Friday, February 20, 2009

Stunning Kern unemployment levels: 28 percent!

Kern County has always had a seasonal unemployment rate around 10 percent, but the breakdown by city is simply stunning. Consider this: Arvin has a jobless rate of 28.4 percent, Delano is 27.8 percent and McFarland is 22.3 percent. At the low end is Kernville who clocks in at 4.3 percent. This is according to the latest Kern Economic Journal run out of Cal State Bakersfield by economist Dr. Abbas Grammy. A sampling of the sobering numbers, from worst to best:

1) Arvin: 28.4 percent
2) Delano: 27.8 percent
3) McFarland: 22.3 percent
4) Wasco: 19.8 percent
5) Lamont: 19.1 percent
6) Shafter: 19 percent
7) Taft: 10.4 percent
8) California City: 8.3 percent
9) Bakersfield: 7.4 percent
10) Ridgecrest: 6 percent
11 Kernville: 4.3 percent

Kidney transplant successful at UCLA

Spoke with Ginny Cowenhoven, Ginger Moorhouse's daughter, who tells me Ginger and her husband John sailed through the kidney transplant at UCLA Medical Center and that everything seems to have gone well. Ginger, publisher of The Californian and my boss, donated one of her kidneys to her husband Thursday. Ginny said her mother was fully alert later in the day and even "feisty" with the nurses as she asked to have her bed pulled alongside John's. The nurses finally relented. There has been an outpouring of support for the couple since Ginger began writing "The Kidney Chronicles" as seen here.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Stan Harper: Cal budget nothing more than a valentine to state employee unions

The sound and the fury over the new state budget (see earlier post here)is bringing everyone out, it seems. Conservative political consultant Stan Harper joined the chorus calling for state Sen. Roy Ashburn's head for supporting the budget compromise. Harper responded to an email from Mark Salvaggio, the former city councilman, in which Salvaggio praised Ashburn's "courage" for helping save the state from financial ruin. Harper then chimed in (while copying in dozens of others, including me) saying Salvaggio was simply off base.

"(I) don't understand why any legislator would want to increase any tax ... let's face it Mark, this was simply a SUPPORT THE UNION budget. Why are we rewarding only the union workers while penalizing the rest of the taxpayers? ... we need to support recall campaigns that are going after those GOP legislators that crossed party lines and fiscally bankrupting California."

Release the hounds! They're after Ashburn's head

State Sen. Roy Ashburn, the Bakersfield Republican, cast one of the key deciding votes to pass the state budget today. For a guy who built is career standing against taxes, it was like a slap in the face to his conservative supporters, who are now after his head. Bakersfield's right-wing talk radio - notably Inga Barks of KERN 1180 and Jaz McKay on KNZR 1560 - was abuzz today about Roy's turnabout, which left everyone wondering: "Why did he do it?" Already termed out in the Senate, street speculation is that Roy is positioning himself for a state appointment, but who knows? Meanwhile, former city councilman Mark Salvaggio threw Roy some love. In an email to me and a ton of others, Mark praised Roy's courage.

"Your legislative courage helped save our state from economic collapse," he wrote. "I hope you are now getting some much-needed rest. Don't fret over Inga Barks' intransigence."

Is the New York Post cartoon racist? You decide

There's a huge brouhaha over a cartoon in today's New York Post, depicting a rabid chimpanzee being shot by police. Critics are saying it is clearly racist (see the Huffington Post report here) but others say it's a takeoff on the bad stimulus bill and the Connecticut chimp that went wild and had to be shot. Is the cartoon implying President Obama is a monkey who should be shot? Or is it simply a takeoff on the rapid chimp who was shot the other day? You be the judge on this one, but it's bound to be fodder for local Bakersfield radio talk show hosts.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Inga takes on Roy: this could get ugly!

