Friday, June 3, 2011

McCarthy: no to raising the debt ceiling until President Obama agrees to significant spending cuts

  House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy looks at the week on Capitol Hill. In his words:

 " It was great to be in Bakersfield on Monday to spend Memorial Day with my family and those who have served from our community. I was honored to participate in events at both Union and Hillcrest Cemeteries to
thank the brave men and women who have sacrificed so much for our freedoms. The Memorial Day Weekend also marked the first wildfire of the season in our area. As always, our firefighters did a great job
and acted quickly to contain this fire.

  "I arrived back in Washington on Tuesday where I went straight to the House floor to vote ‘no’ on raising the debt limit without accompanying spending cuts and budget reforms. I made it clear from the beginning of this debate that not one House Republican would vote for an increase in our debt limit without spending cuts and budget reforms, and Tuesday’s vote proved that we’re serious about getting Washington’s fiscal house in order.
 "Our nation is over $14 trillion in debt and borrows 40 cents out of every dollar. This is unsustainable and threatens America’s economic vitality and credibility. Any increase in the debt limit must be accompanied by substantial spending cuts and budget reforms that start the process of getting our borrowing addiction under control.
  "This was reiterated to the President on Wednesday when I was joined by the rest of the Republican Conference for a meeting at the White House. I urged the President to present a credible deficit-reduction plan. I left the meeting cautiously optimistic, and with the President’s assurance that he was committed to discussing real spending cuts and recognized the need to reform our critical health and retirement security programs. I am hopeful this isn’t just Washington political speak, and that we really will be able to work with the President and our colleagues across the aisle to implement solutions that will create jobs, pay down our debt and put our budget on the path to balance.

  "On Thursday, the Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on the San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act, legislation I introduced with Reps. Nunes and Denham earlier this month to get water running in our
communities and get people back to work. I had the honor of introducing Jim Beck, General Manager of the Kern County Water Agency, who was testifying in support of this bill that is critical to our local economies. I will continue to work to move it forward.

  "Several families from Bakersfield were in Washington this week. I was pleased to see the Georgino, Pisano and Etcheverry families and Donice Boylan. I also want to send my congratulations out to all our students
who have graduated in May and that will be graduating this month. These graduates are the key to the future of our community and nation, and I wish them the best of luck. The teachers and parents who have
supported these young people are also deserving of our gratitude, and I want to thank them for their commitment.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

First Friday is alive and well in downtown Bakersfield and some perspective on the local housing market

  * ... HOUSING: Local appraiser Gary Crabtree, arguably the foremost authority on the Kern County housing market, added some perspective to news that the nation's housing market has hit the dreaded  double dip. "Let's not hammer another nail in the Bakersfield market coffin just yet. My independent research for the first quarter of 2011, indicates that the Bakersfield market is still 2.7% above falling into the 'double dip' category. My preliminary numbers for May indicate the median price rose last month to $131,750 or an increase of 4.6% over March. Sales volume has remained stable at around 550 units per month and foreclosures have remained stable at an average of 400 units per month over the last year. Well conditioned 'short sales' are receiving multiple offers  What is driving the Bakersfield market? Investors - they account for 1 of every 3 sales in Bakersfield in the past year."

  * ... FIRST FRIDAY: It's time for another First Friday downtown, and yes First Friday is alive and well. There seems to be some confusion about that since the advent of Third Thursday, a new event which replaces the old Chester Avenue Street fairs sponsored by the Downtown Business Association. These are two distinctly different venues serving different audiences. First Friday is more high brow, focusing on the arts district, art galleries and downtown businesses and restaurants and is the brainchild of Metro Galleries owner Don Martin. Third Thursday seems to be an extension of the old street fair idea with kettle corn and other street vendors hawking their wares, though it has moved to the more attractive Mill Creek Park. Different experiences, but both deserving of our support.

