Saturday, April 25, 2009

Rep. Kevin McCarthy: Focus on capping spending, incenting savings and helping small businesses

A weekly update from Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, in his own words:

"For the last two weeks, I was back home in the district working and now am back in Washington as Congress will be in session for the next five weeks, but as usual I will be heading back to Bakersfield each weekend.

"While back in Bakersfield I held a Small Business Roundtable with local small business owners to listen to their concerns and hear their ideas on how we can get the economy back on track. America’s small businesses account for 70 percent of our nation’s jobs and are the engine driving our local economy. I don’t believe the solutions to help fix our economy are in Washington, but in our communities and with our small businesses. We need to focus on helping produce a climate that allows for small businesses to grow and thrive to create and preserve local jobs.

"On the House floor this week we continued debate on the $3.6 trillion Democratic budget. Congressional budgets, by their nature, are blueprints for future government spending and priorities, where we must take the time to make the decisions we think necessary. Similarly, during these challenging economic times, hard-working families also go through the process of making tough decisions on the household budget and what they will do to make ends meet. Instead of cuts, the Democratic budget increased spending. With this budget we face a $1.8 trillion deficit in 2009 and in 10 years a deficit equaling $9.3 trillion. This budget will also spend so much, that it will double the national debt in 5 years and triple it in 10 years, equaling $17.3 trillion by 2019. I could not support the spending levels of this budget and the debt it would put our generation in and our children’s and grand children’s generations. We offered a responsible alternative that would bring the deficit down and focus on job creation. Specifically, my colleagues and I proposed a budget with a simpler, fairer tax code that lowers the marginal rate many small businesses pay and also decreases the Capital Gains tax to give all small businesses more opportunities to create jobs.

"From a historical perspective, I wanted to let you know that a statue of Ronald Reagan, our 40th President, will soon be placed in the United States Capitol. I was happy to speak on the floor as a proud Californian to welcome this statue to this historical chamber. You see, each state is allowed to place two statues in the Capitol, and our two statues will be President Reagan and Father Junípero Serra, who, as you know helped establish missions all along the California coast in the late 1700s. If you visit Washington D.C., you can see these statues for yourself by taking a Capitol tour. Please make sure you contact my D.C. office about other tour opportunities that may be available while you are here.

"Also this week, my colleagues and I introduced the American Savings Act. I know Americans are struggling to plan for their future and their children’s future during these challenging economic times. Americans’ savings and retirements have taken major hits but now is the time to act and make sure we create the environment necessary to help American families wisely and responsibly plan for their future. We can continue to encourage savings by making the Savings Recovery Act law. It would effectively raise the contribution and catch-up limits on retirement accounts such as IRAs or 401(k)s, and allow Americans to build up college and retirement savings at a quicker rate than current law allows. We can also strengthen our fiscal future by taking steps to get rid of wasteful government spending, lowering taxes for small businesses, and decreasing the burden of our national debt on our children to make their future more stable and secure and move our country forward.

"Thanks for reading and have a good weekend!

Friday, April 24, 2009

Donna Corum, founder of Bakersfield mag, dies

Received an email this morning from Mary Christennson, the Watson-Touchstone Realtor, relating the death yesterday of Donna Corum, co-founder and editor of Bakersfield Magazine. I never knew Donna but always admired the job she and husband Les did with the magazine, which is now 25 years old. In fact, I liked her magazine so much that we created a rival to it, BakersfieldLife magazine, and we compete on friendly terms. Donna and Les know about everybody in town and this will be a blow to their many friends. From Mary's email:

"Donna served as editor and co-publisher with her husband Les, of Bakersfield Magazine, (which, by the way, just turned 25 in 2008). Donna and Les are also our Seven Oaks neighbors... I've known Donna and Les since the '70's and '80's --from my Bakersfield Ad Club and Californian newspaper days...
"Donna faced her illness with a strong will to live, putting up a valiant fight for a very long time... I admired her strength and fortitude and positive attitude so much! Les says Donna was cremated and a service will be held at Hillcrest on Monday, at 2pm, (not sure about the time). She was a sweet lady, a strong, admirable woman, and she will be missed. Say a prayer for Les and their son, Mike.

