Friday, January 25, 2013

House Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy: the President needs to step up and lead by backing a realistic budget, revising the tax code and bringing spending under control

 "Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield and House Majority Whip, gives us his weekly view from Capitol Hill. In his own words:

 "Those of you who read this blog know the magnitude of our growing debt crisis.  In Fiscal Year 2012, Washington took in $2.5 trillion and spent $3.8 trillion.  Our national debt has surpassed $16 trillion and is now larger than our $15 trillion economy.  This is unsustainable.

 "The first step towards saving our country from this debt crisis is having the House and Senate pass a budget. The House has passed a budget.  The Senate has refused to act.  That’s why this week, I led my colleagues in passing a bill requiring the House and Senate each to pass a budget. If either chamber fails, their pay would be withheld. The principle is simple: No budget, no pay. While the House has passed a budget every year since 2011 to outline budget and spending priorities, the Senate has failed to produce this basic framework required by law for four years and counting.  The iPad wasn’t even on the market the last time the Senate passed a budget. By passing the No Budget, No Pay Act by a bipartisan majority of 285-144, the House will hold the Democratic-controlled Senate accountable so we can begin addressing our debt crisis.

 "Working families in our local communities find ways to cut costs and save money and the federal government must also. The House is preparing a new budget with immediate spending cuts that puts us on a path to balance the budget.  And in a matter of weeks, the President will present his ideas in his State of the Union Address. I hope he tackles the issues most important to local families and small businesses I consistently hear as I travel around our communities.

 "First, I hope the President acknowledges that we face a serious challenge from our burdensome spending-driven debt. Debt hurts our nation’s economic growth by hindering private investment, creating uncertainty, and increasing interest payments that could go to more productive investments.

 "Second, I hope the President embraces growing our economy by joining Republicans to fundamentally reform our tax code. Not by raising taxes, but by making the tax code less complex, lowering rates, and broadening the base.  Let America’s best and brightest innovators and entrepreneurs compete, expand and make needed investments to grow and hire.

 "Third, I hope the President recognizes the need to rein in regulations hurting small businesses. Just talk to local small business owners about California’s regulatory climate and you’ll hear how difficult it is to stay afloat.  Unfortunately, we’ve seen major regulations balloon out of this Administration that could hurt the pocketbooks of hardworking Americans.

I stand ready to tackle these issues as we have over the past two years.  It’s time for the President and Senate Democrats to join us in taking real action to cut spending, reform entitlements, and grow our economy. If we don’t act now, future generations will have less opportunities and more debt. That is a future I do not accept. Making the Senate pass a budget is an important first step.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

First design of Bakersfield's new minor league baseball stadium is unveiled and more blowback on the Bakersfield Prayer Breakfast

 * ... BASEBALL: I got a sneak peek at the early plans for the new minor league baseball stadium being planned for the corner of Brimhall and Coffee roads. The principals of the Kansas City architectural design firm (Pendulum Studio) unveiled the plans before a small group of business people at the downtown, Neutra-designed home of David Coffey Wednesday evening. The first draft shows a beautiful, compact stadium built on seven acres with the ball field dug several feet below the surface, offering spectacular views from virtually anywhere around the perimeter. There is family-style seating, a mounted grass berm play area behind the outfield and a multi-purpose room that can be used for special events. The main investors, oilmen Gene Voiland and Chad Hathaway, envision a multi-purpose venue that can be used for anything from concerts to conferences to rodeos.

 * ... RESTAURANT: Bakersfield is getting a promising new restaurant next Friday. The owners of Sushi Moon say they will open February 1 in the old Hourglass Building at the corner of Brimhall and Calloway Drive. Sushi Moon will feature fusion sushi and Korean barbecue, and I am told they also will carry a nice selection of Japanese and Korean wines.

 * ... PRAYER BREAKFAST: There was a lot of response on my earlier post about the upcoming Bakersfield Prayer Breakfast and its emphasis on the Christian view of Jesus. One reader, who is Jewish, said it appeared to exclude those of other faiths, including our sizable Sikh population. And then there was this tart response from another reader: "Tell your friend, who happens to be Jewish, if he is so butt-hurt, he should start his own 'prayer breakfast.  Your newspaper is pathetic."

 * ... BANDUCCI'S: Retired oilman Lynn Blystone is one of those who remembers Banducci's Corner, and he even recalls the help there. "Our favorite waitress at the Double Tree, Inez Coronado. was a waitress at Banducci's Corner for 22 years and could tell you some stories."

