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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Local Issues

05 Sep 2019
The last few years have been quite transformative for the Desert Healthcare District (DHCD). First, there was the need to change the board of directors election process from an at-large standard to a district-based approach, in order to comply with the California Voting Rights Act. As that process moved ahead, voters in the eastern Coachella Valley last November approved the district’s expansion beyond its antiquated Cook Street boundary, creating the potential for improved health care access and services in the eastern valley—while necessitating that the district figure out how to fully fund services in the expanded district. That voter edict resulted in the launch of yet another rezoning process, which is currently under way. Through these administrative and organizational challenges, the DHCD has continued to provide support to local health-care providers and community-service programs, addressing needs such as homelessness, public health and behavioral health. It was against this backdrop on…
29 Aug 2019
The city of Santa Monica plans to give money to hundreds of additional seniors to help them with the rent—expanding a pilot program that offered between $200 and $660 a month to nearly two-dozen seniors. “We’d like to expand this program tenfold,” said Andy Agle, Santa Monica’s housing and economic development director, about the program that launched last year. “We’re taking our program from $200,000 to $2 million a year. That’s a huge ramp-up.” Agle said he anticipates Santa Monica will now be able to help 250 to 400 senior households with the added cash. Although Santa Monica saw a 3 percent rise in senior homelessness over the last year, no one in its rental subsidies pilot program suffered that fate. “It’s really showing some success,” Agle said. Kaye, 70, who didn’t want her last name used, has been part of that program, known as Preserving Our Diversity, since its…
15 Aug 2019
California recently approved longer paid family leave, allowing workers whose blessed events fall on the right side of the new law to take up to eight weeks off with partial pay to bond with a new baby. How’s that going to work? We asked the experts and read the fine print to help you figure it out. I’m about to have or adopt a baby. Do I get the longer paid leave? Probably not. The new eight-week plan kicks in on July 1, 2020. If you file a claim to take paid family leave before that date, you will likely be put on the current plan that allows for six weeks of paid leave, according to Loree Levy, deputy director of the Employment Development Department. She said the rules are still being finalized, but that’s how she expects it will work. Remember: Paid family leave is on top of the…
14 Aug 2019
President Donald Trump published controversial new rules earlier this week making it harder for legal immigrants to get green cards if they use—or are likely to use—Medicaid, food stamps and other social safety net programs. California has reacted with anticipated outrage. “This is a reckless policy that targets the health and well-being of immigrant families and communities of color,” Gov. Gavin Newsom said in a press release. Added Attorney General Xavier Becerra: “We will not stand idly by while this administration targets programs that children and families across our state rely upon. We are ready to take legal action to protect the rights of all Californians.” The expansion of the so-called “public charge” rule was long-anticipated—as was the response in California, home to a disproportionate number of the nation’s immigrants and headquarters of the anti-Trump resistance. The Trump administration, meanwhile, has said the proposed new rules are intended to deny…
08 Aug 2019
It’s been hot in the Coachella Valley—including a 121-degree day on Aug. 5—and no segment of our community is more threatened by that heat than the valley’s homeless population. It was a 115-degree day on June 11 that helped spur the city of Palm Springs to partner with Riverside County to open an emergency overnight cooling center at the Demuth Community Center—and that partnership helped lead to an even larger collaboration to open three new long-term overnight cooling centers in the valley. The centers opened July 1, the result of a partnership between the county, the Coachella Valley Association of Governments, and the three cities where the centers are located. The Coachella Valley Rescue Mission is staffing the centers, with the Desert Healthcare District and Foundation offering support. Greg Rodriguez is the government affairs and public policy adviser to Riverside County Supervisor V. Manuel Perez. “Supervisor Perez and I were…
01 Aug 2019
It was on Nov. 21, 2008, in downtown Coachella when “an initial kick‐off meeting and afternoon walking tour was conducted by the project team and city staff,” according to the Coachella Pueblo Viejo Plan (CPVP) “Vision” section. Over the next seven months, community workshops were held; input was solicited from key city representatives; and the look of a future revitalized downtown area came into focus. “Pueblo Viejo is the civic and cultural heart of Coachella,” said the CPVP plan final draft. “The community is proud of the historic charm, locally owned businesses, and vibrant civic center. As you enter through the attractive gateways on Sixth Street, you are immersed in a lively street scene offering shady walkways, cooling water fountains, outdoor dining and unique shopping. Once-empty lots are now filled with mixed‐use buildings that respect the heritage, climate and community values. Family‐friendly events and festivals fill the streets and public…
18 Jul 2019
The Grub Plug food truck was parked by the Oasis Street curb in front of the College of the Desert’s Indio campus late in the day on a Tuesday. The city of Indio’s Community Development Department (ICD) was offering the first 120 visitors to their Indio Specific Plan open house—taking place in the college’s main-building lobby—a free food-truck meal, along with the chance to learn information on how to start a food-truck business of one’s own. All the ICD team wanted in return was for each visitor to walk through the display of a half-dozen white boards placed on easels, depicting photos and artist renderings of residential, entertainment-venue and business building options. Visitors were asked to place a colored dot on the images they most liked or disliked. Judging from the lengthy lines both inside and next to the Grub Plug truck, the marketing strategy was a success, as Kevin…
10 Jul 2019
Heather Williams knew as a kid that she wanted to be a piano teacher. She earned her music degree with a piano emphasis from Brigham Young University and spent decades honing her craft. Today, she not only runs her own academy near Sacramento, offering private lessons with a special certification in the Suzuki method of instruction; she also teaches in public schools, though she lacks a state teaching credential. How? Via a loophole that lets charter schools skip some of the credentialing required of teachers in traditional public-school classrooms. The exception has allowed Williams to offer music instruction to homeschool charter students and to group classes in brick-and-mortar charters such as the Sacramento-based California Montessori Project network. Proponents say it encourages enrichment in that privately-run sector of the public-school system. In recent months, however—like many state rules that apply to charters—it has drawn legislative attention. And influential lawmakers say it…
27 Jun 2019
California government’s technology drastically pales in comparison to that from Silicon Valley, but Gov. Gavin Newsom is betting $40.8 million and a new office will change that. Even though California is home to innovative tech giants like Google and Apple, its government historically has used technology that can’t handle simple tasks—like accepting a credit card at the DMV, or in some cases, offering fully functioning websites. To combat this stark digital divide, Gov. Gavin Newsom proposed the Office of Digital Innovation. Funding is tucked into the budget starting July 1. Can a new office and $40.8 million fix a decades-long problem? That depends on who you ask. Newsom won enough legislative support to get the funding approved. But observers remain skeptical as to what the office can actually accomplish given entrenched bureaucracy. Assembly Majority Leader Ian Calderon, a Whittier Democrat, counts himself as one of Newsom’s supporters and said he…
23 May 2019
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The California Indian Nations College is celebrating its first year of offering unique higher-education courses to local Native Americans students. While the school didn’t start offering courses until the fall of 2018, its genesis occurred in 2015, when Theresa Mike began meeting with local tribal leaders and academic leaders in Southern California. While there are currently 37 accredited tribal colleges in the United States, there is not one in California. In 2017, CINC received seed funding from the Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians. The school’s partners include College of the Desert; the University of California, Riverside; and CSU-San Bernardino. The college’s offices are on the UCR Palm Desert Campus. T. Robert Przeklasa, CINC’s vice president of academic affairs, said the college fills a disconcerting need. “The latest figures were put out in 2016. CSU-San Marcos’ California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center put out figures that showed in California and…

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