Friday, September 26, 2014

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy: On how an early lunch at Luigi's reflects the can-do spirit of Bakersfield and the great Central Valley of California

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

 "Several weeks ago a few East Coast journalists visited Bakersfield to report on a city and region that is unique to a state widely known for its relaxed lifestyle over gritty word ethic. Upon hearing of their
trip, I immediately made a reservation at Luigi’s for Saturday morning to show them some true local flavor. That weekend when we pulled up and met the group outside they were sweating from a long walk in the hot sun. 'We had to park three blocks away!' I recall them saying. When we entered, the dining room was bustling with staff carrying plates of pasta and steak and patrons cramming into the long center tables to accommodate their expansive parties. For the out-of-towners, this more resembled a 1 p.m. restaurant scene than 11:15 am.

 "I tell this story because this disparity was brought up during our meal. Why, our visitors thought, were we (and seemingly everyone else in town) eating steak before noon? I said it was simple; our community has been up working since sunrise. That is how it’s been for generations.

  "It is this can-do attitude that yields more than just large appetites. Since our ancestors settled in the Central Valley long ago, we have become the nation’s food basket and major supplier of energy - powering communities across the country. We have developed into a community of explorers, pushing the limits of space travel and aerospace capabilities ever since the sound barrier was broken in the Mojave Desert in 1947. One needs to look no further than our community as an example of American exceptionalism.

  "But achieving such positive influence in our society has not been without its challenges. The current drought is historic and is creating immense hardship on our communities. Oil wells that have operated safely for years and have employed our neighbors are now in question by regulators. But it is in the face of this adversity when we are at our best.

  "New technologies have opened up diverse energy sources to power our state while they have also led to more efficient and productive conventional energy development than ever before. And our farms have adopted water conservation practices that use only what is needed while still producing the majority of nuts, fruits, and vegetables that are consumed throughout the country.

  "While we respond to challenges the way we always have - through resilience - the Federal and state government are poised to implement more regulations that erase our gains and present near impossible barriers to overcome. In today’s growing governmental bureaucracy, the limits of these rules and regulations are getting wider and more ambiguous than ever were intended when originally passed by Congress.

  "In Washington, the House of Representatives has passed numerous bills that limit the expansion of regulations that will especially hurt communities like ours, and instead returns responsibility to states and communities. A desk in Washington doesn’t know what is best for our community. Only our community knows what is best and that is why I will continue to fight for these common sense solutions that have proven results.

  "With the spirit of our community coupled with policies that don’t put fish above people, don't force unattainable regulations on small businesses, and don't force the shutdown of oil wells over unfounded science, Bakersfield is poised for continued times of prosperity. If there is any question, just go to lunch around 11 am."

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Krispy Kreme plans a return to Bakersfield as retailers pour into town along California Avenue, among them Panera Bread, Corner Bakery, Habit Burger, and yet another pet dies at the hands of two unleashed pit bulls

 * … REBIRTH: It's nice to see so much commercial and retail activity on California Avenue in what
old timers know as the "old Mervyn's" shopping center. HobbyLobby opened last year with a bang and business was so good it almost immediately expanded, and now a new Panera Bread has popped up doing a gangbuster's business. Meanwhile, earth movers are busy on the long neglected dirt lot across from Barnes and Noble where Three-Way Chevrolet once stood, preparing the site for a new Krispy Kreme, Corner Bakery, Habit Burger, and yet-to-be-named pizza company, according to Duane Keathley, a partner at Cushman and Wakefield. All this comes as the Park at Riverwalk is getting ready to welcome a Nordstrom Rack, BevMo! and Sprout's natural market early next year.

* … PIT BULLS: Viva Wu lost her small dog Toto recently when he was attacked by two unleashed pit pulls at Tevis Park. She was walking Toto with her other dogs when the pits came out of seemingly nowhere and tore through her beloved pet. "By the time we got to the vet, he had no change to survive," she said. "It was the most horrible 20 minutes of my life."

* … KUDOS: Marcia Eyherabide sends kudos out to the roads department "for planning the resurfacing of Highway 178 in east Bakersfield during the late evening hours. It was a great idea. There was little or no disruption of traffic. It almost seemed like 'magic' that the lanes suddenly appeared to be refreshed."

