This year had plenty of big headlines: the abolishment of the Las Vegas Constable’s Office, the downward spiral of Assemblyman Steven Brooks, the conviction of Dr. Dipak Desai, Britney Spears! But these smaller stories on everything from local fracking to cheating firemen might have slipped through your news-consumption cracks. Before the bell tolls on 2013, play some quick catch-up on the year that was.
An unlucky month?
There are coincidences, and then ... On January 2, Las Vegas resident Norman B. Ivans crash-landed a twin-engine Piper Aerostar at the North Las Vegas Airport—almost a year to the day after he had crash-landed another Piper Aerostar at the same airport January 5, 2012. Ivans and his flight instructor, Gary Marsh, were not seriously hurt, but his pilot certificate did come into question. Ian Gregor, public affairs manager for the Federal Aviation Administration, said, “As a result of the 2012 accident, we required Mr. Ivans to be re-examined by an FAA inspector to prove he was proficient at operating a Piper Aerostar. Mr. Ivans turned in his pilot certificate and, pending a re-examination, was allowed to fly under the privileges of a student pilot certificate.” According to Gregor, Ivans received a private pilot certificate this April, but if he decided to skip flying the first week of January 2014, we wouldn’t blame him.
Drill, baby, drill!
It was only a matter of time, but fracking—hydraulic fracturing, a controversial procedure in which water, sand and chemicals are injected at high pressure into rock to create small fractures for extracting oil or gas—has come to Nevada. On January 9, Houston-based energy company Noble Energy, Inc. announced plans to pursue the first-ever fracking operation in the state of Nevada. Noble has been developing the project over the past few years, working with both the government and the community and conducting seismic surveys, says Kevin Vorhaben, Noble’s Rockies/Frontier business unit leader. The company is still in the early stages of exploration in northeastern Nevada, where it has access to 350,000 acres of public and private land in Elko County. Fracking is not without its critics, however, who point to concerns over harmful air emissions and water contamination. In October, Noble drilled one exploration well on private leased acreage to a depth of 11,680 feet, and a second well will be finished by the end of December. The company is also working on permits to explore both the Mary’s River and Huntington areas, Vorhaben says. No word yet on when actual fracking work will start.
We know that technology is making everything smaller, but Reno-based microfabrication company Nanojems took it to a whole different level August 24—announcing that it had successfully engraved the first million digits of Pi onto a 3-inch-diameter crystal gem. Nanojems tried to get “most digits of Pi engraved” entered into the Guinness World Records, but Guinness turned them down. Still, the company has since achieved a different kind of fame: The Exploratorium in San Francisco, which invented Pi Day 25 years ago, invited Nanojems to display its pieces on the holiday, March 14, 2014. In the meantime, company co-founder Jesse Adams has come up with some novel ways of advertising his business, including engraving the novel The Hobbit on crystals on a dog tag and engraving the 17,700 words of all Shakespeare’s sonnets onto a crystal inside a heart-shaped locket. Soon, he hopes the company will be able to customize jewelry at reasonable prices for individual customers—including family photos. Call it thinking small.
Next time you want to get rid of a pet fish, try something other than, say, dumping it in a lake. In March, a crew studying Lake Tahoe reported finding a goldfish measuring 15 inches and weighing 4 pounds! (Their size can, indeed, vary greatly, depending on environment.) University of Nevada, Reno’s Dr. Sudeep Chandra, one of the team members, says, “While it is natural for people to want to make sure their pets live a long, natural life, the act of dumping species into water bodies can result in unintended consequences,” such as impacting the native ecology of lakes and rivers. Chandra and his team are working with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and other agencies in the Tahoe Basin to control and manage invasive species, and they’ve collected 42 goldfish and one koi from the lake during the past year—weighing about 50 pounds total. So far, their efforts appear to be working. Chandra says the team is “starting to see a rebound in some of the native fishes.”
They say cheaters never prosper, but that didn’t stop a class of 14 firefighter recruits, who were suspected of cheating on a written test and barred from graduating on February 14. According to city officials, the scandal cost taxpayers $718,984, or $51,356 per recruit, the cost of sending them through the 18-week firefighting academy. The fire department had little trouble getting new applicants to fill the void, but consider this: The cheaters can reapply at any time. Still, new recruits may be deterred from trying any tricks, thanks to extra measures put in place as a result of this fiasco. City of Las Vegas Communications Director David Riggleman says new hiring standards have been implemented, including background checks and polygraphs, having all test proctors go through fire marshal training and having a human resources representative sit in on every written test.
