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In the News - Friday, January 6, 2012



Generals Highway ‘between the parks’ closed

  In the 1990s, it was the closure of all concession facilities in the Giant Forest. Throughout the current decade, it has been road construction that has been almost non-stop.
   Now the latest blow to the local economy is the closing of Generals Highway between Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks. When the highway is closed yet snow-free that means less travelers between the parks and that translates to less jingle in cash registers of innkeepers and retailers in Three Rivers and up and down Highway 198.
   According to Karen Taylor-Goodrich, Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks superintendent, National Park Service officials had no choice. The road was officially closed Tuesday, Jan. 3, following the busy New Year’s holiday weekend.
   It could be reopened for the next holiday weekend — Martin Luther King Day on January 16, Taylor-Goodrich said, or it might just remain closed until April.
Park officials are looking for options, i.e., funding, but there are extenuating circumstances that have dictated this latest closure. First and foremost is safety, Taylor-Goodrich emphasized.
   While the Halstead Meadow bridge is closed, the only way through the area for park traffic is a one-lane dirt road that currently has no flaggers or traffic signals. It has no flaggers because there is no contract currently in place to finish the bridge relocation and rebuilding project. This is because planners forecast that there would be snow on the ground right now.
   In an ordinary winter, there would be snow in the Halstead area and on the entire stretch of the Generals Highway between the parks. To physically close the highway would be a moot point as the snowstorms would instead dictate the closure.
   Then the decision becomes when to plow the road. Typically, the road closures would only last a few days while the snow is removed.
   During the winter of 2010-2011, the road was intermittently closed until the big February storms closed it for an extended period. That monster snowpack and recurring storms had the road closed until it could be plowed and reopened two months later.
   But this year even the lack of snow has presented challenges.
  “In a normal winter, it would have been extremely difficult to continue working on the bridge project, so presently there is no contract and the construction company is on winter break,” Taylor-Goodrich said. “Without the company flaggers to monitor traffic flow, we don’t have the personnel or resources to do the job.”
   With some potentially busy winter weekends rapidly approaching and an uncertain weather forecast, nobody is quite sure what will happen.
  “We [the NPS] want the visitors to come and be able to enjoy these beautiful parks,” Taylor-Goodrich said. “Right now, we are searching for options but because of the budget constraints, it’s difficult to justify using the personnel to keep the highway open.”

Breaking, entering, stealing
at Badger Mountain House

  If you have ever driven the scenic back roads to Grant Grove on the Highway 180 side of the parks then you must have noticed the landmark Badger Mountain House restaurant and saloon where Dry Creek Road meets Highway 245. It’s an inviting old place where locals congregate and visitors are always welcome.
   Most of the establishment’s past owners have either lived on-site or had in-residence employ
ees who usually deterred incidents like what happened in the early morning hours of   December 30. In this case, the unattended rural business was just too much temptation for two burglars who gained entry to the premises.
   The culprits removed a cash register and an ATM and generally made a mess of the place.  They also left behind a number of clues including surveillance-video recordings of some of the action.
   Two hooded individuals of medium size and build were seen scurrying around inside the building. No official report of the incident was released by the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department, so there is no estimate as to the value of the stolen property.
   The most recent incident was similar to the Three Rivers Market heist of November 30. In the Three Rivers burglary attempt, the thieves also appeared to be after the ATM but ran off when the live-in owner intervened.

  No charges filed— In the case involving the alleged burglary of a Mineral King Road residence (3R man arrested in burglary attempt, December 30, 2011), Jameson Haley, 35, was released from custody after the Tulare County District Attorney elected not to file charges. According to Ralph Kaelble, supervising attorney for the DA’s office, charges must be filed within 48 hours, excluding Sundays and holidays.
  “The fact that no charges were filed at this time doesn’t mean the defendant is innocent or guilty,” Kaelble said.
   Both these cases remain under investigation by the Tulare County Sheriff’s Department.   Anyone with information in these cases or any illegal activity is encouraged to contact the Sheriff’s Department at 733-6218 or by anonymously emailing tcso@tipnow.com or texting (559) 725-4194.

