Friday, April 9, 2010

McCarthy: are we facing a 'value added tax (VAT)' on top of other tax increases?

 Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) gives his view from Capitol Hill. In his own words:

 "I started the week by celebrating Easter Sunday with my family.  The day before was my son's 16th birthday - amazing how time flies. I squeezed in a little work talking with Chris Wallace during an early morning appearance on Fox News Sunday.  We discussed the future direction of our country and the need for Congress to listen to the American people.
 "As I mentioned last week, I am heading up a new initiative (Commitment to America) to do just that; this project seeks to engage Americans by all means possible--from cutting edge technology to the more traditional town hall meetings--to bring forward common sense solutions that will lay the foundation for a better future for our children.

 "On Wednesday, neighboring Congressman Buck McKeon (CA-25) and I held a joint town hall in Lancaster.  During the meeting we listened to a number of people express their frustration with Washington.  I appreciate all those who took the time out of their evening to share with me their ideas.  I truly believe the best ideas are not in Washington, but from our neighbors and friends who see and experience the effects of bad policy decisions. That is why I think Washington should do more listening and less spending.‬

 "That said, common sense says that if you are in debt, the first step you should take is reduce spending and get out of debt. However, when it comes to deficit spending, this Congress and President have no such will.  Instead of reducing spending, they have decided to simply raise taxes.  In fact, this week a top Administration official suggested that our country may need to impose a “value added tax” (VAT) on top of a national income tax like many European countries have.  I firmly believe that raising taxes at a time when unemployment hovers at 9.7% nationally and 12.5% in California is a recipe for disaster. ‬‪‬‪

 "To help keep government accountable on spending, I introduced legislation (H.R. 4943) that would require the IRS to publish an annual report showing the state of Federal government finances both on its web and in the instruction booklets individuals’ use when preparing their income taxes. Just as public companies provide their stockholders with information on company finances, I believe American taxpayers - the Federal governments’ stockholders - ought to know the state of our nation’s finances as well.  This report would include current and projected Federal tax revenue, spending, deficits/surplus, and public debt, as well as the public debt per taxpayer. Transparency and openness in government is vital to American democracy, and this bill is designed to build upon these fundamental tenets.

‬‪‬‪ "I finished out the week attending the Red Cross Real Heroes luncheon in Bakersfield - recognizing local residents who have served our community in amazing ways.  Finally, the State Forensic Finals will be held for the first time ever at Bakersfield College next weekend.  Good luck to our local representatives and I hope everyone can judge a few debate rounds.

Padre targeted by unions: but are they effective?

The new Padre Hotel became the latest in a long string of local businesses (including The Californian several years ago) to be targeted by organized labor for allegedly using non-union workers or paying prevailing wages on contracts. The problem for the union: these "shame on" protests have become so common they no longer draw attention, so to my knowledge are ineffective. And my guess is the folks they hire to stand behind the signs all day are not being paid "prevailing wages."

Random shots of iconic Bakersfield.... things we miss about town

 Some more random shots around town of some of more (or less) famous landmarks ... enjoy...

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The real face on the recession, getting ready for gridlock and the courage of a rape victim

 * ... JOBLESS: I received a thoughtful note from a reader challenging my notion that foreclosed homes are the "picture of this recession." The contributor noted that it's not the house itself, but rather the person in the unemployment line that is more representative of these difficult economic times. "It's the face of the person at the unemployment office, trying to figure out the confusing and contradictory paperwork, trying to get a hold of someone to answer simple questions and hoping that a paperwork snafu or single Senator won't result in the loss of benefits or force him out of his home and make him wonder how he will eat." I stand corrected. These are tenuous times for so many of our neighbors. I appreciate this input, which stands  in contrast to others who -  blessed with jobs and homes and security - trivialize the pain of others by waltzing through this recession engaged in idle gossip seemingly oblivious to what is happening around them. And so it goes.

