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KGET: Local News

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    BAKERSFIELD, CA - A Bakersfield woman has been arrested for impersonating her dead mother to collect annuity payments.

    On Wednesday, 46-year-old Victoria Coffee was arrested on multiple felony counts, including grand theft and identity theft, according to the California Department of Insurance.

    Coffee is accused of impersonating her deceased mother to withdraw a $41,691 annuity.

    Coffee and her siblings were joint beneficiaries of the annuity, according to the DOI, but Coffee allegedly lied to MetLife to get the company to release the entire annuity to her.

    The DOI's investigation discovered that Coffee contacted MetLife and posed as her mother, instructing them to put the money into her account.

    Coffee was released on $30,000 bail and will be in court May 22. 

    The case is being prosecuted by the Kern County District Attorney's Office. 

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    BAKERSFIELD, CA - The career and technical skills of more than 500 students in the Kern High School District were put to the test Friday.

    The 18th annual Skills Olympics competition was held Friday at the Kern High School District's Regional Occupational Center on Mount Vernon Avenue.
         
    Students competed in 16 different career and technical education areas from diesel mechanics to nursing and auto body repair.

    "I grew up in a mechanics family. My grandfather and father are mechanics. They have a shop in Lost Hills. Ever since I was old enough to hold a screwdriver I was under the hood poking stuff until I learned what I was actually doing," said Shafter High School senior Christian Acosta.

    Gold, silver and bronze medals were awarded in each category.

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    (NBC News) Guitar legend B.B. King, who over the course of a nearly 70 year career earned the nickname 'The King of Blues' has died.

    King passed away in his sleep at his home in Las Vegas at the age of 89 Thursday night.

    King was considered one of the best blues players in the world, always performing with his custom made trademark guitar, "Lucille".

    He recorded an impressive list of hits, but for years played in small clubs, eventually becoming a cult hero to musicians and blues aficionados. It was not until the 1970s that his tours took him to concert halls, universities and large amphitheaters.

    Read more: http://nbcnews.to/1e5adGX

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    BAKERSFIELD, CA - The Bakersfield Police Department is reminding the public to buckle up as part of their Click-it-or-ticket campaign.

    Law enforcement agencies around the country say they will be stepping up enforcement from May 18-31, including one of the busiest travel weekends of the year that kicks off the summer season. 

    "Every day, unbuckled motorists are losing their lives in motor vehicle crashes," said Chief Greg Williamson, Bakersfield Police Department. "As we approach Memorial Day weekend and the summer vacation season, we want to make sure people are doing the one best thing that can save them in a crash, buckling up." 

    According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly half of the 21,132 passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes in 2013 were unrestrained. 

    Officials said that nighttime accidents from 6 p.m. to 5:59 a.m., the number goes up to 59 percent of those killed. 

    They say that's why one focus of the Click-it-or-Ticket campaign is nighttime enforcement. 

    Participating law enforcement agencies say they will be taking a no-excuses approach to seat belt law enforcement, writing citations day and night. In California, the minimum penalty for a seat belt violation is $161. 

    According to Bakersfield police, California statistics reveal that 500 unrestrained vehicle occupants died in 2013.  Almost twice as many males were killed in crashes as compared to females, with lower belt use rates too. 

    Of the males killed in crashes in 2013, more than half, 54 percent, were unrestrained. For females killed in crashes, 41 percent were not buckled up, according to BPD.


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    BAKERSFIELD, CA -  Fresh water for 25-million Californians and three million acres of farmland moves through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta.

    Governor Jerry Brown, as he did as governor in the early 80's, is pushing a delta conveyance project, the Twin Tunnels.
    It is the linchpin of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan which has been downsized and is still under environmental review.
    Some of the same environmental groups that fought Jerry Brown 35 years ago are preparing to tangle with him again.

    In the Fresno County farm town of Laton, the conversation at Albert's Barber Shop is dominated by the drought.
    "Everybody's not too content. But what do you do in a crisis like this? You can only take so much water out of the well, you know", said barber Alberto Vera. "And you know what everybody tells me, we should just get rid of that fish."

    On a recent survey of 40 sites in the Sacramento San Joaquin Delta last month, a paltry catch. Biologists found just one Delta Smelt.  Normally they would find dozens. "It has some of the lowest indices on record", said Les Grober, a senior hydrologist at the State Water Resources Control Board.

    While there are a host of suspected causes, including predation by non-native fish species, environmentalists argue the smelt's downward spiral is largely due to the State Water Project and those massive pumps that pull water from the southern end of the delta.  John Herrick serves on the board of directors for the Stockton-based group "Restore the Delta."

