Friday, October 14, 2011

McCarthy: Free trade agreements show that bipartisan efforts can succeed in Congress

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

 "Faith in Congress is at historic lows, and to be honest, I don't blame the nearly 90 percent of Americans who are frustrated. But this week proved that where there is common ground, the House and Senate, Republicans and Democrats, can take meaningful action on policies that will help get our economy back on track. I'm talking about the passage of three Free Trade Agreements with Colombia, Panama and South Korea that create a fair playing field among America and these other nations and are estimated to create jobs and increase exports across America, including right here at home.

 "I know the American people can out-compete anyone in the world if the playing field is fair. See, right now American products face tariffs when they enter these countries, making them more expensive and less attractive to consumers there. With the passage of these agreements, the majority of our exports will now enter more freely – increasing the incentive for South Koreans, Colombians and Panamanians to purchase American-made goods. Exports from California’s 22nd District directly support an estimated 139,627 jobs, and in 2010, local businesses exported an estimated $44.3 billion in merchandise, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. These trade agreements open the door for our businesses, from agriculture to energy to manufactured goods, to export more to Asia, Central, and South America.
 n"I am glad that the President finally submitted these agreements for approval. And I am hopeful that the bipartisan effort that moved them forward is a stepping stone to working on other areas where there is common ground.

 "Speaking of working together, I was able to meet one of our nation’s strong allies, South Korean President Lee Myung-Bak, when he addressed a Joint Session of Congress on Thursday. From national security issues to our soon-to-be increased trade relationship, South Korea continues to be a strong democratic friend and strategic ally of the United States, and I was glad to help welcome President Lee here.

 "I was also honored to meet with two of the Astronauts of the Space Shuttle Atlantis this week, Commander Chris Ferguson and Colonel Rex Walheim. Colonel Walheim was actually stationed at Edwards Air Force Base for a time, and it was great to hear first-hand about their most recent mission to the International Space Station on the final flight of the Space Shuttle program. Some folks from Bakersfield were also in Washington this week. I had lunch with Cody and Leanne Anderson and spent time with Kern County Undersheriff Rosemary Wahl.

  "Our community is known for its generosity and selfless service, and I wanted to thank everyone who helped at Veterans Stand Down at Stramler Park this past Thursday. I also want to wish the United States Navy a happy 236th birthday and thank the men and women at China Lake Naval Air Weapons Station in Ridgecrest and all the sailors and their families around the world for the work they have done and continue to do to ensure our nation’s safety and security.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Readers weigh in on the historic old Lebec Hotel, a once proud landmark that house Clark Gable and other celebrities

 * ... LEBEC HOTEL: Many thanks to the dozens of callers and readers who responded to the question about the old hotel on the Grapevine that was a favorite of Hollywood celebrities. It was called the Lebec Hotel, and according to a Santa Clarity Valley historical society, it was built in 1921 in the style of a French chateau and torched in 1971 by the Tejon Ranch Company after falling into disrepair. A rich part of our local history, I heard from more than 40 readers about the old hotel. Here is a sampling of what I learned:
  + Jack Kelley said the original hotel, named the Durant, opened on May 21, 1921, and changed names before settling on The Lebec Hotel.
 + Joey LeBrun said he lived in Lebec in the 1950s and at the time, the Lebec Hotel was run by the Burke family. He remembered the "enormous ballroom that felt like a palace. My mother met Clark Cable and Carole Lombard there."
 + Carol Dokolas says her husband also remembers the ballroom and seeing acts like the Dixie Darling and Al Hart and Harry James and his orchestra.
 + Karen Noriega said her grandmother, Claire Miller, was a maid at the hotel. "She also was a waitress at the Lebec Coffee Shop. My grandfather, George Miller Sr.,  ran the Lebec garage."
 + Reader Ed Davis said he too remembers the hotel and "unfortunately, as a young guy, I stole bathtubs out of the north wing when the building was starting to degrade!" He used the tubs as watering troughs for cows and horses on his uncle's ranch.
 + Shirley Walton said her husband worked on the crew that torn the old place town, and the family salvaged a chest of drawers that her son, Mike, took to UCLA where it lived in a fraternity house.
 + Stephen Montgomery said in the 1960s some "well intended owner tried to operate it by renaming it the Nu Motel. Well, sticking the name Nu on it didn't make it 'nu.' It was still an aging and neglected facility and after it was abandoned in the 1970s, the county "ordered it closed or upgraded. The fire department used it for fire practice and we lost an attractive and historic facility."
 + Superior Court Judge Thomas Clark said  his parents spent their honeymoon there, and that the actors Robert Stack and Clark Gable often stayed there while duck hunting.
 + Barry Zoeller, communication vice president for Tejon Ranch,  said the hotel "was located on the west side of Interstate 5 almost directly across from the Kern County Fire Station in Lebec. You can still see the tall Cypress trees that were at the front of the hotel."
  + Reader Thomas Jannino said his parents married in Pasadena in 1939 and spent their honeymoon night at the hotel. "They were on their way to the World's Fair in San Francisco. I can remember passing the structure as a child. The building was somewhat Mission-like in style, isolated from surrounding structures. Obviously, they could have never made it to the Bay area by bedtime."
 + Marilyn Scott remembers driving by the hotel many times and once stopped in the parking lot to take a closer look. "I wish I had taken the time to go inside but I had two small children with me and was in a hurry. Next time never came."
 + Lastly, Larry Miller was with the Kern County Fire Department and was in charge of burning the hotel at the request of Tejon Ranch. "Bull dozers and skip loaders completed debris removal and the project was completed in less than 24 hours, an ignominious end to what was once a storied, beautiful building."
(photos courtesy of a Santa Clarita Valley historical organization)

