Thursday, November 1, 2012

Tax hike Proposition 30 goes down to the wire in California while Gov. Brown is criticized for failing to focus his message of support for it

 * ... PROP 30: It looks like Proposition 30, the tax hike sponsored by Gov. Jerry Brown and supported by the teacher's unions, is going to come down to the wire. The latest polls show support for Prop 30 in the high 40s with opposition in the lower 40 percent range. Its problem, according to Los Angeles Times political columnist George Skelton, is that Brown had not clearly defined the message behind it. For a while Brown claimed 100 percent of the money would go to schools, which simply is not true. But Skelton points out 47 percent of it - or some $2.8 billion - "legally must go to K-12 schools and community colleges." Opponents claim it will simply be used to balance the budget or will be deferred to other uses. The Wall Street Journal calls Prop 30 the second most important election next Tuesday - behind the presidential race - and says the initiative would "issue Sacramento's incorrigible spendthrifts another blank check." (photo courtesy of The Los Angeles Times)

 * ... CHEZ NOEL: The Assistance League is gearing up for its annual Chez Noel home tour, its biggest fund raiser of the year and always one of the season's more popular events. Tickets are $35 each and are available at the Bargain Box on Q Street, Pappagallo, Russo's Books, Sugardaddy's and Country Club Liquors on Columbus. The event helps fund Operation School Bell, which gives new clothes to some 3,000 children, and Operation Hugs, which supplies 2,500 Teddy bears to ailing children.

 * ... OPEN CARRY: If you travel to Oklahoma, don't be surprised to see folks carrying pistols in full open view. As of Thursday Oklahoma became the latest state to approve that weapons can be carried in the open - loaded or unloaded - as long as the owner has a concealed carry permit. Fifteen states now allow people to carry weapons in the open.

 * ... KINDNESS: A shopper in the parking lot of a local Smart and Final is approached by a homeless man who wants to wash her windshield. Her response: "No thank you, I just got my car washed but here are a few dollars because you are working for your money."

* ... TRASH: We are all accustomed to seeing old mattresses and chairs discarded on the roadway, but a boat? That's right, a small boat has been unceremoniously abandoned off Manor Street just off the bike path, left there to rot. On the side of the boat someone wrote: "For rent, inquire within."

 * ... HALLOWEEN: And speaking of trash, the Haggin Oaks area got its usual throng of trick or treaters but as one resident wrote me: "Do they have to leave their used diapers on the sidewalks? I found three this morning."

 * ... CHICKENS: Longtime reader Linda Welch wrote to weigh on on the proposal to allow residents to keep chickens in their yards. "I live three or four blocks from a rooster .... he starts his wake-up calls every single morning about 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. He does not stop until the sky in the east starts to lighten up. That racket is as annoying as a barking dog."

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

New Bakersfield College president pushes for passage of Proposition 30, which continues to sink in the polls, and City Councilman Russell Johnson faces a firestorm of criticism

 * ... CHRISTIAN: Dr. Sonya Christian will take over as the 10th president of Bakersfield College in January, but she is already at work tackling some of the college's deepest problems. Though still living in Eugene, Oregon, she is out front pushing for the passage of Prop 30, which would impose a quarter cent sales tax as well as impose new taxes on high wage earners. Tracking polls, however, show Prop 30 losing public support in the days before the election, in part because of cynicism among voters that the money will really spent on education. If it loses, Bakersfield College will be facing yet another round of budget cuts.

* ... THE BUZZ: Local political observers are closely following a dust up and possible conflict of interest involving City Councilman Russell Johnson. Thanks to reporting by columnist Lois Henry, we now know that Johnson is a paid consultant to the North of the River Municipal Water District at the same time he serves on the city water resources board, a position that certainly passes the smell test of a potential conflict. Russell apparently doesn't think it's a big deal, but insiders predict this issue is not going away. Follow this one closely.

* ... BIG HEART: Cameron Caneta is only 12 years old but he has already learned the joy of giving. A member of the St. Francis Church Parish, Cameron got the idea to surprise Monsignor Craig Harrison by leading a drive to collect canned goods for the needy. In just four days he collected more than 400 cans and is well beyond that now. His mother, Mary Caneta, said it all started when her son asked, 'Mom, why is the church pantry always empty?' Turns out it was Monsignor Craig's birthday when the youngster told him of his food drive. Hard to think of a better birthday present.

