Local Politics

Friday, Oct 05 2012 06:02 PM

Obama event invitations are all taken; large crowd expected

BY JAMES BURGER AND COURTENAY EDELHART Californian staff writers jburger@bakersfield.com, cedelhart@bakersfield.com

If you haven't already registered to attend the dedication of the Cesar Chavez National Monument by President Obama in Keene on Monday, don't bother doing it now. You're too late.

All the spots are gone and the online registration forms on the web pages of the United Farm Workers union and Cesar Chavez Foundation have been shut down.

"We are already way over the capacity," said foundation spokesman Marc Grossman. "More people have registered than we have room."

Grossman was reluctant to say how many people will be allowed to attend the event, citing the need for safety precautions. But he said a large number of people will be there.

Those lucky enough to get their name onto the RSVP list received confirmation emails from the UFW Friday directing them to arrive at a parking lot and staging area at Challenger Road and Capital Hills Parkway in Tehachapi between 6:30 and 7:30 a.m. Monday morning.

"Thousands of people have already RSVP'd to be part of this historic occasion," the emails read.

Between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., the confirmation emails state, invited guests will be shuttled from the staging areas to Nuestra Senora Reina de la Paz, the UFW's headquarters and Chavez's home for much of his career, for the ceremony that will create the Cesar Chavez National Monument.

Guests should expect, according to the emails, to spend most of the day in La Paz as shuttles will not return them to their cars until mid-afternoon or even as late as 5 p.m.

Obama is scheduled to land at about 9 a.m. Monday at Meadows Field, said Jack Gotcher, director of Kern County Airports.

How Obama will get from the airport to Keene, an approximately 40-mile journey, remains uncertain.

There is a Kern County Fire Department heli-pad a short distance from the La Paz site and Gotcher said a helicopter will be on standby Monday.

But the California Highway Patrol indicated Friday that there will be intermittent road closures on Highway 58 and in the Keene area to allow a presidential motorcade to move in and out of the site.

In addition to the thousands of guests that will be there to see the president and celebrate the event, a number of Kern County dignitaries were invited.

Not all will attend.

State Sen. Jean Fuller, R-Bakersfield, got an invite late Friday and said she seriously considered attending but had already committed to an aggressive series of meetings in Sacramento on major legislative issues -- including water.

"I think I should stay on the people's business Monday," she said.

Assemblywoman Shannon Grove, R-Bakersfield, and staff for Assemblyman David Valadao, R-Hanford, said neither state legislator received an invitation.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, and his staff did not return calls asking whether he had received an invitation and whether he would accept.

State Sen. Michael Rubio, D-Shafter, also did not return calls inquiring about whether he would attend.

It appeared that all members of the Kern County Board of Supervisors, all of whom are Republicans, received invitations, as did state legislators of all stripes.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Zack Scrivner, who represents Keene, received an invite, his staff said. Scrivner did not return a call asking whether he will go. Supervisor Jon McQuiston plans to go.

"Anytime you get an invitation to an event like that, you attend," said McQuiston, who rearranged his schedule so he could make the ceremony.

Supervisor Ray Watson's staff said he will stay in Bakersfield to attend the board's monthly meeting at Kern Medical Center.

Supervisor Karen Goh said she received an invite early Friday morning but, because of a miscommunication, didn't learn of the invite until after the 3 p.m. deadline to accept passed.

"My schedule on Monday does not include a visit to Keene," wrote Supervisor Mike Maggard in an email.

La Paz is a 187-acre property. The monument area, donated by the Cesar Chavez Foundation to the federal government, will be a three-acre portion that includes a memorial garden where Chavez is buried, his office and his house.

The monument is being designated under the Antiquities Act. It will be the fourth national monument Obama has designated.

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