Thursday, October 31, 2013

Lexus, Toyota lead 'best of show' in latest Consumer Reports survey and David Valadao breaks ranks with Republicans to support sweeping immigration reform

 * … SAFETY: The latest Consumer Report ratings on auto safety are out, and once again Lexus and Toyota lead the list. But it was not all good news for Toyota. The watchdog agency dropped Toyota's Camry, RAV4 and PriusV from its recommended list because they did not fare so well. The top five models were the Subaru Forester, Toyota Prius, Lexus ES 300h hybrid, Scion xB and Toyota Prius C. The five worst: Ford C-MAS Energi (plug in hybrid), Ford Escape (1.6 liter EcoBoost engine), Mini Countryman, Ford C-MAS hybrid and Nissan Pathfinder.

 * … VALADAO: It was an interesting move by Hanford congressman David Valadao to break ranks with his own party and join the Democrats in supporting immigration reform. He becomes the third House Republican to back a bill calling for a path to citizenship. Another Valley Republican, Jeff Denham of Turlock, made the move earlier. It's hard to argue the logic of Denham and Valadao supporting the bill, given the heavy Hispanic makeup of their districts and the fact that Valley farmers desperately need labor to stay in business. Stay tuned.

 * … TRASH: I heard again from Sal Moretti, superintendent for the City's Solid Waste Division, who has been following this blog when readers complain about trash. He noted that a large amount of trash near Elm Street and Golden State is scheduled for cleanup this week. "That location is one of six locations Tom Burch and his 'Retiree's Group' cleans up on a schedule every Wednesday. The volunteer group cleaning it up, the 'Retirees Group' would love to have the writer's help cleaning these kinds of hot spots up. She can check out the Keep Bakersfield Beautiful website calendar to see where Tom Burch and his retiree group clean up every Wednesday and sign up. Your blog suggests different agencies passed the buck when it comes to cleaning up litter. Picking up litter is everyone's job!" Well said, Sal.

 * … MORE TRASH: Note to Sal: count me as a happy taxpayer today. I called your Solid Waste Division, reported an abandoned red couch in the alley behind my downtown home, and it was picked up within 24 hours. Now that's what I call service.

 * … SPRINTER: Joan Kerr touched base to say her husband Rob and his old track teammates at Rutgers University are being inducted into the Rutgers Hall of Fame this weekend.  "They won a national championship in the Sprint Medley Relay, running against some of the fastest men in the world, including some Olympians. Their record at Rutgers is still standing, and remains the fastest on the school record even when converting feet (which was used at that time) to meters. The other great thing about this story is that Rob and the other three men on the relay team have remained close friends for over 45 years. We are flying to New York on Wednesday to have a reunion with them for this special weekend, and will head down to New Brunswick, NJ on Saturday for the Hall of Fame ceremony and the Rutgers versus Temple football game."

 * … ACHIEVER: I am always happy to shed light on some of the young men and women who hail from Bakersfield and have gone on to achieve great success. This note comes from proud mother Irma Orlanzzini: Kudos to Jovanni Garcia (double major in History and French), who was selected as one of the four new student members to serve on the Academic Council on International Programs (ACIP) for academic year 2013-2014 at CSUB. She had to send in an application and compete with students from the other CSU campuses. Garcia spent the last two years in France. She will join Dr. Cliona Murphy who also serves on the ACIP as our faculty representative.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Implementation of the Affordable Care Act is pushing many people unwilling into the exchanges and the Kern Citizens for Sustainable Government reveals highest paid county employees are KMC doctors

 * … OBAMACARE: The controversy over the implementation of the Affordable Care Act is revealing the dark underside of dealing with the insurance carriers. As my friend former Congressman Bill Thomas reminds me, no one wants to see how sausage is made but that is where the details are. Insurance companies are now hitting companies and individuals with hefty annual increases to comply with the ACA, or canceling their policies outright, forcing many people unwillingly into the exchanges. That is certainly not what the president once promised when he said "if you like the insurance plan you have now" you will be able to keep it. This story is just getting started and chances are we are all in for more surprises.

 * … WATCHDOG: And speaking of sausage making, the Kern Citizens for Sustainable Government was formed a bit over a year ago to keep tabs on local government. Jenifer Pitcher, the community liaison for the group, told me on First Look with Scott Cox that the focus remains on public pensions, effective education and efficient government. She also told me that when she pulled the top 30 highest paid county employees, 29 of them were doctors on contract with Kern Medical Center.

