TRUCK HITS PEDESTRIAN CROSSING HIGHWAY NOT IN A CROSSWALK

The California Highway Patrol has released its report on the pedestrian versus vehicle crash in Joshua Tree Thursday evening. According to the report, Ernest Ale, 56, of Idlywild, was driving a 1993 Dodge Ram westbound on Highway 62 just before 6:30 p.m. As he approached Veterans Way, he entered the center turn lane at about 20 miles per hour. At the same time, David White, 52, of La Puente, was crossing the highway southbound between Veterans Way and Sunset Road. The CHP report states that White, who was wearing dark-colored clothing, was not in a cross walk nor did he yield the right of way to oncoming traffic. Ale’s truck collided with White, and White was thrown in a southwesterly direction, landing in the center turn lane. Ale stopped near the collision and waited for law enforcement. David White suffered head trauma and facial lacerations; he was taken to Hi-Desert Medical Center and then flown to Desert Hospital in Palm Springs.

NEW CALIFORNIA LAWS FOR A NEW YEAR

As we welcome a new year, we conclude our look at several new laws that take effect January 1. Employers are prohibited from paying women less than male colleagues, based on prior salary. Companies, including Uber and Lyft, can no longer hire drivers who are registered sex offenders, have been convicted of violent felonies or who have had a DUI conviction within the last seven years. The statute of limitations for rape and some other sex crimes has been eliminated. That means if a crime happens after December 31, 2016, the victim can report it at any point in the future and see it prosecuted; previous law generally limited prosecution to within 10 years.

Public schools can now expel students for bullying through video or sexting. Licenses to carry a concealed weapon will no longer vary from county to county. State justice department officials will create a uniform license. Smoking or use of electronic cigarettes within 250 feet of any Little League baseball game or other youth sports event is now illegal.

Every autographed collectible sold in California must come with a certificate that verifies it’s not a forgery. Patients who go to their insurance’s in-network hospital, lab or other health facility will not face a surprise bigger bill if the doctor or health worker who treated them is not in their network.

Women can pick up an entire year’s worth of birth control pills at once, and health plans must cover the cost. To counter a spike in opioid overdose deaths, prescribers must check a state database to see whether their patients also have received drugs from other physicians. Want to save an animal trapped in a car in heat or cold? As long as you call authorities first, you won’t be held legally liable for breaking into the car. Voters can now legally take a selfie with their completed ballot. Voters are permitted to legally hand off their sealed ballot to anyone to mail or deliver in person.

JOSHUA TREE FELON ARRESTED FOR HAVING A GUN

A Joshua Tree felon was arrested Wednesday after he was found in possession of a firearm. According to a Sheriff’s report, deputies stopped a vehicle near Bonair Road and Desert Air Road in Joshua Tree about 2:20 p.m. Inside was Leon Lopez, 52, along with a gun. The gun may be related to a burglary in Joshua Tree on Tuesday. The report states that Lopez is on supervised parole and had two warrants for his arrest. Leon Lopez was arrested for investigation of being a felon in possession of a firearm, booked at the Morongo Basin Jail, and was released on $50,000 bail about 10 p.m.

CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT IN JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK

The annual Christmas Bird Count is set for this Monday. Managing editor Tami Roleff says volunteers can choose to count in one of two locations…

Once again, the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society will hold a Christmas Bird Count in Joshua Tree National Park on Monday, January 2. Counters will meet at 7 a.m. at one of two locations: the Indian Cove Ranger Station, where counters will count birds in the Indian Cove area, 49 Palms Oasis, the Oasis of Mara, and the North Park Entrance area of the park. In-town locations include Knott Sky Park, Luckie Park, the Twentynine Palms Inn. Or counters can meet at the West Park Entrance in Joshua Tree, where they will count birds at Hidden Valley, Lost Horse area, Barker Dam, Keys Ranch, Ryan Ranch area, Queen Valley, Jumbo Rocks, and the Geology Tour Road. Dress warmly and in layers, as it will be cold and possibly windy. Plan on the count being an all-day event. Counters will meet at local restaurants following the bird count to compile their results.

For more information, visit this link: http://www.sbvas.net/cbcs.

LAST NIGHT TO SEE SPECTACULAR HOLIDAY LIGHT SHOW IN TWENTYNINE PALMS

Tonight is the last night to see a holiday light show set to music at the Sunnyvale Garden Suites Hotel in Twentynine Palms. Tune your car’s radio to 88.7 and listen and dance to holiday songs while you watch the lights. The show is free, but a donation box for the Twentynine Palms Rotary Club’s humanitarian projects is provided on the site. Sunnyvale Garden Suites Hotel is located at 73843 Sunnyvale Drive in Twentynine Palms.

JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK TO SPONSOR ART TEA

Joshua Tree National Park, is partnering with Copper Mountain College, the Mojave Desert Land Trust, and BoxoHouse, along with the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, to create innovative programs and projects in the park. Kirby Davis fills in the details…

As part of the Joshua Tree Art Innovation Laboratory, National Park Service staff and artists will develop new programs and projects to enhance visitor experiences at Joshua Tree National Park and Mojave National Preserve. The first of several upcoming outreach projects in the park will be “Artists’ Tea,” which will be held 9 a.m. Sundays through January 22 at Cap Rock in Joshua Tree National Park. Local artists will share their inspiration and creative thoughts with park visitors. Bring your own mug and enjoy a free cup of tea while finding out how the art community promotes and preserves the beauty of Joshua Tree National Park. Artists will vary from week to week. For more information on the project and a listing of upcoming events, visit www.jtlab.info.

JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK EXTREMELY BUSY THIS WEEK

Over-capacity crowds are challenging Joshua Tree National Park this week. The recent rains have filled Barker Dam in Joshua Tree National Park, and there is water in Rattlesnake Canyon, and combined with the Christmas and New Year’s holidays, it seems everyone and their brother wants to visit Joshua Tree National Park. So if you were planning on going into the national park this week, you may want to revise your plans. Park Superintendent David Smith says the park is experiencing extremely high numbers of visitors this week and the campgrounds are full. He said visitors may want to come back next week after the holidays when the number of people coming to the park is expected to be much fewer. Earlier this week there were hour-long waits to enter the park in Joshua Tree, and at the southern entrance in Cottonwood, hundreds of people were lined up just to enter the visitor center to buy a park pass. Consider entering the park through the north entrance in Twentynine Palms or entering before 9 a.m. Smith also said people should expect to encounter parking lots that are filled to capacity; he added that people who park illegally will be ticketed and towed. Visitors can park alongside the shoulder of the road, he said, but it is illegal to drive over curbs and doing so is damaging to vegetation.

RIDE ORVS RESPONSIBLY

An increase in the use of off-road vehicles is expected at this time of year. Reporter Sara Snyder has some reminders for riders…

This time of year, the Morongo Basin will experience an increase in off-road activity and illegal trespass. Riders need to respect private property and public lands by riding responsibly. Make sure that your actions do not ruin the off-road experience for others. According to county, state, and federal laws, ORVs are not allowed on any county service area roads; ORVs are not allowed on private property without written permission; public lands are closed to ORVs unless on signed routes; there is no cross-country riding in the Morongo Basin. Please respect our private and public lands by obeying ORV rules and regulations. The only open riding areas are found at the Johnson Valley State ORV Recreation Area, off Highway 247 north of Yucca Valley. If you observe any illegal activity, contact the Sheriff’s Department immediately at 760-365-9413.

SPEND NEW YEAR’S EVE AT SKY’S THE LIMIT STAR PARTY

Spend the last night of 2016 with Sky’s the Limit Observatory and Nature Center during a star party tonight. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. and will end about 8:30 p.m., but you are encouraged to come when you can and leave when you want. Highlights will be the planets Venus, Mars, Neptune, and Uranus. Mars and Neptune are very close in the sky. Several of the finest clusters and nebulae in the winter Milky Way will be visible as well. Sky’s the Limit Observatory is located on Utah Trail, just north of the Twentynine Palms entrance to Joshua Tree National Park.

HIGH SCHOOL SPORTS

Coming up in high school sports Tuesday, the Joshua Springs Christian School boys’ and girls’ basketball teams will travel away to Redlands to play Redlands Adventist Academy. Tip-off for girls is at 5 p.m.; the boys start at 6:30.

JOSHUA TREE MAN ARRESTED FOR THREATENING PAPPY AND HARRIET’S OWNERS

A Joshua Tree man was arrested Wednesday evening, accused of making terrorist threats against his former employers. According to a Sheriff’s report, the owners of Pappy and Harriet’s in Pioneertown contacted deputies about 3:45 p.m. Wednesday to report that Devon Murphy, 25, posted on Facebook that he was going to kill them and rob them. He continued his post stating he would “shoot or stab anyone in [his] way.” The owners told deputies they had fired Murphy a few months ago. Deputies contacted Devon Murphy at his residence in the 62200 block of Frances Drive about 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, and after an investigation, arrested him on suspicion of making terrorist threats, booked him at the Morongo Basin Jail, with his bail set at $50,000.