 * … GOOD FORM: The men and women at the California Highway Patrol rarely get a pat on the back, so here is one compliments of reader Liz Blaine. "On Saturday evening my husband Mike received a call from my father who incurred a blown out tire on Highway 99 just south of McFarland.  As we approached the area, we saw the blinking red lights. His car came to rest on the median just a few feet away from the very formidable ditch where a new lane is under construction. A patrolman was already with him. Kudos to the California State Highway Patrol. If Officer Kyle Nunez' exemplary behavior is indicative of the men and women behind the badge, I applaud them. I am grateful to them. I admire them. His attentiveness and consideration toward my father ranked high above the level of duty.  My father needed a helping hand. Officer Nunez offered his."

 * … FIREMEN: A reader who asked not to be named sent these kudos to Bakersfield city firemen at station No. 9: "This past Sunday the firemen at this station were kind enough to assist me in the removal of a tight ring from my finger.  I tried everything from Windex, oils, lotions, and nothing freed my ring.  It only took a few minutes of their time and a job well done! Thanks again guys for your time and being so kind.  (Don't forget to purchase your 2015 Bakersfield Firefighters Calendar for only $20.  Proceeds go to Bakersfield Firefighters Burn Foundation, a nonprofit organization.)

 * … REUNION: Columbus Street Baptist Church (formerly First Southern Baptist Church of Bakersfield) is celebrating its 75th anniversary this Sunday. Senior pastor Dr. James Trammell told me that all members and former members are invited to a continental breakfast starting at 9 a.m. followed by a grand reunion that will include a catered lunch.

* … THEFT: Speaking of local churches, someone stole two Oktoberfest signs from the entrance and exit of the Lutheran Church of Prayer off Highway 178. As Linda Hartnett said: "The Lutheran Church of Prayer is a small church with a big heart in the northeast. This will be our fourth Oktoberfest and the signs are reused every year due to cost. Yep, we'll pray for those responsible. "

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ann Arbor, Michigan, deemed the "smartest city" in the United States while the Valley cities (Modesto, Visalia and Bakersfield) are at the bottom of the list, and the question of ryegrass overseeding is the question of the day

* … SMART CITIES: Ever wonder what U.S. cities are considered the "smartest" in the country? Based on the percentage and types of educational degrees, high paying jobs and the quality and size of local schools, Ann Arbor, Michigan, (home to the University of Michigan) ranks at the top,
according to the personal finance site WalletHub. Next were two North Carolina cities (Raleigh, home of N.C. State and Durham, home of Duke University) followed by Provo, Utah (Brigham Young University) and Manchester, New Hampshire. The "least smart" city was Beaumont, Texas, followed by Salinas, Rockford, Ill., Brownsville, Texas and then Modesto, Visalia and finally Bakersfield.

 * … COMMON CORE: I have burned a lot of newsprint on the difficulty of a science question over at Fruitvile Junior High, which prompted this note from Fruitvale Superintendent Mary Westendorf.  "Just for clarification purposes, the Next Generation Science Standards for California Public Schools (NGSS) were adopted in September, 2013, by the California State Board of Education. They are not Common Core standards, but science standards specific to California. The Fruitvale community (both families and staff) have high expectations for student achievement and students rise to those level of those expectations. Many of the students in that particular class did have a correct or partially correct answer to that particular question and the teacher then spent time reteaching the concept so that there was understanding across the board. As I'm sure you're aware, colleges and universities point to the lack of proficiency in students entering their programs, specifically in the areas of math and science.  We have students that are bright and capable and parents that expect a challenging curriculum that prepares their students for college preparatory and advanced placement classes in high school, ready to move on to college and university with lots of options. Community support for student achievement is so very important and we are fortunate in Fruitvale."

 * … DROUGHT: Clayton M. Koerner was at the ticket office over at Rabobank Arena last week when he noticed a city maintenance worker washing down the fountain area with a hose. "I asked him if he was aware of the water situation in California and the fact that there could be fines for wasting water unnecessarily. NO, he was not aware! Asked why he was watering the cement around the fountain, said his boss told him to do it. The City of Bakersfield is considering fines for wasting water yet they wash down the cement around the fountain at Rabobank arena. I left just shaking my head and wondering who sent this young uninformed employee out to wash down the cement?"

 * … OVERHEARD: A resident of Seven Oaks is talking about the drought: "My neighbor said he wouldn't seed with ryegrass if I don't. No one wants to be the only green lawn on the street this winter."

 * … FOODIE: Gene Bonas wrote to praise Sorella's Ristorante Italiano in its new location on McNair Court in the Southwest. "Twenty one of my Garces Memorial classmates and friends had lunch at Sorella's last Thursday in their brand new building. The food was excellent and the ambiance excellent.  I highly recommend Sorella's for a pleasant dining experience."