State Sen. Roy Ashburn, the Bakersfield Republican who has built a career around his "no more taxes" credentials, finds himself in the middle of the state budget mess as one of the few Republicans who may actually vote for the budget compromise. Lois Henry and The Californian had a good report on it today but she missed the sound and the fury coming from Roy's home town in the form of pitbull local talk show host Inga Barks, a woman not known for her intellectual curiosity or acumen. Via her soapbox on KERN (1180), Inga has spent the past few days lashing out at her buddy Roy for even considering the compromise. This is the same Inga who once said she would never vote for any bond issue (how then are we supposed to build schools?) under any circumstances, and she's clearly infuriated Roy has left the reservation. Make no mistake: Inga does have influence and a following, but it remains to be seen if she can move old Roy back onto the res. That's Inga and Roy in the photo in happier days.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Bakersfield Vision 2020: why it's important

Bakersfield Vision 2020 was a grassroots effort to improve our community by helping our community leaders realize what was important to the public: things like water parks, green space, better zoning, anything to help offset the "hot and dusty" reputation of our city. Why it took a grassroots campaign to help "educate" city and county leaders is another story for another time, but it's worth noting that Vision 2020 is about to celebrate its 10th anniversary. Local consultant and activist Sheryl Barbich has single-handedly (my words, not her's) pushed this agenda for the past decade, and it's good to see her still at it. Certainly others have helped, names like Bernie Herman, Susan Hersberger, Debbie Moreno, John Pryor, David Price, Larry Reider, Jim George and others. Here's a typical Vision 2020 priority, taken from the minutes of its February 11th meeting:

"John Pryor presented a request from council member (Zach) Scrivner for input on this two-mile sound wall along the freeway. Proposals include greenery and mural, both of which are encouraged in the V2020 Action Plan... it was recommended that any murals ... be in keeping with the image of cooler colors to offset the high negatives in Bakersfield's image of hot and dusty."

Glad to see Sheryl and her crew are still in there lobbying. We need more people willing to get involved and roll up their sleeves to help.

If Jeff Jarvis thinks content should be free, why does he charge $27 for his new book?

There's a healthy debate about the future of newspapers and what constitutes "free" content in the age of the internet. One of the biggest proponents of free content is Jeff Jarvis whose "Buzzmachine" blog is always thought provoking. Now comes Alan Mutter, whose "Newsosaur" blog has its own following, challenging Jarvis and some of the assertions he makes in his new book "What Would Google Do?" Mutter writes:

Given Jeff’s deeply held belief that content should be free, why is he charging a retail price of $26.99 for his new book?

The central thesis of Jeff’s book, “What Would Google Do?”, seems to be that music, news stories, legal advice and other types of intellectual property should be free to roam the web to create links and communities which, somehow, Providence eventually will monetize.

So, why is Jeff charging $27.99 for the audio version of his new book?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Why reporters can be their own worst enemy

I am no huge fan of Lance Armstrong, the seven time Tour de France winner with the legendary ego, but he's one of the greatest athletes of all time and his work with the cancer fighting Livestrong Foundation is beyond reproach. Which is why I am posting a link to a video of an interview Lance did recently in which a reporter from a British paper posted a bone-headed question. Lance's measured but firm response is spot on, and the question and they way it was posed only serves to feed into a feeling by the public that the "mainstream media" is biased and cannot be trusted. That's Lance on the left of this photo, taken off Lance's Twitter site.

Publisher heads into kidney transplant at UCLA

Ginger Moorhouse, publisher of The Californian and my boss, heads to UCLA Medical Center this week to donate a kidney to her husband, John Moorhouse, a longtime insurance broker. Ginger has been blogging about her procedure (catch up the the "Kidney Chronicles" here) and it is one dramatic story. UCLA Medical Center is a national leader in these transplants and has amassed an amazing success rate. But it's been a full year of poking and prodding and tests for both Ginger and John as they prepare for this week. The surgery is set for Thursday, February 19th. Keep them in your thoughts.

The rupture is complete: Younger out at law firm

It appears that all hope of Milt Younger returning to the slip-and-fall plaintiff's law firm he helped found is over. If you remember, Milt's nephew Dave Cohn (pictured)took over Chain-Younger when Milt "retired" a few months ago. Then Milt, whose outsized ego is legendary, decided to return to active law (despite some health issues) with his old partner of Tim Lemucchi and launched a series of TV commercials. Meanwhile, word on the street was that Milt, who is 78, was thinking of returning to Chain-Younger (or asking to) but that didn't happen. Instead, Cohn and his partners moved on and today launched a series of new TV spots branding the firm "Chain, Cohn and Stiles," a final blow to any chance Milt might reunite with the old firm.