Friday, July 9, 2010

McCarthy: it's still about the jobs, and giving businesses incentives to create the work America needs

  Rep,. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) gives his view from Capitol Hill after spending time back home for the Fourth of July. In his words"
 "It was great to be back in California for July 4th.  Two hundred and thirty four years ago, our Founding Fathers threw off the chains of tyranny and founded a new nation based on individual liberty and freedom, and planted the seed for what has grown into the greatest and freest nation in history.  I hope everyone was able to enjoy some time off with their families.  My son Connor and I had a great time white water rafting in Kernville.

  "Tuesday, I visited one of Bakersfield’s own small businesses, Townsend Design.  Townsend produces knee braces for orthopedic-related injuries for patients in the U.S. and around the world.  While there, the
employees shared with me the economic challenges and obstacles they face every day.  In the afternoon, I hosted a round table discussion with members of the Greater Bakersfield Chamber of Commerce to discuss the challenges facing our local and state economy.  California needs jobs desperately, and one way we can do that is by getting serious about improving our national business climate.  Even more discouraging, on Wednesday, our national debt grew by $166 billion in one day, the 3rd largest increase in our nation’s history.  Adding more debt to our already weakened economy is not the path to getting our financial house back in order.  We need to remove the burdens that prevent small businesses from doing what they do best – create jobs.

  "Wednesday, I filled in for Jaz McKay at KNZR.  During the show we had some great guests, including former Speaker of the House, Newt Gingrich, and we talked about a variety of topics, including his new
book, To Save America.  Other guests included two members of Congress, Steve Scalise from Louisiana and Duncan Hunter from San Diego. Congressman Scalise’s district is on the coast in Louisiana, and while
on the show, he discussed the importance of containing the oil spill in the open water, before it gets into the marshland and further harms the ecosystem.  When Congressman Hunter–who represents California’s
52nd district—called in, we discussed our current strategy in Afghanistan. 
 "The Congressman is a former Marine who served two tours in Iraq, and believes that by setting a timeline for a withdrawal from Afghanistan, we could lower our troops' morale and allow the enemy to wait us out.  It’s no doubt, our nation faces tremendous challenges, but as Ronald Reagan said, “the security of our country…depends on more than weapons.  We must have the will to meet challenges of an
adversary who is constantly testing our resolve to defend our vital national interests.”

"Also, summer interns started this week in both the District and D.C. offices.  Kasey Astakhova, a Stockdale graduate and a junior at Cornell working on a degree in History, joined the District office team; Hannah Beene, daughter of this blog’s founder, and another Stockdale graduate, joined the D.C. team.  Hannah is currently a junior at University of Michigan, double majoring in Spanish and Political Science.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Bakersfield comes up dead last in a quality of life survey, Emily Falke says farewell and more recollections of old time Bako

 * ... MUSEUM FAREWELL: Had a chance to stop by the Bakersfield Museum of Art this week to attend the send-off for Emily Falke, the long-time curator heading to Santa Barbara to become director of education and exhibits at the Santa Barbara Maritime Museum. Emily said she had already moved into a small house in Santa Barbara and was looking forward to the new challenges, but would miss her friends here. Among those attending the farewell were many former and present members of the museum board, as well as artists, including Melissa Fortune, Melissa Grayhek, Art Sherwyn, Susan Hersberger, Beth Brookhart Pandol, Napier Hill, Joe and Mimi Audelo and of course museum executive director Bernie Herman.

 * ... LIFESTYLE RATINGS: Earlier this week The Californian reported that Kern County has the 15th weakest economy in the state, and now comes some more sobering news. According to, Bakersfield ranks dead last on a list of "quality of life" in the nation's 67 largest markets based on factors like education, income, unemployment and home ownership. (read the entire report here) For example, we rank last among major markets in terms of adults with advanced degrees (4.6 percent) as well as those with a bachelor's degree (14.3 percent). Our  poverty rate of 16.6 percent was also worst in the survey and our average household income of $46,400 was fifth from last. There is no doubt that these figures come as no surprise, given our reliance on migratory workers for farming and the fact that California has a higher percentage of new immigrants who tend to be poorer and lesser educated. And the statistics certainly don't factor in things like civic pride and goodwill and the willingness of people to pitch in for the common good. So while the statistics don't lie, at the end of the day it's just another survey that only tells part of the story.

