Friday, January 29, 2010

McCarthy: time to focus on Central Valley water issues and control the national debt

 Rep. Kevin McCarthy's weekly report from Capitol Hill. In his words...

 This week's theme - once again Washington isn't listening to the American people.
 Monday, I was in Fresno with local farmer and Kern County Water Agency Director Fred Starrh at a public forum to talk about the continuing dire water situation in California. A tiny fish is taking precedence over our local farmers and workers, which is killing jobs. Unfortunately, the Administration did not send a representative to the forum even though they knew about it for a month.  The Central Valley will not be ignored and we have common-sense solutions to help solve this water crisis, like turning back on the pumps.
  "The very next day, the Administration followed up with an “announcement” that the Interior Department was “releasing” water that our Central Valley Project water users already owned. We are tired of
not being listened to and receiving continued lip service to our water crisis. It is time for the Administration, Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and other Congressional leaders to wake up and get the message that ‘jobs grow where water flows.’

  "For the State of the Union, I was honored to serve on the President’s escort committee.  As we heard during his speech, the President called on Congress to address issues we have been saying need to be addressed for some time – job creation and cutting wasteful Washington spending. These are common-sense solutions to start a new chapter in America, and I am glad the President acknowledged the need to address these issues. Unfortunately, the very next day after the President called for a spending freeze, the Senate voted to raise our national debt limit by $1.9 trillion - raising the overall national debt ceiling to
$14.3 trillion, which saddles every American with $45,000 of debt. We cannot continue to borrow money we do not have, but once again, it doesn’t appear Washington is listening.

  "Friday afternoon, the President met with my colleagues and me, and we urged him to take a hard look at solutions we have heard from our local communities to help create jobs – reduce burdensome regulations,
stop looming tax increases, and approve free trade agreements.  We in California know that Washington cannot follow our state's model in which Sacramento taxes, borrows, and over-regulates our small
businesses. We also discussed the need for smarter investments and a real commitment to reducing the deficit, both of which are absolutely needed, as we are already on an unsustainable path of borrowing record
amounts of money from other countries, like China.  The President took the time to listen to some of our ideas, and now I hope Speaker Pelosi will also listen so we can move our country forward through
bipartisan solutions. Last week, we heard the people of Massachusetts send a message that enough is enough in Washington. We are a nation of innovation, we are a nation of free enterprise, and we are a nation that believes in accountability and transparency.

  "Next week, I am looking forward to spending some time in Lancaster and Mojave and I will be welcoming some folks from Bakersfield to DC for the National Prayer Breakfast - a wonderful annual event.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

City manager says get ready for more traffic snarls and yet more feedback on nicknames: Backwardsfield?

 * ... TANDY REPORT: City Manager Alan Tandy spoke to the downtown Rotary Club Thursday and passed along some interesting tidbits. First, Tandy said we should all prepare for a flurry of major road work around town as stimulus money is put to work. This is money tied to creating jobs so the city has to spend it promptly. Resurfacing on a number of major arteries will begin after the rains. Tandy also noted that one sure sign of the recession is the marked decrease in the amount of garbage and trash being generated, and the hauls remain lighter than usual, a sure sign the recession is lingering. And lastly, he warned we should all prepare for more DUI checkpoints since that is one area that is still receiving healthy federal funding. He said the city will average about six DUI checkpoints a month.

 * ... FAREWELL CLAUDE: The funeral service for retired petroleum geologist and engineer Claude Fiddler was a fitting tribute to a remarkable man. The service was held at Greenlawn Memorial Chapel and followed by a special "toast" on the Panorama Drive bluffs overlooking the Kern River oil field. In a moving tribute to the Navy veteran,  granddaughter Sarah Ross sang "Anchors Aweigh" to wrap up the service. The Fiddlers (his wife Shirley Ann died just a few  weeks before Claude) were generous benefactors to a number of non-profits including the Golden Empire Gleaners, Southern Sierra Boy Scouts, Bakersfield Museum of Art and Valley Public Radio, to name a few.

* ... BACKWARDSFIELD? OUCH! This from reader Jerry Cox on nicknames for our hometown. (His comments will no doubt get a response.) "No doubt you've heard this one before. My favorite pet name for Bakersfield is Backwardsfield. As I travel around this great state, I'm often asked 'Where are you from?.' I usually reply that I am originally from the Midwest but that I now live in Backwardsfield. That usually results in getting a wink, or a nod, with a knowing smile, as a reaction. Just passing this on. You may not want to share this with your readership. But, as you media people would say, 'Just reporting the news, not making it.'  I can only speculate on why I get this response. Deserved or not. Editorially speaking, after living here eight-plus years, I would say deserved. As TBC would write -- These are his opinions, not necessarily The Californian's."

