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In the News - Friday, August 29, 2008


—See this week's FRONT PAGE (PDF)


Only in the Aug. 29, 2008,

print edition:

Kaweah Country

Visitor Guide

Summer~Fall 2008

Car trouble

On the morning of Monday, Aug. 18, a 2000 Volkswagen Passat overheated and quickly became engulfed in flames near the Deer Ridge section of the Generals Highway in Sequoia National Park. The woman driver, her mother and seven-month-old twins were able to escape to safety. The highway was evacuated and closed for about two hours while firefighters responded to the vehicle fire and resulting wildland fire, which spread about 100 feet up the steep embankment.

Class of 2021

The Three Rivers School kindergartners settled in on their first day of school, which this year was Wednesday, Aug. 20. These five-year-olds, taught by Laura Harrison and longtime teacher’s aide Robin Pena, will graduate high school in 2021. These kids are being called the “Net Generation” due to the digital gadgets and services that will be an indispensable part of their lives to keep them constantly connected to a global community.

Code compliance is now

the norm, no longer the exception

   In more than two decades as Tulare County’s Code Compliance manager, Bruce Kendall has seen it all when it comes to use violations, especially in the more isolated areas of the county. But his job, one that in some cases includes imposing fines on hardworking rural residents, can be difficult and downright unpleasant.

  “Contrary to what some folks may think, it’s not the county’s intention to impose fines, but to achieve compliance,” Kendall told members of the Tulare County Planning Commission during its Wednesday, Aug. 27, meeting. “We’re a reactive agency so we rely on complaints.”
   In Three Rivers and other rural areas where archaic zoning is in need of updating, some uses that are in violation are coming under the county’s radar. Kendall said the fact that there are more Three Rivers cases recently is because today he has more staff to send out to check on complaints.

  “Fifteen years ago I was it, the county’s entire code compliance department,” Kendall said. “Currently, I have a staff of 10 who can go out in the field and bring to the attention of the property owner that a specific use is a violation.”
   The most common violations are uses for a property that were commenced without a Special Use Permit. Tulare County has had a conditional-use ordinance on the books for more than 50 years. A 2001 ordinance doubled the cost of a Special Use Permit that varies depending on the use but may cost $5,000 or more with administrative costs.
   In a recent Three Rivers case, a non-complying horse-breeding operation was inadvertently being conducted in a residential zone. A Special Use Permit remedied the situation.
   Most often, a non-complying use is brought to the attention of Code Compliance due to the fact that neighbors of the property deem the use to be an intrusion into their daily lives. This intrusion can be noise, dust, or some other form of nuisance. Kendall says that often complaints stem from one person who was denied a use and thinks “so should they.”
   Even a well-meaning nonprofit like the Three Rivers Lions Club is required to obtain a Special Use Permit to ensure that their events comply with regulations. After completing a lengthy administrative process, the Lions were granted a Special Use Permit in 2007. The terms of the permit impose several conditions, including the number of “amplified” events that may be held annually.
   If a case is determined to be in violation, the initial actions are followed by a series of notices. Failure to comply with the terms of the notices may result in fines of $1,000 per day.
   Often a situation may be brought into compliance by the property owner or the applicant obtaining a Special Use Permit. There are conditions that must be met like, for example, a curfew for events.   The property’s use must be kept at the same level or less as stated in the conditions of the permit.

  “In the event that the property owner refuses to comply, the only means we have to stop the use is to approach the courts and obtain an injunction,” Kendall said.
   A non-complying use that continues over time tends to generate other non-complying uses, Kendall said, “and there goes the neighborhood.” The county receives more than 800 complaints annually and conducts a monthly average of 16 administrative hearings.
   For more information on the permit process or to learn if a current use might be in violation, call Code Compliance at 733-6291.

