Thursday, November 29, 2012

McCarthy: The fiscal cliff must be avoided but a deal must deal with our mounting national debt and the tax burden carried by small businesses

 The weekly note on BakersfieldObserved from House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) returns. This week he talks about the negotiations to avoid the fiscal cliff. In his words:

"The discussion this week centers on actions to avert the fiscal cliff. This week, I organized a meeting with National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform Co-Chair Erskine Bowles and business leaders across the country to put solutions on the table.  It is critical that we find ways to revitalize our economy and address our rising national debt.
 "We need to take actions that encourage economic growth in America. We need to simplify the lives of our small business owners and entrepreneurs and let them innovate and create.  We need to look at policies that spur investment that expands our economy.  By taking actions that lead to more hiring and economic growth, the result would be more Americans working.
 "Many local small businesses file as S-corporations where business losses and profits are taxable directly to the individual owner. A study by Ernst and Young shows that our economy has about 900,000 business owners that would be harmed if tax rates go up, resulting in an estimated 710,000 fewer jobs.  All the while, our economy as a whole is burdened with one of the highest business tax rates in the developed world. A pro-growth tax reform strategy combined with spending cuts is vital not only to control our debt and deficits, but to spur our economy.
 "On top of tax reform, it is critical that we outline the spending cuts and reforms to our entitlement programs that will preserve these programs and reduce our debt. The President cannot ignore the major drivers of our debt and as Americans, we must tackle these challenges.  Editorials by the Washington Post and The USA Today outline that we cannot truly address our fiscal health without real presidential leadership on reforming our entitlement programs.  If we don’t address these issues, our entitlement programs have the potential to consume every dollar in the federal budget.
 "In past blogs, I have said many times that we need to address our unsustainable national debt.  A recent study by Stanford economist Michael Boskin quantifies and shows the negative effects of debt on our nation’s future economic prosperity.  Higher debt results in interest payments that could go to other investments; more borrowing hampers private sector investment, and creates more uncertainty. Washington cannot continue to burden our economy with one of the highest business tax rates, additional regulations, and policies that hinder investment and expansion. Let’s agree to a framework that reforms our tax code to spur the economy and finds additional spending cuts to address our deficit.
 "On a personal note, good luck to our local high school teams playing for the CIF Central Section Championships. I remember these days when I was at BHS and I know it’s an especially exciting time for our high school seniors at Garces, Ridgeview, Wasco, and Bakersfield Christian.

Do we really need fine dining in movie theaters? And a proposal is floated to rename Airport Drive after Bonnie Campbell, ex wife to both Merle Haggard and Buck Owens

 * ... WINE AND DINE: I read a story in The Los Angeles Times the other day about the AMC movie chain introducing "fine dining" in some of its theaters. That's right, a full dinner with beer and wine along with the move. But do we really need more noise and smells in the theater than we already have? Can you imagine sitting in front of someone dining on prime rib and a crunchy salad? (photo courtesy of The Los Angeles Times)

* ... BONNIE OWENS DRIVE?: I had lunch the other day with Jim Carlton, an old colleague from the Los Angeles Times who was in town doing a story on the local economy for The Wall Street Journal. Jim spent the day interviewing many of our community's most prominent leaders, and brought me this tidbit for this blog: "I heard someone say they were starting a campaign to rename Airport Drive 'Bonnie Owens Drive' because it connects Buck Owens Boulevard and Merle Haggard Drive," he told me. Bonnie, of course, was married to both Buck and Merle.

* ... MEMORIAL: Congratulations to Sherrie McMurtrey who was named Bakersfield Memorial Hospital's volunteer of the year. The announcement was made at the annual diner for Memorial's Foundation Board of Trustees, held at Luigi's Delicatessan. The hospital is coming off a successful golf tournament that raised several hundred thousand dollars for the Children's Medical Center.

* ... THE MARK: The folks over at The Mark, the new restaurant downtown that has proved wildly popular, are planning to open a catering and banquet facility next door. The Mark is located in the old Goose Loonies location at 19th and F streets and the owners will use the vacant facility next door as a banquet rental.

 * ... BAD FORM: Shame on the middle aged man driving down 21st Street who ignored the city fire truck and Hall's Ambulance that tried to pass him with their emergency lights on. The driver was so absorbed on his cell phone that he apparently didn't hear the sirens.

* ... FRIDAY NIGHT LIGHTS: There's a big game up at Garces Memorial High tonight (Friday) when the Rams take on Sanger for the Division II Valley Championship. Garces is expecting a full house and is also alerting neighbors that there will be fireworks after the game. So be prepared.

* ... MEA CULPA: Beverly Stone dropped me a note to correct some bad grammar in this blog. "Lesson in fractured English: 'Peddling' is commonly construed as an effort to sell something. 'Pedaling'” meaning applying foot pressure to the pedals of a conveyance, is what I think you meant. You need a good, or at least better, proofreader." You're hired, Beverly.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Richard Ryan dies at 85, Cambi Brown leaves KBAK to return to Sacramento and keeping an eye on the public pension time bomb

 * ... RIP: I was saddened to learn of the death of Richard Ryan, a longtime Bakersfield resident and patriarch of the extended Ryan clan. His family includes son Kerry Ryan, owner of Action Sports, and his brother Michael Ryan, a former Realtor who works for Team Beachbody fitness.  Like everyone in his family Richard Ryan was a fitness nut, and until recently I used to spot him pedaling his bike on his daily workout. He was a proud Marine, serving in both World War II and the Korean War, and was so committed to his personal fitness that he rode 120 miles a week on his bike until the cancer treatments because too debilitating. He is survived by his wife Rosemary and children Pat, Tim, Kerry, Mary, Jenny and Mike. Keep his family in your thoughts. He was 85.