 * ... BROWN MATERIAL ROAD: And then there is reader Anne Grogan, who said that "no one should be so insecure that they are afraid to inform people they are from Bakersfield. After all, it isn't as bad as telling someone you reside on Brown Material Road!"

 * ... THE BUZZ: There is a lot of talk going around town that Trader Joe's may be leaving the Southwest to relocate to the Northwest Promenade on Rosedale Highway. I'm not sure where this rumor started and the folks over at Trader Joe's say there is no truth to it, but it nonetheless has a lot of people upset. Negotiating Rosedale Highway and dealing with the traffic at the Promenade is no fun, and many loyal Trader Joe's folks want it to stay exactly where it is. We'll keep an eye on this one.


Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The coming real estate train wreck, David Gordon hits the radio and more on Bakersfield nicknames....

* ... COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE: I read a disturbing piece the other day about just how much worse things can get not only with residential sales but also with commercial real estate. One expert, Andy Miller, argues the worst is yet to come, particularly in the commercial sector. (read the entire post here). On the residential side, the number of foreclosures remains staggering particularly in an area like the Central Valley that has been so hard hit. No one predicted we would be out of the woods this year, but Miller paints a frightening picture. An excerpt:

 "The public doesn't have any idea of the scale of the guarantees the government is taking on through Fannie, Freddie, and FHA. It's huge. If people understood what the federal government has done and subjected the taxpayers to, there would be a public outrage. But you can't get people to focus on it, and it's very esoteric, it's very hard to understand. But it's not something the bond market won't notice. The government can't keep doing what it has been doing to support mortgage lending without pushing interest rates way up.
 "Refinancings of single-family homes are very interest-rate sensitive. Consumers have their backs against the wall. They have too much debt. Refinancing their maturing mortgages or their adjustable-rate mortgages is very problematic if rates go up, but that's exactly where they're headed. So anyone who's comforted by current statistics on single-family homes should look beyond the data and into the dynamics of the market. What they'll find is very alarming." 

 So hang on, we've got more rough road ahead.

* ... ST. FRANCIS SCHOOL: Cynthia Meek, principal at St. Francis Parish elementary school, emailed to remind me that the school's annual Crabfest fund raiser this past weekend was organized by the Parent Teacher Organization and not the Junior League. I had mentioned the Junior League in an earlier posting on the event, noting that many of those working Crabfest were Junior Leaguers, but didn't mean to imply the League was a sponsor.  "I only mention this because I do not want to confuse our parishioners who support our school and the community businesses that support our school.... The Crabfest is the main fund raiser of the PTO and all profits go directly to the school to help underwrite the cost of education,"she said.

 * ... BAKO OR BUCKERSFIELD? Reader Don Palla weighed in on Bakersfield nicknames, asking if I had "totally forgotten about Buckersfield after Bako legend Buck Owens? That gets my vote!" And another reader, Molly Sabat,  noted that when "my husband and I were preparing to move here from Ventura in 1996, my little brother Kevin McKean started throwing out Baker-tucky. I think I like it." Thanks for the feedback.

 * ... MORE BAKO TALK: Lee Webb, professor emeritus of math at Cal State Bakersfield, sent me a thoughtful note on the debate over nicknames. In his words: "I'm enjoying the discussion about Bakersfield's name and the possible variations used.  I believe that you have mentioned the use of Stockdale, CA., but if not, I remember when I arrived in town in 1971 to start my teaching career at CSUB, I wondered what would happen if I put Stockdale, CA. 93309 instead of Bakersfield, CA. 93309 on a letter?  Stockdale sounded so much better.  After all, I believe if you addressed a letter to Oildale, CA. 93308 that is would arrive in a timely manner.

 "Also, when my son and I were in Mammoth skiing in December, I noticed one of the lift operators had a name tag with her name and 'Rosedale, CA.' under it.  I did not remember any Rosedale, CA, so I asked her if she lived in Bakersfield.  She said yes, but she didn't like to advertise that she lived in there, so she had them put Rosedale, CA on her name tag.  She thought that was better as she had recently graduated from Liberty High School and lived in the 93312 area code.  Would a letter addressed Rosedale, CA 93312 get to her?  Having been raised in Santa Barbara, which is considered a garden spot of CA, I even tried to disassociate myself with Bakersfield by thinking about Stockdale, CA when I first arrived.  It seems as though some young people are still trying to do so.  Now I appreciate Bakersfield more, particularly the very nice, friendly people.  I would prefer more Santa Barbara type weather, but I tolerate the heat and fog." 