 * ... MORE BANDUCCI'S: Barbara Story wrote that Julia Banducci was her grandmother, and as a child she would help in the grocery store every Saturday. "At that time the restaurant only had the counter, no dining room.  It was so busy that a dining room was added some time after the war. Dick Porter was right about all the business done during potato and grape seasons. The customers all had their special place to sit and their special lunch order.  In high school and college I worked on weekends and summers as a waitress. We knew almost everyone that came in by name.  My sister Judy and my daughter Melinda preferred to work in the kitchen.  Our children Chuck, Patrick and Michael all had their first job at Banducci’s doing dishes, and as Chuck remembers pealing lots garlic.  In that small kitchen my grandmother supervised the making of the raviolis as well as everything else.  Melinda still makes raviolis and pickle tongue for gifts for the family at Christmas.  Many, many pleasant memories like the fried chicken cooked to order with spaghetti, minestrone soup, home made pies, pickled tongue,  pickled white beans, garlic beef dips to name just a few of my favorites. One could write a soap opera about all the happening that went on at Banducci’s Corner."

* .... OLD BAKO: Joaquin Resendez wonders if anyone remembers a restaurant called Spanish Kitchen that was located next door when Sinaloa was located in the Wool Grower's building. "They also served pyrenees bread with their salsa. I believe Wool Growers was located on 21st Street at that time."

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Is the Bakersfield Prayer Breakfast exclusionary by focusing on the Christian view of Jesus? And more memories of Banducci's Corner restaurant out on Weedpatch Highway

 * ... PRAYER BREAKFAST: The Bakersfield Prayer Breakfast is coming up next week and will celebrate 33 years as an annual event. It is always a popular event but some in our community are questioning if its Christian-centric theme is exclusionary. The event promotes the Christian view of Jesus, but what about all the Sikhs, Muslims, Jews and others who call Bakersfield home? A friend of mine who happens to be Jewish noted that while the event may not be an official City of Bakersfield event, the exclusionary nature is apparent "... from the 'cross' imagery to the Ephesians reference to the statement of purpose 'to bring citizens together in the name and spirit of Jesus Christ to offer gratitude and praise to God and to pray for our community, government and leaders.' I thought we were past this already. Unfortunately, it seems that our own local theocrats, who are amongst the first to howl about religious intolerance when it occurs in other countries, have an agenda in mind, and it doesn't include us." Local lawyer Joseph Hanson spoke for the organizing committee and noted the event is facilitated by a group of lay persons, not the city or a church. "Our purpose statement is on all our advertising and it is printed in the program each year," he told me. "It states that we gather in the name and spirit of Jesus. We do not hide that. What would make it exclusive would be to state that only 'Christians' or only 'Followers of Jesus' are invited. That has never been the case... If people attend and leave encouraged by the message or the prayers offered by community members, the committee would say that we have accomplished our goal and each year this is what we experience."

* ... SPOTTED: On a less serious note, Jeff Pickering, president of the Kern Community Foundation, posted this heart warming message on Facebook after brushing his 7-year-old daughter's hair. "Olivia (as I was brushing her hair): 'Daddy, how many hairs are on a human head?' Me: 'I don't know, why don't we count?' Olivia: 'Okay, but let's use your head so it will take less time.'" (file photo of Jeff Pickering)

* ... BANDUCCI'S: More fond memories of the old Banducci's Corner restaurant. Said Mary Sams Durham: "I too have very fond memories of Banducci's and I remember having lunch with my daughter, Cyndi Blankenship, at Sinaloa when they were located in the Wool Grower's building. This was in the late 1950. Since we are going down 'Memory Lane' how many remember swimming in the old Lakeside pool? Many kids from the Arvin and Lamont areas were bused there to swim. I was one of those kids."

 * ... MORE BANDUCCI'S: Norale Boyle wrote to say her favorite meal at Banducci's was ravioli, made from three different meats roasted for several days beforehand. "Wouldn't it be wonderful if someone still had the recipe?" And former Assemblyman Trice Harvey called to tell me he was a health inspector at the time, and that the owners of Banducci's asked him not to come during lunch because they didn't want to bother the customers.

 * ... MEMORY LANE: And speaking of memory lane, the recent closing of the Green Frog Market prompted Joe Fontaine to send me this: "A lot of people are lamenting the recent closure of the Green Frog Market. How many of them are Bakersfield old timers who remember its original location on the southeast corner of Chester and California avenues? My memory of that location for goes back to December 7, 1941. I was sent on an errand to the Green Frog that morning to buy a quart of milk. Everyone in the store was all abuzz about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. I rushed back home to break the news to my family. How many Bakersfield old timers remember the Palms Liquor Store on the northwest corner across from the Green Frog? It is still there today but sadly the palm trees that graced that corner are long gone. That was years before the 'shoe' at 10th and Chester was built to house a shoe repair shop."

