In the News - Friday, March 26,
this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)
CELEBRATING 15 YEARS
1995 ~ MARCH 2010
Kaweah Commonwealth has been telling readers things
won't read, hear, or see anywhere else for
There is no doubt that the recent economic
woes have lots of folks feeling hunger pangs, but
this messy caper that occurred Wednesday, March 24,
at Village Market in Three Rivers still has detectives
wondering why food was the loot and not just the usual
liquor and cigarettes.
Village Market owners Greg and Nataliya
Dixon, as well as a Tulare County Sheriff’s
Department forensic team, were summoned after a resident
from the adjacent Village Apartments noticed the damage
to the front entrance of the Sierra Drive store.
The roof, the back door, and the front
entrance were all heavily damaged. There was lots
of broken glass at the front entrance and reportedly
about $2,000 in inventory missing.
The property damage was just some of
the evidence at the taped-off crime scene that delayed
for several hours the normal 8 a.m. opening of the
busy store. Apparently, sometime during the night
or early-morning hours, thieves chopped their way
through the roof and dropped in for some after-hours
pilfering of the half-century-old market’s meat
inventory and other items not itemized in the sheriff’s
Evidence at the scene indicates that
a vehicle had been parked at the southwest corner
of the store whereupon the perpetrators gained access
to the roof. A forensic investigator documented some
tire tracks in the hope that identifying the vehicle
might lead to the apprehension of the burglars.
Once inside, it appeared that the suspects
had no exit strategy. Attempts were made to pry open
the heavy receiving doors at the back of the building
but to no avail. A pry bar was reportedly left wedged
between the steel doors.
The suspects then turned their attention
to the front doors, consisting of aluminum and glass.
A can of peaches was found burst open on the floor
just inside of one of the doors, its contents splashed
on the door and the floor inside.
One of the doors had evidence of attempts
to push or bash it open from the inside to the extent
of bending the heavy-gauge aluminum frame. Another
peach can was found outside, intact but battered after
it had apparently been thrown at the door to break
the glass so the thieves could exit from their self-imposed
Both the front and rear doors could have
been easily opened from within had the bandits simply
turned a latch (front door) or pulled a chain (rear
door). The police report estimated the property damage
to be about $30,000.
Anyone with information in the case is
encouraged to call the Tulare County Sheriff’s
Department at 733-6218.
Brian Rothhammer contributed
to this story.
Tulare County General Plan
comment period is now open
In California, there is no more important
document than the state-mandated general plan. When
a new general plan is released it’s a huge event
— an event that in Tulare County will affect
the quality of life of every resident, business, visitor,
and anyone who is even thinking about coming here
— today, tomorrow, and for many years to come.
The production and release of this current
2030 Update — which is actually four separate
documents consisting of 700, 900, 600 and 175 pages,
respectively, and exponentially expanding with each
round of the process — is a huge step on the
road to completion.
Like it or not, the General Plan will
eventually be completed and adopted. The key to the
plan’s adoption and successful implementation
is how well it balances the needs of its stakeholders
and the people who live and work under its jurisdiction.
And this is why Tulare County residents
need to participate in the process. Review the plan,
which is available at every library in the county
and online, and submit comments.
To get to the next step in the process,
there will be rounds of public hearings and reams
of testimony, both written and oral comments that
must be incorporated into the text and, eventually,
the final version of the completed documents.
GENERAL PLAN HISTORY: When most general plans in California
cities and counties were first being adopted in the
1950s and 1960s, the issues were more clearly delineated.
But as each entity completed a general plan, it was
apparent that some elements were missing and that
new conditions called for new considerations.
But growth and development in California
throughout its 160 years of history has remained a
constant. Hence, the guiding principle of all general
plans is that they are a blueprint for the future
and furnish guidelines as to where and how new development
Tulare County completed its first general plan in
1964. Since that time, it has employed an amendment
process to make changes of which four are allowed
each year. But so much has changed in the past 50
years the old plan has become obsolete.
Planning for the inevitable, Tulare County
had the foresight to create a rural lands plan in
the 1960s that effectively preserved agricultural
lands on the valley floor below 600 feet in elevation;
and a foothills management plan to guide development
in areas above that 600-foot threshold.
