Saturday, April 11, 2009

Oxy moves 350 to new River Walk buildings

If you were wondering who was going to occupy that new domed building right behind the PF Chang's and BJ's Roadhouse grill on Stockdale Highway (shown here), think no longer. Turns out that Occidental Petroleum will use that building and three others in the vicinity to house 350 employees who now work at the Elk Hills facility out near Taft. The other buildings include those across Stockdale Highway and the old Castle & Cooke headquarters across Old River Road from the Elephant Bar Restaurant. Most of those employees are in the asset development group and I hear they couldn't be happier. The other building going up at River Walk is the new Target which generated some controversy when it was first announced.
This is no doubt good news not only for the aforementioned restaurants but also for the eateries at the nearby Marketplace and the Action Sports shopping center at Brimhall and Old River Road.. I am told the employees should start moving by the first of May.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Bako Bits: Rumblings and buzz about banks, baseball, Twitter and a silly slow speed chase

Cleaning out the cupboard before a long Easter weekend, buzz about town:
* Lots of chatter about the Federal Reserve cracking down on locally owned San Joaquin Bank (read previous post here). Insiders say this is no time to panic, the bank has tons of cash and that San Joaquin is simply undergoing the same intense scrutiny that all banks are in this climate. Others say the folks over at the newly formed Valley Republic Bank (see previous post here) smell blood in the water and see this as an opportunity to boast that its balance sheet is clean of any toxic assets by virtue that it's a brand new bank in town being run by trusted locals. There no doubt will be more of this to come.
* You have to wonder what the folks over at KGET TV were thinking this morning, devoting way too much time having Kyoshi and lapmate follow an excruciatingly boring slow speed chase in south Orange County of all places. Say what? Can't believe there wasn't more compelling local content about our community that deserved airtime.
* CSUB baseball is getting a lot of positive buzz in its inaugural year. The Runners have beaten defending national champion Fresno State twice this year and I hear an afternoon over at the new Hardt Field is a delight. Hats off to President Horace Mitchell on his push to bring a bona fide college experience to this largely commuter school. The Runners have games today and Saturday at Hardt Field.
* Am always intrigued with the way politicians have taken to social networking to push their agendas, and few are as good at it than our own Rep. Kevin McCarthy. Kevin used Twitter this morning seeking input from local business people on ways to create jobs.
* Speaking of Twitter, if you are looking for deals and bargains begin following "Bakodeals" for some recession busting bargains around town.

Rep. Kevin McCarthy: Easter break and focusing on small businesses and the jobs they create

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) is back home for a couple weeks so no doubt we'll all see him around town at various events. Here's an update from Kevin in his words:

"I am back home in Bakersfield for the next two weeks conducting meetings and holding events during this district work period. I will be holding some small business listening forums in our communities to discuss solutions that preserve and create jobs. We know that small businesses create 70% of the jobs in our economy. It should be common sense for Congress to pass legislation that creates, not inhibits, small businesses – creating small businesses creates more jobs! As a former small business owner of Kevin O's Deli, I know that small businesses provide needed local jobs.

"Another event that I look forward to is presenting three World War II veterans and one Korean War veteran with medals they rightly deserve, but have not received. This will take place this Monday, April 13th at 10 a.m. at the Kern Veterans Memorial on Truxtun Avenue. America owes those that wore the uniform to protect our country a debt of gratitude for their service and sacrifice.

"As a follow up to the budget discussion last week, I wanted to share some news about a survey I sent through email. Some of you might have received this email from me asking a few questions regarding the $3.6 trillion federal budget that was voted on in Congress. If you did not receive that email, you can sign up for these email updates on my website.
Here is what I heard back from those that participated in the short survey:
* 89% of those who responded did not support the budget the House passed, which will run up our country’s deficit more than all other budgets in U.S. history. (I too did not support this budget and instead voted for a more responsible budget alternative).
* 78% of those who responded supported the alternative budget many of my colleagues and I supported, but failed to pass the House, that spends significantly less than the budget that passed the House.
* 87% of those that responded supported a budget that focuses on small business job creation rather than a budget that focuses almost entirely on government spending.
* 92% of those that responded do not support a budget that ended up borrowing more from foreign countries like China, that will double our national debt in five years.

"I believe that our country cannot afford to continue to spend and borrow like this since it will stunt economic growth and likely lead to higher taxes, leaving hard working American families with less jobs and a smaller pocketbook. We should work to be more fiscally responsible and focus on smarter government spending on areas most in need. This will control our debt, which will also help create and preserve American jobs.

