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In the News - Friday, DECEMBER 3, 2004




*celebrating 500 issues of

The Kaweah Commonwealth in print!


Still alive after 500 drop-deadlines


By Sarah Elliott

   Procrastinators need not apply. But anyone with this personality quirk will see the habit quickly dissipate after time on this job.
   All of our news and feature stories are done under deadline pressure. The most annoying aspect of this is that it isn’t always possible to hone and polish our writing.
   When Ernest Hemingway was asked why he had rewritten the final chapter of A Farewell to Arms 44 times, he answered, “To get the words right.” Ah, the luxury of second thought.
   Granted, we’re a few fathoms below Hemingway’s level, but even so, each week, the newspaper is proofread twice, at the very least. However, a corollary to Murphy’s Law ensures that mistakes that are not seen during editing immediately become glaring beacons as soon as 3,000 copies are in print.
   In many newspapers, time limitations are invoked as an excuse for carelessness. Causing the pressure of the job to be much more intense but ensuring that The Kaweah Commonwealth will always adhere to our standard of excellence, we have not allowed the looming deadlines to create poor writing habits.
   John and I have adjusted our techniques to these rush hours without turning slipshod. But errors have slipped through our fine screening and for this we bear sole responsibility.
   We’ve learned that words can be the best of friends or the worst of enemies. Sticks and stones can break our bones and words can really cause a lot of sleepless nights.
   We never forget that the first duty of language is to communicate. Some readers have no doubt found certain judgments of ours open to question — too dogmatic, too lenient, too pompous, too pedantic, too plain, or altogether wrong.
   In addition to unforgiving deadlines, other drains on enlivened writing are the practical matters of running a small business. The drudgery of paperwork and red tape are parasites on creativity.
   John and I realize that the only way we have reached this milestone of 500, a feat no other Three Rivers newspaper has accomplished, is because of teamwork.
   As in marriage it is in work. John’s strengths are my weaknesses and visa-versa, but together this makes us whole.
   We fell into our various job descriptions quite naturally and, together, have been able to create 500 compelling, graphically-pleasing, informative newspapers.
   The responsibilities permeate our private lives and we wake up every day thinking about what we’re going to put in the newspaper. Even on vacations, we find that we keep the cell phone way too close and it takes a concerted effort to pry it out of hand.
   That’s why backpacking has become our diversion of choice. For one week or so each summer, we grab the kids and escape to a parallel world that is totally off the clock and without technological conveniences/nuisances.
   This annual trip allows us to concentrate solely upon our survival, and our only deadline is to have the tent set up and dinner prepared by nightfall.
   We always can think of a hundred reasons why we shouldn’t disappear into the backcountry each year. But something that the 500 deadlines have taught us is that the next week always rolls around.
   There may be easier ways to make a living, but then again, there’s nothing more satisfying than the art of storytelling when even just one reader is moved by our words.
   And that’s the power of writing, which is...
   I’d like to finish that thought, but I’ve got a deadline to meet.

In the line of fire:
Local fire stations remain open…

for now

By John Elliott

   On Tuesday, Nov. 30, the County of Tulare accepted a proposal from the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (CDF) to delay a $1.8 million payment to the state until fiscal year 2005-2006. The additional money, over and above the current $10.7 million the county is paying, became necessary when CDF employees negotiated a new contract with a wage increase.
   If, under the terms of the CDF contract with Tulare County to provide fire services, an agreement would not have been reached, Bill Sanders, chairman of the Tulare County Board of Supervisors, said eight stations, including Lemon Cove (No. 13), would have been closed by Jan. 1, 2005.
   Sanders said he had hoped the payment could have been waived but that just wasn’t an option to continue the current levels of service. He has suggested that the “most fair” way to generate the additional revenue is to adopt a utility tax for unincorporated areas.
   The deferring of the payment gives the county an opportunity to place some kind of tax measure on the March ballot. Three Rivers, currently operating under the “Amador Plan,” is already without a paid, on-duty county firefighter during the fire off-season.
   The new Three Rivers Fire Station is being manned by CDF personnel on the State of California payroll but who are authorized to assist in all local emergencies.
   The so-called Amador Plan, named because it was first used in that part of the state, is effective as long as CDF personnel are not summoned to an emergency elsewhere. But, if and when that happens, like during the late-season fires recently in Southern California, having a county firefighter at Lemon Cove would be indispensable.
   The immediate effect, according to one volunteer “paid-call” firefighter, who asked not to be identified, is that first response times that now average 15 minutes would go up to 35 or 45 minutes. Homeowners’ and medical insurance rates may also rise as underwriters realize that unincorporated areas of Tulare County have less protection.
   But Eric Coyne, a public relations staff person for the Board of Supervisors, said finding a long-term solution is critical because the population of Tulare County is expected to double in the next ten years. He said the county was taking a hard look at its fire protection because the contract with CDF has increased nearly 30 percent in the last two years.

  “Supervisor Sanders likes the idea of a utility tax because it casts a wider net at a lower rate than a sales tax,” Coyne said. “The board also likes the fact that it would only require a simple majority to pass.”

