Icons speak at Bakersfield Business Conference

Rebecca Neipp

News Review Staff Writer

Icons speak at Bakersfield Business ConferenceOn a relatively quiet day in the Indian Wells Valley, leaders in business and politics, along with world-renowned entertainers, were igniting the main stage of the Bakersfield Business Conference on Oct. 8 during a mecca for conservative leadership.

Included in the estimated 7,000 in attendance were local residents who brought back their impressions from the annual event.

“There was an exuberant crowd of thousands of people who were devoted in their support of the Republican ticket that was clearly observed,” said David Ostash, who attended as the chair of the AltaOne Federal Credit Union board.

“For me, the conference was more of an opportunity to keep a finger on the pulse of what is happening, politically and economically speaking, in Bakersfield.”

Ostash noted that AltaOne’s branches in the metropolitan area of Kern County give the credit union a vested interest in staying engaged. “But I think what happens in our county seat impacts all of us, since a lot of our services and quality of life depend upon the vitality of Bakersfield.”

“The conference is a great opportunity to reflect on national issues,” said Eric Bruen, CEO of Desert Valleys Credit Union, who said he brought representatives of the local institution to gain new motivations and understandings.

This year’s speakers included Ben Carson, a panel moderated by Bakersfield’s own Kevin McCarthy, famed basketball player Magic Johnson and actress Diane Keaton. While stars were paraded across the main stage, smaller groups gathered in the side venues to hear from experts in business and finance.

“I know that the big political speakers are the ones who get all the attention, but to be honest, those attendees hearing about charitable groups and economic trends and modern business practices are probably the ones who are really getting their money’s worth,” quipped Bruen.

He expressed his view that the address by Col. Allen West was the highlight of the day, managing to capture conservative ideals of limited government intervention and a strong defense that Bruen said he believes are still held by most in the Republican Party.

“I think for me, the highlight was seeing our own congressman moderating a panel of former presidential hopefuls,” said Ostash.

Former Democratic Governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson, Republican Congressman and former Governor of Louisiana Bobby Jindal and Republican Governor of Texas Rick Perry answered questions asked by House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy.

“It was really fascinating to be able to hear them talk about their experiences and their expertise outside the pressure of campaigning for office,” said Ostash.

With the revelation of controversial remarks made by current GOP nominee Donald Trump making headlines only the day before, the panel largely avoided acknowledgement of the contentious issue.

However, Jindal called Trump to task when asked directly about the incident.

“Look, I think they were awful, atrocious. There’s no defending them. It’s pathetic. Real men don’t talk like that. I’ve heard some speculation about ‘Did they know whether the mic was on or not?’ To me, that’s irrelevant.

“I think you should act the same way in private as you do in public. The way to avoid having these embarrassing things like these recordings is not to say them in the first place … I don’t think anybody can or should defend them.”

Richardson called it the nail in the coffin for Trump’s campaign.

“I think they’ve got to make a decision whether to keep him or dump him,” though he added that he knows of no mechanism to select a new nominee if Trump does not choose to withdraw.

Other conservative pundits, including Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham, defended Trump’s campaign and implored conservatives to continue their support.

“This conference definitely showed how vicious the political landscape is right now,” said Bruen. “What worries me is that we have what looks like very similar division in our community.”

“Regardless of your political views, I think what this conference underscores, to me, is the importance of being engaged,” said Ostash.

“We talk about how important it is to vote — and it is — but I think part of our civic duty is in being active in our community when it matters. It’s not enough to complain about a candidate, we have to make sure we are taking care of our neighbors. Whoever our next president is, that is something each of us can do to make our country a better place to live.”

Pictured: House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (right) moderates a panel of former presidential hopefuls, including (from left) Rick Perry, Bobby Jindal and Bill Richardson. -- Photo by Laura Austin

Story First Published: 2016-10-14