Legislative districts and local boards: 2012 changes

  Compared to some more populous areas of California, redistricting will be relatively seamless in Three Rivers. There will be some changes, however, with the most notable being in the U.S. House of Representatives.
   Under the new alignment, Three Rivers, formerly a part of the 21st district represented by Devin Nunes (R), will now be included in Kevin McCarthy’s (R) 22nd District. McCarthy, a Bakersfield native, has risen quickly to Majority Whip since his election to the House in 2006.
   In the California state senate and assembly, the districts remain the same. Jean Fuller (R-19th District) is the local state senator; Connie Conway (R-34th District) remains the local assemblywoman.
   In Tulare County, there are no redistricting changes that will affect the Three Rivers or Woodlake areas. In District 1 (Three Rivers), Supervisor Allen Ishida is set to launch a campaign for reelection and is also expected to be confirmed as chairman of the board for 2012 at the next BOS regular meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 10.
   The Three Rivers Community Services District (CSD) has three new members: Robert Groeber, Jacki Fletcher, and Dave Vasquez. These directors were appointed to four-year terms and join Rex Black and Mike Cannarozzi as members of the 2012 board.
   The Three Rivers Memorial District also has two new members for 2012: Maureen “Mo” Basham and Richard Fletcher.
   Basham and Fletcher, both veterans, join current Memorial District board members Marge Ewen, Frank Capalare, and Dave Sherwood. Supervisor Allen Ishida will attend Monday’s meeting (January 9) to officially install the new members.
   The former Woodlake High School District now becomes part of the Woodlake Unified School District. Incumbents Joe Hallmeyer (elementary board), Ralph Chapman (elementary board), Richard Rochin (high school board), Kent Owen (high school board), Edmund Pena (high school board), and Helen Renteria (elementary board) were all retained as a result of the November 8, 2011, election; one newcomer George Sanchez was also elected to the new unified seven-seat board of trustees. Owen and Pena are the Three Rivers area trustees.

Photo caption:

  The Three Rivers Community Services District has sworn in three appointed board members to serve four-year terms. From left to right: Jacki Fletcher (2012-2016), Robert Groeber (2012-2016), Rex Black (board member since 2006), Cindy Howell (general manager), David Vasquez (2012-2016), and Mike Cannarozzi (board member since 2001).

Photo caption:

  A crop of New Year’s Day revelers who immersed themselves in the Kaweah River as part of the 11th annual “Polar Bear Plunge,” held adjacent to The Gateway Restaurant.

National Park Service in mourning

  On New Year’s Day 2012, at about 11 a.m., Margaret Anderson, National Park Service ranger at Mount Rainier National Park, was shot and killed in the line of duty. Ranger Anderson, 34, was killed when she attempted to stop a suspect who had failed to yield at a chain-control checkpoint.
   The suspect exited his vehicle and fatally shot Ranger Anderson before fleeing on foot. The body of her assailant, Benjamin Barnes, who fled into the backcountry, was found by searchers on the afternoon of January 2.
   The intensive manhunt for Barnes came to an end when searchers in an aircraft spotted a body lying face down and partially submerged in the Paradise River in the vicinity of Narada Falls. The falls are located north of Longmire and south of Paradise, the two main visitor areas in the southern portion of the park. Searchers on the ground traversed challenging terrain to reach the spot where Barnes was sighted and confirmed that it was the suspect and that he was dead, apparently of exposure.
   Mount Rainier National Park was closed during the hunt for the gunman, with the park evacuating park visitors to remove them from potential danger. Mount Rainier will reopen Saturday, Jan. 7.
   Ranger Anderson served at Mount Rainier for three years and had worked for the Park Service since 2000. She is survived by her husband, also a park ranger at Mount Rainier, and by two young children.
   In honor of Ranger Anderson, flags in the Pacific West Region, which includes Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, will be flown at half-staff until sunset on the date of interment.   As of Thursday, Jan. 5, the date of Ranger Anderson’s memorial service or funeral arrangements had not been announced.
   Uniformed employees throughout the National Park System will wear black mourning bands on their badges through the month of January, according to a directive issued by Jonathan Jarvis, National Park Service director.

Taxpayers receive gift of extended deadline

  The Internal Revenue Service opened the 2012 tax filing season this week by announcing that taxpayers have until Tuesday, April 17, to file their tax returns.
   The IRS encourages taxpayers to e-file as it is the best way to ensure accurate tax returns and get faster refunds. Other improvements to streamline the tax process includes new navigation features, helpful information on IRS.gov, and a new pilot program to allow taxpayers to use interactive video to get help with tax issues.
   Taxpayers are provided with the extended deadline to file their 2011 tax returns and pay any tax due because April 15 falls on a Sunday and Emancipation Day, a holiday observed in the District of Columbia, falls this year on Monday, April 16. According to federal law, District of Columbia holidays impact tax deadlines in the same way that federal holidays do; therefore, all taxpayers will have two extra days to file this year.
   Taxpayers requesting an extension will have until Oct. 15 to file their 2011 tax returns.
   The IRS expects to receive more than 144 million individual tax returns this year, with most of those being filed by the April 17 deadline.
   The IRS will begin accepting e-file and Free File returns on January 17, 2012. IRS Free File provides options for free brand-name tax software or online fillable forms plus free electronic filing.
   Everyone can use Free File to prepare a federal tax return. Taxpayers who make $57,000 or less can choose from approximately 20 commercial software providers. There’s no income limit for Free File “Fillable Forms,” the electronic version of IRS paper forms, which also includes free e-filing.
   Last year, the IRS unveiled IRS2Go, its first smartphone application that lets taxpayers check on the status of their tax refund and obtain helpful tax information.
   Individuals making $50,000 or less can use the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program for free tax preparation. Individuals age 60 and older can take advantage of free tax counseling and basic income tax preparation through Tax Counseling for the Elderly. Information on these programs and more can be found at IRS.gov.

