Friday, November 6, 2009

McCarthy: Republican counter to Pelosi healthcare bill would save billions and avoid tax increases

 Once again we turn over the microphone to Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, for his weekly update. Feel free to post some comments.

 "Our nation had a sad week with the events at Fort Hood and my thoughts and prayers are with those that were affected.

 "No trip home to Bakersfield for me this weekend.  Instead of addressing the highest unemployment rate in 26 years (10.2%), the House will stay in session as Speaker Pelosi and Democratic leaders have decided to debate and vote on the future of health care reform in America.  I am glad there will be time given to consider the alternative my Republican colleagues and I have offered.  I believe that Congress should be a marketplace for new ideas to solve our nation’s issues; we should be able to consider many ideas before deciding on which one is the best for the American people based on its merits.

 "One way to consider the merit of different ideas is to do a side-by-side comparison.  My Republican colleagues and I offered a common sense alternative to Speaker Pelosi’s bill, which I oppose, and
I want to lay out a comparison of the different ideas for your own analysis.  The Pelosi bill is 2,032 pages long; the Republican proposal is 219 pages.  The cost of the Pelosi bill is $1.3 trillion; the cost of the Republican plan is $61 billion.  Premiums under the Pelosi bill will go up with new mandates and taxes on small businesses.  Under the Republican solution, small businesses with 2-50 employees, premiums are expected to decline by as much as 10%.  Under Pelosi’s bill, Medicare will be cut $505 billion over 10 years; under the Republican plan, there will be no cuts to Medicare.  A full side-by-side comparison of the two approaches is available on my website (, along with links to both Speaker
Pelosi’s bill and the Republican common-sense alternative.  Also on my website, you can tell me if you approve or disapprove of Speaker Pelosi’s bill (H.R. 3962) by taking a short yes/no survey.

 "While I know it is the weekend, stay tuned in to what is going on in the House, it will be very interesting as President Obama is supposed to visit the Hill Saturday morning to lobby Democratic members that
are still opposed to the Pelosi bill, I hope the Blue Dog Democrat stay strong in their conviction of not increasing the size of government.  As for a final vote on Pelosi’s bill, I am predicting that the only bipartisan vote will be one in opposition.  To get the latest on what the House decides to do this weekend and if you have a blackberry, download the WhipCast,
( that will provide real time updates.

 Always good to see people from home, and this week the Masten Space Systems team from Mojave was in Washington collecting a check for their win in the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge sponsored by
NASA.  I posted some pictures of their visit on and if you would like to read more about their project please visit: Their achievements are an inspiration to us all!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Regulators pressured to go easier on local banks, deals at local country clubs and CSUB moves to Division I

 *.... SOFTER REGULATIONS FOR BANKS: It's too late for San Joaquin Bank, but there's finally a serious move in Congress to back off the pressure that has led to the closure of 115 community banks. One interesting aspect of this new softer attitude allows banks to keep loans on their books as performing even if the value of the affected properties have fallen below the loan amount. That's the word verbatim from The Wall Street Journal (read the entire story here), which says the new guidelines were released Friday, October 30, exactly two weeks after San Joaquin Bank was shut down. This is a stunning development because this was one of the primary issues that led to San Joaquin's downfall, and one has to wonder if the bank would have survived had these new rules been in place. All that is now water under the bridge, of course, but it has left San Joaquin directors and shareholders shaking their heads and wondering how different things might have been. And it comes at a time when folks like Rep. Barney Frank, D-Mass., and others are waking up to the fact that so many local banks are going under while the "too big to fail" banks like Bank of America and Wells Fargo are thriving after receiving billions in tax dollars for doing exactly the same thing. A couple of important quotes from the Journal story:

 "The new guidelines are targeted primarily at the hundreds of billions of dollars worth of loans that are coming due that can't be refinanced largely because the value of the properties have fallen below the loan amount. In many of these situations, the properties are still generating enough income to pay debt service.
 "Banks have generally been keeping a lid on commercial real-estate losses by extending these mortgages upon maturity. However, that practice, billed by many industry observers as "extending and pretending," has come under criticism by some analysts and investors as it promises to put off the pains into the future. Now federal regulators are essentially sanctioning the practice as long as banks restructure loans prudently. The federal guidelines note that banks that conduct "prudent" loan workouts after looking at the borrower's financial condition "will not be subject to criticism (by regulators) for engaging in these efforts.

 Every day there is a new development in this story as politicians continue to put pressure on the regulators to go easier on local banks. Read the latest installment of this saga here.

* ... GOOD NEWS OR JUST A BLIP? All the news about the recession being technically over doesn't mean much if it is not accompanied by more folks finding meaningful work. Nationally the unemployment rate is nearing 10 percent, and in Kern County it is around 15 percent, though experts will tell you those figures greatly underestimate the number of people out of work. (Delano's unemployment rate is well north of 30 percent) So when I hear any good news on the job front, I take note. Riley Parker, a local private investigator, told me one early indicator of a recovery might come in pre-employment screenings, which his wife Jane handles under the company name Pre-Employment Profiles. (check their website here) Parker told me they are in the middle of the third straight week of 20 percent increases in the raw numbers of pre-employment screenings. Good news? Let's hope so.