Out and about: a night at the Museum with the Kern Adult Literacy Council

Spent a lovely evening at the Bakersfield Museum of Art for an event for the Kern Adult Literacy Council. Few places spruce up as nicely as the museum for an informal event featuring a silent auction. Lisa Borda provided the finger food (delicious as usual) and Croad Vineyards provided the wine. The event was held to honor Ginger Moorhouse, publisher of The Californian and my boss who has been quite generous to the Literacy Council. Ginger could not make it because she was at UCLA Medical Center tending to husband John, to whom Ginger donated a kidney. John came down with Valley Fever after the transplant and he is on the mend. These events are always great venues to see folks: School Superintendent Larry Reider and wife Sandra were there, as were AGM radio group owner Rogers Brandon and his wife Esther, banker Bart Hill, (that's Rogers and Bart in the photo) Bridget Blackburn, my old friend Jan St. Pierre snapping photos, Community College District Chancellor Sandra Serrano, museum director Bernie Herman, Area communications director Susan Hersberger and of course a host of Californian folks including editor Mike Jenner and wife Jean, sales VP John Wells and wife Karen, HR VP Nancy Chaffin and new Content VP Olivia Garcia. The wine from Croad Vineyards was excellent.

Also had the pleasure of meeting Talia Anders, daughter of Dr. Alpha Anders and wife Avital, who last year graduated from prestigious Williams College in Williamstown, Mass. She's thinking of grad school. Another high achieving youngster there was Clarise Hammett, who is headed to an intensive French program at Middlebury College in Vermont after a couple years with the Peace Corps in Africa.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Today's Bako bits: Business booms at H. Walker's, a sick website and charity for a good cause

Some short shots around our fair community, trying to look for a bit of good news in a bad economy:

* THE MAGIC OF H. WALKER'S: Stopped by H. Walker's Men's Clothing Co. today and had a nice chat with owner Tracy Walker. Here's something you don't hear often these days: business is booming. Tracy said the company had its best April in five years, an incredible feat considering every other retailer I know is hurting. As mentioned before (see previous post here) Tracy is a master marketer and her shop is always brimming with good cheer, not to mention the occasional glass of cabernet. Tracy's birthday is tomorrow (April 24) and she'll spend a special weekend with hubby Brian in Santa Monica.

* WOMEN'S AND GIRLS' FUND: This unique philanthropy, part of the larger Kern Community Foundation, is gearing up to honor its grant recipients next Wednesday at a luncheon at Seven Oaks Country Club. Call 661-325-5346 if you are looking for tickets. Fred Drew is the new Foundation CEO and he is putting his stamp on the place. I hear that Amy Powell-Smith has left the Foundation and they are looking for a new communications person.
* HONORING LITERACY EFFORTS: The Californian and specifically publisher Ginger Moorhouse will be honored tonight by the Kern Adult Literacy Council for helping to fight illiteracy. The afternoon event will be held at the Bakersfield Museum of Art. Unfortunately Ginger will not be there; she's been caring for husband John who remains hospitalized at UCLA Medical Center fighting an infection from his recent kidney transplant. Ginger hopes to have John home in a few weeks.
* SKEET SHOOT FUNDRAISER: There will be a benefit skeet shoot on Saturday, May 9, to help fund the Scholastic Clays Target Program that teaches youngsters gun safety and prepares them to compete in the shotgun sports. This benefit will be held out at the Kern County Gun Club and will cost $40 per person. You shoot 100 targets in any gauge. Contact the gun club to sign up.

* I HATE BAKO: You had to figure this would happen, but there is now a Twitter feed devoted to finding stories that put Bakersfield in a negative light. (its logo is above) You can find it at It does have a link to an absolutely hilarious video on Bakersfield called "The armpit of the state" (click the link here to view) but you have to be able to poke a little fun at yourself. Here's another sample of what you will find there:

"Adult illiteracy rate in Kern County is 25%. I take that to mean that 25% of people in Kern County won't be reading this."

