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NOE GARCIA, The Sentinel 

Sierra Pacific’s Stacey Patino tracks a ball during the first half of an East Sequoia League game against Lindsay at Sierra Pacific High School on Thursday.

Junior Explorers graduate PAL program

HANFORD — The sixth-grade graduates of the Hanford Police Activities League’s Junior Explorer program have made good on their commitment to protect and learn.

Members of law enforcement, faculty and parents gathered at John F. Kennedy Junior High School Thursday evening to support the program’s 35 graduates from various schools.

“There’s a saying that goes, ‘the only thing that needs to happen for the triumph of evil is for good men and women to do nothing’ and today you’re doing something good,” Hanford Police Chief Parker Sever told the graduates during the ceremony. “You’re taking a stand and saying, ‘I’m going to do things that make me better.’ When you make those choices, you’re making the choice to succeed in life."

The students wore purple ribbons to show their support for Sever, who was diagnosed with stage IV colon cancer in late 2017.

The two-year after-school program, which was implemented three years ago, seeks to teach students about the Hanford police department, showing what officers do and the role they serve in the community. It also teaches different parts of police work like evidence collection, finger printing and other duties.

Throughout the program, coordinators and school resource officers Corporal Frank Martinez and Officer Per Westlund also guide the children through personal dilemmas including how to deal with bullies and how to navigate the uncertain waters of social media.

“I truly believe it takes a village to raise a child. Every one of us will instilled in each of these boys and girls at least something positive and I feel that the outcome is going to be tremendous,” Martinez said before thanking the parents in the audience for allowing him to be a part of their children’s’ lives.

The program is the brainchild of Martinez, Assistant Superintendent of the Hanford Elementary School District Karen McConnell said during the ceremony. Emotions were visible on the faces of those in attendance when it was announced that Martinez was stepping away from his role as a school resource officer, making this is last year with the Junior Explorers. As thanks, he was given a gift from the staff and students at the ceremony — a framed photo of his face on Superman’s body.  

“He’s our superhero,” McConnell said.

The ceremony ended with parents presenting their graduating sixth graders with medals and the announcement of the class’ Explorers of the Year, as chosen by the two coordinators.

Westlund chose Ruben Patino of Roosevelt Elementary while Martinez chose Richmond’s Marcos Guzman.

“In my opinion, [Guzman] could make a very well-rounded officer. [He’s] someone who’s very capable in the classroom but is also very adaptable and understands the community and what’s actually happening out there,” Martinez said.

Superintendent of the Hanford Elementary District Joy Gabler said during the ceremony that she hopes the graduates use the knowledge they’ve acquired during the program to continue to better themselves.

“I encourage them to keep seeking out ways to better themselves and to make our town and our city, our country and our world a better place,” she said.

Aera Energy donates Rescue Equipment to Fresno County Fire Protection District

Coalinga – Aera Energy LLC has donated $5000 to the Fresno County Fire Protection District. These funds were used to purchase four STIHL Cutquik TS 420 rescue saws that will be utilized by emergency rescue professionals to assist in vehicle extrication of crash victims, as well as other rescues from small spaces.

These devices are also used to extricate victims from collapsed concrete and steel structures after earthquakes. First responders remember the 1983 Coalinga earthquake all too well. The earthquake caused an estimated $10 million in property damage and injured 94 people. Damage was most severe in Coalinga, where the eight-block downtown commercial district was almost destroyed.

“These powerful saws can cut through all types of materials such as metal, concrete, brick and other debris”, stated Fire Chief, Mark Johnson. “Our proximity to both Coalinga and Interstate 5 makes these types of tools necessary to protect the public on the west side of Fresno County. We are very appreciative of this gesture from Aera Energy and can certainly use the new rescue saws on our fire engines in that area.”

“The Fresno County Fire Protection District is the primary first responder in the Coalinga Oil Fields. We enjoy a successful working relationship with the Fresno County Fire Protection District and wanted to make a donation that would assist the firefighters in their work of saving lives,” explained Ed Patterson, the Manager of Operations for Aera Energy in Coalinga. “Our firefighters are valued community partners and we are so grateful they are here.” 

People present at the event were: Mark Johnson - Fresno County Fire Protection District Chief; Chris Bump - Fresno County Fire Protection District Assistant Chief ; Seth Brown - Fresno County Fire Protection District Public Information Officer; Buddy Mendes - Fresno County Supervisor ; Edwin Patterson - Aera Energy General Manager; Feleena Sutton - Aera Energy Public Affairs and Jay Haas - Aera Energy Safety Coordinator.

