Friday, September 4, 2015

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy: Labor board ruling expands the definition of an employer and puts local businesses at risk

 House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy gives us his weekly view from Capitol Hill. In his words:

 "Last week, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) overturned decades of settled labor law at the expense of American jobs. A National Labor Relations Board ruling modified the definition of an employer that now could involve local franchises and subcontractors in additional labor disputes.

  "Small businesses are at the heart of the American economy. The spirit and vision of an aspiring entrepreneur or small businessperson is what this country was built on. Every day, people take great risk in starting something of their own. The endeavor can turn out to be a success or it can fail. At either turn, it is the individual left basking in the glory or picking up the pieces. That is what makes America different; what makes our country great. And through different business models which encourage flexibility and entrepreneurship, we have seen neighbors in our communities willing to dream to become the success stories of today and possibly the growing small and large businesses of tomorrow.  They often hold the name of a global brand but operate within the heart of the community, taking on financial risk and personnel decision-making, creating and offering much-needed jobs. In these respects, it is just as if they were starting their own sandwich shop, something I was fortunate to do in the past. So when I see a franchise, I celebrate the jobs they create. This same model goes for companies that provide a service to a larger one. The success of time-tested brands offers opportunity for others to achieve that dream.

  "This decision by the NLRB makes that dream more uncertain. However, what the decision makes crystal clear is that when the Obama Administration's NLRB sees a relationship between businesses, they see a need for more regulation and centralization. In so doing, the NLRB fundamentally ignores the ramifications its decision may have on an important business model that have helped generations of Americans share in the American Dream. The result of this irresponsible decision means less opportunity for local communities. It is unfathomable that as small businesses face rising costs via more Washington rules, and American workers face stagnant wages due to government imposed costs, the Obama Administration wants to stymie the American Dream for entrepreneurs and workers.

 "Also, next week the House will consider a resolution of disapproval of the Iran nuclear deal. This vote will have an immense impact on our national security as well as the security of our friends and partners around the world. For weeks Congress has learned of the numerous giveaways to the world’s leading state-sponsor of terrorism while supposed verification mechanisms have been exposed as dangerously insufficient. With a clear majority of Congress

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Will lifting the sanctions on Iran spell trouble for Kern County's pistachio farmers? Plus more crime news and a hot new restaurant takes hold in town

 * ... NUTS: When analysts talk about lifting sanctions on Iran, they usually focus on what affect that will have on the global energy markets as Iranian oil competes on the world stage. But for Kern County, a lesser-known impact may come when Iranian pistachios flood the world market. Analysts say this could depress prices and its effect will be felt throughout Kern County, one of the nation's largest producers of the coveted nuts.
Said Bloomberg Business news: "Iran has far more clout in the market for cocktail nibbles than it does in crude trading. While it ranks only as the world’s seventh-largest oil producer, the Middle Eastern country vies with the U.S. to be the biggest pistachio grower. As with oil, Iranian sales of pistachios to the U.S. and Europe have been hampered by sanctions. As the talks between Washington and Tehran to resolve the decade-long nuclear dispute... traders are predicting lower prices."

* ... USS MISSOURI: This week marked the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II when a ceremony was held on the deck of the USS Missouri. Candace Cummings said her father, Edward Joseph Cummings, was a young naval officer aboard the Missouri and witnessed the historic event. "Today, my father is a vibrant 95-year-old veteran who served his country admirably for 30 years. Several days ago (August 28th) we celebrated his birthday at his San Francisco club with family and friends along with many toasts and cheers. I am a resident of Bakersfield and my parents are frequent visitors who thoroughly enjoy my friends and our town!"

 * ... CRIME: More crime news about town: thieves are targeting late model pickup trucks and SUVs and stealing both the front and back seats. One homeowner walked out to his Silverado pickup one morning and found only the front seats gone.