 * ... IN AFRICA: UCLA student and Highland High graduate Stephanie Hammons is in South Africa for a month volunteering with Youth with a Mission (WYAM) and Ten Thousand Homes. The groups assists local orphanages, schools and villages and also helps with food distributions in South Africa. She apparently also got to take in the World Cup soccer match between Australia and Serbia.

 * ...  REMEMBERING OLD BAKERSFIELD: Retired school superintendent Al Sandrini wrote to correct another reader's recollection of the old Coachlight Inn. He said the Coachlight Inn was never on Stockdale Highway. "The Coachlight Inn was always located just north of 34th and Union Avenue... The building on the corner of Stockdale Highway was Ewing's Stockdale Inn. This was the same owner who owned the Tam 'O Shanter. This building was moved to the corner of Oak and California Avenue ... near the Santa Fe Railroad's roundhouse.... The original Coachlight Inn was eventually torn down when the north side of 34th Street was completely overhauled. Besides the Coachlight, there was a Kenny Shoe Store, a gas station and some office buildings. These were replaced by a Burger King, Los Hermanos and Matia's Basque Restaurant, owned and operated by Frank Matia before he moved to Rosedale. Oh by the way, I hate the term Bako."

 * ... BAKERSFIELDISM: A couple of offerings from correspondent Riley Parker: "You know you're a Bakersfield old timer if you had late night burgers at 'The Jumbo,' and your childhood mailing address was 'Kern Canyon Star Route, Box A.'"

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

More dark clouds for our commercial real estate market and wedding bells for local weather anchor

* ... OFFICE SPACE: Economists have been warning for months that the commercial real estate market is flirting with a meltdown, and now comes word that the national office vacancy rate is showing new signs of stress. According to the Wall Street Journal, office buildings across the country lost 1.8 billion square feet of occupied space in the second quarter, "pushing the national office vacancy rate to 17.4 percent, the highest level since 1993." Locally the commercial market is under great stress, and you don't have to do much more than drive around town to spot the alarming number of  vacant buildings. This seems particularly acute in the Northwest where brand new strip centers sit empty. One local businessman who owns part of a Northwest shopping center told me this weekend he was current on his payments but out of compliance with his loan covenants, and now his banker is demanding a higher monthly payment. "I told them I'd be better off declaring bankruptcy and then renting my space back at a lower cost, or looking for a smaller space. Is that what they want? Another empty building?"

* ... WEIGHT LOSS: You may have seen the new NBC series "Losing It with Jillian" featuring celebrity trainer Jillian Michaels living with folks who need to lose weight. She made her mark on "The Biggest Loser" and is now has her own series, playing off our national guilt about obesity. It turns out a local woman, Ruth May, was featured a few episodes back. Ruth works at Bakersfield Memorial Hospital and reportedly lost 75 pounds in just two months. Memorial marketing manager Michelle Willow said Terrio Therapy and Fitness is now assisting Ruth and her family as part of the Five Ton Challenge, which is Terrio's citywide weight loss program sponsored by Memorial Hospital.

 * ... ENGAGED: Nice to hear that Melissa Vreeman, the morning weather anchor over at KERO 23, is engaged to be married to Brian Dignan, assistant men's basketball coach at Cal State Bakersfield. Melissa told me they have been dating for almost a year and a half and hope to wed sometime in April 2011. Brian served both as a player and a coach at Cuesta College and Brigham Young University and has been with the Runners since for nine seasons. Melissa was born in Washington State but grew up in Southern California. She joined KERO TV in January 2008.