 * … SPOTTED: On a friend's Facebook page was this: "Overheard in the kitchen when teen daughter was asked if she saw something on Facebook: 'Oh, No, Facebook has been taken over by Moms!'"

* ... STREET SWEEPERS: Reader Jim VanderZwan submitted this lament about city street sweepers. "Recently our neighborhood streets were resealed and the city or whatever contractor completed the work did a great job. The streets were clean and a pristine black, that is, until the street sweepers came through.  Not only were tax payer dollars wasted 'cleaning' a just resurfaced neighborhood, but they left a large ugly brown streak where they 'cleaned' all throughout the neighborhood, leaving me and the neighbors just shaking our heads."

  * ... ACHIEVERS: I misspelled a name of a local achiever in an earlier blog, so I want to get it right today. Here is the full item: I got a call from proud grand mother Christine Nichols who updated me on her two grandsons. Josh Medrano, a 2006 Centennial High graduate, just graduated from the Navy's Nuclear Power Program in Goose Creek, S.C., while his brother, Frontier graduate Matthew Medrano, is studying agronomy at the University of Kentucky.

 * … EVENTS: Two events to keep on your calendar. This Saturday out at Minter Field in Shafter is the annual "fly in" featuring some really interesting aircraft. Gates open at 7 a.m. and it is all free. Then next Saturday, Nov. 9, make sure you remember the drive to collect blankets, pet treats, leashes and collars for stray, sick and abused dogs and cats. It's called Operation Blankets of Love and it will take place at Petco on Gosford Road from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Monty Byrom holds court at the Branding Iron Saloon to raise money for his brother, Vince Gill honors Buck and Merle and more readers lament our litter problem

 * ... MUSIC: There was plenty of music in town this weekend for anyone who wanted some first class entertainment. Vince Gill held court at the Civic Auditorium on Friday, honoring Buck Owens and Merle Haggard, and on Saturday Monty Byrom held a benefit concert for his brother Arthur at the Branding Iron Saloon on North Chester. Byrom is a local treasure and he never disappoints. I stopped by to hear him sing and to help raise money for Arthur and Arthur's girlfriend who were in a horrific motorcycle crash some time ago. Arthur runs the Branding Iron and the turnout to help these folks was impressive.

* ... TRASH: Bonnie Farrer sent me a digital picture of a pile of trash sitting near a tree at the top of Elm Street below Golden State Freeway. "A week ago I flagged down a city truck and asked them to clean this up. Their reply was 'that’s the county’s job.' The county said it was Caltrans' job. I called Caltrans and they said it’s the city’s job. I was glad to read in your column that Colorado doesn’t have this problem."

 * ... MORE TRASH: And speaking of trash, Jon Crawford added these thoughts: "I believe most would say the trashiest portion of our local freeways, which probably rates in the top ten in the USA, would be east-bound I-58 from Highway 99 to the off ramp to Bena Dump. I’ve thought the problem was with improperly covered private trucks hauling yard trash. However, I wonder if our government-controlled trash trucks aren’t a big problem, as we followed two 'empt'” city trash trucks into town from Bena as they dumped one or two pieces of trash every mile along I-58. Perhaps much of our trashy freeways is a result of governmental contributions. Physician heal thyself!"

 * ... SPOTTED: Actor Kevin Costner, who is in Kern County making a movie about the McFarland High School track team, was spotted at The Padre Hotel Friday morning, talking on his cell phone outside the Farmacy coffee bar.

 * ... GOOD FORM: Hats off once again to Dr. Ravi Patel and his staff at the Comprehensive Blood and Cancer Center. Last week the center held its 25th Anniversary Celebration of Life for cancer survivors and their families. Said Debra Banducci, who attended:  "The carnival atmosphere was uplifting and fun for everyone involved.  The speakers were inspiring and the food and drink, delicious.  The campus was especially beautiful after its new renovation, and as always, Dr. Patel and his staff were available to greet and talk to those in attendance.

 * ... ACHIEVERS: I got a call from proud grand mother Christine Nichols who updated me on her two grandsons. Josh Medrano, a 2006 Centennial High graduate, just graduated from the Navy's Nuclear Power Program in Goose Creek, S.C., while his brother, Frontier graduate Matthew Medrano, is studying agronomy at the University of Kentucky.