Some people have too much time on their hands.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

1,000 miles on one tank of gas? Meet Ford Motor Company's new green Fusion hybrid

Sounds impossible, doesn't it? Hybrid or not, how can any car get 1,000 miles on one tank of gas? Apparently the folks over at Ford Motor Co. have figured it out, and they are out to prove it with the 2010 Ford Fusion hybrid now selling locally over at Jim Burke Ford. I've sung the praises of the Fusion before (read previous post here) and now comes a story saying a team at Ford plans on driving the Fusion one thousand miles on a single tank (read full story here), all to raise money for the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. To reach their goal, they have to average at least 57 miles per gallon. I talked with Chad Manning, general sales manager over at Burke Ford, and he had this to say:

"We have received four and sold them all within 24 hours of hitting the showroom! Yes, the customers love them and the feedback is wonderful. They really enjoy playing the 'fuel economy game.' The LCD instrument cluster has a real time fuel economy gauge so that the driver can monitor their economy based on their driving habits. The better driver you are (greater fuel economy) the more green leaves you are awarded for your tree on the display, signifying eco-friendly driving. It is really a kick. We have two more 2010 Ford Fusion Hybrids due to arrive the early part on May."

It's the ultimate irony that just at a time when folks are having trouble getting credit, and when domestic automakers are struggling, Ford comes out with a product just perfect for our times.

Recession stories: local businesses hunker down and prepare for a long, hot, stark summer

Had the opportunity over the past week to spend some time catching up with local business leaders, first at a charity golf tournament and later at a couple of fund raisers. If there is one common theme it is this: nobody sees an end to this recession and everyone is preparing for a long, hot Bakersfield summer in a sick economy. Trust me, I'm trying to look for silver linings and signs of an uptick, but I just can't find them. Among some of the disturbing indicators:
* MORE FORECLOSURES: California and Florida led the country in home foreclosures in the first quarter. California had 13 cities among the top 25 with the highest foreclosure rates, including Bakersfield holding down the No. 7 position. (for the full story read it here). Others on the foreclosure hall of shame list include Merced, Stockton, Riverside-Ontario, Modesto and Vallejo-Fairfield.
* MORE JOBLESS: Our local unemployment rate is an astonishing 14-plus percent and it may get worse, according to RealtyTrac, a seller of default data.
* STUDENT LOANS: Defaults on student loans are also skyrocketing across the country. According to the Wall Street Journal, a combination of a weak job market for graduates, higher tuition costs and parents losing their jobs is leading to a sharp spike in defaults.
* BANKING MESS: It's clear that there will be no recovery until credit eases and the banking industry gets healthy. So it didn't help when the Bank of America reported a $4.25 billion profit but the stock slid because the bank reported a 46 percent increase in non-performing loans. Even a stalwart locally-owned bank like San Joaquin Bank is under the microscope to clean up questionable loans on its books.
* WHO'S BUYING CARS?: Our local car dealers continue to struggle, even with some new fuel efficient and reliable lines on their lots. One problem: even people with good credit are having trouble getting loans while others who have the money are hunkering down and hording cash.
* NON-PROFIT CRUNCH: I won't name them here, but non-profits and foundations across Bakersfield have been slammed by a downturn in donations and charitable giving. They too are cutting back on expenses and staffing.
Enough said. I'll share some good news when I get it!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Esquire, Crocs, Borders, Chrysler, United, Old Navy on endangered species list?

Came across a fascinating read that speculates on what brands may simply disappear in this devastating economy. It's amazing to think of so many brands once considered institutions that may not make the cut through this downturn. (Check out the full blog and the list here.)The blog 24/7 Wall Street speculates that these brands are "most likely to disappear by the end of 2010."