    "Again, you talk to people who say ehh…some little fish, compared to a million acres of farmland…but that's not how the rules work. You don't get to destroy species to better yourself," Herrick said.

    In 2007 a federal judge said as much…ordering massive cutbacks on pumping to protect migrating smelt. Ag took the hit and resorted to groundwater.  But some say it may have been too little too late for the smelt.

    Les Grober says some experts suggest the smelt is on the verge of extinction. Is there a feasible fix for the delta?
    Governor Jerry Brown's administration is pushing the Twin Tunnels, his second attempt at building a delta conveyance project. Instead of sucking water from the south end of the delta, the tunnels would take water from the mouth of the Sacramento River and send it to the pumps.

    Proponents say moving the point of diversion to the north will improve delta flows and fisheries, and stabilize water supplies for the south. Bakersfield assemblywoman Shannon Grove doesn't like the 12-billion dollar price tag. "We don't need the tunnels", said the republican lawmaker. "We have a conveyance system and this system has the ability to bring water to our ag communities. They just refuse to use the conveyance system."

    Mixed reviews from other valley lawmakers. Democratic Assemblyman Rudy Salas supports the project. Republican senator Jean Fuller says she favors modernizing the water system.  GOP senator Andy Vidak wants a reliable water supply, whatever its form.

    The state's top water regulator tells 17 News the tunnels will be good for the fish.  But John Herrick disagrees. "The problem with that is that the analysis of the BDCP says opposite, saying when you change the position you just change the fish your affecting. And so changing the point of diversion didn't improve species populations in their own document," Herrick said.

    Environmentalists aren't into Jerry Brown's tunnel vision. They fought him 30 years ago over the peripheral canal. And they especially dislike Brown's recently revised version of Bay Delta Conservation Plan, which downsizes habitat restoration by 60% and comes with no long-term environmental permits. "They can build the twin tunnels when they pry the, I was going to say pry the gun from my dead hand but I don't want to sound too violent", Herrick said.

    Last week, Governor Brown said his administration has invested one million man hours studying the Twin Tunnels project and told critics," Until you've put a million hours into it, shut up. Because you don't know what the hell you're talking about."

    The State Water Board's Tom Howard, who declined an on-camera interview, tells 17 News the Twin Tunnels represent the best opportunity to stabilize water exports to the Central Valley's west side. The west side, home to all those corporate farmers the green lobby loves to hate.

    After three years of drought, farms and cities south of the delta are aggressively pumping groundwater to offset cutbacks in surface water exports. "There's been no recharge", said Victor Hanson, who farms in Selma. "Everybody's pumping", he said. The hand pump his great grandfather put in more than 140 years ago, has gone dry. "It's probably dropped about 25 feet in the last four months."

    Now, he's getting ready to lower his irrigation pumps again. "Everybody's got a straw in the bottom of the glass, and everybody wants a bigger straw," Hanson said. Hanson is also a Stanford University professor, a columnist and author.
    He holds special contempt for the environmental extremist, the coastal elites as he calls them, who, for the last 40 years, have effectively killed new water storage and conveyance projects in California. "There is a corridor along the coast with concentrations in Los Angeles, the Central Coast, the Silicon Valley where people are not subject to the ramifications of their ideologies," Hanson said. "You've got 41 million people living in an arid climate. Seventy-percent of the people live where 30-percent of the rain falls, so you have to transfer water."

    Hanson says environmentalists and the liberal lawmakers they support, see little value in farming the Central Valley, arguing that agriculture is just a small fraction of the state's economy. "We have these people in the Bay Area who say you're only contributing five-to-seven percent GDP and you're using 75-percent of the water. But we're saying to them that 5-to-7 percent GDP can't be calibrated in terms of dollars because it's about value. Everybody can live without an I-phone 6. We don't need an iPad. We don't even need to yahoo or google, but we do have to eat," Hanson said.

    Hanson, and many others say what California desperately needs is three or four more storage reservoirs in place to capture more water in wet years. "We need to stop this insane policy of taking reservoirs which were designed to store water for flood control, power generation, recreation and agriculture and using them to replenish the delta or fish restoration, which was never the intent of the original architects of the water projects."

    California's population has doubled in the last 40 years. Water demands by agriculture have hardened with the transition to permanent, high-profit tree and vine crops. Some say the water is all spoken for, and now, with the drought, there's simply not enough to go around. "The most critical time for fish, the drought times, is the time where we're tweaking everything and maximizing water exports at the expense of the mandated minimum flows for fish," Herrick said. "Now it's one thing if you turn on your tap in L.A. and get no water. People will get water over fish if faucets run dry. It's another thing for economic benefit…farming. And that's a huge part of California."

