Pete McCracken – More than a City Council Member
It was a sad day in Porterville when Renaissance Man, Pete McCracken, passed away June 21st. Mr. McCracken had just been re-elected to his third term on the Porterville City Council.
Being on the city council, and having served as mayor, were just two of Mr. McCracken’s accomplishments.
According to the Fresno Bee, in the 1970s and 1980s he consulted for the World Bank on agricultural issues in Portugal, Jordan, Egypt, Thailand and Yemen. For about three years, he managed a 24,000-acre farm in Yemen and apparently spoke Arabic. Locally, he and his wife owned a Western dance studio and enjoyed dancing themselves. He and his wife also opened a restaurant that served French and American food, where Mr. McCracken was the chef. He was a veteran, having served his country as an Army Specialist from 1965 to 1967.
As the city’s vice mayor, Mr. McCracken supported former Mayor Virginia Gurrola when she attempted to pass a proclamation last year identifying June as LGBT Pride Month. For her efforts, the city council removed Ms. Gurrola as mayor, further removing Mr. McCracken as vice-mayor, and replacing them with city councilmembers Cameron Hamilton and Brian Ward. Mr. McCracken felt that he and the mayor did nothing wrong and that he was voted out of his position on the board because he supported Ms. Gurrola.
Apparently, the voters of Porterville didn’t think he did anything wrong, either, as they voted him back into office.
A week after the primary, Mr. McCracken was discharged from the hospital and had actually participated in the June 17th council meeting by phone in order to pass a new budget. He died three days later.
According to the Porterville City Charter, the city council has 30 days to fill the vacancy. If one candidate cannot get a majority of the votes, then the mayor can appoint Mr. McCracken’s replacement. According to the Porterville Recorder, councilmember Gurrola said, “I’d want someone in that position who has been involved in their community and will do their best for the city.” Unless some councilmembers start playing politics, that person is Matt Green, who took a commanding third place and is committed to public service in Porterville. Mr. Green might have even won if the general public knew that Mr. McCracken had suffered a mild heart attack shortly after Memorial Day. The Porterville City Council will be discussing their options at Tuesday’s meeting, which happens after press time.
The new appointee will hold the seat until November of 2016, as Porterville voters just changed their city council elections from June to November. An interesting twist will be if the city gets sued and has to change to district elections. In November 2016, three seats will be a full four-year term and one will only be a two-year term. How they figure which district will be saddled with the two-year term should be interesting.
Devin Nunes Has Bigger Fish to Fry
Just to keep everything straight: the Speaker of the House is John Boehner, R-Ohio, the House Majority Leader was Eric Cantor, R-Kentucky, and now is Kevin McCarthy, R-California. The House Majority whip was Rep. McCarthy and now is Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana. Rep. McCarthy is the first lawmaker from the Central Valley to hold the number-two spot in Congress.
So where is Rep. Devin Nunes in all this? Rep. Nunes is much better-known than Rep. McCarthy, and is much more active in making policy and putting forth legislation. Why doesn’t he have the number-two spot?
Many times on the news we have seen Rep. McCarthy standing alongside Rep. Cantor and Rep. Boehner during a press release or announcement, yet personally I never knew who he was. I was shocked to learn that, as a resident of Lemon Cove, not only was he my representative but he furthermore held the third-highest position in Congress.
They say that Rep. McCarthy is stronger on politics than policy, which is true. Last year, when trying to get Rep. McCarthy’s position on immigration for an article, it took five emails for his spokesperson, a Mr. Fong, to finally give me an intelligible response, if you could call it that. His position, at that time, was that he had no position, but will in the future. In the ensuing months the most controversial issue that Rep. McCarthy took a stand on was the West Nile Virus. He’s against it.
Congressional Republicans’ biggest beef with electing Rep. McCarthy as the Majority Leader was the fact that he comes from California–you know, the same state as Governor Moon Beam. No such stigma has weighed down Rep.
Nunes, who has earned his conservative chops by not just talking the talk, but by walking the walk. Because of his work in Congress he is on the House Ways and Means Committee and the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. Now Rep. Nunes has made it clear he wants to be considered the successor to the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence after the retirement of current chairman, Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Michigan.
According to Professor Nathan Moore of the University of California, Merced, as stated in the Visalia Times-Delta, “It could signal a desire to eventually make a move to the executive branch, as a cabinet secretary or head of one of the intelligence agencies, or even a run for the Senate.”
Ultimately, each of our local representatives is where they are supposed to be. You can’t have the House Majority Leader calling his colleagues “lemmings in suicide vests.” And you can’t have someone unwilling to take a stand as the Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.
Conveniently for Rep. Nunes, House Speaker John Boehner has the authority to select the next Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and guess who now has his ear?
A Debate to Forget
The Sacramento Bee, along with other media outlets, invited Gov. Jerry Brown and Neel Kashkari, to debate this fall. The same media group sponsored a debate between Gov. Brown and Republican Meg Whitman in 2010 that drew an estimated 2 million viewers.
According to the Sacramento Bee, “Kashkari has called for 10 debates… On Friday, he accepted the invitation from the Sacramento group. Pat Melton, Kashkari’s campaign manager, said in an email that ‘it is critical for voters to hear directly from both candidates about their plans to address the big challenges facing our state.”’
Anyone feel a big yawn coming on? What do they really have to debate? California’s recently signed budget, about which Mr. Kahskari has found little to criticize? Realignment? That was forced on Gov. Brown because of the inhumane overcrowding of our prisons. The $11.1 billion water bond that Gov. Brown wants to reduce to $6 billion?
