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By Henry A. Barrios / The Californian
By THE BAKERSFIELD CALIFORNIAN
The dawn of a new year always brings with it hope -- for better health, stronger relationships, greener job prospects, greater peace.
We asked a variety of people what they're seeking in 2012.
Jeremy Wright, community activist, said he has high hopes for 2012. "I desire to serve Jesus Christ (my Winner), by living the Word of God in my daily life, so that I can make life easier for my family, my friends and my community. Next year, I hope to see political, educational, social and economic equality of rights for all people, especially African-Americans, as a greater reality in Bakersfield and beyond.
"I hope that 2012 brings movement toward the elimination of racial hatred and racial discrimination at every level of government. In 2012, I sincerely hope to find my future wife (Mrs. Wright), enter into holy matrimony, and start a family of my own."
Randi Flores, 15, is hoping for a reprieve from "high school drama." The sophomore at Golden Valley High School also wants to exercise "a lot more," meet new people and get better grades in 2012.
On her way into a downtown tattoo parlor with relatives for a new piercing, Flores said her new year hopes for her family are that they will hang out more.
Jsin Jonsin, a makeup artist and body piercer, has his mind on his money this year.
"My hopes for (2012) are to make a lot of money for myself and my (tattoo) shop," he said, adding that his aspirations for the year might include expanding his skills to special effects makeup. Jonsin also plans to do some social pruning.
"I want to go through my garden of friends and pull the weeds and water the flowers," Jonsin said.
Bakersfield Fire Department Chief Douglas R. Greener hopes for safety this year. "My hope for 2012 is the annual wish of firefighters everywhere. I hope that not one of our citizens needlessly loses their life to fire. I hope that everyone helps the Bakersfield Fire Department realize that wish in the coming year by installing a reasonably priced smoke detector in their homes, or by maintaining an existing detector with a battery replacement.
"The community will always be faced with the threat of fire, but this simple act of ensuring early warning greatly increases the odds of survival, and self-evacuation immeasurably assists BFD firefighters during an active firefight.
"I also hope that in 2012 none of our firefighters, locally or across the nation, are injured or killed in the course of often dangerous duties. I offer the hope of a safe 2012 to our colleagues in law enforcement, emergency medical services, and the military as well."
Glennville-area rancher Tom Stockton, 2011's Kern County Cattleman of the Year, voiced a simple wish.
"Only hope I would have is that we get more rain so the grass will grow," he said.
Boron resident Barbara Pratt had broader hopes, dealing with the economy and volunteerism.
"The economy, everything is -- it needs improvement. And the government -- Congress and Washington, D.C. -- is letting us down," said Pratt, a director of the Boron Chamber of Commerce and of the town's Twenty Mule Team Museum.
Admittedly, some of her economic exasperation comes from personal interests, in that the museum's sales have declined along with the economy. But she also expressed a desire to see more people become involved in their community.
"I wish that more people would volunteer to do things," she said. "That's one of the strengths of our small town, is the volunteerism. It used to be. But we don't have as many volunteers doing things as we used to have."
Retiring Kern County Supervisor Jon McQuiston said he'd like to see renewable energy play a bigger role in 2012. "I would love to see us achieve the goal of 10,000 megawatts of renewable energy we set for ourselves, for 2015, in 2012.
"That leads me to my second (hope). In light of the fiscal and political chaos we find ourselves in on the state and federal level, my hope would be we would have the least impact on our services and our employees. That will take new revenue, and alternative energy is a hopeful tool for that."
Supervisor Ray Watson, who like McQuiston is retiring, has a lot on his wish list.
He hopes the California Partnership for the San Joaquin Valley, which he's been involved with for years, will be able to use the partnership of eight valley counties and four in the delta region to promote water solutions in the state's critical water crossroads.
He's also hoping to see more regions of Kern County -- including Taft, Frazier Park and Wasco -- get attention and help from the methamphetamine taskforce. He said solving the meth problem has to happen in the communities.
"You can't do it from Truxtun Avenue," Watson said.
What can be done from the county's home base on Truxtun next year, Watson said, is for officials to improve the oversight and accountability of county government, build an ethical culture at the county, and get county operations analysts to review and combat fraud and abuse.
Jesus "J.R." Perez, vice president for external affairs, Associated Student Inc. at Cal State Bakersfield, said he has three hopes for 2012: "The first is to earn my masters degree in public administration from CSUB; the second is to figure out what I want my career to be; finally, to start my new career and become an independent working adult."
Christine Lizardi Frazier, Kern County Superintendent of Schools, said, "It is my hope that more students graduate with aspirations of going to college or acquire the skills to land high value jobs. I hope that a state budget resolution is reached that finally stops the uncertainty in school funding.