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Crabfest rakes in $250,000 in one night to benefit the St. Francis Parish school, and more memories of Banducci's Corner out on Weedpatch Highway

 * ... CRABFEST: If you missed the Friday night Crabfest at the Kern County Fairgrounds, you missed one of the best fund raisers of the year. It's the annual event to raise money for the St. Francis Parish school and it's one of the best run and lively events of the year. Mountains of crab and pork ribs that rival the best I have ever eaten, and plenty of theatrics from Monsignor Craig Harrison and the St. Francis mothers and volunteers whipping up the crowd in the live auction. Word is they raised between $250,000 to $300,000 in one night. (Photo of Tracy Walker-Kiser and husband Brian at Crabfest)

* ... INAUGURAL: What can we expect from a second term for President Obama? This is inauguration week and we will examine Obama's first term and the expectations for his second on Californian Radio KERN 1180 at 9 a.m. Monday. Former Kern County Supervisor Gene Tackett will join me in a wide ranging discussion of what we can expect over the next four years.

* ... SOFTBALL: Here's a good cause worthy of our support. Michelle Bolt is a local North High School graduate who has gone on to become the women's softball coach at the College of the Sequoias. Like all community colleges, the COS athletic program has endured a series of budget cuts, so she is now involved in a major fund raising program to help the softball team. For $50 you can buy a ticket (only 2,000 will be sold) that will be entered to win a 2013 Camaro. Interested? Call her mother Fern Bolt at (661) 392-0212.

 * ... BANDUCCI'S: More memories of Banducci's Corner restaurant, including this one from local farmer Dick Porter. "I have many memories of Banducci's as the grape and potato packers from Edison called it. Banducci's was located adjacent to land my family owned and farmed at the time. The big grower-packer families of Edison had specific tables staked out and always sat at each specific table every day to eat lunch and mull over their challenges and victories of the day. Lord help you if you innocently sat at one of the 'reserved' tables - and most of the restaurant was 'reserved' for every weekday lunch. I have many stories of all the characters and goings on during lunches at Banducci's. I won't name names but some families were very jealous of their privacy and would request that some tables be positioned further away from them. This, of course, led to little border wars right inside the restaurant. I never witnessed any lunch time drinking, but there was a small  bar in the back of the restaurant that seemed to always be full. Lots of real characters and tough old time, and very successful, businessmen and farmers made Banducci's their clubhouse."

 * ... TRASH: Steve Towle lives in La Cresta and witnessed a young man parked in the neighborhood and tossing fast food wrappers out his car window. Towle used his high definition video camera to record the entire thing, including the license plane. "What really disturbed me about this matter is when I tried to report it to the police and was told both by the communications center and the front desk that they would not take the report. I told them I understood if they were too busy and they could do it later, but their response was that they were not going to take it at all at any time. As of this writing I am awaiting a return call from the watch commander's office for further discussion. It’s just not acceptable to me that we have laws on the books and good evidence is being provided and those personnel that the taxpayer are paying to enforce them just choose to ignore them. If the police are going to start being selective about enforcement I think that the public should know about it. "

 * ... DID YOU KNOW? Randy Martin, who runs Covenant Community Services up on North Chester Avenue, posed this question. "Does anyone remember when Sinaloa was located in the Woolgrower's building? According to Sonny from Mexicali the original Sinaloa was in the Basque district, which probably accounts for the Pyrenees bread and Basque salsa!"

McCarthy: Veterans Affairs Department not following through on its own goals; our veterans deserve better

House Majority Whip Rep. Kevin McCarthy gives us his weekly view from Capitol Hill. In his words:

"Over the past six years, I have had the honor to meet and thank many of our local veterans. Many have hit roadblocks with our Veterans Affairs Department. In response to complaints from veterans in our community about how the Veterans Affairs Department (VA) was failing to provide benefits and services in a timely fashion,  I called for an audit and review of VA benefits and services processes.

"This week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released their findings to me. These audits confirm those complaints and indicate an overall lack of focus on the VA’s part and a failure to follow through with established internal goals.  Of over 856,000 claims the VA has, 6 percent are backlogged with an average wait time of 318 days from start to finish.  In the Los Angeles VA Regional Office, which serves Kern County veterans, 80 percent of the 25,322 claims are backlogged – one of the worst in the country. This is unacceptable. I have called upon Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki to take immediate action to implement the GAO recommendations to begin fixing the delays in service.

"Those who have served our country deserve our recognition and gratitude for the sacrifices they and their families have made to ensure our everyday liberties here at home.  As an elected official I take my responsibility to oversee the VA to ensure our veterans receive the benefits and care that they need very seriously.  The Veterans Affairs Committee will hold hearings in February on the GAO’s audits and I intend to bring our veterans’ concerns to senior VA officials directly and ensure the VA is taking all necessary actions to implement reforms in the Department.  Over the coming weeks and months, Chairman Miller and I will continue looking into these matters and develop additional legislative solutions to ensure that the needed structural reforms will be made, not only for our veterans locally but for veterans across our country.

"George Washington said, 'every satisfaction which can reasonably be requested should be given to those veteran troops who, through almost every distress, have been for so long and so faithfully serving the States.”  I expect the VA to move quickly to ensure our veterans receive the benefits and services they have earned serving our great country, and I will continue to work to make sure this is done.