2016; Year in Review

The year 2016 was a year of growth and change for the valleys covered under the umbrella of Valley News. In addition to some surprising elections and ones that weren’t so surprising, there was plenty of pomp and circumstance and lots of fun throughout the area over the past year. Here is a look at some of the highlights from 2016.

Firefighters from Murrieta Fire Department’s Station 3 work to shut off a geyser of water that erupted after a fire hydrant was sheared off its base Sunday, Jan. 3. Kim Harris photo
Firefighters from Murrieta Fire Department’s Station 3 work to shut off a geyser of water that erupted after a fire hydrant was sheared off its base Sunday, Jan. 3. Kim Harris photo

Jan. 8

TEMECULA – The City of Temecula kicked 2016 with a new Specific Plan adopted by the Temecula City Council to ultimately invent “Uptown Temecula” over time as landowners and developers took advantage of additional land use and zoning opportunities in the area. As a result of 38 public meetings and workshops that included community input over the span of four years, the city of Temecula finalized its Uptown Temecula Specific Plan.

A 16-year-old in the Wildomar area had her dream wish granted in August, the chance to celebrate her birthday in style alongside family and friends. Adriana Pimentel, nicknamed Missy, was diagnosed in 2014 with bilateral optic sheath meningioma, a condition which causes tumors to grow on both of her optic nerves.

A vehicle backed into a fire hydrant shearing it off its base and sending a geyser of water nearly 20 feet in the air in the parking lot of Murrieta’s newest restaurant Sunday, Jan. 3. Curious bystanders flocked to Dunkin’ Donuts’ outdoor seating area to watch as firefighters from Murrieta Fire Department’s Station 3 worked to shut off the flow of water which took about 15 minutes, Public Information Officer Matt Corelli reported.

Motorists drive through a flooded section of Jefferson Avenue in Temecula during a strong storm system that drenched much of Southern California Jan. 6. Shane Gibson photo
Motorists drive through a flooded section of Jefferson Avenue in Temecula during a strong storm system that drenched much of Southern California Jan. 6. Shane Gibson photo

Jan. 15

The first El- Niño driven storms of the season pounded the area early last week, bringing with it torrential rains, punishing winds and destructive flooding to the area. Murrieta and Temecula’s Wine country were the big winners in terms of rainfall recorded with automated gauges collecting 3.91 inches of rain and 3.3 inches, respectively. Temecula collected 2.25 inches, Lake Elsinore and Wildomar both recorded 2.78 inches. Menifee had 2.64 inches of rainfall and South Temecula reported 2.03 inches of the wet stuff. (PHOTO)

The Mayors of four local cities – Menifee, Murrieta, Temecula and Lake Elsinore – emphasized growth and public safety as they spoke to hundreds at a local luncheon held by the Women’s Council of Realtors at the offices of the Southwest Riverside County Association of REALTORS® Jan. 5. The luncheon was sponsored by Chase Bank.

For one group of Great Oak High School Students, the New Year holiday gave them the opportunity to learn about a new culture and visit a foreign country when 140 students from the school’s marching band were given the opportunity to perform live in Paris. The Spirit of Great Oak Marching Band and Guard were invited to perform in the city’s annual New Year’s Day parade, Le Grande Parade de Paris –Champs Elysees, and quickly jumped on the chance.

“American Idol” judge Harry Connick Jr. congratulates Murrieta resident Melanie Tierce following her successful audition that landed her a spot during the show’s Hollywood Week. Courtesy photo
“American Idol” judge Harry Connick Jr. congratulates Murrieta resident Melanie Tierce following her successful audition that landed her a spot during the show’s Hollywood Week. Courtesy photo

Jan. 22

For 21-year-old Melanie Tierce being selected as a contestant on “American Idol” is something she never dreamed could happen to her. As a matter of fact, being on the show was nothing she had ever even aspired to do. “It’s been very surreal, very unexpected,” Tierce said of her time on the popular Fox show which is entering its final season.

In a move that surprised many onlookers, Temecula council members recently altered their stance on growing medical marijuana within city limits. The shift – which reflects a sharp detour from the city’s past policies – would allow qualified medical marijuana users to grow up to 12 plants under specified conditions. The new policy, if it wins final approval at a Jan. 26 meeting, would mirror a Riverside County ordinance that took effect last year.

Wildomar City Council decided to annex three properties into the Communities Facilities District, levy a special tax on properties within the CFD, revamp district-dependent council elections and modify a baseball field at Marna O’Brien Park during a regular meeting Jan. 13.

Debbie Phillips with her personal black Tennessee Walking Horse, Domino at the Oak Meadows Ranch horse facility in Wildomar. Debbie and her husband Craig, founded the nonprofit Blue Pearl Project to rescue, rehabilitate and find placement for neglected horses so they can get a second chance to a thriving life. Shane Gibson photo
Debbie Phillips with her personal black Tennessee Walking Horse, Domino at the Oak Meadows Ranch horse facility in Wildomar. Debbie and her husband Craig, founded the nonprofit Blue Pearl Project to rescue, rehabilitate and find placement for neglected horses so they can get a second chance to a thriving life. Shane Gibson photo

Jan. 29

Oak Meadows Ranch is a nonprofit horse sanctuary located in Wildomar for rescued horses that have been abandoned, injured or whose owners cannot afford to care for them. Owners Craig Phillips and Debbie Phillips have been operating the ranch since 2012. The 21-acre ranch offers riding classes, various forms of therapy and monthly family friendly events.

Manzanita Ranch in the rural Anza Valley, long an escape for military, first responders and others suffering from the effects of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, is up for sale by the owners. Seeking to purchase the ranch are John Roberts and supporters of the “One Good Day Project,” where the horses at the ranch are the therapy for men and women who are suffering from PTSD.

The Murrieta City Council put more teeth into an ordinance that prohibits the cultivation, processing, delivery and dispensaries in the city by including an additional land use prohibition. With the council’s unanimous action Tuesday, Jan. 15, Murrieta joins other cities in the Inland Empire that prohibit the use and distribution of marijuana, other than those who have a medical need, to bolster their ordinances.

Sheridan Soto plays the bass in the Fender Center of Performing Arts - Kids Rock Free band, No Surrender. No Surrender performed the band Journey's “Anyway You Want It” during Rock the Oaks Jan. 30. Shane Gibson photo
Sheridan Soto plays the bass in the Fender Center of Performing Arts – Kids Rock Free band, No Surrender. No Surrender performed the band Journey’s “Anyway You Want It” during Rock the Oaks Jan. 30. Shane Gibson photo

Feb. 5

Oak Grove Center for Education Treatment and the Arts welcomed musicians, singers, residents and members of the community to the 2016 Rock the Oaks concert held at the Bridge Church in Murrieta, Friday and Saturday, Jan. 29 and 30. The proceeds from the event will go to funding the autism and arts and entertainment programs at Oak Grove Center, a nonprofit 24-hour residential, educational and therapeutic treatment center that serves 76 children who live on the main campus in Murrieta, as well as about 100 day students who attend the nonpublic school. A second campus, Oak Grove at the Ranch, located in Perris, serves another 50 students.

There is no shortage of talent in the Temecula Valley as four residents recently proved when they were all selected to perform on “American Idol.” While the journey may have ended for two, Melanie Tierce of Murrieta and Lindsey Carrier of Temecula, following the group performances, two Temecula teens remain in the competition on the hit FOX TV show, now in its final season. Anatalia Villaranda, 16 and Hannah Sanders, 17, both have been selected to continue in the competition by “Idol” judges Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Lopez and Keith Urban.

A former Murrieta Valley High School teacher, accused of having inappropriate sexual relationships with two students, appeared in court Friday, Jan. 29. for her arraignment. Shannon Fosgett entered not guilty pleas on all counts. During the arraignment, Deputy District Attorney Erica Schwartz provided details alleging five felonies and three misdemeanors against Fosgett, 44, of Temecula. The charges stem from allegations involving two different juvenile male victims.

An old windmill stands at the western corner of the meadow at the community of Meadowview in Temecula. Shane Gibson photo
An old windmill stands at the western corner of the meadow at the community of Meadowview in Temecula. Shane Gibson photo

Feb. 12

Meadowview, one of Temecula’s oldest and largest housing tracts, has swapped goats for golf. Leaders of the 900-home subdivision are again gearing up for the arrival of sheep and goats that are seen as the preferred method of weed abatement, habitat restoration and soil improvement. The grazing program has replaced a proposal that was floated more than a decade ago to build a golf course in the 385-acre open space area that is the centerpiece of the sprawling community.

While, the American Idol journey has ended for the two final Temecula teens featured on “American Idol, The Farewell Season,” their dedication to their craft remains stronger than ever. “I’ll never stop making music and performing, it’s what I love to do,”17-year-old Hannah Sanders said.

Murrieta City Council expressed its appreciation to city staff Tuesday, Feb. 2, for their work in completing a number of established and new goals made by the council since it last goal setting workshop March 27, 2015. The sitting council and councils before them since the city was incorporated in 2008, has established a number of goals and sub-goals to reach in regard to improving city residents’ desired living conditions.

