Saturday, December 18, 2010

MCarthy: After tax compromise, time to start curtailing spending in a big way

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

 "Last week I gave you an update on how the House calendar will be different next year to create more certainty in members’ schedules, and increase efficiency in the legislative process.  This week was case in point for the needed changes as last minute, late night legislating usually does not produce the best results.

  "Even though Congress had two years to work on a package to keep taxes at current levels for all Americans, Thursday night the current majority had to schedule a vote after 11 pm because they were having
trouble agreeing on whether or not they would raise taxes in 14 days or just keep them the same thereby preventing a $3.8 trillion tax hike from taking place on January 1st.

  "Throughout the debate on taxes this year, I have long advocated for a permanent extension of current tax law to provide certainty for entrepreneurs and small businesses to grow and create jobs, which is especially needed as unemployment continues to be above 9%.  That said, on Thursday, the House passed legislation to extend current tax law for 2 years.

  "I supported this bill because voting “no” would have guaranteed that average middle-class families would have been hit with a $1,540 tax increase.  Rejecting this bill would also have saddled 88 million Americans in the lowest income bracket with a minimum tax increase of $503.  Though I did not agree with all the provisions in the bill—I believed that the extension of unemployment insurance included in the legislation should have been offset as to not contribute to our burgeoning deficit.  Unfortunately, House Democratic leaders denied members the opportunity to amend the bill to address this issue.  That said, when the new Congress comes into session on January 5, 2011, my colleagues and I will immediately work to cut unnecessary spending to pay for what the current majority chose to not offset.  Fortunately, we prevented a major tax increase, and now we need to focus on long-term solutions that will lead our nation to prosperity and make it more competitive.

  "America spoke loud and clear in November, and one of the primary messages to Congress was to stop the out-of-control spending that will hurt future generations.  This was one of the principles that my colleagues and I committed to uphold in the Pledge to America, along with reducing the size of government.  However, instead of listening, the Senate majority leaders decided to introduce and try and pass a $1.1 trillion spending bill that included over 6,000 earmarks in a last minute end-of-the-year effort.  Fortunately, common sense
prevailed and the bill was abandoned.   A short-term, stop-gap funding measure passed the House to keep government running through next week and I anticipate the Senate will approve it as well.  Next year, we
will continue to fight for a responsible spending plan that cuts waste and reduces the size of government.

  "Congratulations to Tehachapi High School, whose football team won the
Central Section Division 2 Championship week.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Luigi's opening second location at Bakersfield Racquet Club and a big tip at Cafe Med

 * ... LUIGI'S WEST: Now here's some welcome news: Luigi's Delicatessen, the popular Italian eatery on 19th Street that has some of the best food in town not to mention a loyal following in the thousands,  is opening a second outlet at the Bakersfield Racquet Club. The club has been looking for a new restaurant manager to replace Big Popy's Deli, which is moving out at the end of this month. But no one expected Luigi's the fill the void. And, I am told that Darci Atkinson, a local caterer, has been hired to run the place for Gino Valpredo, one of Luigi's owners. This marriage of two Bakersfield institutions is a win-win for everyone: Luigi's gets a second location that is small enough to handle with ease, Atkinson gets a solid gig, the Racquet Club gets exposure to folks who would not otherwise visit, and Luigi's fans get a alternate venue for its famous half and half pasta and beans.

 * ... CITIZENS ARREST: Everyone needs a neighbor like Wayne, a friend of mine who just happens to be a long-distance cyclist at peak fitness. He was returning to his Westpark neighborhood about 1 p.m. Sunday, with his bike in his truck, when he and his wife noticed two young men leaving their neighbor's home on a BMX bike, with a black garbage bag sitting on the handlebars. "My wife said 'that's not right' since our neighbors are not home," he said. After noticing his neighbor's gate was broken, Wayne quickly unloaded his bike from the truck and sped off after the young men. "I caught up to them about two blocks later and said 'you just left my neighbor's house. What's in the bag?'" The BMX rider then tried to race away from Wayne, a futile move under any circumstance. " I found incredibly funny ... (I) said 'is that really your plan? Because I can do this all day,'" he said. Finally realizing they couldn't shake Wayne, the lads dropped the bag, which was full of Christmas presents from the neighbor's home, and sped off. Wayne called the police and later identified one of the youths who "was a county (jail) guest at least for a night." Nice to have a Lance Armstrong-like neighbor there in the time of need.

