Thursday, March 10, 2016

Are 40 percent of the students at Cal State Bakersfield "food insecure," meaning they don't know where their next meal is coming from? And more fireworks on that Ward 2 City Council race

 * ... CSUB: There is an effort under way to raise $175,000 to create an edible garden for students out at Cal State Bakersfield. Why? According to an email that is making the rounds soliciting
support, 40 percent of CSUB students are "food insecure," meaning they "don't know where their next meal is coming from due to lack of financial resources." This is a stunning statistic which, if true, either speaks to the fact that most college students identify themselves as broke, or a very serious problem endemic to Kern County exists on campus. The email is authored by Neda Mossaei, who identifies herself as an MBA student at CSUB and the wife of a local dentist. The solicitation was sent to members of the Kern County Dental Society and it directs folks to this campus website:

 * ... WARD 2: The battle for the soul of downtown's Ward 2 on the City Council is on, and it could very well turn out to be the most heated local election this year. Last week I passed along the words of Sue Castro, a strong supporter of Councilman Terry Maxwell, who sought to portray challenger Andrae Gonzales as a future "yes man." (Castro used the Spanish 'si' as emphasis, drawing criticism she was playing the race card.) Gonzales, taking the high road, responded with this: "As a city councilman I will say Si, Oui, Ja, Sim, Ye, and Yes in any other language to move our city forward. I will say 'yes' to make our neighborhoods safer and cleaner. I will say 'yes' to supporting downtown revitalization efforts. And I will say 'yes' to finishing the Thomas Roads Improvement Program projects. We've suffered through four long years of nothing but naysaying and obstructionism. We've heard a lot of talk, but have not seen any action. It's time for thoughtful leadership. It's time to say yes for progress."

 * ... MAYOR'S RACE: So who knew running for mayor of Bakersfield would be so popular? Now that Harvey Hall has announced his retirement, 27 people have pulled papers expressing interest in the largely ceremonial job. It's almost as if anyone with more than 100 Facebook friends has decided to run, but the early odds are clearly behind the well connected and well organized Karen Goh and former homebuilder Kyle Carter, who is equally well connected and with the deep pockets to make a serious run.

* ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "Without sleep, I just become a very tall 2 year old."

 * ... BETTE: And Bette Midler tweeted this: "Kim Kardashian tweeted a nude selfie today. If Kim wants us to see a part of her we've never seen, she's gonna have to swallow the camera."

 * ... MARLEY'S GHOST: Ready to step out and catch some live music while touring the fabulous new Bakersfield Music Hall of Fame? You can do it Friday evening when Marley's Ghost brings its big sound to the Hall of Fame. Tickets are just $25, doors open at 5 p.m. and the show begins promptly at 6:30 p.m. Don't miss these guys.

 * ... TENNIS: Looking for something exciting to do that won't cost you a penny? Then head over to the Bakersfield Racquet Club this Sunday to catch the Bakersfield Open, a pro circuit event that will feature some of the hottest young professionals from across the world. It runs March 12-20 and as I said, is absolutely free. Make a night of it and catch some tennis and then take in dinner at one of our locally owned downtown restaurants.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

City Councilman Terry Maxwell gets some love, and what exactly did House Speaker Paul Ryan order for breakfast at Milt's Coffee Shop?

 * ... MAXWELL: When City Councilman Bob Smith endorsed Andrae Gonzales in his race to topple incumbent Terry Maxwell in Ward 2, it drew this response from reader Sue Castro: "Well, I
had to choke back some phlegm when I read that Bob Smith, as well as Alan Tandy, find Councilman Terry Maxwell not to their liking. Since Bakersfield's puffed up city manager likes to have his way, I can understand why a decidedly un-yes man like Terry Maxwell would be a thorn in his side. I guess Andrae Gonzales says 'si' with more ease!"

 * ... HOUSE SPEAKER: I was happy to field questions from readers and friends about my breakfast with House Speaker Paul Ryan and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy at Milt's Coffee Shop the other day. But I was surprised at the most common question: what exactly did they eat? So here it is: Ryan, a fitness freak, enjoyed a Milt's omelette topped with avocado and hot sauce with  hash browns and a coffee. McCarthy eschews coffee and opted for a glass of water, two eggs overlight (no sides) and a small bowl of fresh strawberries.

 * ... BAD FORM: In the privately owned hills above Hart Park a man has towed a backhoe and is churning up the hills to create motorcycle jumps, all illegal of course, but there you go.

 * ... SPOTTED ON TWITTER: "What if dogs bring the ball back because they think you enjoy throwing it?"

