Friday, May 10, 2013

McCarthy recognizes a group of outstanding high school seniors as he puts his own son in a dorm at Georgetown University

Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield and House Majority Whip, gives his weekly view from Capitol Hill.
 "With summer right around the corner, many students in our community are eagerly awaiting the end of the school year.  I know my son Connor is as I helped him move out of his freshman dorm at Georgetown this week, as well as my daughter Meghan.  I am proud of their accomplishments during this past school year and, as we celebrate the numerous achievements of all of our local students this year, we are reminded that some of the nation’s best and brightest can be found right here in

 "Over the past few weeks, I have been able to present our outstanding seniors with the 23rd Congressional District of California 2013 Merit Award, which recognizes outstanding high school students who have demonstrated exemplary school citizenship, volunteerism, community service, involvement in extracurricular activities, leadership skills, and on top of all of that, maintained excellent academic scores.  Congratulations to this year’s merit award recipients from Kern, Los Angeles and Tulare counties:

•             Andrew McCan – Bakersfield High School            

•             Kenton Crabtree -- Bakersfield Christian High School

•             Heather Hansen – Centennial High School

•             Charles Hale– East Bakersfield High School

•             Sean Jensen – Foothill High School

•             Jessica Pilgram - Frazier Mountain High School

•             Katie Cornford – Frontier High School

•             Jacob Elliott – Garces Memorial High School

•             Bryan Bumgarner – Highland High School

•             Ying Wu – Independence High School

•             Jessica Yasin – Kern Valley High School

•             Paige Basconcillo – Liberty High School

•             Emily Phillips – Maricopa High School

•             Peter Buto – North High School

•             Amanpreet Sarai – Ridgeview High School

•             Nia Abbas – Stockdale High School

•             Eric Bailey – Taft Union High School

•             Ryan Flick – Tehachapi High School

•             Renae Lewis – West High School

•             Milton Ramirez – Granite Hills High School

•             Seth Steen-Fuentes – Harmony Magnet Academy

•             Mary Crocker – Monache High School

•             Kaitlin Smithey – Porterville High School

•             Cady Whicker – Lancaster High School

•             Anthony Hernandez – Rosamond High School

•             Ever Gonzalez – Mojave High School

•             Daely Dewar – Boron High School

•             Marie Watschke – California City High School

•             Aaron McCain – Sherman E. Burroughs High School

•             Houston Osburn – Desert Christian High School

•             Edward Vasquez - Desert High School

"Also recognized this week is the artistic talent of our local high school students. On Friday, I was pleased to announce the winners of the 2013 Congressional Art Competition. Congratulations to all of the winners, especially the overall winner, Christiana Kallemeyn, a senior at Grace Christian Academy in Lancaster.  She created her winning piece, “Waiting in the Wings” using colored pencil as her medium.  I look forward to Christiana’s visit to the Capitol to unveil her painting in Washington, where it will be displayed for visitors to see during their visit to the Capitol building this year. In addition, all of this year’s winners will be hung in my office in Washington for the next year.
 "On a much more somber note, this past week we also continue to mourn the loss of Tech Sgt. Herman “Tre” Mackey III, a Bakersfield native, who tragically  died in a tanker plane crash over Kyrgyzstan on May 3rd. Sgt. Mackey, along with two other brave American airmen, were supporting combat operations at the time of the crash. A graduate of Bakersfield High School, Sgt. Mackey was by all accounts a family man who loved his country and served with honor. Judy and I send our thoughts and prayers to Sgt. Mackey’s family, especially his wife Megan and their daughter Peyton, during this difficult time. Tre embodied the very best of our country, and I know I join a grateful community and humble nation when I say that we will never forget his sacrifice.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Local family fights with California Coastal Commission to build a home on the coast near Avila Beach, and RIP to Carol Stepanovich and soap opera star Jeanne Cooper

 * ... PERMIT: I have been following the saga of a private/public land battle that Bakersfield's Judi and Rob McCarthy are having in San Luis Obispo County. Seems the California Coastal Commission doesn't like the McCarthys' plan to build a home on 37 acres of prime coastal land above Cave Landing Road between Pismo Beach and Avila Beach. The San Luis Planning Commission approved the project three years ago with no public dissent, but two members of the Coastal Commission appealed the permit to the commission, and it's been all lawyers since then. And now the commission is talking about taking all of the McCarthy land through "prescriptive access" (even eminent domain would be preferable; at least then they have to pay for it). The McCarthys have offered to build a safe hiking trail for the public, but it looks like the Coastal Commission has an appetite for the entire parcel. Wonder how this would play in Kern County? Stay tuned. (file photo of Cave Landing Road)

 * ... GOODNIGHT CAROL: Our community lost a wonderful citizen the other day when retired Panama Buena Vista school district teacher Carol Stepanovich died after suffering a stroke. Carol taught at Stockdale Elementary for years and was involved in many local organizations, including the Assistance League of Bakersfield. Her husband is Mike Stepanovich, executive director of the Bakersfield College Foundation and a local wine expert. Keep Mike and his family in your thoughts. (Facebook picture of Mike and Carol)

 * ... RIP JEANNE: Jeanne Cooper, who played the role of matriarch Katherine Chancellor on the long running soap opera "The Young and the Restless," also died this week. She grew up in Taft and studied acting at the Pasadena Playhouse and the College of the Pacific in Stockton. She had one son, actor Corbin Bernsen. She was 84.

