Friday, December 21, 2012

McCarthy: simplify the tax code, cut spending and reform entitlement programs

 House Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) gives us his weekly report from Congress. In his words:

"This week in Bakersfield, we celebrate the homecoming of two local heroes, Lance Corporal Josh Brubaker and First Lieutenant Sam Van Kopp. The outpouring of support and the huge crowds that showed up to welcome these two brave men home reflect the remarkable community that we live in.  Veterans and families across Kern County, many who did not know these heroes personally, came to thank them for their service, sacrifice, and dedication to our nation. As we reflect on the sacrifices these men have made, let us also remember the men and women in uniform that continue to defend us and are not home with their loved ones during this holiday season.

"Also this week, many other parents are welcoming their children and family home from around the country as the holiday season begins. I know Judy and I are excited  that our son Connor will be coming home from college and joining us and our daughter Meghan for Christmas. As we think about Christmas, our families and our families’ future, we cannot ignore the burdens that our growing national debt poses to our children and to hardworking families in our communities.

 "Like all parents, we want to ensure that our children grow up in an America where their opportunities are limitless, not limited. We want a future that is not burdened by debt but emboldened by opportunity – when my children were still both in high school a couple of years ago, their shares of the national debt were $45,000 each. If this trend of growing debt continues, by the time they begin their own families, their individual share, and that of their children, will have grown to $100,000. That is both unacceptable and unsustainable. We need to cut spending and pay down our national debt. The numbers show that if we do nothing, every federal tax dollar will be consumed by our entitlement programs which will soon be insolvent if nothing is done.

 "It’s time for all sides to get serious in averting the fiscal cliff before the end of the year and prevent the permanent $4 trillion tax hike on January 1st that every American faces. We cannot negotiate with ourselves.  Throughout our community, we all know mothers and fathers who continue to give up scarce family time working overtime to provide for their children. Parents not only work to get their kids out of bed and off to school, but are working harder outside the home to support their families.  American families deserve to keep more of their hard-earned money. To get our fiscal house in order and to reinvigorate our economy, we need to simplify our tax code, cut spending, and reform our entitlement programs. I hope the President and the Senate become willing participants to change the direction of our country.  There’s no better time than the holidays to come together.

"We wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

A happy ending for Blackie, an American Staffordshire Terrier who was left in Bakersfield after his owner was injured in a truck crash. He is now back home in Texas

 * ... BLACKIE: Patricia Boles is active in the local animal rescue community and shared with me the story of Blackie, a sweet American Staffordshire Terrier who was separated from his owner after a truck accident here. For three months Blackie was cared for by the folks at the Kern County Animal Shelter while his owner was convalescing in Texas. Boles meanwhile raised enough money to fly Blackie back to Texas in a private plane, but only after a commercial carrier at LAX refused because it thought Blackie was a dangerous pitbull. Said Boles: "Cherie Charlton spent hours on and off work exercising this dog... The dog was returned home by Bonny Schumaker (an amazing woman and president of a group called 'On Wings of Care') and of course all of this was overseen by the new (animal control) director Jan Woodward. Just think everyone should see that all the workers at KCAC have big hearts and though they have a distressing job to face daily they truly love animals." (photo of Bonny Schumaker and Blackie)

 * ... WELCOME HOME: This is the time of year when the sons and daughters of Bakersfield who are living away or at college come home to rekindle friendships and enjoy a home cooked meal. One of those in town is Sarah Audelo, daughter of Joe and Mimi Audelo, who now holds a Master of Public Policy from The George Washington University in Washington D.C. Sarah graduated from Ridgeview High School and received her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University.

 * ... MUSEUM: Bernie Herman, the retiring executive director of the Bakersfield Museum of Art, sent out a seasonal letter asking folks to donate to the museum. Herman will retire early next year (a search committee is interviewing finalists for his job now) and we should all take a moment to thank Bernie for guiding the museum these past eight years. When Herman became director, the museum had more than $1 million in debt. Today it is debt free and thriving, offering summer camps for children and sponsoring such popular events as Via Arte.

 * ... HOLIDAY THEFT: Eileen Sanchez awoke the other day to find that thieves made off with her son's basketball hoop. "I know this might seem trivial considering what has been happening in the world these days, but I wanted to share my disappointment at a time of year that should be full of giving and good tidings. My son's basketball hoop was stolen by a thief in the night. Actually, more like probably four thieves as this basketball hoop had a 54 inch glass backboard, water in the base, and weighed at least 300 pounds, no easy task. We purchased the hoop for his birthday this past June and he has shot baskets almost everyday since. My son and his dad spent ten hours putting that thing together and rolling it outside making sure it was just the right height.  He taped off the free throw line and knew just where the three point shots were.  It's sad to discover how quickly someone can take the joy out of a young boy's heart. Again, I know having a basketball hoop stolen is nothing compared to many things that are happening, but it's just one more sad example of a culture where people are so willing to take from others without hesitation, and from a child no less."

* ... GOOD WORK: The folks over at West Rotary are up to more seasonal good needs.  The group volunteered to sponsor 30 needy children at the KCMH-Children's Services this Christmas. Said county worker Vija A. Turjanis: "Last week I needed a trailer to pick up all the gifts that Rotary West  donated in response to the letter our kids wrote.  The  generosity of this organization is truly amazing as they made the magic of the holiday season came alive. Our neediest kids are going to have the most awesome Christmas and they will believe that our community and Santa does care for them and most importantly they will know that they are not forgotten during the holidays."