“What those policy-making documents tended to
do in the past was to encourage some of that new growth
to go to the foothills,” said Eric Coyne, spokesperson
for the Tulare County Board of Supervisors. “Others
chose to live in fringe areas near cities in rural
zoning that was either adjacent to cities or the boundaries
where cities might one day expand.”
Ironically, Coyne said, it is the fringe
areas where there is the most potential for conflict.
The folks who live there like their rural lifestyle
and now find themselves at odds with expanding cities
on one side and ranchers on the other.
“The new plan seeks to bridge some of those
gaps and plans for the development that someday might
be extended to those areas,” Coyne said. “The
County has worked diligently to strike a balance with
the cities, but there are issues on which we must
agree to disagree.”
WHAT’S NEW: In the 2030 update, Coyne said,
it would be foolish to ignore the growth projections
for Tulare County. The current population in Tulare
County is 425,000; in 20 years the experts are predicting
that population will be 750,000.
“We know that 75 percent of that growth will
occur near cities but the other 25 percent will be
in rural areas and the foothills,” Coyne said.
To better plan for that growth, the new
General Plan includes hamlet and mountain service-area
boundaries so development can be encouraged to cluster
around communities like Three Rivers. Coyne said it
makes sense from an infrastructure standpoint because
these clusters will be easier to service.
“In the old plan when we planned for growth
it was a given that the automobile was the key to
circulation, and development was haphazard,”
Coyne said. “Now we’re looking at alternative
modes of transportation like biking, buses, and trains
and places where walkable core developments are feasible.”
New methods of transportation make mixed-use
communities possible and that’s good planning,
Coyne said. Smart planning leads to more desirable
Among other new elements of the plan
is a 175-page climate action plan that was mandated
by state legislation and a comprehensive water quantity
evaluation. The Board of Supervisors mandated the
water analysis because water is the key to the future
of Tulare County in both sustaining agriculture and
providing for new growth, Coyne said.
“This plan is the culmination of nearly a decade
of work and contains some new thinking about Tulare
County’s future,” Coyne said. “But
we need to adopt this plan as quickly as possible
so that its broad umbrella of policy can apply good
planning practices to each of our individual community
In a special insert in the March 26 print
edition of The Kaweah Commonwealth are Tulare County-created
documents that explain in detail the General Plan
2030 Update and the revisions. The deadline for public
comments is provided, as are the locations where the
public may access the document and the address where
the comments should be delivered.
Public comment sought for
If you attended the local National Park
Service’s planning workshop last month, it became
crystal-clear that planning affects every division,
department, project, employee, and literally every
dollar the federal government spends in the local
national parks. The most recent planning effort centers
around three remote wilderness ranger stations that
less than one percent of park visitors will ever see,
let alone visit.
But these wilderness cabins — Le
Conte and Rae Lakes in Kings Canyon National Park
and Crabtree in Sequoia National Park — play
a vital role in the protection of some of the most
pristine wilderness in the lower 48 states. The planning
is necessary, and even urgent, because all three of
the aging ranger stations are rapidly deteriorating.
To determine the appropriate action,
park planners are in process with an Environmental
Assessment. Essentially, this is a report to document
what’s needed; that is, the paperwork of choice
for a project that is not controversial or expected
to have any significant impacts on other resources
or the environment.
This latest EA document was released
March 15. Its distribution to interested parties signaled
the start of the comment period, part of the public
review stipulated by law, to be open for 45 days;
comments on this EA are due by April 30.
Each of the three existing ranger stations
was built ca. 1970. The cabins are primarily utilitarian
not historical because each existing structure replaced
an older one that had deteriorated.
The summary of the 178-page EA document
presents four alternatives. These range from rebuilding
from the ground up to removal altogether. The no-action
alternative still calls for regular maintenance as
Alternative three, the management-preferred
alternative, is advocating replacing the existing
structures with new ranger cabins. With the exception
of LeConte, the new stations would be built in the
The LeConte ranger station would be relocated
away from sensitive bighorn sheep habitat. At any
rate, the project is an excellent reason to strap
on a backpack this summer and visit all three sites
via the John Muir Trail.
