Sunday, March 1, 2015

Thieves strip a classic century-old home of everything down to door hinges and faucets, and some not-so-great news about the health of Baby Boomers

 * … CRIME: Thieves broke into an empty home downtown recently and picked it clean, right down to century-old door handles, hinges and faucets. Apparently the insurance adjuster told the owner that
the company would not reimburse her because the house sat idle waiting for a remodel. Really? One neighbor's advice: "Drag in a twin bed, throw some towels in the bathroom, leave dirty clothes in the corner and add a toothbrush on the sink for good means… only THEN call the insurance company."

 * … BOOMERS: If you are a certain age that qualifies you as a member of the Baby Boom generation, consider these Boomer health statistics from the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons: 52 percent report no physical activity, 72 percent have one or more chronic diseases, 42 percent have high blood pressure and 24 percent have a walking disability. And, by the year 2030 there will be a 673 percent increase in knee replacements. Suddenly I don't feel so well.

 * … RETAIL: The three busiest businesses in down this weekend had two things in common: they all just recently opened and they are all in the Southwest. This is a community that goes nuts for new businesses, and you could see it at BevMo! and Sprouts Farmers Market at The Shops at River Walk and at the new Johnny Garlic's at The Marketplace. Next up: Nordstrom Rack will open on March 26 right next to Sprouts.

* … OVERHEARD: "I almost hit four zombies last night," a man tells a friend. "You know, all those people in dark clothes that jaywalk at night. They are everywhere."

 * … KUDOS: I headed over to Woolgrower's this week to help celebrate the birthday of Evelyn Johnson, the beloved long-time secretary at the Rotary Club of Bakersfield. Evelyn broke bread with a number of former, current and future downtown Rotary presidents, including Tracy Walker Kiser, Rob Noriega, Duane Keathley, Steve Williford, Rogers Brandon, Ben Stinson, Steve Sanders, Pat Collins, Greg Gallion and David Morton. She has been secretary for the downtown club for 57 years, longer than most folks stay in the workforce, and she never misses a meeting.

 * … JUNIOR LEAGUE: Congratulations to the Junior League of Bakersfield on 50 years as a member of the Association of Junior Leagues. Founded as Community League of Kern in 1952, this local group has given $1.4 million dollars back to the community, invested more than a million volunteer hours, and helped in some way nearly 200 local programs and projects - including Community House, Lori Brock Children's Museum, CALM.  Members will gather for a golden gala this weekend when the League will commemorate its 50th by giving out a $50,000 grant to one local non-profit. This Friday evening, March 6, the public is invited to drop by its stately headquarters at 1928 19th street to help toast its milestone."

Saturday, February 28, 2015

House Majority Leader McCarthy: The corruption at Veterans Affairs continues as usual, an insult to the men and women who have served this country

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy of Bakersfield gives us his week view from Capitol Hill:

 "It has been a couple of tough weeks for the Veterans Affairs (VA).  Two weeks ago, Secretary Robert McDonald was on NBC’s Meet the Press and hailed a new age of accountability within the organization by saying that under his watch, 'Nine hundred people have been fired since I became secretary (of Veterans Affairs). We’ve got 60 people that we fired who have manipulated wait times.' To observers, this was a refreshing statement after news hit the national stage that VA employees manipulated records that showed our veterans were receiving care when the reality was many were ignored. And in several instances, veterans died while waiting for care. Unfortunately, Secretary McDonald’s statement was not true and fears that the corrupt culture within the VA lingers on.

 "Earlier this week, CBS News reported that disability claims had been stuffed in file cabinets, only to be forgotten. As only a massive, unaccountable bureaucracy can, the VA’s inefficient system would pay veterans’ benefits years after their initial claim was filed.
 "The rough few weeks the VA has had in the press pales in comparison to the experience the men and women who have served our country have faced over the years.

