Friday, October 2, 2009

Rep. Kevin McCarthy: Congress stalling on California's water crisis, needs attention now

 Rep. Kevin McCarthy gives us his weekly update. Got questions or issues with the congressman, post your comments below.

"Our community lost an endearing leader. Farmer, former fair board director, and former Farm Bureau President Charlie Mitchell passed away.Charlie will be remembered for his constant positive outlook on life and he knew no stranger - he would do anything for anyone.  Dearly loved by all those who knew him, we will miss him and my thoughts and prayers are with his family. 

 "The Chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, was on the Hill to testify before the Financial Services Committee about the Administration’s proposals for regulatory reform of the financial industry to ensure the right reforms are made. The big news from Bernanke’s testimony is that he endorsed having a council of regulators monitor systemic risk in the financial system; Secretary Geithner had been pushing to have the Fed play that role.  This council may be a step in the right direction, but I am studying this proposal carefully so we don’t let the same mistakes in the financial industry continue.

 "I also visited this week with members from the Latino Water Coalition.  We discussed the man-made drought in California that is caused by restrictions on water deliveries from the Delta pumps because of orders from a judge and requirements from the outdated Endangered Species Act.  Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) declared 50 of California's 58 counties, including Kern, to be natural disaster areas due to drought and crop losses, and I don’t need to remind everyone that unemployment in Kern County is a staggering 14.3%.  However sobering these circumstances might be, they have not translated into action.  I have been very disappointed with the response of the Administration to this water crisis, and that many pieces of legislation addressing the California drought issue that my colleagues and I support have not been scheduled for consideration by Nancy Pelosi and other House Democratic leaders.  I will continue to work for change so our farmers and ranchers can grow and produce the food our nation needs.
  "Unemployment continues to rise (9.8%) and the stimulus bill passed earlier this year is not creating the jobs that we need, I believe Congress should reexamine wisely together wasteful programs that are not creating jobs, and reprogram stimulus money towards solutions that we know will create jobs, like small business tax cuts that my colleagues and I proposed last January as an alternative to the government spending programs in the stimulus.  Why are we not creating an environment for small businesses that create over 70% of our nation’s jobs, to grow and create more jobs that hard working Americans need?  Reprogramming stimulus money could get the small business economic engine moving forward and create the needed jobs throughout America.  

 "Finally, I am proud to announce that new interns, Jennifer Abe and Johnathan Springman, both from Bakersfield and are attending UC, San Diego, along with Jennifer Anderson from Sacramento who attends UC, Santa Barbara, all started their Fall quarter internships.  I appreciate their service in our Congressional office.

One man's inspiring story; needs no explanation

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Bako Bits: circling the wagons at Tejon Ranch, celebrating a healthy Wendy Wayne and the return of Steve Uricchio

Some tidbits around our community ... 

 * ... HAPPINESS AND HEATH: Wanted to catch up with Wendy Wayne after receiving some inquiries about her health. It's a testament to Wendy's personal popularity that so many folks are concerned and have rooted her on in her battle against non Hodgkins lymphoma. I haven't seen the former First Five Commission chairman and civic activist in a while but I hear she is out and about, looking great and busy visiting with family and doting on her two granddaughters from sons Benji and Larkin. This photo from her Facebook page speaks for itself and reflects the joy in her life. I asked her for an update, so here it is:

 "I can tell you that I continue to be very grateful for the phenomenal support I have from this community: family, friends and folks I don't even know. Prayers and thoughts have been so very abundant. Amazingly, I still continue to receive reports of Random Acts of Kindness from folks who are responding to my request from a year ago to do something for someone else in lieu of cards, flowers, phone calls to me. It's just so overwhelming.
 "My tests taken last week were good. My white blood count continues to be low, however, there is no evidence of lymphoma or myelodysplasia.  I feel really good and look forward to the day when my energy level returns to pre-Non Hodgkin's Lymphoma days.  In the meantime, I love every moment I'm alive - and feel like each day of good health is a gift."

  * ... WHO'S LAUGHING NOW?: How'd you like to be the folks up at Tejon Ranch when the news broke that a tribe of Native Americans is claiming ownership of part of the ranch? That's right, the challenge comes from David Laughing Horse Robinson, an instructional technician over at Cal State Bakersfield, who claims the Kawaiisu tribe owns part of the land on the east side of Interstate 5. Huh? Never mind that Tejon's ownership has never before been challenged or that the Ranch  is due to go before the Board of Supervisors on Monday for approval of Tejon Mountain Village, the high end development of mountain homes. And, it came on the same day that Tejon won the governor's Environmental and Economic Leadership Award in recognition of the historic conservation pact signed by Tejon Ranch and conservation and environmental organizations. Under that pact, 90 percent of the ranch - some 240,000 acres - will be preserved. But here's the kicker: now comes word (reported in Friday's  Californian) that the tribe is disavowing itself from Laughing Horse Robinson, who seems to have his own agenda. And check this out: this guy ran for governor in 2004, apparently one of those guys who throws his hat in the ring simply to see his name on the ballot and get a little attention. Who's laughing now?