 * ... ADIOS CAMBI: KBAK Eyewitness News morning reporter Cambi Brown is leaving the station at the end of the week. Brown is headed home to Sacramento to her dream job at KMAX-TV's Good Day Sacramento. Cambi is the third member of the morning team on Channel 29 to leave in the past two months. Former anchor John Dabkovich is now at FOX 5 in Las Vegas and anchor Leyla Santiago is now with WRAL-TV 5 in Raleigh, N.C.

* ... PENSIONS: The growing backlash over the cost of public pensions is rooted in the simple fact that they rarely exist in the private sector. According to a story in The Orange County Register, "Although public pension coverage has also declined, it has remained more than twice as prevalent as in the private workplace. Current coverage rates in California: 69.4 percent for local, 66.3 percent for state and 76.4 percent for federal government employees." All this is aggravated by the fact that many public pensions are woefully underfunded, meaning at some point they will have to bailed out by the taxpayer. Said Esmael Adibi, a Chapman University economics professor:  "This is where the disparity begins. Many defined benefit programs are under-funded, and governments are not taking appropriate action to solve the problem, and many believe ultimately taxpayers will end up paying for the unfunded liability in order for retirees to receive their guaranteed payment. But those covered under defined contribution programs in the private sectors don’t have the luxury of guaranteed retirement payments and feel that public sector should not benefit from the generosity of taxpayers.”

 * ... KINDNESS: A homeless man pushing a shopping cart is hailed by an elderly couple in front of a local Vons and given a small bag of food.

 * ... CLEANUP: Christopher Lowe works at Tri Counties Bank and he also serves as president of Oildale Foundation, which is organizing its quarterly clean up of North Chester Avenue on Saturday, Dec. 8. It all starts at 8:45 a.m. in the parking lot of Trout's. Bags, gloves and vests will be provided. If you want to join the effort or if you have questions, call Pat Frase at (661) 444-7100.

 * ... DID YOU KNOW? Did you know that the number of patients seen by Clinica Sierra Vista has growing from just 2,000 in 1971 to almost 145,000 last year?

Clouds over Kern County.... by local photographer John Harte ... enjoy

Monday, November 26, 2012

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Two Bakersfield college kids spend their Thanksgiving break helping storm victims on Statin Island, and Gene Voiland will discuss his plans to revive minor league baseball in Bako

* ... BASEBALL: The plans are well under way to bring Bakersfield a new minor league baseball stadium at the corner of Brimhall and Coffee roads. The two men behind the plan are oil company executive Chad Hathaway and Gene Voiland, the retired chief executive of Aera Energy who has been at the center of civic life for many years. Gene will be my guest on California Radio KERN 1180 Monday beginning at 9 a.m. Tune in to hear his plans to revive minor league baseball here and call (661) 842-5376 with your question. (file photo of new Blaze owners Chad Hathaway and Gene Voiland)

* ... HOUSING: You have heard it before, but if you are thinking of jumping back into the housing market, you probably should do so sooner, not later. According to the Wall Street Journal, the average rate on a 30-year fixed rate mortgage "hit a record low 3.46 percent for the week ended Nov. 16." The Journal also noted that when people flocked to the rental market, rental prices started to increase and it is now cheaper in many markets to own rather than rent. All this is good news for home buyers and home sellers, not to mention our overall economy.

* ... GIVING BACK: Two Bakersfield High school graduates - Ali Schroeter and Silas Nacita - spent Thanksgiving on Staten Island helping with the Hurricane Sandy relief efforts. Schroeter is now starting libero with the Rutgers volleyball team and Nacita is on a football scholarship to Cornell University. When neither could come home for Thanksgiving, they joined a group from the Liquid Church in New Brunswick, N.J., to help in the clean up and were later treated to Thanksgiving dinner. Said Ali's father Tom Schroeter:  "It was heartwarming for me as Ali's father to see how two Bakersfield students who were filling the void of no family Thanksgiving by helping others had their efforts recognized by a family committed to the same selfless cause sharing its family dinner with them."

 * ... TRASH: It was distressing to see how littered our local parks were this weekend following the Thanksgiving Holiday. Beach Park downtown was a particular mess, begging the question: is it really that difficult to pick up after yourself?

* ... ZOCALO: If you live in Bakersfield, you’re more likely than most Californians to be obese, have diabetes or suffer from cardiac disease. And you’re less likely than most Californians to be able to see a doctor any time soon. These issues and others will be the subjects of a Zocalo Public Square panel discussion in Bakersfield Tuesday night. The discussion is 7 p.m. at the Bakersfield Museum of Art, 1930 R Street. Kern Medical Center CEO Paul Hensler, University of California San Francisco Center for the Health Professions Associate Director Catherine Dower, and San Joaquin Community Hospital Vice President Jarrod McNaughton will discuss what’s keeping doctors out of Bakersfield, and how to bring in better health care.