Friday, May 29, 2015

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy: Government regulations on water and the environment are detrimental to farmers, businesses and families

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

 "Water is a resource that we need more of -- a lot more of. Mother Nature simply hasn’t produced enough to our state for several years now. But what rain and snow we are blessed with in the North is not traveling the course set by the forward-thinking planners that came before us when they established the most sophisticated water system in the country, and perhaps even the world.
Currently, government regulations are standing in the way of this important resource reaching our communities; preventing our farmers, businesses, and families from living their lives and enjoy opportunities for prosperity based on hard work.

 "The California water problem is well known in our community, state, and increasingly so across the country. In Congress we are continuing to work towards a solution that rebalances the regulatory priorities that are overwhelmingly burdensome to people and families for the sake of protecting fish from potential harm. But the formidable foe of government bureaucracy and regulatory overreach has reared its head again in the water debate. This latest case focuses on regulating the water that we do have on our property from small lakes, ponds, streams, and even ditches. In fact, it even regulates water we don't have.

 Earlier this week the Obama Administration's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released its final ruling for what is referred to as "Waters of the United States" This regulation builds upon the Clean Water Act and expands the areas of jurisdiction that the EPA can regulate in compliance with the law.

 "We all know about the Clean Water Act and we all support protecting our waterways from pollution that could impact our health. But this new rule is an overreach and intrusion on private property that will have no bearing on protecting public health. How do we know this? Well, the new rule intended to protect "navigable waterways" could include waterways with no water. In Taft, the EPA had determined Sandy Creek as a waterway and was trying to impose a permitting regulation on this land before any development could occur. The problem was that Sandy Creek had been dry for thirty years. I had to drive an EPA official out to this dry ditch and show them that there is no way this falls under their jurisdiction. Finally, the EPA relented.

 "Under this new rule, farmers, energy producers, and anyone else that supports their way of life off the land is crying foul this regulation would impose undue economic hardship. What's worse is that their voices have not only gone unheard, the EPA has acted as a special interest group to persuade people to support this regulation. This tramples on the regulatory process as it was intended and produces negative consequences for the American people.

Just a few weeks ago, the House passed legislation to prevent the EPA from implementing this rule and send it back to the drawing board. Every Republican supported it as did 24 Democrats. This bipartisan bill now heads over to the Senate where millions of Americans hope for swift consideration.

 "Our community needs the water it has paid for and deserves from the North. What we can't afford is even more regulatory obstacles from this Administration on water we do (and at times don't) have. Republicans in Congress are determined to stop it and allow our economy and community to continue to grow.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

"Sheer, naked chutzpah:" The same unions that helped pass the $15 an hour minimum wage law in Los Angeles are now asking to be exempt so union shops can pay lower salaries

 * ... UNIONS: In what one commentator called "sheer, naked chutzpah," the same unions that helped pass a $15 an hour minimum wage law in Los Angeles are now asking to be exempt from the law. That's right, the county Federation of Labor is saying collective bargaining agreements should trump
the local minimum wage law. As reported in the Los Angeles Times: "Rusty Hicks, who heads the county Federation of Labor and helps lead the Raise the Wage coalition, said Tuesday night that companies with workers represented by unions should have leeway to negotiate a wage below that mandated by the law." And they wonder why the public has grown so cynical.

 * ... LOFTS: What is it they say about one man's trash is another man's treasure? That seems to be the issue surrounding a proposed loft project on 18th Street, which some see as urban in-fill at its
finest and others see as, well, something less than that. I wrote about this earlier this week, pointing out that local businessman John Sarad was a part of the opposition. That, of course, prompted a call from Sarad to clarify his stand, and he wondered aloud why I would single him out as a vocal opponent. (Memo to John: You have seven rental houses, an apartment building, the Haberfelde Building and you have restored close to 20 homes. Your presence downtown is well known and you always make sure your voice is heard). Sarad told me he is not opposed to the project itself but wants changes that would reduce its size and possibly change its design. "It's too overpowering," he said, "and would be more appropriate somewhere else." The lofts are the idea of local Realtor Eydie Gibson and a group of investors who want to build 28 units with 31 on-site parking spaces. Sarad argued the contemporary design "clashes" with the more historic nature of the neighborhood. He also took issue with the my suggestion there could be a conflict by the fact that Ward 2 city councilman Terry Maxwell, whose district covers downtown, is his tenant at the Sarad-owned Haberfelde Building. "Terry is a tenant, that's all," he said. Opponents have given Gibson a long list of changes that may make the project more compatible. Is there room for compromise?

