Friday, October 7, 2011

McCarthy: House working to bring common sense to EPA regulations

House Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) gives us his view from Capitol Hill.

 "Thomas Edison is famously quoted as saying, “The three great essentials to achieve anything worth while are, first, hard work; second, stick-to-itiveness; third, common sense.” Well, in Washington, the third essential doesn’t come around near often enough, but I’m working hard to change that.

 "Take the Cement MACT regulations for example. These are Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules governing emissions from cement manufacturing plants. EPA itself estimates these rules would cost cement manufacturers around $2.2 billion to comply with and the cement industry says the rules have the potential to shut down almost 20 percent of the domestic industry – giving our competitors abroad, such as China, yet another leg up on us. Here at home, these rules would mean tens of millions of dollars in compliance costs for our cement plants in Tehachapi, Mojave and Lebec and up to 400 jobs lost.
 "So this week, the House took some common sense action to address the harmful impacts of these standards by passing H.R. 2681, the Cement Sector Regulatory Relief Act. This bill halts the current regulations and directs EPA to re-propose new less harmful standards, as well as extends the timeframe for our local plants and the rest of the industry to comply with the standards. This simple, bipartisan and common sense measure will stave off billions in compliance costs, the potential loss of hundreds of thousands of American jobs, and help keep America competitive in today’s global economy.
 "From my bill to repeal the $29 million fine we’re paying for an ozone standard EPA revoked, to my push to open up more lands for public use, to my efforts to rescind an archaic Securities and Exchange Commission rule that could give small business owners greater access to capital, and my recently introduced legislation to freeze federal funding for California’s questionable high-speed rail project, common sense is also the driving force behind the legislation I’ve authored this year.
 "Sadly, we lost two people this week whose contributions impacted many of our lives. With the passing of Steve Jobs, we lost an amazing innovator and icon in the field of technology. From the Apple computer to the iPad, he revolutionized how we use computers and information today. Our local community also learned of the passing of long-time actor and Kern County resident Charlie Napier, who we remember from his many roles on the big and small screen.
 "On a brighter note, I was glad to see several members of our local community in D.C. this week, including Robert Haude, who used to work with my father, and his wife Cindy, as well as Anna Lusher and her sons Lucas and Jacob, who were here for the Congressional Youth Leadership Council’s Junior National Young Leaders Conference. I always enjoy seeing young people from our community engaged and involved in leadership activities. If you’re planning a trip to D.C., I encourage you to contact my office at 202-225-2915 to schedule a tour.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Big banks impose fees for ATMs, more reports of credit card fraud and get ready for another First Friday in downtown Bakersfield

 * ... BANKS: Are you getting the feeling that our nation's major banks just want us to go away? Bank of America's decision to charge $5 a month to use our ATM cards has ignited a storm of controversy, as it should. Wasn't it a short time ago when they encouraged us to use the ATM machines so we wouldn't bother the tellers in the lobby? Now comes this: Golden 1 Credit Union says it does not charge a
fee for using debit cards - and has no plans to - and it also has a free checking account with no minimum balance requirement. Expect more counter marketing from more credit unions and smaller banks. Seems worth checking out.

 * ... FIRST FRIDAY: It's time for another First Friday downtown and the weather promises to be spectacular. I am always surprised by how many of my Northwest or Southwest friends have yet to attend a First Friday, because they are missing something special. Our downtown arts district sparkles, and it's always a good opportunity to dine at one of our many locally owned eateries. And don't miss the new show at The Metro Galleries on 19th Street, where owner Don Martin always puts on a "must attend" event.

 * ... FRAUD: Donna Nulton is among the growing list of local folks who have seen their credit cards hacked. In her case, it was an $800 charge (plus a $28 processing fee) from a place called Poncho Villa in Marseille, France. Said Donna: "Lucky for me my bank figured out I was not in Marseille." Reader Don Bender was another victim, telling me that his life was "turned upside down in April of this year. I have a huge file at my side including police reports, credit card and bank communications, etc. Our incidents occurred at Targets in the San Fernando Valley and further south. In one incident, the Target cashier allowed the customer to try six to eight different credit cards before using ours. The first ones failed. The financial crimes detail (unit) at Bakersfield Police Department was very helpful."

 * ... SPOTTED: Two cases of bad behavior during the walk for Breast Cancer Awareness in downtown Bakersfield on Monday. First, police were allowing the crowd of about 100 people to cross Truxtun at L Street when an impatient driver stuck his head out the window of his pickup and yelled, "my light is green!" Earlier, when the crowd was near the Kern Superintendent of Schools building, a homeless man appeared with his hands raised and screamed "hurray for boobies!"

