Thursday, October 1, 2015

More layoffs hit the oil patch as the energy market struggles, remembering Steve Ruggenberg and George Martin brings the Bakersfield Business Conference back

 * ... LAYOFFS: There was yet another round of layoffs this week at California Resources Corp. (CRC), the
spin-off company from Occidental Petroleum that holds huge reserves here. One manager called this the deepest round of layoffs yet at CRC during the downtown in the energy market. Chevron has been undergoing similar cutbacks as have almost all of the local suppliers. And, for the first time, local Realtors tell me the bad times in the oil patch are now starting to impact sales in the local real estate market.

 * ... RUGGENBERG: The phrase 'life is short' may be a cliche, but it's one that Steve Ruggenberg took seriously when he walked away from his six-figure salary at Golden Empire Transit and moved to Napa Valley to pursue his love of baking. Ruggenberg died this week after battling leukemia, and I was among those lucky enough to call him a friend. A Vietnam War veteran and CSUB graduate, Ruggenberg had spirit, wit, drive and charm, as well as the courage to pursue his dreams. Ruggs, as he was known to friends, never seemed to waste a second on the trivial or the small, and instead chose to look on life as a grand adventure to be cherished and nourished. How many of us can say that? Keep his widow, Shana, and their family in your thoughts. I miss him already.

* ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "The evening news is where they begin with 'Good evening’ and then proceed to tell you why it isn’t."

 * ... BUSINESS CONFERENCE: It looks like George Martin is at it again, following through on his promise to bring back the hugely successful Bakersfield Business Conference. If you are new to town and never attended one of Martin's events, put the next one on your calendar because they are spectacular. For years the local attorney with Borton Petrini put on one of the best shows in the West, drawing speakers as diverse as Margaret Thatcher to Rich Little, George Bush and Jimmy Carter to a huge tent at CSUB. The conference eventually ran out of gas, and when it ended in 2010 Martin promised to bring it back every five years or so. It is now planned for Saturday, Oct. 8, 2016, perfect for an election and Olympic year. (No word on where it will be held) His hints about speakers: a legendary NBA great, a former head of state, an Academy Award winning actress, a former governor and a business icon. Tickets for this event are never cheap, but they are worth it.

 * ... MUSIC FESTIVAL: And speaking of entertainment, the food vendor lineup for the 99 Music Festival has been released and it represents some of the best of Bakersfield. The '99Fest' is planned for Saturday, Oct. 10, at the CSUB amphi-theater. There will be two stages and some incredible talent featuring Americana music, all backed up by these food vendors: Pyrenee's Cafe, Cafe Med, Iron Horse Saloon, Champs BBQ, Michelangelo Pizza, Johnny Rockets, The Curbside Kitchen and Brookside Market and Food. For tickets go to

 * ... MEMORIES: Navy and submarine veteran Gene M. Bonas reminded me that it was 70 years ago this month when Japan officially surrendered to the United States to end World War II. Said Bonas: "You know you're an old timer if you can remember exactly where you were and what you were doing when you first heard the words: 'The war is over!' I was six years of age playing in the back yard by an old cottonwood tree when I heard my mom screaming 'The war is over, the war is over!' I remember mom flew out of the house, ran to where I was playing and lavished me with hugs and kisses. What a marvelous memory that is."

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy seeks to address the fears of the right wing of the GOP, expect strong Santa Ana winds this winter and beware of the latest scam making the rounds

 * ... MCCARTHY: Now that Rep. Kevin McCarthy has officially entered the campaign to become the next Speaker of the House, there is no shortage of experts offering him advice. One opinion
column in The Wall Street Journal summed it up nicely with this: "One of his strengths is that he is on good terms with much of the caucus, most of whose members see him as willing to listen. Mr. McCarthy's ties stem from another potential strength: he is a political animal ... (but) the worry about Mr. McCarthy is that he's too much the political animal... (and) the bigger question is whether the rump GOP caucus gives a new speaker a change. Mr. Boehner is leaving, but the rest of Washington remains." McCarthy has been quick to try to reassure the conservative wing that he has the "courage to lead the fight for our conservative principles and make our case to the American people."

