Friday, January 17, 2014

McCarthy: excessive environmental regulations exacerbates California's long drought

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

 "Governor Brown’s emergency drought declaration is an important recognition of an issue that families and farmers in the Central Valley have been dealing with for years.  Our families, farmers, and small businesses know firsthand of the impacts of limited water supplies.  Federal and state officials must
follow up on Governor Brown’s declaration with solid action to help restore water to our communities, refill our reservoirs and recharge our water banks, and help ensure Central Valley farmers get the water they contract and pay for.

 "I have not only called on President Obama and Governor Brown to take action on this issue, but also the Secretaries of the Interior and Commerce.  There must be an operational plan developed that maximizes water supplies to communities in the San Joaquin Valley.  Restrictive environmental regulations reduce our supplies when water is available in wet years, but exacerbates the negative impacts during years of drought.  At a time when we are in dire need of water, we must provide flexibility and allow water to flow around the state.

 "This week, the House once again acted on its commitment to holding the President accountable on transparency.  Let’s not forget that in 2008, President Obama promised to lead the most transparent Administration in history.  After the passage of Obamacare, however, and a disastrous launch of the exchange website, the Administration has only sporadically provided the American people with incomplete enrollment data that only serves as a facade covering up the real disaster that is Obamacare.  I refuse to accept the President’s Twitter feed as the primary source for enrollment figures and urge the Administration to replace their smoke and mirrors with real transparency.

 "With a lack of reliable data met with new reports suggesting a sense of uncertainty in the demographics of who exactly is signing up for Obamacare, the House took action and passed H.R. 3362, the Exchange Information Disclosure Act.  This bill would immediately require the Secretary of Health and Human Services to submit to Congress and make available to state governors, states insurance commissioners, and the public, weekly reports that describe the consumer interactions with the Obamacare exchanges.  While we are all too familiar with the climate of inaction that plagues the Senate, I urge Senator Reid to take the commonsense steps necessary for providing the American people with the transparent and accountable government they deserve, and pass this legislation.

 "The time is now to act.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Cal State kicks off its year-long tribute recognizing the publication of The Grapes of Wrath and the Dust Bowl and when will the Bakersfield bashing end?

 * … HOME: Anyone who calls Bakersfield home has endured the insults of outsiders, who somehow believe it is open season to criticize this community. It's a curious obsession, started when Johnny
Carson used Bakersfield as the butt of his late night monologue, but it's based on the false assumption that happiness is determined by one's zip code. Does a deeply unhappy person here evolve into a beautiful swan once she moves to Santa Barbara? Or is happiness a personal choice no matter where you live? Wouldn't it be more productive to spend our time here embracing the good that lives in any community? I choose the latter, so take the following insults with a grain of salt.

 * … INSULT: I spotted this insult to Bakersfield on a friend's Facebook wall: "While going through security at an airport in New Mexico, (the) TSA (agent) asked me if I knew why no one wants to live in Bakersfield. I said good, then don't move there. Then he said 'because it sinks like oil.' I said, 'that's the smell of money.' He said; yeah, 'dirty money.'"

 * … AND ANOTHER: And the Bakersfield bashing doesn't stop there. My friend Don Clark told me he was listening to comedy radio when he heard comedian Ron White say this while performing in Texas:  "I was in Bakersfield, California, last night," he said, followed by the punch line, "And you think you're stupid!" Said Don: "All I can say is, let's never again be stupid enough to buy another  ticket to any of his shows."

 * … BIRTHDAY: But enough of the insults and back to the real world. Here's an interesting note from reader Ann Dale: "Yesterday, January 14 was an amazing day for our family. Our grandson, Michael Pinheiro, was born at Mercy Southwest Hospital. The amazing thing is he was born on my mom's 89th birthday, my brother's 51st birthday, my nephew's 36th birthday. Now my mom has a son, grandson and great grandson all born on her birthday."

  * … DUST BOWL: Dust Bowl fever is in the air these days. Cal State Bakersfield is kicking off its year-long nod to the 75th anniversary of the publication of the iconic book, the Grapes of Wrath. So too is the Bakersfield Museum of Art, beginning Thursday evening, January 23 at its winter exhibition opening reception. The crown jewel of the night will be striking photographs by Horace Bristol, The Dust Bowl Series.  Bristol,whose work appeared in LIFE, Fortune and Time Magazines, traveled with John Steinbeck, documenting life in the labor camps as Steinbeck researched material for his novel. Bristol's photos were said to have been used by the set designers of the film. Bristol's evocative images tug at the heartstrings of many Kern County families whose descendants traveled Route 66. Bristol's son, Henri, is scheduled to be on hand for the exhibition opening. Organizers hope community members with tales from the Dust Bowl are able to attend as well.

