Friday, May 1, 2009

McCarthy: allow banks to repay TARP money; Republicans regrouping to fight spending

A busy week for Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakerfield) that included his wife and daughter attending the First Lady's Luncheon. In his own words:

"This week was a busy week on several legislative fronts. After listening to many of our neighbors in our communities and attending the Bakersfield tea party, I continued to hear about the fear that many of us have with the record Federal spending and borrowing that’s taking place in Washington. We voted on the final version of the Federal budget blueprint, and I voted against it because it contained the same extraordinary levels of spending and borrowing that could lead our nation to doubling our national debt in five years, and tripling it in ten years. This unprecedented lack of fiscal responsibility will only mortgage the futures of our children and grandchildren tomorrow to pay for new spending programs and bailouts today.

"Serving on the House Financial Services Committee, I have been troubled by news that Treasury is making it difficult for banks that received taxpayer-funded TARP bailout money to repay portions of those loans back to the Treasury, and ultimately the taxpayers. That is why I introduced legislation to make sure that if a bank wants to repay bailout money, that the money goes straight towards paying down our national debt, instead of going back to Treasury where it can be spent. This prevents that repaid money from being used as a revolving line of credit for other things Washington would like to spend money on.

"The swine flu continues to be a major concern for our country, and especially our communities, given our close proximity to the United States-Mexican border. As of Thursday, there were 14 reported cases in California. I have posted a link to the Centers for Disease Control on my website for current updates and background information.

"The week ended with a big national announcement. On Thursday, my colleagues and I introduced the National Council for a New America, a new group to listen, facilitate, and create solutions to address the problems we face in our country. Listening to the American people will provide the real solutions that our country needs to solve our current challenges. We know the best ideas are not in Washington, but throughout America. The National Council for a New America will engage our communities in a conversation to gather common-sense solutions from hard-working American families. Please join us in this discussion as we use the power of new ideas to move our country forward. You can email me your thoughts through my website, or send me a tweet on Twitter or a note on Facebook. I also discussed this on CNN and Fox News to introduce this new grassroots group that will be a policy-based forum to engage in a thoughtful conversation with the American people. You can check out those interviews on my YouTube page.

"And finally, check out my new official website -- it was just redesigned in an attempt to make it more user-friendly and easier to access information. If you would like, let me know what you think (and also about other ideas you may have) by submitting feedback and thoughts here.
My wife, Judy, and daughter, Meghan, were in DC for a few days and were able to attend the first ladies luncheon with First Lady Michelle Obama, and today we are headed home. We are en route back to Bakersfield. Have a good weekend!

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Lunch with the First Lady, home invasions, the new Ford and dogs at the museum

A few short takes around town, starting with a few locals having lunch today with First Lady Michelle Obama.
* FIRST LADY LUNCH: The annual First Lady's Luncheon will be held today at the Washington Hilton and four McCarthys from Bakersfield will be there. The wife of Congressman Kevin McCarthy, Judy, and daughter Meghan will be there, along with their guests Judi McCarthy and daughter Katie. Though not related the connections here are deep, so bear with me: the second Judi McCarthy is the chair of the Kern Community Foundation and founder of the Women and Girl's Fund, which I wrote about yesterday. Just so happens her son, USC grad Rob, works for the congressman in D.C. Daughter Katie is a grad of Loyola Marymount and works as a magazine editor in Los Angeles.
* HOME INVASIONS: Not sure about you, but the piece in today's Californian about home invasion robberies doesn't exactly make me feel any better. The story says most are not totally random, and that there always is some kind of connection - like a kid down the street who grew up to be a thug or someone who worked on your car or a former contractor. I'm not sure how this is supposed to calm any fears unless you have gone through life in total solitude. And it won't stop folks from arming themselves to the teeth to protect their castle. So the next time someone barges into your house and puts a 9mm Glock to your wife's head, think: "I should know this guy!:
* INCREDIBLE GAS MILEAGE: I wrote earlier (see post here) about a team from Ford setting out to get 1,000 miles out of a single tank of gas with the new Ford Fusion hybrid. Well, sales manager Chad Manning over at Jim Burke Ford tells me they did it. Actually, the team managed to get 1,445 miles (or 81 miles per gallon) out of the Fusion hybrid. This is one of Ford's hottest new models and every time they get one over at Burke Ford, it doesn't last.

