Thursday, May 2, 2013

The real story behind the "retirement" of longtime symphony conductor John Farrer has yet to be told. And Uricchio's, Luigi's and Tahoe Joe's are big winners in a reader's poll

 * ... SYMPHONY: There is a lot more to the story behind the ouster of longtime symphony conductor John Farrer than is being said in public. The fact that neither Farrer, one of our community's more decent citizens, nor symphony executives are saying much tells me that lawyers are involved, and when that happens everybody shuts down. Farrer has been the face of the Bakersfield Symphony Orchestra for 38 years, but he is now being pushed out for no clearly defined reason. (Farrer flatly
says he is not ready for retirement and the symphony board is trying to put a positive spin on it). Farrer's supporters say he is being blamed for classical music's lack of following here, particularly among young people, but that's like blaming Mick Jagger for the fact that his fan base grew older. It is, after all, a genre of music that appeals to an older, more sophisticated audience, and bringing in a new maestro is not going to change that. If the new symphony CEO Bryan Burrow and board chair Jim Bell want to reach a younger audience, how about hiring Jay-Z to put his spin on some Verdi?

* ... BEST EATS: Our recent issue of BakersfieldLife magazine featured a list of restaurants and businesses that were voted best in their class by Kern County readers. We mistakenly omitted 10 top restaurants, including some of my favorites, including: Best Italian, Uricchio's Trattoria; Best Lunch, Luigi's; Best Thai Food, Chef's Choice Noodle Bar; Best Happy Hour, Tahoe Joe's; Best Steak, Tahoe Joe's; Best Barbecue, Famous Dave's; Best Catering, Jake's Original Tex-Mex; Best Bar, The Padre Hotel; Best Wings, Buffalo Wild Wings; Best Restaurant for Kids, John's Incredible Pizza Co. My apologies to these businesses, which will be highlighted in the next issue of BakersfieldLife.

 * ... GOOD FORM: Ron Rowlinson is a CSUB graduate who moved to the coast, but when he returns he regularly spots an "attractive retired woman" who does her best to keep her neighborhood clean.  "She not only daily works both sides of the streets to pick up trash, but also has rescued several stray dogs left to die. She takes them home to offer food and water while they wait for a pick up. When animals have been killed in the road, she has also contacted the SPCA to get the messy remains cleaned up," he said. "She told me she hoped that when folks drive by and witnessed her efforts, that they would be more inclined to help solve the problem and less inclined to dump their trash. She told me today that she sees a tiny bit of progress each week."

 * ... GIRLS' FUND: The Women' and Girls' Fund, part of the Kern Community Foundation, is doling out another $25,000 in grants to local non-profit organizations that focus on education and training. In addition, two deserving young women were honored for their philanthropic leadership: Shafter resident Winnie Bartel and Kern Valley High School senior Jessica Yasin. As "Women Defining Philantrhopy," Bartel and Yasin selected the Alliance Against Family Violence and Sexual Assault and the Junior Diabetes Research Foundation to receive $500 grants in their honor.

 * ... ACHIEVER: I am always happy to pass along some good news about local kids doing well. This one comes from Arizona State University where Lebec native Nikki Oxford will graduate this month, the first in her family to do so. While in Tempe, she worked on programs to end homelessness and will soon start a job related to ending domestic violence in Maricopa County. She earned an impressive 4.0 GPA at ASU and plans on attending graduate school. Her goal: to become a high school psychologist.

 * ... REMODEL: The remodeling of the Smart and Final supermarket on F Street is under way, a welcome upgrade to a fine store located in an undesirable shopping center. Employees there say the whole project should take about two months.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Bako Bits: Chipman Jr. High heads to the national History Day finals, remembering Jim Ryun's run at Memorial Stadium and Andrae Gonzales lines up to possibly serve as a county supervisor

 * ... ANDRAE: If Leticia Perez wins the battle to succeed Michael Rubio in the 16th State Senate district, Gov. Jerry Brown will appoint someone to fill our her unexpired term on the Kern County Board of Supervisors. One name that comes up is Andrae Gonzales, a rising star in the Democratic
party and a member of the Bakersfield City School District board. Of course, Perez must first best the five-person field in the State Senate race, where her primary opponent is Republican Andy Vidak. Stay tuned.

