Friday, June 5, 2009

Kevin McCarthy: My weekly report from the Hill

Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) is our local congressman representing the 22nd District. Let's hear about his priorities in his own words:

"Congress was back in session this week, and in the Financial Services Committee we had several hearings, including a status update on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac – the mortgage giants and Government Sponsored Enterprises (GSEs) currently under government conservatorship.
"Also, this week, in response to newly added water restrictions in this time of severe drought, I joined several of my California colleagues to request that the House Natural Resources Committee hold a field hearing in the San Joaquin Valley. Water is the life blood for our local farmers and families, and a field hearing would help open the eyes of my Congressional colleagues to help develop solutions that can bring relief to our drought-stricken landscape. In addition to this letter, I have also cosponsored a bill (H.R. 856) which would increase water deliveries to the Central Valley and Southern California urban and agriculture users by waiving regulations regarding endangered fish at Delta pumps during times of drought. I have also cosponsored another bill (H.R. 996) that would increase water deliveries by temporarily exempting the operations of any water supply or flood control project from ESA when the Governor declares an emergency (like our Governor declared earlier this year).

"I also wanted to let you know about two financial service related bills I introduced that focus on increased accountability, transparency and efficiency to help prevent financial fraud. The first piece of legislation (H.R. 2622) is directed at ensuring that former employees of organizations like the New York Stock Exchange or National Association of Securities Dealers can be held accountable by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) for any misconduct while an employee at these organizations. The second piece of legislation (H.R. 2623) would reorganize the Securities and Exchange Commission to return inspections and examinations functions to their original location within the Divisions of Investment Management and Trading and Markets. These two solutions are an important step to help the SEC root out problems in the securities industry and protect Americans’ savings.

"Congress also welcomed the statue of our 40th President, Ronald Reagan, to a place of honor at the Capitol Rotunda this week. At the unveiling ceremony, my colleagues and I joined former first lady Nancy Reagan. I was also pleased to have Shandon, CA resident and former Under Secretary of State, Secretary of Interior, and National Security Advisor to Ronald Reagan, Judge Bill Clark, join me for the ceremony. If you would like to see pictures of the statue, I have posted a few on my Facebook page. If you are coming to DC, be sure to arrange a Capitol tour through my office to see the statue in person. Also it is interesting to note that the statue of Reagan faces the west, just as Reagan did when he was inaugurated on the west side of the U.S. Capitol building.
"Thanks for reading, and have a great weekend.

Angelo can see! Doctors say victim of savage attack by his father may be able to see

Here's some terrific news to start your weekend: the young lad who lost one eye when his father savagedly attacked him may not be blind in both eyes after all. The word comes in an exclusive report in The Bakersfield Californian (read full report here) by longtime crime report Steve Swenson. Because little Angelo Mendoza only recently turned 4 years old, the case is shrouded in secrecy, but Swenson learned the boy has regained some sight in his right eye and doctors say that should improve. The left eye is gone. His father literally ate it out in an April 28 attack that cops think was induced by a drug rage. Support from across the world has come to this lad and funds are being established. Meanwhile, there's not much sympathy for the dad, who after attacking his son starting chopping at his own legs and tried to tell cops he was the victim of a gang attack. The dad already was in a wheelchair because of a previous knife attack. And the mother? Well, she's missing and wanted on some drug related charges. What a joy to pick up today's paper and see a screaming black headline: "ANGELO CAN SEE."

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Weekend preview: start with "First Friday" and end up with the Menudo cookoff

Heading into the weekend and there's no shortage of activities. You can start with the energy that is "First Friday" with the downtown art scene, catch a couple of concerts and then nurse that hangover with the menudo cookoff on Sunday. Let's get started:
* ... GUN CLUB EVENT: The Kern County Gun Club holds its annual fund raising dinner Friday at the Elk's Lodge. Tickets are available at the door and it's always good for a solid steak and potato dinner. Doors open at 6 p.m. and dinner starts at 7 p.m.
* ... FIRST FRIDAY: This is always an event I hate to miss simply because our modest little downtown literally comes alive the first Friday of every month. Catch a bite to eat at Mamma Roombas and make sure to stop by Don Martin's Metro Galleries where you are sure to see a dozen or so folks you know. Metro is featuring the work of Tena Navarette, formerly Tena Cohn and ex wife of local plaintiff lawyer David Cohn, who is now married to the former Debby Brock. (need a flow chart yet?) Tena left Bako for the second home in Del Mar after the separation (says the air here doesn't suit her, like it suits any of us) and her stuff isn't my cup of tea but some folks seem to like it. Check out some of her work below.