 * ... FOODIE BEST BET: One of the hottest meal tickets in town is offered at The Kitchen, a tiny culinary school/eatery on 20th Street run by Darci Atkinson. The business was set up so folks could get hands on experience in the kitchen, but it has become a favorite haunt for foodies who appreciate the fresh organic offerings, smaller serving sizes, attention to detail and creative offerings. Make sure to refer to its website to check on the hours,

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "How can I be expected to make life choices when I still use my fingers to count?"

 * ... DROUGHT: And there was this from reader Greg Laskowski: "I have another conundrum for you. In these times of water austerity measures, I have a neighbor who is watering his lawn with gray water effluent from his washing machine. After applying this measure over the course of several months, his lawn is still brown but it does smell like Snuggle. Oh, and here’s the funny part: one day I come home and I see the garden hose on the lawn and tracked it back to his garage where I see a rush of water running from his garage down the driveway.  I run to his kitchen door to notify him of the impending calamity. He reassures me not to worry. His gray water from the washing machine is being transferred to a 36-gallon plastic drum that has a tap on the bottom feeding the garden hose. The problem is that the washing machine holds 42 gallons of water. Go figure?

 * ... MEA CULPA: And finally, I want to offer this apology to anyone who subscribes to home delivery of The Bakersfield Californian. For the last year, our delivery service has been spotty at times, and in many cases, downright awful. The reasons behind this are not important; what is important is that you know I take responsibility and pledge to you that I am working to resolve this issue immediately. I have heard from all of you who have complained (about missing papers, late delivery, no vacation stops) and I appreciate your concerns, loyalty and frustration. Your feedback is important, and I hope you bear with us. We are dealing with the delivery issues and just this week hired a new senior customer service manager from out of state to come help solve this problem. You deserve better, and we will make that happen.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

High taxes, regulation and high housing prices are sending Californians fleeing to Texas, a cautionary tale about the heat and our dogs and some really bad form on social media

  * ... CALIFORNIA: Would it surprise you if I told you that more people are leaving California than coming in? A number of recent studies blame high taxes, over-regulation and high housing costs as the primary reasons that so many folks are leaving, primarily for Texas and to a lesser extent
Florida. This note from a Manhattan Institute study sums it up: "California was once a powerful draw for Americans on the move—a golden land, 'west of the west, in Theodore Roosevelt’s famous phrase, where everything could be better. But that California is no more. Around 1990, after decades of spectacular postwar growth, California began sending more people to other states than it got in return. Since that shift, its population has continued to grow (at a rate near the national average) only because of foreign immigration and a relatively high birthrate. Immigration from other nations, though, is declining, and it is likely that the state’s growth rate may soon fall behind that of the U.S. as a whole. As a magnet of opportunity, the state now pushes out where it once pulled in... Who were the big winners in the migration game when California was losing? The answer is the same for both decades since 1990—the Sun Belt giants Florida and Texas, followed by other fast-growing southern and western states."

 * ... DOGS AND HEAT: The number of stray dogs crossing our busy roads is both disheartening and frightening, and I often wonder how they survive in this heat. If you have a dog, and you live in Bakersfield, here's a tip from a Phoenix veterinarian about the dangers of dogs living in hot climates. "Overweight and older dogs will have more difficulty with the heat. As far as breeds are concerned, it is generally accepted that snub-nosed dogs, like boxers, bulldogs, pugs, Boston terriers, Lhasa apsos and shih tzus have poor panting mechanisms, and so are more susceptible to being affected by heat. These should be indoor dogs, and should not be kept in the yard during the day. They should spend their days lounging in air conditioned comfort. Dogs with heavy coats can be trimmed for the summer, but not shaved bare or else they'll have a hard time insulating themselves and will be prone to sunburn and other skin irritations."

 * ... DROUGHT: Here's a question from Greg Laskowski that raises an interesting point: "I have this 'environmentally correct' dilemma. As we are suffering through a drought, is it environmentally correct to wash out my recyclable containers before putting them in the blue bin?  Is worse that I use hot water, which comes from a natural gas hot water heater to do so as I am enlarging my carbon footprint?"

