Friday, August 6, 2010

Bako Fire Chief backs down and calls Lois Henry a liar ...

 Ron Fraze, the retiring city fire chief, says he is no longer considering seeking a disability pension. In fact, he claims he never told Californian columnist Lois Henry that he was trying to sweet his pension, and he called Lois a liar. Read Lois' response here. I think Ron got caught stumbling over his own words and is trying the old coverup.

McCarthy: Washington is a city 'drunk on its own power'

 Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) wrote a piece for in which he described Washington as a city "drunk on its own power." McCarthy compared the nation's capital with Main Street, USA, including Bakersfield where our unemployment is hovering around 15 percent. Read the full post here.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

More on the city's sweetheart pension deals and a Realtor says don't blame the banks for the housing mess

* ... HOUSING MESS: I received a thoughtful note from local Realtor Sally Morrison on the housing crisis. She recalled a meeting in 2001 at Hodel's Restaurant that was hosted by lending institutions, right before the housing run-up. At the time the government was pushing for more home ownership and loosened regulations to make it easier for people to qualify for loans. "So what does the federal government do? They tell Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac that they no longer have to require an affidavit be signed by all parties that there are no other loans on the purchase of the property. So here come the 20 percent second and sometimes the 25 percent second to cover the closing costs... Everyone is happy. The real estate agents are selling houses like crazy, the lenders are making two loans at the same time, the price is going up 10 percent a month, appraisers can't keep up with the work and investors see that real estate is doing much better than the stock market so they are driving up the price a little more." Her point? "Saying that the banks are greedy and unscrupulous is not fair. The federal government wanted the banks to do just what they did. Saying banks should not make money is like putting fifty 21-year-old men naked in a Hooter's with naked waitresses and telling them there are no rules, and then wondering why there are all these newborn babies in nine months.... if the federal government would have left good enough alone we would be fine today... To own your own home requires a little integrity. You have to save some money or you have to do service for your country in the military and learn integrity there. But if you stay in school and get a good job and make a habit of saving money a home of your own will come." Well said, Sally.

 * ... SWEETHEART PENSIONS: You wonder how the stink over City Fire Chief Ron Fraze's retirement will affect the November ballot measure that would reduce pensions for future police and firefighters. Voters are up in arms and the unions are terrified that they might see their pensions reduced. We can thank our City Council for failing to deal directly with this issue and putting it on the ballot.

 * ... OVERHEARD: A man who owns a home on the Kern River across from Hart Park said every Monday homeowners are greeted with a tsunami of trash (soda cans, diapers, fast food wrappers) washing up on their property from the weekend crowds at Hart Park. "If my wife and  I can keep a couple acres clean ourselves, why can't they pick up after themselves?"

 * ... STREET SCENE: Spotted near Cafe Med on Stockdale Highway was a person celebrating the overturning of Proposition 8 with a sign that read, "Ken Mettler Don't Hit Me!"

* ... OLD BAKO: Reader Johnnie K. Adams has called Bakersfield home for 64 years and his family has been here since 1911. He shared a few remembrances: "Remember the old quarry at the 24th Street bridge where you'd be walking in two inches of water and then walk into a 50-foot hole? A lot of lives were lost that way. I still can't go into the river there. And about Mother's Bakery. They had jumbo, jumbo cream puffs (real cream, only) but you could only buy them in winter. Remember the asparagus fields on Real Road? And remember mushrooming at Stockdale and Brundage on Kern County Land Co. land? You would walk from Brundage to the river."

 * ... OLD TV: Local television pioneer Don Rodewald wrote to say how pleased he was to see his name in this blog regarding his 17-year afternoon show on KERO-TV. "Everything was live, film or slide. The two black and white cameras were tube and four lens. The KERO studio was a small section of the El Tejon Hotel at Truxtun and Chester Avenue. There were three announcers-George Day, Harry Mitchell and Don Rodewald, the last one alive. But cable hadn't arrived yet so people still remember those early days. Some even remember when my wife and I spent two weeks in a bomb shelter at 18th and Chester during the Cold War. Sorry to ramble but fun to reminisce."

 * ... BAKERSFIELDISM: Reader Walter E. Stewart says you know you're from Bakersfield "if you remember Starbuck's small one-room neighborhood grocery stores in the four hundred block of Monterey Street, circa 1920 and 1930s).