La Laguna Resort manager William Johnson holds one of the hundreds of catfish to be stocked in Lake Elsinore Feb. 12. Shane Gibson photo
La Laguna Resort manager William Johnson holds one of the hundreds of catfish to be stocked in Lake Elsinore Feb. 12. Shane Gibson photo

Feb. 19

Lake Elsinore City Council met Feb. 9, establishing and appointing a litter and illegal dumping ad hoc subcommittee to review the city’s ordinances relating to the problem as well as policies, procedures and public education for the effort. The goal is to come up with ways to educate residents and cleanup the city.

Flourishing minds led to flourishing plants at the S.T.E.A.M. Workshop Feb. 13, held in the Grace Mellman Library. The event featured Malea Ortloff as the main presenter, who with storybooks, comics and multiple activities taught the attendees the many steps required to produce recycled water in the Eastern Municipal Water District. The water treatment facility takes in drainage from homes located in an area spanning Moreno Valley to Temecula, including water from sinks, washers and even toilets. Collected water undergoes an extensive cleaning process at EMWD, and is later delivered to golf courses and schools to irrigate plants.

Feb. 26

A Temecula building dedication Monday, Feb. 22, was one for the books – those focusing on friendship, politics, public service and city history. It was a day of superlatives – the word “amazing” was used by speakers at least five times – as an existing library was named in honor of Ron Roberts, a five-term Temecula councilman and mayor.

Hundreds came out to support the Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce’s 50th Annual Awards Gala, Saturday, Feb. 20, at Pechanga Resort & Casino. Each year, the Chamber honors exceptional businesses, service and charitable organizations and individuals who have been of outstanding service to the community and demonstrate strong values and leadership.

After 16 years, an Area Plan for Historic Downtown Murrieta may finally be put down in pen and ink complete with renderings and designs by Rick Engineering Company an award-winning firm based in San Diego hired by the Murrieta City Council. The City Council Feb. 16 accepted Rick Engineering’s bid of $240,982 to prepare the Area Plan which is being sought as an amendment to the Historic Murrieta Specific Plan that was adopted in October 2000.

Construction continues at the southwest corner of Newport and Haun roads in Menifee. Shane Gibson photo
Construction continues at the southwest corner of Newport and Haun roads in Menifee. Shane Gibson photo

March 4

There are more than 100 development projects going on across the city of Menifee now, with more coming in the near future including 10,000 new homes, said Jeff Wyman, Menifee’s Economic Development director in an economic update presented to the Menifee Valley Chamber of Commerce.

One of Temecula’s oldest and most visible shopping centers, the Temecula Town Center, will get a makeover because of a $60 million internet auction deal. The recent transaction marked the first time the new owners, who together oversee a large portfolio of commercial properties, had participated in an online auction. But the company, Citivest Commercial Investments, was intimately familiar with the iconic Temecula Town Center.

Temecula has joined a group of cities that will fund a study to determine whether they can stem the rising cost of police services. The $195,000 study – which could involve 10 cities – marks the latest step in a yearslong regional push. It will take at least six months for the study to begin and the group to get answers to an array of cost and service questions.

Adrian Roberts, 7, peeks out the window of his dad's '70 Ford Bronco during the annual Temecula Rod Run March 5. Shane Gibson photo
Adrian Roberts, 7, peeks out the window of his dad’s ’70 Ford Bronco during the annual Temecula Rod Run March 5. Shane Gibson photo

March 11

Record crowds from as far away as Canada jammed Old Town Temecula streets the weekend of March 4 and 5, to enjoy the sight of 640 shined up classic, muscle and custom cars lining every street in the historic town. The Temecula city sponsored Old Town special event that drew an estimated 55,000 people Friday afternoon and Saturday may well have broken all records for visitor attendance, city officials said.

A homeowner in Murrieta was responsible for the arrest of a man who broke into his home Saturday, March 5. Murrieta police officers responded to the home located in the 26300 block of Collier Union Drive in Murrieta to find the man, later identified as Albert Carrillo, a 34-year-old transient of Murrieta, detained by the male homeowner on the front lawn.

A single spotlight shimmers out from the darkness. The auditorium is packed full with teenagers and a parent here or there. The youthful audience roars in excitement with curtains drawn and performers cycled through. Where most schools might only marvel at the promising talent of their aspiring students, Great Oak High School decided to share the spotlight with their teachers and staff members March 2 at their second annual Staff Showcase.

Dressed to the nines, Giselle Duke, a freshman at Great Oak High School, celebrated her quinceañara with the reality web show, My Quinceanera documenting every step. Torres Photography and Video photo
Dressed to the nines, Giselle Duke, a freshman at Great Oak High School, celebrated her quinceañara with the reality web show, My Quinceanera documenting every step. Torres Photography and Video photo

March 18

A three-man Murrieta Innovation Center team recently won a Microsoft sponsored Hackathon at Santiago College with a unique irrigation controller that created an interest from Microsoft that will bring company representatives to the Murrieta MIC. The team made up of Greg Griffes, Tim Slator and John O’Conner from the MIC hardware and software Meetup Group participated against three other teams at the college Feb. 20 by building an irrigation controller that detects and isolates faults such as leaks, blockages and broken valves in an irrigation system.

Animal Friends of the valleys held its 12th annual “Wines for Canines & Kitties” March 5, at the Wiens Family Cellars. The event sold out as 220 animal lovers attended in support of the organization that has been serving local communities for 28 years with education and proactive humane animal services programs. The event raised over $27,000 (after expenses) for AFV.

In February, Giselle Duke had the opportunity to experience her rite of passage ceremony under the spotlight, as the YouTube Channel, AwesomenessTV, chose to feature her in its “My Dream Quinceañera” series. The web show selects one girl to have their quinceañera journey broadcast online, showcasing the many facets of the 15th birthday tradition for the modern Hispanic girl.

Country music singer Scotty McCreery sings his hit songs like “I Love You This Big” and “The Trouble With Girls” during his live performance at the Temecula Valley Fair March. 19. Shane Gibson photo
Country music singer Scotty McCreery sings his hit songs like “I Love You This Big” and “The Trouble With Girls” during his live performance at the Temecula Valley Fair March. 19. Shane Gibson photo

March 25

Thousands of Scotty McCreery fans, known as McCreerians, packed the Temecula Valley Fair sponsored by Temecula Valley Toyota Scion at Galway Downs Saturday, March 19, to see the country superstar perform live on the main stage for KFROG Country Night.

A fire captain who has one foot in Temecula and another in Fallbrook might help forge a new link between the nearby communities. But the appointment of Gregory Mann to a key Temecula post will also help underscore the contrasts between the communities that once mirrored each other along a remote stretch of a winding, two-lane roadway.

A U.S. Marine from Temecula was killed Saturday, March 19, at a coalition fire base near base at Makhmur in northern Iraq, Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook confirmed Sunday. Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin, a 27-year-old from Temecula, died at about 9 a.m., “after coming under ISIL rocket fire,” Cook said.

April 1

Friends, family, professional and local skaters, members of the surrounding communities, extreme sports enthusiasts and hundreds of other supporters all gathered Sunday, March 13, at the Audie Murphy Ranch Skate Park in Menifee to pay their respects to late Temecula teen, Gage Seal. Seal, who tragically lost his life in 2015, was an avid baseball player who played in the TVHS Bears Baseball program as well as several travel ball teams and was also a passionate skater.

“I want you to know, we won that war! It was the politicians that lost it,” said Duncan L. Hunter Sr. former U.S. Representative and decorated Vietnam War Veteran speaking at the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War Commemoration held at Murrieta Town Square Park, March 29.

Temecula Valley Unified School District announced Superintendent Timothy Ritter and other management officials will receive a sizable pay raise over the next few years. The school board voted unanimously to approve a new executive salary step schedule March 15. The schedule promotes the retention of quality staff by awarding steady growth in salary based on yearly increments.

U.S. Marines salute Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin before a public viewing for the community to personally pay their respects to the fallen Marine April 1 at the Temecula City Hall. Shane Gibson photo.
U.S. Marines salute Staff Sgt. Louis Cardin before a public viewing for the community to personally pay their respects to the fallen Marine April 1 at the Temecula City Hall. Shane Gibson photo.

April 8

A major multiagency drug bust in Anza last week resulted in multiple arrests and thousands of marijuana plants being confiscated from the illegal grows that were shut down, according to law enforcement officials.

A large outpouring of community members, dignitaries and military gathered underneath a 40-foot flag suspended between two fire trucks at Town Square at 8 a.m. Friday, April 1, to honor and remember fallen Marine Staff Sgt. Louis F. Cardin. The 27-year old Marine was a local resident from Temecula. Cardin was killed March 19 in northern Iraq by ISIS rocket fire as he urged his fellow soldiers into a bunker to protect them from incoming missiles.

Medical Examiner representatives and first responders load the body of a fatal victim from an April 1 crash involving an airplane and a passenger vehicle on Interstate 15 in Fallbrook. Shane Gibson photo.
Medical Examiner representatives and first responders load the body of a fatal victim from an April 1 crash involving an airplane and a passenger vehicle on Interstate 15 in Fallbrook. Shane Gibson photo.

