Thursday, May 28, 2015

"Sheer, naked chutzpah:" The same unions that helped pass the $15 an hour minimum wage law in Los Angeles are now asking to be exempt so union shops can pay lower salaries

 * ... UNIONS: In what one commentator called "sheer, naked chutzpah," the same unions that helped pass a $15 an hour minimum wage law in Los Angeles are now asking to be exempt from the law. That's right, the county Federation of Labor is saying collective bargaining agreements should trump
the local minimum wage law. As reported in the Los Angeles Times: "Rusty Hicks, who heads the county Federation of Labor and helps lead the Raise the Wage coalition, said Tuesday night that companies with workers represented by unions should have leeway to negotiate a wage below that mandated by the law." And they wonder why the public has grown so cynical.

 * ... LOFTS: What is it they say about one man's trash is another man's treasure? That seems to be the issue surrounding a proposed loft project on 18th Street, which some see as urban in-fill at its
finest and others see as, well, something less than that. I wrote about this earlier this week, pointing out that local businessman John Sarad was a part of the opposition. That, of course, prompted a call from Sarad to clarify his stand, and he wondered aloud why I would single him out as a vocal opponent. (Memo to John: You have seven rental houses, an apartment building, the Haberfelde Building and you have restored close to 20 homes. Your presence downtown is well known and you always make sure your voice is heard). Sarad told me he is not opposed to the project itself but wants changes that would reduce its size and possibly change its design. "It's too overpowering," he said, "and would be more appropriate somewhere else." The lofts are the idea of local Realtor Eydie Gibson and a group of investors who want to build 28 units with 31 on-site parking spaces. Sarad argued the contemporary design "clashes" with the more historic nature of the neighborhood. He also took issue with the my suggestion there could be a conflict by the fact that Ward 2 city councilman Terry Maxwell, whose district covers downtown, is his tenant at the Sarad-owned Haberfelde Building. "Terry is a tenant, that's all," he said. Opponents have given Gibson a long list of changes that may make the project more compatible. Is there room for compromise?

 * ... BAD FORM: A regular reader sent me this note and asked to remain unidentified: "You recently mentioned in your column the 'decorum factor' exhibited or non-existent during graduation ceremonies. We are in close proximity to the convention center where many of these ceremonies take place. I have observed, on more than a dozen occasions, folks arriving for these ceremonies and not wanting to pay parking fees, park along the side streets near the convention center. Many of these people run through the nearby fast food restaurants for food, and then for some reason, feel privileged to bestow their garbage at the doors of the business offices near the arena. Obviously, the exhibition of disrespect is not just saved for the ceremony."

 * ... OVERHEARD: A young woman is telling a friend: "I feel terrible about what's happening in Burundi and all. Where is it anyway?"

 * ... SPOTTED: I spotted this on Twitter: "Life is too short for fake butter, cheese or people.

* ... HONOR FLIGHT: Honor Flight has won a special place in our hearts for flying World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit the war memorials. Now, it is taking the next step by flying Vietnam veterans there for the same purpose. Said Honor Flight volunteer Lili Crommett-Marsh:
"Honor Flight is 'breaking ranks' this Friday (today) by flying over 100 Vietnam vets to THEIR memorial in D.C. We encourage the community to fill the Icardo Center at Cal State on Sunday at 10 p.m., to give these heroes the welcome home they have never received 40 years ago."

 * ... MEMORIES: LaVonne Templeton loves all the stories about the old theaters that are now long gone. "I love all these stories of the various thearters in town.  I was in high school in the 1950s and remember very well wearing high heel shoes for the very first time and trying to climb the very steep stairs in the balcony at the California theater."

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The battle over a proposed lofts project downtown reveals the connections and potential conflicts in our town, and who takes their $300,000 McLaren to Costco?

* ... LOFTS: This is a town of connections and you don't have to look far before you run into potential conflicts. Consider for example the attempt by local Realtor Edith Gibson and a group of investors to build lofts on 18th Street downtown. The project will provide much needed "in fill" housing in a dense downtown area already populated with commercial businesses and multi-family apartment buildings.
Sounds reasonable right? Well, leading the opposition is John Sarad, owner of the Haberfelde Building as well as a slew of rentals downtown that would compete with the lofts for tenants. Sarad says the project is out of character with downtown and will take up  valuable street parking, even though plans include 31 on-site parking spaces for 28 tenants. Both sides are appealing to Terry Maxwell, the Ward 2 city councilman whose district includes that area of 18th Street. So far, so good. But it turns out Maxwell's downtown eatery, TL Maxwell's Restaurant and Bar, is located on the ground floor of the Haberfelde building, which of course is owned by Sarad. Is this a conflict or just another coincidence of living in a small town? Stay tuned.