* ... SYMPHONY: The ouster of longtime Bakersfield Symphony conductor John Farrer drew this response from reader Stephen Montgomery: "First they cut the symphony's funding including various youth oriented programs, then they blame Farrer for the shortcomings. Is that new CEO (Bryan Burrow) old enough to even remember what the symphony sounded like before Farrer? For lovers of serious music a well performed program rivaling those of much bigger cities was the reward. Any acoustic issues can be laid at the feet of those who don't see the need for a more up to date performing arts center. I don't have a journalist's access to the back story but none of the shortcomings apparent to me can be with any accuracy blamed on Farrer. What am I missing here?"

 * ... MORE FARRER: And then there was this from Maxine Pihlaja Love: "In your column a couple of days ago you mentioned that the symphony concert audiences are getting smaller and older.  That is not the fault of the conductor or his music selections for concerts. That has been happening all over the country for the last 25 or more years. People do not get exposed or connected with classical music in their early years, which needs to happen by about age seven. School curriculum used to include information about classical composers... which helped to round out the education of all."

 * ... ACHIEVER: Hats off to Kimberly Jensen, a fourth grader at Endeavour Elementary who ended up third in the state in the California History Day competition. Kimberly participated in the Elementary 2-D division in the state competition.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Wild winds increase changes of contracting Valley Fever, and the SPCA launches its annual book sale to benefit local dog and cat rescue operations

 * ... VALLEY FEVER: It's worth repeating: The next time we get those devilish winds like we had Sunday, stay inside. That's the warning from Dr. Raj Patel, co-owner of Preferred Family Physicians over on Truxtun Extension. Patel confirmed that yes, valley fever spores are airborne during these wind storms and it's prudent just to stay out of it. Further, he questioned whether bandanas and other masks will
guard against valley fever although they might help against certain allergies. And finally, he told me  that it now appears that just because you have had valley fever before doesn't mean you can't contract it again. Patel said it takes two or three weeks after exposure to come up with symptons, and he is expecting to diagnose more valley fever cases in the coming weeks.

* ... SPCA: Don't forget that the big, annual SPCA book sale is under way now up on Mall View Road. It's hard to over appreciate what these volunteers do in our community, particularly with the explosion of stray dogs and cats who are being abandoned by their owners. If you have extra books to donate, or if you are looking for a summer read, make sure you stop by. It runs until May 25. And if you have time to help work the sale, I am sure they will put you to work.

 * ... FRAMING: The Ice House Framing and Gallery has officially opened at its new location downtown after leaving its longtime home at the Ice House. The new digs are located on 19th Street in the heart of the arts district. It's good to see downtown benefiting from another well run, locally owned business. The business is owned by Laurie and Dr. Javier Bustamante.

* ... BAD FORM: File this under the "really" bad form department compliments of reader Walter E. Stewart: "I witnessed a waitress sneeze into the palm of her hand, wipe her nose with the back of her finger, then deliver a check to a customer. Did she take time to wash her hands? No. Did she continue serving customer? Yes."

 * ... OVERHEARD: My poor man's barometer on the economy starts with a conversation with Dean Farnsworth, one of the best handymen in town who works with a lot of Realtors on last minute, escrow-mandated repairs. Houses are selling, Dean says, and his business is looking up. "Mary (Watson agent Mary Christenson) closed three houses in one week so I am staying busy! It's a lot better than it was this time last year."

* ... TWILIGHT: Congratulations to the folks over at Twilight Rotary Club which is approaching its fifth anniversary.  In that short time the club has helped numerous local non profits, including Relay for Life, the SPCA Book Sale, Flood Ministries and Covenant Community Services just to name a few.

 * ... STUDENT: And here's to 15-year-old Emily Bloom, a 10th grader at Bakersfield High School who has been accepted to UC San Diego's summer engineering program for high achieving kids. Proud mother Karen Bloom characterized her daughter as "our shining light" amid challenging times.

 * ... FOX: If you are looking for something special for mom this weekend, you might consider a special "Girls Day Out" sponsored by the Fox Theater and Dignity Health this Saturday. The event begins at 10:30 a.m. with a health fair and block party, followed by a fashion show by Fashionista at noon, and a showing of The Princess Bride at 12:20 p.m. The first 200 mothers will be presented with a rose from a Bakersfield firefighter. Admission is just $1 and popcorn and sodas also $1 each.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

McCarthy: California's increasingly unfriendly business and regulatory climate will drive out our best businesses

 Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Bakersfield, gives us his weekly view from Capitol Hill. In his words:

"Kern County is home to immensely talented individuals, something we have seen play out over the past couple weeks in the news, both nationally and internationally.