Wolf enters California

  There hasn’t been a wild gray wolf in California since the last one was reportedly killed in Lassen County in 1924. The available historic information on wolves in California suggests that while they were widely distributed, they were never abundant.
   So it is a historic event that the two-and-a-half-year-old gray wolf “OR7,” which was wandering in southern Oregon, crossed the California border in late December. The California Department of Fish and Game is currently documenting its travels since the animal is collared with a GPS device. Based on the GPS data, OR7, a male, has traveled more than 300 miles from where his journey began.
   Wolves are protected as endangered under the Federal Endangered Species Act. There are more than 1,600 wolves in the northern Rocky Mountains following a federal reintroduction effort in the 1990s. In 1999, a single wolf crossed into Oregon from Idaho, and there are now at least 24 wolves in Oregon.
   It took 12 years for a wolf to reach California. Whether this will lead to the establishment of packs or simply transient individual animals is unknown.

Concert to feature Russian composer:
Background provided on Shostakovich

News of the Three Rivers Performing Arts Institute

By Bill Haxton

  Buried within the 80 years of international struggle that defined the Cold War with the Soviet Union is a little known, much smaller domestic struggle between Joseph Stalin and Russian composer Dmitri Shostakovich. The world was fortunate to have survived the international struggle, and Shostakovich was fortunate to have survived Stalin.
   Born in 1906 in St. Petersburg 11 years before the Bolshevik Revolution, Shostakovich quickly emerged as a musical prodigy in piano and composition. In 1919, the Petrograd Conservatory, by then under the control of the new Soviet government, allowed him to enter its prestigious music program when he was only 13, where he easily mastered the course of study.
   But as prologue to the coming conflict with Stalin, he was identified by state observers for his perceived lack of political zeal, and to make matters worse, he failed his initial exam in Marxist methodology.
   That was a big problem. The Soviet Union had no compunction about coercing artists to create works that served the purposes of the state.
   Many, perhaps most, composers during that era caved in to this pressure and eliminated all themes and motifs the state might consider bourgeois.
   Shostakovich, however, was openly disdainful of Stalin’s interference. Still a young composer, he was already well known in music circles for finding melodies, harmonies and rhythms whose sarcasm and ridicule were unmistakable but which escaped notice by Stalin’s “critics.” He was on thin ice and knew it, but persisted anyway.
   On the way to premiere his Sonata for Cello and Piano, the piece Diego Miralles and Yana Reznik will perform during the second half of the Saturday, Jan. 7, concert, Shostakovich reportedly read Stalin’s statement in Pravda attacking his music as “bourgeois.” Shostakovich fumed, but not long after this his strongest supporter in the Soviet government was executed and Shostakovich dialed back his rebelliousness a bit.
   The Cello Sonata did not raise the ire of the state, though it easily could have. It opens with an energetically lyrical theme that suggests the old Russia before quieting into a nostalgic, longing second theme.
   These two themes evolve side by side throughout the first movement until they give way at the end to surrender and resignation.
   The short and fast second movement saws away that past. Here, Shostakovich skewers the Soviet government with a theme that would be festive if it weren’t for the sarcastically undanceable rhythm and a melody that could be joyous but instead is ripe with scorn.
   Some of the most beautiful melodies in all of music have come from melancholy, and the Cello Sonata’s third movement is no exception. Like a soliloquy, it opens with a whispered appeal from cello that is both profound and questioning, then arcs through a beautiful, slow middle section to a conclusion that can barely endure the world it is describing.
   The last movement is comically rude, full of mischief, and devil-may-care bombast. The momentum builds and builds, then comes to an abrupt and unceremonious end.
   Shostakovich abhorred the pompous buffoonery of the Soviet state and satirized it wonderfully in this movement.
   After the execution of his patron, Shostakovich played more or less by Stalin’s rules. Nevertheless, he continually found clever ways to taunt and jab the Soviet regime without landing himself in prison, or worse.
   When Stalin demanded that Shostakovich submit all his operas and ballets for state approval, Shostakovich simply ceased writing operas and ballets and wrote in other forms.
   Later in life, defiant to the end, Shostakovich commented on his long and dangerous relationship with Joseph Stalin: “Music illuminates a person and provides him with his last hope; even Stalin... knew that.”
   Tickets for the January 7 concert featuring cellist Diego Miralles and pianist Yana Reznik are $12 at Chump’s Video.

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