Comments may be posted online at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/seki
or submitted via mail or email. For more information,
It’s official: Zapalac
will vie for Sheriff
John Zapalac, currently the Chief of
Police for the City of Woodlake, filed papers this
month that will place him on the June ballot for Tulare
County Sheriff-Coroner. He will be running against
the incumbent, Sheriff Bill Wittman.
This is Zapalac’s second attempt
to unseat Wittman, who has served as Tulare County’s
sheriff since 1995.
“This June, the voters of Tulare County will
make choices on many issues,” said Zapalac.
“The most important choice they make will hinge
on the future of law enforcement in Tulare County.”
“Our problems are grave,” he continued.
“Gang violence has taken root in the rural communities
and they export their drugs and violence to the cities.”
Chief Zapalac has been a member of Tulare
County law enforcement for 28 years. He has pledged
to fight gangs and drugs, fight early release of criminals,
and address juvenile crime, in part by introducing
Voters will decide who will be Tulare
County’s sheriff-coroner during the Primary
Election on Tuesday, June 8.
California to vote on
California could be the very first state
in U.S. history to legalize pot if voters approve
a measure that qualified for the November ballot this
week. And it could bring the cash-strapped state some
much needed revenue.
But this measure, known as the Regulate,
Control and Tax Cannabis Act, is bound to be controversial
and puts California once again on the forefront of
the nation’s debate over drug laws.
The initiative would allow adults 21
or older to possess up to an ounce for personal use.
Currently, possession of an ounce or less of pot has
been a misdemeanor with a $100 fine.
The initiative would also allow adults
to grow up to 25 square feet of marijuana per residence
Supporters of the measure say it would
allow police to focus on serious crime, undercut Mexican
drug cartels, and make it harder for teenagers to
Opponents say passage would cause the
same kind of social ills as alcohol and tobacco and
put more demands on law enforcement.
The measure will appear on the Tuesday,
Nov. 3, Consolidated Districts Election ballot.
Roads and parking lots
at Lake Kaweah
All roadway surfaces and parking areas
managed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers at Lake
Kaweah are in the process of being repaved and resurfaced.
The improvement projects are made possible by The
American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (stimulus
Here is the project schedule:
From Monday, March 29, to Wednesday,
April 7, the Horse Creek Campground and picnic area
will be closed to vehicle access.
The Lemon Hill Recreation Area, including
the boat launch, will reopen today (March 26) after
being closed since March 22.
The lower road at Slick Rock will reopen
to vehicle access Saturday, April 10; the boat launch
and parking area remain open.
The Kaweah Recreation Area and boat launch
was closed two weeks ago, but has since reopened to
Lake Kaweah gets solar stimulus
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced
last week that Lake Kaweah is one of nine park and
dam operations in the Sacramento District that will
use stimulus dollars to install solar panels. When
completed, the new system will furnish nearly half
of all the electricity needed to operate at Lake Kaweah.
The $1.26 million contract to provide
and install the solar systems was awarded to Women’s
Empowerment Partnership Inc. of Bell Gardens. The
contractor was assisted in the procurement by the
Small Business Administration’s program that
helps disadvantaged or minority-owned firms secure
Sustainability is one of the Corps’
seven environmental operating principles implemented
in 2002, part of an organization-wide commitment to
include more enhancement and protection in its projects.
“These projects are doing exactly what the stimulus
dollars were intended to do,” said Phil Holcomb,
a Sacramento District operations manager. “It’s
providing business opportunity to a small business
and allowing local people to do the installations.”
Other area facilities receiving solar
installations are Pine Flat Dam (Fresno County) and
Lake Isabella (Kern County). All are scheduled for
completion by June.
‘Last Season’ author
Three Rivers nonfiction readers and park
history buffs will remember Eric Blehm for his gripping
account of the mysterious disappearance of Randy Morgenson
while on duty as a Sequoia-Kings Canyon National Parks
backcountry ranger in the award-winning The Last
Season (HarperCollins, 2006).
Eric is back with a book worthy of critical
acclaim. In The Only Thing Worth Dying For (HarperCollins,
2010, 375 pages, hardcover, $25.95), Eric leads readers
into the secret world of Special Forces soldiers.
