Friday, May 29, 2009

Rep. Kevin McCarthy: a week in the district, making the rounds

Another weekly update from our local congressman, Rep. Kevin McCarthy. Here's Kevin in his own words:

"This week, it was good to be home in California for a week of meetings and events throughout the district.
On Monday, I attended Memorial Day Services at Union Cemetery and Hillcrest Memorial Park. I am always inspired by these services, and am so grateful to live in a country with men and women who have served and sacrificed defending our freedoms.

"Tuesday morning, I was on KERN radio with Danielle Sullivan and enjoyed taking calls from listeners. We talked about several topics including the California budget, the State Supreme Court decision on Prop 8, and care for our wounded veterans when they return home. Later that afternoon, I interviewed local veteran, Jimmy Gentile, about his experiences in Iraq for the Veterans History Project (, so that future generations know the sacrifices that were made for our freedom. Tuesday evening I hosted an Identity Theft Prevention Town Hall at the Kern County Board of Supervisors. In case you missed it, KGOV-TV will be reairing it and you can tune in to hear about safeguards to protect against identity theft from the panel of experts. This is a growing problem, and we should all be aware of how to protect ourselves and what to do if our identity is stolen. In fact today, there was report on Channel 29 (KBAK) that identity theft is on the rise in Tehachapi.

"On Wednesday, I spent time doing radio for San Luis Obispo and Kern County. I recorded interviews with King Harris (KVEC, 920AM) and Dick Mason, (KPRL, 1230AM). Then at 3pm I was on live with Ralph Bailey in studio on KNZR, and later called into the Dave Congalton show on KVEC (920AM).

"On Thursday, I was over in San Luis Obispo County with the House Republican American Energy Solutions Group. Congressmen Devin Nunes (CA), Lee Terry (NE), Bob Latta (OH), and I led the Energy Summit at Cal Poly to talk with local and regional renewable energy experts. This was one of several summits held around the country to listen to Americans and discuss energy solutions. Cal Poly was gracious in their hospitability and a great location because they are conducting research to further renewable energy technology development. I tell my colleagues in Congress how fortunate I am to represent communities with abundant renewable energy resources. Great things are going on in San Luis Obispo County and Kern County to harness power from wind, solar, and nuclear energy. The 22nd District ranks as the 4th top wind-energy producing congressional district in the United States, and has some of the best potential for solar power in California. In addition, if Kern County was a state, it would rank 4th in American oil production. Just outside our district is Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant, which produces enough energy to power more than 3 million homes in the State. When Congress comes back into session, I will work with my colleagues on the American Energy Solutions Group to craft legislative solutions that will help lower energy prices for American families and small businesses, and put America on a path towards renewable energy and independence.

"Later that afternoon on Thursday, I presented high school students from San Luis Obispo County with the 22nd Congressional District of California Merit Award. The award honors the achievements of our communities best and brightest high school students, and recognizes their positive achievements. Students who will receive the award were nominated by their principals because they have demonstrated academic excellence (having earned a 3.5 GPA or higher), exemplary school citizenship, volunteerism, involvement in extracurricular activities and leadership skills. If you know of a school that did not participate this year, please have the principal contact my district office in Bakersfield for information on how to nominate students for next years merit award.

"Next week, Congress is back in session and it should be a busy week. In the Financial Services Committee we will have several hearings, including a status update on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the mortgage giants and Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSE) currently under government conservatorship.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Guns and kids and a horrible tragedy in Bakersfield

Was saddened to read Steve Swenson's story in today's Californian about the 2-year-old boy who was shot to death by his 3-year-old sister in Southwest Bakersfield. The girl found the gun, a 45-caliber Glock, stuffed between the mattress and the boxspring of her parent's bed and, in fooling around with it, accidentally shot her brother. There's never a good way to tell this story without being accused of sensationalism. I received one call from a man who was disgusted that we ran a picture of the mother with the girl, and he also accused us of insensitivity with the headline, which read "Girl Shoots Baby Brother," followed by a readout that started with the word "Tragedy." I don't have a problem with either the headline or picture and thought both the reporter (Swenson) and the folks who laid out the page did a fine job. The story took pains to talk about how guns should be safety stored away from children and noted the tragic consequences that follow when that doesn't happen. I also wondered what prompted the family to feel the need to keep a gun at bedside. How bad is crime in their neighborhood? Had they been victims before? It is certainly true that there is a sense of real fear out there amid this lingering recession. Cars are being stolen and homes broken into in the nicest of neighborhoods. Would welcome any comments on this story.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Smiling faces and a day in the life of Bakersfield: a kindergarten class at Patriot Elementary

I had no particular reason to post this picture other than it's a wonderful snapshot of a day in the life at Patriot Elementary school in the Rosedale Union School District in Bakersfield. Californian graphic artist Billy Simpkins took this picture (his daughter Sunnie is in the class) after the kids did a mockup of the front page of The Californian. Enjoy these smiling faces. Click on the picture to enlarge it to really enjoy the moment.