 * … CHRISTMAS: It may only be September but the planning is already under way for the 32nd annual Bakersfield Christmas Parade set for December 4. Jerry Cook, one of the coordinators, reminded me the parade is staged through private funding. If you are interested in helping, go to the event website at

 * … BAKERSFIELDISM: Bill Deaver chimed in to say he too remembers the old Golden Crust Bakery.  "Regarding unsliced bread, there was a lot of that during World War II because, as a baker in Madera where we lived at the time told my Dad, there was a shortage of metal for knives (and lots of other stuff!) due to the war… By the way, there are few things that taste as good anytime as a chunk torn from a fresh and well-made baguette."

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Supporters of Common Core testing take me to task over a science question, and Washington State University names its engineering school after former Aera Energy president and CEO Gene Voiland

 * … COMMON CORE: I clearly touched a nerve last week in writing about what I considered an extremely difficult science question on the Common Core testing at Fruitvale Jr. High School. There
were too many responses to list, and most readers were kind enough to politely point out my ignorance. Said Bruce Deeter: "Richard, Richard, Richard, ridiculously hard? That problem isn't difficult at all. Think about it, why does a rock sink in water and a piece of wood float on water? Rock is more dense and wood less dense. Or take oil and water, you've surely seen layers of liquids like these float on top of each other. Or salad dressing in a bottle as another example. This problem is no different. The numerical values just give you the info you need to place them in order by what is more dense and less dense. Density of pure water is 1.0, BTW. This is some very basic stuff. I remember doing this sort of thing in show and tell in fifth grade in the 1960s." Thanks Bruce. I am blaming this on my public education in the state of Georgia.

* …. MORE CORE: Added Andy Wonderly: "All the problem requires are understanding the concept of density, knowing the density of water (which should be an easy recall for anyone actively engaged in a science class), and being able to put numbers in order from largest to smallest. I don't know anything about Common Core, so I can't comment on the question's appropriateness for this exam.  But to call this question 'ridiculously hard' perpetuates an unfortunate attitude toward science that I believe is holding Americans back in the STEM fields. I can't blame the child for his or her reaction. Science is hard. I have been there myself. But this child's reaction should be met with aid and explanation, not applause and exaltation. I pray that someone gave this child five seconds of their time to explain this simple word problem in the hope that the child may gain a better understanding of science and increased reading comprehension."

 * … MORE CORE: And finally there was this thoughtful response from Lora Coppola: "I assumed that as a journalist, word problems would be your forte. This particular word problem requires no solving for unknowns, or any other complex reasoning skills. It only requires a basic grasp of the term 'density,' the knowledge that the density of water is 1.0, and the ability arrange numbers from largest to smallest.  Even if the student in question had not paid attention in class, he or she probably knows innately that wood floats on water and lead sinks.  Of course, if the student had not paid attention, he/she might have missed the news that the density of water is 1.0. But since it is the key element to solving this question, I'm going to assume that it was emphasized in class and on lab and homework assignments. To answer the question: From bottom layer (most dense) to top (least dense): Purple, water, red, yellow. The wood chip is floating on the red layer. Methinks you're stirring the pot." Methinks I must have skipped out on that high school science class.

 * … VOILAND: Congratulations to former Aera Energy CEO Gene Voiland and his wife Linda, who had a major department at Washington State Universitynamed in their honor. The Linda and Gene Voiland School of Chemical Engineering and Bioengineering was unveiled last week in part of honor Gene's contributions to his alma mater.

 * … GOOD FORM: The stretch of Alfred Harrell Highway near the soccer fields was awash in litter this Sunday, but it was heartening to see a group of cyclists (David Rous, Adam Hensley and Richard Picarelli) hope off their bikes and take the time to pick it all up. Meanwhile, up on Panorama Drive I spotted a young woman and an older man doing the same thing, spending their morning cleaning up the trash that others so unceremoniously left in the park.

 * … SPOTTED: On my friend Joe Drew's Facebook page: "Why is it when you retire, and time is no longer very important, they give you a watch?"

 * … KINDNESS: Barbara Winegar was among a table for eight recently at Kan Pai restaurant on Brimhall Road, enjoying her daughter's birthday party while sharing a long table with two stranger. "When it came time to pay for our great  meal, my son-in law was informed that the bill had already been taken  care of by the couple at the end of the table. We thanked them again and again, but  we want everyone to know what a gracious couple  they are, and what a magnanimous gesture. The gentleman's name is Hayward  from Norfolk Va., and his lady friend from Bakersfield. We are very touched by your generosity."