 * ... MUSEUM ON THE RADIO:  David Gordon is the assistant director of The Bakersfield Museum of Art, a local artist himself and one of the wittiest people I know. So it was nothing short of a stroke of genius that the Museum decided to partner with 101.5 KGFM radio to put Gordon on the radio every Wednesday, teamed with the sibling morning hosts Rachel and Dustin Legan (photo below) to talk about gossip, local entertainment and local happenings. It's called "The Scene" and it will debut today (Wednesday) at 7:40 a.m. and will air every Wednesday at the same time. I'm tuning in, and suggest you do the same.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The generosity of Dean and Adah Gay, Crabfest 2010 and funeral services set for Dr. John Lang and Claude Fiddler

* ... A LOCAL FAMILY'S GENEROSITY: Bakersfield College will be dedicating its newly renovated and expanded sports complex on Thursday, February 4. This is a striking new facility, for both baseball and softball, and the opening will feature a Lady Gades softball game. But what is really important is the couple who made all this happen, Dean and Adah Gay. It was their generosity that allowed the school to expand, yet another example of how local folks open their wallets to help our local institutions. The actual dedication of the new "Dean and Adah Gay Sports Complex" will be held at 5:30 p.m. at the corner of University Avenue and Haley Street in the Northeast. Bakersfield College is just one of a long list of local institutions and non-profits that the Gay family has supported.

 * ... CRABFEST 2010: I attended the annual "Crabfest" fund raiser Friday night to benefit St. Francis School. It was a huge event, coordinated and run by a tight-knit group of St. Francis supporters and Junior Leaguers and held at Harvest Hall at the Kern County Fairgrounds. It was amazing to watch this group open their wallets during the silent auction, egged on course by the charismatic Monsignor Craig Harrison. Last year I'm told they raised some $160,000 and I'd be surprised if they didn't top it this year. Lots of folks were there, including Diane Lake, Lee and  Kryssy Jamieson, Kelli Gruszka, Rep. Kevin McCarthy and wife Judy, John Sacco and Dr. Rob Waguespack, David Morton, Steve Houston, Lydia and Jon Rowles (pictured below) and many others.

 * ... BAKERSPATCH? I got a nice email the other day from local resident Mike Schield, who describes himself as a Bay Area transplant who has lived here for 13 years and (thank you Mike) a regular reader of BakersfieldObserved and The Californian. In his words:

 "It's been most interesting to read all the kibitzing re Bako, B-town etc. Loretta (his wife) has been encouraging me to put in my two bits worth, so here goes. Frequently in discussion with my buddies for lo these many years, I refer to our community as Bakerspatch. I know it's a little corny but Loretta and I both think that one of the beauties of our country is that it's okay to be a little corny! Helps grease the slides! Also when I'm addressing local mail, I use Bfld. Try pronouncing that one! Keep up the great work, Richard."

* ... CHURCH RETURNS: Among those who have moved away from Bakersfield only to return is Jack Church, back as the meteorologist at KERO TV 23, replacing the retiring Rusty Shoop. KERO anchor Jackie Parks told me she started working at 23 with Church in January of 1999 but he left in 2001 to be the meteorologist of a Time Warner 24-hour channel in Syracuse, N.Y. I gave Church a call and he told me leaving was a mistake and he is thrilled to be back in Bakersfield. He's originally from Tennessee (as am I) which makes him a life-long Volunteer fan, even if he did graduate from Mississippi State University. Jack and his wife Pam have two children, including a son Eric who goes to school at Florida State University in Tallahassee, and daughter Hannah, an eighth grader. Welcome back, Jack.

 * ... FUNERAL SERVICES: Local Westchester doyen Bettina Belter called to let me know that a funeral service for Dr. John Lang will be held this Thursday at 2 p.m. at St. Francis Church. Lang, 64, died of a massive heart attack on Jan. 18 in Hawaii, where he had attended his niece's wedding. He was a longtime plastic surgeon with a wide circle of friends and an avid Pittsburgh Steelers fan. His office was on 21st Street in Westchester. Also on Thursday at 2 p.m., services will be held at Greenlawn Cemetery for Claude Fiddler, the retired Chevron engineer who died just a couple weeks after his wife Shirley Ann passed away. Keep both of these families in your thoughts.