A small, single-engine, low-wing private aircraft made an emergency landing onto northbound Interstate 15 in Fallbrook Saturday, April 2, killing a woman and injuring five other people. The crash occurred at approximately 9:15 a.m. on the freeway just north of State Route 76, forcing the California Highway Patrol to keep a Sig Alert in effect until about 5:15 p.m. The pilot of the aircraft, identified as Dennis Hogge, 62, of Jamul, attempted to make an emergency landing in the No. 4 lane of the northbound side of the freeway, but struck a vehicle in the process.

Reality Rally founder Gillian Larson (left), listens as Temecula Mayor Pro Tem Maryann Edwards, reads commemorative words engraved on the back of an American flag pin State Senator Jeff Stone wore at the state's capitol. Stone gave the pin to Larson for her charitable efforts toward the fight against breast cancer. Shane Gibson photo.
Reality Rally founder Gillian Larson (left), listens as Temecula Mayor Pro Tem Maryann Edwards, reads commemorative words engraved on the back of an American flag pin State Senator Jeff Stone wore at the state’s capitol. Stone gave the pin to Larson for her charitable efforts toward the fight against breast cancer. Shane Gibson photo.

April 15

Reality Rally raced into town last weekend bringing with it a plethora of stars from some of TV’s most popular reality shows including “Survivor,” “Naked and Afraid” and “The Amazing Race.” Fans flocked to a variety of events to meet with their favorite players.

Murrieta Fire Chief Scott Ferguson and Police Chief Sean Hadden introduced the city’s newest police officers and firefighters to the Murrieta City Council April 5 followed by a formal badge pinning ceremony.

Pressured by a widening gap between expenditures and generated revenues within the city, Menifee City Council voted 4-1, April 6, to allocate the city manager $50,000 to consult with an expert to reach a city resolution for community outreach efforts that can accommodate public safety and rising costs in a growing city. City staff proposed four possible tax options to raise funds, three of which require a citywide special election.

April 22

In honor of National Public Safety Telecommunications Week, Murrieta Police officials spent the entire week dedicating tributes to their dispatchers with photographs and posts on social media about the hardworking and dedicated members of the team.

For Holocaust survivors and their family members, it is said that memory shapes and teaches us, and in understanding that people can find redemption. The city of Murrieta will join with Christian, Jewish and civic leaders to show support for the Jewish people and Israel in acknowledging the third annual Holocaust Memorial Day for the March of Remembrance Sunday, May 1, at Murrieta Town Square Park. Tents, seating and refreshments will be provided.

The Wildomar City Council convened April 13, to fill two vacancies on the Measure Z Oversight Advisory committee and the Planning Commission and carry out general business.

Children of the Catholic church prepare to help with ministries during the Dedication Mass held at the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Catholic Church April 24. Shane Gibson photo
Children of the Catholic church prepare to help with ministries during the Dedication Mass held at the Blessed Teresa of Calcutta Catholic Church April 24. Shane Gibson photo

April 29

A fledgling Catholic church that held services at a Moose Lodge for a decade was thronged by about 1,500 worshippers as it opened its permanent home Sunday on the cusp of French Valley and Winchester Roads.

Surging popularity in microbreweries and craft beer tasting rooms has prompted Temecula to enact a development moratorium while city staff studies and proposes new operating guidelines. City planners convinced the council that gaps in the existing regulations governing microbreweries warrant a moratorium. But planners are quick to note that the hiatus from processing development applications does not signal any concerns over the fast-growing industry.

Menifee City Council continued discussion on methods to increase revenue in the city April 20, deciding to approve the creation of a Public Safety Community Facilities Safety District and ask staff to return May 15 to further advise Council on the possibility of ballot measure proposals for both a city sales tax and a Utility User Tax.

Temecula Mayor Mike Naggar jokingly displays a cardboard-cutout of himself that promotes the "Family First" theme during his 2016 presentation at the Temecula State of the City Address. Shane Gibson photo
Temecula Mayor Mike Naggar jokingly displays a cardboard-cutout of himself that promotes the “Family First” theme during his 2016 presentation at the Temecula State of the City Address. Shane Gibson photo

May 6

Few discouraging words were heard at Temecula’s annual assessment of its economy, employment, quality of life and prospects. “We love good news in Temecula and we have a lot of it,” Mayor Mike Naggar proclaimed during his State of the City presentation April 28 at the Pechanga Resort & Casino. The upbeat talk attracted a capacity crowd of business, government and nonprofit leaders.

Taste of Temecula Valley, the annual fundraiser for the Temecula Educators Foundation, returned to Old Town for a weekend of food, friendship and fun April 29-30.

Life adjustment for veterans who have lived through combat, or suffer from sexual trauma or harassment among other issues, suffer many symptoms from feelings of deep guilt to paranoia. The Temecula Vet Center at 40935 County Center Drive, Suites A and B in Temecula keeps it doors open for almost 80 hours a week Monday through Saturday with friendly and concerned counselors for any veteran who walks off the street needing help and comfort.

Tim Apple with his 11-month-old son Morgan and Mike Garrett with his 11-month-old son Gavin, listen to live music during the inaugural Temecula Country Music Festival at Galway Downs May 7. The free admission event accepted donations to the wounded veteran support organization “Operation Silver Star.” Shane Gibson photo
Tim Apple with his 11-month-old son Morgan and Mike Garrett with his 11-month-old son Gavin, listen to live music during the inaugural Temecula Country Music Festival at Galway Downs May 7. The free admission event accepted donations to the wounded veteran support organization “Operation Silver Star.” Shane Gibson photo

May 13

An appeal to halt plans to build a family oriented open air restaurant bar on Juniper Street in historic old town Murrieta by residents in the neighborhood was denied by the Murrieta City Council at its May 3, meeting. The site development plan and conditional use permit was initially approved by the Murrieta City Planning Commission Dec. 9, 2015.

The City Clerks Association of California (CCAC) awarded Randi Johl-Olson with its highest honor as 2016 City Clerk of the Year for California at the annual CCAC conference held in Newport Beach April 28. Johl-Olson joined the City’s Executive Team as the city clerk for the city of Temecula in 2014 after previously serving as city clerk for the cities of Fountain Valley and Lodi and law clerk for Harper & Burns, LLP.

U.S. Marine Corps Master Sgt. Randy Brock reveals himself and to his son AJ, 10. Not to be left out, daughter Mikaella, 9, runs onto the field as the two give their dad a hug after realizing he is home from a six-month deployment May 13. Brock put on umpire gear as a disguise to surprise his family during a mock baseball scrimmage his 10-year-old son pitched in. Brock was deployed in Japan for training for six-months and returned to the U.S. at March Air Reserve Base May 12. Brock, a Marine for 21 years, has served 3 tours of combat deployment. Two were in Afghanistan and one in the Persian Gulf. Shane Gibson photo
U.S. Marine Corps Master Sgt. Randy Brock reveals himself and to his son AJ, 10. Not to be left out, daughter Mikaella, 9, runs onto the field as the two give their dad a hug after realizing he is home from a six-month deployment May 13. Brock put on umpire gear as a disguise to surprise his family during a mock baseball scrimmage his 10-year-old son pitched in. Brock was deployed in Japan for training for six-months and returned to the U.S. at March Air Reserve Base May 12. Brock, a Marine for 21 years, has served 3 tours of combat deployment. Two were in Afghanistan and one in the Persian Gulf. Shane Gibson photo

May 20

Gracing the world with their grins, the special need students from Great Oak High, Temecula Valley High and Chaparral High celebrated the school year’s end at Spectacular Prom May 14. The event centered around facilitating inclusion for youth with special needs, who would not have the opportunity to experience a school dance. (PHOTO)

Eight more people were arrested in string of search warrants served by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department Special Investigations Bureau’s Marijuana Enforcement Team in an effort to combat the problem of illegal marijuana grows in Anza and the surrounding communities. Due to the MET’s efforts, more than 61,000 plants with an estimated street value of between $61.1 and $605.6 million, depending on the quality of the plants, has been removed from the streets.

Balloonist Matt McClinton pulls the trigger of the balloon's burner sending flames into the air at the Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival at Lake Skinner. Due to windy conditions, balloonists chose to not set up the hot air balloons envelope, but put on a glowing display of the burners May 20. Shane Gibson photo
Balloonist Matt McClinton pulls the trigger of the balloon’s burner sending flames into the air at the Temecula Valley Balloon & Wine Festival at Lake Skinner. Due to windy conditions, balloonists chose to not set up the hot air balloons envelope, but put on a glowing display of the burners May 20. Shane Gibson photo

May 27

Despite the mostly unseasonal weather, thousands flocked to the annual Temecula Valley Balloon and Wine Festival at Lake Skinner May 20-22 to hear top entertainment, enjoy good wine and delicious food. The only thing missing in this year’s festival was one of its top attractions, the hot air balloons that because of the wind were unable to get off the ground much to the disappointment to those attending.

