By The Bakersfield Californian
HIT: It's heartwarming to hear that two local servicemen who were wounded in Afghanistan will be home with their families for the holidays. Army 1st Lt. Samuel Van Kopp, who was seriously wounded in a suicide bombing attack in September, arrives home today for a 30-day leave. And U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Joshua Brubaker was schedule to be home Sunday, also for 30 days. It is the first visit to Bakersfield for both men since they were injured. Both have been receiving treatment at the Walter Reed hospital in Washington, D.C. Welcome home, men.
HIT: New politicians take their seats
One new Kern County supervisor and two new Bakersfield City Council members were sworn in last week, marking the beginning of what will eventually be three new faces on each board in the new year. Bob Smith is the newly installed representative for Ward 4 and Terry Maxwell now represents Ward 2 on the City Council. One seat remains open for now: outgoing Councilman Rudy Salas was elected to the Assembly, leaving a Ward 1 vacancy.
Leticia Perez, the new 5th District supervisor, was also sworn in last week. She will be joined on the five-member board by Supervisors-elect David Couch and retired Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake commander Mick Gleason. It marks the first time in nearly a century that three new supervisors are being seated on the board at the same time.
Congratulations and best wishes to our new local leaders.
MISS: School tragedy may hit home
Even though it happened on the other side of the country, the Connecticut school shooting will likely touch all families of elementary school children. There is no doubt that when children return to school today, at least some of their peers will be talking about the tragedy. Those details could very well scare young children. Mental health professionals have advised parents to talk to their school-age children about the tragedy and help them process their emotions if they seem affected. Parents are advised to try to reinforce a sense of safety for children but not dwell on scary details of the school shooting. For very young children who may not know of the tragedy, it's advised not to bring it up. At the very least, find out what your child knows and how they feel about it.
MISS: Unused leave checks abound
Bloomberg News reported this week that a state psychiatrist who retired last year from a mental hospital in Napa took with her a $608,821 check for unused leave accumulated during her three-decade career. That's right, more than half a million dollars. Since 2005, almost 1,400 full-time California state workers collected similar payments that were greater than their annual base pay, according to the Bloomberg analysis. California isn't alone. Nationwide, more than 111,000 people who left public-sector jobs in the U.S. collected $711 million in similar payments last year. But California employees accounted for 39 percent of that total. And the situation persists despite a state rule limiting accrued time off to 640 hours, or 16 weeks.
This practice may have been acceptable at one time, but it's clearly outdated today. Some states don't pay anything for unused leave. Use it or lose it. That sounds like a good approach for California to consider.