Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Welcome to the fifth year of the housing crunch and one man's view of giving back, one flight at a time

 * ... NEW HOMES: With the economic downturn now in its fifth year, some economists had predicted that the rebound in the housing market would begin this year. But it didn't materialize, and in fact the spring buying season "ended with a thud." According to the Wall Street Journal, builders are now backtracking on land deals and regrouping for at least another year of bad times. "Part of the problem is that the same headwinds exist," the report said. "Unemployment remains elevated, builders must compete with deeply discounted foreclosed properties for sales and tight bank lending standings are keeping plenty of would be buyers out of the market."

 * ... DEBT IMPASSE: There was a nice explanatory piece in the Wall Street Journal on the dysfunction in Congress on raising the debt ceiling. Writing in his column "Capitol Journal," Gerald F. Seib correctly notes that this is less a battle over debt than the ultimate size and role of government. "Compromising between these views is hardly impossible in theory, but it becomes nearly so in practice becasue of the second big trend at work. A generation's worth of forces have pushed Republicans to the right and Democrats to the left, and rendered the political middle in Congress weak and thin, to the extent it exists at all."

 * ... ANGEL FLIGHT: Scott Garrison is a 57-year-old investment adviser who normally spends his weekends with his wife and three girls or riding his road bike into the verdant hills around Woody. But some weekends you'll find him flying his four-seater Cirrus airplane, not for fun but rather volunteering his time and  money to take ill or under privileged children and adults to hospitals and camps. "If everyone just volunteered to do one thing - one thing - the world would be a better place," he told me. I had the opportunity to accompany Garrison on one of these "Angel Flights" (named after a national organization that coordinates the flights) recently when we flew two teenage sisters back to Fresno after they spent a week in an HIV/AIDs camp. Garrison has flown 103 Angel Flight West missions, and no doubt more are coming. (photo by Scott Garrison)

 * ... BREAKFAST TIP: Dewey Mills wrote to recommend a leisurely Sunday breakfast at The Padre Hotel downtown. "Not only did they seem home cooked, but the prices were excellent. I don't know if the word hasn't gotten out yet, or what, but there was hardly anyone there either Sunday. I thought you might want to give them a try for yourself, but at least give them some well deserved recognition!"

  * ... EAST KERN: While it's true that most of the country is suffering from an economic malaise, things are much rosier in East Kern. At least that's according to consultant Bill Deaver, who wrote to tell me that thanks to the aerospace and mining industries, good jobs abound. ""Companies at the Mojave Air and Space Port are hiring. Rio Tinto Borax is hiring, renewable energy is booming and Golden Queen Mining will soon be hiring. The biggest complaint I hear from local businesses is how hard it is to find qualified candidates."

 * ... WHO KNEW? In the 19th century, the area now known as Rosedale was a colony of English farmers. The name “Rosedale” came from the title of an 1863 Broadway play by the best American comedic playwright of that time, Lester Wallack.

 * ... OLD TIMER: Brooks Haberfelde wrote to say he never considered himself an "old timer" but does fondly recall being a second grader some 50 years ago at the Redeemer Lutheran School on Belle Terrace. He was on the playground at recess when "I gazed skyward and saw the year 1961 written across the then azure blue sky of Bakersfield. It was incredible behind words. I have always treasured those long lost simple times when a nifty palindrome inscribed across the pristine heavens of my home town could inspire awe and wonder in a 7-year-old boy."

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