Brace yourself, Southwest Riverside County, another massive development boom is about to rumble through the region. That represented the good news at a wide-ranging forum of top local government leaders last week. “I think you’re hearing the same thing throughout the region,” Rick Dudley, Murrieta city manager, concluded. “It is going gangbusters.”

The city of Menifee made plans to resurface Newport Road May 18 using a mixture of federal grants and local funds. Approval from Caltrans is necessary before moving forward with the project. Funds are only available for improvements made to the section of Newport Road that runs from Bradley Road to Murrieta Road. Construction was estimated to begin August 2016.

An unidentified Measure E supporter waves a sign on Sanderson Avenue in Hemet. Kim Harris photo
An unidentified Measure E supporter waves a sign on Sanderson Avenue in Hemet. Kim Harris photo

June 3

Hemet voters will have the power to determine whether to approve Measure E, a 1 percent sales tax that will be used to maintain and improve police and fire services in the city, Tuesday, June 7. Measure E, simply put, is a penny on the dollar sales tax put on the ballot by a city ad hoc committee formed by a unanimous vote of the Hemet City Council in July 2015, Hemet Police Chief Dave Brown said. The tax would last for 10 years.

Three Southwest Riverside County political powerhouses are vying for a supervisor seat that is up for grabs June 7. But all three candidates – incumbent Chuck Washington and challengers Randon Lane and Shellie Milne – concede that the contest will likely continue well beyond that point. Two of them are expected to square off in what will be a costly, cagey campaign that will stretch into early November.

Hopeful June primary candidates for the 1st District Riverside County Board of Supervisors, the California Assembly District 67 and State Senate District 42 were on hand Thursday, May 26, at the Tuscany Hills HOA Clubhouse in Lake Elsinore for a meet the candidate’s political forum. The candidate meet and greet forum, brought almost 100 residents and seven candidates for the important state, federal and county government positions. Public safety, the environment and local economy were the main topics of the candidates’ discussions at the forum.

Members of a local RC airplane club performed stunts to an enthusiastic crowd with their scaled down airplanes during Hemet-Ryan’s 10th annual Air Show. Ricardo Ruelas photo
Members of a local RC airplane club performed stunts to an enthusiastic crowd with their scaled down airplanes during Hemet-Ryan’s 10th annual Air Show. Ricardo Ruelas photo

June 10

The Murrieta-Temecula Republican Assembly hosted Islam speaker and scholar Raymond Ibrahim at their recent monthly meeting June 3. Ibrahim presented “The History of Islam and the West – and how ISIS is a continuation of that history” to a receptive crowd. This so-called “history argument” unraveled an alleged history of hostility between the Islamic and Christian worlds that has been perpetuated since ancient times and now trickles into the modern era with terrorist groups.

A proposed Hemet sales tax increase to support the police and fire departments fell just short of the votes needed for approval, while Riverside residents soundly rejecting an increase in council members’ pay and a bid to make the city attorney’s office responsible for prosecuting misdemeanor crimes. Hemet residents generally supported Measure “E” during Tuesday’s election, but the proposal fell just short of the two-thirds majority needed for passage as vote-counting wrapped up early this morning.

In rapid succession, Temecula council members recently ended a moratorium on microbreweries and then pinpointed the location in which its hospital can stage its air ambulance takeoffs and landings. There was scant audience input on the moratorium that temporarily halted the approval or expansion of microbreweries and craft beer tasting rooms.

Riverside County District Attorney Micheal Hestrin addresses the problems that happened during the 2016 Primary polls in Riverside County during an open house held at the Temecula Valley Republican Headquarters June 11. Hestrin stated that hackers were changing voters’ registration and the problem was happening only to registered Republicans. Shane Gibson photo
Riverside County District Attorney Micheal Hestrin addresses the problems that happened during the 2016 Primary polls in Riverside County during an open house held at the Temecula Valley Republican Headquarters June 11. Hestrin stated that hackers were changing voters’ registration and the problem was happening only to registered Republicans. Shane Gibson photo

June 17

Voters across Riverside County were surprised Tuesday, June 7, to find that they had either been re-registered as democrats or “declined to state,” barring them from the closed Republican primary, or were otherwise turned away from the polls. Multiple reports of voter irregularities were filed in as the day went on. Riverside D.A. Mike Hestrin led an investigation that found that hackers were the primary culprit of the voter irregularities.

Growth throughout southwest Riverside County will surge, not sputter, over the next few years, an economic expert and five city managers agreed at a regional forum. The outlook is so bright that the region is on the brink of becoming Orange County East, said Christopher Thornberg, director of the UC Riverside Center for Economic Forecasting.

Citizens looking to spruce up their community and honor those that have served have never had an easier time in the City of Menifee. Taking a drive down several of its streets has functioned as a type of a static parade with the faces of veterans or those currently serving in the military hung proudly by the city fathers. Menifee has long marveled at its string of heroes who have either come home to an expectant family or fought bravely until the end. Established in 2012, the City of Menifee Military Banner Program has given citizens the ability to commemorate both by purchasing a banner in their honor.

Mayor Scott Mann encourages all attendees to write the governor a letter telling him to reinstate the city’s vehicle license fee revenue during his Menifee State of the City address June 16. Jacob Preal photo
Mayor Scott Mann encourages all attendees to write the governor a letter telling him to reinstate the city’s vehicle license fee revenue during his Menifee State of the City address June 16. Jacob Preal photo

June 24

Artists and art aficionados gathered from around Murrieta Tuesday, June 14, to show their support and lend ideas for advancing the newly formed Murrieta Arts Council at the first Forum for the Arts at the SRCAR building on Jefferson Avenue.

Menifee Mayor Scott Mann presented the city’s eighth annual State of the City address June 16 to discuss the direction the city is headed. Progress, partnership and posterity reign supreme in Menifee as the growing city continues to explore new avenues for development in the face of financial shortcomings.

The driver of a big rig was killed Monday, June 20, when it rolled off the Temecula Valley (15) Freeway in Wildomar. The semi-truck was traveling southbound, at an undetermined speed when for an unknown reason, it veered onto the right shoulder where it collided with a concrete wall. Following the impact, the truck traveled about 75 feet down the embankment before rolling over onto its right side and colliding with a telephone pole. The driver was pronounced dead at the scene.

A group of demonstrators carry signs outside of the Riverside County Administration Center protesting voter irregularities that transpired during the June 7 primary election. The group claims their fundamental right to vote was violated during the primary and is calling for voting reform to eliminate the voting irregularities. Bryce Chechile photo
A group of demonstrators carry signs outside of the Riverside County Administration Center protesting voter irregularities that transpired during the June 7 primary election. The group claims their fundamental right to vote was violated during the primary and is calling for voting reform to eliminate the voting irregularities. Bryce Chechile photo

July 1

The Riverside Board of Supervisors convened Tuesday, June 21, to take public comments on the voting irregularities that transpired during the primary election June 7. Many of the speakers who shared impassioned anecdotes of troubles at the polls were members of the Our Votes Count Riverside effort, which had staged a demonstration outside the Riverside County Board of Supervisors before the meeting. Speakers underscored that their fundamental right to vote had been violated in the primary election.

Naval Weapons Station gate guard Mykul Thomas gives a driver a warm and enthusiastic welcome to Camp Pendleton.
Naval Weapons Station gate guard Mykul Thomas gives a driver a warm and enthusiastic welcome to Camp Pendleton.

On Thursdays and Fridays, people entering Camp Pendleton through Fallbrook’s Naval Weapons Station gate don’t have a choice – they’re going to get a dose of “Moto,” the abbreviation Marine Sgt. Major Mykul Thomas (Ret.) uses for motivation, a word he lives by. Motivating people to have a great day is what motivates Thomas to stand at the gate from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., every Thursday and Friday, checking credentials and delivering motivational words to everyone who drives into the Marine Corps base via Ammunition Road.

Menifee City Council approved its budget for the 2016-2017 fiscal year through the adoption of resolution June 15. City staff cut as many unnecessary funding items as possible to allow the city to function with what officials referred to as projected low revenue. To meet the deficit, council authorized $2.4 million to be drawn from the budget reserves.

A sign hanging from a Los Ranchitos resident's property along La Paz Road reads “Think traffic is bad now? Just Wait....”
A sign hanging from a Los Ranchitos resident’s property along La Paz Road reads “Think traffic is bad now? Just Wait….”

July 8

Have you ever wondered what the secret to long-lasting and enduring love is? To put an end to “The Month of Love,” Atria Park of Vintage Hills celebrated the long-lasting marriages of their residents. The intimate gathering, tucked away within beautiful Wine Country, took place June 29 and consisted of a special candlelit dinner followed by wedding cake. The attendees were treated to an elaborately decorated dining parlor; adorned with the residentsblack-and-white wedding photos taken decades ago.

A clash between Temecula and one of its oldest homeowner groups has cast a pall over plans to unravel knotted freeway ramps at the city’s south side. The legal dispute centers on a park-and-ride lot that the city is building along Temecula Parkway. That legal conflict could factor into city plans to ease traffic congestion and boost freeway safety a short distance away.