Bridgette Chaplin, 32, was arrested June 22 when police found an electric stun gun in her vehicle during a traffic stop. Investigators later learned she’d been arrested for forgery in the past and had a 2007 conviction for stolen mail. Then the floodgates opened. Police uncovered two forgery labs—one in an apartment complex and one in a home—that contained nearly 1,000 identities and forged documents: car titles, W-2 forms, driver's licenses and at least one passport. Chaplin was indicted on 43 charges in September (she pleaded not guilty), and a superceding indictment in October added 19 charges. Her bail was set at $624,000. In the meantime, authorities are faced with the unenviable prospect of contacting all those who had their identities stolen. That process is ongoing, and Chaplin has said she will represent herself—and has asked for a speedy trial.
A gift from Jimmy
A ribbon-cutting ceremony May 18 commemorated a very special computer lab at Clark High School—one funded by late-night talk show host (and 1985 Clark graduate) Jimmy Kimmel. It started with a letter from the school’s principal, Jill Pendleton, asking for Kimmel’s help. Kimmel sent a $58,000 check, which purchased 72 computers, and even attended the ribbon cutting, playing his bass clarinet for the ceremony. The two-room Jimmy Kimmel Technology Center is now heavily used, and Pendleton’s next goal is to keep the lab open after hours for students who don’t have computers at home. To do that, she’ll need money in the budget to hire someone to staff it. Jimmy, are you listening?
Seeing red (tape)
The body of Keith Goldberg, a Las Vegas cabdriver who was murdered, was found at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area on April 14—more than a year after he was reported missing. A volunteer search and rescue team was not allowed to search the area until it obtained $1 million in liability insurance, which took Goldberg’s family 13 months of fundraising. Just two hours after they were allowed to search, they found Goldberg’s body. In response, Congressman Joe Heck introduced HR2166, the Good Samaritan Search and Recovery Act, which would waive the insurance requirement for such circumstances. Congress, while hearing testimony in support of the bill, blasted the National Park Service over the red tape that prevented Goldberg’s family from recovering his body for so long. In June, the House Committee on Natural Resources approved the bill unanimously, and it is now eligible to be brought before the House of Representatives for a vote.
A legend’s due
A Nevada Senate committee voted March 26 to support a presidential pardon for Jack Johnson, the first black heavyweight champion of the world. Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, who sponsored the resolution along with Assemblyman Harvey Munford, D-Las Vegas, said “it made sense” for Nevada to parallel the congressional push to pardon Johnson because of his significant connection to Nevada, where he defended his title against James J. Jeffries in Reno in “the Fight of the Century” in 1910. The fighter’s turbulent life included a 1913 conviction of violating the Mann Act, which made it illegal to take women across state lines for “immoral purposes.” He fled the country initially but returned to serve a 10-month prison sentence, after which his boxing career was essentially over. A similar resolution, sponsored by Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, and Congressman Peter King, R-New York, passed later in the year in both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. So far, the pardon has not been granted by President Obama, but Brower has hope. “I think he’ll do it at the last minute, as he’s leaving office,” Brower says.
Your tax dollars at work
After 15 years, Nevada eliminated its Office of Diplomatic Relations and Protocol. If you’ve never heard of it, don’t worry—almost no one else has either, including foreign honorary and general consuls based in the state.
State Sen. Ben Kieckhefer introduced Senate Bill 225 to make the Blue Weimaraner the official state dog of Nevada. It didn’t pass.
David Byerman, secretary of the state Senate, released a news release with photos of how the Senate chambers would look after undergoing a $10 million remodeling—including 17 luxury suites, 400 club-level seats, a membership-fee-based “Club 21” lounge and a dramatically upgraded press box. Thing is, none of it was real—it was an April Fool’s joke.
Assemblyman William Horne made a last-minute amendment to a bill to make the Basque cocktail Picon Punch Nevada’s official drink. It didn’t pass.
Henderson City Manager Jacob Snow announced he will not pursue an attempt to change the city’s logo, despite it looking like a hamburger.