 * ... BARGAINS AT THE CLUB: Another sign of the economic times are the deals that local country clubs are offering to lure new members. I've already reported that Seven Oaks Country Club is now selling full equity memberships for $10,000, down from the normal $30,000. Now Bakersfield Country Club is offering virtually "free" memberships to lure members from other clubs. The catch: you have to be a member of another club for the initiation fee to be waived, you have to be sponsored by a BCC club member and of course you have to agree to pick up the monthly dues and food minimums. That's the word from Sheryl Barbich, the longtime civic activist and strategic planner who serves as BCC's membership chair. Barbich also said there is also a $1,500 program for folks who aren't members of other clubs. She said these deals will last until a certain number of new members are signed.

 * ... CSUB BASKETBALL MOVES TO BIG TIME: I had the pleasure of hearing Cal State men's basketball coach Keith Brown at my downtown Rotary on Thursday. CSUB's move to Division One status means big time opponents and national TV exposure this year. Among the schools we'll play are Santa Clara, Boise State, University of Cincinnati, Utah State, Gonzaga and UCLA down at Pauley Pavilion.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Only in Bako: three pit bulls rip into man as witness snap photos

It's a truly tragic story - three pit bulls attack a 35-year-old man and rip into him as witnesses watch in horror and one uses his iPhone to snap photos - and it has that "only in Bakersfield" flavor to it. If you haven't read Steven Mayer's account in The Californian, check it out here. Thank goodness a 69-year-old neighbor used his cane to rescue the man, but not before witness Damon Hill snapped this photo using his cell phone. Are pit bulls now the country's most popular breed, or is this a Bakersfield phenomena?

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Short takes: Nail biting time for college seniors, an update on Jarret Martin and the police memorial run set for Saturday

 * ... AND OFF THEY GO: This is nail-biting time for thousands of Bakersfield high school seniors who are finalizing their college applications and writing their essays. The application deadline for the UC schools (UCLA, Berkeley, Santa Barbara, Davis and the rest)  is at the end of this month. Some of the more popular destination out of state schools like the University of Arizona, the University of Colorado and the University of Oregon have deadlines in January or later. This year's graduating senior class is one of the largest in our country's history (I believe it actually peaked last year) so the competition is fierce, particularly for the more prestigious schools. Having two girls who have gone through this, I can attest it's a time of great stress and uncertainty until the acceptance emails and letters begin arriving next April. I'll be happy to share the happy stories of acceptances and high hopes when those days arrive.

 * ... KCUHS MEA CULPA: Dick Porter, president of Porter Citrus in Lamont, took me to task for flubbing the name of Kern County's first high school. For the record, it was called Kern County Union High School (I left 'county' out in an earlier piece on the death of Bob Montgomery.) For you history buffs, KCUHS is now Bakersfield High and in the old days Bakersfield College shared the same campus. And as long as we are talking about colleges, Porter told me his daughter Brittany is now living in Waterloo, Iowa, after graduating from Indiana University and son Tucker is a junior at the University of Colorado in Boulder. "They'll never come back," he told me. Of course, many of our local kids do come back to Bakersfield to live and work, and two who come to mind are Natalie Bustamante, daughter of pediatrician Dr. Javier Bustamante and wife Laurie, and Joe Hay, son of Mikie and Dan Hay, owners of Jim Burke Ford. Natalie is a lawyer with Klein, DeNatale and Goldner and Joe is working at the  dealership as commercial sales manager. Both graduated from University of Notre Dame. I'm making a list of those local  kids who did come home and will share in another blog.

* ... AN ORIOLE FROM BAKERSFIELD: It was nice to get an update on hard throwing former Bakersfield College and Centennial High pitcher Jarret Martin who is now making his way through the Baltimore Orioles organization. (see the previous post here) Jarret is the 20-year-old son of Dana and Rob Martin of Northwest Bakersfield and earlier this year signed with the Orioles. He spent a few months with the Bluefield Orioles in Bluefield, West Virginia, but later suffered some shoulder  tendinitis. He reports to spring training in Florida in January for supervised throwing and expects to be placed on a team in April. Meanwhile, proud mother Dana Martin tells me Jarret's younger sister is opting for Bakersfield College over a four-year university citing her own frugality, even though her parents are footing the bill. "I would not pay full price for a pair of $150 jeans so why would I pay full price for college?" her mother quotes Jordyn as asking.

