Friday, October 16, 2009

McCarthy: fighting legislation that would restrict credit and entrepreneurship

 Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, talks about the week on Capitol Hill. In his own words:

 "Last Sunday I attended the league opener for the League of Dreams basketball season with my son Connor, who is a volunteer with the organization.  League of Dreams is a great initiative that believes “every child should have a chance to play".  Children with all types of disabilities can come and play basketball. If you would like to attend and cheer on our local kids come by on Sundays at 1 pm at Silver Creek Park - the season goes through November 15. 
"As the stock market made some gains, the House Financial Services Committee that I serve on began considering bills that could restrict America’s choice in how they save and invest.  After being approved by committee, these two bills – regulating over-the-counter derivatives and the creation of a new government agency – would then be brought to the full body for a vote.  During the committee proceedings, I asked my colleagues to put aside partisanship and consider the power of the idea in regards to amendments.  Both sides of the aisle agreed we need consumer protection, but remained divided by philosophical differences on how to do this.  As unemployment inches closer to 10%, we should not pursue legislation that could restrict credit and entrepreneurship.  When starting my own small business – Kevin O’s Deli – years ago, I used credit cards and other credit sources to start that small business. My risk paid off, as I sold my business and was able to pay for my college education.   As we look to significantly regulate our financial system, Congress must be forward thinking and carefully consider the direction we want our country to go. 
 "Also, this week on the House floor I joined my San Joaquin Valley colleagues by pushing for change in a San Francisco Bay water recycling program to include an amendment to turn the pumps on to nourish our local economy.  On the floor I asked Speaker Pelosi and the Democratic leadership to stop ignoring our proposed common sense solutions and help our struggling farmers and ranchers get the water they need.  Our provisions would help create jobs and alleviate the man-made drought ruining our Central Valley
Continuing the call to fix the behind-closed-door bill writing in this Congress, I cosponsored a resolution this week that would require House committees to post all bills and amendments online within 24 hours of adoption.  These changes would keep committee members and their staff from adding undeclared or “phantom amendments” in secret after the bill has already been approved by the committee. 
 "Next Saturday, October 24th, my office will host an Academy Forum in Bakersfield at the Kern County Board of Supervisors office, from 2:00-3:30pm.  Last weekend we hosted one in Atascadero for students from San Luis Obispo County interested in attending any U.S. Service Academies.  Military training is excellent preparation for any future job and is highly sought after by today’s employers.  All those interested in attending, send an email to: or call my district office at 327-3611. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Bako Bits: Death by a thousand cuts in a terrible economy, and a tribute to the warriors from the 'Greatest Generation'

* ... GLASS HALF FULL: It takes the heart of an optimist to see blue sky in the midst of this recession, with its daily drumbeat of bad news across virtually all sectors of the economy. Continuing job losses, rising foreclosures and the specter of a double-dip recession are not exactly a recipe for optimism, even if the DOW did rally and settle above 10,000. But that's just me, which is why I admire those folks who always seems to see blue skies in the middle of a thunderstorm. One of those is Wayne Kress, principal at CB Richard Ellis here in Bakersfield, who has started a blog about industrial real estate that is worth a read. (check it out here) Wayne is a graduate of Cal Berkeley, married to longtime residential Realtor Leslie Walters, and one of the more knowledgeable folks when it comes to commercial real estate. Naturally optimistic, he thinks we're cycling out of this doomsday cycle and will emerge just fine. And speaking of optimism, I ran into Shai Gordon, formerly one of the owners of the popular bar and restaurant Cafe Med over off Stockdale Highway, who is also working in the commercial sector. Shai left Cafe Med about four years ago and now works for Western Realty Advisors. After catching up on things he advised me to "be more optimistic." I'll try. Promise.