 * ... CHIPMAN: Kudos to the kids over at Chipman Jr. High who just won the History Day competition in Sacramento and are heading to Maryland for the national finals next month. The group's performance will be on World War II and the atomic bomb. The team includes Sadie Armijo, Stevie McNabb, Dylan Pearson, Jake Beardsley and Miguel Vargas, all seventh graders at Chipman by way of Juliet Thorner Elementary where they all participated in History Day last year. If you'd like to help send these deserving kids to Maryland, contact history teacher Mike Hutson at (661) 631-5210. The team is also available for "pass the hat" presentations to help offset the expenses of the upcoming trip.

 * ... JIM RYUN: A story in The Californian about Jim Ryun's famous appearance at Memorial Stadium triggered this note from Coral Poole-Clark. "My late husband, Jim Poole, and I were at Memorial Stadium, when Jim Ryun made that momentous mile run... BC had one of the first tartan tracks installed, which drew nation-wide events. We also went to every West Coast Relays in Fresno, until they were no longer held...We attended our first Summer Olympics games in Mexico City in 1968, where we were practically in the pit for the famous Fosbury Flip (later Flop). Then we made all of the Summer Olympic Games through 1992, with the exception of Moscow, when the US boycotted...  Jim passed away in 1993, so I canceled our tickets to Atlanta in 1996.  But I still have the many great memories of those Olympic travels, the athletes and the friends we made on the tours."

 * ... OVERHEARD: A young woman is telling a friend about a flirtation in the middle of traffic. "So this guy is in a truck next to me with his hand out the window and I notice his wedding ring. He sees me, smiles, and the next time he put his hand out the window he has taken his wedding ring off. Really?"

 * ... EATS: I finally made it out to the Steak and Grape restaurant, Shai Gordon's relatively new place over on Coffee Road near Hageman. One thing is certain: this town is hungry for upscale new eateries and Steak and Grape does not disappoint. It is now a destination place for those who live in the Southwest and Northwest.

 * ... CATERING: And speaking a restaurants, a new restaurant and catering firm is opening up near the Moorea Banquet Centre in the Southwest. The ribbon cutting for Coseree's Restaurant and Catering will be held this Thursday at 8700 Swigert Court. 

* ... DMV: Another testimony of the wisdom of making an online appointment with the DMV when renewing a license. From a coworker: "Just went to the DMV to renew my license. The line was out the door (on F street) I had a 2:50 p.m. appointment, arrived at 2:47 p.m., was served at 3:02 p.m. and out the door at 3:25 p.m.  Much better than my doctor's office! The place was packed. I highly encourage people to make an appointment. Probably 90 percent of the folks there did not make an appointment."

Monday, April 29, 2013

Video tribute to Kern County by Californian photographer Casey Christie

 Longtime Bakersfield Californian photographer Casey Christie shares this video on the beauty of Kern County. Enjoy.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Rep. Kevin McCarthy continues push to find a vaccine for the deadly Valley Fever

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

 "In continuing the effort to combat Valley Fever, this week I traveled to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta to meet with CDC Director Dr. Thomas Frieden to discuss how the CDC can contribute to the effort that our community in Bakersfield has been leading in the fight against this disease.  In touring its facilities and laboratories while meeting with the CDC’s
mycotic disease experts, it is clear that their expertise and leadership on this issue will be imperative as we try to beat Valley Fever.

 "As a result of the meeting, I am pleased to announce that Dr. Frieden accepted my invitation to visit Bakersfield to meet with local public health officials and Valley Fever experts to develop a strategy to combat this disease from prevention to treatment to developing a vaccine. During my visit,  Dr. Frieden also committed to work with me and our community leaders to jump-start a Valley Fever public awareness campaign, and to help work through FDA obstacles that are preventing the doctors from using better diagnostic tests.  Throughout the entire San Joaquin Valley, we understand the devastating impact Valley Fever can have on family and friends, and that is why I am committed to leading the effort to eliminate this disease, one step at a time.  With Dr. Frieden’s help, I’m very confident that our partnership with the CDC is an important first step in that fight, and I look forward to working with him and our Valley Fever experts right here in Bakersfield.