    Herrick's group says the valley's west side should be targeted for a water consumption correction. Growing nuts and citrus in a desert with bad groundwater they say isn't sustainable. "And rather than recognize that and address that problem, we're just going to squeeze the system. Oh, we'll get 'em some water. And that's the part that runs into conflict with the delta because we're the ones being squeezed."

    The Twin Tunnels project is essentially a $15 billion upgrade to the State Water Project. A spokeswoman for the Department of Water Resources says the project will not require a vote of the people or the legislature, and would be paid for by SWP contractors. Officials say the Brown administration will need permits from more than a half-dozen federal and state agencies before it breaks ground on the tunnels project, perhaps by mid-2016.


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    BAKERSFIELD, CA - The Kern County Sheriff's Office is announcing plans to begin construction on a new facility.

    On May 20, KCSO will hold a press conference at the Lerdo Detention Facility to hold a ground breaking ceremony to commence construction of the new justice facility.

    The conference will begin at 10:30 a.m.


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    BAKERSFIELD, CA - A Bakersfield U.S.Coast Guard officer is back home with his family after serving almost a year in Afghanistan. And, his family grew while he was gone. His wife had their son during his tour.

    The welcome home and meeting was overdue. Petty Officer 1st Class Cody Wood was supposed to land at Meadows Field Thursday night, but weather delayed his flight until Friday.

    Eight-month-old Ellis Wood had a sign of his stroller that said he's been waiting his whole life to meet his dad in person. That was about to happen. Rounding the corner is Petty Officer 1st Class Cody Wood.

    "Forever it feels like," said Cody's wife, Jenna Wood. "And it feels so good that it's finally here and he's finally home and we can be a family together again."

    Wood has served in the U.S. Coast Guard for about ten years. He volunteered for a year-long tour in Afghanistan and Kuwait and was called up just a few weeks before his wife's due date.

    "Not being here for the birth of his baby was a big deal. But, he's here now and that's all that matters," said Cody's mother, Denise Wood.

    "It was probably the hardest thing I've ever had to do and giving birth to him and caring for my daughter it was a lot of work but we got through it," said Jenna Wood.

    At 9:50 Friday morning, Cody Wood came home. He first first hugged his 4-year-old daughter. Then, he went to meet the little man he's only seen through Facetime. And, if there was ever a face or an expression that could say it all, 8-month-old Ellis told his dad everything in their first father and son meeting.

    "I Facetime with him everyday which really really helped out and he cracks up every time we Facetime. And when I saw him today, it was a smile in real person and it was just, it was awesome," said Cody Wood.

    Ellis didn't want to take his eyes off dad, not even for their first full family picture together.

    "Proud, I am like on cloud nine," said Denise Wood.

    "It was just, it just made my day. And it was just overwhelming with so much emotion. Like happiness relief thankfulness for what he does and coming home and finally being here," said Jenna.

    "I can't explain it. I was overridden with joy. Yah. That's all," said Cody.

    Cody will get to spend a lot of time with his family now. This was his last tour.

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    BAKERSFIELD, CA - A few years ago, green donation bins started popping up around Bakersfield. Their legitimacy was questioned at the time.

    Two companies are linked to green bins in Bakersfield. The organizations behind them claim to be collecting donations, but those donation boxes are becoming trash bins.

    Bakersfield resident Manuel Gomez lives near one of the bins on Virginia Avenue in east Bakersfield.

    "It's just disgusting," said Gomez.

    The bin is covered in graffiti and surrounded by Christmas wrapping paper, cardboard boxes and other miscellaneous items.

    Gomez said, "I haven't seen them pick them up recently. So, it's been a while."

    Campus California is printed on the bin. The identification numbers below, link it to a charity called Recycle for Change based in Northern California.

    A Recycle for Change spokesperson says they no longer own boxes in Bakersfield. She says the non-profit was purchased in 2012 by an organization called Gaia.

    Similar to recycle for change, The Gaia Movement sells donated items to thrift stores and second hand wholesale dealers. According to the website, funds generated support local and international environmental and educational programs.

    Gomez says improving the environment is not the result in his neighborhood.

    "It's a low income community I would like to see this removed because it's just making things worse," said Gomez.

    An email to Gaia and a call to its central California branch hasn't been returned as of news time.

    If you have a story you would like us to investigate call our newsroom at 661-283-1717 or email us at 17News@KGET.com.