 * ... MUSIC FESTIVAL: Here's some good feedback on George Martin's first Rock and Country Music Festival out at the Kern County Museum. Said Kevin Cornelius: "Just wanted to say thank you to George Martin and company for a first class music festival... The weather was great, entertainment exceptional, food good and all the volunteers were as friendly and helpful as they come. My wife commented on how the restrooms were kept clean through the entire day. This made her a happy camper. Hope to see it come back next year!"

* ... THEFTS: What started as the occasional theft has evolved into a full scale epidemic. I am talking about the thieves who follow U.S. Postal Service and UPS delivery trucks throughout the city and steal packages off front porches. In the last week I have been told of thefts in the Southwest, downtown and the Northwest.

* … SPOTTED: On Twitter was this bit of advice: "The lottery gives you a 1 in 200 million chance you won't go to work tomorrow. Alcohol gives you 1 in 5."

 * … BAD FORM: David Salas commutes to Santa Clarita and regularly spots trucks from local businesses traveling south and north. One, bearing a logo saying "safety is no accident," whizzed past him going 85 miles per hour. "That is an accident waiting to happen," he noted.

 * ... MCLAREN: Susan Peninger was leaving Costco and headed to her car when she noticed an odd looking car loading groceries into his hood. "The gentleman unloaded the goods from the car into the 'trunk'-  which just happened to be exactly where the engine in my Honda Civic is located, in the front. I wasn’t the only one taking pictures as it was a sight. When I got home I did some online research and came to the conclusion that someone who owns a $300,000 plus McLaren  has to make a Costco run now and then!"

 * ... DROUGHT: More than a few of us have already grown weary of the finger pointing during this long drought. Said Linda Dietzel: "Discussing and sharing information with our neighbors can hardly be compared to being a 'rat fink.' The water belongs to all of us. The responsibility to conserve water belongs to all of us. Let's stand united, work as a team and come through this together."

Sunday, May 24, 2015

College students demand a "safe" environment from anything that "triggers" negativity, but isn't that all part of freedom of speech on this Memorial Day weekend?

 * ... FREEDOM: Memorial Day is a time to reflect and appreciate those who gave their lives for our freedoms. But with those freedoms comes responsibility, as Peggy Noonan cited in her Saturday column in the Wall Street Journal. Noonan was writing about the use of "micro aggressions" and "triggering" on college campuses, in which some students demand a "safe" environment from
anything that might "trigger" negative feelings. Said Noonan: "Life gives you potentials for freedom, creativity, achievement, love, all sorts of beautiful things, but none of us are 'safe.' And you are especially not safe in an atmosphere of true freedom. People will say and do things that are wrong, stupid, unkind, meant to injure. They’ll bring up subjects you find upsetting. It’s uncomfortable. But isn’t that the price we pay for freedom of speech? You can ask for courtesy, sensitivity and dignity. You can show others those things, too, as a way of encouraging them. But if you constantly feel anxious and frightened by what you encounter in life, are we sure that means the world must reorder itself? Might it mean you need a lot of therapy?"

  * ...  OVERHEARD: John R. Tubbesing was helping plant a field of American flags at the Parks and River Walk when someone asked if there were truly more than 1,000 flags. "Yes," someone answered, "there's over a thousand flags. We made sure because we don't want Lois Henry counting them all."

* … MUDDING: I managed to get in a long hike in the hills above Hart Park after the rain Friday, and besides the testosterone fueled Jeeps and pickups doing doughnuts in the mud (parents of boys tell me that's called 'mudding'), I had the place all to myself. But it left me sad that this wonderful property, until recently designed to become a "Great Park" for the public, will one day be developed.

  * … SOUTHERN CHARM: An elegant and classy local woman formerly from Virginia, asked how she is doing, replies with this bit of Southern charm: "I am up and taking nourishment."

 * … TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: Alvin Gregorio read my recent post on being in love ('I've never been in love, but I imagine it is similar to the feeling you get when you see your food coming in a restaurant') with this memory: "I had a longtime (adult) girlfriend who would sort of bounce in her booth-seat as the waiter approached with her food. It was the cutest and most endearing thing ever."

 * ... OVERHEARD: At the new TJ Maxx on Stockade Highway, a woman tells a cashier: "I live in the northeast and waited until everyone was out of town for Memorial Day to come here. I feel I have the whole town to myself."

