Tuesday, October 28, 2014

California gas prices dip to near $3 a gallon, and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy warns Republicans that they need to prove they can govern

 * … GAS: The price of gasoline is close to dipping below $3 a gallon, certainly good news for motorists, but it also carries a potential downside. Some economists are worrying that lower gas prices
could prove to be a drag on the nation's energy boom, and that could lead to fewer jobs in energy rich areas like Kern County. In the midst of a shale-gas boom, the national average for regular gasoline hit a four-year low of $3.05 a gallon, and I have spotted it that low at a few stations around town. At the other end, lower gas prices are good for the airline industry, farmers and manufacturing companies.

 * … CLEAN AIR: There's good news and bad regarding the quality of our air. First the good, as reported in The Californian: "Overall, air quality in the Central Valley -- for both ozone levels (summer) and particulate matter (winter) -- is the cleanest and healthiest it's been since anyone has been paying serious attention." That's terrific, but don't think that means government is not watching you and your fireplace. Once again this winter, you can only use your fireplace at the risk of running afoul of the San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District, who frankly would rather you not have a fire at all. That means don't even think about that cozy fire before checking to make sure it is not a "no burn" day.

* … KEVIN: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy had some tough talk for his fellow Republicans recently, warning them that a "failure to govern" after winning the Senate could torpedo any GOP chances of winning the White House in 2016. His warning was being widely interpreted as a sign that the Republicans need to focus on governance and sound policies instead of acting as an obstructionist party. Said McCarthy: “If we don’t capture the House stronger, and the Senate, and prove we could govern, there won’t be a Republican president in 2016.”

* … HAPPY MONDAY: Think your week started poorly? Consider this note I spotted on a friend's Facebook timeline: "Started my day dodging (feces) whilst fishing my daughter's cell phone out of the toilet. Happy Monday everyone!"

* … DISEASE: Did you know that the percentage of adults in Bakersfield who are overweight or obese is approaching 70 percent, and that Kern County ranks 57th out of 50 counties for deaths due to diabetes? That is just one of the more alarming statistics shared with me by Tim Terrio, CEO of Terrio Physical Therapy. To draw attention to diabetes and other chronic illnesses Terrio is offering a free seminar this Saturday to help folks understand the chronic disease epidemic. The seminar will be held at the DoubleTree and will run from 9 a.m. to noon. Seating is limited to the first 100 people.

* … TRASH: Retired oil executive Lynn Blystone just returned from a 3,640 mile drive down the Alaska Highway, down Interstate 5 to Bakersfield and saw no roadside trash "until I got to Bakersfield whose Highway 99 on/off ramps and roadsides made up for all that was absent before. I know Mayor Hall has efforts to address this embarrassing situation. I think it will take more of us cleaning up as I don't believe those who toss trash will diminish. Obtaining clean air is a geographical obstacle, but trash is voluntary."

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Three men posing as Drug Enforcement Agency officers show up at a homeowner's door downtown, and a family who planted winter rye worry they will be targeted by neighbors as water hogs

 * … SCAM: From the scam file comes this from Rivera Westchester: three men show up at a house claiming to be from the Drug Enforcement Agency and demanding to come inside (without a
warrant) to "look around" in case there are drugs inside. They had badges but no guns. The homeowner allowed them inside, but asked them to leave after he became suspicious. Only later did the homeowner call the DEA who told him they would never conduct a search without a warrant and identification. Were they casing the house to return later?

 * … ANOTHER: And then there was this scam that Lamar Kerley encountered. "I just received a message from 'Officer Juliana William' telling me there's an investigation of my phone number and that it  is 'under federal investigation.' The caller had a heavy accent and was very difficult to understand, but I believe that's the name he gave. It's disconcerting when they have your full name (the caller used mine), but it was immediately clear that this was all fake. I went ahead and Googled the phone number and found that others are having the same thing happen to them."

 * … OVERHEARD: In the checkout line at Vons at The Marketplace a woman is telling a friend: "Our winter rye is starting to come in and it looks great. But I am paranoid the neighbors will think we're water hogs."