 "Last summer Congress passed, and the President signed into law, the first steps to reforming the VA. These reforms were positive first steps but as we have seen, we cannot assume that the massive bureaucracy will follow the law as Congress intended. When a bureaucracy gets so big and a culture so corrupt, it is the duty of the legislative branch to remain vigilant in its oversight.

 "As we continue to carefully scrutinize the VA, we must continue to look forward for areas of improvement. This week in Washington, I spoke at the Concerned Veterans of America Summit on what I believe are the next steps to continue the job of reforming the VA. The first is that the VA should be focused on improving ways to deliver medical care, not brick and mortar structures. The number of facilities should not measure success if those facilities lack the ability to provide thorough care.

  "Second, we should focus care for veterans that have disabilities from their service. My third principle for continued reform is to expand the ability for veterans to choose private care. This was the major tenet of the CHOICE Act that was signed into law last summer. Rather than passing countless hospitals on the way to Sepulveda, why not let our veterans go to a closer, private facility for their care?

 "Finally, the bureaucratic albatross that is the VA must be restructured. It is my firm belief that structure dictates behavior. Unless the structure of the VA is fixed, we can expect the unacceptable behavior of the past to continue. We cannot be afraid of taking the tradition of the past of why we created the VA, but apply it to a changing future.

  "Those who serve our country in the military do so selflessly and with honor. It is our duty as a nation to respect this service by upholding our promises to them. Ensuring our VA works for their care is chief among them. I will continue to fight for our veterans and their needs before, during, and after service.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Obama's veto of the Keystone XL pipeline means more oil will be shipped by rail through some of our most densely populated cities, and hats offs to the donors for the new children's emergency room pavilion at Memorial Hospital

 * … OIL BY RAIL: Environmentalists applauded when President Obama vetoed the Keystone XL pipeline, but what did it accomplish? Not much, according to experts, who point out the oil extracted from our resurgent fields will simply find its way to market via rail cars, often through our most densely populated cities. "Opposing Keystone, it goes without saying," said Wall Street Journal columnist
Holman Jenkins Jr., "will not make the slightest difference to things opponents claim to care about. It will not alter by an infinitesimal fraction of a degree mankind's reliance on fossil fuels or the continued development of hydrocarbon resources. It will, however, give fresh impetus to American's oil by rail boom…. What seems absent from (Obama's) calculations are any practical considerations outside the political bubble, such as the millions of barrels of flammable liquid that will be rumbling through America's residential neighborhoods aboard mile-long oil trains." And we wonder why the American public is so jaded about our political leaders.

 * … CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL: The dream of a comprehensive local children's hospital for the south Valley took a step closer to reality this week with the ground breaking for the Robert A. Grimm Children's Pavilion for Emergency Care over at Memorial Hospital. The entire $4.5 million price tag was donated in advance, and the folks at S.C. Anderson construction say it should be completed in about 14 months. Some of the donors who made this happen were Kari Anderson (Robert Grimm Family Foundation), Stan and Bonnie Ellis, S.C. Anderson Family Foundation, Pinnacle Emergency Physicians, The Pankey Family, BMH Auxiliary, Children’s Miracle Network, West and Arkelian Foundations, the Giannini Family, Dan and Sally Panero, Madoram Foundation  and the Larry Carr Memorial Golf Tournament. (photo of Kari Anderson)

 * … FOODIE BEST BET: The next time you are at Cafe Med over on Stockdale Highway, check out the braised lamb pasta and rosemary chicken ravioli. You will not be disappointed.

 * … SPOTTED: I spotted this missive on a social media website: "I know right from wrong. Wrong is the fun one."

* … SERVICE: Former city councilwoman Sue Benham (now a vice president at Memorial Hospital) shared this bit of good service about town. "Andy at Auto Sounds on Brundage helped me retrieve a CD from my CD player… it had been stuck for months and I kept procrastinating because I thought it would be a major repair. Andy spent a few minutes, dislodged the CD (The Band's Last Waltz) and I'm back in business. No charge."