 * ... MORE FRAUD: My in box is full of stories on folks who have seen their credit cards compromised. The latest is from Brett and Cheryl Hurt. Said Cheryl: "We have had our numbers stolen and credit cards reissued twice within three months! We were getting ready to go to South America so we notified Bank of America and gave them our itinerary and dates. It must have been skimmed at a gas station but we had over $3,000 worth of charges to Wal-Mart in Nevada. Come on, Wal-Mart? At least make it Nordstrom's."

 * ... SPOTTED. This comes from a man who asked to remain anonymous. "A couple days ago, standing in an adjacent checkout line at a local big box store, a mother pulled in line at the next checkout with her young son sleeping in a cart on some thick towels and her groceries in another cart. After unloading the groceries on the stand, with no intention of buying the towels, she yanks them out from under the child and plops them in a pile on top of a soda cooler at the checkout stand. She left the now used towels that the kid, who was probably sick, slobbered on for the store to reshelve for some other unsuspecting customer. Tacky, selfish, unsanitary and really just plain theft."

 * ... BAKERSFIELDISM:  Mel Minney writes that you may be a Bakersfield old timer "if you remember Tote Sack Annie."

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Celebrating the edible schoolyard, remembering Chet Love and learning of more credit card fraud

 * .... EDIBLE SCHOOLYARD: You really have to hand it to the Grimm Family Education Foundation for its support and creation of the edible schoolyard at Buena Vista Elementary School. In a time when obesity and diabetes seem to be the norm, the Grimm family funded the creation of a garden and special classroom to teach young children about the value of integrating fresh fruits and vegetables into their diets. Alice Waters, a pioneer in the philosophy of using the freshest locally grown ingredients (and the owner of the famous Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley), was at Buena Vista school last week for the grand opening. Among those attending were Bitsy and Garrett Ming, Erin and Sean McNally, Kay and Harold Meek, Sue and Herb Benham, Mary and Greg Bynum, Dinah and Jeff Mettler and many others. Hats off to the Grimm family for supporting such a worthy cause. (file photo of Alice Waters)

 * ... RIP CHET: Bakersfield lost one of its truly great citizens with the passing of Chet Love, a retired oil executive who was deeply rooted in our community. Chet passed away while visiting his mother in Witchita, Kansas, and is preceded in death by his wife of 51 years Mary Lou, who died last year. He was active in the Rotary Club of Bakersfield and the First United Methodist Church and was one of the nicest and kindest men around town. He was 76.

 * ... CARD FRAUD: KERO TV anchor Jackie Parks Karli dropped me a note about her own experience with credit card fraud, and this one is a doozy. Said Jackie: "Our card was scammed to the tune of almost $13,000 in a single charge at a farm supply store in Colorado. The woman was from Indonesia and had even had a Visa card made with our number but her picture on it. It took months to clear up. That was two years ago and we've had to cancel our card twice since due to other fraud." Ouch. (file photo  of Jackie Parks Karli)

 * ... CAR THEFTS: Linda Parker, executive director of the Kern Wind Energy Association, wrote to warn about a rash of car thefts in the Southwest. Her teenage daughter's car was stolen, and she knows of many others in the Southwest and Silver Creek area. "We work hard to provide for our family and to have someone come in and violated our space is very disturbing, not to men our daughter's emotions of not having her car," she said. "Car thefts just are not a priority when the police are tapped out on violent crimes. All you can do is report it and sit and wait for a call from the BPD and that is only if they find it!"