Local coalition lines up to bring Amgen Tour of California through Bakersfield next year

It looks like the local effort to bring the Tour of California bicycle race to Bakersfield is picking up some important steam. For the uninitiated, the Amgen tour is this country's only major race featuring the pro cycling teams that compete in the Tour de France, Giro d'Italia and other major events. It's quite a spectacle that draws thousands of visitors along the roadsides to see the world's best professional cyclists. It would be terrific for tourism and local businesses, and would show off our city well. Normally it starts somewhere in northern California, winds down through the coast, hitting places like San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara, before ending up somewhere in Los Angeles. The only thing preventing the tour from coming to Bakersfield is money and local support. And that seems to be changing. One of the driving forces behind all this is Kerry Ryan, owner of Action Sports over off Brimhall Road. He's part of a coalition that involves the Convention and Visitor's Bureau, some city and county officials and other local supporters, including The Californian and American General Media. Don Cohen, head of the convention and visitor's bureau, says $161,000 has already been raised to bring the tour to Bakersfield. A decision should come some time in July. If it happens, we'll be seeing pros like Lance Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Ivan Basso, Carlos Sastre and others here next year. Stay tuned. (photo of 2009 winner Levi Leipheimer courtesy of the official Amgen website)

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Mixed signals on the economy: is it a rebound or are we headed for a double dip recession?

I spend an inordinate amount of time looking for signs of an economic rebound, but with each day's passing, the picture seems to become less clear. The stock market seems to want to rebound, but most analysts think a "correction" is overdue. The consumer confidence data is looking better, yet retailers report dismal results. Then there are days like today when everything looks dark. Consider:

* ... DOUBLE-DIP RECESSION? CNBC reported today that the U.S. economy "appears destined for several years of weak growth and high unemployment," leaving it vulnerable to a "recession relapse." From the story:

"When you remove the government stimulus, what the private sector can generate in terms of growth feels like a recession," said Jeffrey Rosenberg, head of global credit strategy at Band of America Securities Merrill Lynch in New York.
"Rosenberg thinks the U.S. Economy may trudge along at a sluggish growth rate somewhere in the range of 0.5 percent to 1.5 percent while banks recover from the credit crisis, which could take another three years.
"This is a much darker outlook than the one put forward by President Barack Obama's administration in its latest budget projections, which show economic growth bouncing back to 3.2 percent next year and hitting 4.6 percent by 2012."

* ... MORE HOUSING WOES: Prices of homes in March fell a sharp 18.7 percent from a year ago, yet more bad news. Standard and Poor's Case-Shiller Home Price Indices showed housing stuck in a slump in the worst downturn since the Great Depression. Locally, folks like Realtor Mary Christenson report an uptick in sales, even if prices are still dropping. That's good news in that it burns through inventory, but the Case-Shiller data shows we have a long way to go.

* ... BAKERSFIELD BLUES: Another list is out showing the percentage of homes in a market that have "negative equity," and Bakersfield is ranked at No. 13. This means that 39 percent of the mortgages locally are upside down. Just amazing. Here's the list:

1) Las Vegas
2) Stockton
3) Modesto
4) Reno
5) Vallejo
6) Merced
7) Fort Pierce, Fla.
8) Riverside
9) Phoenix-Scottsdale
Orlando (tied)
11) El Centro
12) Yuba City
13) Bakersfield

Monday, May 25, 2009

Short takes around our town on a Memorial Day weekend

It would be hard to imagine any better weather served up for the Memorial Day weekend. It was splendid all weekend capped by a relatively mild Monday kicked off with a cool morning. There were ceremonies across town, at Hillcrest, Union Cemetery, Greelawn and even at Cal State Bakersfield to pay honor to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our country.
Thought the best pictures from the web came from Supervisor Michael Rubio, who attended the events at both Union and Hillcrest. Here are two photos he posted on Facebook of him and Iliana, his adorable daughter, at one of the events. Let the pictures tell the story.

Elsewhere this weekend....
* ... BAD BEHAVIOR: Along with the good always comes a little bad, and it wouldn't be a holiday weekend in Bakersfield without some examples of really bad behavior. Like the fellow who was killed when a wild fight broke out at a bar on Wible Road when - get this - police said 200 people left a biker's bar in the wee hours. Let's think about that: two hundred people piling out of a biker bar after midnight. All the ingredients were there for bad things to happen.
* ... CRIME ALL AROUND: Tuned into KGET and KBAK on Monday and listening to their newscasts, you'd think all we did in B-town was knife and shoot each other. There was a stabbing at a bar in Shafter, another shooting death in Lamont ... and the list goes on.
* ... ULTIMATE PRICE: Was sad to hear about a solider from Tehachapi, Jason George, who died in Iraq. A stark reminder of what Memorial Day is all about. Jason was 38 and had already lived a life full of accomplishments: he went to CSUB, then West Point and lived in Chicago. Our hearts go out to his family.