 "Also this month, members of our communities and Americans around the country sat down at their kitchen tables to do their taxes.  As our economy struggles, I continue to work in Washington to push for a simpler and flatter tax code. Throughout these past few months, Americans spent some six billion hours filling out their tax forms while attempting to decipher a four-million-word tax code. It should not take an army of lawyers and accountants to do your taxes. Our tax code is broken and its complexity not just costs working Americans, it is also costing the small business owners that we rely on to create more jobs.  Since about half of the private sector workforce – nearly 60 million Americans – is employed by a small business, doing nothing about our complicated tax code and taxing small business employers until they are unable to keep employees on or hire more new workers are a major obstacle to economic growth and job creation.

 "That is why I am helping to lead the effort to reform our tax code.  House Republicans believe that income taxes should be lowered and consolidated to two brackets and rates, 10% and 25%, to ensure hardworking Americans keep more of the money they earn.  As small businesses are the powerhouse in new job creation, our budget proposes making our current corporate tax rate—the second highest in the world at 35% —comparable to other industrialized nations by making it a more competitive 25%.  Finally, taxpayers should not be subject to the ever-expanding Alternative Minimum Tax, so we are seeking to repeal this onerous provision as well.  These are just some examples of how I am working to reduce the complexity of the tax code and allow hardworking taxpayers to keep and save more of what they earn.  I believe real tax reform can jump start out economy.

County crews clean up the litter on the popular Panorama Bluffs, and someone snags a young woman's picture to find love on

 * ... TRASH: Hats off to Kern County Supervisor Mike Maggard who dispatched a crew to clean up the litter and trash on the Panorama bluffs. About a week ago, someone unceremoniously tossed two black trash backs over the bluffs, sending food, paper, diapers and other disposals all over the popular walking trails. Two runners complained to Maggard's office and within a week the walking trails were near devoid of trash.

 * ... IDENTITY THEFT: We have all heard about thieves who steal your identity to raid your bank account, but how about identity theft to get find love? A local educator told me someone on the popular dating service is using her picture to snag dates. "I am married to a fire department captain and this isn't funny," she said. "Someone messaged my husband and asked, politely, what his wife was doing on"

  * ... GOOD FORM: Les and Diane McAuley were struggling while loading two chairs into their car at the Stockdale Highway Target when a couple came to their assistance. "A couple were enjoying some yogurt when they spotted us having a problem trying to load the chairs," he said. "They approached us and politely asked if they could assist us. They loaded the chairs and we thanked them very much. They actually saved the day for my wife and myself. Is it possible that you could write something like this for us and include it in your column?"

* ... CSUB SWIMMERS: It's always good to hear something positive about our local student-athletes, and this shout-out goes to the CSUB men and women on the swim teams. One example: 16 Cal State swimmers showed up to help the Alliance Against Family Violence with its big fund raiser. Said Darlene Mohkle, who serves on the Alliance board: "These dedicated athletes worked from 5:30 to 10:00 p.m. running, serving and smiling to create a wonderful experience for our guest attendees. It was a magical night due to the hard work of the organizing committee, our volunteer group and the swim team.  Bakersfield is fortunate to have such leaders who require and encourage non-profit partnering... Yet another reason why Bakersfield is an amazing connected community of caring." (file photo of CSUB swimmers)


 * ... BUSH HOUSE: Stephen A. Montgomery was taking relatives on a tour of Bakersfield when he swung by the old George H.W. Bush house on Monterey Street. "I was embarrassed to see the poor condition of the place and the yard covered with dead weeds. While cut down low enough to not be a fire hazard the place was to put it charitably unsightly. Yeah, I know he only lived there for less than a year while he was an oil industry fishing tools salesman but still..."

 * ... SUMMER: You know the Bakersfield heat is right around the corner when the snakes start sunning on our roads. I spotted three snakes on a recent bike ride to Woody and Granite Station.

 * .... BAKERSFIELDISM: You know you are from Bakersfield when the sight of a huge tumbleweed hanging 30 feet in the air on a telephone line is only mildly amusing.