 * ... THE BUZZ: Meir Brown, owner of the popular restaurant Cafe Med over on Stockdale Highway, contacted me with this incredible story. "I thought you would be interested, last night a generous patron tipped one of my servers $5,000 on a $1,760 tab. When the server verified the intent with the patron he just said, 'Yes, Merry Christmas!' There are great generous people in our midst." Wow.

* ... WACKER TOWING: Robbie Horton of Mayflower, Arkansas, wrote to remember and recommend Tallywacker towing service. She said it was owned by Louie Tally and possibly Kenny Eggenberg, who still owns the property.

 * ... SICK BAY: Californian columnist Herb Benham is recuperating from his hip surgery and doing well. He's happy to report that his surgeon remarked that he has "good bones," a comment that we no doubt will soon be reading about. Also Sending out best wishes to regular reader and contributor Jack Kelley who is recovering from knee replacement surgery. His wife, Sidney, tells me Jack entertains her by reciting "Bakersfieldisms" while they drive around town. "We'll be driving by somewhere and he'll say, 'I used to shoot pheasants right here,' pointing to the Jim Burke Ford lot on Oak Street."Get well, Jack.

 * ... BAKERSFIELDISM: From reader John Martin: "You are truly a Bakersfield old timer if you remember ordering the Blue Plate business man's lunch ($1.29) at Martin's Malt Shop, on the corner of Baker and Lake Streets."

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Gaggles of ex cons put downtown residents on edge, and solving the mystery of the internment camps

 * ... ANIMAL ABUSE: Am glad to see prosecutors going after the 43-year-old man accused of taking a golf club to a small dog and then spraying bleach into its eyes. It's a case of almost unimaginable cruelty, but things like this also bring out the best in our community. Folks at the Coffee Road Animal Hospital say they have been overwhelmed with donations to help the dog, named Lacey. And a rescue home has already stepped forward to care for Lacey, whose long-term prognosis remains uncertain. Meanwhile, prosecutors are filing felony animal cruelty charges against Robert Gonzales, the alleged abuser.

* ... GRAPEVINE: Larry Miller, a retired battalion commander with the Kern County Fire Department, wrote to recall the hot summer days before air conditioning when trucks would navigate the Grapevine. "I marveled at the truck drivers who would stand on the running board of their trucks trying to escape the hellish, mind-bending engine and pavement heat coming up through the floorboards of their rigs as they were creeping over the Grapevine at 10 miles per hour. With a brick propped on the accelerator to keep the rigs moving, they would reach through the open cab door with their right hand on the steering wheel while clinging to the open door frame with their left arm. No seat belts on those days." 

 * ... EX CONS: If you live or work downtown, you're accustomed to seeing groups of freshly paroled prisoners hanging out in front of the Greyhound Bus Station. They're unmistakable in their khaki pants, black slippers with no laces, white T-shirts and prison-issued manila envelopes. These are people who have served their time, but their presence has put some downtown business people on edge. Don Martin, the tireless advocate for downtown and himself owner of Metro Galleries on 19th Street, lives downtown and routinely enjoys his walk to and from work. But not always. He was outside the downtown Rite Aid the other day when he was "stopped by a guy saying he just got released from prison. He wanted me to fill a prescription for him. I told management at Rite Aid." The previous day, he was stopped on 19th Street by another man who also had just been released who was trying to sell him stamps. Martin politely declined. With the recession deepening and the state on the verge of releasing thousands more inmates because of overcrowding chances are this kind of thing will continue for a while. Meanwhile, Martin is one of a group of downtown business owners who have been working - unsuccessfully so far - to get the bus station moved.

* ... INTERNMENT CAMP:  I may have learned what happened to the couple who ran a produce stand in 1943 but were sent to a Japanese internment camp. A reader, who did not want her name published, said the name of the produce stand and market was Sogo's Produce, and it was owned an operated by Utaro and Koye Sogo and their son-in-law, Kingo Nakamoto. Their families, longtime Bakersfield residents, were relocated to Poston, Arizona where there was a Japanese internment camp. Apparently, according to this source, the business was turned over to the Lum family who successfully ran a produce business in town for many years. The produce stand was located at the intersection of Golden State Highway and Union Avenue.