 * ... MARE: One non-profit that does so much good to help people with disabilities is MARE (Mastering Abilities Riding Equines). The organization is holding a fund raiser on Saturday, October 22, at the MARE facility out on Johnson Road. It costs $50 for adults and $15 for children under the age of 12. There will be a special equestrian performance featuring a Spanish horse, catered dinner and silent auction. For tickets call (661) 589-1877.

 * ... MEMORIAL: Good to hear that this year's Larry Carr Memorial Golf Tournament raised $127,000 for the Children's Medical Center at Memorial. Steve Loyd chaired the event along with a stellar team from fellow members of the Foundation Board of Trustees: Tara Jamieson, Jenny Waguespack, Brooke Antonioni, Ernie Schroeder, Sherrie McMurtrey and Tracy Kiser.

 * ... OVERHEARD: This note appeared in my mailbox. In the waiting room at the Truxtun Surgery Center, an extremely obese woman is seen loudly berating a a prominent local surgeon because he would not provide the results of her consultation in the waiting room. She had two grand children in tow and refused - when offered - to bring the kids into the physician's private office. "Everyone in the waiting room was so stunned by her actions," a witness wrote. "Doctors deserve the utmost respect and this woman was beyond rude."

RIP Steve Jobs ... an amazing man and life

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Counties brace for an influx of parolees and ex convicts as a state-mandated plan to relieve crowding goes into effect

 * ... PAROLEES: The state mandated plan to release thousands of non violent offenders while transferring even more prisoners to local county jails has law enforcement officials across the state on edge. No one is exactly sure how many parolees and prisoners will end up in Kern County, but it will certainly put a huge new burden on local police and parole officers. In Los Angeles, police are warning that more than 150 officers will be removed from street duty to deal with the influx of prisoners. And they are bluntly predicting there could be 3,000 more serious crimes committed by ex convicts walking the streets. (photo by the San Francisco Sentinel)

 * ...  FRAUD: My primary ATM card was hit with fraudulent charges once again, the fourth time in three months that my credit and ATM cards had to be canceled and reissued. This time, charges popped up at two Walmarts in the Los Angeles area. Amazing to me how many people I meet who have had similar problems. How many of who have encountered something similar?

* ... SPOTTED: Occupants of a 2008 black BMW toss all their trash out the window before leaving the Taco Bell parking lot at Buena Vista Road across from Stockdale High School.

 * ... RILEY'S JOURNEY: Old friend Riley Parker checked in with me on his journey back to good health. He's been cycling since being told by his doctor that he had better get a grip on his health or wind up a diabetic. He recently posted a personal record with a 25-mile ride, but said he could not have done it without the help of Realtor John Garone, whom he met on the bike path. "He said hello and kind of cheered me on. When I got to the turn around at Enos Lane, John was there and we chatted for a few minutes. I am so happy that I made the decision to go this route rather than allow my health to completely crater." Well done, Riley. Keep us posted.

 * ... FUND RAISER: Phil Icardo shot me a note to let me know that 9th annual Elegant Evening of Wine benefiting the Joe Alexander Scholarship Foundation was another huge success. "The new venue, Mark and Sue Ashley's Westchester home, provided a truly elegant atmosphere," he said. "This year's event was the most highly attended in its history with the proceeds assisting the very needed educational and vocational scholarships." Well done.

 * ... MEA CULPA: I erred on Monday in implying (via poor verbage) that Mike Maggard was a Bakersfield City Councilman. He is of course on the Kern County Board of Supervisors serving the 3rd District. Also, the Fourth District supervisor candidate I mentioned is Michael Rouw. I could blame it on too much sun after a week on a Mexican beach but that would be bad form. Mea culpa.

 * ... HOME SWEET HOME: Speaking of my vacation, no matter how much fun you had it's always nice to come home. Some of my favorite things about returning to Bakersfield: enjoying the taste of fall in the air and seeing the elegant and stately old Guild House, checking in with my favorite baristas at the 24th Street Starbucks, taking a leisurely bike ride over Round Mountain, having a Sunday snack at The Padre Hotel and reuniting with my husky house companion, the gray tabby Latte.

Monday, October 3, 2011

McCarthy: California high-speed rail is the next Big Dig; will introduce a bill to cut off federal funding

 House Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) weighs in on the California High-Speed Rail project. In his words:

 "Many remember the Big Dig in Boston. The project was bankrolled mostly by federal dollars, finished years behind schedule and billions over budget. Referred to by many as a ‘black hole’ of government waste, it was the most expensive public works project in American history at the time. Even with such an example to learn from, California is still barreling ahead on a high-speed rail (HSR) project that could rival the Big Dig in cost overruns and delays.