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Nothing is more terrifying than making eye contact with the guy running that mall kiosk."

 * ... BAD FORM: Let's face it, there are no rules of etiquette in the use of social media. But when does airing your personal laundry cross the line between sharing moments of your life to extreme narcissism? If you are going through a divorce, for example, is it wise to post pictures of you and your new "friend" cavorting in bathing suits with drinks in hand, especially if you still have kids at home? Everyone wants you to be happy but for goodness sake, let the dust settle, and even then it might be too soon.

 * ... GOOD FORM: This from Albert "Bud" King: "I just want to say a big thank you to the couple that paid for my lunch Saturday at El Sombrero. I asked my server for my tab and he told me a couple had paid for it. Whoever did that thank you very much. May God bless you."

Sunday, August 30, 2015

More on our problem with stray dogs and cats, the Fox Theater Foundation gets new leadership and celebrating all those retailers who give our kids a shot at jobs

 * ... SHELTERS: There is not a community anywhere that is not dealing with the problem of stray cats and dogs, but some areas are needier than others. Consider this: a friend who lives in Pasadena
told me there is a long "waiting list" just to volunteer at the local shelter, and she shared that the San Diego shelters are so well funded dogs have individual cages in a beautiful, well funded facility. Locally, meanwhile, we struggle keeping up with the surge of strays so often dumped on our streets. Which reminds me, the annual blanket drive for the Kern County Animal Control is coming up in October. Remember to save your old sheets and blankets for these needy animals. The blanket drive will be held at Petco on Gosford Road on Saturday, Oct. 24.

 * ... THE FOX: Hats off to the Fox Theater Foundation who made the right move by announcing that Bob Bender will manage the historic landmark. Bender is well known for his work and contacts in the recording industry and you can bet he will breathe new life into grand old dame of downtown. Before Bender the daily management was handled by aVenueTek. Rick Davis, past president of the foundation, said he would like to see a concert each week at the theater.

* ... CRIME: Are you ready for this? In one Bakersfield neighborhood thieves stole the pool sweeps from three houses on the same street. Seriously.

 * ... MORE CRIME: And for the second and time in a week, a homeowner downtown has awakened to find someone turned on their outside faucets and flooded the alleys behind their homes. Bad form anytime, but particularly during a drought.

* ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Just finished leftover fried chicken and a Hostess Cupcake, because breakfast is the most important meal of the day."

 * ... HOMETOWN: Jim Luff, owner of the Limousine Scene, shared this story about our hometown: "While traveling down Rosedale Highway, I watched in my rear-view mirror as a truck began to merge into a car in the next lane. The driver honked and the truck returned to his lane as we stopped at a light. The truck driver rolled his window down to yell out an apology. The driver of the car gave him an 'OK' sign. In Los Angeles, a different finger sign would have been displayed. Just thought I would share another great thing about living in Bako."

* ... RETAIL: And speaking of the right moves, kudos to all the local retailers across town (Action Sports, Sequoia Sandwich Co. and The Padre Hotel come to mind) that provide part-time jobs to so many of our high school kids and young adults. Tracy Walker-Kiser is another business owner who happily provides opportunities for young people, and I have watched a parade of them pass through H. Walker's Clothing over the years. And it's even more heartening to watch them return to the K Street store to reconnect once they have moved on to college or full-time jobs. Andrew Haupt and Gabby Purcel are two of the current employees who join a long time of successful young people at H. Walker's. (photos of Tracy Walker-Kiser, Gabby Purcell and Andrew Haupt.)