 * ... ROADRUNNERS: Congratulations to CSUB basketball coach Rod Barnes for being named coach of the year in the Western Athletic Conference (WAC). And how great would it be for Barnes, his team and the city of Bakersfield if the Roadrunners make it to the NCAA tournament and compete in March Madness? Follow the team as it heads to Las Vegas for the WAC tournament.

 * ... LIBRARY TAX: It looks like an uphill fight to pass a local tax to fund our library system, which distresses folks like my friend Ken Barnes. Said Barnes: "A note to the naysayers against the one-eighth cent sales tax... Surely we can all afford an extra 'one cent' for every
eight dollars we spend to help out our local library department. This is really just a common sense tax.  Too bad more people don't use common sense much any more."

 * ... SMOKERS: Stephen A. Montgomery wrote noting a pet peeve of mine: "Noting the observation by guest columnist Paul Netter referencing the risks to wild condors caused by micro-trash over time I note smokers I’m stuck behind in traffic who, after finishing their smoke, drop the butt out their car window. I’ve never seen a smoker in traffic when finishing their smoke ever keep the butt inside their car but in every case drop it in the street. This sense of entitlement and lack of civic responsibility by smokers who, in their denial of the facts of the outcome of the accumulated distribution of such trash, is frustrating. They all deserve a 'dope slap' for their arrogance and stupidity."

Monday, March 7, 2016

Breakfast at Milt's Coffee Shop with House Speaker Paul Ryan, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy and the remarkable Connor McCarthy

 * .... MCCARTHY AND RYAN: Accompanied by our own Rep. Kevin McCarthy, House Speaker Paul Ryan is making a swing through California to raise money for House Republicans. Early
Monday morning, as a light rain fell on Bakersfield, I drove to Milt's Coffee Shop off Olive Drive to have breakfast with Ryan, McCarthy and McCarthy's son, Connor.
 There was no breaking news here, no stop the presses moment, just an opportunity for McCarthy and his guests to start the day at a signature Bakersfield landmark while entertaining diners who greeted Kevin on a first-name basis.
 Over a breakfast of coffee, omelettes, fruit and Milt's famous hash browns, Ryan and McCarthy talked candidly about the Republican and Democratic debates - a "time of anxiety" as McCarthy put it - and the role of the House leadership in providing  a "foundation of substance" for pushing the country forward no matter who is the next president.
 Are they frustrated and concerned about how the debates have reflected the Republican Party? Of course, but as Ryan noted, "we don't have any control over that. We have to concentrate on defining ourselves and be a place of ideas."

 And what about GOP front runner Donald Trump's much publicized comment that Ryan would "pay a big price" if the Speaker would not work with Trump? Ryan downplayed it, saying he laughed aloud when he first heard it and added that he had since talked to Trump on the telephone this weekend.
He said that Trump seemed to "walk back"  the threat a bit but did not elaborate.
 Ryan, at 165 pounds as fit as he appears on TV, said the House was moving forward with a "clarifying mandate" based on five principles: economic growth and tax reform, replacing Obamacare with a better alternative while addressing entitlement spending; dealing with poverty and moving people from welfare to work; national security; and finally reclaiming the separation of powers that has been undermined by the extensive use of executive powers.
 If it sounds like the 1984 Contract with America under then Speaker Newt Gingrich, it is but both Ryan and McCarthy are reluctant to frame it in that manner, seeking to put their own stamp on a House initiative to bring the country together.
 "We need to go on the offensive," Ryan said, setting out core Republican goals that any nominee - even Trump - could work with. Ryan said he reviewed the five-point strategy with Trump during the telephone call and Trump seemed okay with it.
 And what about the Political Action Committee that was created to draft Ryan as a presidential nominee in the event of a brokered convention? "My lawyers have disavowed it," he said. "We sent them a letter and asked them to cease and desist."
 Ryan condemned Trump earlier this week for refusing to disavow the Ku Klux Klan, but the Republican leader has sought to remain neutral in the race. He said he had met Trump several years ago but only chatted with him for a minute or so.

 * ... CONNOR: Politics aside, the highlight of my breakfast was chatting with and getting to know Connor McCarthy, who will graduate this year with a degree in philosophy from Georgetown University. Connor is engaging, wickedly smart and carries the confident swagger of youth. His first job after graduation: he will be working for the $4 billion venture capital firm of Andreessen Horowitz in Menlo Park near Silicon Valley's famous Sand Hill Road. Not a bad start for a Bakersfield boy who always hits up Milt's when he is back in town.

 * ... RYAN: The Speaker, who was Mitt Romney's running mate in the last election, counts as his mentors the late Congressman Jack Kemp, a moderate who co-sponsored the Kemp-Roth tax cut in 1981. Ryan called Kemp not only a mentor but a huge influence on his own political philosophy.