 * ... SPOTTED: Long holiday weekends in Bakersfield never fail to result in trashed parks, and this year  was no different. Fourth of July revelers left our parks full of trash, bottles, cans, wrappers and remnants of fireworks littering the sidewalks and the bike trail. Doesn't anyone pick up after themselves anymore?

 * ... BAKO OLD TIMER: Self described old timer Don Kurtz sent me his own list of Bakersfieldisms: "How about Tiny's Diner downtown, or Clarks Broiler at Union and Monterey? Or the hamburger grill across from Jefferson Park at Beale Avenue? Or the Foster's Freeze at Niles and Union or Blue Jays Ice Cream Parlor on Bernard Street across from Longfellow School. This is just a start of really bringing back good memories of East Bakersfield and a little bit of downtown."

 * ... BAKERSFIELDISM:  You know you're a Bakersfield old timer if you "remember what used to be where Sinaloa is now. (Flor d' Italia)

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Bad form on our bike path and one man's quest to chat with Bill Gates ...

 * ... BAD FORM: Another glorious weekend and Bakersfield was at its best with red white and blue flags and bunting adorning homes all over town. I celebrated with a long bike ride out through the Famosa Road vineyards, only to return to town to encounter a nasty crash of a cyclist on the bike path near Mohawk and Truxtun. Turns out the cyclist was going much too fast for the path, lost control going around a runner and went down hard. Wanna-be "racers" need to recognize that while it's a bike path in name, it's really for mixed use and is no place to "time trial" with your pals while weaving through pedestrians going 20 mph or faster. It's bad form and dangerous. If you want to ride like Lance, do it with one of the many groups of hard core cyclists who would be happy to take you out of town on the roads and leave you humbled.

 * ... DEAR BILL: A local business owner is on a quest to meet Bill Gates, or at least get him on the phone. If that seems odd, you'd have to know Dave Plivelich, local owner The Marcom Group and an active member of the downtown Rotary Club. Plivelich recently returned from India where he participated in the ongoing Rotary program to eradicate polio. He was so moved by that effort, and Gates' pledge of matching Rotary's efforts with a $300 million grant, that he has launched an unusual effort to get Gates on the phone. He wants to share his experiences and thank Gates for his generosity. Plivelich has posted an "open letter" to Gates on his company blog and asked others to spread the news. Consider it done, Dave. Let us know what Bill has to say.

 * ...RADIO RACHEL: It was nice to see local radio personality Rachel Legan profiled in the July edition of BakersfieldLife magazine. Rachel teams with her brother Dustin as morning hosts for KGFM 101.5. She's one of our community's true good spirits, a down-to-earth confidant who genuinely cares about this community and its people. She also hosts what I believe to be one of the funniest gigs in local radio, reading posts from the "missed connections" on Craigslist, a hilarious assortment of postings from local folks looking for love. On a personal note, she told the magazine her best piece of advice was from poet Maya Angelou while on Oprah: "'When someone shows you who they are, believe them - the first time.' That statement has been very useful to me. Even when I ignore it, I end up learning from it." (Rachel, right, with Melissa Vreeman from Channel 23)

 * ... CAMP BLUE JAY: Heard from Patricia Henson about the need for campers to attend the July sessions of Camp Blue Jay. This is a resident camp run for kids with mild to moderate communicative, cognitive and physical disabilities. The camp runs from July 11-24 this year with a younger group going the first week and an older group the next. The good news: so far ever registered camper has qualified for a full scholarship. "We do not want financial considerations to be a barrier to attendance," said Henson, executive director for the Society for Disabled Children. Interested? Call 661-322-5595.

 * ... BAKERSFIELDISM: From correspondent Riley Parker: You know you're a Bakersfield old-timer if you remember when "The Coachlight Inn moved from Union Avenue out to 'the country' on Stockdale Highway."