July 15

Kindly opening his home to other wounded vets, including double amputee Chris Van Etten, who is on a campaign with Jockey (underwear company) to highlight the subtle good that sometimes gets lost in the grand scheme of things, Murrieta resident and Marine Cpl. Carlos Garcia showcased his custom-made, mortgage-free home that was graciously donated to him by Homes for Our Troops.

Visit Temecula Valley (VTV) announced a record $696 million in travel spending by visitors, record earnings of $219 million and a record 2.7 million visitors to Temecula Valley during its first ever “State of Tourism” event July 7 at the Kentina Restaurant at Galway Downs in Wine Country. This represents a 4.7 percent increase over 2014 and the sixth consecutive year the tourism, leisure and hospitality industry has expanded.

Revolutionized camping is now beyond KOA campsites and amenities provided on regulated campgrounds. Hipcamp is a company dedicated to empowering people to camp on private land. Their campsites are unique and utilize an innovative model to support conservation of land. Their eco-friendly mission saves land and offers access to amazing features beyond those in a state park while stimulating local economies. Whether greeted by a blanket of stars above the quiet vineyards of Temecula or lodging in a spacious blueberry farm, there are many great locations close by.

After 20 years of challenges, Vail Headquarters is now open to the public offering shopping, activities and education about Temecula's local history. Shane Gibson photo
After 20 years of challenges, Vail Headquarters is now open to the public offering shopping, activities and education about Temecula’s local history. Shane Gibson photo

July 22

About 500 people gathered at a Temecula historic site last week to mark a feat that one speaker likened to giving birth after a 50-year gestation period that was punctuated by daily bouts of morning sickness. And, much like the pain-laced emergence of a newborn child, the work and the wait paid off, said Temecula City Councilwoman Maryann Edwards. “It’s spectacular,” Edwards said as she scanned the newly-opened Vail Ranch Headquarters, which has finally emerged as one of Riverside County’s most historic and iconic sites. “It’s amazing.”

“The first thing you should do if you have an active shooter in your business is call 911,” said Michael Julian, owner of MPS Security in Murrieta at during an “Active Shooter Survival Skills” workshop for businesses and residents July 14 in Murrieta.

A new link – perhaps the first of its kind for the two communities – has connected Fallbrook and Temecula. This connection hinges on a key service that a Fallbrook nonprofit group provides area seniors. Temecula residents can now access this specialized adult day care service, and the Fallbrook group can mine a fast-growing market for new clients and public exposure.

Laurie Long started competing in pageants when she was 14 years old. She will represent the Temecula-Murrieta area through her participation in the “National 1st Runner Up Competition.” Joe Pier photo
Laurie Long started competing in pageants when she was 14 years old. She will represent the Temecula-Murrieta area through her participation in the “National 1st Runner Up Competition.” Joe Pier photo

July 29

Reeder Media was among the winners at the San Diego Society of Professional Journalists annual awards banquet held at the Kona Kai Resort Spa & Marina in San Diego July 21. Winners included Valley News Editor Kim Harris taking home both a first and second place award in the breaking news category and a second place for Investigative/Enterprise story. Valley News Intern Taryn Murphy placed second in the Health category and Ashley Ludwig took home a second-place award in the Nondeadline News category.

The tireless work of a Wildomar-based nonprofit to brighten the futures of local at-risk youth, many whose parents are incarcerated, has not gone unnoticed by HOPE Collaborative. Bob and Mona Davies, co-founders of Community Outreach Ministry, were honored June 3 with the Child and Family Advocate of the Year Award from HOPE Collaborative, the child abuse council of Riverside County.

“What do Harley Davidson, handguns, Girl Scouts and Make-A-Wish® have in common?” This is Laurie Long’s tagline. Long has been a wish granter with Make a Wish for 13 years, and is a local girl scout troop leader. She also works with the Temecula Valley and Murrieta School Districts; encouraging children to “get out and serve” to focus on more than an individual person, and be motivated by more than graduation requirements. Long balances being a stay-at-home mother of six, getting a Bachelor’s of Science in Business and hundreds of hours of community service, in addition to competing in beauty pageants.

City of Hemet Mayor Bonnie Wright, addressees the council and guests attending a July 26, City Council meeting at the Hemet Public Library. Shane Gibson photo
City of Hemet Mayor Bonnie Wright, addressees the council and guests attending a July 26, City Council meeting at the Hemet Public Library. Shane Gibson photo

Aug. 5

Following an hourslong discussion and public hearing, Hemet City Council, in a 4-1 vote, adopted a resolution Tuesday, July 26, to place a one-cent per dollar tax before voters on the Nov. 8 ballot. The general use tax, if approved by voters, will be used to enhance public safety in the city. Hundreds of people were in attendance at the meeting held on the second floor of the Hemet Public Library, most to show their support for the tax. Councilwoman Shellie Milne cast the lone dissenting vote. (PHOTO)

Fears that rising costs could sap Temecula’s high quality of life have prompted the City Council to place a 1 percent sales tax increase on the Nov. 8 ballot. If approved by city voters, Temecula would become just the fourth city in Riverside County to boost its flow of a crucial revenue source. Council members voted unanimously July 26 to schedule the election measure.

The City of Lake Elsinore closed its popular lake late last week after receiving notification from the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project that Lake Elsinore contains toxins that exceed recommended recreational health thresholds caused by cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae.

Naim Moore, 4, poses for a picture behind a cardboard cutout of a K9 unit officer and bloodhound during the Aug. 2, "National Night Out" at Town Square Park in Murrieta. Shane Gibson photo
Naim Moore, 4, poses for a picture behind a cardboard cutout of a K9 unit officer and bloodhound during the Aug. 2, “National Night Out” at Town Square Park in Murrieta. Shane Gibson photo

Aug. 12

About 50 people gathered together at the Murrieta Public Library Thursday, Aug. 4, for a community forum to have a frank discussion on how to build trust between law enforcement, local government and the communities they serve. The panel, consisting of police, city and religious leaders, faced some tough questions asked by moderator Wendy Childress, religious chair for the NAACP’s Branch 1034 which serves the communities of Lake Elsinore, Murrieta, Temecula, Canyon Lake, Wildomar, Menifee and Sun City.

Effective, Aug. 4, the City of Lake Elsinore reopened the lake to recreational activities including boating and fishing but advised visitors to use caution for bodily contact with the water. The decision to reopen the lake was made based on the latest water quality samples results, showing a reasonable decline in toxins due to a recent cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, bloom that occurred in Lake Elsinore.

Mariah Ortiz, a Pokemon GO Player at the Temecula Duck Pond, stops by a Pokestop at the 9/11 Memorial regaining her items as she sets out to find more Pokemon. Jose Escobar photo
Mariah Ortiz, a Pokemon GO Player at the Temecula Duck Pond, stops by a Pokestop at the 9/11 Memorial regaining her items as she sets out to find more Pokemon. Jose Escobar photo

Pokemon Go is all the rage and landmarks throughout the country are saturated with the fictional characters that became famous back in 1996 when Nintendo released the first game in the United States, spawning a trading card game and a wildly popular cartoon in 1997. A visit to Temecula Duck Pond, Murrieta Town Square Park and almost every shopping center in the valley at any given time will yield a wide array of players ranging from all ages and socioeconomic groups scrambling to catch the make-believe creatures.

A lawsuit involving Murrieta Councilman Harry Ramos’ alleged sexual misconduct has been settled. Shane Gibson photo.
A lawsuit involving Murrieta Councilman Harry Ramos’ alleged sexual misconduct has been settled. Shane Gibson photo.

Aug. 19

The city of Murrieta has settled a lawsuit with Kathleen Smith, the woman who alleged she was sexually assaulted by councilman and former mayor Harry Ramos, according to documentation obtained by Valley News. The settlement in the amount of $99,000, significantly lower than the initial $1 million Smith and her attorneys originally requested in the lawsuit, releases both Ramos and the city of Murrieta from any further legal action regarding her allegations, including any future claims, complaints or charges.

Caltrans plans to build a raised center median from Acacia Street to Valle Vista on Florida Avenue in 2018 came as a “complete surprise” to Hemet City Engineer Steven Latino. Caltrans already had a plan laid out for the cement median strips with long left lane turns and limited breaks on some of the less used side streets connecting to Florida Avenue (Highway 74).

San Jacinto Mayor Andrew Kotyuk praised the city staff, local businesses, schools and the residents of the city for persevering in recent hard economic times and optimistically foresees a highly favorable future for San Jacinto and all its residents during the annual State of the City address Aug. 12.