College students from Three Rivers

discuss European tour

   If a student in college these days, there are many life-changing decisions that must be made. None is any more critical than how to spend the summer months.
   It’s not as easy as one might think. Some students need to earn summer credits to stay on track for graduation while others need a job just to make ends meet.
   For one fortunate group of Three Rivers students, who just happened to be childhood friends, the choice was a no-brainer. For these five, everything lined up to spend eight weeks visiting seven countries in Europe.
   The idea for a European trip was first hatched by David Fintel. At 24, he’s the oldest of the friends and he admitted that he wanted to go before it was too late and he takes a permanent job. Once he convinced Devon Ehrlichman to get on board with checking out Europe, the flight schedule coalesced around the plans of Julia Ehrlichman, a junior at UCLA who wanted to complete a study abroad immersion program in Spanish in, where else?, Spain.
   For Julia, a sociology major, the crash course in Spanish fulfilled two semesters of her foreign language requirement and had lots of appeal as a romantic venue for the required curriculum. Flying to and from with the group really eased the concerns of Julia’s mom,    Tina St. John, who instinctively worried about her daughter being on her own in a foreign country.
   The travelers, all raised in Three Rivers, included Julia’s brother Devon, a San Diego State senior (kinesiology); David, a Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, senior (food science); and Deva DeLisio, a sophomore at Cuesta Community College. The group departed the U.S. on Monday, June 16, and spent the next few days with family and friends in London.
   Sharna Yee, a UCLA sophomore (art), met up with her friends later for the last three weeks of the trip. So while the guys strapped on their packs and hit the road, Julia took a flight to Madrid, Spain, then a train to Granada to attend her Spanish program.

  “Most of the first four weeks, the intensive learning part of the session, were spent in our hotel ballroom in Granada, which is in southern Spain,” Julia explained. “The classes were taught by UCLA grad students and they really made the time we spent there a blast.”
During a free weekend, a contingent of the 80 UCLA students in the program took a bus to Pamplona in northern Spain for the Festival of San Fermin.

  “The trip up north was planned for us to experience the traditional Running of the Bulls,” Julia said. “It was like attending a 24-hour party with an entire town.”
   Julia said the Running of the Bulls, where lots of revelers were knocked off their feet and nearly trampled, was the highlight of her stay in Spain. But there were lots of others as the entire UCLA group relocated to Barcelona after concluding classes in Granada. Here, the students focused on some of the cultural sites that they had recently been studying.

  “It’s difficult for me to describe how great it was traveling around Spain and visiting the museums in Madrid,” Julia recalled. “We experienced firsthand how traditional Spanish expressionism evolved to modern art… the history, the language, and the sightseeing; it all came alive by knowing first the history of each place that we visited.”
   Julia was also impressed by the warm, friendly people she met all over Europe, but especially in Spain.

  “We made lots of friends over there, so someday I know I’ll be going back,” Julia said.
   Meanwhile, as Julia was concentrating on Spain, the guys were making good use of their Eurail passes, a convenient way to get around in Europe where more than a dozen countries have contiguous borders.
   The Eurail passes can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to thousands, depending on the duration of the package. All that’s required after buying a ticket to ride is a minimalist’s pack, some pocket money, and a zeal for adventure.
   The guys backpacked their way around the United Kingdom, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany, the Czech Republic, and Switzerland. The male contingent arrived in Barcelona in late July and met up with Julia and Sharna.
   Together, the group visited more of Spain, Italy, and timed it just right to be in Grenoble to attend the final stage of the Tour de France.
   Barcelona, Julia said, seemed like an artsy, exotic San Francisco. The guys said their favorite city was Amsterdam and that the best beer in Europe is Stella Artois. All agreed that the pizza in both northern and southern Italy is beyond comparison to any American imitator.

  “I guess for me the highlight was being able to experience all the cultures and the unique geography,” Devon said. “People of all ages seemed to know more about politics and were genuinely interested in improving relations with the U.S. It was obvious that what the Bush administration has done has also affected Europeans.”
   The students were impressed by the fact that everywhere they went Europeans asked them about Senator Obama. These young Americans got the message loud and clear: Europeans would like to see a change in the White House, and the key to the change they would like to see is Barack Obama.

  “What I really learned from the trip is that everyone should travel to Europe,” said David. “It’s a good place to go when you first venture out of this country. It’s very travel friendly.”
   In general, the summer in Europe is hot, but high alpine mountains and cool water are always close by, as are some of the best coastline to be found on the planet. Whenever time permitted, the best river swimmers of the bunch — raised on the Kaweah, remember — enjoyed some great cliff diving. The guys also climbed some high-country terrain that they said was reminiscent of Mineral King and the Sierra.
   Friends of Sharna’s parents operate a hotel in Rome and they graciously furnished some student accommodations for the travelers. Her trip was made possible, she said, because her parents had some frequent flyer miles available.

  “The cultural diversity of Europe really opens you up to another realm of possibilities in your own life,” Sharna said.
   The consensus of the group was that travel is and should be an important part of everyone’s education.

  “We realized that we were so far away and yet we can pick up our cell phones and call home,” Julia concluded. “Everywhere we went there are many differences in these people or that country, but yet we are all citizens of one world, one planet.”