* ... HISTORY: Reader Pat Mahan needs some help with a history question. "There was a restaurant and motel/hotel that was up on the Ridge Route back in the 1940s or 1950s. It was frequented by movie stars and the Hollywood elite. Stories were that is where many of the male stars brought their girlfriends. Can you or any of your readers help me out?"

 * ... PUMPKINS: If you're in the market for a pumpkin - and it is that time of year - check out a sale on Saturday, October 22, behind the Roadhouse Grill at the Northwest Promenade Shopping Center. This one will support local Cub Scout Pack 177, and is there a more worthy cause than our Scouts? It will run from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

* ... BAD FORM: Another example of bad behavior submitted by reader Mona Martin: "I observed a Hispanic male in a 2008 black BMW in northeast Bakersfield cut a woman in a red Dodge truck off and then block her at a green left turn while flipping his finger at her. Just because your car is classy doesn't mean it transfers to the driver and occupants! Also, my son's debit card was hacked into a day after he bought gas at a convenience store gas pump. So important to check your bank accounts daily, as he does! The charges were all local and all of them blocked due to his daily diligence."

Sunday, October 9, 2011

More blowback on Bank of America's plans to impose a debit card fee and another successful Spooktacular

 * ... BANK BACKLASH: I received a handful of tartly worded messages last week defending Bank of America and its plan to impose a debit card fee. I was reminded the fee ($5 a month) will not apply to new or existing customers until July 2012, and will not apply to customers who may other other services with the bank like mortgages. What they didn't mention is that the bank may waive the fee if the customer has a certain level of deposits, perhaps as high as $20,000. Huh? Sorry, but none of this makes me any better. As Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told Bank of America customers: "Vote with your feet."

 * ... 100 MILES: Hats off to the Kern Wheelmen bicycle club for hosting another successful Spooktacular on Saturday. This 100-mile ride up Breckenridge mountain and the Lion's Trail switchbacks to Walker Basin regularly attracts several hundred cycling enthusiasts, and this year (thanks to the Wheelmen holding the event two weeks earlier) they were treated to absolutely spectacular weather. Among some of the familiar faces I spotted doing the 100 miler were tennis pro Hank Pfister, Tom and Christy Morgan, Gareth Feldstein, Scott Garrison, Jack Skaggs, Tyler Williams,  Brett Bonetti, Wayne Rosenthal, Randy Scholl, Matt Clark, Gregory Riggins, Mike Marotta and Courtland Keith. Speaking of cycling, I will be chatting with the founder of Bike Bakersfield (Robert Smith) and its director Zach Griffin on Monday at 9 a.m. on Californian Radio on KERN 1180. Tune in to hear their plans to encourage more bicycle commuting.

 * ... GARCES BBQ: The annual Garces barbeque was held last week and I'm told it was a huge success. This is a "must attend' event on my list but I had a conflict and am sorry I missed it. Mission Bank was the sponsor and the Icardo team was busy cooking Harris Ranch steaks. The crowd included alumni and family: Cathy and John Anspach, Jerry and Irma Cornejo, Bruce and Jane Haupt and the usual clan of Fanucchis. Am told a number of next generation of alumni was also in attendance, including Roger Cappola, Kelly LeBeau, and Oliver Sill.

 * ... MORE FRAUD: Alli Duncan dropped me a note to say she too has had her credit cards hacked. And she passed along this advice: "Do you use your card as gas station kiosks? If so, stop! Since I've started using cash or going inside to pay with my card, I haven't had any problems. People are putting devices on these 24-hour kiosks and are able to read your card number. Then, they generate a fake card with your number and someone else's name. Good luck!"

 * ... AND MORE: And there is this from Matt C. Clark, a partner at the law firm of Chain, Cohn and Stiles. "My card got stolen too. At least the number did. Bank of America alerted me when someone tried to buy $108 worth of Big Macs at a McDonald's in Upland. Based on my credit history, the bank obviously knows that if I were to buy $108 worth of burgers, it would be at In-n-Out."

 * ... OVERHEARD: Three young men talking loudly while getting into a car in the downtown city parking garage. "I didn't steal her car," one man says. "I just stole her car seat, and her weed too."

 * ... BAKERSFIELDISM: From Alan Yost: "You know you're an old timer if you were coming off the Grapevine and saw a bright yellow light off in the distance. It was the sign at J's Coffee Shop on White Lane just east of 99 (now a motel)...that was some serious wattage."