they put in place only a very general framework to guide future action. Perhaps most important, they did not clearly define what they meant by 'high crimes and misdemeanors.'”

In other words, the House can conduct impeachment proceedings in whatever manner House leaders would like, and they can impeach for whatever reasons they'd like. The Senate can then convict or acquit using whatever justification suits the senators. This is a political trial, not a criminal trial.

Impeachment by a majority vote of the House is essentially an indictment and an indictment only. Members of the Senate then consider the evidence, hear any witnesses and determine the verdict. In many jurisdictions, a county grand jury acts very much the same way: It hears evidence behind closed doors and then decides whether to issue an indictment.

The House did not conduct inquiries of this nature in the cases of Presidents Andrew Johnson or Bill Clinton. So what? The Constitution imposes none of the requirements you cite.

There is no exact precedent for this House inquiry but the Senate did hold an extended, closed-door session, also not described in the Constitution, in order to reach certain conclusions relative to the impeachment trial they were about to conduct. 

As Senate Historian Emeritus Donald Ritchie told NPR on Oct. 3: "What they did in the Clinton case (of 1999) was actually to hold the first-ever joint conference of the Republicans and Democrats. They went into the Old Senate Chamber. They closed the doors. They wouldn't let any of the staff in, including the chaplain, so one of the senators gave the prayer. And then they had a session in which they argued out the rules of impeachment."

This would be the third impeachment vote, if it comes to that, in the nation's 243-year history, and all three (four if we include Richard Nixon's brush with impeachment) have had their own unique subplots.

In the story you cite, the AP reported that Republicans "have been outspoken about their disdain for Democrats and the impeachment process, saying it is unfair to them even though they have been in the room questioning witnesses and hearing the testimony."

Let me repeat that last part, because I have come to the realization that many are under the impression Republicans have been shut out of the room so that the opposition party can stage a Democrats-only inquisition: Republicans "have been in the room questioning witnesses and hearing the testimony."

Three House committees are participating in the inquiry, and that means Republican and Democratic members alike. The Democrats have been the ones publicly discussing what has transpired in these hearings; the Republicans in attendance have said very little, perhaps leading many to conclude none are participating. If Republicans want more transparency from these hearings, as some continue to demand, the Republicans who've been in the room all along should walk over to a microphone and start sharing; they're taking notes just like their Democratic colleagues.

But no one is obligated to share anything, at least not according to the U.S. Constitution or impeachment precedent.

•••

Reader: Democrats hyperventilate about enemies like Russia possibly interfering in the 2016 presidential election, but they have found no evidence of interference after spending more than $30 million on three years of partisan investigating. Meanwhile, they are trying every dirty trick in the book to remove President Trump by impeachment. The Russians didn’t change any votes, but the Democrats are trying to invalidate the results of a whole election and nullify more than 60 million votes. That is the ultimate in election interference and qualifies Democrats as greater enemies of our Republic than the Russians.

Democrats also have become so consumed with hatred for President Trump that they have crippled the Congress and no longer have time to do the people’s business.

— Wilbur W. Wells

Price: Um ... what?

Our Opinion staff was compelled to reject your letter to the editor, Wilbur, because it contains objectively wrong information. I include it here as an example of our editors' daily challenges.

The nation's eight intelligence agencies unanimously agreed that the Russians actively engaged in trying to influence the 2016 election.

No one can say with certainty whether the Russians actually changed or influenced any votes — except you, Wilbur — but Vlad's boys would have had to be staggeringly incompetent to go 0-for-62,984,828. Whatever the case, U.S. intelligence warns the Russians are back at it, trying to influence the 2020 election; Facebook said Monday it has already removed four networks of accounts, pages and groups for "coordinated inauthentic behavior."

Sports pundits say the NFL is a "copycat league" in which teams mimic the successful strategies of others. What, then, should we make of the fact that, according to Facebook, a new copycat adversary has adopted Russia's social media disinformation scheme? Hello, Iran — apparently a new player in the U.S. election interference game. Either Russia's strategy has indeed proven effective or both of those countries' intelligence agencies are staffed by dolts. Which do you suppose it is, Wilbur?