"It is my hope that kids value and respect their fellow students and contribute to stopping bullying in schools.
"It is my hope that parents get the support they need from schools, community and family to combat the many influences that contribute to kids making undesirable choices. Finally, it is my hope that all of us invest in our future by reaching out to just one child in making their future path successful."
Debbie Johnson, president of the California Veterans Assistance Foundation, said that with troops returning home from Iraq, she hopes veterans will be "able to get the services that they deserve" in 2012.
"We really want to ensure that they get greeted properly, that they don't have difficulties trying to maneuver through the Veterans' Affairs system," she said.
Still, some of the most pressing needs might not be apparent right away.
Johnson said that beyond the troops pulling out of Iraq, older veterans sometimes struggle to get by on low pensions, so, "we're kind of hoping the federal government continues putting funding in to end veteran homelessness."
She said it's also important to reach struggling veterans' families, because they "don't necessarily reach for help first -- it's the family member that does."
Finally, Johnson added with a laugh, "we really do want world peace."
Sandy Morris, community relations specialist for the Bakersfield Police Department and chairwoman for Bakersfield's Christmas for Seniors project, also wants to spread the word about a worthy cause in 2012. Namely, "to open the eyes of our community as to how many of our seniors are isolated, lonely and living in poverty."
She said these seniors are so grateful for even the most meager, simple gifts, and the program helped 1,380 seniors in Kern County this year.
"So, my dream for this coming year, I encourage everyone to take care of the seniors in your lives; take the time to listen to their stories. The day will come when we will have the time to listen, and who will be listening to us?"
Stan Jameson, a 49-year-old Bakersfield resident, said he's set to reach the big five-0 this month. "So that's going to be one of my goals for 2012," he joked.
Other than that, he said, he hopes to pass a difficult Grade 3 certification exam for his work treating wastewater. Jameson added he'd like to "have a better relationship with my wife and kids, and of, course -- you've probably heard this before -- pay off bills."
For Stephanie Melancon, a 19-year-old Bakersfield native who now studies business at San Francisco State University, just being able to get a spot in the courses she'll need to graduate would be nice.
"If I could just get my (general education requirements), I'd be happy," she said. With budget cuts, sharply rising tuition and no guarantees of a post-graduation job, Melancon said she's worried.
"College is all that's on my mind," she said, adding that in 2012, "I'd love to see more jobs open up."
Samantha Strauser, a 19-year-old Bakersfield College student majoring in English literature, said she's also worried about school and the future.
But she has one other little concern, too: "I don't want the world to end," she said, adding, "I want to get all my classes and I want to get a job in my field."
Bakersfield resident Randy Bennett, 55, said he wanted to refrain from getting political about his vision for the new year, because, he said, "I can get pretty political."
Instead, he said, "I would hope that America focuses more on what unites us than what divides us."
Jordan Leon, a 14-year-old Stockdale High School student who rode his BMX bike around The Marketplace on a recent afternoon, paused to reflect on the new year, but he didn't mention school drama or grades.
"I want for the other war to end -- the Afghan," he said, "because the Iraqi war just ended."
He said he has a military connection through his aunt, who is in the Navy. "She lives in Virginia," he said. "She just had a baby."
Leon's cousin, 13-year-old Caleb Leon, said he's "kind of hoping for the economy to get better."
"People are starting to freak out," he said. "People are losing their jobs and they can't provide for their families, and their kids get taken away," he said.
He said his family has been fortunate, but he's heard a lot about those who are struggling. As for something with a little more bearing on his own life, he said, "Biking should be allowed in a lot of places."
Retired Bakersfield resident Ulla Thomason, 68, said on a global scale, she hopes "things get sorted out in Washington, which will sort out a lot of other things in the world."
On a more personal level, she said, "(I hope) that I get off my butt and do what I really should be doing -- art."
Bakersfield resident Issac Cerecedo, 22, wants just one thing in 2012: "More money."
Cerecedo said he was "working in the oil fields and it kind of slowed down."
Since then, he's worked as a taxi driver for about three months, which he said is fine, though "slow sometimes -- better than nothing."
"This year has been hard," Cerecedo said.
Matt Peinado, a 23-year-old Bakersfield resident and recent Cal State Bakersfield graduate, said he'd like to "go to Europe, travel, see as much as I can see before I really settle down."
Kat Owens, 51, a San Jose resident waiting to catch a shuttle to Frazier Park, said 2011 hasn't been particularly kind to her, either. She said she's coming up on the end of her unemployment benefits after being jobless for about two years.
Economic conditions, she said are "the same everywhere."
Still, in spite of personal struggles, Owens said, "More than anything, I'm hoping for peace, joy and prosperity for all."