 "This week, we saw Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo successfully ignite its rocket motor for the first time and break the sound barrier in 16 seconds.  I called and spoke to Sir Richard Branson that day,
who was in Mojave for this  momentous flight, and congratulated him and his team for making history. Not only does SpaceShipTwo’s first rocket-powered test flight signal a pivotal turning point for private commercial space flight, but it reminds us that when innovation and entrepreneurship are combined, the possibilities are truly limitless.  I want to recognize all the hardworking people at Virgin Galactic and Scaled Composites who made this milestone a reality.

 "These achievements do not happen by accident; it’s the ingenuity of these individuals that make these visionary dreams possible. Here in Kern County, we embody this notion. Whether it be cutting-edge aerospace technology, traditional or non-traditional energy development or innovative solutions for water and agriculture production, we have a history of working hard with what we have to solve tough problems – and making groundbreaking achievements while we are at it. 

 "However, I am seriously concerned that because of California’s increasingly unfriendly business and regulatory climate, other states around the nation will offer better incentives and opportunities for these companies to relocate this burgeoning industry. The commercial spaceflight industry has already had a significant and tangible impact on California’s economy, and this week’s successful launch marks one giant step forward – and it’s all happening right here in our own backyard. I will continue fighting for commonsense legislation that will encourage stability and growth in this new industry and others.

 "Beyond spaceflight, we saw two great athletic accomplishments from Bakersfield natives this week as well.  Kevin Harvick earned his first win of the season at the Sprint Cup Series and his 20th career victory when he raced past his competitors in chaotic traffic to finish first after the final restart.  In addition, congratulations to Bakersfield High School graduate Philip Thomas, who was drafted by the Washington Redskins in the 4th round of the NFL draft, the first player from Bakersfield to be drafted since Ryan Mathews.  As a former Driller, it’s great to see another Driller achieve his dream.  I look forward to watching a Redskin  game with my son Connor and seeing Philip play.

 "Finally, I want to congratulate the Arvin High School “We the People” team who competed in the national competition in Washington, D.C.  All their hard work paid off as they finished in the top 15 across the country and was the first place team in the Western Region.

 "As a community, we should all be proud of these accomplishments and proud to call Kern County our home.

Bako Bits: Banks are walking away from thousands of vacant properties during foreclosure, and a reader sets the record straight on the Memorial Stadium track

 * ... BANKS: There was a disturbing story by the Appraisal Institute the other day, saying banks have begun "walking away from thousands of vacant properties after beginning foreclosure and then dropping the cases because they don’t want to be on the hook for maintaining abandoned properties." The story said that consumer advocates say this violated Federal Reserve rules that
"require banks to notify borrowers if they start a foreclosure and then abandon it. What can happen as a result is that borrowers think they have lost their homes and leave the property to the bank, which, having stopped foreclosure proceedings, don’t want to assume responsibility." Why would they do this? One JPMorgan chase executive said: “If it's going to cost us $30,000 to foreclose and the unpaid balance on the loan is $30,000 and current market value is not much higher, we might release the lien and give the home back to the borrower.”

 * ... BC TRACK: William McLean wrote to clear up some facts about Memorial Stadium when Jim Ryun broke the world record back in 1967. "The Memorial Stadium track in 1967 was, in fact, a mix of clay, dirt, and some crushed brick from the ruins of the 1952 Bakersfield earthquake. For the time it was fast and drew big time events thanks to BC Athletic Director and track coach Gil Bishop. The all weather tartan track was installed in 1971."

 * ... BAD FORM: Tom Bracken was at a four-way-stop at Mall View Road at East Hills shopping center the other day when a woman in an electric-blue SUV shot through the stop sign going about 35 mph. "Since she was going my way, I pulled up beside her as she was getting out, her two teenagers in tow. Thinking she might not have seen the sign, I asked 'did you realize there’s a stop sign on Mall View?' Her response was classic, 'I’m in a hurry, got things to do,' and with that, walked into Big 5 with the two kids. So apparently if you’ve got things to do that’s reason enough to blatantly break any traffic law, and endanger your kids and others. Kind of scary to think what kind of drivers her kids will be."

 * ... ACHIEVER: Jolie Roberson, a Frontier High graduate and now a senior at Cal State Northridge, received a scholarship from the Alliance for Women In Media of Southern California. Adoree Roberson, her grandmother, told me she was one of three women chosen for the Genii Award for her passion for growth, determination to succeed and dedication. She is majoring in cinema and television arts multimedia production.

 * ... GOOD SERVICE: Harry Starkey, general manager of the West Kern Water District, noted that The Taft Chamber of Commerce and Visitor’s Bureau recently awarded Ray Smith of Acme Jewelry Company 'Business Man of the Year." Said Starkey: "And here’s a cool story about Ray’s approach to customer service. A woman brought her watch into his business for repair. The job was going to require more than the customary short wait.  Wanting to make sure the woman wasn’t without a time piece while she went about her day, Ray loaned the woman a watch while he performed the repair."