•••

Reader: Samuel Morgen wrote a fine article on the Kern County Fair Board's meeting in Tuesday's paper ("Kern County Fair Board shuts down questions during tumultuous meeting," Oct. 22).

— Mark Salvaggio

Price: And to think, Sam had complained (mildly) about being required to attend, so certain was he that the meeting would be dull.

•••

Reader: The picture in the paper of a syringe kiosk with kids playground in the background ("Oildale parks could soon be scrutinized under program aimed at increasing usage," Oct. 18) makes me wonder: Do you really think that drug users will take their needles and put them in a drug kiosk? Our local government has lost track of reality. God help us!

— Carl Chitwood Jr.

Price: Yes, as a matter of fact, I think drug users will use those kiosks, nasty as the thought might be. They've made big differences in other cities.

San Francisco, which has a huge intravenous drug problem, started a city-funded needle exchange programs in the 1990s, and it is credited with reducing the spread of diseases like HIV and hepatitis C, according to the San Francisco Examiner. 

In 2017, the AIDS Foundation and its partners distributed 5.3 million syringes in San Francisco and collected 3.3 million, a 62 percent return rate, according to data provided to the Examiner by the Department of Public Health.

"Of the collected syringes, 3.1 million were returned to syringe access sites, 59,000 were dropped off at syringe disposal kiosks and 107,136 picked up through cleanup sweeps," the Examiner reported. The following year the city's public health agency reported a 300 percent increase in the number of used needles deposited at kiosk sites.

•••

Reader: I read Robert Price's Sept. 1 column, “Where We Live: 25 years after the Battle of The Marketplace, Haggin Oaks is at peace," with interest. After leaving Bakersfield, I became a Monterey County resident. Oddly enough, I run into Bakersfield residents who give me the scoop on what’s going on.

One Bakersfieldian told me how he had heard that The Marketplace battle was “just a little skirmish.” He also told me that Castle & Cooke executive Bruce Freeman became a city councilman. I smiled upon hearing that former City Councilman Mark Salvaggio has a freeway off-ramp named for him. That delights me for a multitude of reasons.

As I shop in my own hometown, I wish the Southwest Community Action Committee (SCAC) could have impacted the design of our local Del Monte Shopping Center. There are not enough trees, and we severely underparked.

As many might remember, because of the Bakersfield lawsuit we were able to include in the covenant: sidewalks (not included in the original design); 1,000 trees; a 65,000-square-foot downsize to allow for 500 extra parking spaces; an upscale shopping requirement that denied a proposed Walmart; no squawk-box speakers at fast food drive-thrus; and other changes.

The Bakersfield resident I spoke to said that the success of The Marketplace has set the tone for nearby communities, which Robert Price alluded to his column. I’d like to think that the 200 SCAC members made Bakersfield a little better by their efforts. Forty thousand dollars was collected in one night to pay the legal retainer and hire Fresno attorney Bob Wright. No local attorney would touch the case. Residents put their homes on the line for a better Bakersfield.

My beloved dad, who died in 2016, helped me discover that The Marketplace was underparked by 500 spaces. Along with his heroism in the Battle of Midway, Dad was a licensed surveyor. The original Marketplace plans used specs of an early three-theater design, not the 16-cinema theater of The Marketplace. The proper calculations meant a downsizing of retail space to accommodate the required parking. Dad will be highlighted on an upcoming Smithsonian documentary. He also wrote a book, "Never Call Me a Hero." I wrote the introduction. 

Kudos to my fellow SCACers. They were/are incredible. Along with my dad, they are my heroes.

— Jill Kleiss

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. Please include your name and phone number; they won’t be published.

(2) comments

Django

Dodson appears to get her erroneous information from talk radio. I listened to Hannity, Limbaugh, and another briefly this week. Their tactics remind me of the beige suit scandal.

Moardeeb

You Republicans elected a despicable human being as President. YES! We will do anything to get him out of office. Excuse us for having standards for our President. His fourth mouth and betrayal of our country and our allies is more than enough!

Did you hear Obama at Elijah Cummings funeral. So eloquent! God I miss having an intelligent, thoughtful, presidential President!

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