 * … GOOD DEED: And hats off to the volunteers over at Covenant Community Services who collected and donated books to every student at North Beardsley Elementary School. Marilyn Dropper told me Standard School district will be the next beneficiary. New or gently used books can be dropped off at Covenant Coffee at 1700 North Chester. Donors will receive a free cup of coffee with the donation of two or more books.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Remembering the grace and style of Nick Uricchio and local product Tiler Peck gets engaged to a fellow New York City Ballet dancer

 * … RIP NICK: Nick Uricchio, founder of the popular downtown Italian restaurant that bears his name, passed away this week. He was a pioneer in the revival of downtown Bakersfield, but he will be remembered even more so for his grace, style and generosity. Seated at the end of the bar in a sharp suit and matching tie, Nick would greet every customer individually, always extending both hands in a
greeting that was both sincere and genuine. In a time when people wear pajamas in public and attend funerals in shorts, Nick represented an old school class and sophistication that is in painfully short supply in our society.

 * … VALLEY FEVER: The New Yorker magazine has discovered Valley Fever. In a typically long piece in the most recent edition, the magazine explored the causes of the illness and the efforts by Rep. Kevin McCarthy to bring national attention - and funding - to the illness. (photo courtesy of The New Yorker)

* … LITTER: Nothing like a trip out of state to realize how filthy our highways have become. Mark Thompson was driving "from California to Texas via I-10 then back on I-40 … it's amazing how little trash there is outside of California. I knew Texas was always proud to be clean, but to drive in California is so sickening. Also what's not to dislike about a speed limit of 70-80 mph  outside of California? Arizona, New Mexico and Texas pay almost nothing in gas taxes and have the best roads I've ever driven on."

 * … PECK: Tiler Peck, the Bakersfield woman who rose to become one of the top ballet dancers in the nation, is featured in this month's Vanity Fair. The feature is called "A Choreographed Romance" and features Peck and her fellow New York City Ballet principal dancer Robert Fairchild, her fiancĂ©.

 * … PETROLEUM CLUB: Robert Bunker has been named general manager of The Petroleum Club, replacing Lili Marsh who moved over to a similar position at The Mark Restaurant. Most recently Bunker served in a similar position at The Padre Hotel. 

* …. GOOD FORM: From a reader named Grace: "Once again we are blessed with a 'pay it forward' moment at McDonald's on 7th Standard Road. It was approximately 7:20 a.m. on Friday the 10th in the drive through with a white Dodge sedan in from of us. My son and I were having a great morning on our way to pre school and he asked for hash browns. I didn't want to stop because I had so much work to do. When I pulled up to the pay station the young girl said 'the car a head of you just paid for your order.' Well, here I am not sure what to do. I signaled to the gentleman thank you and had a chance to sit and reflect. That day he slowed me down from my rush and I was able to enjoy watching our son eat his hash brown with a smile on his face before school. Thank you for slowing me down and making our day."

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Bako Bits: Have you ever grabbed a sock under your bed and found it belonged to a burglar hiding under there? That and more odd stories from Bakersfield and Kern County

 * … GOOD FORM: A friend of mine lost her checkbook recently but was lucky there are good people in this world. When she returned home, her bank had called and left a message that the
checkbook was at Albertson's, turned in by a kind stranger. "Do you realize how lucky I was? My whole bank book with checks and I didn't even know it. They did not know who found it, so to this day I haven't a clue who the MOST honest person was. So chalk up a good mark… Ole Bakersfield people are pretty special!"

* … BAD FORM: I came across this note about a man who had an unwelcome visitor in his home. I will not identify him given the nature of the crime. "He came home to his new house tonight and found various subtle things amiss… So eventually he checks under his bed and finds a sock. He goes in to grab the sock and there's a foot in it. A BAD GUY IS UNDER THE BED! He runs out of the house and calls the sheriff's department back… Anyway, bad guy got away."

 * … CRABFEST: Tickets are sale for the annual Rib and Crabfest benefitting the St. Francis School Parish. This is always one of my favorite fund raisers in a town that excels at raising money for good causes. It's held at the Kern County Fairgrounds, is presided over by Monsignor Craig Harrison and features some of the best ribs and crabs you will ever eat. Tickets for the event, held on Friday, Jan. 24, are $75 each and can be purchased at St. Francis school. (photo of Tracy and Brian Kiser at Crabfest)

 * … CANNABIS: The politics around the medicinal and recreational use of marijuana are quickly changing. Colorado and Washington have decriminalized its use for recreational muses, and New York is looking at relaxing its own laws governing cannabis. On Tuesday, at 9 a.m., I will be chatting with local attorney Phil Ganong who has been actively pushing for Kern County be less restrictive about the sale of cannabis for medical purposes. The interview will be video streamed live on and can be heard on First Look with Scott Cox on KERN NewsTalk 1180.

* … LITTER: This note from Interim HealthCare's Darlyn Baker:  "I saw something today that resonated with me. At the traffic light at the Oswell off ramp of 178 East, there frequently is a person standing with a sign asking for money, but not today.  Someone had obviously provided some food in the past three days. On top of the transformer box sat two clear plastic cups half filled with water.  In the weeds next to where the person stands were two medium size white Styrofoam food containers.  Seeing this, it seems as though those who give food to these individuals need to say, 'Be sure to take this container and put it in a trash can.'"