The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California on November 21, 1991 · Page 623
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The Los Angeles Times from Los Angeles, California · Page 623

Los Angeles, California
Issue Date:
Thursday, November 21, 1991
Page 623
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THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 21, 1991 A? LOS ANGELES TIMES California and the West ANALYSIS Legislators Faced With Inability to Police Themselves Corruption: Tattletale rule and the belief that there will always be some lawbreakers are cited as reasons why politicians haven't been more forceful in reforming.; 1111 CHARLES HILLlNfiER Los Angdcs Times Debbie Stetz, In front of skeletal storefront, says Rhyolite is deteriorating rapidly, Below, a fence protects railroad depot from vandalism. Ghost Town Some Nevada residents are trying to save the ghost town of Rhyolite, which they fear is being threatened by the ravages of time, vandalism and mining activity nearby. .? -!gAH0 MILES QCarson CIV NEVADA S fMHM UTAH vBaatty h CALIFORNIA V :JSijtciJ ARIZONA Los Angeles Tlmca Fading Ghost Gold-Mining Town of Rhyolite Is Losing Battle Against Nature and Vandals By CHARLES HILLINGER TIMES STAFF WRITER RHYOLITE, Nev. Is Rhyolite, one of the most photographed ghost towns in the West, gasping its last breath? The turn-of-the-century gold camp is today a collection of remnants. The stark concrete building skeletons, a checkerboard of old foundations, the town's famed "bottle house" and railroad depot combine with fascinating lore about the town's riotous history to attract thousands of visitors each year. The bleak, eerie locale has the distinction of being the only ghost town in the Death Valley area easily accessible by car. But the ravages of time, vandalism and the resumption of mining activity threaten the town's existence. "Rhyolite is deteriorating rapidly. If something isn't done soon the old gold-mining town may become a memory," said Debbie Stetz, 35, a technician at the Death Valley National Monument museum and secretary of " Friends of Rhyolite. The group was formed last January after several bottles and mortar broke loose and fell mysteriously from under the rafters of the ghost town's bottle house, creating a huge hole in the historic building. Saloonkeeper Tommy Kelly had mixed mortar and cemented in 31,000 Anheuser Busch beer bottles to fashion the walls of his unusual home in 1906. When the hole in the bottle house was discovered, 50 people concerned about the well-being of the ghost town met in nearby Beatty, Nev., and formed Friends of Rhyolite. The group was organized to find ways to preserve and stabilize what little is left of the old town and to save it from disappearing forever. Friends of Rhyolite is planning the "Resurrection of Rhyolite" Jan. 18-19 to publicly launch its campaign to preserve and protect the ghost town. "It will be a weekend of living history with tours by costumed guides explaining what Rhyolite was like during its heyday. There will be photographic exhibits and re-enactment of life in the gold camp," said Stetz. Rhyolite up the steep grade of Death Valley's Daylight Pass high on the shoulders of the purple Bullfrog Mountains is two miles east of the national monument's boundary and five miles west of Beatty. The hills behind the crumbling ruins of the once roaring gold camp are scarred with the diggings of 10,000 men who recovered millions of dollars of the precious metal for three halcyon years-1905-1908 when Rhyolite was the third biggest town in Nevada. Rhyolite boasted 48 saloons, three banks, a schoolhouse, 42 streets lined with framed homes and a huge depot handling passengers and freight for three railroads the Las Vegas & Tonopah, Tonopah & Tidewater and Bullfrog &Goldfield. In the intervening years all the old homes and commercial buildings fell apart or were hauled away, except for three striking stone skeletons the John Cooke bank building, the schoolhouse and the Porter Bros, general store. Also remaining are the bottle house, the depot, a tiny jail and a handful of residences, two still standing and livable and the rest weathering away. Rhyolite has only one year-round resident, Lou Schuh, 53, who leaves the ghost town each day at sunup to work on a distant ranch and doesn't return to his trailer until late in the evening. From October through May, Verna Lewis, 70, and her husband, Delbert, 72, run a gift shop in the rock-and-mud house where Louise Morrison, Verna's aunt, lived from 1929 until her