"We were happy to accept Aera Energy's donation today, as it enabled us to purchase four new STIHL Rescue Saws to equip our firefighters better.  These partnerships that we have with the private sector make people that live and travel through all of Fresno County, safer." said Seth Brown, Battalion Chief and Public Information Officer 

Julissa Zavala, The Sentinel 

Hanford City Council members and city staff work together on exercises Friday during their goals and objectives meeting.

Longest shutdown over: Trump signs bill to reopen government

WASHINGTON — Submitting to mounting pressure amid growing disruption, President Donald Trump signed a bill Friday to reopen the government for three weeks, backing down from his demand that Congress give him money for his border wall before federal agencies get back to work.

Standing alone in the Rose Garden, Trump said he would sign legislation funding shuttered agencies until Feb. 15 and try again to persuade lawmakers to finance his long-sought wall. The deal he reached with congressional leaders contains no new money for the wall but ends the longest shutdown in U.S. history.

First the Senate, then the House swiftly and unanimously approved the deal. Late Friday, Trump signed it into law. The administration asked federal department heads to reopen offices in a "prompt and orderly manner" and said furloughed employees can return to work.

Trump's retreat came in the 35th day of the partial shutdown as intensifying delays at the nation's airports and another missed payday for hundreds of thousands of federal workers brought new urgency to efforts to resolve the standoff.

"This was in no way a concession," Trump said in a tweet late Friday, fending off critics who wanted him to keep fighting. "It was taking care of millions of people who were getting badly hurt by the Shutdown with the understanding that in 21 days, if no deal is done, it's off to the races!"

The shutdown ended as Democratic leaders had insisted it must — reopen the government first, then talk border security.

"The president thought he could crack Democrats, and he didn't, and I hope it's a lesson for him," said the Senate Democratic leader, Chuck Schumer. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said of her members: "Our unity is our power. And that is what maybe the president underestimated."

Trump still made the case for a border wall and maintained he might again shut down the government over it. Yet, as negotiations restart, Trump enters them from a weakened position. A strong majority of Americans blamed him for the standoff and rejected his arguments for a border wall, recent polls show.

"If we don't get a fair deal from Congress, the government will either shut down on Feb. 15, again, or I will use the powers afforded to me under the laws and Constitution of the United States to address this emergency," Trump said.

The president has said he could declare a national emergency to fund the border wall unilaterally if Congress doesn't provide the money. Such a move would almost certainly face legal hurdles.

As part of the deal with congressional leaders, a bipartisan committee of House and Senate lawmakers was being formed to consider border spending as part of the legislative process in the weeks ahead.

"They are willing to put partisanship aside, I think, and put the security of the American people first," Trump said. He asserted that a "barrier or walls will be an important part of the solution."

The deal includes back pay for some 800,000 federal workers who have gone without paychecks. The Trump administration promises to pay them as soon as possible.

Also expected is a new date for the president to deliver his State of the Union address, postponed during the shutdown. But it will not be Jan. 29 as once planned, according to a person familiar with the planning but unauthorized to discuss it.

As border talks resume, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he hopes there will be "good-faith negotiations over the next three weeks to try to resolve our differences."

Schumer said that while Democrats oppose the wall money, they agree on other ways to secure the border "and that bodes well for coming to an eventual agreement."

In striking the accord, Trump risks backlash from conservatives who pushed him to keep fighting for the wall. Some lashed out Friday for his having yielded, for now, on his signature campaign promise.

Conservative commentator Ann Coulter suggested on Twitter that she views Trump as "the biggest wimp" to serve as president.

Money for the wall is not at all guaranteed, as Democrats have held united against building a structure as Trump once envisioned, preferring other types of border technology. Asked about Trump's wall, Pelosi, who has said repeatedly she won't approve money for it, said: "Have I not been clear? No, I have been very clear."

The breakthrough came as LaGuardia Airport in New York and Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey both experienced at least 90-minute delays in takeoffs Friday because of the shutdown. And the world's busiest airport — Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport — was experiencing long security wait times, a warning sign the week before it expects 150,000 out-of-town visitors for the Super Bowl.

The standoff became so severe that, as the Senate opened with prayer, Chaplain Barry Black called on high powers in the "hour of national turmoil" to help senators do "what is right."