* ... VISUAL ARTS FESTIVAL: Make sure you also run by the Bakersfield Museum of Art to catch some of its Visual Arts Festival winners. I haven't seen this juried show but hear it is really first rate. The museum, under director Bernie Herman, has really hit its stride and continues to impress me. It also doesn't hurt that the newly renovated Central Park next door has opened. Maybe you can actually park your car without a vagrant hitting you up for dinner money.
* ... BARBECUE: On Saturday head over to Stramler Park for what is being billed as the "Biggest, Baddest Barbecue Championship." It runs from Friday afternoon and Saturday. Admission is $18 Friday and $8 Saturday. Beer and soft drinks will be available.
* ... PASS THE MENUDO: Finally, on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. is the 11th Annual Latino Food Festival and Menudo Cook-off at the Kern County Fairgrounds. Now, I've never taken to Menudo and suppose it's a Latino thing, but this is a popular event with lots of music, including the popular Mento Buru. It will cost you $8 in advance and $10 at the door. Enjoy.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Support from around the globe for the little boy whose father blinded him in a crazed attack

The story of little Angelo Mendoza just keeps capturing the attention of well wishers across the world. The Californian had a piece today talking about efforts to raise money for the lad, who was blinded when his father - in what I assume was an apparent drug craze - literally ate his eye out, leaving him blind in one and perhaps both eyes. The Californian didn't give an update on the condition of the 4-year-old, but it did update us on all the fund raising efforts under way to help him. The problem with establishing a fund for Angelo goes right to his parents: it's his father Angelo Vidal Mendoza who is charged mayhem, torture and child cruelty in the April 28 assault, and the mother is nowhere to be found. She's apparently wanted on a $15,000 arrest warrant for failing to attend drug classes. Can this story get any sadder? What kind of life did this boy have before the attack? One can only wonder. Apparently Kern Schools Federal Credit Union is working with the boy's uncle to establish a fund, but others are doing the same. Following is another email I received recently. If you want to get involved, feel free to contact this person via their website.

"My name is Brandi Crump and I live in Panama City Florida. I am CC Devon Cox of Denver, CO that I am in communication with trying to start a trust and foundation for this child. We are committed to helping this little boy succeed in life. You recently wrote a post on the Angelo Mendoza Jr. case and mentioned something about starting a trust. We have been trying to get local churches involved to let us open an account under their not for profit business but have not been successful at this time. I am asking for your help to find a not-for profit organization to sponsor us so we can open the bank account and legally continue taking donations. We may already have an attorney that will do the trust paperwork for free but need the not for profit organization sponsorship first. Below is a website that Devon started and I recently got involved trying to help get the word out for Angelo and as you can see we already have donations as well as people continuing to get involved and join our website. Anything you can do would be greatly appreciated as we have people here that want to help this little boy.

http// (click here for direct link)

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Faces of the recession: snapshots of the economic funk around Bakersfield

It's hard to put a pretty face on this prolonged recession we're all enduring. Even the most optimistic economists don't expect us to begin to recover until late this year, and it could be a full year after that before there is anything that feels like "normal" around here. These photos are not impressive precisely because they have become the norm: the new Target at Valley Plaza Mall that was stopped in mid development, the long stalled McAllister Ranch, deals on new homes and folks trying to discard their toys.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Los Angeles Magazine takes on Tejon Ranch Co.: hit piece or valentine to environmentalists?