 * ... COLLEGE BOUND: Terri Richmond, social studies chair over at Foothill High School, alerted me to two of her International Baccalaureate students who have been accepted into some impressive colleges. Maria Zepeda will choose from Wellesley, Yale, Stanford, Brown and Columbia, and Omar Gonzales has been accepted at the University of Southern California and Emory University in Atlanta. Going on to any college is something to celebrate, but these two kids have really excelled. Well done.

* ... MORE FOOTHILL: Beyond the kids mentioned above, Foothill High has a lot more to crow about. Joan Herman, lead counselor, told me the school is seeing a "depth and breadth of college acceptances that thrills us: Yale, Columbia, Brown, Wellesley, Wesleyan, Emory, Grinnell, Stanford, USC, Occidental, UCLA (9!), UC Berkeley ... What is especially notable is that these students have done it with none of the advantages that others enjoy: most of our students come from extremely low-income homes, are usually the first in their family to go to college (and sometimes to finish high school) and often come from homes where English is not the first language. Despite those obstacles, they achieve at the highest levels!" Joan gave special thanks to Rebecca Farley, the international baccalaureate coordinator who is tireless in her efforts to prepare these students to excel.

  * ... VICTIM COURAGE: I was moved by the story of rape victim Donna Bulford speaking at Cal State Bakersfield this week.(read the Californian full story here) Bulford was the victim in the "Babies R Us" case in which she was robbed, kidnapped and raped in broad daylight. It took courage for this young woman to face her accuser and then share her story with others. This is a strong young woman who obviously was reared by parents who filled her with confidence and self-esteem. (Californian photo by Michael Fagans)

  * ... GRIDLOCK: Don't say that City Manager Alan Tandy didn't warn us. Now that the rainy season is about over, work is getting underway on road projects across town. And if you think it's bad now, just wait because it's going to get much worse. Consider the already nightmarish intersection of Brimhall and Coffee roads, where they are rerouting a sewer line and planning massive improvements. The morning and afternoon commutes - already hellish - are starting to look like something you expect elsewhere. And don't forget about the year-long project at Coffee Road and Truxtun Extension. Getting through that intersection is going to make a colonoscopy look like a walk in the park.

* ... BAKERSFIELDISM: You know you're from Bakersfield when "you complain that it takes you almost 20 minutes to go from one side of town to the other."

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

A drive down 19th Street in East Bakersfield

Here are a few pictures of old East Bakersfield for you out of towners who visit this blog. Remember these icons?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Those foreclosed eyesores, pesky homeowner associations and high achieving kids headed to college

 * ... FORECLOSURES: There is no more representative face of this recession than the abandoned house down the street. You know the one: weeds knee high, dirty, an eyesore in an otherwise wonderful neighborhood. One reader named Bob lives in Seven Oaks and wrote to complain about how many homeowner associations (HOA) turn a blind eye toward these foreclosures while nitpicking other residents about the silliest of things. Said Bob: "Many of these HOAs (in gated communities) are administered by firms that don't seem to care about anything other than collecting monthly fees and making sure the electronic entry gate functions properly. I am tempted to post a sign in front of these overgrown front yards 'get a goat' or 'pride of ownership.' To add insult, responsible neighbors get pimped (with a mailed notice, picture inset and threatening fines) for having weeds in our yards or inappropriately parking our cars!" (an example from Grand Islands at Seven Oaks shown below)

 * ... STAR IS BORN: If you have never heard of a young country singer named Lauren Ashley, you will soon. Her father, Chris Persel, sent me a note saying that Lauren will be playing this Friday from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m., at the Younger Gallery in the Bank of America building downtown. She's just 15 but plays all original country songs. And she will have an album out soon produced by Monty Byrum and Paul Serpa. Chris told me his daughter has written over 100 songs, sang the National Anthem for a Condors game and the Youth Leadership Conference and performed four nights at the Kern County Fair. To hear her music check out her website at Or even better, head over to the Younger Gallery to hear her perform in person. Her appearance will benefit the gallery and the Arts Council of Kern. This kid is going places.


