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Pahrump Mirror
Pahrump, Nevada
January 2, 1997     Pahrump Mirror
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January 2, 1997

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lOThursday, January 2, i997 Pahrump Valley Gazette Editorial 'Twas the week to return to reality By Robert Lowes Each week of the year, all 52 of them, your Gazette strives to bring its readers the most objective and comprehensive coverage of the news that is important to those of us Jiving in Nye County, Nevada, the state's largest and most expansive and widely diverse rural county in the entire Silver State. There's nowhere else on earth quite like it, a claim which has to qualify as being the great understatement of the year. It's become a tradition at this time of year for news media of all sizes and shapes to capsulize the major news events of the year just past. Naturally, some immediately stand out as the most dramatic and significant of the events that have contrib- uted to shape our rural lives. In many ways, life here serves as a microcosm of the issues facing our society as we begin to contemplate moving into the next century. Before we begin a nostalgic sojourn into the immediate past, this week between the holidays is a period of emotional let down for many of us that starts to surface on Christmas night after all the anticipated presents and have been tucked away. Don't worry, it's a natural and normal reaction following all the hype and hoopla of the holiday season. And, you can put away the Prozac, it's more than just a childhood affliction. It's hits all ages, including some of the most mature adults among us. Fortunately, for most, the annual period of depression is usually short-lived, and an almost full recovery can he expected from this annual melancholic malady. It may have been a placebo to ease the childhood pain of disappointment, but my parents used to save and hide one small gift for us to open at bedtime on Christmas night. While it was never the big one that Santa somehow forgot to leave under the tree after his nocturnal journey, it nevertheless helped us to make the difficult return to harsh reality from our childish expectations inspired by all hoopla of the holidays. For most of us, this seasonal syndrome is sort of like going back to work or school - no matter how much you liked either - on that very first day after a long holiday vacation. Know what I mean? Usually, the toughest part in making the seasonal adjust- ment was admitting to the fact that our long-awaited Christmas was over and it would he another whole year before the big day came again, and to a kid, a year can seem like a very long time. It's only when we get a little older that the years have a way of slipping by much faster than we would like them to do. All of which brings us back to our promised reviow of the major news stories of 1996: Like we said m our prologue, many of these events had widespread impacts far beyond the boundaries of Nye County. How time flies when having fun. See how many of these events, you remember as we return to the reality of the year that was. 1.1996 ELECTIONS: Withoutquestion the 1996presiden- tial election and the political year that proceeded it had to be near the top news stories of the year. With the new Republican majority in place in congress, campaigning started early in the year when some 280,000 federal workers were furloughed during an unprecedented 21-day shutdown of the federal government, the longest in the nation's history. Unless person- ally involved with one of the affected agencies or wanted to visit a national park or recreation area, the temporary shutdown of the government had little effect on the daily lives of local residents. Campaigning for partisan political nominations started out early and reached their expected conclusions in San Diego and Chicago later in the year. Bill Clinton sailed in safely for a second term. No big surprises here. 2. TWA EXPLOSION: If not the top news story of the year, it ranked consistently high on most everyone's top 10 list. The still-unsolved crash of TWA Flight 800 crashed into the Atlantic only moments after taking off from John F. Kennedy Airport in New York on July 17. All 230 people on board were killed. Possible causes range from a bomb, to a missile to static electricity that ignited a fuel tank. 3. OLYMPIC BOMB: Rounding out the top 3 national news stories of the year was the also unsolved mystery bomb- ;LINE by R.P.L ing a week later at the International Olympics in Atlanta. Security guard Richard Jewel l, who was credited with finding the bomb, was hounded as a prime suspect then cleared by the FBI after the blast left two dead. The incident overshadowed coverage of the games, which ranked much lower on the annual list of news stories. Those, according to the Associate Press annual poll of newspaper editors and broadcast news directors, were the top national news stories of 1996, followed by: the arrest of accused UnabomberTheodore Kazynski, fingered by his brother and currently awaiting trial; the Everglades crash of Valujet Flight 592 in the Florida Everglades in May, which killed all 110 people aboard; strict new federal rules for welfare recipi- ents included a lifetime limit of five years, work requirements and cuts in food stamps; the bullish stock market shared much of the financial coverage, along with major decreases in the deficit and unemployment and, as usual, weather continued to dominate the news from coast to coast, beginning with the big blizzard in e east in January and concluding the year th: paralyzing pacific northwest storms in December. Moving closer to home, the Nevada Test Site continued to' remain a major factor in our local coverage, despite the ongoing moratorium on nuclear testing and attempts to convert the Nye County nuclear testing facility to peacetime pursuits. It re- ceived a flurry of attention during the closing days of the 103rd Congress when nuclear industry forces attempted to sneak the temporary storage of high-level nuclear wastes on the partially- mothballed Nevada Test Site prior to a final determination on the licensing of Yucca Mountain as the nation's only perma- nent nuke dump site. The industry-supported, congressional coup to subvert the law against having high-level wastes stored in the same state on both a permanent and temporary basis was foiled through the combined efforts of Gov. Bob Miller and a united congres- sional delegation, not to mention the threat of a presidential veto of the proposed enabling legislation by President Bill Clinton. As a sidebar story to the controversial issue, certain county officials in neighboring Lincoln County were accused of attempting to undermine the state's strong anti-dump posi- tion for selfish benefit. Rivaling that story was the Gazette's expose of the Nye County Sex Harassment scandals which abruptly toppled County Manager Bill Offatt from his top administrative posi- tion. Compounding the allegations was the fact that when the sensational story became public, Offutt was in Washington, D.C. attending meetings on the nuclear waste issue with