* DOGS GONE WILD: I heard from Beth Pandol over at the Bakerfield Museum of Art that the museum is holding a "Doggone Morning" next Wednesday May 6. Folks can bring their dogs over for classes on training, obedience, behavior and breed characteristics. Wouldn't it be terrific if this led to some kind of "Big Dog" parade like they have in Santa Barbara every year? The event runs from 9:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Contact David Gordon at 661-323-7219 for details.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Kern Women and Girl's Fund recognizes Stella McMurtrey, Nicole Mercado and hands out grants

Great to see that even in this economy, when you couldn't blame anybody for cutting back, that there remains a lot of generosity in our community. Today at a luncheon over at Seven Oaks County Club the Women and Girl's Fund of Kern County (it works under the umbrella of the Kern Community Foundation) recognized some outstanding citizens and handed out grants to deserving organizations. Among those recognized for Women Defining Philanthropy, folks who show leadership in philanthropy, in addition to community service:
* NICOLE MERCADO: A senior, East High School – in addition to a 3.94 GPA and class rank of 28/497, she is an athlete, student leader, CSF member, Youth Leadership Bakersfield. She participates in and raises money for Bakersfield Relay for Life. We are making a $500 donation in honor to Bakersfield Relay for Life (East High Team).
* STELLA MCMURTREY: 90 years young. Has belonged to at least a dozen civic groups including Woman’s Club, Italian Heritage Dante Assn., Vision 2020, Symphony Associates. A leader in the Assistance League of Bakersfield. Leadership in financial support for McMurtrey Aquatic Center, capital campaign for Bakersfield Memorial Hospital, CSUB, Assistance League, and Bakersfield Museum of Art. We are making a $250 donation in her honor to the SPCA and a $250 donation in her honor to the Assistance League scholarship program.

The fund also issued $20,000 in grants to:
* $4,000 to Kern High School District Foundation to support Foothill High School’s program to mentor African American girls toward achievement of their A-G requirements to qualify for the UC system. Project G.O.A.L. is modeled after the B.E.S.T program for African American males.
* $7,000 to Garden Pathways to expand their capacity to mentor youth and adults through Family to Family Mentoring. The grant partially underwrites the hire of support staff to assist in recruiting up to 50 new mentors.
* $9,000 to the Kernville Union School District Family Resource Center for “Eyes Wide Open,” a pilot project to mentor junior high girls (Wallace Middle School) from at-risk or single-parent families.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

You know you're from California when ...

Ran across yet another list on Facebook devoted to fun facts about California. It's not as good as the "You know you're from Bakersfield when" post (see that one here) but funny nonetheless. If you want to read it on Facebook, go here. Otherwise, here's a few laughs to start the day.

You know you're from California when ...

1) You go to the Beach - not "down to the shore."

2) You know 65 mph really means 100.

3) Our governor can kick your governor's ass.

4) You judge people based on what area code they live in...

5) You can get fresh and REAL Mexican food 24 hours a day.

6) We call it soda, not pop.

7) The fastest part of your commute is down your driveway.

8) You were born somewhere else.

9) Your sense of direction: Toward the ocean and away from the ocean.

10) Your car has bullet-proof windows.

11) Your monthly house payments exceed your annual income.

12) You can't find your other earring because your son/brother is wearing it.

13) You drive to your neighborhood block party.

14) Your family tree contains "significant others."

15) You see 25 lawyers chasing an ambulance.

16) More than clothes come out of the closets.

17) You go to a tanning salon before going to the beach.

18) It's barely sprinkling rain and there's a report on every news station: "STORM WATCH"

19) You actually get these jokes and pass them on to other friends from California.

20) Your coworker has 8 body piercings and none are visible.

21) You make over $300,000 and still can't afford a house.