VICTIM OF FATAL, SUSPECTED DUI, CRASH IN MORONGO VALLEY IDENTIFIED

The Riverside County Coroner’s office has identified the woman killed following a suspected DUI crash Tuesday night in Morongo Valley as Diane D’Aoust, 59, of Morongo Valley. According to the California Highway Patrol, D’Aoust was driving a red Toyota Corolla eastbound on Highway 62 shortly before 9 p.m. when she collided with a black Toyota at Park Avenue in Morongo Valley. D’Aoust fled the scene and drove eastbound to North Star Trail. About 9:20 p.m., the CHP said D’Aoust attempted to drive across Highway 62 at North Star Trail without yielding the right of way when she was T-boned on the driver’s side by a Jeep Commander that was driving eastbound on the highway about 60 miles per hour. D’Aoust was taken to Desert Hospital in Palm Springs where she later died. The CHP determined that Diane D’Aoust was under the combined influence of alcohol and drugs at the time of the crash. D’Aoust was the owner of Redimaid, based in Morongo Valley.

ANOTHER PEDESTRIAN HIT BY VEHICLE, THIS TIME IN JOSHUA TREE 

We have limited information about a pedestrian who was struck by a vehicle in Joshua Tree last night. Just before 6:30 p.m., a man was hit at Sunset Road and Highway 62. He suffered major injuries and was flown by Mercy Air to Desert Hospital in Palm Springs. The California Highway Patrol is investigating.

NEW CALPERS EXPECTATIONS WILL COST LOCAL PUBLIC AGENCIES

The state’s public pension system, Calpers, recently lowered its sights regarding future investment returns. That could cost California cities and public agencies—including those in the Morongo Basin—lots of money. Reporter David Haldane explains…

If you work for a California municipality or public agency, your employer may have to pick up a bigger tab for your future retirement.

That’s because the board of the state’s public pension system—Calpers—has voted to lower its expectations for future investment returns from 7.5 percent to just 7 percent. A giant with roughly $300 billion in assets, Calpers manages the investments for more than 1.7 million current and future retirees. Lowering its expectations for returns puts more pressure on participating cities to make up the difference.

The actual cost to municipalities, of course, will depend on the actual returns. But if Calpers projections are correct, according to Twentynine Palms City Manager Frank Luckino, the added cost to that city alone could be about $30,000 over the next two years.

Multiply that into the future by the numbers of cities affected, and the cost could be significant. 

A LOOK BACK AT 2016 MORONGO BASIN NEWS, PART 4 OF 4

As 2016 comes to a close, we continue to look back on some of the top stories of the year. Here’s the last of a four-part series.

Several visitors—famous and infamous—made surprise appearances to the Morongo Basin earlier this year.

In September, a stolen big rig was driven from Barstow to Interstate 15 to Highway 60 to eastbound Interstate 10 and up to Highway 62 before turning around in Yucca Valley and heading back to the freeway. After more than five hours of pursuit, the driver James Edgley, 48, of Victorville, eventually surrendered to CHP officers at a rest area west of Whitewater. Edgley pleaded guilty to possession of a stolen vehicle and felony evading and was sentenced to three years in state prison.

In October, with just a few hours advance notice, Paul McCartney played a sold-out show at Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace. Thousands of people stood in line for the 300 tickets that were sold for $50 each. McCartney was in the area for the two-weekend outdoor music show, Desert Trip, at the polo grounds in Indio.

Some of the top crime stories of the past year include the Twentynine Palms couple who sent their children out into the desert during 100-degree temperatures as punishment. Mary Bell, 34, and her boyfriend, Gary Cassle, 29, transients who were living in a truck, were sentenced to 240 days in jail for sending Bell’s 7-year-old girl, 6-year-old boy, and a 5-year-old boy without shoes, water, or food out into the desert near Samarkand in July. A protective order was filed against them for the children.

The man accused of killing John Rossin, 77, in his RV which was parked in front of the Yucca Valley Home Depot in 2014, was convicted of murder and sentenced in July to 26 years to life in prison.

The Marine who shot his friend in the mouth in March 2014 was convicted and sentenced to 18 years to life in prison in October. Brock Myers said he was “drunk and stupid” when he responded to a dare by Steven Kohus and put a gun—which he said he thought was unloaded—into his friend’s mouth and pulled the trigger. Myers has filed an appeal.