 * ... METRO EXHIBIT: And speaking of First Friday, Metro Galleries will feature an all-women art show that will benefit the Women's and Girls' Fund, part of the Kern Community Foundation. The show is called "Chronicles" and features the art of Chris McKee, Claire Putney, Barbara Reid and Marlene Tatsuno. Also on display will be new works by artist Heidi Rufeh. A portion of the opening night sales will be donated to the Women's and Girls' Fund. Metro Galleries is located on 19th Street but make sure you visit the other galleries, businesses and restaurants in the downtown area.

 * ... TUITION: The annual cost of tuition, room and board and a private, four-year college has not soared to $37,000 and tops $50,000 at some elite schools. For public schools, the average annual tuition is $16,000. The University of California system's tuition is set at $11,000 and change but could rise dramatically if the state budget is not brought under control.

 * ... CSUB SPORTS: Did you hear that three CSUB sports teams (men's basketball, women's water polo and golf) were among eight NCAA Division 1 sports programs in California that have been warned by the NCAA for poor academic performance? Not surprisingly, a supporter of the embattled wrestling program wrote to point out that three of the ten starters on the CSUB wrestling team are on the national All Academic Team: David Morgan, Elijah Nacita and Tyler Iwamura.

 * ... FOUNDATION: The Bakersfield Californian Foundation, a private family foundation run outside the auspices of the newspaper company, recently handed out almost $62,000 in grants. This round of grants focused on the Tehachapi area and included groups such at the Rotary Club of Tehachapi, the Tehachapi Community Orchestra, the Tehachapi Community Theater Association and the Tehachapi Mountain Foundation.

 * ... OVERHEARD: A downtown resident is heard telling a friend that he has taken to mowing the lawn of the abandoned house across the street because he fears its dismal state will hurt his chances of selling his own home.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Broken TSA screening machine leaves dozens stranded at Meadows Field

 * ... AIRPORT NIGHTMARE: It was a nightmare at Meadows Field Tuesday morning when some 30 passengers were stranded when their Phoenix-bound US Airways flight left without them. What happened? It seems the TSA X-ray baggage screening machine broke on Monday, forcing every piece of luggage to be hand checked. Passengers who showed up over an hour early  for the 6:20 a.m. Phoenix flight didn't make it through the screening in time and the plane left without them. There was no warning of this on the Meadows Field website and no email alert from the airline, leading one passenger to moan, "Another reason not to fly out of Bakersfield." Meadows Field director Jack Gotcher told me the machine was fixed by midday Tuesday and he had no idea why two days passed without it being repaired. "This is a TSA issue," he said, noting that four flights leave within an hour of each other in the morning to Phoenix, Denver, Los Angeles and San Francisco and there is little room for error.

 * ... DOUBLE DIP: It looks like the dreaded "double dip" in housing is now official. Prices continue to fall as tens of thousands of foreclosed properties queue up to move through depressed markets across the country. One expert told CNBC that "our fingers are crossed" that housing may begin to recover in late 2012. Meanwhile, The New York Times reported that the percentage of Americans owning homes has sunk to 1998 levels and will drop further because of general disenchantment with the market.

 * ... KERN RIVER: Spent Memorial Day paddle boarding on the Kern River, starting at Beach Park and ending up 6.5 miles downstream at the Park at River Walk. Friend and columnist Herb Benham promised a stress relieving bit of exercise mixed with pure unmitigated fun, and he didn't disappoint. Ninety minutes of pure bliss in a bank to bank river that bristled with wildlife, affording a spectacular view of our community thanks to the record snowfalls. The Kern should have water most of the summer, and this particular area is generally shallow and fairly safe.

 * ... IRISH: Amazing how many local kids end up at Notre Dame, and here are two more who just graduated. This from Cindy Gallegos: "I just wanted to let you know that our family just returned from South Bend, Indiana. We were there to see our daughter Chelsi Gallegos (Garces class of 2007) graduate from the University of Notre Dame.  She will be living in Chicago and working for the Aon Corporation. We were also able to visit with the family of Ricky Gonzalez (East High class of 2007). Ricky will be working for General Mills in Minneapolis. We are very proud of both of them. Go Irish."