* ... SANTA ANA WINDS: Fall is here and winter is coming, and that means we are all looking forward to the expected El Nino and the strong rains it will bring. But fall also ushers in the Santa Ana winds, and that means the likelihood of even more fires across the state. According to The Los Angeles Times, "climatologists say there is evidence that this Santa Ana's season could be serious: They have seen a higher frequency of high pressure systems over Southern California this spring and summer." That means we can expect the Santa Anas to blow in by November and December, followed by rains from El Nino in January and February.

 * ... AIR QUALITY: All those winds and fires can really damage our air quality, and more and more folks around town have taken to wearing surgical masks to help filter out pollutants. But experts say there is little evidence these masks work. Said The New York Times: "Gases can penetrate masks, but certain highly rated masks divert a significant share of particles from the air." So save your money on those surgical masks and instead spend time outdoors when the pollution levels are lower.

 * ... SCAM: Here's yet another scam that the Bakersfield Police Department says is making the rounds about town. If you get a call from someone claiming to be from BPD who says there is a warrant out for you for missing jury duty, hang up. The first thing they ask for is your Social Security Number and credit card information. Beware.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: From the comedian Albert Brooks: "I’m trying to get excited by the discovery of water on Mars. I wish they found it in California."

 * ... KUDOS: Hats off to Kate (McWhorter) Carlson, a 2005 Stockade High School graduate who has been elected to the University of Massachusetts at Boston Hall of Fame for volleyball. While at Stockdale she helped the Mustangs win two Valley Championships.

 * ... BAKERSFIELDISM: You may be a Bakersfield old-timer if you remember the huge "weather bird" poster that sat on top of the Sill Building off Chester Avenue. Under the "weather bird" was a Coca-Cola sign that read: "Thirst Knows No Season."

Sunday, September 27, 2015

The nation turns its attention to Rep. Kevin McCarthy as he maneuvers to become the next House Speaker, looking for common sense on the 'kiss cam' and Rotarians pitch in to clean the streets

 * ... MCCARTHY: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy started the week posing with Pope Francis and ended with him the odds-on favorite to replace John Boehner as Speaker of the U.S.
House of Representatives. This is enough to give anyone a healthy case of vertigo, and it is just beginning. To say McCarthy's rise to power has been quick is an understatement, and the national press (and public) have a renewed interest in understanding just what makes this Bakersfield Republican tick. The Kevin McCarthy we know is now under intense scrutiny by people with their own agendas, and no doubt he will have to have some thick skin to endure the inevitable arrows thrown his way.

* ... KISS CAM: Whatever happened to common sense? Consider this story about the familiar
"kiss cam" in sporting arenas, which often features couples on a Jumbotron kissing during breaks. It's an innocent and often sweet way to show an open display of affection, but it is now under attack. During a recent football game between Syracuse and Wake Forest, a man named Steve Port said he witnessed "two incidences on the kiss cam in which women indicated they didn’t want to be kissed. Yet, the men nearby kissed them anyway to cheers from the crowd." So he wrote a letter to the university and it now looks like the "kiss cam" has seen its last days at Syracuse. Said his letter: “The instances I witnessed at the game encourage and condone sexual assault and a sense of male entitlement, at best. And they are an actual instance of assault, at worst."

* ... SPOTTED: Spotted on the placard of a panhandler, who was standing atop a freeway offramp: "Ugly, Broke, and Stupid."

 * ... GOOD FORM: If the streets of downtown Bakersfield look a little cleaner today, you can think the Rotary clubs of Bakersfield whose members hit the streets this week to prepare for next week's District Conference. Rotarians throughout Kern County and the Central Coast will be coming to the Marriott and surrounding area for the conference (the first we've had in Bakersfield in 25 years), so local Rotarians pitched in to clean the streets. The clubs are also asking downtown businesses to please sustain our efforts by keeping the sidewalks, gutters, and streets in front of their establishments free of debris.

 * ... BAD FORM: On Sunday morning, at two different intersections downtown, motorists stopped at a red light simply blew through it and took a left against the red. I understand things are slow on a Sunday morning, but this is beyond reckless.

 * ... BARBECUE: Fall means barbecue fundraising season in Bakersfield. Among the biggest, and most worthwhile: the annual St. Vincent de Paul Homeless Center BBQ. Mark your calendars for this year's event - Thursday, Oct. 8 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at the center, 316 Baker Street. Chefs Gary and Adam Icardo will be grilling Harris Ranch New York steaks served with all the trimmings. Tickets are available at the Thrift Store on Baker or the night of the BBQ.  For more information, call (661) 323-2942.