 * ... LIVING WITH PAY CUTS: I was thinking about the budget difficulties over at Cal State Bakersfield while reading a story in the New York Times about how pay cuts have become so much a part of the economic landscape. The story (read the full report here) follows the emotional roller coaster of an ExpressJet pilot who took a 50 percent pay cut but is thankful to still have work. Many companies  locally, including The Californian, have instituted across-the-board pay cuts to deal with the lingering effects of the recession. And of course we have the county furloughs and other cutbacks that have simply become a way of life. These kinds of moves were unthinkable a few years ago, but then who expected to see an economy like we are dealing with today? An excerpt from The Times story:

 " In recent decades, layoffs were the standard procedure for shrinking labor costs. Reducing the wages of those who remained on the job was considered demoralizing and risky: the best workers would jump to another employer. But now pay cuts, sometimes the result of downgrades in rank or shortened workweeks, are occurring more frequently than at any time since the Great Depression."

 * ... FINDING WAYS TO SAVE: If there's a common theme these days, it's that we are all finding ways to cut back: canceling vacations, putting off major purchases and keeping our cars longer. Every penny counts, and I am amazed at how we are all dealing with it in different ways. I was saddened to hear that Riley Parker, a private investigator and owner of Parker and Associates, dropped his membership in the downtown  Rotary Club as one way to save a few bucks. Riley has taken on some significant investigative projects out of town, and continuing Rotary was simply not practical. In addition, his wife Jane fractured her elbow in a nasty fall and the recovery means Riley had to hire an employee to replace her-an unbudgeted expense that just made things worse. Keep Jane in your thoughts as she recovers from the spill.. On another topic Riley passed on this email that I wanted to share. It speaks for itself:

"Some time ago you folks ran a great little story on a retired Marine aviator named Don 'Slim' Harris. Slim is one of my neighbors and one of the most delightful gentlemen that I have ever known. I knew that his poker group of retired Marines, all having served from WWII through Vietnam, were coming today for a quick game. Most of them retired from the old Marine Air Station El Toro or Camp Pendleton and still live in Orange County. There were 10 of these old timers seated at the table ... their lowest rank at retirement was Lt. Colonel and a couple of them were as high as two-star general.... all part of that 'greatest generation' and I left with a sense that I had just been a part of something so special and honorable that it is difficult for the rest of us to understand."

. * ... BUSINESS EXPO 2009: Don't forget about the 19th annual Bakersfield Business Expo set for Tuesday, October 27, over at the Rabobank Convention Center. Admission is $5 and it runs from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. This is a Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce sponsored event and always a good place to network and find ways to grow your business. Need tickets? Call the Chamber at 661-327-4421.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Bako Bits: foreclosures move to higher end homes and an update on community treasure Marv Steinert

 * ... MORE SCARY HOUSING NEWS: I'd love to share some good news on the housing front but the truth is our country and are community remain mired in a nasty mess that will likely linger on for a good time to come. More evidence of that came from the Wall Street Journal that reported that an increasing number of foreclosures are now coming in the high end market. Up to this point, the lion's share of foreclosures have been coming in the entry level market, where many folks got in way over their heads thanks to aggressive lending and "creative financing." Yet now we learn the high end accounted for 30 percent of the foreclosures in June, up from 16 percent when all this started three years ago. You can read the full Journal report here but this is disturbing data on any level. Some of these foreclosures involve so called "exotic mortgages" like interest only vehicles, which are virtually impossible to refinance once the property is less worth than the loan. Add to that folks losing their jobs at all levels, and we have a problem. From the Journal story:

 "The report shows that foreclosures, after declining earlier this year, began to accelerate in the late spring and that more expensive homes have more recently accounted for a growing share of all foreclosures. "The slope of that curve in recent months is much sharper than it was recently," said Stan Humphries, chief economist for Zillow. Rising foreclosures among more-expensive homes could create added pressure for a housing market that has shown signs of stabilizing in recent months as sales of lower-priced homes pick up."

 * ... UPDATE ON MARV:  Heard the other day that local businessman Marvin (Marv) Steinert continues to battle a condition that has left him virtually blind. A couple months ago Marv came down with something called "temporal arteritis," an inflammation or damage to the blood vessels that supply the head. It apparently has affected his eyesight to the point where he cannot see, but he is hanging tough, taking visitors and staying involved in the community. Marv is one of the most personally generous - and good spirited - businessmen in our community, and he has spread his largess to non-profits across town. Keep him in your thoughts.