death in 1976. Lack of security has been a major problem in the town. Fences have been erected around the depot and bottle house to protect Please see RHYOLITE, A34 By CARL INGRAM and JERRY GILLAM TIMES STAFF WRITERS SACRAMENTO-The tally now stands at three state senators either convicted of or admitting to political corruption charges and the FBI search for more culprits in California government continues. Yet the question persists: Why hasn't the Legislature, its reputation continually sinking as more wrongdoing in its ranks is exposed, ' acted more forcefully to clean up its act and restore public confidence? One clear answer, as old as the logrolling legislative system itself, is simple: You don't tattle on a colleague whose vote you may need on a pet bill or project or for your own political advancement. Speaking generally, one Republican legislative leader said, "It is human nature not to want to cross anybody and to be friends with everybody." Another answer, offered by Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco), himself a lightning rod for criticism of what only 20 years ago was rated as the No. 1 Legislature in the United States, is that in or out of government inevitably there are those who break laws. "There is no way to ultimately; prevent any human being from, violating the law. From the begin-; ning of time, we have tried to! figure out how to regulate people's; conduct," Brown said Wednesday! in the wake of the announcement' by former state Sen. Alan Robbins! (D-Van Nuys) that he had re-' signed his office and would plead! guilty to political corruption' charges. "You have to have swift punishment for those who act improperly; and hope that will serve as an example to others," Brown said. "I; don't know of any other way." During the past two years, Democratic Sen. Joseph P. Montoya o Whittier and Democratic former Sen. Paul Carpenter of Downey! were convicted on political corruption charges stemming from abuse! . of their legislative offices. Robbins became the third elected state! official to be similarly accused.-Four former aides of legislative; members have also been convicted of crimes related to political cor-; ruption. Even though the Legislature last; . year approved and the voters rati-, fied Proposition 112, a reform; aimed at making lawmakers less dependent on special-interest; money, Senate President Pro Tern! Please see CORRUPTION, A45 Air Pollution Dips 10 in Smoggiest U.S. Cities Environment: EPA chief reports a decade of progress in Southland, but the region still has nation's dirtiest air.! By LARRY B. STAMMER TIMES ENVIRONMENTAL WRITER Air pollution in the nation's smoggiest cities dropped 10 during the past decade, and 10 million fewer Americans are breathing unhealthful air, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency chief William K. Reilly announced Wednesday in Los Angeles. Although comparable progress has been made in Southern Califor- POLLUTION DISPUTE New air quality rules stir conflict among Administration, EPA and activists. A20 nia, the region continues to lead the nation in dirty air. Despite the gains, Reilly appeared concerned over increasing calls to relax environmental controls because of the current economic downturn. He warned that 74 million Americans still live in cities that fail to meet federal clean air standards. "We celebrate clean air's success but increasingly see lamentations about its costs," Reilly told 150 people attending Town Hall of California, a public affairs forum at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. "We cannot as a nation reconsider objectives set so carefully and after such review every time we enter a period of economic difficulty," Reilly told reporters after his speech. Los Angelps Times William K. Reilly During the past several months, some of the EPA's environmental programs have been targeted by critics within the Bush Administration who are concerned about their costs. They have proposed changes in the nation's wetlands policy that could remove development restrictions on 30 to 50 of all existing wetlands. In addition, the Council on Competitiveness headed by Vice President Dan Quayle is attempt-Please see SMOG, A43 Coalition Seeks to Eliminate Tax Breaks for Rich, Corporations practice of allowing the wealthy to write off interest payments on luxuries such as yachts. "There is no way we should allow people to write off. going to sporting events while kids are going hungry and school programs are being cut," said Lenny Goldberg, a public interest lobbyist who is heading the