These men were the first Green Beret team to fight
in Afghanistan after 9/11.
The book chronicles the critical three
weeks of the first American military unit to operate
in the Taliban-held south of Afghanistan: Operational
Detachment Alpha 574. For the first time, members
of ODA 574 have broken their silence to tell the story
about how they were tasked with seeding a rebellion
among the Pashtun in southern Afghanistan.
But with only a small team, a few donkeys,
some battered trucks, and a smattering of local guerillas
notable for their penchant for running away at the
beginning of every fight, ODA 574’s mission
seemed quixotic at best.
Two extraordinary men, however, formed
a quick friendship and were able to accomplish in
a matter of weeks what Pentagon planners prayed could
get done in half a year.
One of those men was Hamid Karzai, now
the president of Afghanistan who was, at the time,
an obscure tribal leader and “emigre statesman”
of Afghanistan. The other was Jason Amerine, the West
Point-educated captain of ODA 574.
Eric tells the spellbinding story of
how Amerine led his 10 Green Berets past infinite
obstacles to the first American victory in the Taliban
south — and to the first politically significant
victory in the entire war. From being dropped into
enemy territory in the dead of night, to Captain Amerine’s
quick realization that “There was no master
plan for Afghanistan,” to the conventional-warfare-biased
bumbling of General Tommy Franks, the bullet-sweating
of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, and the perplexing
behavior of CIA spooks, The Only Thing Worth Dying
For brings readers into the challenge-fraught
world of the elite 11 soldiers who forged a new Afghanistan.
The book’s account of the role
each member of ODA 574 played in the fight for Afghan
democracy, including the two team members who gave
their lives — the first Special Forces soldiers
fallen in the War on Terror — helps readers
understand the cost of the war beyond dollar signs
and deficits. This book, more than anything, demonstrates
exactly what it is that constitutes the only thing
worth dying for.
As a part of his research for the book,
Eric personally interviewed President Karzai.
“The research and writing of The Only Thing
Worth Dying For was as much of a revelation for me
as it will be for readers,” said the author.
“This fascinating story has never been told
in any detail, mostly because, until now, the tightly
knit Special Forces team kept their silence about
what happened in Afghanistan.”
Jason Amerine, now a major, said, “Eric
Blehm was the one writer that I, and men from ODA
574, felt could do right by our team members who lost
their lives in Afghanistan by telling the story of
our mission as we experienced it. It was this confidence
in Eric, his genuine desire to get it right, that
encouraged us to work so closely with him in order
to tell a chapter of American history that, so far,
has not been told.”
Eric is meticulous in his research and
writing. The proof is in the product.
“It was an honor that the families of the fallen
members of the team met with me and blessed this project,
their only request being that I tell it like it happened,”
said Eric. “Only then did team members let me
into their deepest and darkest memories, which is
what allowed me to tell their story.”
When the book was first released in January,
Eric was on the talk-show circuit, appearing on cable
news shows and radio programs.
Within a couple of weeks, The Only
Thing Worth Dying For was listed on the New
York Times bestseller list, where it remained
for two weeks.
Eric’s future plans include writing
a second book about another mysterious disappearance
in Kings Canyon National Park. He lives in San Diego
County with his wife and two children.
The Only Thing Worth Dying For is
available at booksellers nationwide.
Bathtub race is good, clean
The Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce
invites residents and visitors to pack a picnic and
visit Lake Kaweah tomorrow (Saturday, March 27) and
spend the day surrounded by green hills, white sand,
granite boulders, a plethora of wildflowers, and snow-covered
mountains. If this isn’t enough, then feast
your eyes on the ingenuity of a dozen or so “Bathtub
Teams” that will participate in a contest to
earn money for local causes.
The teams will represent several groups,
agencies, and businesses: Three Rivers Volunteer Firefighters
and Ambulance, Three Rivers Bread Basket, Tulare County
Sheriff’s Department, Pro Youth HEART, Lake
Kaweah volunteers, Comfort Inn & Suites, Community
Presbyterian Church, Reimer’s Candies, Sequoia
Motel, Team Diana, and Three Rivers Bed and Breakfast.
Their mission is to convert a cast-iron bathtub into
a floatable, steerable vessel using recyclables and
downed tree branches.