A REMINDER ON THE RULES FOR RIDING OFF-ROAD VEHICLES LOCALLY

With the holidays come holiday visitors, and with visitors come increased use of off-road vehicles in our Morongo Basin. Reporter Sara Snyder has this reminder to ORV users…

This time of year, the Morongo Basin will experience an increase in off-road activity and illegal trespass. Riders need to respect private property and public lands by riding responsibly. Make sure that your actions do not ruin the off-road experience for others.

According to county, state, and federal laws, ORVs are not allowed on any county service area roads; ORVs are not allowed on private property without written permission; public lands are closed to ORVs unless on signed routes; there is no cross-country riding in the Morongo Basin.
Please respect our private and public lands by obeying ORV rules and regulations. The only open riding areas are found at the Johnson Valley State ORV Recreation Area, off Highway 247 north of Yucca Valley.

If you observe any illegal activity, contact the Sheriff’s Department immediately at 760-365-9413. 

MARINE COMMANDER RELIEVED OF DUTY AFTER AIRCRAFT CRASHES

The commander of a Marine aircraft squadron plagued with crashes, including aboard the Twentynine Palms Marine base, was relieved of command Wednesday. The Marine Corps said  Lieutenant Colonel Wade Workman, commander of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232, was relieved “due to a loss of trust and confidence in his ability to continue to serve in that position.” The squadron is based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. Last year, Squadron 232 lost at least two F/A-18C Hornets in training crashes. On July 28, Marine Major Richard Norton was killed during a nighttime air-to-ground training flight near Marine Air Ground Combat Center at Twentynine Palms. Days later, August 2, an F/A-18C Hornet from the same squadron crashed at Naval Air Station Fallon in Nevada in a training flight; the pilot safely ejected. Additional Marine F/A-18C Hornet crashes this year caused the deaths of two more pilots and loss of aircraft. June 2, Marine Capt. Jeff Kuss was killed when his F/A-18C Hornet crashed during training with the Blue Angels. Nov. 9, two F/A-18C Hornets assigned to Marine Corps Air Station Miramar collided over San Diego, resulting in the loss of an aircraft. Both pilots survived. On Dec. 7, Marine Capt. Jake Frederick was killed when his F/A-18C Hornet crashed during a training flight off the coast of Japan. In the November collision, the aircraft were part of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314, which, along with Squadron 232, is attached to 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing. In early December, the commanding general of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, Maj. Gen. Mark Wise, relieved Lt. Col. Michael Hernandez, the wing’s top logistics officer in charge of ensuring the aircraft were ready to fly. In the statement about Workman, the Marines said the decision was made “based on issues concerning command climate within the squadron.”

CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT IN JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK MONDAY

The annual Christmas Bird Count is set for this Monday. Managing editor Tami Roleff says volunteers can choose to count in one of two locations…

Once again, the San Bernardino Valley Audubon Society will hold a Christmas Bird Count in Joshua Tree National Park on Monday, January 2. Counters will meet at 7 a.m. at one of two locations: the Indian Cove Ranger Station, where counters will count birds in the Indian Cove area, 49 Palms Oasis, the Oasis of Mara, and the North Park Entrance area of the park. In-town locations include Knott Sky Park, Luckie Park, the Twentynine Palms Inn. Or counters can meet at the West Park Entrance in Joshua Tree, where they will count birds at Hidden Valley, Lost Horse area, Barker Dam, Keys Ranch, Ryan Ranch area, Queen Valley, Jumbo Rocks, and the Geology Tour Road. Dress warmly and in layers, as it will be cold and possibly windy. Plan on the count being an all-day event. Counters will meet at local restaurants following the bird count to compile their results.

For more information, see http://www.sbvas.net/cbcs

NO MBTA SERVICE SUNDAY AND MONDAY

The Morongo Basin Transit Authority will NOT operate service on Sunday, January 1, and Monday, January 2, in observance of New Year’s Day and will resume its regularly scheduled service on Tuesday, January 3rd, 2017.

FINAL SKY’S THE LIMIT’ STAR PARTY OF 2016 TOMORROW NIGHT

Spend the last night of 2016 with Sky’s the Limit Observatory and Nature Center during a star party, Saturday, December 31. The event begins at 5:30 p.m. and will end about 8:30 p.m., but you are encouraged to come when you can and leave when you want. Highlights will be the planets Venus, Mars, Neptune, and Uranus. Mars and Neptune are very close in the sky. Several of the finest clusters and nebulae in the winter Milky Way will be visible as well. Sky’s the Limit Observatory is located on Utah Trail, just north of the Twentynine Palms entrance to Joshua Tree National Park.