 "HSR has proven a drain on government coffers. Every HSR line in the world requires some sort of government subsidy, and a 2008 Amtrak study found that six of Europe’s passenger rail systems require a combined annual subsidy of $42 billion. That’s in addition to the initial investment. Unfortunately, many are turning a blind eye to these facts. The Obama Administration has already obligated around $10.1 billion in federal funds to projects across the country, and is calling for more.

 "The California High-Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA) has touted California’s project as the nation’s first true HSR. But if their plan is the model, we’re in trouble. Aside from ever-changing ridership projections, sub-par business plans and incomprehensive Environmental Impact Reports (EIR), the numbers don’t add up. The Authority puts the cost of building Phase One from Los Angeles to San Francisco at $43 billion, but independent studies say it could be anywhere from $65 to $80 billion, and some report the entire project could top $116 billion.
 "Even taking the rosiest estimates, the money isn’t there. Our nation is $14.3 trillion in debt and running a $1.5 trillion deficit, and our state isn’t doing much better. California has faced deficits in the tens of billions of dollars for years, and there is no end in sight. The $9 billion in bonds voters approved in 2008 for HSR will add a $1 billion annual burden to the state over the next two decades, according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office. That means $1 billion less for higher education, parks, firefighting and other services. Furthermore, operating costs could top $1.5 billion annually – meaning if the already questionable ridership estimates don’t materialize, California would be on the hook for an annual subsidy.
"This potential ‘train to nowhere’ would have profound impacts on Bakersfield. The Authority’s EIR shows people, homes and churches would be displaced, and the line would run right through Bakersfield High School. I refuse to allow our community to be disrupted when so much uncertainty remains about the viability of the project as a whole.

 "That’s why I will introduce legislation freezing federal funding for this project until more evidence can be gathered to determine its feasibility. Absent reliable numbers and estimates on what HSR will really cost taxpayers, it’s foolish to keep throwing money hoping for a good result.

 "HSR sounds good in theory, but the facts tell a different story. Government should be focusing on smart and responsible uses of taxpayer dollars, not on building new and massive annual obligations into already-strained budgets.


Sunday, October 2, 2011

David Couch to appear on Californian Radio (KERN Radio) on Monday, and Mexico retains its allure

 * ... FOURTH DISTRICT: Longtime city councilman David Couch has joined the race for the 4th District seat on the Kern County Board of Supervisors. Couch is one of the more thoughtful members of the council, and along with retiring member Sue Benham and Supervisor Mike Maggard, he wis part of the more progressive and pragmatic group on the council. He joins businessman and attorney Harley Pinson and David Rouw in the race. Couch will be joining me at 9 a.m. Monday when Californian Radio moves to KERN 1180.

* ... VIVA MEXICO: Just returned from a splendid week on the beach in Mexico. The country is clearly in the grips of a horrific drug war, but its vacation spots remain safe and its legendary customer service is alive and well. Each time I visit our neighbor to the south, I am reminded how much I love the country. 

* ... SPOTTED: Young man with teenage girl in tow approaches customers at the downtown car wash. "Excuse me sir but me and my girlfriend and I are at the Tower Hotel with our baby and I need exactly ten dollars or they will kick us out." Minutes later, the couple is spotted near 24th Street counting a huge wad of greenbacks.

 * ... BOAT SHOW: Wooden boat enthusiast and expert Arnie Johansen and his wife Jan just got back from the international board meeting and boat show in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin where he was elected to the board of directors. The boat show featured over 120 wooden boats and the convention attendees were treated to tours of five magnificent turn of the century mansions. One of the oldest and largest was the Griffith Estate which was built in1879 and covered 100 acres. Originally built by R.T. Crane founder of the Crane Plumbing Co. When Johansen is not dabbling in classic wooden boats, he is president and CEO of Holloway Gypsum Mining Co.

 * ... MEMORY LANE: Bob Hall wrote to share his memories of the old Bakersfield. "Places and things to remember: parking in the center of Truxtun Avenue at Chester, the secret Lockheed plant, the Budge Drive Inn, the Golden Crust bakery, Baxter's Wheel Inn Drive-In, Freddie's steak house on the traffic circle... the Mosrite guitar factory, the Powell truck assembly plant on Union Avenue, Wimpy's Liquor Store, Owen's Toy Store."

 * ... GOOD SERVICE: Debbie Banducci nominated Clerou Tire Company for outstanding service. 
"They are prompt, efficient, friendly, and most importantly, they stand by their word. It is good to know that I will be well taken care of when I do business with them!"

 * ... BAKERSFIELDISM: You know you're from Bakersfield when you realize summer really isn't over until the Kern County Fair shuts down for the year.