 * … SERVICE: I don't have much of a sweet tooth so it had been a while since I had shopped at Sweet Surrender Bakery, but it doesn't take long to realize why this locally owned boutique is so wildly popular. The service is excellent, the sweets are off the charts and the women's boutique is fun and impressive.

 * … FOODIE: And speaking of a great locally owned company, I stopped by Tony's Pizza this weekend and left wondering if there is a better pie in town.

* … SPCA: Here's a chance to help the good folks over at the SPCA who do so much to help those pets who are alone and abandoned. The SPCA's Pawtiques & Treasure sake will be held at 3000 Gibson Street on November 1-2 (this Saturday and Sunday). The Saturday hours are 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and Sunday 9 a.m. to noon.

 * … BAKERSFIELDISM: A good one from Ronal Reynier: You may be a Bakersfield old-timer if you remember when "junior colleges were 'free;' and local classes were held in 'Warren Hall' on the BHS campus. The campuses were free to all high school students with a 'C' average. Many instructors let their classes adjourn to Elm Grove or the coffee shop to take non important test. We would leave our books and papers on the outside window ledges (sometimes) and the next day they would still be there. Times have indeed changed. My son and daughter-in-law now teach math in that fine old building. Each time I pass it I not only wonder at its longevity but its history of the thousands of students that
have passed through it's doors. It truly stands as the local icon of education."

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy: Government incompetency is not only hurting us, but also threatening our safety. The blunders are failures by the president and his administration

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

"Restoring government competency

 "President Ronald Reagan once said that the nine most terrifying words in the English language are, 'I’m from the government, and I’m here to help.' If you have opened a paper lately, been to an online news site, or tuned into the evening news, it is likely you have seen how true these words are today. The American people are now second-guessing whether a growing and unaccountable government has the ability to perform its most basic functions.

 "This growing distrust didn’t happen all at once, and it’s more than just bad headlines. Government incompetency is actually hurting individuals across the nation, and threatening our safety too. The Veterans Administration for years did not treat patients in a timely manner and covered up the backlogs; the IRS did not adequately preserve basic records; the Administration spent more than $2.1 billion on a broken and unsecure website to facilitate a law that Americans don't like; the Secret Service failed to protect the White House; and on foreign policy, nobody thinks America is safer or stronger than we were six years ago. The list goes on and on.

 "The recent blunders and scandals are not just the product of failed policy, but represent serious management failures by the President and his Administration. Restoring competency in government requires both shrinking government to its appropriate scope and mission and reforming how government operates in its core sphere. We must work to end this cycle of failings and make government functional again.

 "Under my leadership the House of Representatives will continue to focus on reforming and streamlining federal agencies so government works as it should. We have already made progress to this end by passing legislation that streamlines the permitting process for mining and energy development, and have begun looking at reforms to the agencies such as the Food and Drug Administration.

"Performing these functions are important for our community as we continue to work towards treatments and vaccines for Valley Fever and create certainty that will allow our energy producers and farmers to continue to produce the fuel and food that powers our nation.

 "In our daily lives we experience efficiency in the way we bank, shop, and pay our bills. Why should we hold government to a lower standard? Government must be smaller, more effective, and more efficient. That is what we expect and what we demand. That means we must ensure that our goals are feasible, that government changes with the changing times, and we never accept problems, inefficiency, and incompetency just because it’s government. Real, modernizing reform is possible and the House of Representatives is committed to achieving it.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Downtown Bakersfield gets a new bistro, and Texas Rangers pitcher Colby Lewis stops by the Californian studio to talk about his year

 * … FOODIE: Another privately owned restaurant has opened downtown, this one a cozy bistro that features soft leather couches, a comfortable, homey interior, a wide selection of drinks and light salads and sandwiches. It's called CraSh Lounge and it is located on Eye Street next to the Caribbean eatery Mama Roomba. Check out the Mephistopheles panini but be warned it is spicy. Opened by Muertos Lounge owner Shawna Haddad-Byers, CraSh should not be confused with another relatively new wine bar and restaurant called Krush located in the Northwest off Hageman Road. Both are excellent choices for a quick bite. (a panini by CraSh and a view of the inside of Krush)

* … COLBY: It was good to see former Bakersfield College standout pitcher Colby Lewis in the California video studio this week, talking to local sportscaster Greg Kerr about his year with the Texas Rangers after coming off hip surgery. Lewis managed to pick up 10 wins in a shortened year and is feeling good and back in form. Kerr hosts a new weekly show streamed live on Bakersfield.com called "The Renegade Report," devoted to BC athletics. It airs every Thursday at 11 a.m.

