Saturday, May 14, 2011

A Saturday morning stroll through the downtown Bakersfield farmer's market

 One of the under appreciated local treasures in Bakersfield is the Saturday morning downtown farmer's market, which features a wide variety of locally grown organic fruits and vegetables. There are also farmers from Fresno and Visalia. Make sure to check it out.

Friday, May 13, 2011

McCarthy: time to end the de facto moratorium on off-shore drilling and move toward energy independence

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

 "Families and small businesses in our community are continuing to struggle with high unemployment and a slow economic recovery, and the rising cost of gas is only adding to the strain on our pocketbooks. That’s why my colleagues and I are continuing our work to create jobs.

  "Following last week’s launch of the House Energy Action Team and passage of H.R. 1230, which directs that the oil and natural gas lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico and offshore Virginia that have been
delayed or cancelled by the current Administration move forward, the House took additional action to create jobs and put America on the path to energy independence. We passed H.R. 1229 on Wednesday to end
the de facto moratorium on offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and H.R. 1231 on Thursday to lift the President’s ban on new offshore drilling.
 "Combined, these three bills could create 250,000 jobs in the short-term and 1.2 million jobs over the long-term, according to Dr. Joseph Mason, professor at Louisiana State University. And this is just the beginning. I know rising energy prices are straining families and small businesses in our community- that’s why I’ll continue to push for solutions that bring down prices and ensure our country’s energy security.
  "On Wednesday, I joined my fellow San Joaquin Valley colleagues Rep. Devin Nunes and Rep. Jeff Denham in introducing legislation to get water flowing in our communities again. This is another key to getting
people in our area back to work. The San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act is a comprehensive regional solution to California’s man-made drought.
 "This legislation would knock down onerous government regulations that are limiting water deliveries our farmers and ranchers need to create jobs and produce the crops that feed America.If enacted, this legislation would deliver an estimated additional 300,000 acre-feet of water annually to State Water Project
contractors, including Kern County, and support tens of thousands of acres of farmland. In addition, this legislation could create up to 30,000 jobs in our region. We cannot delay any longer in taking
aggressive action to address our man-made drought. Our farmers, ranchers, families and small businesses cannot continue to live year-to-year, praying the government will release the water needed to support our economies. This is common sense action that I will continue to fight for.

  "It was also great to have Monsignor Craig Harrison of St. Francis of Assisi Catholic Church here Thursday to give the opening invocation on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. Monsignor Craig has
had a profoundly positive impact on the lives of thousands in our community, including my own, and I appreciate that a fellow BHS graduate was able to share his words of encouragement. It was also great to meet with students from North Kern Christian School this week. Our community’s young people never fail to give me hope in our future.

Much work remains, but we will continue to fight to create jobs and reduce our debt.

We're No. 1 (in air pollution) and the Norega Hotel gets some well deserved recognition

 * ... POLLUTION: Bakersfield came out on top of another list of dubious distinction. According to the American Lung Association, we have the worst air pollution in the nation. Following Bakersfield as the nation's worst offenders were Los Angeles, Phoenix, Visalia and Hanford. The collection of so many Central Valley cities is further evidence of the general overall poor air quality in this fertile, agricultural area we all call home. As the report noted: "California has the warm, sunny climate that encourages pollutants to form and the geography that helps trap them."

 * ... NORIEGA: So nice to see the Noriega Hotel getting some much deserved publicity by winning a James Beard Foundation award recognizing this historic Bakersfield eatery. The New York Times ran a glowing review, which of course comes as no surprise to those of us who regularly dine there. Sister owners Rochelle Ladd and Linda McCoy flew to New York to receive the award during a ceremony at the Lincoln Center. Here's to Noriega's pickled tongue, oxtail stew and fried chicken.

 * ... NAVY PILOT: Hats off to Miles Smith, a Bakersfield High School product who just graduated from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University with a bachelor's degree in aeronautical science. He was also commissioned into the U.S. Air Force as a 2nd Lieutenant and will be sent to the Pensacola Naval Air Station to begin training as a flight navigator. His parents are Cheri and Lee Smith of Bakersfield.

 * ... BUICK: A shiny new silver Buick Lacrosse showed up in my neighbor's driveway the other day, fresh off the lot at Motor City. Dubbed by the automotive trade press as the "Lexus killer," the Lacrosse has enjoyed terrific reviews and its styling is indeed impressive. Even more impressive is watching Buick, not exactly an exciting brand for my generation, make a complete comeback.

 * ... MAIL BAG: And there is this from my mail bag: Jacob Johnson, a Bakersfield boy who became a California Highway Patrol officer, was chosen to sing the national anthem at a ceremony recognizing and honoring all California peace officers who died in the line of duty. "What a blessing to be able to attend this ceremony as well as to hear his beautiful voice," said his mother, Pat Tricia Johnson. Jacob worked for the CHP in Bakersfield and is now stationed in the Golden Gate Division where he works as a canine officer.

 * ... MANNERS: How long is one expected to wait for a doctor's appointment before walking out? I had one of those "you have the first appointment after lunch" the other day and gave it 25 minutes before leaving. Sometimes it just feels good to take matters into your own hands.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Warren Carter faces his own battle with cancer as our housing market takes a huge tumble

 * ... SICK BAY: Had a nice call the other day from Warren Carter, the long-time local businessman whose family has owned Watson Realty since 1982. At 74, Warren told me he is facing a tough battle with Stage 4 cancer and is under the care of Dr. Ravi Patel at the Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center (CBCC). "I just wanted to express my gratitude for all the calls and cards I have gotten from so many people," he said. "I am so grateful to be here with all of my children around and blessed to be in such good hands with Ravi Patel."  Deeply spiritual, Warren told me his illness, in some way, is a blessing because it allows him to get his affairs in order and express his love for family and friends. Warren's wife, Lenore Carter, died on Thanksgiving Day 2009 after her own battle with cancer. If he is feeling up to it, Warren will be my guest this Friday on Californian Radio SmartTalk1230 to talk about his family business, cancer and his own spirituality. Join us at 10 a.m. If you don't have access to a radio, listen to us online by using the Radio Time application on the web.