Several awards will be presented, such
as: Mostly Likely to Sink, Most Creative, and Most
Attractive; but the main goal is to build a “boat”
that will float across the designated channel.
The winner will win the pot of all the teams’
pledges to donate to their favorite charity.
“So pack a lunch, bring the children and grandchildren,
and come on down for some good old-fashioned fun,”
invites Leah Catherine Launey, event organizer and
SFCC board member. “Don’t have time to
make lunch? Let our local markets and restaurants
do it for you!”
The picnic will also feature other friendly
competitions such as sack races, wheelbarrow races,
and three-legged races.
Veterans Center to reach out
to Three Rivers
By Brian Rothhammer
The Mobile Vet Center is on its way to
Three Rivers. Not only will Christopher Selby (E3,
USN ret.) and Guadalupe Sanchez (Lance Cpl., USMC
ret.) be offering services to combat veterans this
weekend, but they are seeking to hire local contractors
(Clinical Social Worker, Psychologist) to provide
services here on a permanent basis.
Chris and Lupe will be easy to spot in
their 39-foot mobile outreach unit at the Three Rivers
Arts Center on North Fork Drive from 4 to 8 p.m. on
Friday, March 26. On Saturday, March 27, they will
set up at the Slick Rock Recreation Area at Lake Kaweah.
The converted RV is fully outfitted as
a mobile office and outreach center with two offices,
six phone lines, computers, fax, Wi-Fi and, more importantly,
Chris and Lupe to provide a better understanding of
the Veterans Administration and to help fellow veterans
and their families navigate through it all.
By the tens of thousands, young Americans
from all walks of life join the Armed Forces of the
United States. Their reasons for joining may be as
complex and diverse as the people themselves but by
the end of their military training three things take
precedent above all others; duty, honor, country.
For many, their civilian lives and the
familiar luxuries that go with them are soon traded
for a life unimaginable to any who have not lived
it. These days, active duty involves armed combat
in distant lands. After their tours of duty are over
they rotate back to the States and are expected to
simply resume a civilian existence.
By the late 1970s, there was a developing
public awareness of the difficulties faced by returning
veterans from Vietnam and southeast Asia. In 1979,
the Vet Center Program was established by Congress
to help ease the transition to civilian life.
In 1991, the program was expanded to
include veterans of the armed hostilities in Lebanon,
Grenada, Panama, the Persian Gulf, Somalia, and Kosovo/Bosnia.
In 1996, World War II and Korean War combat vets were
The year 2003 saw the inclusion of veterans
from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Family members
of the above-mentioned veterans may also receive services
from the Vet Centers.
“This is a new thing,” said Chris of the
Rural Health Initiative and its Mobile Vet Centers.
A fleet of 50 of the specialized units
hit the road nationwide in July 1996 with five servicing
the Golden State.
“We are over 80 percent veteran staffed, and
we are here to bring services to our guys,”
“All a veteran serviceman or woman (or family
member) needs to do is come on in and ask for services,”
he said. “Veterans can enroll for readjustment
counseling and on the same day we can set up a referral
to Dr. Middleton, our contracted counselor in Visalia.
We are looking for qualified contractors in the Three
Rivers/Lemon Cove area to provide additional services.”
“Computers are valuable tools,” said Guadalupe,
“but to me it’s more personal. I’m
more of a pen-and-paper kind of guy. It’s about
people, not numbers.”
Lupe’s words echo the statement
of the Vet Center website; we understand, and most
of all, we care.
If you are a combat veteran or know of
one who may benefit from readjustment counseling services,
or for any information regarding the Mobile Vet Center
services, call Christopher Selby at (559) 487-5660.
Spring has sprung
the North Fork
Uno is the newest member of the Wood
‘N’ Horse Stables family. Uno is so-named
because he is the first foal born to his 14-year-old
Owned by Erin Farnsworth, a World Champion
member of the Wood ‘N’ Horse Show Team,
Justa Native, also known by her stable name “Pie,”
gave birth on Monday, March 15, at 1:45 a.m.
Stable owner Christy Wood had a closed-circuit
monitor set up in the paddock so she could keep an
eye on the expectant mother from her bedroom.