* …. SCAM: Dwayne Ardis shared his story about how to avoid a scam: "I was getting gas at the Chevron/Fast Trip station at White Lane and Gosford one day when a lady approached me and asked me if I could help her get back home to Tehachapi because she ran out of gas. I said sure but I also requested to see her driver’s license to verify she lived in Tehachapi. She gave me a dirty look and walked away. Scam averted."

 * … GOOD FORM: Kudos to the woman who regularly pulls a litter barrel and cleans up trash along Alfred Harrell Highway and Fairfax Road. Said a reader: "May you be richly rewarded for all your time and effort  It is wonderful to have a leisure drive up the hill on a nice clean highway."

 * … WASTE: Amid the long drought, Jon Stuebbe wonders why "the Beach Park men’s toilet still has a trough urinal with a constantly running waterfall of water? Imagine how many million gallons of water run through it in a year. Apparently the water used by the city Parks and Recreation comes from a different and inexhaustible source."

 * … BLUE STAR: The Blue Star Moms, a group of mothers of current service members of all branches of the armed forces, is hosting a blood drive from Nov. 10 to Nov. 15. The group is looking for folks to donate blood at the two branches of the Houchin Community Blood Bank and is soliciting donations for care packages for military men and women stationed overseas.

 * … PETS: Remember that Busters Pet Fund, a group that helps abandoned and rescued pets, is collecting blankets and old towels at the Petco on Gosford Road this weekend.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Cal State Bakersfield to christen new state-of-the-art dorms for 500 students and a scammer is busted when he hits up the same generous couple

 * … SCAMS: Can you stand another story on people getting scammed out of their money? This one comes compliments of Irene Edmonds, who was going to a local restaurant with her husband Tom
when they were approached by a clean-cut man who claimed he was trying to get back to Fresno after his truck broke down. "For some reason, probably because he was so clean cut looking,
we gave him $20, figuring he was telling the truth and not looking for booze money… Maybe a month later we were going to an event at the Museum of Art and he approaches us again, same story. We informed him that we had given him money recently and he had that story then too… I would say that the look he gave us was pure hate. If I had been alone I would have been scared."

 * … WASTE: Hats off to the folks over at the Kern County Waste Management Department who opened their doors this past weekend to accept household hazardous waste. I dropped off some old paint and pesticides that had cluttered my garage and the process was simple and efficient. The facility is located at 4951 Standard Street and is open to the public Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Isn't it nice when local government works?

 * … CSUB: There is some really good news out at Cal State Bakersfield where they are getting ready to christen the new student dormitories. A ribbon cutting is set for Tuesday, Nov. 18. The dorms will house some 500 students, all part of President Horace Mitchell's vision to bring a true "campus experience" to the local university.

 * … HALLOWEEN: Halloween is coming up and Bakersfield police will be out in force with DUI checkpoints. Unfortunately, Halloween is one of the deadliest nights of the year for alcohol-related accidents. Be safe and if you drink, don't drive.

 * … OVERHEARD: A reader shared these thoughts on water rationing he has heard on the street: "Recent opinions I've encountered are 'I'm not going to stop overseeding rye grass in winter until they pass a law' and 'I'm going to continue overseeding in an effort not to put gardeners out of work.'  Is denial just a river in Egypt? Good news: in a recent visit to Famous Dave's restaurant recently, some nice gentleman paid for dinner, honoring the military service of one person at the table. He said 'I just wanted to show my son a real hero'. I was blown away. And 'Famous CJ' was the greatest waiter.  Thank you for such a nice gesture whoever you are! Now I will make sure to pass that favor on."