"I know I mentioned this last week, but I wanted to remind readers that the internship application deadline for college students to intern in my office this summer is next Wednesday, April 15th. Students can apply on my website. Also, for more information about the internship program, you can watch a video I put together, which is also on my website and on my Facebook page.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Federal Reserve tightens control on San Joaquin Bank; stock tumbles on news

It's yet another sign of the difficulty of the times when a local institution like San Joaquin Bank comes under the thumb of the Federal Reserve. All banks are under an intense Fed microscope these days as they struggle with bad loans made in the go-go days, and San Joaquin is no exception. Now it turns out, revealed today, that San Joaquin has entered into a 15-page agreement on tightened controls with the Federal Reserve. (read one version of the story here) Among other things the Fed is demanding a plan to strengthen board oversight of management and operations of the bank. Within 60 days, the bank must also submit a plan to strengthen credit risk management practices. The bank's board reads like a "who's who" of local business leaders including my boss, Ginger Moorhouse, publisher of The Californian, local accounting firm owner Lou Barbich, and Rogers Brandon, coowner of American General Media, a radio group. Also on the board are property manager Mel Atkinson, farmer Jerry Chicca and of course bank president Bart Hill and bank chairman Bruce Maclin.
Within a couple hours of the announcement, San Joaquin's stock fell from $6.50 to $4.22 at midday. No doubt that the new upstart competitor in town, Valley Republic Bank, will seek to use this to its advantage.

Bako bits: Short takes from around our community

If it's spring (albeit a short one here in Bakersfield) you know it's the season for non-profits to come out swinging with fund raisers and events. We've got a solid couple months of fund raisers and events lined up. Some of the things going on around town:
* In two weeks (April 21) Bakersfield Memorial Hospital will recognize Dr. Hans Einstein with the opening of the Hans E. Einstein, MD Pavilion. Memorial has been on a roll with millions spent on capital improvements and the Einstein Pavilion will be just the latest addition.
* Valley Republic Bank next Monday (April 21) will hold a ribbon cutting to open its first branch at 5000 California Avenue. Bruce Jay is the new bank CEO and he promises to go after some of the same kinds of small business customers that locally owned San Joaquin Bank serves.
* John Pryor, longtime local insurance guru, has now turned to risk management consulting and is promoting an April 23 event at Stockdale Country Club featuring Mark Abe, one of the FBI's local counter-terrorism leaders. Abe will be talking from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.. Contact John at 588-1100 if you are interested.
* I read with great curiosity the front page story in today's Californian on "technology fatigue." Curious because while conceding that almost half of all adults are enthusiastic about social networking, the story then focuses on the 7 percent who are not. Of course this story was written by the Associated Press, an embattled and backward looking organization that is directly threatened by the growth of online. And so it goes. Welcome to our Bakersfield spring.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Mark Salvaggio: Musings on a chance encounter at Taco Bell and a long career in public service

The last time we visited Mark Salvaggio the former city councilman was in a public spat with Chad Vegas, the boy-pastor turned trustee of the Kern High School District. Mark has never been one to mince words and his tendency to wax poetic tripped him up more than a few times during his long career in public service. Salvaggio is now on staff with Supervisor Michael Rubio's office but he's not busy enough to take time to drop me an email full of bitter-sweet memories, not unlike Ryan O'Neal's character "Preppy" in the 1970 movie "Love Story." In Mark's words:

"I went to Taco Bell after leaving my job with Supervisor Michael Rubio yesterday afternoon... ran into a young male African American city of Bakersfield employee. We smiled and shook hands and exchanged pleasantries. We talked about the tough budget times for both the City and County... After (he)left, I got my order and sat down thinking about how nice it was to see him and talk a little shop. Moments later, (he) came back into Taco Bell and asked me ...if I was coming back to the City as a Councilman again.... He said the talk around city government is that I would be back. I took a deep breath and smiled with regret. I thanked (him) for asking me this question and told him I was honored to hear that some employees are still thinking about me. I mentioned how at times I missed my work as a Councilman but had no plans to run again. He said everyone missed me a lot. My heart and throat swelled with both joy and sadness. We said goodbye again. This was the second time I have run into a city employee who said the same things about how I would be back.