Finally final!
Last month’s election results certified

And here’s how Three Rivers voted

   Just when you thought you had heard it all about the November 2 election, earlier this week Tulare County elections officials released precinct totals for all 286 polling places that included all provisional and absentee votes. Only one local race — the Woodlake City Council — went right down to the very last votes counted.
   In that race, for the second of two seats, incumbent Jack Ritchie edged out challenger Toni Ruiz-Lenz by four votes. Lenz had led by the same four-vote margin as late as the November 19 update.
   In keeping with the norm of the last several elections, Three Rivers voters stepped outside the box and bucked countywide, state, and national trends. The final figures indicated that of the 1,622 voters registered to vote in the two Three Rivers precincts, 1,371 or 84.5 percent actually did so. In Tulare County, the turnout was more than 20 percent lower than in Three Rivers.
   So what attracted all those local voters? If you ask the Democrats, it was the dissatisfaction with the Bush administration. If you ask the Republicans, it was that Bush supporters wanted to show the incumbent that they believed in family values and that the current president could do the better job in keeping the U.S. safe from terrorists.
   So here’s how Three Rivers voted on some of the highlights on the November 2 ballot:
   For president, Three Rivers voted for Bush 52 percent to 45 percent for Kerry; Bush carried Tulare County 66 percent to 33 percent for Kerry. In contrast, during the 2000 election, Tulare County voted for Bush 60 percent to 36 percent for Al Gore, who nationwide actually finished slightly ahead of the eventual winner in the popular vote.
   Among the other so-called “lesser party candidates,” Michael Peroutka, American Independent Party, received 19 votes in Three Rivers; the top vote-getter of the other party candidates in Tulare County was David Cobb, Green Party, who received four votes in Three Rivers and his countywide votes were still less than one percent of the total votes cast countywide for presidential nominees.
   For U.S. Senator, Three Rivers voted for Fresno’s Bill Jones 51 percent to Barbara Boxer’s 46 percent. In Tulare County, Jones’s margin of victory was 60 percent to 37 percent for the incumbent senator, who was easily reelected statewide.
   In the race for U.S. Representative in the 21st District Devin Nunes, the incumbent won in Three Rivers 64 percent to 36 percent over Fred Davis, the democratic challenger. Countywide, Nunes’s margin of victory was 74 percent to 26.
   Bill Maze, who was reelected to the State Assembly’s 34th District, carried Three Rivers by an identical percentage as Nunes. Countywide, Maze defeated Maggie Florez, his democratic challenger, 70 to 30 percent.
   In the race for county supervisor, District 1, Three Rivers voted for the eventual winner Allen Ishida, 58 percent to 42 percent for Bud Pinkham. District-wide, the margin of victory was closer with Ishida garnering 52 percent to 48 percent for the challenger.
   In the Measure Z race, the issue to provide funding for the Three Rivers Memorial District, absentee votes did not change the outcome. The final total was 810 “yes” votes (61.46 percent) to 508 “no” (38.54 percent). A two-thirds majority or 66.67 percent of the total votes cast are needed for passage.
   There were no local surprises among the 16 propositions. The controversial Proposition 71, funding stem cell research, that was approved statewide was rejected in both Three Rivers (52 percent to 48 percent) and in Tulare County (58 percent to 42 percent).
   Now that the November 2 election is finally a wrap, it’s time to start planning for the next one that could be scheduled as soon as March 2005. On that ballot, local voters can look forward to another opportunity to assist the Three Rivers Memorial District, and perhaps a countywide utility tax for firefighters.
   The next regularly scheduled election will be held Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2005. On that ballot, local seats for both the Community Services and Memorial districts will be up for election.

The holiday celebrations continue

   Over the past two weeks, about a dozen holiday events have been highlighted here. But before the social calendar is finalized, pencil in these celebrations in as well:
   Three Rivers Historical Society Open House— On Sunday, Dec. 12, the museum doors will open to Christmas past. Gift shopping opportunities will abound with books on local history, framed historical prints, and more. Bullenes will prepare the refreshments, so stop by and have a cup of cheer with neighbors and friends, as in the days of old.
   TRUS Winter Program— The holidays are about the kids, so come out on the evening of Thursday, Dec. 16, to more than a hundred of them sing, perform skits, and play instruments as they ring in the holidays and celebrate their upcoming two-week break.

  “Tiny Tim’s Christmas”— The Enchanted Playhouse’s children’s theatre will present this holiday tale for the next three weekends. For information, call 739-4600.

Bundle up and head to

the garden this month

Gardening tips for December and the holidays

By Thea Fiskin, Master Gardener

   Are you considering a living Christmas tree this year? Here are some tips to keep the tree healthy.
   Water the root ball thoroughly and spray the foliage before bringing it inside your home. Set the tree in a large waterproof saucer in a cool location away from heater vents and the fireplace.
   Be sure to keep it evenly moist, and don’t let it sit in water or dry out. Display it inside for no longer than 10 days.
   Afterward, ease its transition to the outside by placing it in your garage or on a porch for a few days. This helps lessen the shock of the temperature change.
   If you plan to use the same tree again next year, then protect the black nursery pot from the sun. Either sink the pot into the ground or transplant the tree into a light-colored plastic pot. Each spring, slide the root ball out of the container to prune any roots going in circles and if necessary, transplant into a larger pot.