 * … MOVIE: A friend passed along a note that at 1 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 8, TCM (Turner Classic Movies)  will be airing the movie Hells Angels on Wheels. Said a reader: "This was made in 1967 mostly here in Bakersfield. Hart Park, the road to Hart Park, the Tilt-A-Wheel and other rides at Hart Park are made to look like a carnival. Also it shows Outlaw Hill, The Bakersfield Inn (Mexican tiles) and I think scenes using a church at the Pioneer Village (Kern County Museum).

Monday, October 20, 2014

House Majority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy: Government should be helping to solve our water problems, not imposing more bureaucracy and red tape

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

 "This week I joined agricultural leaders and policymakers from across the state to discuss the future of our agricultural industry at the first annual Kern County Agricultural Summit hosted by Bakersfield College. The importance of Kern County agriculture to our community is highlighted by the $6.7
billion worth of products produced in 2013. And this significance extends beyond county lines as we greatly contribute to California’s overall production, which happens to be the top agriculture producing state in the U.S. with over 80,000 farms and ranches.

 "The Summit came at a significant time for our community. For generations before us to the present, the rich Central Valley soil and long days of sun have established us as America’s food basket and have turned the ole shantytowns from the Grapes of Wrath into the community we all cherish today. But cultivating the land is hard work and the reliance on cooperation from Mother Nature is never certain. Our historic drought reminds us of that every day. But compounding the naturally occurring impacts are regulations from Sacramento and Washington to preserve the Delta smelt in lieu of water deliveries to our communities.

  "There is no doubt that the issue of water is the top priority for our agriculture industry and our state. What we never expected however, nor should any community anticipate, is our government becoming so disconnected from the needs and realities of the communities they are supposed to serve.

 "Our government should be focused on solving problems that exist within our communities and society; not piling onto challenges that are not proven to exist with more bureaucracy and regulations. In Washington, I am leading the House in a renewed approach to governing that focuses on results. This will be critical as we continue to forge a solution on a long-term California water bill. A result-oriented approach to a successful water bill will ensure water moves through the Delta, benefits State Water Project contractors, and creates more storage – including dams and groundwater banking. Absent these provisions, any California water bill will simply be business as usual. And that is unacceptable.

 "The drought’s effects are a daily reminder of the damage harmful governmental policies can have on our community.  Through events like this week’s Agricultural Summit, it will be imperative that as a community we remain informed on the actions from Sacramento and Washington and involved in working to reverse them. In Washington, my work to this approach drives me every day.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Monday's Bako Bits: Is anyone else sick of the political attack ads that have flooded the airways? And veteran reporter Steve Swenson shares his battle with pancreatic cancer

 * … POLITICS: Is anyone else sick of the political attack ads that have flooded the airways? You'd think there would be weightier issues than how many times Pedro Rios voted while serving on the
Delano city council, or if Andy Vidak had suddenly "sold out" to the Sacramento politicians. But polling shows attack ads work, so get ready for another couple weeks of the incessant negativity.

 * … SEVEN OAKS: Hats off to the Seven Oaks homeowner who took things in his own hands after someone's dog kept leaving unwanted presents behind on his lawn. The homeowner put a small sign in the yard reading: "Is it really that difficult to pick up your dog's poop? Be a good neighbor!!" Ah, first world problems behind the gates.

 * … STEVE: Did you catch the essay by Steve Swenson in Sunday's Californian about his battle with pancreatic cancer? Steve spent 33 years as a reporter so it's no surprise that he writes with such honesty and wit, but this piece was moving in its authenticity and candor. Here's hoping Steve has many years left swinging his golf clubs and making that birdie now and then.

* … ENDEAVOR: It was so nice to see so many organizations reaching out to Endeavor Elementary School after someone burned down its playground equipment. This is one of the many things that gives this community such heart. Said Jay Stodder: "As published in the Californian Thursday,  several groups have stepped up to help pay for Endeavor Elementary  School's playground that was recently destroyed by arsonists. Among them is my place of employment, the Gaslight Melodrama in Rosedale. We're adding a benefit performance of Witches of Westchester to our schedule: Thursday October 24, 7 p.m."