 * ... MEMORIES: Jack Rademacher dropped me a note asking if I could stomach yet another memory of the old movie theaters in town. Why yes, Jack, I can. So here he goes: "My uncle Charlie was a projectionist at the California Theater. As Kern County Union High School students, my brother and I visited him, high up in the projection booth... The booth was an unbearable hot box and a potential fire trap. An escape hatch was provided at the north wall with a flex ladder dropped down to the alley, in the event of an internal fire."

Friday, May 22, 2015

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, House Majority Leader, gives tribute to those who gave it all for our freedoms

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

 "We all know the Gettysburg Address: “Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are
created equal.”

 But how often do we think about the rest of the speech? Lincoln ended his address saying:

“The world will little note, nor long remember, what we say here, but can never forget what they did here. It is for us, the living, rather to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they have, thus far, so nobly carried on. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain; that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom; and that this government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

 On this Memorial Day, we remember our fallen heroes who gave their lives, their “last full measure of devotion,” so that we could remain free, so that the world would not suffer under tyranny, so that our families could remain safe.

 On this bittersweet day, we must remember those who fought and died for us, but we also must honor them by committing ourselves to the future.

 Let us remember that this great country is unique and that we remain a beacon of freedom and hope for the world. Let us remember that we stand for human dignity and our inherent moral equality. And let us never forget that we are exceptional precisely because of the principles that so many of our men and women in our history have died for. As a country, we must live each day for those principles.

Today, we enjoy a long weekend. We probably get to spend a little extra time with our families and friends. We can barbecue, sit in the sun, play some baseball and football, and enjoy all of the little things that we have living in a free and independent nation. But throughout this day and throughout our community, we must remember—we must remember those who gave everything in defense of our nation. We are a grateful community and we must never forget.

 Our nation—and so many other nations—remain free because of our servicemen and our servicewomen. Today and every other day, we must honor those who made the ultimate sacrifice so we can enjoy our freedoms.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Music festivals, menudo cook-off, craft beer fest and The Eagles highlight the weekend, and northeast homeowners hold an Irish wake for a 60-foot tall coastal redwood tree

 * ... FESTIVALS: How fat is your wallet these days? I'm asking because if you are looking for something do this this Memorial Day weekend, there are plenty of festivals and music acts that will
be happy to take your money. You can start with George Martin's huge Rock and Country Music and Art Festival Saturday at the Kern County Museum featuring a couple dozen familiar acts like Leann Rimes, Chubby Checker and Eddie Money. If that is too pricey, head over to the CSUB amphi-theater for the Craft Beer Festival hosted by Moo Creamery and Imbibe Wine and Spirits. Fighting a hangover? Then the Kern Hispanic Chamber's Menudo Festival may be right for you at the fairgrounds, or you can save your money and try to score a ticket to The Eagles concert at Rabobank Arena on Tuesday. On the less expensive side, you might check out the Average White Band appearing Friday evening at the Park at River Walk, where tickets are just $15.

* ... DROUGHT: Bob Hartshorn sent me this missive about the drought: "I have a comment regarding the California water conservation efforts/laws. I am waiting for the port-a-potties to be lined up at the Sacramento legislative offices, so our lawmakers can lead by example. Also, I would like to suggest to the lady who goes to her neighbor to ask/tell him not to wash out the gutters. Invite that gentleman to observe you taking a shower so the he can make sure you aren't taking too much time. After all, it's for the common good.

 * ... SPOTTED: Saw this on Twitter the other day: "I've never been in love, but I imagine it's similar to the feeling you get when you see your food coming in a restaurant."

 * ... VISUAL CLUTTER: Here's a thoughtful note from  Anthony Malon: "What's with all the 'I buy houses' signs everywhere? Don't they ever have to take them down ? If there is a law, it's easy to enforce they have a phone number on the signs. Looks terrible on top of all the yards sales signs on Saturday."

 * ... GRANTS: One of the more generous benefactors in town is The Bakersfield Californian (family) Foundation, which recently announced yet more grants. Among the recipients were the College Dream Fund, $3,200 for scholarships; Have a Heart Human Society, $3,500; Kern Agricultural Foundation, $4,000 for scholarships;  Kern Athletic Fencing Foundation, $7,500; Salvation Army, $11,520; Keep Bakersfield Beautiful, $14,500 for two community gardens; Bit-O-Heaven Ranch, $25,000 in matching funds; and the Wings of Rescue, $28,000 for its Saving Bakersfield Shelter Pets project.                                                                                  

* ... IRISH WAKE: What's the proper way to say goodbye to a stately old tree? How about an old fashioned Irish wake? John Rodgers lives on Christmas Tree Lane in the Northeast and has the tallest coastal redwood tree on the block. "We have been told we need to remove it since it is six feet from our home and is causing damage to our foundation. Needless to say we are not happy having to do this. We are posting it on Facebook and hoping folks will come for one last look at the tree and share a toast with us."