Friday, August 28, 2015

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy reiterates his support for research to defeat Valley Fever

 Rep. Kevin McCarthy, House Majority Leader, gives us his weekly view from Capitol Hill. In his words:

 "First, I want to congratulate my friend Jean Fuller. The California Senate will be well-served under her leadership and California's future will absolutely be brighter as a result. I know Senator Fuller
will bring the blue collar attitude that is ingrained in the Central Valley to this leadership position and will fight for a freer and more prosperous California. With Senator Fuller leading Republicans in the Senate and Kristin Olsen leading in the Assembly, Californians are fortunate to have two leaders that will fight for our Republican vision of prosperity, freedom and economic growth - solutions that stand in sharp contrast to the same failed big government ideas currently bogging down Sacramento.
 "This week, the Kings, Tulare, and Kern Counties’ 3rd California Coccidioidomycosis Collaborative meeting took place at the Tulare Department of Public Health. Of particular importance at that meeting was the presentation of additional details of the Randomized Controlled Trial (RCT) protocol from the National Institutes of Health.  The RCT to be conducted by the NIH was one of the major announcements from the Valley Fever Symposium held in our community a few years ago.
 "As we know all too well, everyone in our community knows someone who has battled Valley Fever. The path forward to treat Valley Fever – on the other hand – has been less clear. Two years ago we made a commitment to change that and put together the Valley Fever Symposium in Kern County. The event served as an important opportunity to educate the heads of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH) as well as other leaders in the medical community on this disease.
 "Since then, I can confidently say that we have made positive strides in the endeavor to better understand and treat Valley Fever. But we have more work to do.
 "As I detailed earlier, after the Symposium we successfully had the FDA include Valley Fever as a “qualifying pathogen” which gives priority review to Valley Fever treatment and vaccine drug applications. And because of that listing, the passage of 21st Century Cures out of the House has specific impact in the fight against Valley Fever. Within that bill we were able to direct the NIH to use a research strategic plan that identifies how the innovation fund will address areas of unmet need for infectious diseases, such as Valley Fever.
 "I continue to make it a priority that Congress demonstrates strong Congressional support for NIH and CDC efforts to develop a Valley Fever RCT. In June it was announced that $5 million was awarded to Duke University's Vaccine and Treatment Evaluation Unit to achieve this step. Duke has also selected community experts on Valley Fever to assist with this trial.
 "The primary goal of the trial research will be to assess the safety and effectiveness of fluconazole (an anti-fungal medicine that is the primary treatment candidate) as treatment for people in affected regions who develop pneumonia (30 percent of pneumonia cases are the affected region are caused by Valley Fever). The next goal that NIH and CDC hope to get out of the trial is increased public awareness. By working in the places where the disease primarily occurs, the medical community will learn more about the disease and apply that knowledge in their practice – improving the recognition and management of early onset Valley Fever and enhancing community awareness. Further, this trial will help better recognize the early stages of the disease and generate new questions.
 "The research that will be produced over the next year will be instrumental in raising critical awareness within the medical community and the general public by utilizing that new knowledge in their everyday practices.
 "By continuing these collaborative meetings, we are ensuring that the valley will be able to tackle Valley Fever as one community.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Bakersfield College President Sonya Christian receives a warm welcome, Pyrenees Cafe and Saloon keeps knocking it out of the park and Patrick Duffy shows up at The Padre Hotel

* ... SONYA: Bakersfield College President Sonya Christian may be locked in a dispute over extending her contract, but you wouldn't know that when she appeared Thursday at the downtown
Rotary Club. Christian received a standing ovation when she was introduced as the speaker, and her appearance drew an overflow crowd at the Bakersfield Museum of Art. Her popularity among BC faculty and students and in the business community is impressive, and no doubt this does not go unnoticed by the Kern Community College District's board of trustees and Chancellor Sandra Serrano. Among the non club members who showed up for lunch were former Congressman (and former Bakersfield College professor) Bill Thomas (a big Christian supporter), Supervisor Leticia Perez and Michael Turnipseed, head of the watchdog group Kern Tax.