 * ... BAD FORM: A regular reader sent me this note and asked to remain unidentified: "You recently mentioned in your column the 'decorum factor' exhibited or non-existent during graduation ceremonies. We are in close proximity to the convention center where many of these ceremonies take place. I have observed, on more than a dozen occasions, folks arriving for these ceremonies and not wanting to pay parking fees, park along the side streets near the convention center. Many of these people run through the nearby fast food restaurants for food, and then for some reason, feel privileged to bestow their garbage at the doors of the business offices near the arena. Obviously, the exhibition of disrespect is not just saved for the ceremony."

 * ... OVERHEARD: A young woman is telling a friend: "I feel terrible about what's happening in Burundi and all. Where is it anyway?"

 * ... SPOTTED: I spotted this on Twitter: "Life is too short for fake butter, cheese or people.

* ... HONOR FLIGHT: Honor Flight has won a special place in our hearts for flying World War II veterans to Washington, D.C., to visit the war memorials. Now, it is taking the next step by flying Vietnam veterans there for the same purpose. Said Honor Flight volunteer Lili Crommett-Marsh:
"Honor Flight is 'breaking ranks' this Friday (today) by flying over 100 Vietnam vets to THEIR memorial in D.C. We encourage the community to fill the Icardo Center at Cal State on Sunday at 10 p.m., to give these heroes the welcome home they have never received 40 years ago."

 * ... MEMORIES: LaVonne Templeton loves all the stories about the old theaters that are now long gone. "I love all these stories of the various thearters in town.  I was in high school in the 1950s and remember very well wearing high heel shoes for the very first time and trying to climb the very steep stairs in the balcony at the California theater."

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The battle over a proposed lofts project downtown reveals the connections and potential conflicts in our town, and who takes their $300,000 McLaren to Costco?

* ... LOFTS: This is a town of connections and you don't have to look far before you run into potential conflicts. Consider for example the attempt by local Realtor Edith Gibson and a group of investors to build lofts on 18th Street downtown. The project will provide much needed "in fill" housing in a dense downtown area already populated with commercial businesses and multi-family apartment buildings.
Sounds reasonable right? Well, leading the opposition is John Sarad, owner of the Haberfelde Building as well as a slew of rentals downtown that would compete with the lofts for tenants. Sarad says the project is out of character with downtown and will take up  valuable street parking, even though plans include 31 on-site parking spaces for 28 tenants. Both sides are appealing to Terry Maxwell, the Ward 2 city councilman whose district includes that area of 18th Street. So far, so good. But it turns out Maxwell's downtown eatery, TL Maxwell's Restaurant and Bar, is located on the ground floor of the Haberfelde building, which of course is owned by Sarad. Is this a conflict or just another coincidence of living in a small town? Stay tuned.

 * ... MUSIC FESTIVAL: Here's some good feedback on George Martin's first Rock and Country Music Festival out at the Kern County Museum. Said Kevin Cornelius: "Just wanted to say thank you to George Martin and company for a first class music festival... The weather was great, entertainment exceptional, food good and all the volunteers were as friendly and helpful as they come. My wife commented on how the restrooms were kept clean through the entire day. This made her a happy camper. Hope to see it come back next year!"

* ... THEFTS: What started as the occasional theft has evolved into a full scale epidemic. I am talking about the thieves who follow U.S. Postal Service and UPS delivery trucks throughout the city and steal packages off front porches. In the last week I have been told of thefts in the Southwest, downtown and the Northwest.