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A reader takes on those who abuse dogs and show a lack of decorum, while I praise the personal connections that make Bakersfield home

 * ... ANIMAL ABUSE: If you want to get someone's attention, turn the conversation to how some people treat their pets. This note from Jean Hughes Gutierrez hit home: "Your recent comment on dogs being dumped on Breckenridge Road and being attacked and eaten by wild animals was typical
of what is going on in this town. Add that to the impatient driver who ran over a mother duck and tiny babies because he got tired of waiting for them to move on Truxtun, and the father who attacked and threw his infant for too much crying. What is in common?  These living, feeling beings are helpless and dependent on powerful humans to be caring and kind. Spaying and neutering is only a small part of ending the dumping of pets who are considered throw aways when they become big, boring, or costly. The real problem is  the mind set of Bakersfield residents, combined with the systematic taking away of reasonably safe living space for both abandoned domestic animals and wild animals.  This is done because man thinks he is entitled to anything he wants, any time he wants, at any cost. Babies and animals are of little concern. The unspeakable final travesty? People gripe because domestic and wild animals eliminate on their property. And the solution, in their sick minds, is to not feed them if starving.  I guess the animals are supposed to hold their stool and urine, and ignore their hunger pangs, until they die. An we are the "superior" species?"

 * ... OUR TOWN: One of the benefits of living here is the ability to making lasting connections and friendships that withstand the test of time. I am not referring to close friends (although certainly those are important) but rather the local businessmen and women on whom we rely to furnish our homes, repair our appliances and paint our homes. I did business with Jerry Warren and his company, Bakersfield Plumbing, for years until his untimely death in 2011. Along with his wife, Jennie, I was always afforded fast, efficient service, always with a smile. (I spent more time chatting with Jerry about his family and life than he did working on my plumbing) Thanks to a stubborn drain in my old home, I recently got to meet Jerry's son, Tony, who carries on the family business and does it with his father's charisma and honesty. It's that small town feeling, and it is something to appreciate.

* ... DROUGHT: Sue Castro weighed in on the woman who confronted a neighbor for washing out his gutters. "If one of my neighbors came to my door and told me to 'please not do it again' regarding some water crime I committed, I would tell her to mind her own business. She's all proud of what she did when she should be embarrassed at being a rat fink. This drought fracas is getting out of hand.  It's like mass hysteria.  Really, people, God will open up the clouds in His time just like He always does after years of keeping it dry to show us who is boss! Remember all the other droughts we have gone through? The only difference with this one is a little old smelt.  I say kill the smelt and send us the wasted water going out to the ocean. And guys, somebody has pulled an Orsen Welles on you all.  Stop freaking out."

 * ... TAKE MY WIFE: And speaking of the drought, Don Kurtz added this: "Trying to comply with the orders from Gov. Brown on saving water, I told my wife we could shower together. She told me she would rather pay the $10,000 fine!"

 * ... COUNTRY CLUB: Up at the Bakersfield County Club there is a lot of work being done to make sure the club uses as little water as necessary. Dr. C. Allen Anderson wrote to praise the club’s president, Kevin Small, and his board of directors and ground superintendent, Steve Scarborough. "I was recently invited as a member’s guest to play golf at BCC. I was pleased to see several large and strategic areas of the course had been renovated into drought resistant landscaping. Evidently, these measures have been underway long before the media and government directed us all to conserve. These areas are beautiful and yet require very little water. We could all take a lesson from BCC."

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Will a winter El Nino save California from the long drought? And can we please display some decorum during our high school graduations?

 * ...  EL NINO: There is a long way to go, but there are early signs that California could be in for an extremely rainy period next winter. That's the word from weather forecasters who say a strong El
Nino is forming near the equator. According to a climatologist quoted in The Los Angeles Times,  "it could be ... potentially the beginning of the end of the drought." Of course a lot can happen before that happens - other signs that El Ninos were forming didn't pan out - but we have to keep hope alive.