Peg Moore embraces an American flag after a flag-folding ceremony provided by the U.S. Army Honor Guard in honor of her husband Jimmy Moore, a U.S. Army Veteran. Shane Gibson photo
Peg Moore embraces an American flag after a flag-folding ceremony provided by the U.S. Army Honor Guard in honor of her husband Jimmy Moore, a U.S. Army Veteran. Shane Gibson photo

Aug. 26

A seminal figure in Temecula’s push to become the city it is today was praised and remembered at his memorial service the week of Aug. 19. Twenty speakers – including all five Temecula council members, a past and a current city manager and a Riverside County supervisor – took turns saluting a humble man who helped shape his community and was known to everybody simply as “Jimmy.” Jimmy Moore, 81, was lauded by the string of speakers for his love, kindness, compassion, community pride, patriotism, poise and purpose. (PHOTO)

Lake Elsinore Mayor Brian Tisdale announced that he was resuming his duties on the Dias following a nearly two-monthlong leave of absence. Tisdale stepped down from his post following an alleged domestic violence incident in June. “I would like to thank my colleagues, the community and many others for their generous support and prayers during my leave of absence and during this extremely difficult time for me and my family,” he wrote in a statement.

The date to file papers to declare candidacy in local municipal elections passed and city clerks across the area made official announcements regarding those who qualified to run for a seat on their respective city councils.

Boaters launch their watercraft into Lake Elsinore in August. While the lake remains open for activity, a blue-green algae bloom has raised toxins in the lake prompting city officials to issue a warning regarding bodily contact with the water. Shane Gibson photo
Boaters launch their watercraft into Lake Elsinore in August. While the lake remains open for activity, a blue-green algae bloom has raised toxins in the lake prompting city officials to issue a warning regarding bodily contact with the water. Shane Gibson photo

Sept. 2

Reopening Lake Elsinore to recreational activity Aug. 4, the city of Lake Elsinore continues to monitor the lake weekly, testing for toxins released from the seasonal blue-green algae bloom. In the most recent sample, the lake has seen a significant decrease of the toxins. However, levels remain above the threshold for recommended recreational health standards. The city’s Lake Watch is continuing to monitor and sample the algae and toxins in order to properly inform the community of potential concerns.

More than 50 people gathered inside Centerpoint Community Church Saturday, recently, to learn about Murrieta’s Downtown Plan and give their input to city and planning officials during the city’s second workshop on the planned improvements. The plan reflects a variety of ideas to revitalize the downtown area between Kalmia and Ivy east and west and Jefferson and Hayes south and north making it a tourist and shopping designation for the city.

Nearly 200 firefighters, three helicopters and six air tankers worked to extinguish a vegetation fire that broke out in Lakeland Village Sunday, Aug. 28.

A young pow wow dancer performs in the arena during the ninth Annual Honoring Traditions Gathering & Pow Wow at the Pala Indian Reservation, Aug. 27. Shane Gibson photo
A young pow wow dancer performs in the arena during the ninth Annual Honoring Traditions Gathering & Pow Wow at the Pala Indian Reservation, Aug. 27. Shane Gibson photo

Sept. 9

Advocating for the foster youth of Southern California is an initiative without end, yet comfortingly, the dedicated leadership and staff behind Rancho Damacitas Children and Family Services are tirelessly committed to the cause of this growing population. Over three decades, the nonprofit has operated multiple residential care sites to house foster youth, and the driving focus for 2016 is the expansion of its reach and services.

Summer is almost gone, but the fun isn’t over with the annual Temecula Autumnfest now underway with something for everyone at different locations from historic Old Town and Pechanga Resort and Casino to the beautiful world renowned Wine Country and its many vineyards. With the grape harvest underway, there is more to do than ever in the coming weeks with many golden sunny days, clear star-filled nights and the finest of wines and entertainment just minutes away.

Murrieta Fire Department Honor Guard member Richard Martinez tolls a bell at Town Square Park, honoring the precise moment United Airlines Flight 175 was piloted into the WTC South Tower at 6:03 a.m., 15 years ago, Sept. 11. Courtesy photo
Murrieta Fire Department Honor Guard member Richard Martinez tolls a bell at Town Square Park, honoring the precise moment United Airlines Flight 175 was piloted into the WTC South Tower at 6:03 a.m., 15 years ago, Sept. 11. Courtesy photo

Sept. 16

In many cities across the country, communities are at odds with local law enforcement, but in the city of Murrieta, the community came together in a show of support for a local police officer recently diagnosed with stage four lung cancer Saturday, Sept. 10. A grass-roots fundraising event – barbecue, raffle and auction – was held to provide for extraordinary medical and family expenses and hundreds showed up in support. Over $25,000 was raised that day and donations are still coming in.

“It’s literally a miracle to have a full-term healthy baby.” These are the words of Veronica Pacheco, who advocates for the resources and assistance Miracle Babies provides for parents of children in neonatal intensive care units of hospitals. In 2009, when Pacheco contracted swine flu, 20 weeks pregnant, she had to be put in a chemical induced coma after being taken to the hospital. After about two and a half months, her son, Noah, was taken early, at 30 weeks, and she awoke the next day, thinking she had lost him. Pacheco and her husband both missed out on typical new-parent things, as well as focusing on accommodating three months of their son in the NICU getting multiple surgeries.

Joanna Pearl, even without the musical respect of her humble home in Temecula, was urged to demonstrate her vocal talent by friend Cyrene Jagger, who would one day become part of her music management team. Pearl let her lyrical soul fill the hallway, just as legendary bassist Andy Fraser and a group from the United Kingdom’s Headliner magazine rounded the corner. They stopped talking in stunned silence. The former bassist for the band “Free” put his arm around Pearl. “You’re so fired,” he said. That single moment would eventually spawn a MSET – a “mini summer euro tour” – and global recognition for Pearl, simply because of this single association with a world-famous music star that coincidentally shared her hometown.

ACO Officers pose for a photo after receiving custom fitted vests from Murrieta City Councilman Jonathan Ingram Sept. 12. Pictured from left standing are Anthony Crivello, Jack Nelson, ACO Supv. Mo Middleton, Will Tucker, Ingram, Sheila Risinger, Daniel Roger, Joe Alcarez and Chris Cabrera, kneeling is Chris Andrew, Jan Bratten and Bill Nichols.
ACO Officers pose for a photo after receiving custom fitted vests from Murrieta City Councilman Jonathan Ingram Sept. 12. Pictured from left standing are Anthony Crivello, Jack Nelson, ACO Supv. Mo Middleton, Will Tucker, Ingram, Sheila Risinger, Daniel Roger, Joe Alcarez and Chris Cabrera, kneeling is Chris Andrew, Jan Bratten and Bill Nichols.

Sept. 23

Temecula Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Women in Business event sold out for the fourth consecutive year. Over 350 women and 51 vendors participated in this year’s event held Sept. 8 at South Coast Winery Resort & Spa. This year’s theme was “Living in Your Vision” and featured four expert speakers who educated and inspired with their presentations. This is the 10th year for the conference event. According to Temecula Chamber President/CEO Alice Sullivan, this event was a result of a survey of their membership over 10 years ago.

Animal control officers of Animal Friends of the Valleys are feeling a bit safer as they pursue their daily duties throughout the communities thanks to the generosity of Murrieta City Councilman Jonathan Ingram. A total of nine custom fitted vests were presented to the AFV officers for use in the field at briefing Monday, Sept. 12, at the AFV Shelter facility in Wildomar and came as a total surprise to the officers present.

Hemet City Council has signed off on a Memorandum of Understating with the non-safety unit of the Service Employees International Union that will provide no general salary increase to its city workers outside of regular step raises starting July 1, 2016, through June 30, 2019.

Chelsea Joy, bagpiper for the Celtic rock band The Angry Brians performs during the Get Shamrocked Irish Music Festival at Town Square Park in Murrieta, Sept. 24. Shane Gibson photo
Chelsea Joy, bagpiper for the Celtic rock band The Angry Brians performs during the Get Shamrocked Irish Music Festival at Town Square Park in Murrieta, Sept. 24. Shane Gibson photo

Sept. 30

An estimated 8,000 Celtic music lovers traveled from all over the United States, Canada and even Germany for a two-day festival experience in Murrieta’s Town Square Park that is the largest of its kind west of the Mississippi. The increased total was even more impressive since Get Shamrocked was held on two days this year instead of the three days in previous years. The fourth year of the single-stage party in the park featured 15 bands in two days from Celtic punk to Irish rock as well as traditional Irish bagpipes and drums.

Hemet’s Simpson Center became the location for a local Republican election forum with 10 Republican candidates for various elected offices in San Jacinto and Hemet including the two cities, Valley Wide Recreation District and the two city school boards. Republican voters and other area residents had an opportunity to question each of the candidates’ reasons for running for their respective offices under the auspices of the Hemet/San Jacinto Valley Republican Women’s Club Federated and the Hemet San Jacinto Congress of Republicans.

“We are Hemet Strong,” declared Hemet Mayor Bonnie Wright during the annual State of the City breakfast at the Lodge at Four Seasons, Thursday, Sept. 22, attended by state, county and city officials and guests. She told those attending there have been many positive changes in the city since the recession left it “at risk” in the public safety area in a requested state auditor’s report. “Hemet is growing. Business is on the move.”