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Jack Pandol, grape grower, dies at 87 after extended battle with Alzheimer's disease

 I heard from the Pandol family that family patriarch Jack V. Pandol has died after a long battle with Alzheimer's disease. He was 87. The family said Jack died at home Wednesday surrounded by many family members. He is survived by his wife of 62 yeares, Winifred Pandol, his sons Stephen, Jack J. and Jim Pandol, his daughter Maria Zebrowski and five grandchildren.
 After marrying Winifred in 1948, Jack settled in rural Delano and began to work selling grapes for the farm as well as selling wine from the local grower's cooperative. He went on to become an innovator in agriculture and became involved politically, being appointed to a number of state boards and commissions by Governors Reagan, Deukmejian and Wilson. In October of 2009, he was bestowed Chile's highest honor, the Bernardo O'Higgins Presidential Order of Merit. Funeral details are pending. (picture of Jack and son Jack is courtesy of Pandol Brothers website)

Will LA's KCET go public after dispute with PBS?

 Interesting story in today's Los Angeles Times (read full account here) about a dispute with LA's KCET and its annual payments to PBS. According to James Rainey, KCET is kicking around the idea of going independent if it can't work things out. All this comes as Fresno-based KVPT tries to make inroads in the South Valley amid a severe slump in fund raising. Rainey's report provides a rare inside look into public television finances and is worth the read. (photo courtesy of the Los Angeles Times)

Fire Chief Ron Fraze seeks to sweeten his own pension ... where's the outrage?

 It looks like Bakersfield Fire Chief Ron Fraze may seek to fatten his already generous city pension by claiming a disability. He sure doesn't look disabled but turns out he may claim an old injury as a way to get his pension tax free for life. If you haven't read Lois Henry's latest take on this, read it here. One wonders how moves like this could affect the November ballot measure that would reduce future pensions for police and firefighters.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Anger at the sweet pension deals for public employees and a local kid heads to the Ivy League

* ... PUBLIC PENSIONS: The retirement of Bakersfield Fire Chief Ron Fraze triggered a harsh reaction from a handful of readers, reflecting a growing anger at what many see as the sweet deal enjoyed by public employees. Reader Stacey Brown's reaction was typical. "The fact that Chief Fraze can even entertain the idea of retirement after 25 years is a slap in the face to all of us that do not have a generous, taxpayer-funded retirement (including health care benefits). I'd be giddy too if I could have retired after 25 years of work. Instead I have the pleasure of working until I no longer physically am able to, in order to pay for my own retirement and health care. Perhaps you see Chief Fraze's retirement as a notable event; let's remove the rose colored glasses and remember that the majority of your readers aren't as giddy as Chief Fraze as they continue to slog through yet another week, another year, another 10 years of work ... and if they are lucky, might actually get to experience a day of 'just relaxing'. Oh wait-we can relax when we're dead."

 * ... PUBLIC TV: Fresno-based KVPT (Valley Public Television) seems intent on gaining a foothold in Bakersfield and the South Valley. First, it appointed former First Five commissioner Esther Brandon to its board of directors, and now it has engaged the Arts Council of Kern to do some research into how the station is perceived locally. And that is precisely the problem. Most viewers cannot distinguish between Los Angeles-based KCET public television and KVPT. Both have strong signals here and both stations are carried on local cable outlets. And at least to date, neither has done much south Valley programming but KVPT seems intent on building a stronger relationship here. Only time will tell if KVPT's effort is focused on raising more money here or actually focusing more content on south Valley issues.

 * ... IVY BOUND: Always happy to share news of our high achieving kids, and here's one story that should impress everyone. Gordon Morris Redmond, a product of West High School and Bakersfield College, is headed to the Ivy League and Columbia University. He actually earned his AA at Orange Coast College, and he did it while working at Trader Joe's and finding time to donate bone marrow for a 40-year-old mother with young children. He is the youngest of 11 children to parents Stan and Janice Redmond. His sister, Camille Grider, wrote to say her family is loyal to St. Francis Parish. "Now today," she wrote, "Bakersfield has a 27-year-old intelligent, selfless, determined product attending a wonderful Ivy League school in New York City this fall."  That's what I would call an inspiring story.