 * ... HOFFMAN: Hoffman Hospice held a fund raiser last week and got an unexpected boost when dinner with BakersfieldLife's Dining Divas brought in a whopping $3,500. Wendy Porter, director of the  Wounded Hero's Fund, was the top bidder and is anxious to dine with the Divas. The  Divas include Californian columnist Lois Henry, Robin Noble, Kim Jessup,  Sofie Zimmermann and Sofia Ronquillo.  Each month the Dining Divas review a local restaurant about town and apparently it can be a lively group.

 * ... MEA CULPA: I goofed in an earlier post about an upcoming book signing this Saturday at Russo's Books. The local author is Shirley Castro and the book is in the Pelican Family Series. Turns out Shirley does not live at the beach and lives right here in Bakersfield.

 * ... MEMORY: Karen Earl DeWalt wrote to wonder if anyone remembers "Sudds Hardware on North Chester and the Standard Malt Shop on Ferguson next to Standard School?"

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Cindy Meek retires at St. Francis Parish School while Art Sherwyn says goodbye to Stockdale High School

 * ... MEEK RETIRES: Cindy Meek, the longtime principal at St. Francis Parish School, has retired after a long and distinguished career. She served as principal for 20 years and has worked with Monsignor Craig Harrison for years. "I started working with him when I was teaching at St. Francis and he was in the seminary.  It has been a great thirty-two years experience all together." Meek will continue to be involved with scholarship, teacher training and assisting her successor, Father Denis Ssekannyo.

 * ... ART'S FAREWELL: I attended the retirement party for Art Sherwyn, the popular Stockdale High School art teacher who has left a lasting imprint on so many students, colleagues and friends over the years. If the measure of a life can be judged by an event like this, then Art Sherwyn has certainly done something right. Teachers, friends, former students and family members showed up at the Bakersfield Museum of Art to testify to the ability of one person - in this case a teacher - to profoundly influence the direction of one's life. His two children, Liz and Ben, gave moving tributes to their father, as did several former students of Art's when he was at Wasco High School. Sherwyn is best known as an artist, but I know him from his time guiding my younger daughter on the Stockdale girls tennis team. And I will you he was an artist there as well.

 * ... THREE SONS: It's not often that you have three sons in the same family celebrating graduations at the same time, but that's the case with John and Angela Genter. Their son Brock is graduating from CSUB with a degree in biology and a minor in chemistry. He was also named biology student of the year and is working for the Forest Service and studying for the MCATS. Son Aaron is also graduating from CSUB with a degree in business. He works for Lightspeed Systems as a sales force administrator. And finally, son Evan is graduating from Frontier High School with a not too shabby 4.2 GPA. He is headed for the Colorado School of Mines where he will be studying to become a petroleum engineer. Congrats to John, who is chief operating officer at Lightspeed, and wife Angela.

 * ... GOOD NEWS: Reader Shelley Cauzza dropped this nice note: "I meant to write a while back, then forgot, then was re-inspired by today's (Friday's) column  I can't tell you how much I appreciate the good news in your column.  I was very pleased to see your comments about Jacob Frost and University of Colorado I was his first grade teacher (and his younger brother's a few years later) and I can tell you he was a great kid back then. I wasn't surprised to see what he had accomplished. He had the heart of a lion back then. But proud to know him, for sure. And his parents deserve a round of applause too. Carol was probably one of the most amazing mothers I have ever met. Here I am 10 or so years later raising my own kids, and I pray I am half as good as she is. So, thank you, I enjoy the good news."

 * ... ENGINEER: And then there is Don McCuan, a 2000 graduate from Wasco High School who will be getting his master's in geology at CSUB. Dan worked  for his father's  window business but was inspired by Bakersfield College geology professor Natalie Burzstyn to pursue a career in petroleum geology. He is finishing his thesis in time to start work as a professional geophysicist at Occidental Petroleum in just a couple of weeks. While in graduate school at CSUB, he worked as a research assistant on a prestigious National Science Foundation grant to the Geology Department.
* ... WHO KNEW? Highland, East Bakersfield and South were all high schools attended by members of Bakersfield-grown, Grammy-award winning band, Korn.