 * ... HIGH ACHIEVER: Ready for some good news? Then consider the case of Joe Feghali , who was just 11 years old when his family moved here from Lebanon. At the time he spoke only French, no English. Like many immigrants (and Lebanese are known for their industrious nature) the Feghalis embraced their new hometown and emphasized education. Joe is now a senior at Stockdale High School, and during one of the most competitive years for getting into the school of your choice, has been accepted at arguably some of the world's most selective universities. Among them are Harvard, Princeton, UC Berkeley, Brown, Duke, Cornell, Dartmouth and UCLA. Impressed? We should be. Proud father Antoine Feghali told me that he himself had just earned his citizenship last year and his wife just earned her bachelor's degree in modern language from CSUB. Who says this isn't the land of opportunity?

 * ... STANFORD LEGACY: And speaking of high achievers I heard from Liz Blaine, a longtime Bakersfield patron of  the arts, adding some perspective about her Stanford-bound granddaughter Melissa Hamilton. I had mentioned that Melissa's parents, Dr. Chris and Susan Hamilton, also graduated from Stanford but Liz takes it a step further. "She (Melissa) follows two sets of grand parents, six aunts and uncles and a cousin" as current or potential Stanford alums. She added that Melissa had choices as well, being accepted at Northwestern, Notre Dame and the University of Michigan. As Liz said: "Guess that's enough grandparental crowing. Thanks for indulging me." Happy to share it, Liz.

  * ... BAKERSFIELDISMS:  You know you're from Bakersfield when you realize that "Rosedale is a world of its own."

Sunday, April 4, 2010

More warnings of mortgage fraud "flopping" and local kid heads to Stanford

* ... HOUSING RISK: Local real estate appraiser Gary Crabtree is once again warning about mortgage fraud, this time regarding a practice known as "flopping." A flop occurs when an agent helps investors obtain distressed properties at deflated prices. Said Crabtree: "A very interesting anomaly was noted last month. The median price of the REO (real estate owned) sales was $130,000 while the median price of the 'short sales' was $120,000. This raises the question, are agents working the short sale market playing games with their BPOs (broker price opinion)? The new mortgage fraud of property flopping continues to rear its ugly head costing lenders and taxpayers untold losses of millions to the 'floppers.'" Lastly, Crabtree said that last month marked "the first month we saw an increase in foreclosures. Could this be the precursor to the 'second wave' of foreclosures causing a 'double dip' in the market? Only time will tell."

* ... STANFORD BOUND: Kudos to Melissa Hamilton, a Stockdale High School senior who is heading to Stanford University in the fall. Melissa is the high-achieving daughter of Dr. Chris and Susan Hamilton, who also happen to be Stanford graduates. And to keep it in the family, older sister Jennifer is a sophomore at the prestigious Palo Alto campus and reportedly thrilled her sister will be joining her.

* ... MORE BAD TASTE: This from a reader who responded to my post about the fake bull testicles hanging from pickup truck trailer hitches around town. "Somehow the lovely bull testicles have escaped my attention - must be  hanging out with the wrong crowd or driving the wrong streets. But enough about testicles. The truck accessory /decoration that is really tacky is the silver nude female silhouette - provocatively posed and one with a devil with horns and the other an angel with wings and a halo. They come in vinyl for your back window (bracketing your 12 gauge) or as attractive mud flaps. Classy."

 * ... BHS ARTS: Yvonne Cavanagh asked me to spread the word on an event that will raise money to support arts programs at Bakersfield High School. Yvonne is not only a BHS graduate but also owner of Surface Gallery, where the event will be held next Saturday, April 10. BHS Friends of Fine Arts (FoFA) is hosting the show, which will raise money for arts, dance, ceramics, forensics and other programs. Tickets are $25 and that includes one glass of wine, appetizers and a live band. Call parent Diana Ripepi at 661-327-5429 for details, or you can visit their Facebook site here.

 * ... BAKERFIELDISM: You know you're from Bakersfield when "your neighbor moves from the Southwest to the Northwest to be 'closer to the grandchildren.'"