Ja Nene Natural Body Products:

Cosmetic and personal care product safety

by Janene Lasswell

  This article is published as part of the Sequoia Mountain Healers series. The SMH mission is to create opportunities for enhancing health and wellness, encourage and promote diverse healing service, and provide a network for health and wellbeing professionals.
   Here are some things that multinational companies like Estee Lauder, Johnson & Johnson, and Alberto-Culver hope you never know:
   Most U.S. cosmetic safety reviews are conducted by the Cosmetics Industry Review Panel, an insider, industry-funded group that tests ingredients for its own members. In the last 30 years, the panel has managed to test only 11 percent of the more than 10,500 chemicals used in our products. The countries of the European Union, on the other hand, have banned over 1,000 harmful chemicals from cosmetics and enacted the “EU Directive Cosmetic Law.”
   Our federal government has banned only 10 chemicals, has no cosmetics law, and according to the FDA, “a cosmetic manufacturer may use almost any raw material as a cosmetic ingredient and market the product without an approval from FDA” (FDA 1995, and still applicable today).
   On average, American consumers are “exposed daily to 126 unique chemical ingredients from personal care products alone,” according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (CSC).
   Why this matters— Everyday our families are exposed to harmful chemicals because we trust the manufacturers and few of us have the ability or time to test everything we use. For example, here are three commonly used products.
   1. Nexxus Botanoil Botanical Treatment Shampoo contains BHA, which is banned in Europe, and according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM), is a “known human immune and organ systems toxicant”; Fragrance, identity unknown, and listed by the U.S. House of Representatives in 1986 as showing “moderate evidence for human neurotoxicity”; and Cocamide DEA that, according to the U.S. NLM, is a “known human immune system and skin toxicant.”
   2. Baby Magic Hair & Body Wash with Vitamins exposes baby to Fragrance, see above; Peg-80 Glyceryl Cocoate, a penetration enhancer that alters the skin, allowing other chemicals to penetrate deeper; and Imidazolidinyl Urea, which the U.S. NLM lists as a “known human immune system toxicant,” and even the Cosmetic Industry Review shows “strong evidence that it is a skin toxicant.”
   3. Sally Hansen’s Teflon Tuff 10-Day Nail Color, French White Tips, applies Di-butyl Phthalate, banned in the EU and classified as a “known human respiratory toxicant” by the EPA Hazardous Air Pollutants Board, listed as a “priority pollutant” by the Clean Water Act, suspected as an “endocrine system disrupter” by the EPA, and listed as a “possible human development toxicant” by California’s EPA Prop 65; and Aluminum Powder, which the EU lists this as an occupational hazard. There is also “strong evidence as a human immune and respiratory toxicant” published by the Association of Occupational and Environmental Clinics — Asthmagens.
   What we can do— Look for some of these common ingredients on labels and consider limiting or eliminating use of products containing them: Fragrance is a chemically-based scent. Hidden in many “fragrances” are phthalates (pronounced THAY-lates), which are also used as plasticizers. Calvin Klein Eternity Cologne, Aqua Net, LA Looks, Salon Selectives hair spray/gels, Sally Hansen Hard as Nails and Avon Becoming Radiant Nail Gloss have been tested by CSC and all contain phthalates. Thimerosal is a bio-accumulative, toxic, mercury-based preservative found in mascara. Propylene Glycol is anti-freeze.
   Parabens are an estrogen-mimicking, commonly used preservative. Animal testing proved it causes tumors in animals. Parabens have also been found in human breast tumors.
   If a product is “natural” or “organic,” that’s great, but still check the label as maybe only one ingredient is natural or organic, leaving us to wonder about the rest.
   Purchase from reputable companies that use complete labeling.  Avoid labels with catch-all phrases like “proprietary ingredients” or “fragrance”; incomplete labels; or worse, no label at all.
California has a cosmetic labeling law requiring complete listing of all individual ingredients and the manufacturer’s name and contact information. Failing to do this violates state health law SB 484.
   Here’s some good news— Fortunately, some large companies have answered consumer safety demands after pressure from the CSC and over 800 companies have signed the CSC’s Safe    Cosmetics Pact agreeing to have their products reviewed. Go online to www.cosmeticsdata base.com and search the world’s largest database of 25,000 products.
   Find your own products there, make an informed decision about them, and maybe find some safer alternatives, if needed. You can also join their campaigns for new laws promoting product safety and review the latest research.
   Ja Nene Natural Body Products is a member of Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce and the Sequoia Mountain Healers of Three Rivers. It was also one of the first 400 companies worldwide to join the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, sponsored by Environmental Working Group of Washington, D.C.
   The Ja Nene company mission is “to provide safe, natural and organic personal care products at an affordable price.”
   Janene Lasswell owns and operates Ja Nene Natural Body Products, located at 41667 Sierra Drive in Three Rivers. The shop is open 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. (closed Mondays).


