Saturday, February 26, 2011

McCarthy: It's the Democrats, not the GOP, who are willing to shut down the government over the budget impasse

 Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) submits his weekly update from Capitol Hill. In his words:

 "It was good to be home this week working out of the district, meeting and talking with local constituents about their concerns and relaying to them what I’ve been working on in Congress.
 One of the highlights of this week was addressing high school seniors who are participating in the Jim Burke Education Foundation Ford Dimension leadership program.  This is an impressive group of students and a great program founded by one of our community’s great leaders, the late Jim Burke.  As I spoke with these high school seniors who shared with me their future plans for college and what they plan to study, it was a stark reminder of the importance of the decisions we make today.  The actions we take now to address the fiscal challenges we face as a country will shape the future of these high school seniors.
 "Right now the federal government borrows 40 cents out every dollar it spends.  Our national debt is over $14 trillion, and it has increased by $3.5 trillion in the 25 months the President has been in office.  According to the President’s own budget, the deficit is predicted to reach an all time high of over $1.6 trillion just this year.
 " The House took immediate action by passing a budget measure to immediately cut $100 million in spending and keep the government running.  This is a necessary first step as more government borrowing and spending has negative impacts on economic expansion and negative impacts on you back at home. This week instead of considering these needed spending cuts, Senate Democratic leaders have been talking about allowing the government to shut down rather than face our challenging fiscal reality. 
 "That’s why we even proposed another resolution to cut spending and keep the government running with a short-term spending measure that eliminates earmark slush funds and includes program eliminations from President Obama’s own budget.  I don’t see how Democrats can’t take these basic steps toward smart fiscal policy.
"This week I also attended the unveiling of a project in McKittrick which is the first of its kind in the world.  A new type of solar technology is being utilized to enhance our local oil recovery.  As many of you know, it is the production of steam that is necessary to lift heavy crude oil from the ground, and this solar technology allows for the production of more steam at a lower cost to produce more oil.  Once again, Kern County is leading the way in terms of energy development and serves as a model for our nation.  I couldn’t be prouder to have this in our district.
 "I hope everyone has a great weekend.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Of pit bulls and parolees, a community called Snob Slew and buying boxer shorts to show support for the economy

 * ... ECONOMIC INDICATORS: If you're looking for a sure sign the economy is getting better, you might ask yourself if you can afford that venti latte from Starbucks. Going big at Starbucks is just one of the indicators that consumer confidence is improving, according to a recent report on MSNBC. Other signs we're feeling better about things: we order more desserts at restaurants, we schedule plastic surgery, we get divorced and men purchase more boxer shorts. That last one left me puzzled, but there you have it.

 * ... AIR FARES: If you are planning on flying somewhere soon, prepare for sticker shock as airlines raise fares because of rising fuel charges and uncertainty in the Middle East. I recently booked a flight with a base fare of $375, but the total bill came to $820 because of taxes and "fuel surcharges." Carline Smart, my adviser over at Lamborne Travel Partners, said it's not unusual for the fuel surcharges to match or exceed the base fares. "It's why I drink," she told me. "Trying to explain these airline ticket prices will drive you crazy." Her tip: book now because unrest in the oil producing Mideast will drive ticket prices higher.

 * ... PIT BULLS: There's a major stink brewing up in Tehachapi over a woman's plan to open a pit bull rescue center near town. The request will go before the Kern County Planning Commission on March 10 and comes from Tia Torres of Villalobos Animal Rescue. She's the star of a show on Animal Planet called "Pit bulls and Parolees," in which she rescues pit bulls with the help of ex cons. The reaction has been swift and has filled the blogs at The Tehachapi News with comments. Stay tuned on this one.

 * ... SCAM: Beware of a new scam making the rounds on social networking sites. This latest comes from reader Mary Hanel, who told me someone hacked into her Yahoo! email account, stole her identity, changed her security settings and locked her out of her own account. Then, it used her identity to send desperate messages to her friends saying she was in London, lost her passport and needed $2,500 wired to a Western Union account. She can no longer get into her old account and has lost all her contacts.

* ... DID YOU KNOW: Did you know that Lawrence Tibbett, famous American opera singer who performed at the Metropolitan Opera of New York City over 600 times, was born in Bakersfield? Born in 1896, Tibbett's father was a sheriff's deputy who was killed in a shootout in 1903 with outlaw Jim McKinney in downtown Bakersfield.

 * ... WESTCHESTER: Reader Geraldine Sproul wrote with an interesting tidbit on Westchester. "Please give Bob Curran (the Sandstone Brick family) the credit for remembering the complete name for Westchester when people started moving there. The people in town called it 'Snob Slew." Bob and I laugh about it on a regular basis. For me, there is no better place to live than Bakersfield and especially 'Snob Slew.'"

 * ... BAKERSFIELDISM: From Jack Kelley: You know you're  Bakersfield old timer if "you remember only one bridge over the Kern River on North Chester Avenue."

