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Sunday, Sep 01 2013 11:01 PM

HITS & MISSES: Amazingly, good news on pollution front

By The Bakersfield Californian

HIT: If you're headed to the Central Coast today, you'll be delighted to know that our state beaches scored some of the best cleanliness grades on record this summer. According to Heal the Bay's annual End of Summer Beach Report Card, 96 percent of California beaches earned an "A" or "B."

Both Los Angeles County and Orange County beach water quality improved by 3 percent from last year. The cleanest beaches, which received "A" grades across the board, are those in Alameda County, Contra Costa County, Mendocino County, San Francisco County and Ventura County. Letter grades are based on routine monitoring by about 20 agencies and dischargers that collect and study marine water samples that indicate pollution.

You can help ensure that our beaches keep making the grade: Carry in reusable bags, rather than plastic bags and water bottles, throw away any trash that you see while walking along the beach and encourage others to do the same.

HIT: New budget funding just in time

The local Center for the Blind was just days away from being closed down and then something wonderful happened. The Kern County Board of Supervisors came to the rescue, approving an award of $50,000 to keep the center's doors open. Funding for the Center for the Blind usually comes from the state but the Sacramento is behind on its payments and the center was surviving on private donations.

The volunteer-run organization offers braille instruction, peer group support and other rehabilitation programs to help blind and visually impaired adults be more independent.

HIT: New budget funding, part 2

Also, good news for book lovers: Last week, the Board of Supervisors also allocated $514,600 from its new budget to enable all 26 Kern library branches to stay open for an extra day each week. Some have been open only one or two days a week, an inconvenience for those who rely on libraries for Internet, educational materials or simply a quiet place to study.

The Supervisors also appropriated $100,000 for the Arts Council of Kern and $20,000 for the Bakersfield Museum of Art.

HIT: Westside Parkway's launch pad

Plans for a new guard rail on a Westside Parkway offramp at Truxtun Avenue have been moved up -- and for good reason. Last week a stolen BMW flew off the side of the freeway's easternmost, looping offramp, taking a city traffic sign with it. Bakersfield officials plan to add flashing, sign-mounted beacons and possibly rumble strips to the road. The metal guard rails in current plans may also at some point be upgraded to concrete. At that point car thieves will have to find some other launch pad.

HIT: Bakersfield, a safe place to drive

When it comes to the safest California cities to drive in, Bakersfield sits comfortably at the top. According to Allstate Insurance Co.'s ninth annual "Allstate America's Best Drivers Report," Bakersfield is the second safest California city in which to drive. But lest we get big heads about it, it's instructive to note that California drivers apparently aren't that great as a group: While Bakersfield was No. 1 in the state, it was only 56th in the U.S.

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