* … MEMORIES: Some wonderful old memories from Neil Walker: "The golf driving range on 34th Street about where Memorial Hospital now sits. Pockets Liquor on 34th to where we Longfellow students would sneak off at lunch to buy a snack. Wimpey’s Liquor store on Chester across from the infamous Ice House with all those colorful fishing supply displays. Chasing and returning foul balls at Sam Lynn during the Bakersfield Bears games with help from the announcer saying 'Ball over left!  Ball over right! or Ball over (center)!'  Chasing after the Wayne’s Dairy milk truck for a free hand-full of refreshing ice from the kind-hearted milk man. Playing outside (Kick the Can, Three Flies Up, Hide and Seek (Olly Olly Oxen Free) in the neighborhood until dark and time to go home for supper."

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

If you still smoke, you now have a host of other smoke-related illnesses to worry about, and gas prices are back on the rise after a long slump

 * … SMOKING: If you smoke cigarettes, you suddenly have a lot more to worry about than simply dying of smoking related diseases. A major new study has added a host of new ailments liked to smoking: kidney failure, intestinal blood vessel blockage,  hypertensive heart disease, infections and
breast and prostate cancers. Yet, the researchers said that those who do smoke are stubbornly holding onto the habit, no matter how many new illnesses are tied to tobacco use. A report in the New York Times noted there has been "a decided slowdown in smoking cessation rates in recent years, fueling a belief that getting the remaining hard core of smokers to quit will require new strategies."

* … GAS PRICES: I hope you have enjoyed those lower gas prices recently because they are back on the rise. According to the Lundberg survey, the average price of a gallon of gasoline in the United States rose 13 cents in the past two weeks, bringing it up 26 cents since prices bottomed out after a nine-month slide ended in January. And experts say it will only get more expensive, thanks to the introduction of pricier seasonal gas, scheduled maintenance and the fire at a ExxonMobil refinery in Torrance.

* … GOOD FORM: Janeen Pierce contacted me to give a shout out to a stranger who found her driver's license on the bike path Sunday and kindly drove to her house to deliver it. "Thank you!  Thank you!" she said. "I appreciate you taking time out of your Sunday to save me from what could have been some messy consequences of losing my ID."

 * … SPOTTED: On a friend's Twitter feed: "Every time I use a public bathroom, one thought occurs…'Seriously? This many people have Sharpies on them at all times?'"

* … HYUNDAI: Good news for the folks over at Bakersfield Hyundai which has been awarded a 2015 DealerRater Consumer Satisfaction Award, a recognition auto dealerships can earn by delivering outstanding customer service as rated by online consumer reviews. DealerRater, the car dealer review site for consumers, created the Consumer Satisfaction Awards to enable online car shoppers to instantly spot car dealerships that provide high-quality customer service. Consumer Satisfaction Awards will be given annually to the top 10 percent of U.S. new-car dealers based on their PowerScore.

 * … MEMORIES: A recent blog post on some memories from the past drew this note from reader Neil Walker. "How about the kids’ Saturday matinee at the Fox?  For 25 cents you got a double-feature with Roy Rogers, Hopalong Cassidy, Gene Autry, Buck Rogers, and other white-hatted heroes, separated by the requisite Bugs Bunny cartoon. For an additional dime, you could score a box of Black Crows, Jujubees or Dots. The intermission included a ticket drawing by the emcee. Woody’s Toys often provided the prizes. I once won a 25-piece set of green plastic toy soldiers. I was the most popular boy at the Fox that day! Just think … a half-day of babysitting for mom and dad for only 35 cents!"