effort. Members of a broadly based liberal coalition formed to pressure Wilson and the Legislature for the changes include groups such as the Western Center on Law and Poverty, representing some of California's neediest citizens, and the California State Employees Assn., which represents some of its best organized. The taxpayers' group won a victory this year when it pressured Wilson and the Legislature to enact a bill boosting the top' rate of the state income tax paid by California's wealthiest taxpayers. As part of a package of more than $7 billion in tax increases enacted in June and July, the income tax measure created two top brackets for state income taxpayers: 10 for individuals earning more than Please see TAX, A40 By DOUGLAS P. SHUIT TIMES STAFF WRITER SACRAMENTO The California Tax Reform Assn the public interest coalition that pushed, successfully for "tax the rich" legislation last year said Wednesday its next target will be closing state tax loopholes that benefit wealthy Californi-ans and corporations and cost the California treasury billions. Leaders of the group, saying they were concerned by Gov. Pete Wilson's warnings that the state faces a new round of budget cuts in education, health and welfare programs because of a projected $3-billion jevenue shortfall, kickedoff a campaign aimed at reducing or eliminating income tax writeoffs allowed for country club dues, tickets to sporting events and other entertainment expenses. 1 The group said it will also challenge what it called "tax subsidies" to California corporations for overseas dperations, fight for a change in the law allowing property investors to transfer property without paying taxes on gains and try to end the. Flan for. Laguna Wildlife Preserve May Fall Apart By MARLA CONE TIMES STAFF WRITER LAGUNA BEACH-The state is threatening to pull out of a $4-mil-iion deal to buy 82 acres of wilderness land in Laguna Canyon because the Irvine Co. has drawn up a 20-page list of conditions that officials say makes the land undesirable as an ecological reserve. The dispute throws a monkey wrench into the plans to create a state wildlife sanctuary on the land, which would be part of a much bigger coastal park. Laguna Beach earlier this year agreed to buy 2,150 acres of Laguna Canyon from the Irvine Co. for $78 million. In August, the California Wildlife Conservation Board agreed to buy 82 acres of that land from the city and put the money into escrow. Please see LAGUNA, A35 Miller Becomes Focus of Debate Among Adversaries in Congress "Believe me, I am not the only one in the House who dislikes Congressman Miller and that includes a large number of California members. Many Democrats and Republicans will tell you they try to stay clear of him because he is so obnoxious." ; Miller said he had anticipated that his motives would be widely assailed after he attempted to overturn the federal govern ment's practice of automatically renewing 40-year contracts with irrigators who use the massive Central Valley project. While making it clear in an interview that he could care less what others think of him. Miller dismissed Hubbard's act of revenge ; as meaningless. "This is not real," Miller said. "I've had Salvadoran death squads and assassins sent to the. United States because they were mad over his opposition to U.S. aid to Central America. That is real." (In 1983. State Department officials warned Millar that they could not guarantee his safety if he traveled to Central America. ) After attaching the irrigation contract issue to the drought bill, Miller needed a . Please see MILLER, A38 By GLENN F. BUNTING TIMES STAFF WRITER WASHINGTON When Rep. George Miller (D-Martinez) failed this week in a last-ditch effort to reshape federal water policy in California before Congress recesses, he gave one of his many adversaries an opportunity to settle a personal score and stirred old resentments among others. Rep. Carroll Hubbard Jr. (D-Ky.) stood up on the House floor Tuesday night and prevented Miller, the chairman of the Interior Committee, from getting the unanimous consent he needed to proceed with a companion measure emergency drought relief legislation. The unusual maneuver by Hubbard, who has been seethingsince Miller loudly cursed him last summer in front of local Kentucky officials, marked the first time in his 17 years as a lawmaker that he had stymied such a routine request. "The old adage of what goes around comes around . happened Tuesday night. . ," Hubbard said in an interview. ..X : - -

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