Holiday plants
   AMARYLLIS is a very popular bulb given during the holiday season.
   They are available in reds, pinks, salmons, and whites; as doubles, miniatures, or in stripes. Amaryllis get more exciting each year as new varieties are released.
   Grown indoors, they will flower in a couple weeks. After they bloom, remove faded flowers, but don’t cut the green flower stalk or leaves.
   Also, don’t throw these beauties away, instead set them out in the garden and they will bloom again next spring. Grow them in pots or in the ground with the added bonus of many more blooms per stalk.
   POINSETTIAS are the number one holiday plant. There is widespread belief that they are poisonous, but they are not.
In fact, they are included on the list of houseplants helpful in removing pollutants in the air.
   To care for these plants, place them in indirect light and water only when the soil feels dry to the touch. Don’t over water or let them sit in water.
   Poinsettias are cold-sensitive, so be sure to keep them out of drafts.

   Houseplants will need humidity now that home heaters are on. Spritz them with water or better yet, set them on a humidity tray. Line a tray under the plant with pebbles and add water to just below the surface of the rocks. Never let plants sit directly in water. Some houseplants are particularly cold sensitive, so move them away from doors and cold drafts. Wipe dust off foliage to allow leaves to breathe easier and absorb more light. Snip off yellow or dead leaves.

What to plant
   For winter color, buy six-packs of calendulas, Iceland poppies, pansies, primroses, sweet peas, snapdragons, stock, and violas. It's not too late to plant and they will continue to bloom until the hot weather returns in April or May.
   Since bulb season is nearly over, nurseries should have them on sale. The selection may be limited, but the prices should be right.
   Remember, it’s too late now for hyacinth and tulip bulbs.
   Later this month, bare-root trees and roses will arrive in nurseries. Shop early for the best selection. If looking for a particular variety, then call ahead to request it.

Garden chores
   Listen for frost warnings and protect sensitive plants. Plants will survive better if well watered, so don't let them dry out.
   Prune deciduous trees after they lose their leaves, except for spring flowering varieties such as forsythia. Prune these after they bloom.
   Consult pruning books or Sunset's Western Garden Book if you are uncertain how to proceed.
   Remove winter weeds popping up now. Each weed produces thousands of seeds so pull them before they flower.
   In large flowerbeds or lawns, apply a pre-emergence herbicide to prevent annual weed germination. Discourage weeds by mulching flowerbeds, shrubs, and trees with a thick layer of organic (shredded or chipped bark, etc.) or inorganic (gravel or rocks) mulch.
   If using pre-emergence herbicides, spray first then, add a layer of mulch.

Critter control
   Spray deciduous fruit trees, nut trees, and roses with a dormant oil spray to kill over-wintering aphids, mites, scale, etc. Handpick slugs and snails or set out bait.
   This time of year, plant growth slows down considerably, so go enjoy the yuletide season. If you find you need a break from all the festivities, then maybe a walk outside to pull a weed or two is just the answer.
   Happy Holidays from all the Master Gardeners!
The University of California Cooperative Extension is at 4437 S. Laspina St., Suite B, in Tulare. Master gardeners may also be reached by calling 685-3309, ext. 220.


Program places first service dog

   Now in its second year, the Assistance Service Dog Education Center in Woodlake has placed its first canine student into service.
   The Assistance Service Dog Educational Center, which is located at the old St. John’s School south of Woodlake, offers an elective course to Woodlake High School students. The high school Assistance Dog Program teaches students to train service dogs in preparation of placing them with individuals with disabilities.
   On Friday, Nov. 19, Ann, a golden retriever, was given to Ruth Mallory, who lives with her daughter and son-in-law in Springville, where she provides volunteer assistance to autistic children.
   Autism is a severe developmental disorder in which those afflicted have difficulty communicating with others, are extremely self-absorbed, and suffer a detachment from reality. Although an autistic child may not be able to socialize with other people, medical studies have shown that there are positive effects when interacting with pets.
   Maria, a junior at Woodlake High School, trained Ann last year. Maria was one in the first class of students to participate in the high school’s Assistance Dog Program.
   As a part of this program, students participate in both the hands-on training and coursework. The training concentrates on teaching the dogs to be the eyes and ears of a prospective owner and to provide social therapy.
   The coursework emphasizes the partnerships between canines and physically or socially impaired individuals who need assistance and teaches about the psychology of how dogs learn and acquire their motor skills in various developmental stages.
   The Assistance Service Dog Educational Center is an all-volunteer program, organized and managed by Gerald and Donna Whittaker of Woodlake.
   To donate money or time, or to receive information about receiving an assistance dog, call 564-PAWS. The mailing address of the Assistance Service Dog Educational Center is P.O. Box 367, Woodlake, CA 93286.


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