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

A happy ending: the story of an abandoned dog, the farmer who found it and the trucker who adopted it

* ... JEFF ROSS: Shares in the mobile marketing company Velti PLC rose sharply this week after it hired a respected executive as chief financial officer. That executive is Jeff Ross, the former chief financial officer of the software maker Sybase Inc. Ross is a 1983 graduate of North High School and went on to earn a degree from Cal Berkeley. He is the son of Barbie and Dick Ross, who taught math at North High. Prior to working for Sybase, Ross worked at PricewaterhouseCoopers and held other finance jobs at other companies.

* ... HAPPY ENDING: From my mailbag came this delightful story of a little chihuahua who was abandoned along the side of a local road and rescued by a farmer named Travis Fugitt. A "found dog" advertisement was posted in The Californian and - voila - a Chicago-based trucker spotted it while driving through town. Now the chihuahua, comfy in her new sweater, is at home in Chicago and named Baby II after the trucker's other chihuahua who recently died. She even accompanies him on the road and rumor is they will back through town this week. Who says there is no good news in the newspaper?

 * ... OVERHEARD: In Costco a middle aged man asks a young woman where to find Scotch Tape. "It's over there," she responds, "and it's delicious!" "Scotch Tape?" he queries. Flustered, the woman says, "Oh, I thought you said scalloped potatoes."

* ... BELMONT PARK: Last week I mentioned that the same folks who renovated the Padre Hotel three years ago had been awarded a contract to refurbish Belmont Park In Mission Beach. Bow Porter read that and mentioned that her mother, Alice Ball, was a cashier at the facility, which she referred to simply as 'the amusement center.' "My mom was a cashier at the Plunge and the Dance Hall when the center was first developed. My dad (Bob McGetchin) was a San Diego County surveyor, and a beach boy at heart... There was a dance hall that was quite plush, with a large stage and huge dance floor, and seating area... probably cocktail tables. As a child, I remember the marathon dancers, that would dance for days at a time, staying on their feet until they fell from exhaustion. The last guy standing won. As children we peeked thru the windows as we were not allowed inside without adults." (photos courtesy of Bow Porter)

 * ... MY TAKE: I personally welcome the national conversation about violence in our society in all its forms: mental illness, the culture of violence in movies and video games and of course gun ownership. But I hope we don't believe that banning military style assault rifles and the number of rounds in a clip will stop these types of senseless killings. These types of rifles are deadly, but any ballistics expert will tell you a simple semi-automatic shotgun (the type used for bird hunting or clay sports and easy to reload) can inflict equal or even greater damage at close range. This is not an argument against the ban, but rather a thought that the problem is larger than any single weapon design. Banning assault rifles may make us all feel good, but the truth is it is almost impossible to legislate our way to a safe society.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Virgil Wilson, one of the great mentors and coaches for Kern County basketball players, dies in Arkansas and is remembered for his soft touch with young players

* ....SANDY HOOK: The shooting at the Connecticut elementary school is almost beyond belief, and the fact that the gunman targeted young girls and boys makes it particularly horrific. I will only add my voice to those who believe that focusing solely on gun control misses the point. I do hope the national conversation will also address the issue of providing sufficient, professional help to those who battle mental illness in our society.

* ... RIP VIRGIL:  Many of you may remember Virgil Wilson, one of Kern County's legendary  basketball coaches who died last month in Arkansas at the age of 67. He stood 6-foot, 9 inches tall and was a former employee of the Bakersfield police department and a member of the Harlem Stars. He spent years tutoring and guiding many of Kern County's great young basketball players. Randy Ariey wrote that Virgil was known as "best big man coach in town. He tutored Robert Swift, Winston Crite, Otis Jennings and others. Virgil had a heart of gold and never ever complained about anything in life. He was matter of fact about everything, through the good times and the bad. In the 1990s Magic Johnson would personally call Virgil every year  to work his summer camps. Virg also was the D-line coach for the Fresno Semi Pro team back in the 1990s. So long Big Virg, see you later friend!"

 * ... HOUCHIN: The Houchin Community Blood Bank's new facility off Buena Vista Road is a beautiful facility that will certainly be welcomed by the thousands of folks who eagerly volunteer to donate their blood. It's a $10 million facility spread over 42,000 square feet on five acres of land. I attended a Friday reception there and left impressed with the design and open friendliness of the facility.

* ... BRYAN: Bryan Kelley is the witty, garrulous employee of Trader Joe's who was surprised last month when he received a $5,000 check from a regular customer who passed away and remembered him in her trust. And his good luck just keeps on rolling. "First came the customer's check for $5,000 and then yesterday the Bank of America sent us a refund check for overpayment from our mortgage escrow account - for three cents! I am off to buy some lottery tickets whilst lady luck is still downstage center"

* ... DOG RESCUE: Here is a story about a lost dog with a happy ending. A few days ago, local resident  Marlene Freedman was driving to work when she spotted a dog being tossed out of a car at Beach Park. She picked up the dog and fellow law firm paralegals Marcy DeGeare and Pam Brito sent out emails to other paralegals to find the dog a home. In short order an employee from Chain Cohn Stiles adopted it. Said Marlene Morales of Chain Cohn Stiles: "Best of all, this dog went from being thrown out of a car to the mascot for Chain Cohn Stiles.  Her name is Justice."

 * ... ADIOS: Congratulations are in order for Brad Underwood, a long-time city employee who has accepted a job as public works director in Foster City. Underwood has worked for the city for 26 years, most recently as assistant public works director. Said his wife Vickie: "We have been very blessed living here, raising our girls and will miss this awesome city very much!"