Lake Elsinore Mayor Brian Tisdale shares a laugh with the crowd gathered at Pins ‘N Pockets during the annual State of the City address Sept. 29. Shane Gibson photo
Lake Elsinore Mayor Brian Tisdale shares a laugh with the crowd gathered at Pins ‘N Pockets during the annual State of the City address Sept. 29. Shane Gibson photo

Oct. 7

In true Lake Elsinore fashion, the annual State of the City address kicked off with an “emoji” filled video, depicting each of the city council members as emoticons – otherwise known as smiley faces – commonly used in text messages, emails and on social media sites. The goal of the video was to show just how much fun the city could be, according to Mayor Brian Tisdale.

Several hot-button issues were raised and a longtime Temecula council member was singled out for criticism during a sparsely-attended candidates’ forum. Traffic gridlock, Old Town’s parking squeeze and the controversial prospects of council term limits, a sales tax increase and the creation of a city police force were tossed out by challengers in the nine-candidate race with two seats are up for grabs in the Nov. 8 general election.

Friends, colleagues, business associates, dignitaries, community residents and family joined together with the Boys Scouts of America, Tahquitz District, to honor Bernard “Bernie” L. Truax II as the 2016 Distinguished Citizen of the Year. The awards dinner and fundraiser for the Boys Scouts organization was held Thursday, Sept. 29, in the Grand Ballroom of the Pechanga Casino & Resort.

Fresh steamed lobster is sorted before being prepped and served at the Murrieta Lobster Festival, Oct. 8. Shane Gibson photo
Fresh steamed lobster is sorted before being prepped and served at the Murrieta Lobster Festival, Oct. 8. Shane Gibson photo

Oct. 14

Temecula Mayor Mike Naggar and challenger Adam Ruiz lead the field in fundraising as a crowded pack of hopefuls scramble for two open council seats. The uneven surge in donations and loans has given some candidates a marketing edge, but others are relying on name recognition, word-of-mouth and other attention-winning means in the waning days of the Nov. 8 contest.

Scores of businesses, sponsors and hundreds of military-related residents and community members came out to Big Horse Feed and Corn Maze in Temecula on the Saturday of the “Salute to Our Military Weekend” for a community resources and job opportunity fair for Armed Services members, veterans and their families. The event, held Oct. 8, was entitled “Helping and Hiring Our Heroes.”

The county of Riverside owns and operates French Valley Airport and has plans to replace 36,950 square yards of asphalt pavement in the south apron area.  Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted 5-0, Sept. 13, to award a construction administration services contract to Mead & Hunt, Inc.

People wait on the sidewalk along Sanderson Avenue near Acacia Avenue in Hemet to pay respects to slain Palm Springs Police Officer Lesley Zerebny, during a funeral processional that began in Zerebny's hometown of Hemet, and ended in Palm Springs, Oct. 18. Zerebny and Palm Springs Police Officer Jose Vega were shot and killed while responding to a family disturbance call, Oct. 8. Shane Gibson photo
People wait on the sidewalk along Sanderson Avenue near Acacia Avenue in Hemet to pay respects to slain Palm Springs Police Officer Lesley Zerebny, during a funeral processional that began in Zerebny’s hometown of Hemet, and ended in Palm Springs, Oct. 18. Zerebny and Palm Springs Police Officer Jose Vega were shot and killed while responding to a family disturbance call, Oct. 8. Shane Gibson photo

Oct. 21

Bridgette Moore, the current mayor of Wildomar, presented its State of the City Address Oct. 13, at the City Council Chambers. Preceding her was a warm welcome by Dana DeJong, a chairwoman on the Wildomar Chamber of Commerce, and a prayer by Mayor Pro Tem Timothy Walker. Moore said she wants Wildomar to “retain rural a community lifestyle.”

Tougher rules governing panhandling and loitering were recently approved by Temecula’s council as a way to curb the impacts of homelessness. That action – along with stepped-up work by an alliance of agencies and local governments – heightened the city’s focus on what it calls a “pressing regional concern.”

Scott Mann, the mayor of Menifee, and one of two candidates vying for the same seat with the city, is entering into a proposed settlement with the Enforcement Division of the Fair Political Practices Commission, according to a press release issued by the agency. In the settlement, Mann, who also serves as the chairman of the Republican Party of Riverside County, admitted to the personal use of campaign funds in the amount of $44,894.

“The most powerful force we can count on to make this region the future of Southern California is a robust sustained economy,” Murrieta Mayor Randon Lane tells the crowd that had gathered at the City of Murrieta Community Center for the city’s annual State of the City address Oct. 20. Kim Harris photo
“The most powerful force we can count on to make this region the future of Southern California is a robust sustained economy,” Murrieta Mayor Randon Lane tells the crowd that had gathered at the City of Murrieta Community Center for the city’s annual State of the City address Oct. 20. Kim Harris photo

Oct. 28

Murrieta Mayor Randon Lane addressed an audience of 200 community residents, civic and business leaders “to review the progress of our city … to speak of unfinished work, and to set our sights on investing in a healthy future,” during his 2016 State of the City address, held Oct. 20. He contrasted the tone of his first State of the City address in 2011, one of uncertainty, with an address of optimism. His theme was “Growing a Healthy Future.”

Economic Development was the name of the game during two Murrieta candidate forums recently held in the city. The candidate forums were co-sponsored by the Southwest Riverside County Association of Realtors and the Murrieta Chamber of Commerce. The first event, held Monday, Oct. 10, at the SRCAR, was a bit of a “lovefest,” moderator Gene Wunderlich said when introducing the candidates during the second event, held Oct. 13 at Shivela Middle School.

Menifee Mayor Scott Mann attends a special city council meeting Oct. 19, to address Mann's campaign money violation reported by the California Fair Political Practices Commission. Shane Gibson photo
Menifee Mayor Scott Mann attends a special city council meeting Oct. 19, to address Mann’s campaign money violation reported by the California Fair Political Practices Commission. Shane Gibson photo

In a split vote, Menifee City Council opted to not censure Mayor Scott Mann following the announcement of a proposed settlement with the Enforcement Division of the Fair Political Practices Commission in the amount of $60,000 for campaign violations that included misuse of only $45,000 in campaign funds. The vote came about during a special called meeting Wednesday, Oct. 15.

Folklórico dancer Ayden Barron, 3, prepares for a dance performance during the fifth annual Día De Los Muertos Celebration at City Park in Lake Elsinore, Oct. 29. The holiday, which was originally celebrated in Central and Southern Mexico, is a festive holiday for families to remember and honor their deceased loved ones. Shane Gibson photo.
Folklórico dancer Ayden Barron, 3, prepares for a dance performance during the fifth annual Día De Los Muertos Celebration at City Park in Lake Elsinore, Oct. 29. The holiday, which was originally celebrated in Central and Southern Mexico, is a festive holiday for families to remember and honor their deceased loved ones. Shane Gibson photo.

Nov. 4

Great Oak High School went on lockdown, Friday, Oct. 28, in the midmorning hours as a precautionary measure following a report of shots fired at the nearby Pechanga Reservation. TVUSD Public Information Officer Laura Boss reported there was no threat to students.

A high-stakes race for an open Riverside County supervisor seat suddenly went from simmering to searing. The waning days of the Nov. 8 race that pitted appointed incumbent Chuck Washington against challenger Shellie Milne was marked by each side releasing stacks of documents aimed at painting their opponents in a negative light.

The Hemet City Council sent back a recommendation to charge all civic and nonprofit organizations a $40 licensing fee per community event on city property or $1,000 per year for all events to city staff for clarification before it is passed. Hemet Mayor Pro Tem Paul Ravers, after hearing of the proposal, indicated such fees could hinder the efforts of some churches and other nonprofits to hold a fundraising event for badly needed charities.

Rotarian Rick Jemison Sr. adjusts a flag at Murrieta’s Field of Honor Saturday, Nov. 5. The popular event paying homage to local heroes at Murrieta’s Town Square Park was open for viewing from dawn to dusk through Nov. 12. Kim Harris photo
Rotarian Rick Jemison Sr. adjusts a flag at Murrieta’s Field of Honor Saturday, Nov. 5. The popular event paying homage to local heroes at Murrieta’s Town Square Park was open for viewing from dawn to dusk through Nov. 12. Kim Harris photo

Nov. 11

Menifee City Council approved a resolution to censure Mayor Scott Mann during its Nov. 2 meeting. Councilmember John Denver abstained from the 3-0 vote which Mann had recused himself from, due to a conflict of interest. As part of the censure Mann will no longer be allowed to serve on any city committees or regional boards and the city will no longer pay for his travel and conference expenses.

Neil Winter won his bid for election to the position of Mayor in Menifee easily beating out incumbent Mayor Scott Mann. Murrieta Mayor Randon Lane won another term on that city’s council, while Murrieta Councilman Harry Ramos and Temecula Councilman Michael McCracken both lost their re-election bids. Measure DD in Menifee and Measure U in Hemet, were both approved by voters, but with the race to close to call in Temecula, the fate of Measure S was unknown. Third District Supervisor Chuck Washington easily edged out challenger Shellie Milne to retain his seat at the coveted county dais.

A temporary urgency ordinance prohibiting all but the raising of six marijuana plants for recreational purposes in a single-family home was passed 5-0 by the San Jacinto City Council Tuesday, Nov. 1.