* ... POLICE MEMORIAL RUN: If you're a runner or just want to support a good cause make sure to remember the 27th annual Bakersfield Police Memorial Run this Saturday over at the park at River Walk off Stockdale Highway. Maureen Buscher-Dang, the former marketing officer over at the old Chain-Younger law firm, told me the proceeds are used for the education of surviving children of Bakersfield police officers killed in the line of duty. Now that is a good cause. The fee is $25, registration starts at 6:30  a.m. and the race begins at 8 a.m. You can call 661-326-3685 for details or download an entry form at

Monday, November 2, 2009

Peggy Noonan: on the callous children in our government

 Few pundits have such insightful takes on our country than Peggy Noonan, a former Reagan speech writer and now a Wall Street Journal columnist. What I admire about Noonan is that - while certainly a conservative - she readily criticizes both Republicans and Democrats and never pulls her punches. Her Saturday column in the Wall Street Journal on the problems and malaise confronting our country (read full column here) is must reading for anyone concerned about our country. One salient passage:

  "It is a curious thing that those who feel most mistily affectionate toward America, and most protective toward it, are the most aware of its vulnerabilities, the most aware that it can be harmed. They don't see it as all-powerful, impregnable, unharmable. The loving have a sense of its limits.
"When I see those in government, both locally and in Washington, spend and tax and come up each day with new ways to spend and tax—health care, cap and trade, etc.—I think: Why aren't they worried about the impact of what they're doing? Why do they think America is so strong it can take endless abuse?"

Sunday, November 1, 2009

The stink over a local orange blossom festival and a fond farewell to Bob Montgomery

 * ... THE STINK OVER ORANGES: It looks like local citrus manager Ben Taft has stirred up a hornet's nest in the small Valley town of Lindsay over his idea for Bakersfield to host its own Orange Blossom Festival. Within a day of Taft floating his idea (read the previous post here) the folks in Lindsay were up in arms, reminding me (and Taft) that Lindsay has had its own orange blossom festival for 77 years and Bakersfield should simply back off. Deanna Pitts, who identified herself as the unofficial historian for the City of Lindsay, asked Taft to come up with another name because "our communities are too close for there not to be confusion." Taft has received literally dozens of emails, some quite nasty in tone, and others imploring Bakersfield not to "steal" an idea that - in their words - has become the lifeblood of the city. Taft is known not only for his quick wit but also for his sarcasm and told me he was moving ahead with a Bakersfield Orange Blossom Festival. He added:

 "And I am sorry that they feel Bakersfield waits in the weeds for the next great idea to escape the city limits just to be stolen by some ne'er-do-well from Kern County."

 Taft added that a simple Google search turns up orange blossom festivals in Riverside, McAllen, Texas, Naples, Florida and a dozen other communities. He added 100 percent of the net proceeds from a Bakersfield event would go to the local Ronald McDonald House and the new pediatric medical center planned for Memorial Hospital. Stay tuned for more fireworks.

 * ... RIP BOB MONTGOMERY: Was saddened to learn this weekend of the death of Bob Montgomery, a longtime Bakersfield businessman and entrepreneur. Montgomery was a founding board member at the old San Joaquin Bank and continued to serve on it until the end came on October 16. He was 89 and a longtime member of the Rotary Club of Bakersfield, which he faithfully attended. Montgomery grew up of modest means on San Emidio Street, graduated from Kern Union High School (now Bakersfield High School), served in the Navy in World War II and later went on to graduate from Stanford University. He founded Montgomery Drilling Co., a dynamic enterprise that stretched from Nevada to Alaska. Rogers Brandon, the American General Media president who was the San Joaquin chairman at the end, described him this way:

 "Whenever I flew with him and we landed, he'd look at whoever he was with and mutter, 'cheated death again.' He loved the bank and was a founding board member. He loved his family and he loved his Stanford."

* ... FORD'S HOT NEW FUSION: Had a chance to test drive the new Fusion, Ford's hot new hybrid that is helping lead Ford Motor Co.'s revival. The car is simply stunning, inside and out. It's no wonder that the Fusion is selling well in this recessionary economy because it gets more than 40 miles to the gallon. Chad Manning, sales manager over at Jim Burke Ford, tells me the Fusion is sitting on the lot an average of 3.4 days before it sells, compared to 63 days for the entire inventory. Said Chad:

 "Our sales rate would be much higher but the inventory from the factory is limited. Hybrid Fusion production is at capacity and we have much higher demand than the supply fills."

 Local car dealers have had it tough in this economy, along with the rest of us, and we'll never be out of the woods until credit eases and folks start buying new cars and homes again. Here's hoping the Fusion helps lead us out of this mess.

 * ... US AIRWAYS  MAKES MORE CUTS: I read with some trepidation a report in the Wall Street Journal that US Airways is cutting back on a number of routes and laying off another 1,000 people. The story did not give many details but let's hope the popular Bakersfield-Phoenix flights are not affected. Meadows Field already looks like a ghost town during part of the day, and this is something we just don't need. Speaking of Meadows Field, Mel Atkinson of the M.D. Atkinson commercial real estate company told me he spotted ex Meadows general manager Ray Bishop in Rapid City, S.D., of all places, where both were making airline connections. Bishop left Bakersfield to run the airport in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.