Uno is brown with one white fetlock and
a blaze face. But according to Christy, his coat will
lighten to look more like his appaloosa mother’s
as he gets older due to the telltale sign of the white
circle around his eyes.
1922 ~ 2010
Alfred F. Martorano, a former resident
of Three Rivers, died Saturday, March 20, 2010, at
his daughter’s home in Coal Valley, Ill. He
A memorial service will be held at a
later date. Memorials may be made to the Alzheimer’s
Association (www.alz.org). The family is being served
by Trimble Funeral and Cremation Center in Coal Valley.
Alfred was born August 24, 1922, to Dominic
and Lena Helen Gagliardi Martorano in Trinidad, Colo.
He served in the U.S. Navy during World War II.
In 1951, he married Mary Ann Otis in
Los Angeles. He was a biochemist.
Alfred was preceded in death by a son,
In addition to his wife of nearly 60
years, Mary Ann, Alfred is survived by 10 children
and their spouses, Frank and Faith Martorano of Ringwood,
N.J., Ann Marie and Scott Powers of Santa Barbara,
Christine and Jon Martinez of San Diego, Theresa and
Brad Keleher of Coal Valley, Ill., John and Janet
Martorano of Albany, Joann Martornano of Portland,
Ore., Philip and Mary Martorano of Pittsburgh, Penn.,
Beth and Bryan Smith of Aptos, Joseph Martorano of
San Francisco, and Stephen and Lucila Martorano of
Santa Barbara; 22 grandchildren; 17 great-grandchildren;
seven sisters; and one brother.
Alfred’s family invites friends
to sign his guestbook or light a candle in his memory
1927 ~ 2010
Virginia May Botkin of Visalia died Sunday,
March 14, 2010. She was 82.
Virginia was born June 18, 1927, to Dorval
Wallace and Versa May Beamish in Visalia. Because
her parents were both deaf-mute, Virginia grew up
communicating with American Sign Language.
Virginia and her younger sister Rosalie
(Shiffert) loved to sing and often performed together
in the Exeter Lions Club Follies.
Virginia graduated from Visalia Union
High School (now Redwood). In 1949, she married William
Bill and Virginia raised their three children in Exeter.
She was a homemaker who particularly loved family
gatherings and time spent in Mineral King.
Virginia was preceded in death by her
husband of 53 years, Bill, in 2002, as well as her
parents and sister.
She is survived by son William “Billy”
C. Botkin of Visalia, son Michael Botkin and wife
Jana of Three Rivers, and daughter Laurie Metz of
South Lake Tahoe; aunts, uncles, many nieces, and
At Virginia’s request, there will
be no service.
Remembrances may be made to the Mineral
King Preservation Society, P.O. Box 286, Exeter, CA
93221, or a charity of the donor’s choice.
Stewart Udall, Secretary of
1920 ~ 2010
Stewart Lee Udall, former Secretary of the Interior,
died Saturday, March 20, 2010, at his home in Santa
Fe, N.M. He was 90.
Secretary Udall was born January 31, 1920, in St.
Johns, Ariz. He was one of five children raised on
a small subsistence farm in the northeastern corner
of the state, not far from Zuni and Navajo reservations.
Udall attended Thatcher Junior College
and the University of Arizona. He interrupted his
studies to serve as a Mormon missionary in New York
and Pennsylvania and as a B-24 tail gunner in Italy
during World War II.
After the war, he returned to finish
his degree and attend law school. In 1954, Udall was
elected to Congress and held the seat until President
Kennedy tapped him to become Secretary of the Interior.
He served in this position from 1961
to 1969. He was responsible for helping to write numerous
pieces of legislation to conserve and protect public
lands, including the Wilderness Act, the Endangered
Species Preservation Act, and the Land and Water Conservation
During his tenure, the National Park
Service added four national parks — Redwood,
Guadalupe Mountains, North Cascades, and Canyonlands
— six national monuments, nine recreation areas,
20 historic sites, and 56 wildlife refuges.
He was a committed outdoorsman who fought
for clean air, clean water, and on behalf of wildlife
and wild places.
In 2001, Secretary Udall was preceded
in death by his wife Erma Lee Udall.
He is survived by their six children
and eight grandchildren.