Friday, January 24, 2014

McCarthy: Californian's drought is deepened by federal and state policies that prevent water from flowing to those who need it

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

 "Last week, Governor Brown declared a statewide emergency over the current drought.  In his declaration, he noted this is “perhaps the worst drought California has ever seen since records began being kept about 100 years ago.”  The governor’s declaration is an important recognition of what families and farmers in the Central Valley have been struggling with for years – lack of water.

 "That is why, as Majority Whip, I have been working with Congressman David Valadao and Congressman Devin Nunes in the House to take action to provide relief to local families along with struggling Central Valley farms and small businesses to ensure they receive the water they contract and pay.  Last Congress, I led the House in passing the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley Water Reliability Act, which would have provided more water to Central and Southern California and reformed environmental laws that irresponsibly put fish over people.  Senate Democrats refused to even allow debate on this important bill.

 "Since then, things have only gotten worse in our state.  We have a record drought, record low reservoirs and water banks, and more fallowed farmland, all exacerbated by Federal and state policies that prevent water from flowing to those who need it.  Since 2007, environmental regulations in the delta have resulted in Kern County and State Water Project contractors losing over 2.7 billion acre-feet of water, valued at more than $200 million.  This is unacceptable.  That is why I working with my Central Valley colleagues in developing solutions for California by drafting legislation that would create a joint House-Senate committee to develop long term solutions to California’s water problems, that turns on the pumps in the delta, and that stops water from being wasted into the San Joaquin River.  This commonsense approach is designed to bring the U.S. Senate to the negotiating table to develop solutions, while providing our state with more water when it starts to rain.

 "The solutions are simple – we need the political will in the Senate to act.  It is unconscionable that Federal and state policies in wet years have wasted water out to the Pacific, which has crippled our ability to better weather the current situation. We cannot waste any more time.

It is time to put our families and farmers first and to reverse misguided regulations that put Kern’s $6.2 billion agriculture economy at risk by wasting water out to sea during wet years rather sending it to those that contract and pay for it or to refill our reservoirs.  It is time for action, and I call on the Senate to join my colleagues and me in supporting this commonsense bill to provide all Californians with immediate relief, and come together to develop a long term solution as well.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Remembering the great Bakersfield Dust Storm of 1977 and celebrating some good news on the economic front as major retailers head for Bakersfield

 * … DUST: This week's dust storm got me to thinking about the Great Bakersfield Dust Storm of 1977 that left several people dead and caused millions of dollars in damages. That event happened in
mid December and, like now, followed several years of severe drought. The day began normal enough, with a low of 44 degrees, but by midday it had warmed considerably and then the winds came roaring in, blowing swamp coolers off roofs and leaving the town littered with debris. Sound familiar? Time to pray for some rain.

* … RETAIL: One of the surest signs of a recovering economy comes when major retailers free up capital to expand into new markets. And that's why we should all be encouraged with news that retailers like Nordstrom Rack and the organic grocer Sprouts Farmers Market may be coming to the Shops at RiverWalk. These aren't done deals yet but all indications are that both retailers are Bakersfield bound. Another good sign: apparently the opening of the Hobby Lobby here was such a big success that the crafts store is already thinking of expanding in the old Mervyn's building. Golden Corral is another business that came to Bakersfield and enjoyed a near record grand opening and is one of the restaurant chain's top performing outlets.

 * … HOT CITIES: For the third year in a row the city of Atlanta has been ranked the top city where people are moving. This is the word from the truck rental company Penske, which tracks where folks are moving. Rounding out the top ten of most popular places to move were  Tampa/Sarasota, Fla.,  Dallas/Fort Worth, Orlando, Phoenix, Houston, Seattle, Chicago, Denver and Las Vegas. (file photo of Atlanta)

* … LAMENT: My old friend Bryan Kelly always has an interesting take on thing, and here is his lament on today's society. "My little hometown in Texas, as did so many others, died in the early 1960s when the interstate highway system by-passed it. In the 1980s a prison was built and the inmates were put to work cleaning the roadways, parks and lake area. They also keep schools, state, city and county buildings painted and in good repair. The townspeople show their appreciation. Little old ladies are always baking cookies and muffins for the work crews. Here?  If kids are asked to take the last five minutes of the day to pick up litter which has blown over the fence into the school yard, a mother has a fit. This is not her kid's problem!"

 * … BAD FORM: Sometimes it's hard to believe how reckless some of our local drivers can be. This story came from a colleague. "Around 9 p.m.  (on a recent) Saturday, I was at the Ming Avenue-Ashe Road intersection preparing to turn left (west) onto Ming from Ashe. The westbound traffic on Ming had a protected left turn southbound onto Ashe, and two women in a white van began turning left. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a grey SUV (might have been a Bronco or Suburban) barreling toward the intersection against a red light. The SUV slammed into the van, smashing parts of both cars' front ends; though luckily it could have been far worse, as neither car was traveling very fast. I got ready to put on my flashers and get out of the car to help, when suddenly the driver of the SUV peels out, turns sharply and screams off into the night northbound down Ashe. The white van, still drivable as well, heads off south down Ashe. I made a U-turn, assuming they would pull over and I would assist them as best I could. Nope. They drove off as well, beating me to a street light and off into distance — with most of their front bumper peeled off. It all happened pretty quickly and I wasn't able to recall license plate numbers or specific vehicle descriptions, but man: Two cars, a red light run, a collision and both take off from the scene."