22) You don't care what race people are because you're too busy wondering what gender they are.

23) A really great parking space can totally move you to tears.

24) A low speed police pursuit will interrupt ANY TV broadcast.

25) Your car insurance costs as much as your house payment.

26) Your hairdresser is straight, your plumber is gay, the woman who delivers your mail is into S and M, and your Mary Kay rep is a guy in drag.

27) Both you AND your dog have therapists.

28) You pass an elementary school playground and the children are all busy with their cell phones or pagers.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Short takes around town: from a brazen home invasion to college decision week

The story of the day today has to be the brazen home invasion robbery in Stockdale Estates. We all know the dangers that come with a prolonged recession: joblessness, desperation and hopelessness. But some of the stuff happening now just seems out of bounds for our community, which has always prided itself on being a relatively safe place to live. The details are still sketchy, but what we do know is that two young men walked through an unlocked garage door Sunday, found the man of the house and stuck a 9mm pistol to his head. They then used extension cords to tie up both the husband and wife. This happened on Calle Torcido off Ming and Gosford in virtual broad daylight during dinnertime. Thankfully no one was hurt and police arrested two suspects - both from Los Angeles - and one had a loaded 9mm handgun. Is it any wonder that more than 4,000 folks in Kern County have legal concealed weapon permits? Or that gun stores report a huge spike in business. (see previous post here)

What's the lesson here? Keep your garage doors closed, your doors locked and your alarm on both day and night. And keep an eye out for your neighbors.
Other tidbits around town:
* Heard that David Perkins, the marketing manager over at Urner's Appliances, is on the mend after a scary two-week respiratory illness. Dave tells his friends on Facebook that "I'm back!" and is looking forward to seeing everyone. Good to hear he's on the mend.
* Amy Powell-Smith has taken a job over at the San Joaquin Memorial Hospital Foundation. Amy formerly worked at the Kern Community Foundation.
* This is decision week for kids to decide on what colleges they will attend. Lots of exciting news out there and I'll have an update on some of those decisions in the next week or so. Always good to hear when smart kids do so well.
* Lastly, college-age kids will start returning home in the next several weeks. It will be good to see so many of these kids after a year away from home. Expect to catch up with them at Luigi's, Woolgrowers and other favorite dining spots.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Local real estate: has the worm turned? Hoping (and praying) for a rebound

Was out in Southwest Bakersfield today and spotted a tour bus with a sign reading "home tours" turning into a newer subdivision. Yes, foreclosures are still high and many folks simply can't get credit, but 30-year fixed rates are in the 4.5 percent range and housing prices are a bargain now. So I dropped an email to Mary Christenson, one of Bakersfield's premier residential Realtors to take her pulse of the local market. Mary has been one of the top performing Realtors at Watson (now WatsonTouchstone) for years, and though she is primarily known for dealing in the high end market now, she works the entire town and knows this market as well as anyone.
Old pros like Mary ignore the headlines and study the metrics behind what makes a market move. Just like a stock broker knows the market goes up when future earnings look bright, Mary realizes that home prices and sales will begin to perk up once inventory tightens. And Mary believes that's exactly where we are. In her words:

"Buyers are responding to these record low interest rates!
"According to our MLS as of last Friday, there were only 2,020 single family home listings on the market. Last April we had 4,110 listings. There have been 2,621 solds year to date. Buyers are responding to these record low interest rates."
"Look at our absorption rate: Take the number of solds, divide by the number of months (4); (that) averages about 655 houses a month. Then take the current listing count (2020): divide by 655, you get three months of supply. So if not one more home came on the market, we would only have enough inventory for three months. The typical dividing line between a buyer's market and a seller's market is six months. Less than six and we are in a seller's market. The tide is turning.
"Pricing is still key issue: we are still dealing with many foreclosure comps. But if we get this word out to the appraisers and lenders to instill some confidence in the market, maybe they will take us off the 'declining market' status. We are so tired of being known as the highest foreclosure market in the nation. That's old news."

We'll check back with Mary to see how things develop.