* … SPOTTED: On Twitter was this bit of advice: "The lottery gives you a 1 in 200 million chance you won't go to work tomorrow. Alcohol gives you 1 in 5."

 * … BAD FORM: David Salas commutes to Santa Clarita and regularly spots trucks from local businesses traveling south and north. One, bearing a logo saying "safety is no accident," whizzed past him going 85 miles per hour. "That is an accident waiting to happen," he noted.

 * ... MCLAREN: Susan Peninger was leaving Costco and headed to her car when she noticed an odd looking car loading groceries into his hood. "The gentleman unloaded the goods from the car into the 'trunk'-  which just happened to be exactly where the engine in my Honda Civic is located, in the front. I wasn’t the only one taking pictures as it was a sight. When I got home I did some online research and came to the conclusion that someone who owns a $300,000 plus McLaren  has to make a Costco run now and then!"

 * ... DROUGHT: More than a few of us have already grown weary of the finger pointing during this long drought. Said Linda Dietzel: "Discussing and sharing information with our neighbors can hardly be compared to being a 'rat fink.' The water belongs to all of us. The responsibility to conserve water belongs to all of us. Let's stand united, work as a team and come through this together."

Sunday, May 24, 2015

College students demand a "safe" environment from anything that "triggers" negativity, but isn't that all part of freedom of speech on this Memorial Day weekend?

 * ... FREEDOM: Memorial Day is a time to reflect and appreciate those who gave their lives for our freedoms. But with those freedoms comes responsibility, as Peggy Noonan cited in her Saturday column in the Wall Street Journal. Noonan was writing about the use of "micro aggressions" and "triggering" on college campuses, in which some students demand a "safe" environment from
anything that might "trigger" negative feelings. Said Noonan: "Life gives you potentials for freedom, creativity, achievement, love, all sorts of beautiful things, but none of us are 'safe.' And you are especially not safe in an atmosphere of true freedom. People will say and do things that are wrong, stupid, unkind, meant to injure. They’ll bring up subjects you find upsetting. It’s uncomfortable. But isn’t that the price we pay for freedom of speech? You can ask for courtesy, sensitivity and dignity. You can show others those things, too, as a way of encouraging them. But if you constantly feel anxious and frightened by what you encounter in life, are we sure that means the world must reorder itself? Might it mean you need a lot of therapy?"

  * ...  OVERHEARD: John R. Tubbesing was helping plant a field of American flags at the Parks and River Walk when someone asked if there were truly more than 1,000 flags. "Yes," someone answered, "there's over a thousand flags. We made sure because we don't want Lois Henry counting them all."

* … MUDDING: I managed to get in a long hike in the hills above Hart Park after the rain Friday, and besides the testosterone fueled Jeeps and pickups doing doughnuts in the mud (parents of boys tell me that's called 'mudding'), I had the place all to myself. But it left me sad that this wonderful property, until recently designed to become a "Great Park" for the public, will one day be developed.

  * … SOUTHERN CHARM: An elegant and classy local woman formerly from Virginia, asked how she is doing, replies with this bit of Southern charm: "I am up and taking nourishment."

 * … TERMS OF ENDEARMENT: Alvin Gregorio read my recent post on being in love ('I've never been in love, but I imagine it is similar to the feeling you get when you see your food coming in a restaurant') with this memory: "I had a longtime (adult) girlfriend who would sort of bounce in her booth-seat as the waiter approached with her food. It was the cutest and most endearing thing ever."

 * ... OVERHEARD: At the new TJ Maxx on Stockade Highway, a woman tells a cashier: "I live in the northeast and waited until everyone was out of town for Memorial Day to come here. I feel I have the whole town to myself."

 * ... MEMORIES: Jack Rademacher dropped me a note asking if I could stomach yet another memory of the old movie theaters in town. Why yes, Jack, I can. So here he goes: "My uncle Charlie was a projectionist at the California Theater. As Kern County Union High School students, my brother and I visited him, high up in the projection booth... The booth was an unbearable hot box and a potential fire trap. An escape hatch was provided at the north wall with a flex ladder dropped down to the alley, in the event of an internal fire."