Racers speed through the track at Lake Elsinore Motorsports Park during the 48th Annual Lake Elsinore Grand Prix, Nov. 12. Shane Gibson photo
Racers speed through the track at Lake Elsinore Motorsports Park during the 48th Annual Lake Elsinore Grand Prix, Nov. 12. Shane Gibson photo

Nov. 18

An officer involved shooting that left one person dead and the deputy with injuries occurred in the parking lot of the Walt P. Abraham County Administrative Center located at the corner of Ynez Road and County Center Drive Tuesday, Nov. 15.

“The future of Southern California is Murrieta,” said Bruce Coleman, Economic Development Director for the city of Murrieta at the 2016 Murrieta Economic Outlook. Coleman was just one of a panel of eight local leaders sharing their views on real estate, education, health care, public safety and economic development.

“It’s one thing to say you believe in the United States and what it stands for,” said retired U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Andrew Brandi. “It’s another thing altogether to put on a uniform, pick up a rifle and be willing to die for what you believe.” Brandi was the keynote speaker at Lake Elsinore’s Veterans’ Day Observance ceremony held Nov. 11 at the Veterans Memorial in front of Storm Stadium.

Protesters rally support against the Dakota Access Pipeline at the Temecula Duck Pond, Nov. 12. Shane Gibson photo
Protesters rally support against the Dakota Access Pipeline at the Temecula Duck Pond, Nov. 12. Shane Gibson photo

Nov. 25

In the light of two politically charged events, the election and the Dakota Access Pipeline, students are taking matters into their own hands. Utilizing their collective power, they refuse the devaluation of their voice and power alike. Facing criticism and negativity, these students from across the Valley joined with other protestors to express their non-complacent attitudes in a recent event.

Assemblywoman Melisssa Melendez took to the podium to recognize Menifee resident David Bradley as her Veteran of the Year during the Nov. 16 Menifee City Council meeting. Melendez said that Bradley had served in the Navy and Naval Reserves from 1960 until 2002. Throughout his career Bradley was commissioned as a warrant officer then as an LDO, or Limited Duty Officer. He was eventually promoted to Lt. Cmdr. and was recalled to active duty in September 1999.

Police Chief David Brown and Fire Chief Scott Brown announced they would present their proposals to expand the city police and fire departments and improve emergency medical calls in the city to the Hemet City Council at its next meeting Dec.13.

Elianna Ramirez of Temecula Valley High School, makes her entrance to the formal wear segment of the sixth annual Miss Marvelous Pageant for special needs girls at TVHS, Nov. 16. Shane Gibson photo
Elianna Ramirez of Temecula Valley High School, makes her entrance to the formal wear segment of the sixth annual Miss Marvelous Pageant for special needs girls at TVHS, Nov. 16. Shane Gibson photo

Dec. 2

Embattled Menifee Mayor Scott Mann announced his resignation from city council in an email sent to city hall employees the city announced last week. In the email, received late Friday, Nov. 18, Mann informed the city clerk that he was resigning as mayor as of Thursday, Nov. 17, for “personal reasons and to streamline the transition process to new leadership.”

The family of slain Palm Springs Police Officer and Hemet native Lesley Zerebny sought to thank the people of the Hemet and San Jacinto Valley, The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and the local police departments for the outpouring of help and sympathy they have given them since her death Oct. 8.

Assemblywoman Melissa Melendez (R-67th District) was the keynote speaker at the Lake Elsinore Valley Economic Workforce Development Committee luncheon held Nov. 17 at the Diamond Club at Lake Elsinore Stadium. Melendez gave a brief legislative update and entertained questions and held a conversation with the group.

Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive in Temecula during the annual Santa’s Electric Light Parade Friday, Dec. 2. Kelly Clough photo
Santa and Mrs. Claus arrive in Temecula during the annual Santa’s Electric Light Parade Friday, Dec. 2. Kelly Clough photo

Dec. 9

The 2016 Susan G. Komen Inland Empire Appreciation and Awards Dinner was held Nov. 29 at the Diamond Club in Lake Elsinore. The event recognized top award winners and sponsors for the 2016 Race for the Cure. Jill Eaton, in her first year as executive director for the organization, reported that this year’s event attracted over 4000 participants. 150 teams and raised over $400,000 in registration, fundraising and sponsorships.

The City of Lake Elsinore has confirmed the sufficiency of the petition submitted for the Alberhill Villages Initiative. The initiative needed 3,056 signatures to qualify for an upcoming special election ballot and 4,078 signatures were accepted by the County Registrar of Voters.

The Southern California Municipal Athletic Federation Inland Empire Association and their Awards Nomination Committee recently reviewed the accomplishments and contributions of their 49 member agencies, and in a recent awards ceremony held Thursday, Nov.17 at the Goldy S. Lewis Community Center in Rancho Cucamonga, Menifee’s Community Services Department was selected as the “2015/2016 Agency of the Year.”

Newly elected Murrieta city councilman, Kelly Seyarto. Originally elected to the city council in 1997, Seyarto served the city for nine years and as mayor three times. One of Seyarto’s main focuses for the city during his term is to stimulate Murrieta's economic development. Shane Gibson photo
Newly elected Murrieta city councilman, Kelly Seyarto. Originally elected to the city council in 1997, Seyarto served the city for nine years and as mayor three times. One of Seyarto’s main focuses for the city during his term is to stimulate Murrieta’s economic development. Shane Gibson photo

Dec. 16

Murrieta City Council welcomed new Councilmember Kelly Seyarto to the dais during their Dec. 6 meeting at City Hall. Randon Lane was also sworn in for his third term as a councilmember.

The Riverside County Registrar of Voters certified the Nov. 8 election results Tuesday, Dec. 6, and Temecula’s Measure S, which previously had been too close to call, has passed with 51 percent of voters casting their ballot in favor of the sometimes-controversial measure. The announcement means an additional $23 million a year will go into a city fund that pays for police, fire, public works, planning and a range of other services.

The city of Murrieta approved an amendment to the ordinance allowing property owners within city limits to keep chickens on their property during its Dec. 6 meeting at City Hall. The amendments to Section 16.44.040 of the Development Code – which regulates animal keeping – “establishes standards and requirements for the keeping of chickens in the Single Family Residential zone districts, which include operations and activities that may generate potential noise, smell, dust or other nuisances.”

Newly elected Temecula City Councilman James Stewart. Among other issues within the community, Stewart aims to focus on infrastructure, and to push for a police station headquarters within the city, as opposed to the current station on Auld Road which is actually outside the city boundary. Stewart would like to help make Temecula's old city hall building located at 43200 Business Park Dr., repurposed into a police station. Shane Gibson photo
Newly elected Temecula City Councilman James Stewart. Among other issues within the community, Stewart aims to focus on infrastructure, and to push for a police station headquarters within the city, as opposed to the current station on Auld Road which is actually outside the city boundary. Stewart would like to help make Temecula’s old city hall building located at 43200 Business Park Dr., repurposed into a police station. Shane Gibson photo

Dec. 23

The city of Temecula accepted results from the Nov. 8 regular election and swore in new Councilman James Stewart during its Tuesday, Nov. 13, meeting and also swore in. Councilman Mike Naggar for another term. Mayor Naggar recognized Councilman Michael McCracken for the time he spent on council before he and Stewart took the oath of office.

Lake Elsinore City Council has stalled forward movement of a special election for the Alberhill Villages Initative. The city could have outright adopted the plan, but instead opted to take 30 days to analyze it and its effects at a cost of about $30,000 to the city. With their decision, the fate of the long-troubled development hangs in the balance.

Two new Hemet City Councilmembers and one re-elected councilwoman, and new city treasurer were sworn in to office by Hemet City Clerk Sarah McComas Tuesday, Dec. 13. Linda Krupa was named mayor by her peers, new Councilman Michael Perciful was sworn in and council elected Mayor Pro Tem of the city. Re-elected City Treasurer Judith Oltman was sworn in for another term.

Riverside County supervisors endorsed a proposal to ensure that the city of Canyon Lake is offered incentives to resume contracting with the county for on-site fire protection services during its Dec. 13 meeting. The city has been without active fire services since July 2015, depending instead on county fire personnel from Lake Elsinore and Menifee to respond to calls within the gated municipality under a “mutual aid” compact.

Liliana Pierson, 10 months, meets Santa for the first time while her father Charles looks on at the Murrieta Santa Stop located at the corner of Via Espada and Via Mira Mosa Tuesday, Dec. 6. Santa Stops is a way for Kriss Kringle to get out and meet local families while collecting food and toys for local families in need. Santa Stops continued through Friday, Dec. 16. For more information, visit www.murrieta.ca.gov. Kim Harris photo
Liliana Pierson, 10 months, meets Santa for the first time while her father Charles looks on at the Murrieta Santa Stop located at the corner of Via Espada and Via Mira Mosa Tuesday, Dec. 6. Santa Stops is a way for Kriss Kringle to get out and meet local families while collecting food and toys for local families in need. Santa Stops continued through Friday, Dec. 16. For more information, visit www.murrieta.ca.gov. Kim Harris photo

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