Storm clouds over Bakersfield …

 Local runner Don Martin snapped these pictures before a hail storm hit parts of Bakersfield this week.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Memorial Hospital to break ground on new children's pavilion for emergency care, and the Bakersfield Californian Foundation is taking applications for its spring grant cycle

* … MEMORIAL: There's an important event this week that promises to usher in a new era of medical treatment for young children in our community. On Wednesday, Memorial Hospital will hold a ground breaking for the Robert A. Grimm Children's Pavilion for Emergency Care at Memorial's
Lauren Small Children's Medical Center. Over the last few years Memorial has made huge strides in developing a facility that can serve young children with serious medical issues. The Lauren Small Center already has a pediatric intensive care unit, a neotnatal intensive care units and a pediatric acute care unit. The Children's Pavilion will be the only dedicated pediatric emergency department between Los Angeles and Madera.

 * … SPOTTED: Posted on a Twitter feed was this missive: "I've got a better chance finding a unicorn than I do of going through an entire day without dealing with some jackass."

 * … DOWNTOWN: The Bakersfield Californian (family) Foundation will be accepting applications for its 2015 Spring Grant Cycle. The cycle will be focused on improving downtown Bakersfield. This includes projects involved in litter removal, public art, community gardens, historical preservation — and anything else a Kern County 501©3 nonprofit can dream up to better downtown. Online applications only. The application is due Friday, April 3, and can be found at Contact with questions.

 * … DAY: A reader's note about local TV personality George Day triggered a lot of memories, including this one from his son. "This is George Daisa III writing this note. My son is George Daisa IV and my father was George Daisa II.  His father was born in Romania and came to the United States during World War IU and his name was George Daisa. My father started a radio show in San Antonio, Texas and as a catchy name he used 'Night with Day.' This was around 1946 and the name stayed with him all his life. About eight years before he died he legally changed his name to Day. Although he deeply loved the Hispanic people, his roots are not in the Latin culture, but from Romania."

 * … MORE DAY: And add this from Will Wim: "Anecdotally, I do remember coming home from school early one afternoon to see George Day advertising and demonstrating a hide-a-bed for the Hub or Weatherby's Furniture store. After several attempts to show how 'easy' it is to pull the thing from a couch to a bed, George got really mad and they had to cut away from live TV when he began to swear at the thing. Found out later from his son, George, that the store routinely tied hide-a-beds down to transport them, but the rope was hidden at one end where George didn't see it."

* … BAKERSFIELDISM: Tommie Sue Self says you might be from Bakersfield if you remember the champage bubbles at the old Brock's department store. "My mother, Patricia Light Self, had worked downtown as a dental assistant and later a Bell telephone operator after she'd arrived from central Texas and before marrying daddy and moving to Shafter. She said the bubbles were to let folks know that Brock's was having a big sale… Sometimes I got to roam around behind the scenes of dressing rooms and stock areas. Others would have us both try out make-up and perfume as we sat on tall stools at the make-up department counter. My brother, Travis, and I had formal photographs taken there too by a Brock's photographer. I really enjoyed standing on the corner by that bubble-making machine, watching it churn out all those bubbles - a la The Lawrence Welk show - and mama's getting those perfume-scented sales postcards from Brock's that I used as bookmarks."

Saturday, February 21, 2015

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy on the "imperial" presidency of Barack Obama

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

 "The old adage is that if you say something enough times, you might just start believing it. For President Obama, the opposite appears to be true when it comes to his authority to unilaterally change
immigration laws. Twenty-two times over the past several years the president said that he does not have the authority to change immigration law on his own. In November of last year, he ignored his own legal counsel and moved forward with an executive order that circumvented Congress.
 "Congress rejects this imperial maneuver and will continue to fight against the eroding of government’s three coequal branches as envisioned by our Founders.
 "And 2,000 miles away from Washington a federal judge in Texas agreed with us in Congress (and the president himself) and ruled that the president’s action violated the law.
 "This is a significant development in our fight against this administration’s reshuffling of the powers held by the legislative and executive branch. But as Americans concerned with the sanctity of the Constitution review this decision, it only took a few days for the president to again stretch the limits of his power.
 In a textbook 'Friday news dump' the Administration admitted more flaws in Obamacare and acted to blunt any political repercussions that it might cause. First, it was discovered that 800,000 Americans received the wrong the tax information from Obamacare and are advised to hold off on filing their taxes. In California, under the state exchange, up to 100,000 Californians received erroneous tax information.  Filing taxes with our broken tax code is hard enough for hardworking families. Now an additional stress is added with this revelation.
 "Second, the administration announced a special enrollment period for individuals without Obamacare (in the millions) so they won’t face the shock of the tax penalty. This is just the latest of the over two-dozen unilateral changes to the law made by the president.
 "Time and again, this administration seems to be performing damage control from the pain of its policies and when faced with legitimate opposition they routinely resort to going at it alone rather than working with Congress.
 "When President Bill Clinton faced a Republican Congress he conceded, 'the era of big government was over.' I have urged President Obama to work with the Congress on the issues facing Americans. Instead, he continues to ignore the will of the American people just last November. And in doing so, he walking himself further down a road that stretches the limits of his authority. House Republicans will not simply sit back and watch."