1) BUDGET: The same parent company owns Avis and Budget is the weaker sister.
2) BORDERS: Declining sales and tough competition from Barnes and Noble and Amazon.
3) CROCS: Stock has gone from $72 to $2 today. I love 'em but 24/7 Wall Street says they won't make it through the year.
4) SATURN: Owned by General Motors, this is an easy one to understand.
5) ESQUIRE MAGAZINE: Declining ad revenues in the crowded men's magazine space.
6) OLD NAVY: This Gap owned company will be dropped so Gap can concentrate on Gap and Banana Republic.
7) ARCHITECTURAL DIGEST MAGAZINE: Huge losses in ad pages. Conde Nast will dump it.
8) CHRYSLER: Investors will dump this one too.
9) EDDIE BAUER: Stock price languishing under $1, squeezed by other competitors.
10) PALM: The analyst says this brand "has been at death's door for some time" and faces tough competition from RIM and Apple.
11) AIG: This huge insurance giant is under the government's thumb and may disappear after its profitable operating units are spun off.
12) UNITED AIR LINES: Two large US carriers may need to merge to avoid bankruptcy and 24/7 Wall Street says United is the weakest.

Memorial Honors Dr. Hans Einstein, pioneer in Valley Fever research and mentor to doctors

Some long overdue recognition for Dr. Hans Einstein is coming today at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital. Dr. Einstein, one of the nation's foremost experts on Valley Fever, will be recognized in an afternoon ceremony at Memorial. The event will be held at the Hans Einstein Pavilion (pictured) which should open later this year. The Pavilion is just the latest capital project over at Memorial, which has spent millions on renovations and a new tower. Under CEO Jon van Boening, Memorial has been aggressive in marketing itself in the never ending fight for market share. Not only has Einstein been a pioneer in Valley Fever research, but he's also served as a mentor to countless doctors in our community.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Today's Bako Bits: from an obesity summit to Michael Rubio to Lois Henry and Alan Tandy

Coming off another fabulous weekend in B-town, beautiful weather, everyone outdoors, on the bike paths, out and about. But life and politics and fund raising goes on. Here are some tidbits about town:

* A PITBULL NAMED LOIS: You'd think City Manager Alan Tandy would know better by now than to take on Lois Henry. Alan is notoriously prickly and seethes when Californian columnist Lois points her snarky prose his way. But what is going on now is rich beyond words. Word to Alan: don't challenge Lois to do any digging because that's like giving scent to a Tennessee bloodhound. There is nothing she won't find. Check out their latest dueling on her blog found here. Enjoy.
* OBESITY SUMMIT: Not to pick on Bakersfield, but could there be a better place for an "Obesity Summit" than our fair city? Well we're having one, set for April 30, and no it won't be held at Costco or Hometown Buffet. It's sponsored by a host of well meaning public health organizations and will feature Gwen Foster, the "health czar" who challenged the city of Philadelphia to get serious about obesity. It's set for the Marriott Convention Center. Call Public Health at 661-868-0306 for more information.
* AREA PARK: Was great to see the crowds over at the new Aera Park baseball fields in the southwest this weekend. Thanks to a generous donation from Aera Energy and the efforts of folks over at Southwest Baseball, we have a dozen new fields on 40 acres that are absolutely beautiful. Hats off to folks like Duane Keathley (incoming downtown Rotary president and all around good guy) and local attorney Rob Noriega for making this happen.
* RUBIO FOR SENATE: Fifth district Supervisor Michael Rubio is one of the local Democrats' rising stars. He's got all the tools: he's young, extremely bright, extremely ambitious, has the nice looking family and most important, he has the money. Shown here with wife Dora and adorable daughter Iliana, Rubio is running for the 16th State Senate district seat being vacated by Sen. Dean Florez, the Shafter Democrat who is being termed out. Word has it that Rubio has raised almost $400,000 to scare off any competitors and it appears to be working. The only serious competitor for the 2010 race is former Assemblywoman Sara Reyes. Rubio, who also happens to be an accomplished runner and cyclist, is now up on Facebook (check out his website here) and is Twittering like a madman.