 * ... HALLOWEEN: One of the hottest costumes for Halloween is expected to feature folks dressing up like pro cyclist Lance Armstrong wearing syringes taped to their arms. Not not ago the now disgraced Tour de France champion was a source of inspiration; today, he's an object of ridicule following revelations he was part of the doping culture on the Tour. (photo courtesy of The Wall Street Journal)

 * ... TRASH: Stephen Montgomery is one of those good citizens who actually picks up trash while he takes his daily walk. (Wouldn't it be nice if we all did this?) While out walking recently, he will drop the trash in someone's trash can to help keep the neighborhood clean. "The other day I dropped some street trash, a very small amount of fast food and tobacco trash, in a toter I use regularly because it's always in the front yard. But this time the owner saw me. He scowled at me and now I notice he keeps his brown toter behind a gate although he still leaves his seldom used green toter in the front yard. You can never figure out what offends some people."

 * ... THANKSGIVING: Did you know that the day after Thanksgiving is the busiest time of year for plumbers? According to Food Network magazine, plumbers view the day as "Black Friday" because of the sheer volume of calls for backed up sinks and stalled disposals.

* ... PETS: Don't forget the blanket drive for abandoned dogs and cats that will be held Saturday at the downtown Bakersfield Racquet Club. It is being sponsored by Operation Blankets for Love and will run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. All towels and blankets collected will go to local shelters.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Bakersfield quietly pulls its application to become a host city for the 2013 Tour of California, another casualty of the culture of doping in professional cycling

* ... TOUR: The folks behind the effort to bring the Tour of California cycling race back to Bakersfield have quietly withdrawn their request to be a host city next year. Sources close to the effort told me they are backing off in part because of the doping scandal that led to Lance Armstrong being stripped of his seven Tour de France titles. Sponsors like Nike have dropped Armstrong, and last week Rabobank said it too would drop its sponsorship of a major European cycling team. (Rabobank was also a huge sponsor of the Tour of California and had a big presence at this year's time trial event on the Panorama bluffs). An insider told me that raising money to bring the tour back was hard enough, and the doping scandal was the final nail in the coffin. "We'll just let 2013 pass and then take another look in 2014," I was told.

* ... SCARED: Here is something to remember on Halloween. New research seems to prove the old adage that you can literally be "scared to death." That's right, researchers now believe that some people have "acute, sudden heart failure" when they suffer a severe traumatic experience. And this is happening in otherwise perfectly healthy people. "These include victims of muggings and break-ins who assailants never touched them; children who died on amusement park rides; car accident victims who sustained only minor injuries and a man who jumped off the roof" of a hospital but suffered severe heart damage even before hitting the ground, said a story in The Wall Street Journal.

 * ... SPOTTED: Two old box springs and mattresses, along with an equally grungy brown recliner, are unceremoniously dumped in Jastro Park over the weekend.

* ... CHRISTIAN: Bakersfield College has a new president and she will be taking over during a time of tremendous challenge for community colleges. On Monday, new president Dr. Sonya Christian will join me on Californian Radio (KERN 1180) to talk about her plans on leading the school. When she takes over full time in January, she will become the school's 10th president. Tune in at 9 a.m. and call in with your questions to (661) 842-5376.

 * ... THEFT: My earlier piece on theft at airports by security personnel drew this note from Michael Tasos. "Greetings from North Georgia. Interesting point about airport thefts. A few years ago, while vacationing in Maui, my son and I were going to play golf. When I reached into my bag, I found that my 5, 7, and 9 irons, as well as two wedges were missing. I asked my son if he had been messing with my clubs before we left and he had not. I contacted Delta and they paid for the stolen clubs immediately. You're right, theft must be rampant. I also found the random assortment of clubs that were pilfered to be quite odd. I guess someone was building a set."

 * ... RIP: George Antonio Borba, the patriarch of the dairy-farming Borba family, died last week after a long battle with cancer. Borba is a familiar name in Kern County, thanks to his family and his sons moving their dairy operations here almost a decade ago. Borba was president of the California Milk Producers Cooperative. He was 80 years old and lived his entire life in the Ontario and Chino area.