 * ... SEA ISLAND: McCarthy has just returned from Sea Island, Ga., where he added the American Enterprise Institute conference that included Apple CEO Tim Cook, Napster founder Sean Parker and entrepreneur Elon Musk. While there McCarthy discovered the wonders of a small shack on St. Simons Island called Southern Soul Barbecue.

 * ... FITNESS: At 46, Ryan is a fitness nut who often worked out with McCarthy in the House gym. His father died of a heart attack at 55 and it drives Ryan to put a high priority on his health. In Bakersfield, he stayed at the downtown Marriott ("Marriotts have good gyms" he told me) and showed up for breakfast after an intense 40 minute workout doing multiple reps of the p90x workout. McCarthy gave up p90x and now has a personal trainer.

 * ... HOUSE OF CARDS: Does Ryan watch the Kevin Spacey HBO series House of Cards, a political thriller based in Washington and full of deceit, sex and mayhem? "Not a chance," he told me, saying Washington can appear bad enough to outsiders without a TV drama making it worse.    McCarthy, on the other hand, was shadowed by Spacey when the series was getting under way and remains a fan of the show.

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Remembering the talented Pat Conroy, Bob Smith endorses Andrae Gonzales for City Council and readers weigh in on unruly patrons at The Fox Theater

 * ... PAT CONROY: Among the passings recently was Pat Conroy, a fellow native Southerner whose semi auto-biographical novels like "The Great Santini" and "Prince of Tides" reflected the joys
and torment of growing up in Georgia and South Carolina. In his obituary in The New York Times, he gave advice that all great writers appreciate: "One of the greatest gifts you can get as a writer is to be born into an unhappy family," he said. "I could not have been born into a better one. I don't have to look very far for melodrama. It's all right there."

 * ... CITY COUNCIL: Ward 4 City Councilman Bob Smith has wasted no time in endorsing Andrae Gonzales in his bid to unseat Terry Maxwell in the Ward 2 race. Maxwell's opposition to the widening of 24th Street and and his perceived prickly personality has earned the enmity of some members of the council, as well as City Manager Alan Tandy. In an email to friends, Smith urged everyone to attend a fund raiser for Gonzales this Thursday.

* ... FOX THEATER: There has been a lot of buzz recently about unruly guests at concerts, including here at the Fox Theater. From my mailbag come these responses: "I stopped going to the Fox Theatre when I went to a concert there for Merle Haggard," wrote Cheryl. "The crowd was so loud and obnoxious and drunk that he stopped the concert and told them if they didn't behave he wouldn't play anymore. That did it for me. That would never happen at the Crystal Palace. They need to fix this at the Fox."

 * ... MORE FOX: But Carolyn Mack added this: "My husband and I attended the same Jennifer Nettles concert as the person who wrote to you under 'Bad Form' in today's paper. We had no problems. There were many people who were clearly enjoying themselves and having liquid refreshment, but no one near us was rude, drunk, or obnoxious. It was a Saturday night, there were three opening acts, and Ms. Nettles did not appear until two hours after the concert began. Plenty of time to become unruly! We enjoy the venue and hope concerts there will continue."

 * ... FOX LOVE: And finally Amy Knight weighed in as a lover of the Fox: "It broke my heart to read the 'bad form' letter about the unfortunate experience at the Fox Theater.  I have lived in Bakersfield for over 50 years and in my younger days, I always loved going there when it was a movie theater... The management for these shows has changed hands in the past years and perhaps needs to look more closely at how they deal with people who disrupt the show for everyone else... I worry that attendance at local events will plummet even further.  Please don’t let one bad experience paint the picture of the Fox. That kind of attitude is like accepting the image of our town as filled with redneck illiterates. We need to support local arts, theater and musical events. The few rowdy unruly people are not representative of us."

 * ... NOISE POLLUTION: Allen Byrd wrote to call out the Express Transit buses that operate around town. "Express Transit continues to blast their air horns multiple times per day to announce their arrival to drop off and pick up clients at the care home on Columbia Lane despite requests over the years that the horn honking cease  I suppose the drivers would think about the situation differently if they lived near a residence caring for the disabled and they had to listen to annoying commercial air horns."

* ... CRIME: From local resident Chris Brakebill: "Seems that smashing car windows is on the increase here. Several cars, including ours, had windows smashed while parked outside of Bakersfield Swim Club one night. It’s a good idea to not leave anything you don’t want to lose…keys, garage door openers, registration, watches, glasses, etc. The time of thinking 'it won’t happen to me' is over."