TAX REFORM

Get ready for a strong backlash to part of the Republican's tax reform plan that would cut in half the amount that taxpayers can deduct for interest payments on home loans. Under the bill, homeowners would only be able to deduct interest payments on their first $500,000 in home loans, down from the current $1 million. This is sure to spark a furious backlash from Realtors and financial institutions who believe it could hurt home ownership, but how many of us have homes (or second homes) with mortgages in the $1 million range? Another change certain to draw fire: limiting to $10,000 the amount of property taxes that could be deducted.

ALDI STORES

I see a new Aldi discount grocery store is getting ready to open in the spot where Fresh and Easy was located over by Bed, Bath and Beyond on Stockdale Highway. The German-based company is opening some 900 outlets in the United States. Aldi has smaller grocery stores, usually less than 20,000 square feet, with 90 percent of its products sold as company brands.

GAS PRICES

A new round of California taxes went into effect this month, starting with an additional 12 cents-per-gallon tax on gas and 18 cents-a-gallon on diesel. In addition, the California legislature imposed higher vehicle licensing fees, all of which is facing opposition across the state. There are now several proposed ballot measures to repeal the taxes, led by Republican lawmakers who hope to capitalize on the issue in the mid term elections next year.

SPOTTED ON TWITTER

A woman writes: "Someone asked me if I was from the Midwest. I said, 'No, I am from Bakersfield.' He responded 'Well, Bakersfield is the Midwest of California.'"

BLACK WIDOWS

Has anyone noticed the explosion of black widow spiders this late in the year? The spider webs are hard to detect but take a walk with a flashlight and you might be surprised at what you find.

THEFT

I occasionally read the Facebook page called "Bakersfield Thieves," and it is always a terrifying look at the rampant crime that happens daily in our community. The other day a woman wrote that she came home in the Norris Road and Airport Drive area and found her home ransacked. The thieves took a big screen television, a sound bar, jewelry, an Apple watch and some clothes. But they also took a small urn holding the ashes of her grandfather. "I’m sure this post will be seen by those who did this. I am not asking to get everything back, I don’t expect that. But I do wish to get my grandpa's ashes back and hopefully my jewelry because that has a lot of sentimental value to it. I am not seeking to get anyone in trouble or hurt. I just want my grandpa home where he belongs. I understand you may not of known that was an urn you took, but it holds a very special man. A man I need here at home with me."

ORCHESTRA

There is a fundraising effort to raise some $300,000 to send more than 100 high school orchestra members to New York to play at Carnegie Hall. Organizers say the Stockdale High orchestra was selected to perform at the International Music Festival on April 24, 2018. This is a high honor for our local musicians and if you want to help, send a check to the school made out to the Stockdale High School Orchestra with "Carnegie Hall" written on the memo line. Cal (661) 204-5830 with questions or email stockdalehsorchestra@gmail.com.

Email contributing columnist Richard Beene at rsbeene@yahoo.com. His work appears here on Wednesdays and Fridays; the views expressed are his own. Read more on his blog at BakersfieldObserved.com.

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