 * ... FIRST FRIDAY: It's time for another First Friday celebration downtown. What better way to spend a warm evening in the Dog Days of summer than taking in the art galleries and a meal at one of our downtown eateries? Make sure the old standbys like the Metro Galleries, the Padre Hotel, Mama Roomba's and Uricchio's Trattoria are on your 'to do' list. Metro Galleries on 19th Street will feature some new works of art by Gita Lloyd and Nicole St. John as well as a continuation of Barbara Reid's "Seasons of Her Life" exhibit. (Barbara Reid art shown below)

 * ... MORE EAST BAKO: Reader Donald Kurtz, owner of Donald Kurtz Investigations, continues with a few memories of growing up in East Bakersfield. "Used to get my hair cut by 'Gus' the barber. Hasham's automotive a hot rod shop. Baker and East 19th Street, a great place to hang out during the Winter Nationals. You also had a couple of five and dime stores with lunch counters and a candy counter! Got one of my first jobs working at Mayfair Market on Kentucky Street. East Bakersfield was the 'place' especially for kids growing up in the 1950s."

 * ... BAKERSFIELDISM: Submitted by reader Riley Parker: You know you're a Bakersfield old timer if  "you celebrated your 21st birthday with a Picon Punch at Woolgrower's."

Monday, August 2, 2010

CSUB gets solar panels and a pedestrian friendly round-about ...

  Spotted this on the Cal State University at Bakersfield website: "A 1-megawatt solar panel system will provide 25 to 30 percent of CSUB's energy use as well as shade cover to 500 parking spaces by Fall 2010 in a public-private partnership between CSU and SunEdison. The power company is funding the $9.5 million project." The first photo, also courtesy of CSUB, is of a round-about being installed in front of the Icardo Center.



Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ron Fraze says he's retiring as fire chief and Bakersfield gears up for Sarah Palin and the Oct. 9 Business Conference

 * ... FRAZE OUT: Ran into Bakersfield Fire Chief Ron Fraze Friday night and he was giddy with the news that he is retiring after 25 years on the job, almost half as chief. Fraze announced his retirement on his Facebook account. He and wife Shelly have put their Westchester house up for sale but Fraze said they plan on sticking around town. (photo courtesy of Fraze's Facebook page)

* ... DMV: Cathie Morris responded to my previous post about my hassle-free trip to the DMV via its online appointment system. It wasn't her experience. "You must have had the DMV good fairies with you on the day of your visit. I too, recently had an appointment for a drivers license at the F Street location and was not so blessed.  When I arrived I was given a numbered ticket by the clerk. When I looked at the prompter to find my number I was amazed to see that there were 20 numbers ahead of me. I went back to the clerk and reminded him of my appointment and he was kind enough to give me a new numbered ticket which only placed me behind five other people. I returned to work an hour after my appointment time. The following week I called the DMV toll free number to inquire if I needed an appointment for a VIN verification and was told that I did not as all DMV locations had a drive-up station to take care of this.  Unfortunately that person was not familiar with the F Street site and when I realized that I would have to 'take a number' I went to the Auto Club who handled this for me in 10 minutes. I love the Auto Club."

 * ... BUSINESS CONFERENCE: Bumped into local attorney George Martin at the Petroleum Club the other day and he caught me up with plans for the Oct. 9 Bakersfield Business Conference. Martin said 9,000 of the 10,000 tickets have been sold and the event is coming together nicely. This year's lineup includes former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, former vice president Dick Cheney, Karl Rove, Mitt Romney and former First Lady Laura Bush. Tickets are going for $145. Interested? Call 661-371-2204.

 * ... TURKISH VISITORS: Heard from Gary and Constance Corbell the other day that their son's in-laws were visiting him from Turkey. Craig Corbell, and his wife Nilay married in Turkey last year. Craig's mother-in-law, Gulay Engin, teaches English at Ankara University in the foreign languages department. Turns out she is collecting issues of The Californian to use in her classes. Her husband is Tacettin.Craig works for Welenco and Nilay is a petroleum engineer at Chevron.

 * ... EAST BAKO: Reader Donald Kurtz added his own recollections of east Bakersfield. "It was a great place to grow up. You seldom had to go 'downtown.' We had the Stamp and Coin hobby shop on Baker Street, owned and operated by Fred Schaffer and family. Real nice people. Next door, Snider's bike shop and if memory serves me, some sporting goods. Always fun to go down into the basement." More from Donald's recollections later this week.

 * ... BAKERSFIELDISM: Local Realtor Patsy Sadler submitted this: You know you're from Bakersfied if "you remember your mom taking you to Fedway Department Store to buy all your clothes."