 * ... OVERHEARD: Reader Becky Williams: shared her encounter with a young lady at a local sandwich store recently.  "I'd like a turkey sandwich please,"  she said. The young lady replied, "I'm sorry. I can't make you a sandwich because our lettuce hasn't come yet."  Hold the lettuce then, Williams answered.  "I can't do that," the clerk said, "because I don't have any lettuce and it has to look like the picture."

 * ... BAKERSFIELDISM: You know you're a Bakersfield old timer "if you've taken part in the soap box derby races held in the late 1930s on River Boulevard between Columbus and Greenlawn Cemetery." Thanks to F. Valentich for that one.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Air Pollution Control District takes more heat and BC looks for an athletic director

 * ... AIR DISTRICT: More criticism for the Valley Air Pollution Control District. This time it comes from Stephen Montgomery, a retired railroad employee and former union legislative representative who worked to improve working conditions. He called the air board's move to shut down the Thanksgiving Day Pie Run bonfire "an overreaction to small potatoes. It's apparent they enforce the things that are easiest to enforce and in at least one case avoid messing with the ones that may be more difficult." He cited, in his capacity with the union, numerous letters he wrote - including one to the air district - to complain about hazardous dust at the Traver truck stop 30 miles south of Fresno. He said trucks are routinely driven off the road to an unpaved portion of railroad right of way "raising dust in the dry seasons. In wet conditions water runoff from the fuel dock aprons puddles up in this area and along with all the runoff containing fuel and brake dust soaks into the water table." In short, it's a mess and certainly creates more pollution, day in and day out, than a simple once-a-year bonfire at a public park. And what happened? According to Montgomery, absolutely nothing. (photo courtesy of Stephen Montgomery)

* ... THE BUZZ: The announcement that Jan Stuebbe will be stepping down as athletic director at Bakersfield College has some folks speculating that BC may look to Cal State Bakersfield for a successor. CSUB of course just named its new athletic director, Jeff Konya, and in so doing  passed over Roger Fessler, who was outgoing AD Rudy Carvajal's No. 2 person in the department. In fact, not only was Fessler passed over but he also wasn't given the courtesy to interview for the job, a slight that did not go unnoticed both inside and outside the campus. All this is speculation of course, but BC could do a lot worse than Fessler, who has deep roots in the community and who also spent time as athletic director at St. Francis University in Pennsylvania.

* ... MINIATURE GOLF: Reader Pam Mahan wrote to say she "had to laugh when I read Jimmie D. Hill's comment about the miniature golf course just north of Green Frog Market. I remember when I was playing there with a group of friends who included Arnold Kirschenmann. Arnold, who even at that time was a really good golfer, had a terrible round at the miniature course and proceeded to terrorize his golf club by bending it over his knee and throwing it into outer space. I don't know how Arnold's knee turned out, but it was a rough day for the golf club."

 * ... MARATHON: Heard from reader Pat Chaffin who wanted to share the news that her sons, their wives and two grand daughters walked and ran 13 miles in the Zappo's Rock and Roll Las Vegas Marathon. "What a spectacle," she said. "Thirty two thousand competed and 18,000 were first timers. Many dressed in costumes and there must have been 50 Elvis impersonators... What's amazing is the majority of them are just ordinary working stiffs squeezing  in the time from their jobs and families to train for this race. Next year maybe they'll do the 26 miler!" The group includes Steve and Sara Chaffin, Doug and Connie Chaffin and Jenni Chaffin.

 * ... RETIREMENT: Hats of to one of our city's most valuable and beloved employees who recently retired. That would be Louie Peralez, who retired after 42 years, serving most recently as the street superintendent. Mark Salvaggio, former city councilman, described Louie as "a city of Bakersfield institution. His service is second longest in the history of the city... He is the finest public servant one can find anywhere. His shoes will never be filed." Good luck, Louie.

  * ... OVERHEARD: "A local electronics story now sells a key chain breathalyzer ... the perfect gift for that 'special' relative."

* ... BAKERSFIELDISM: You know you're a Bakersfield old-timer if "you remember the long lines outside of Fontana's Pie Shop on Niles Street the day before Thanksgiving with people wanting fresh pumpkin or pecan pies." Thanks to Ken Barnes for this one.