other high-level county officials. The three female victims of the alleged harassment have since sued Offutt, Nye County and four members named members of county commission, including its outgoing chair- man, the successor county manager Les Bradshaw and his new assistant, the firedex-deputy district attorney RachelNicholson, both personally and in their official capacities, for several millions of dollars. Unless settled out of court in the meantime, the cases are expected to go to jury trial in federal district court in Las Vegas early in the New Year. The top Nye County news story of 1995, the so-called "Sagebrush Rebellion" lawsuit between Nye County and the federal government continued in both the local and national news until into March of the New Year when U.S. Dist. Judge Lloyd George ruled in favor of the government. That decision brought to a conclusion a year-long battle triggered by Dick Carver's confrontation astride a county bulldozer to open of a closed forest service road in northern Nye County. That action, recorded on film by Gazette's Dave Downing helped to catapult the "Constitution-ton cowboy commissioner" onto the cover of Time magazine later that same year. To this day, Carver continues to claim the verdict in the federal courtroom was far from a defeat for his organization's battle over federal control of the public lands Space prevents me from listing moretocal stories cov, ered !.a print and $hotographs on tha ltg ,of.01e eCkl0t  for, ts many rcade from one nl o[ this rorgl;cgtoty, lo,[ ., Sorry if we missed one o your personal favorites, hut.we'll keep trying to give readers the most comprehensive and objec- tive coverage of the news in all of Nye County. These were but a few of the many news stories uncovered and followed for the readers of the Gazette, Nye County' s"best read newspaper," as the banner of this newspaper continues to proudly claims. Also, as a final note for the year to our many readers, we immodestly call your attention to the equally proud inclusion of being the county's awardZwinning newspaper, the only such fast-place distinction given to any newspaper Nye County by the Nevada Press Association in 1996. Running against the wind in Nye County The following quotes were directed to me during breaks in the last Nye County Commission meeting, held in Tonopah on December 17. "I loved your story on Nicholson, but some people hate your guts." "Way to go. It's about time somebody exposed these commissioners. But aren't you afraid you're going to get killed?" "I can't believe you dig up this stuff." "This is the first time in decades a newspaper has exposed this type of bull****. It's been going on for years. Keep it up... but be careful." "I'm not sure what is going on. But I can say you're not very popular around here." "It's a long trip back to Pahrump. Watch your back." Allow me to address these comments as a journalist and a private citizen of Nye County. First of all, anybody who writes for a newspaper in the capacity of revealing corruption at any level of government - better not care too much about his or her popularity. Honesty, integrity, incorruptibility, and fairness should be the only qualifies he or she should strive to develop and maintain in the public eye. Since there is an unwritten law which suggests anybody who hasn't lived in the county since Fred Flintstone and Barney Rubble worked for Mr. Slate can be considered a bona fide resident, I suspect my children's children will come visiting me with their children before my reputation will be established. Having written that prerequisite; let me qualify my reasons for writing for the Gazette. The answeris simple. To inform the public. To seek the truth and report it. To he fair but honest. To be objective to the best of my abilities. Objectivity can be hard to maintain when you're fighting a war on two fronts, but I do my best. To not be vindictive. To recognize the pioneers of Nye County and the communities which are part of it. To give readers a chance to see their photos or their loved one's photosin the paper. Newspaper elitists call this"refrigera- tor journalism," but I believe intense community coverage to be the backbone of a small market newspaper. I will go on record as stating I disagree with the practice of publishing the Sheriffs Report. I believe this to be against the Constitution and causes undue embarrassment to ordinary Know What I Mean? by Doug McMurdo folks. Besides, Pahrump is growing much too large to find the room m the newspa- per to print the report free of charge. Right Or wrong, newspapers are a busi- ness. As far as being unpopular with certain officials of Nye County. Who cares? I was voted "Mr. Congeniality" my junior year in high school. I've spent the last 20 years trying to live that tire down. IfI wanted to he popular with the governing instead of the governed; I would have applied for a job at another local newspaper. That way I could golf for free, eat a lot of free meals, and probably get invited to a bunch of neat parties and stuff. But, how could I remain objective if I consistently socialized with those I'm supposed to report on? Nye officials can hate my guts fbr all I care. But they can't call me a liar, misinfbnned, petty, jealous or vindictive. In regards to my personal safety. I can only take normal precautions to protect myself. I have been through the mill a few times in the span I've spent on Earth. Also, I learned a long time ago to be pro-active in times of fight or flight. And I can still run very, very fast for an almost middle-aged white guy with a bad hip. I've had long discussions with my wife. She too shares concerns for my safety. But she understands me better than any living being on God's Green Earth and knows I can't back down. It's not courage that drives me, dear reader, it's a hard Irish head and the inability to ignore politicians and their friends who attempt to screw my taxpaying reading public, the average resident of Nye County. Please don't consider these comments to be self serving. I have no desire to be a hero. I simply wish to do my job as I understand it needs to be done. But the Gazette is not a scandal sheet. The Gazette does not make things up. And the Gazette is not out to get anybody. One more comment was made to me that chilly day last month i n Tonopah. "Keep fighting the good fight." I shall. And not because I'm here to clean up Nye County. I shall because it's my job. Just like the cop on the street who never knows when danger will arise, the fireman who has a burning roof fall on him, the mailman.who delivers your mail, the bagboy who helps you with your groceries,or the merchant who makes you a good deal, I'm just doing my job. My father told me hundreds of important things when I was a kid. A couple of them apply to the comments made in this column. "When you work for a man, be loyal to that man, work hard for that man." The other comment had to do with a personal work ethic, "I don't care what you do with your l i fe, but whatever it is, make sure you do your very best. Excel at whatever you endeavor to achieve." Deadlines and commitments. Running against the wind in Nye County. t