 * … SCAMS: Yet another reader weighed in on this panhandlers who hit us up for money at local gas stations. "Another funny thing happened at that same station about a year ago. I was filling my car with gas when a gentleman with a young girl walked up to me and said that his wife and son were in an automobile accident near Fresno. He and his daughter needed bus fare to go to Fresno to be with them in the hospital. About two weeks later, the same gentleman at the same station approached me and said that his mother was near death at a hospital in Fresno and he needed bus fare hoping to visit her before she died.  I said, 'I'm sorry to hear that so much tragedy has happened to your family recently. Two weeks ago you needed money to go to Fresno to see your wife and son in a hospital in Fresno.'  If looks could kill… He left the station without talking to anyone else."

* … MEMORIES: Ronal Reynier is one reader who enjoys it when we reprint old front pages of The Californian. A recent one from 1911 raised a few questions for him:  "Where have they gone?" he asked, referring to all the small communities in the valley. "In this issue they print about Toltec and the Catholic Colonization in the Rio Bravo district. In this era each oilfield and farming area had their own small village. Most are long gone or swallowed up by other cities such as Bakersfield; but the names live on. The most common live on in our daily lives as areas we know of as Rosedale, Greenacres, Rio Bravo, Smith's Corners, Greenfield, Heck's Corners, or how about Mexican Colony?  Its been in the news a lot lately; how many of you have ever been to Tupman? From a 1916 map of Kern County I counted 47 that are no longer there."

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Bako Bits: beware of all those panhandlers at our local gas stations and who in the world would put a metal clamp on a dog's leg to keep him tethered?

 * … SCAMS: I can't get enough of these scams going on around town. Listen to this reader who had an encounter at the downtown AM/PM gas station where a nicely dressed young man was seen using a plastic container to pour gas into his own car. "While I was filling my car, I saw him talking to another
customer and heard him say he ran out of gas in the country; a friend picked him up, and brought him to the gas station.  'If you could just fill my gas can with gas, I think I will have enough to get my car back into town.' Sounds honest enough; clean cut guy; not asking for money. But he would take the full gas can to his car, parked behind Subway, poured it in his car tank and then went back to the station, telling the same story to another unsuspecting customer."

 * … BAD FORM: This week brought a torrent of bad news, starting with the discovery of a stray black dog who was found with a large metal clamp piercing his leg. The clamp was used to tether the dog to a post, and veterinarians believe it was put there about a week ago. What kind of monster would do this to a dog? Then, later this week, someone burned down the playground equipment at Endeavor Elementary School in Rosedale.

 * … GOOD ADVICE: But every bad deed is answered by someone like Drew Douglas, who at just 9 years old has something to say about our litter problem. In a well thought note to The Californian, she said this: "Littering is bad but people do it anyway… Littering hurts animals, the ground and the earth. If you’re one of those people, then I would try to stop as much as you can. Littering destroys the world with trash! Me and my friend found all kinds of trash at our school and we threw it away. Don’t you want a better, cleaner place to live too?" Sound advice.

* … FOODIE: I have two recommendations if you are in the downtown area: The Union Station Deli across from the post office on 18th Street offers excellent service and a killer pot pie soup, and The Wall Street Cafe on L Street features one of the best beet salads I have ever had.

 * … CARR: Local talk radio host Ralph Bailey, who boasts an impressive deep knowledge of sports and the Oakland Raiders in particular, dropped me a note to share a few differences between the pro football debuts of brothers David and Derek Carr. "In David's first 167 pass attempts he was sacked 41 times, while Derek, even behind the blocking of my Raiders, has only hit the ground three times, according to CBS Sports. From a loyal yet miserable Raider fan." Thanks Ralph. (file photos of the Carr brothers)

 * … KUDOS: Hats off to the folks at Chevron for volunteering to clean up trash along China Grade Loop. Said reader Carole Cohen: "There were at least 15-20 volunteers working, and the before/after difference is quite spectacular. Take a drive through the area - start at Manor - and enjoy the results of their hard work. Thanks to all who participated for a job well done."

 * … PETS: The other day I mentioned the annual effort to collect blankets for stray dogs and cats that is planned for Saturday, Oct. 25, at the Petco on Gosford Road. Turns out I didn't correctly identify the group accurately. The organization is called Busters Pet Fund. Kudos to these folks who care for the strays among us.