In Mr. Kashkari’s only televised ad during the primary, he criticized Gov. Brown’s pet project, the High-Speed Rail (HSR). Recent polling shows that voters have changed their minds about building HSR, but not so much to get anyone excited, unless you live in Kings County. Besides, there is much unspoken support for HSR. Rich people want to be able to get on a train and catch a matinee in San Francisco then make it home for dinner. Poor people would like to have high-quality jobs with a comfortable retirement that the most vocal and loudest critics of the train already enjoy.
Both candidates really meet in the middle, and besides HSR, Mr. Kashkari doesn’t have that wedge issue to motivate voters to go to the polls. He needs to use his time in the spotlight to shore up his standing for the 2018 election. He could be the Republican counterpart to the Brown legacy. Gov. Brown’s father, Pat Brown, was a two-term governor and well liked by Republicans. In his old age, Gov. Jerry Brown has made many Republican friends.
Four years is a long time to go without saying something stupid to ruin your chances for the next election cycle. Take Hilary, for example: The more we hear, the less we like her. But Mr. Kashkari is a moderate who stays true to his beliefs. Because he doesn’t pander to the cheap seats of the Republican right, he won’t have to spend 2018 back-peddling statements made in the previous years
Two million viewers? I don’t think so. This debate season won’t create the same buzz or friction that existed in 2010 between Queen Meg and Gov. Brown, But Mr. Kashkari may still walk off the stage a winner.
A Paradigm Change
Does anyone out there think Mississippi is poor and backwards? Well, if California splits into six states, the Central Valley will take over Mississippi’s spot as the poorest state in the nation. Comforting isn’t it?
An initiative that would split California into six states will be on the ballot in November but will never become a reality. Yet this initiative has highlighted an uncomfortable and acceptable segregation in our golden state.
I remember when a friend in college said that agriculture-based economies are screwed. I said, “Really…” and he laughed at my ignorance, which wasn’t an uncommon occurrence as a university student coming from a fairly sheltered life in Visalia. Just like an undeveloped country, Tulare County’s economy overly relies on agriculture, which is a huge local employer, but pays so little that most agriculture workers could–ironically– qualify for food stamps.
Poverty and high unemployment were a problem in Tulare County before Assemblywoman Connie Conway was even a Supervisor. They were problems before Rep. Devin Nunes and Rep. David Valadao were even born. But when their overshadowed critics say we need a change in leadership, it’s the Six California’s initiative that has brought their reasons why to light.
The Fresno-based Central Valley Business Incubator (CVBI) asked the question, “Does the Valley have the talent to sustain high-tech business?” The answer was a resounding, “Yes.” The CVBI stated that the Valley has “the talent, the role models and the capital founders needed for technology ventures in our area to succeed.”
We need our local leaders to lead this county out of our internal third-world status. Tulare County needs an affordable four-year university and more industrial jobs, such as the ones offered by HSR. If our leaders think that the HSR will cost too much, for too few jobs, then they should have already brought other industries in to take its place. With the Valley’s affordable cost of living, we should be overrun by high-tech companies and factories, and our economy not overwhelmingly related to agriculture.
Let’s leave last place to Mississippi and make a paradigm change here.
A Layman’s Rant about the Middle East
When you start pining for the days of Saddam Hussein and Bashar Assad, and the stability they used to bring to the region, you know the situation has gone from bad to worse. Israel has conducted airstrikes inside of Syria. Syria has warplanes bombing Iraq, and Iran is fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) entrenched along the border. ISIS has carved out the border area of Syria and Iraq, claiming a new militant Islamist state, or caliphate. Al Qaida actually kicked ISIS out of their club because they were too extreme. All this warfare is because Muslims can’t agree on the legitimate heirs of Mohamed, so of course the only reasonable answer is to kill each other.
Now President Obama finally wants to arm the moderate Syrian rebels. He has wanted to do this for months but has had a hard time discerning what exactly constitutes a moderate Syrian rebel. The expectation is that these rebels will topple Mr. Assad and defeat ISIS. Really? The rebels can barely find their ass with both hands and yet they are supposed to do what Iran, the United States, Iraq and Syria combined have not been able to do? And what happens when our “vetted” rebels abandon their post, drop their United States-supplied arms, and run home–leaving our weapons in the hands of ISIS? How is everyone going to feel about arming the rebels then?
Sitting here between two lounging cats at my home in Lemon Cove, the answer seems pretty clear to me: We need to line our troops along the border of Jordan and Iraq and stabilize that part of the Middle East. Why? Because Jordan actually likes us, and we like them. Sure, it’s a monarchy–but we love monarchies. We practically tripped over ourselves to save Kuwait’s monarchy when Iraq took over that country in 1990.
Who doesn’t love the elegant Queen Noor, widow of the late King Hussein of Jordan? And who doesn’t gawk at her beautiful successor, Queen Rania, while she pursues her charitable work amongst the refugees and orphans, all while impeccably dressed?
While we are at it, we need to do the same in Iraq’s two other neighbors, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, hemming in the entire region. Seal off Syria, Iraq and Iran, and let them fight it out like the Christians did when Christianity was the same age as Islam is now. In a hundred years or so, the survivors might decide that how one is descended from Mohamed is not what makes one a good Muslim, and then they can go back to fighting over oil like good Christians do.