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Let's hear your voice: if you want water in the Kern River, time to speak out

 Make sure you check out Lois Henry's column in today's Californian regarding an important hearing coming up March 10. This is a rare chance to let public officials know how much we all want water in our river year round. It's good for our ambiance, good for the community and the right thing to do.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Is your dog or cat overweight? Chances are it is, and so are you. Time to shed a few pounds

 OBESITY: As if it's not bad enough that most of us are carrying a few extra pounds, it now appears our pets are also facing an obesity epidemic. At least that's the conclusion of a Wall Street Journal story that noted more than half of all pets in the United States are now overweight or obese. "As more Americans confront their own weight issues, furry housemates increasingly struggle alongside them," it said. "The main culprit: owners who routinely overfeed pets, don't exercise them enough and are unaware of the severe, and costly, health problems caused by excess weight.  The story said if you have to dig around to feel your pet's ribs (I'm afraid I may be guilty here myself), your animal is too heavy.  (photo courtesy of the Wall Street Journal)

 * ... WHITE TRIBUTE: More tributes to the late educator Paul White continue to come across my desk, once again showing how many people this teacher, principal and administrator touched during his life. Matthew Scrivano, who hails from Bakersfield but now lives in Springfield, Illinois, said he had never met Paul but has friends and family who did. "I had made plans in January to visit Bakersfield, and was excited to finally meet my eldest niece's boyfriend with whom she has been dating for a few years. Two days before my arrival, I see on Facebook a posting from my sister, informing everyone about the death of Paul White. I had no idea who she was talking about, but knew from her post and the numerous replies, Paul White must have been a very special and beloved person in Bakersfield. When I asked my sister who Paul White was, she told me he was a very dear longtime friend and a riding companion of both her and my brother.  If that wasn’t sad enough, Paul White is also the father of the Joe White, the young man whom my niece has been dating for several years. Not the type of introduction setting I had in mind. Upon finally meeting Joe, I now understand what a great father Paul had been and it shows in just what a great young man Joe is, and I am very sad I never had the opportunity to have meet Joe’s father." Matthew's sister is Margaret Patteson, who is coordinating the Paul White Memorial Ride this Saturday at Yokuts Park. Her daughter, Erin Patteson, is now, as of Valentine’s day,  engaged to Joe White.

 * ... DID YOU KNOW: Did you know that Burleigh Smith, considered the father of local TV news in Bakersfield, left broadcasting when former Padre owner Milton "Spartacus" Miller was elected to the Board of Supervisors in the early 1970s? Spartacus asked Burleigh to be his district representative. Burleigh, who lived at the Padre during those years, returned to broadcasting at KERO-TV in 1973 when Spartacus left the Board.

 * ... OVERHEARD: Two men at a Southwest area gas station talking about the unfolding drama in the Middle East. "It's fascinating to watch history but we're going to pay for it when gas hits $10 a gallon!" said one.

 * ... UNION POWER: Keep your eye on the standoff between the Wisconsin governor and the public employee unions. This is a fight that will be played out across the country as we grapple with the long-tail effects of this long recession and government's inability to keep funding pensions and health care at current levels.

 * ... BAKERSFIELDISM: From reader Janice Pelham: You know you lived in Oildale in the 1950s if "you watched your newspaper being delivered by a young man who tap danced up the drive way. I don't remember his name but boy could he dance!"

Monday, February 21, 2011

Lake Isabella dam could fail, swallowing Bakersfield under 30 feet of water

A nice update of the perilous condition of the Lake Isabella dam above Bakersfield was presented in the New York Times this weekend. The Californian has done numerous similar stories, pointing out on how an active earthquake fault lies underneath the earthen dam. According to The Times, a catastrophic failure would send enough water down the Kern River to put Bakersfield under 30 feet of water. (photo courtesy of The New York Times)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Is the commercial real estate market about to rebound? And looking for a belt buckle that doubles as a knife?

 * ... REAL ESTATE: Ran into David Williams the other day and he had some encouraging things to say about the local commercial real estate market. Williams, senior vice president of the local office of Colliers International, said he has seen a marked rebound in commercial activity in the last five months and expects things to gradually improve. Individuals and institutions are sitting on hordes of cash, he said, and now are beginning to snatch up commercial property at near bargain prices. A lot of the commercial inventory in the Northwest that was so over built is now being absorbed by investors, he said.  Now that's some welcome good news.

 * ... HOME SHOW: There was another good turnout for the annual Home and Garden show over at the Kern County Fairgrounds this weekend. This is always a popular event and the place to be if you're looking for that miracle sponge, fruit peeler or bag of garlic almonds. One of the most popular vendors: the man who invented a silver belt buckle with a hidden, quick release knife built into it.

* ... SPOTTED: Two panhandlers manning both doors to the front entrance of the downtown Post Office on 18th Street while a third is positioned on the west entrance. Meanwhile, a fourth hits up customers drinking coffee outside the Farmacy at the Padre Hotel. Signs of the times.

 * ... CARNEGIE HALL: Learned the other day that a musical production by Bakersfield native Joseph Gonzalez will be playing at Carnegie Hall later this month. The production is called "Misa Azteca" and the performance at the storied Carnegie Hall will be held Sunday, February 20. Gonzalez called it "a labor of love to which I have committed myself for the last 20 years. With full orchestra, soloiosts, pre-hispanic percussion ensemble and close to 200 voice, Misa Azteca promises to blow the roof off Carneigie Hall." Gonzalez graduated from Garces Memorial High School and later UCLA. Thanks to Oscar G. Saldana for passing this along.

 * ... MEMORIAL RIDE: The memorial ride to honor Paul White is set for this Saturday at Yokuts Park. You can either show up at the park at 8:30 a.m. to ride or email Margaret Patteson at to reserve a spot. The first 100 get a T-shirt with their $20 donation.
 * ... BAKERSFIELDISM: You know you’re from Bakersfield if “you ever went to the fair when it was located on Chester Avenue by the Sam Lynn Ball Park.” Thanks to Linda Welch for that nugget.