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

New retailers eyeing the Bakersfield market, including Nordstrom Rack

 With the economy improving it looks like Bakersfield may be getting some big time retailers in the near future. That's the word from Duane Keahley, a senior partner with Cushman Wakefield, who told a group of business people that sources indicate deals are in the works for a Nordstrom Rack among others. Keathley said Nordstrom Rack is negotiating to locate at the RiverWalk.
 In addition he said, BevMo!, Oregon-based Les Schwab Tires, Dunkin Donuts and the health grocery store Sprout's may be coming to town. Sprout's may also locate at RiverWalk, he said. Others that may be coming include Laz-y-Boy Furniture (in the old McMahan's building on Ming), Aldi ( a grocery retailer and the same company that runs Trader Joe's in the United States), DSW (Designer Shoe Warehouse) also at The Shops at Riverwalk and a second Freddy's Steak and Frozen Custard store on Ming Avenue.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Here's another reason to have that second cup of java: studies show coffee drinkers have better memories. And where are the best places to go to college?

* … COFFEE: Here's another reason to enjoy that cup of java in the morning. According to a story in The New York Times, researchers now believe that coffee can boost your memory. In a study, 73 male
and female volunteers were divided up and given two pills: one that contained enough caffeine equivalent to two cups of coffee and the other a placebo. The result? Those who received the caffeine pill were able to respond to memory questions more effectively than other group.

* … COLLEGE LIST: The Huffington Post came out with its list of the most interesting places to go to college. Apparently this had more to do with location than academics, but it nevertheless is an interesting list. So for all you high school kids, here it is: University of Wisconsin-Madison, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, University of California-Berkeley, University of Iowa, Cooper Union, University of Colorado at Boulder, University of Southern California, Brown University, Drake University, Vassar College, The University of Texas at Austin, New York University, Sarah Lawrence College, University of Alabama, University of Pittsburgh, Arizona State University, Harvard University. Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the University of California-Santa Barbara. (Berkeley campus shown)

 * … LYNCH: Keep an eye on the lawsuit surrounding the death of Joseph Adam Lynch, the developmentally disabled man who died in a group home in Lamont after being restrained by staff members. Neil Gehlawat, an attorney with Chain, Cohn, and Stiles, told me on First Look with Scott Cox that one of the defendants is the Kern Regional Center, a little-known non-profit that helps place the disabled in group homes and is charged with making sure the homes meet minimal state standards. Kern Regional Center is just one of a cobweb of organizations that oversee all the group homes that serve a disparate clientele that includes the disabled, the elderly, the infirm and the recently paroled. These types of civil suits shed daylight on the operation of these organizations.

 * … KING: I found this lovely tribute to Martin Luther King on the Facebook page of McKinley Elementary kindergarten teacher Jolie Brouttier: "I teach children of all different colors and race, I work, befriend, socialize, and love amongst faces all unique and special. So thank you Martin Luther King, for giving all of us the privilege to see such strokes of different colored paint and the creation of such a beautiful masterpiece."

 * … HOME: Gerhard H. Schmidt weighed in on those who bash Bakersfield, noting that despite the bad publicity it hasn't affected our growth. "Before the 1970s, according to my recollection, the area had been growing by about 10,000 in population per decade. But since then, vow! Funny, isn’t it, if it is so bad here, how come people keep coming in such numbers?"

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Another reader's take on what it means to call Bakersfield home, and enjoying the beauty of the Sequoia National Forest

 * … HAPPINESS: My earlier post on Bakersfield bashing prompted this note from personal trainer Gina Rolow. "Today's blog about the insults of Btown prompted me to write you, to say, THANK
YOU for putting this in print. Having lived here over 30 years, I cannot tell you the blessings I have received from the folks here. Yes, there is crime, dirty air, but like you said very boldly 'Happiness is a personal choice!'  I can think, (and have lived in) far worse places. I often wonder if there are any 'unhappy people in Hawaii or the Bahamas?  You get my drift."

 * ... SEQUOIAS: Another blessing of living here is right at our doorstep: the Kern River Canyon and the Sequoia National Forest. I spent Sunday with friends hiking the Mill Creek trail, a beautiful and challenging trek that offered absolutely stunning views from every angle. If you haven't been in a while, it is worth your visit.

 * … BAD FORM: A reader named Angela wrote to me about how cavalier some folks are about disposing of dirty diapers. "I found one in a washing machine at a laundromat," she said. Yuck.

 * ... OVERHEARD: A couple is talking about how airlines are reducing legroom and making the seat cushions thinner to make more money and improve fuel economy, prompting the wife to remark: "If they are so concerned about how much my bags weigh, why don't they just charge everyone by how much they weigh? They can weigh us in with our luggage right there at the counter."

 * … LITTER: This observation about litter comes from Riley Parker. "After reading Mark Thompson’s comments regarding his impressions of travelling out of state I couldn’t help put offer my own comments.  Last year we made several out of state road trips in order to escape the unhealthy air basin that has become Bakersfield’s claim to fame for the wonks writing for major publications. As Mark mentioned, the moment that we left California the roads improved, the trash subsided, and the drivers seemed less frenetic. Interstate 15 from the Arizona/Utah border north was a beautiful road surface with virtually no visible debris. Going north from the junction with I-70 the speed limit is 80 mph which eliminated the lane jockeying that is so prevalent on California freeways and highways. And then of course there are the fuel prices… $2.97 last week in Sandy, Utah. The visual impact of returning to California, and particularly to SR-58 east of Bakersfield is depressing. The disrepair, apparent lack of pride, poor maintenance, and obvious high fuel taxes, serves to render the entire area at a competitive disadvantage with most all of the western states. Stopping at the rest area south of Cedar City is to experience a well-kept neighborhood park… just not in California."