* ... PYRENEES: One of our community's amazing success stories is happening over at The Pyrenees Cafe and Saloon, where co-owners Rod and Julie Crawford took a dated brand, gave it a smart makeover that retained the building's historic character, and created one of the hottest Basque restaurant venues in town. Pyrenees was one of the eateries featured on Guy Fieri's Diners, Drive-ins and Dives and Rod told me his appearance on the Food Network program is still driving business. "I had people in from Long Beach who had seen it on the show and were checking it out," he told me the other day. Business, meanwhile, is booming and the Crawfords have plans for even more improvements.

* ... SPOTTED: I ran into the actor Patrick Duffy at The Padre Hotel the other day. He is in town working on a movie that will also star actress Ann Archer. Duffy is best known for his role as Bobby Ewing in the 1980s CBS soap opera hit "Dallas." When I spotted him, he was sitting in the Padre bar calmly working on a newspaper puzzle.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "To whoever finds the $20 I dropped: spend it on alcohol. It’s what I would have wanted."

* ... IMMIGRATION: With all the talk about immigration reform, reader Sam Rodriquez offered these thoughts: "My wife and I were traveling to Arroyo Grande this last Friday.  I observed on Highway 166 close to Cuyama all of the Mexican field workers either hunched over or on their hands and knees working their tails to provide us with whatever they were picking. Then from Arroyo Grande we took Highway 1 to Pismo Beach and there again there they were Mexicans working their behinds off.  I realize that we need to something about illegal immigration but when you hear the likes of Donald Trump and all of the closet racists coming out of the wood work it makes me very sad. My parents (legal Americans of Mexican decent) came out of the fields.
You can go into any ghetto in Bakersfield and its surrounding communities any day of the week or any time of day and all ethnicities are represented... What is the answer I don’t know? But when you see a family of Mexicans at Wal-Mart, Sears, or the grocery store on any given Sunday be humble and maybe even say thank you."

 * ... HIGH SCHOOL FOOTBALL: Are you ready for some high school football? If so, did you know that The Bakersfield Californian will livestream high school football games for a third consecutive year? And this year it is partnering with ESPN Bakersfield 1230 AM to bring a game of the week to digital and radio audiences. The BVarsity Live Game Night and Game of the Week debuts Friday at 7 p.m. on and on ESPN Bakersfield 1230 AM. Longtime local sports personality Vance Palm will host a live pregame show from The Bakersfield Californian's studios and Zach Ewing, sports editor of The Californian, and Justin Roberts will call the action from a game each week. Palm will also provide updates throughout the night from many BVarsity correspondents covering games around Kern County.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

City councilman Terry Maxwell and Mark Salvaggio square off on the 24th Street widening project, the Bakersfield Racquet Club gets a new eatery and a big celebration for a 100th birthday

 * ... 24Th STREET: City Councilman Terry Maxwell has taken a lot of heat for opposing the widening of 24th Street, and just last week he took a tongue lashing from former Congressman Bill Thomas who secured the funding for the project. And now former city Councilman Mark Salvaggio
has weighed in, sending Maxwell an email that triggered a lively online debate between the two. Salvaggio argued that the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) is being used (or abused) by a vocal minority to hold up the project. Salvaggio recalled at least two other times when CEQA was used to delay projects and told Maxwell: "But the thing you don't get is the 24th Street Widening Project is good for Bakersfield. It is a much-needed road improvement project. Why is this so? In short, 24th Street is well over its design capacity.  It carries more traffic than all but one other arterial segment in the city with four lanes for traffic. The other 17 top arterials carry less traffic with six (6) lanes. 24th Street is also unsafe due, in part, to its traffic volumes, lacks controls over left turns and driveways which go directly into the travel lanes. Do you ever drive 24th Street? Or do you walk or ride your bike?  It takes some navigation. You favor the Hageman flyover. So does everyone else. This road project is needed to provide an alternate and direct route from the Northwest into Downtown (our urban core) Bakersfield.  Both of these important projects complement our efforts to improve circulation in metropolitan Bakersfield. The prevailing view is both of these road projects are needed." Maxwell, for his part, is holding firm to his opposition, seeing the project as a waste of taxpayer's money when there are cheaper alternatives.

* ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Statistics show the number one cause of failed relationships is opening your mouth and letting words come out."

 * ... BIRTHDAY: Karene Williams wrote to tell me that Hazel Ream celebrated her 100th birthday Sunday. A huge gathering helped celebrate the day at the local Moose Lodge in Lake Isabella.

 * ... RACQUET CLUB: I have been hearing some rave reviews for the new Match Point Grill in the Bakersfield Racquet Club coffee shop on Pine Street between Truxtun and 18th Street. This space has been occupied by a number of restaurants over the years, most recently Covenant Coffee. Operated by Catering Affairs, Match Point is open for breakfast and lunch Monday through Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Those living and working downtown, as well as club members, are thrilled to have another eatery option. Match Point is open to the public.

 * ... SUSHI: Speaking of food, the new Japanese restaurant Jin Sushi is also getting some good reviewers from downtown diners. Located next to the Metro Galleries at the corner of Eye and 19th streets, Jin Sushi has only been open a few days but has gained a small but loyal following. Let's hope the place can maintain its service and quality of food.

 * ... APW: The Association of Petroleum Wives is holding a "Welcome Back" party this Saturday at the Metro Galleries on 19th Street. Ladies whose husbands are employed (or retired from) the petroleum industry are invited to attend to join or renew your membership. The event kicks off at 6:30 p.m. with live music, food catered by Chef's Choice Noodle Bar. Call Lynn at (661) 301-0907 to make reservations.

 * ... MEA CULPA: And finally, my sincere apologies to Kim McAbee Carter, whose last name I butchered in a recent column. Kim is an accomplished country music singer who, along with husband Kyle Carter, are building the Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Analysts see no end to the global oil glut and work continues on the Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame

 * ... OIL: The price of oil has dropped by almost 60 percent since its peak, but U.S. and global producers are maintaining production. In an analysis of the global oil glut, the Wall Street Journal noted that the world's biggest suppliers have yet to curtail production, almost guaranteeing the price
will remain in the $40 per barrel range and possibly sink below that. Saudi Arabia, for one, is maintaining its production as a hedge against new Iraqi and Iranian oil expected to hit the market. The Journal called the result a type of "energy industry version of trench warfare, with producers all trying to gain an inch of market share no matter the cost. And it is producing winner and losers around the world, luring American drivers into gas guzzling pickup rucks while sending the Venezuelan economy into chaos."

 * ... CRIME: If you have a "lock" mechanism on your garage door, make sure to use it. Police say thieves are having a field day around town by making their way into garages by forcing the overhead doors open by hand.

 * ... ZIGGY: Hats off to the folks over at Cal State Bakersfield who made the right call in promoting Kenneth Siegfried as the new athletic director. Known as "Ziggy," the personal and quick witted Siegfried has the energy, experience and youth and he has bonded with this imperfect community we all call home.

 * ... 24th STREET CAFE: I rewarded myself after a Sunday morning 10-mile hike with a trip to the 24th Street Cafe, one of our town's iconic homestyle restaurants that is always busy and never seems to disappoint. My recommendation: eggs benedict accompanied by biscuits and gravy and a cold Bloody Mary.

* ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Knowledge is like underwear. It is useful to have it, but not necessary to show it off."

 * ... HALL OF FAME: Work continues on converting the Bakersfield Sound Studio into the Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame, and this weekend a huge new sign went up at the front entrance. Funded by Kyle Carter and his wife Kim McAbee, herself an accomplished musician, the Hall of Fame will recognize Bakersfield's rich musical heritage. The building is located the corner of Q and 23rd streets.

 * ... CALTRANS: Someone at Caltrans wasn't paying attention when they created, and installed, a sign on Highway 46 near Paso Robles that reads: "Groved Pavement." Thanks to Margaret Scrivano Patteson for passing that along.