"Sometimes I yearn for public service again. I had a good run, a good time though making a clean sweep of 576 consecutive meetings without an absence and never ducking a vote due an apparent or real conflict of interest. I served with 21 council members and four mayors and three city managers and five police chiefs and four fire chiefs... The best service is public service and knowing who you are, where you came from, and why you are there: to take all calls and make no problem to small. I continue to live to fight."

I don't think we have heard the last from Mark Salvaggio yet. I think he misses us.

Oil Boys of Bakersfield: inside view from the fields

I happened upon a promising new local website yesterday and - as these things happen - learned that an old friend was one of the brains behind its creation. It's called "The Oil Boys of Bakersfield" (check out the website here)and it's devoted to creating a spirited dialogue about issues in the oil patch, from the price of gas to drilling and production. One of the developers in Graysen Oldham, a bright kid who I knew a few years back as a skilled and dangerous bicycle racer in town. You can't race bikes forever and now Graysen is working for Brinderson Construction, a national engineering and construction firm with offices here in town. Graysen told me that a work colleague helped him develop the website, which just recently debuted. It will be interesting to see if it catches on and develops into an authoritative source on the oil patch. An example of a topic they will tackle:

"We had a chance to sit down with Project Manager/Lead Estimater Butch Hill of Brinderson Construction a few days ago and chat with him about what life is like at a contractor company such as Brinderson after the Cost Per Barrel of Kern Crude took a dive this past February. And how his bidding techniques are changing due to the fact that Oil Companies now have an upper hand with the pendulum swinging from the extreme of too much work and not near enough man power to the complete opposite of no work and an over abundance of man power."

We'll check back on the Oil Boys later.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Morning report: short takes around town

Cleaning out the cupboard this morning and found some nuggets to share about our community:
* A group of equestrians have formed an organization to lobby for the preservation and improvement of horse trails around town. They're fond of the network of trails along the Kern River near the Panorama bluffs. Check out their advocacy website here.
* Steven Mayer has a wonderful piece on an act of heroism by a Bakersfield soldier in Afghanistan. Read Sgt. Robert Fortner's story here.
* Those college acceptances are arriving and local kids have until May 1 to make up their minds. I'll be compiling a list to celebrate those kids moving on. If you have a name, shoot it to me.
* Media analyst and author of "What Would Google Do?" author Jeff Jarvis takes newspaper publishers to task in a scathing diatribe that has a lot of truth to it. Read his post here.
* Ray and Lisa Karpe of Karpe Real Estate spent yesterday in Fresno at a White House Regional Forum on Health Reform. They were there as directors of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Southern California Chapter.
* The Women's and Girls Fund of Kern County will be handing out new grants on April 29 at Seven Oaks Country Club. This is the fifth annual event for this worthy group that promotes women and girls locally. Call 325-5346 by April 22 for infomation to attend.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Making sweet music in Korea: Bakersfield musicians on tour

Got a nice note from Teresa Adamo, whose son is among the young musicians on tour with the Bakersfield Youth Symphony in South Korea. (see previous post here) This is a trip of a lifetime for these youngsters. And in a time of budget cutbacks that threaten all music programs, it's heartening to see these kids succeeding. Their achievement should be testament enough to the power and influence of music in a young person's life. To check out the full array of photos go to the youth symphony website here.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Kids and guns: the other side of the story

Tragedies like the shooting rampage that killed 14 at an immigrant counseling center in Binghamton, N.Y. always lead to questions about gun control. I don't think that's a bad conversation, and I personally am not offended by some of my friends who believe all weapons inherently evil, even if I don't agree. But I wish those folks could meet kids like those shown in this picture (click on picture to enlarge). They're our kids, all from Bakersfield, good kids from good families with good values. And all happened to be reared in families where hunting and the shooting sports were the norm. This is the other side of the Binghamton story that seems rarely told. I had a chance to see all these kids this weekend out at the Kern County Gun Club where 150 shooters from across the nation converged for a skeet shooting competition. Two of those pictured above (Brian Foley and Elizabeth Key, seated above)are Ridgeview High seniors headed to Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Mo., on shooting scholarships. The girls seated on the tailgate are the shooting Shuford sisters, all high achieving kids in their own right. Brooke (seated right) is a BHS senior deciding between theUniversity of San Diego and Cal Poly (she's interested in micro biology), Emily (seated left) will be a senior at BHS and Rachel will be a freshman Driller. For every Binghamton tragedy there are thousands of examples like these high achieving kids who have learned to use and respect firearms.