Read with interest a long piece in Los Angeles Magazine devoted to the proposed development of Tejon Ranch. Written by Pulitzer winner Ed Humes, the piece is a dagger at the heart of Tejon's plans to develop a small part of the ranch while setting aside 90 percent of it for conservation. Full disclosure: the CEO of Tejon is on my board, and I know Humes from my days in the Los Angeles media environment. Humes is a talented writer and journalist, having nabbed his Pulitzer for a series of stories for the Orange County Register on flawed night vision goggles used at the old El Toro Marine Corps (helicopter) Air Station. Humes also wrote the scathing book "Mean Justice" on the infamous child molestation cases in Kern County. But the LA Magazine piece is deliberately hostile to Tejon, which I found a tad surprising considering Tejon's agreement to set aside 90 percent of the ranch for conservation, a deal blessed by groups like the Sierra Club, Audubon California and the Natural Resources Defense Council. I suppose it's a wonderful idea to think folks who spent a cool billion or two to own the property would simply hand it over for posterity, but things don't work that way. To get an idea of Humes' bias, check out this excerpt from the LaObserved blog (read it here):

"To stand on a windswept hill at Tejon Ranch is to be at once humbled, enthralled and saddened by vistas that in years past defined California and the West by their plenty, rather than their dearth....

"Even though the owners are offering to conserve much of their surrounding land, this development remains exactly the sort of breathtaking sprawl, destruction of nature and epic commuting lifestyle that must stop if we intend to get serious about global warming. Tejon Ranch, then, is really a battle over whether America wants to begin acting like a climate hawk or continue to act the climate ostrich. It's the biggest project of its kind, so it's fair to say this is where our future lies � one way or another.

Wow. Is it really fair to put the onus of global warning on the backs of the directors and owners of Tejon Ranch? You be the judge, but seems to me Humes is playing lead tackle for the Center for Biological Diversity, which has been absolutely intransigent in its opposition to almost any development of the ranch. I felt Tejon's deal with the Sierra Club was sound: set aside a couple hundred thousand acres of Tejon for future generations, but allow the folks who put their own capital at risk to develop something. When I asked Bob Stine, CEO of Tejon, about the story he declined to elaborate, but he did tell me that Humes didn't even give him the courtesy of a call to respond. Hmmmm....

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Short takes around town: new park, same old homeless; Beautiful Bakersfield goes boring

Coming off another wonderful weekend here in Bako, lots of things happening, hot but not (yet) unbearable. Let's get to it:

* ... NEW PARK, SAME HOMELESS: The newly renovated Central Park officially opened this weekend with high expectations. The city spent hundreds of thousands sprucing up this "needle park," long a magnet for the homeless, the drug addicted and generally the worst of our community. The Bakersfield Museum of Art is next door and has been awaiting the renovation with crossed fingers.... meaning: will the homeless and drug addicts simply return after all the ribbon cuttings are done? Even I wondered privately if this wouldn't turn out to be what an old boss once called a bad story pitched with a different angle: "You can give a bum a shave and a haircut," he said, "but he's still a bum." So I had to smile when I saw a Facebook posting by none other than John Harte, a former Californian photographer known for his strong opinions as well as his talented eye for a good photograph. He posted the following status message followed by the picture he took:

"Here you go. 24 hours post grand opening of the new "family oriented" Central Park and here's our first transient settling in. The public needs to trust their media for balanced coverage. Local media which glowingly promoted the park without balancing it with the long history of transients, alcohol and drug use and crime at the park has violated that trust." Touche, John!

* ... BEAUTIFUL BUT BORING: Turned on the television Saturday night to find the "Beautiful Bakersfield" awards banquet being shown live. The awards were started by the Chamber of Commerce some years ago to honor folks who make our community proud, but since then they've grown into an endless and seemingly pointless series of awards for some of the most obscure categories imaginable. With all respect to some very deserving nominees and winners, watching the KGET-TV production was painful beyond words. Even KGET's Jim Scott and Robin Mangarin, old pros who do this for a living, could not breathe life into this DOA format. As they say down South: "this dog don't hunt." I just hope KGET is getting some credit to comply with FCC regulations that require the station to televise local content. Folks at the Chamber would do well to revisit the entire thing and reduce the number of awards and stop pretending it's the Oscars.
* ... CINDY'S FAREWELL: Californian columnist Herb Benham devoted his Sunday column to a fitting farewell to Cindy Pollard, a longtime Bakersfield resident and USC grad who is moving to Sacramento to take a job with PG and E. Cindy was always deeply involved in the community and will be missed.