 * ... LOCAL KID WINS AWARD: Kudos to Jadon Gauthier, a Bakersfield High School grad and Biola University student, for picking up another award for "Jitensha" (Bicycle), a short film shot on location in Tokyo. (read previous story here) Jadon is a junior down at Biola and the son of Jay Gauthier, a manager at Guardian Guaranty Corp. The film didn't win anything at the Venice Film Festival but did pick up a Crystal Heart Award from the Heartland Film Festival. Jadon says "it nominates us for an opportunity for a $10,000 Vision Award for short film!" He says the movie cast and crew (check out the website here) is waiting to find out if Jitensha will be selected for the prestigious Sundance film festival.

 * ... VIA ARTE A SUCCESS: Stopped by the Via Arte exhibit over at The Marketplace this weekend and was amazed at the crowd and pleasantly impressed with some of the terrific chalk art. This is one of the signature events for the Bakersfield Museum of Art and it wouldn't be a success without folks from the museum like executive director Bernie Herman, Emily Falke and David Gordon, who put in long hours to make this a success. (Photo courtesy of Barbara Reid)

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Short takes around town.: another restaurant to open downtown, Claire ties the knot and prayers for a local man at UCLA Medical Center

* ... DOWNTOWN REVIVAL: Saw on Facebook a posting by local artist Barbara Reid heralding the pending opening of a new sushi bar downtown on 19th Street , the same spot where Xander's and Benjamin's restaurants made a go of it. Barbara says the place is being opened by Yuri and Phil Chang, the folks who own Toro Sushi Bar and Grille over at the Marketplace. Toro is a class act and a second location downtown (apparently it will be called simply "O") would be a boost to the emerging downtown art and restaurant scene. Barbara, whose art graces the wall of Toro, said she was treated to some menu ideas for the new restaurant and had this to say:

 "They were all unique and yet displayed (with) what I have come to expect and appreciate as the artistry and flair of the sushi chefs at Toro. Beautiful presentation and wonderful mix of flavors. The offerings included sushi, tempura, stir-fry and salads. The opener was a serving bowl of skewered baby scallops, the tinest I have ever seen, in a spicy/sweet sauce with hints of citrus, tomato, cilantro. It was superb."

 * ... PRAYERS FOR A YOUNG MAN: Please keep Curtis Hartman in your thoughts and prayers. Curtis is the 35-year-old son of Linda Hartman, the executive director of the BARC (Bakersfield Association of Retarded Citizens) Foundation. Curtis just  underwent a double lung transplant at UCLA Medical Center and is recovering, but it will be long climb back. Curtis and Linda have a wide and supportive family. Linda's sister is Nancy Chaffin, Californian vice president of Human Resources and one of the founders of the local campaign to curb drunken driving that was recently recognized with a statewide award.

 * ... CLAIRE TIES THE KNOT: Congratulations to Claire Porter, the always gracious co-owner of Uricchio's Trattoria over off 17th Street, who got married a couple weeks ago to Mark Elieff, a physical therapist at San  Joaquin Hospital. Claire and Mark slipped off  quietly to wed in Las Vegas and then headed to New York for  their honeymoon, where they saw Bruce Springsteen at Giants Stadium. And speaking of Uricchio's, I was there the other night and had a chance to meet Mike Ariey, a local businessman who did a stint in the National Football League, playing for both the Green Bay Packers and New York Giants. He's also a graduate of Garces Memorial High School and San Diego State and represents the long line of local men and women who have represented Bakersfield in professional sports.

 * ... AMGEN TOUR ANNOUNCEMENT: It appears that the announcement of the host cities for the 2010 Amgen Tour of California will be made on Thursday, October 22. At least that's the word from Don Cohen, manager of the Bakersfield Convention and Visitors Bureau. The Amgen Tour is the biggest bicycle race in the country (read the previous post here) and would likely feature such heavy hitters as Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer, as well as a host of European cycling stars. Bakersfield has made a strong pitch to host one leg of the event, either the ending of a race day or the beginning of one. This would be a huge plus for our town, not only in terms of tourism and revenue but also in terms of putting Bakersfield on the map. Stay tuned.