  * ... HIGH SCHOOL: With high school graduations coming up, is it too much to ask folks to show some decorum during the ceremonies? Retired high school teacher Craig Holland summed it recently with this post on his Facebook page: "I am sooo glad I don't have to sit through another high school graduation. Rude low life people making a disrespectful circus out of what should be a respectful occasion. They don't know the difference between a graduation ceremony and a pro wrestling bout. It is embarrassing for the faculty. That is why I took tickets at STHS (Stockade High) graduation the last half dozen years, and scooted out the door at the mention or the first grad's name. I was embarrassed for the kids and for everyone. I went directly to a watering hole and respectfully raised a glass to 'my kids' and then went home."

 * ... BAD FORM: Here's hoping a string of really bad luck follows the people who stole the right front rim and tire off a local teenager's 2008 Ford Fusion in the Northwest, leaving the car jacked up and its owner with a $600 bill to replace it. Not a good way to start the day.

 * ... GOOD FORM: Yvonne Torres was driving to work recently when she almost ran over a jaywalker at 19th Street and Chester Avenue. The jaywalker was wearing a Halliburton uniform, but Torres then realized he was crossing the street to rescue an elderly woman who was trying to get her wheel chair out of her car. "It made me feel guilty about getting upset. I want to commend this employee for going above and beyond his job. It shows what kind of a people Halliburton has working for  them. When you think people are not watching people are. Thank you Halliburton!"

 * ... OVERHEARD: At Tahoe Joe's a young mother is having a drink at happy hour and is overheard telling a friend about a neighbor: "If I see one more 'selfie' with her children I am going to throw up."

* ... FOODIE: A new lunch and dinner menu has been rolled out at The Mark Restaurant on 19th Street, and it's worth a look. There are now three signature hamburgers on the menu, as well as a Ruben that is outstanding. Meanwhile, if you are a fan of beets, as I am, try the outstanding three-beet salad at Valentien.

* ... SCAM: An old scam is making the rounds again. Listen to this from Rose Harris of Wasco, who received a call from someone claiming to be from the Publisher's Clearinghouse saying she had won $980, but they wanted a $350 'delivery charge.' "They said 'Would you like a TV fanfare or a private deposit?' I said neither and I am not paying you anything... I hung up. The caller ID showed an area code in Kingston, Jamaica."

Saturday, May 16, 2015

McCarthy: It is both "ridiculous and insulting" that President Obama wants to strike a nuclear deal with Iran without consulting Congresss

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

"The fundamental responsibility of our government is the defense of our nation. Today, the House of
Representatives passed the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, which gives our Armed Forces the tools they need to defeat any threat to our nation, whether it be a terrorist cell or rogue state. Much of the hard work that will go into translating this legislation into action will take place right here in our community, at world-class laboratories and testing facilities like those at the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake and the Air Force Test Center on Edwards Air Force Base.

"The men and women in our military must have the latest technology and best equipment to achieve their mission. No matter how sophisticated our weapons become, however, it will always be the people behind the machines who are our greatest investment. This bill prohibits the Department of Defense from furloughing Working Capital Fund employees – like those who design and test weapon systems at China Lake. This bill authorizes Defense laboratories and test centers at Edwards and China Lake to hire more personnel directly, reducing bureaucracy by cutting out the Federal employment system, which is so slow and inefficient that it drives away many bright students who would otherwise serve their country. And just as this legislation strengthens those supporting the warfighter, it ensures that China Lake will have the land necessary for the Navy to continue to push the limits of revolutionary prototype technologies.

 "Keeping our nation secure and supporting the men and women who serve our country is one of Congress’ most fundamental duties. The House has acted. I hope the Senate quickly takes up the bill, so that our military community can receive the certainty they need and deserve.

 "Also this week, the House passed H.R 1191, the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act.

 "The United States began negotiations with Iran to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons, but the framework for a deal that President Obama presented us would not accomplish that objective. The American people and their representatives are rightly concerned about the direction of the negotiations, the threat of a nuclear Iran, and the President’s desire to unilaterally strike a deal.

 "It is both ridiculous and insulting that the President wants to bind our country to an agreement without even consulting the people’s elected representatives, especially since so many are concerned about the terms of a proposed deal. That’s why the House has acted this week, passing a bill that will give Congress the authority to review the Iran nuclear deal. It will stop the President from unilaterally lifting Congressional sanctions against Iran while we review the deal. It will require regular updates from the Administration on Iran’s compliance. And it will give the people’s representatives a say—a check and balance—as the Constitution requires.

 "This legislation is a minimum. The President should take it as a message from Congress that, as the negotiations go forward, the Administration must insist on major improvements to what is currently a dangerous initial understanding with Iran.