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    BAKERSFIELD, CA - Uber, the multi-billion dollar taxi alternative, is increasing in popularity in Bakersfield. The company had a breakfast for its drivers, 100 strong, at Hodel's Friday morning. The app-based ride sharing service is easy to use and allows smart phone users to request a ride in seconds.

    Uber's popularity hasn't been without controversy, though. Questions about insurance and liability remain prevalent.

    "We have an insurance policy that Uber provides that covers riders from the time they get into the vehicle until the time they get out," Taylor Patterson with Uber said. "(Drivers) don't need to purchase...Uber covers you from the time you turn the app on until the time you turn it off."

    Local taxi companies are upset that Uber drivers are not regulated as strictly.

    "Our vehicles are inspected by the Bakersfield Police Department commercial enforcement to make sure our vehicles are safe," Blue Star Taxi owner Jeff Russinsky said. "The city of Bakersfield requires that we carry liability insurance to protect the passengers."

    But Patterson says Uber drivers go through an extensive criminal background check, and there cars are certified by a mechanic.

    "I'm also able to see a photo of my driver, I'm able to see what their rating is out of five stars," Patterson added. "I'm able to see their license plate. So I have a sense of who is going to be picking me up."

    Russinsky says his company has seen a reduction in business over the last two years, especially on weekends. He's not upset with Uber or its drivers, but he would like a level playing ground.

    "They need to be regulated as we're regulated and I won't have a problem with it. It's a private car service and it's a taxi service," Russinsky said. "Uber likes to say it's part of the sharing economy, but they do exactly what we do."

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    BAKERSFIELD, CA - Sheriff's detectives are investigating a double shooting in south Bakersfield.

    The shooting happened just around noon on Jastro Avenue, near Feliz Drive.
         
    According to deputies, it appears to be a drive-by shooting. 
         
    The windows were also shot out of a silver Chevy truck.
         
    Deputies say two people were shot, one of them multiple times.
         
    Both victims were taken to Kern Medical Center.

    Deputies say the shootings could be gang related.

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    BAKERSFIELD, CA - Food inequality continues to be a problem in Bakersfield, according to researchers. 

    And with more and more families in need, one organization is making an effort to provide healthy food to local families.
         
    According to a study by the Food Research and Action Center, Bakersfield ranks number one in households experiencing food hardships.
         
    The study shows more than 26 percent of local households did not have enough money to buy food at times in the past 12 months.
         
    That's where Morning Star Fresh Food Ministries comes in.
         
    The non-profit, faith-based organization has made it their mission to help those working and struggling everyday to make ends meet.

    "So many of us have been blessed with so many things and it's just an opportunity to share some food, but more importantly to encourage people spiritually and that's really why I'm here," said John VanLenten.

    To learn more about the organization, go online to morningstarfresh.org.


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    BAKERSFIELD, CA - Union members joined in the fight against the possibility of privatizing local libraries with the help of a book. 

    "The Privatization Beast" is a story of a community coming together to support public services. 
         
    The beast made an appearance Saturday at the Beale Memorial Library. 
         
    People who frequently use our libraries are opposed outsourcing libraries to a private company. 
         
    That's an option as county supervisors look for ways to trim the budget.  

    "I think it'll definitely put the word out to people that don't really realize the negative impacts in privatization and they'll definitely be able to get a little more information about how that's going to effect their community," said Jair Romero, library supporter: 

    County supervisors launched a campaign last month to generate public input on the future of Kern county's library system. 
         
    Administrative officer John Nilon said making libraries private could put more books on the shelves and increase resources like Internet access for the community. 
         

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  • 05/16/15--22:00: KRC terminates CEO
  • BAKERSFIELD, CA - The Chief Executive Officer, who has been under fire for months, was ousted. During Friday night's board meeting by a two-thirds vote, board members terminated Duane Law's contract.

    The move comes after an audit released last month by the state Department of Developmental Services, revealed questionable practices and oversight at Kern Regional Center.

    There have also been protests by KRC administrators and frustrated parents, demanding new leadership and increased transparency in how the money at KRC is spent.

    KRC Secretary Lori Stewart said, "It's going to make a big difference, the tension here in the work environment is going to be relieved, the tension with the vendors is going to be relieved, the tension with the community is going to be relieved and parents.under the control of the former CEO a lot of bad things were happening."

    An interim CEO is expected to be named Monday.

    Last week board president Susan Lara resigned, saying she wanted to spend more time with her family. More than 100 parents and workers reportedly signed a letter of "no confidence" for Law and Lara.

    Law was not at Friday's meeting.

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    BAKERSFIELD, CA - A man who lost control of his vehicle ended up in Truxtun Lake on Sunday afternoon.