 * ... HOUSING: Just when you think the housing market can't get any worse, it does. Thanks to thousands of foreclosures moving through the market like the swelling Mississippi River, home values fell another 3 percent in the first quarter. And economists expect things to get a lot worse before they get  better. All this is according to to the real estate website, which notes that home prices have now fallen for 57 consecutive months. Stan Humphries, Zillow's chief economist, told The Wall Street Journal that the monthly declines in February and March were "really staggering" and "a reflection of the true underlying demand, which is now apparent because most of the tax credit is out of the system and it's being completely overwhelmed by supply." Locally, an estimated half of all homes are "under water," meaning the value of the property is less than the amount owed on the loan. Humphries said prices won't hit bottom before next year, when values will drop another 7 percent to 9 percent.

 * ... OLE MISS: It's not every day that a local boy ends up at Ole Miss, the Deep South university located  in one of the country's most charming college towns, Oxford. But that's where Alexander Kimble Edmonston will be in the fall, choosing the Southeastern Conference school over places like the University of Oregon and the University of Arizona. His proud mother, former TV anchor Lisa Kimble Edmonston, said "it was the quintessential collegiate experience of Ole Miss and the charm of Oxford, not to mention the SEC conference, strong Greek system and land of southern belles and gentlemen that won him over. Craig and I couldn't be more thrilled." Alexander will graduate from Camden Military Academy in Camden, S.C., soon. In the fall, he'll likely be spotted at an Ole Miss football game wearing a white oxford-cloth, button-down shirt, khakis and striped rep tie as is the custom there.

 * ... WALK ON: Speaking of local kids in college, hats off to Liberty High School  graduate Jacob Frost who won a position on the University of Colorado football team as a wide receiver. Jacob was one of six walk on candidates, and after a grueling two weeks of practice he won the position. He is the son of Ken and Carol Frost. Ken is a geologist for Berry Petroleum and Carol runs a private tutoring service in Northwest Bakersfield.

 * ... DIVORCE: Can't say I'm totally surprised that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and wife Maria Shriver are separating after 25 years of marriage. The 25-year anniversary seems to have become a dangerous marker for Baby Boomers, and it's remarkable how many long-term marriages are dissolving right at the time folks become empty nesters. Remember Al Gore and wife Tipper? They split after 40 years of marriage. (AP photo)

 * ... BAKERSFIELDISM: You know you're from Bakersfield if you can't wait to move away and then can't wait to move back.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

An ode to a Bakersfield spring, the emerging downtown and events to save CSUB wrestling

 * ... BACK HOME: Spent the last ten days in Spain visiting my younger daughter who is wrapping up her junior year semester abroad. There's a lot to like about traveling alone with your daughter, particularly in Europe, and these moments are precious and fleeting. But coming home is just as sweet, and I found myself longing for the Bakersfield spring which our town wears so well. I returned to find my roses in full bloom, the first tiny green tomatoes in my garden and a lonesome tabby cat sitting on the porch. It's not Madrid, but it's home.

 * ... DOWNTOWN: There's a lot of learn from the great capitals of Europe, who have always embraced their old towns as the centers of life, entertainment and commerce. The London-based Financial Times, in a report on what makes cities "livable and lovable," addressed the uniquely American problem of decaying inner cities, seeing it as an opportunity for renewal. When the affluent flee to the suburbs, the Times noted "there is space to be filled by artists and architects, by poorer immigrants arriving with a drive to make money and by the proliferation of food outlets, studios and galleries. These, in turn, attract the wealthy back to the centre, at first to consume, and then to gentrify.... it is at these moments that cities begin to show  potential for real transformation of lives, or for the creation of new ideas, culture, cuisine and wealth." Sound familiar? Much of this is happening now  is downtown Bakersfield, as witnessed on any weekend evening.

 * ... HIGH ACHIEVER: Received a nice note from "proud grand parents" Barry and Tena Mathis who wanted to share the good news that their grand daughter, Elizabeth Jackman, is graduating from Fordham University in the Bronx with a degree in Arabic studies and language. Elizabeth graduated from Garces Memorial High School. Her parents are Chad and Michelle Jackman. Dad is a sergeant with the Bakersfield Police Department and Michelle is dean of students at Garces.

 * ... WRESTLING: There is a lot of activity to save the wrestling program at Cal State Bakersfield, including two fund raisers coming up later this month. There will be a celebrity poker night on Thursday, May 19, at the Aviator Casino in Delano, and the following night there will be an event at the Icardo Center starting at 6 p.m. Call Chris Cortez at the casino at (661) 721-7770 or Tonya Eagle for the Icardo Center fund raiser at (661) 302-4455.

 * ... BIKE TRAIL: For all you fans of our bike trail, this Saturday the Parkway Foundation will hold an event at Hart Park to distribute information on the bike trail and future plans. This is a family event and will feature food, entertainment and booths. CALM will be there as well as representatives of the parks service. It runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. across from the old ranger station.

 * ... WHO KNEW? Did you know that the almond trees that surround our community have life spans of 20 to 25 years?