Think local this fall

   Labor Day weekend, the unofficial last weekend of summer, signals a change for many businesses in Three Rivers and the surrounding national park gateway communities. As visitation slows this fall, it in turn affects the health of the local economy.
   Many residents already make conscious decisions to support area businesses by spending money locally. As you make decisions about where to spend your money this fall, consider increasing the support you provide to the diversity of businesses in Kaweah Country. Try making additional purchases from a merchant you already use or bring new business to a local merchant and reduce costly travel expenses due to the price of gas.
   Meeting needs locally and supporting locally-owned businesses gives people greater control over their lives. Money is recycled in the community, providing job security; a stable, healthy economy; and improved quality of life. By choosing to make your purchases locally, you build lifelong relationships that create a foundation for a strong community.
   The Chamber's member businesses contribute to and help maintain the unique character and feel of Three Rivers and surrounding gateway communities. This fall and beyond, the Sequoia Foothills Chamber of Commerce encourages all local residents to help foster a thriving local economy by supporting its 120+ local member businesses.


Doug Smith

   Douglas George Smith died Monday, Aug. 11, 2008, at his home in Three Rivers. He was 57.
   Doug was born in Chicago, Ill., to Douglas Richard and Betty Smith. When he was two years old, the family moved to Southern California, where Doug spent his childhood and teenage years.
   At age 18, Doug moved to Laguna Beach in Orange County, where he continued to enjoy surfing and to demonstrate a very spiritual lifestyle.
   Two years later Doug moved to Santa Cruz in Northern California, where he lived for the next 30 years. During this time, Doug’s adventures included owning an import/export business for cloth, rugs, and tapestries, which gave him the opportunity to travel the world.
   This also led him to open his own carpeting business, specializing in marine carpeting for boats, which allowed Doug to be near the ocean and continue his surfing lifestyle.
   In 2004, Doug moved to Three Rivers. In 2006, with great vision and perseverance, Doug established Rio Canyon Rug Company.
   Doug is survived by his wife, Beate Smith; his daughter, Michelle Smith; grandsons, Connor and Bode; and his sister, Vickie Robinson.
On Saturday, Aug. 16, a memorial service was conducted by Father John Griesbach in the garden at St. Anthony Retreat.
   In lieu of flowers, remembrances in honor of Doug may be made to: St. Anthony Retreat, P.O. Box 249, Three Rivers, CA 93271; or Hospice of Tulare County, 900 W. Oak Ave., Visalia, CA 93291.

Lorrie Stone

  Loretta “Lorrie” Ann Livermore Stone, a former resident of Three Rivers, died Saturday, Aug. 2, 2008, in Santa Maria. She was 68.
Lorrie was born May 5, 1940, in San Paolo, Brazil, to Voris and Audrey Livermore.
   In 1964, Lorrie moved to Three Rivers where her parents owned the Mobil Service Station (presently Pat O’Connell’s Service), Three Rivers Disposal and, later, Sequoia Motel. Lorrie worked at the motel and as a waitress at the old Buckaroo Inn and the White Horse Inn.
   She graduated from Frederico’s Beauty College in Visalia, where she later resided until moving to Santa Maria.
   Lorrie was preceded in death by her parents.
   She is survived by her daughter, Melissa S. Martin and husband Dennis of San Luis Obispo, and son Martin C. Stone and wife Jaime of Three Rivers; three grandchildren, Katie and Jack Martin and Laci Nicole Stone; and one brother, Marvin Livermore of Mount Vernon, Iowa.
   No services will be held per Lorrie’s request.


THE KAWEAH COMMONWEALTH is published every Friday in Three Rivers, California.
EDITORS/PUBLISHERS: John Elliott and Sarah Barton Elliott
41841 Sierra Drive (Highway 198), Three Rivers, CA 93271
MAIL: P.O. Box 806, Three Rivers, CA 93271
(559) 561-3627 FAX: (559) 561-0118
© Copyright 2003-2008 The Kaweah Commonwealth