EDITORIAL: Thumbs up, thumbs down

Thumbs up to California Chrome, the Valley’s rock-star thoroughbred, for earning a spot in the world’s richest horse race, the $10 million Dubai World Cup. Chrome is the most famous California horse since Seabiscuit, and his fame has gone global. The chestnut star will be a heavy favorite Saturday as he competes in a field of all-star horses from the United Arab Emirates, Australia, Great Britain and Japan, as well as the United States. His owners are Perry and Denise Martin of Yuba City and Steve and Carolyn Coburn of Topaz, Lake, Nevada. “He’s got a following you can’t believe,” his trainer, Art Sherman, told The Sacramento Bee. “It’s amazing; his fans are all over the world.” Run like a west-side dust devil for the Valley, Chrome, run!

Thumbs down to the more than a dozen California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection employees for their display of unprofessional behavior. According to state records released last week, two Cal Fire managers, Justin Chaplin and Frank Schonig, cheated to get leadership jobs at the department’s Ione academy, and others drank while on duty and on state property. The Sacramento Bee reports that the records add more details to a sordid story that started with a homicide that prompted a $2 million investigation of Cal Fire’s academy southeast of Sacramento. The fallout led to one employee’s resignation, the firings of two others and suspensions, demotions and pay cuts for 13 more. All but one worked at the academy. None work there now, Cal Fire spokeswoman Janet Upton told The Bee. The latest documents released indicate that Chaplin and Schonig cheated on oral exams to get promoted to academy management jobs with the help of former Battalion Chief Orville Fleming. Fleming worked in Ione until last year when he was charged with the May 1 homicide of his 26-year-old girlfriend, Sarah Douglas. He has pleaded not guilty. The dedicated firefighters and other employees of the department deserve better than colleagues that sully their reputation.

Thumbs up to Petty Officer 2nd Class Gustavo Chavez, a Roosevelt High School graduate and Fresno native, for his service aboard USS New Orleans, one of the Navy’s newest and most advanced amphibious assault ships, designed to deliver Marines and their equipment to and from war zones. Chavez is a logistics specialist aboard the San Diego-based San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship. The ship is longer than two football fields at 684 feet, 105 feet wide and weighs more than 24,000 tons. Four diesel engines can push the ship through the water at more than 24 mph. “We are the world police,” Chavez, 27, told Lt. j.g. Christopher Hansen of Navy outreach, “We do what we think is right and keep the bullies at bay. We help defend countries that cannot defend themselves.” Thanks for your service, Officer Chavez, and to the other Valley service members protecting us as well.

Thumbs up to the Fresno High School Senate, a student debate and community service group that is the oldest continuously active high school club in the country. Saturday night the club’s 37 members, their families and former Fresno High senators will celebrate the Senate’s 125th anniversary with a banquet at Pardini’s. The club is fashioned after the U.S. Senate with each member representing a state. The club was recognized by the Fresno City Council on Thursday and a video featuring U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein will be played at tonight’s event.

Thumbs up to the Yang and Xiong families for getting the keys to the first pair of homes in Habitat for Humanity’s Hope Village in southeast Fresno. Mai Yang and her two children have a 1,150-square-foot, three-bedroom, two-bathroom house. They were sharing a two-bedroom apartment with a cousin. Their neighbors, Chue Xiong and Daisy Vang, also squeezed in with relatives. The couple and their two children now have a 1,300-square-foot home with four bedrooms and two bathrooms. The owners have spent more than a year helping Habitat workers and volunteers build their homes. Hope Village is a nine-home development supported by a $845,000 award from the city of Fresno Home Funds.

Thumbs up to David Roberts, a general contractor in Fresno and a former science teacher in Reno, Oakland and San Leandro. He came up with the bright idea to go green at Wawona Middle School, which is is his neighborhood. The idea of putting in 24 valley oaks was fully supported by Principal Carlos Castillo. Fresno can always use more green space, shade and trees to help the air quality. The project also connects the school with the community. The goal is to raise $2,400 to plant the trees at 11 a.m. on Earth Day, April 22. The campus is off of Palm Avenue, just north of Ashlan Avenue. “It’s going to be a better environment for our kids and our community,” says Castillo. “You can build what you want in six months. But you can’t grow trees in that time. Once they’re there, they’re priceless.”