 * ... PADRE TO OPEN FOR NEW YEAR'S? Was downtown the other day and spotted Steve Uricchio,  the itinerant restaurateur who has jumped around the past few years. Back in the day Steve and his sister Claire partnered with their father Nick to open Uricchio's Trattoria, the popular Italian eatery over off 17th Street in the Haberfelde Building. Steve later left, ran the Petroleum Club kitchen and event dining for a while, dabbled in music and moved around a bit. He's now back and says he's the new food and beverage director at the historic Padre Hotel. Steve says the hotel is planning a grand opening gala at the restaurant at the end of the year, possibly culminating with a New Year's Eve dinner and party.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Bako Bits: the sad saga of Crisp and Cole and a weekend full of art and music to look forward to

  Lots to catch up on and plenty to look forward to this weekend. Let's start ...

 * ... THE CRISP AND COLE SAGA CONTINUES: Is there a more compelling local story than the latest twist in the Crisp and Cole saga? This story has it all: greed, hubris, gullibility, and loss amid the now historic real estate run-up and bubble. Which is why I found the latest installment on ex staffer Jerald Teixeira pleading guilty to federal fraud charges so compelling. Let's face it the two principals here, the flamboyant high flying David Crisp and his older partner Carl Cole, earn little sympathy from anyone other than perhaps their mothers. And it was almost sad to hear Cole quoted in The Californian as saying "I'm an old man and I was taken in." Really? He was in his late 50s at the time and last I heard he should still have a pretty good kick at that age. By contrast I found Teixeira's plea and his willingness to own up to his mistakes refreshing. He told The Californian he was looking forward to "manning up" to what he did and "doing what's right." Don't you wish everyone involved in this saga would do the same? Apparently Teixeira, a McFarland High graduate, is a Marine Corps veteran. That probably explains a lot about his willingness to "man up" to his transgressions. Lastly, if you are not familiar with the story, read The Californian's excellent coverage here. This is the kind of stuff only a local newspaper can or is willing to do, but that's a topic for another time.

* ... ANOTHER FIRST FRIDAY: If it's October it must be time for another "First Friday," the monthly date when downtown comes alive with art, music and food. There's always plenty to do, whether it's starting the evening at Uricchios Trattoria or Mama Roombas for food with a little Cuban/Caribbean flare, and it's always worth the visit. Over at Metro Galleries at 1604 19th Street, owner Don Martin has been busy promoting a show of photographs by local artist and educator Susan Reep and Californian photographer Michael Fagans. I haven't had a preview but Don always puts on a great show and of course there's always some finger food and wine available. In his words:

  "Susan has created a stunning group of photographs that have been altered to create amazing and sometimes whimsical scenes. Michael's collection of photographs document his time embedded with US Forces in Afghanistan and capture the intensity of the moment. Live music on the patio, Hors d'ouerves and no host wine bar by Valentien."

 * ...  MEANWHILE OVER AT THE FOX: If a movie is more your style (and by that I mean a movie that otherwise never see the light of day in Bako) then check out the Friday night Flics (Film Lovers International Cinema Society) over at the historic Fox Theater. Flics is a largely undiscovered gem in our town but its following is growing with each showing. This week: "Laila's Birthday," which the Flics Facebook site describes as "a Palestinian movie that manages to be absurd, funny and thought-provoking at the same time." It continues:

 "Human Rights Watch describes the film as 'A moving and humorous tale of a Palestinian taxi driver just trying to get home in time for his daughter's birthday.' Variety wrote the film shows 'the confusion, frustration, absurdity and coping mechanisms of life in contemporary Ramallah.'
 If you haven't been yet, check it out.

 * ... REMEMBER CLAUDIA TRUE? If you are connected with the  local art scene, or recognize some of the paintings below, you will remember Claudia as a talented member of our Bakersfield art circles. Her work is distinctive and unique. and - my opinion here - always has a positive energy surrounding it. I saw on Facebook that Claudia is celebrating ten years as an artist and is selling and showing some of her work online. Claudia and her husband moved to Overland Park, Kansas, (a suburb of Kansas City) in February 2007 and it has been our loss, but it's good to see her staying in touch. She has a wonderful story to tell, so check out her website.

 Other examples of her work:

Monday, September 28, 2009

On the skyrocketing cost of college and why spending more time in school may make our kids more competitive

 I was interested to read the cover story in today's Californian on President Obama's plan to extend the school year. His reason: our kids are at a disadvantage to kids in other nations who often go to school year-round. This idea may not be realistic given the current economic environment, but this is one issue on which I agree with the president. In his fascinating recent book "Outliers," author Malcolm Gladwell addresses this specific point, arguing that one of the reason Asian kids consistently outperform American children is that they simply spend more time in school, and in most cases don't have the traditional "summer break." They're not smarter, but they peform at a higher level simply because they are given the opportunity to do so via longer hours in class. Studies have shown a summer layoff retards academic retention, putting our kids at a disadvantage when they return to the classroom. No doubt  this wouldn't be popular, not only with some parents but with the powerful teacher's unions who will fight tooth and nail to retain the traditional three-month break for teachers. But it's something to consider.
 Finally, add all this to this weekend's "education issue" of the New York Times magazine, always an enlightening read. In David  Leonhardt's piece on the real value of a college education he writes this of the college dropout rate and rising tuition:

 "Nationwide, half of all students who start college don't end up with a four-year degree. Not only do these dropouts spend less time in class, but they also miss out on the signaling benefit of the degree-a mark of those who, among other things, have the discipline to finish what they start.
 "Some would-be dropouts may stay in school if Congress approves a pending proposal to increase Pell Grants to needy students. Still, college tuitions are rising and resources are being cut - two factors that affect graduation rates. Federal spending cushions the blow but isn't large enough to make up for the state cutbacks."

 If you want to read the entire piece in the New York Times, just click here.