Thursday, February 19, 2015

US Geological Survey debunks attacks on hydraulic fracturing, Sprouts Farmers Market gets ready to open and what's with this idea of 'free range' parenting anyway?

 * … FRACKING: The anti-fossil fuel movement has largely succeeded in depicting hyrdraulic fracturing as a dangerous new drilling technique that poisons the underground water table. But the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has once again debunked that, noting in a new report that some form of
fracking has been used in this country for the past 70 years, largely without problems. That's been the case in Kern County for decades, but don't expect facts to get in the way of a good narrative. Reducing our dependence on fossil fuels is a legitimate debate, but it should be one based on facts, not hyperbole.

* … PARENTING: Have you heard of the concept of "free range" parenting? It's a movement to (gasp!) actually allow your children to walk to school alone, go to parks alone and otherwise spend their childhood much as most of us did. It is the philosophical opposite of 'helicopter' parenting, and it has come under attack by some folks who feel this endangers children. Is this what we have come to?

  * … SPOTTED: This from Jerry Pearson: "Passed a young (maybe 30s) panhandler yesterday at the corner of Oak Street and California. He was standing, holding his sign asking for money, right in front of a fast food restaurant with a 'now hiring' sign in the window. Makes you wonder, doesn't it?"

 * … RETAIL: If the past is any indicaiton of the future, expect huge crowds at the opening of the new Sprouts Farmers Market and BevMo! at the Shops at RiverWalk. This is a town that loves new restaurants and retail, and both BevMo! and Sprouts are tops in their class. One offers a dizzying array of wine and spirits and the other an impressive variety of fresh food. BevMo! opens on a week from Friday and Sprouts a few days earlier on Feb. 25.

* … OOPS: To err is human, but some miscues are bigger than others. One that got my attention recently was made by the folks over at The Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce, which prides itself as a partner of local businesses. Turns out the Chamber misidentified the ownership of the largest employer in Kern County, Grimmway Farms. Grimmway is the world's largest carrot producer and is proudly family owned by Barbara Grimm-Marshall and Kari Grimm Anderson, both not exactly strangers in the business or philanthropic communities. In its annual busines directory, the Chamber said Grimmway was owned by Roll Global. That's Roll Global as in Paramount Farms, another big player in Kern County but certainly not Grimmway. Ouch. The Chamber issued an email retraction, saying in part: "Grimmway Farms is a family-owned company with strong ties to the community, and serves not only as the county's largest vegetable producer, but the largest agricultural employer as well as largest private employer in Kern County. Again, the Chamber would like to extend our sincerest apologies to Grimmway Farms for this error."

 * … BAKERSFIELDISM: Ronal Reynier says you may be a Bakersfield old timer if you remember George Diaz. "George was a local celebrity, spokesman, and newsman on TV years ago. He might be remembered mostly as the spokesman for Woodys Toy Store. Still can't place him? Maybe you remember him as George Day. In those days the last name of Diaz would not get you in front of the camera. I've been told that in the last days of his life he signed everything; George Diaz. I hope that is true.