    According to BPD, the driver was OK and no other injuries were reported.
         
    Police said they do not believe drugs or alcohol was a factor.

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    Shafter, CA - Shafter celebrated it's first Fruit and Veggie Fest at Apple Market. Community members gathered for fun activities, healthy food and raffle giveaways. The Department of Public Health teamed up with local agencies to make this event possible, educating the public on living a healthy lifestyle.

    Mariel Mehdipour is the Director of Community Wellness for the Department of Public Health. She says statistics show Kern County needs to make changes toward becoming a healthier community. "Unfortunately about 70% of our adults are considered overweight or obese and about one-third of our students do not pass the California Fit Test," said Mehdipour.

    Apple Market Assistant Manager, Robert Gonzalez, said he hosted the event because he wants his shoppers to know about healthier food options. "We're a small town and were doing our part to educate and help people make better choices," said Gonzalez.

    The festival had free fruit, healthy recipes, anti-smoking information, exercises and free health exams.

    Frank Escobdo lives in Shafter and attended the event. He said it wasn't until his kidney failure that he decided to live a healthy lifestyle. "Since I have changed my diet I am healthier now than I have ever been before," said Escobdo. He said he is thankful for the Fruit and Veggie Fest. "We need this in Shafter. Because more people need to be educated on healthy eating and healthy living," said Escobdo.

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    BAKERSFIELD, CA - The Bakersfield City Council's Legislative and Litigation Committee is set to discuss banning the sale of synthetic stimulants and what to do about squatters on Monday.
         
    They're drafting legislation to support a state bill to strengthen the restrictions on the sale of controlled synthetic stimulants, including bath salts and spice.
         
    Bath salts are a synthetic stimulant sometimes sold in convenience shops with the warning "not for human consumption," but when taken can have similar effects to amphetamines or cocaine.
         
    And spice is a form of synthetic marijuana.

    The committee is also expected to discuss the squatting problem in the city.
         
    Officials say the issue brings unwanted crime to neighborhoods as squatters take up residence in abandoned structures.
         
    The committee will discuss what actions can be taken to remove the squatters.


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    BAKERSFIELD, CA - The community is invited to participate during a critique of the Kern Council of Governments' Transportation planning efforts.
         
    The certification review will take place on Monday.
         
    The public review will be conducted by the Federal Highway Administration, the Federal Transit Administration, and the California Department of Transportation. 

    If you would like to attend, it's from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Kern Council of Governments' office, located at 1401 19th Street.


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  • 05/17/15--21:08: BPD involved in shooting
  • BAKERSFIELD, CA - Bakersfield Police were involved shooting tonight in south Bakersfield. It happened in the 600 block of Planz Road, between south Union and south Chester Avenues, near the property of Believers in Jesus Foursquare Church.

    Police say officers fired at a man after he charged them with his car. They were responding to a report of a man passed out in his car when it happened.

    Police say the man is in stable condition at KMC.

    Sergeant Jeff Sasso wouldn't comment on how many times the man was shot, or if the officers tried to use non-lethal force.

    Police haven't identified the officers or man involved in the shooting.

    By our count, there have been 10 officer involved shootings in Kern County so far this year. Four of those shootings involved Bakersfield Police.

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    BAKERSFIELD, CA.-Legal battles for child support and custody are tough on the parents and the kids. A Bakersfield dad created an online tool to help parents better argue their case in court and stay connected to their children. 

    When one local dad lost custody of his oldest daughter, he decided more than a year ago to create an app to assist other parents. 

    Jon Vaughn and his business partner raised $55,000 to create Genesis, an online tool to help parents track pick-up and drop-offs, medical and clothing expenses and other records. 

    Genesis made its debut at the American Bar Association tech conference in April. 

    Vaughn wants the app to help lawyers and their clients build stronger cases. To download Genesis or for more information, visit GenesisCCM.com


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    BAKERSFIELD, CA- Someone may have torched a stadium snack bar in Tehachapi on purpose, according to police there.

    The fire was reported about 4:30 Saturday afternoon at Coy Burnett Stadium.

    The fire was coming from the snack bar and police said the cleared the area as Kern County Fire put out the flames.

    Police said there was major damage to to the inside of the building and they said the fire was possibly started on purpose.

    A green car with possible suspects was seen leaving the area, according to police.

    The Tehachapi Police Department and Kern County Fire Department Arson Unit are actively investigating the incident.

    Anyone with any information regarding this incident is encouraged to contact Sergeant Brown at the Tehachapi Police Department - 661-822-2222 ext. 106.

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