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Local Issues

24 Jul 2015
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When I moved to Desert Hot Springs a decade ago, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. I didn’t know a thing about the desert city when I moved here from Cleveland in 2005. However, I was soon filled in by others: DHS has a lot of crime. Meth houses. Trashy people. Corrupt government. In the decade since, things haven’t gotten any better. In early July, a website called Roadsnacks.net published a piece, “using science,” that declared Desert Hot Springs is the worst place to live in California. It made the rounds on Facebook; the piece supposedly had received 358,600 views as of our press time. It’s no wonder Slipping Into Darkness, the wildly popular Desert Hot Springs band, included a song titled “DHS Blues” on the album Shurpedelic. OK, look: DHS isn’t perfect. It has its problems, for sure. But my city of not quite 30,000…
10 Jul 2015
The Coachella Valley Unified School District is doing its best to keep the East Valley connected. The district—which encompasses 21 schools at the eastern end of the valley from Indio to the Salton Sea—recently announced that the school board had approved the installation of wireless Internet routers on all 100 buses in the district’s fleet. The decision came after a successful pilot program, which began eight months before, with the implementation of Wi-Fi connectivity on three buses. Also approved was the installation of solar panels on 10 buses in order to extend the routers’ battery life so they can become mobile wireless “hotspots” that will be parked overnight in communities where no wireless access currently exists. Superintendent Dr. Darryl Adams sees this strategy as part of the core service the school district must provide to its students. “You know every school district eventually is going to have to ensure that…
29 Jun 2015
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The nascent Sunny Dunes Antique District had a coming-out party, of sorts, on Saturday, June 20. Various businesses in the district kept their doors open a little later than normal for the Pop Shop Hop, “an evening of shopping and discovery of all the shops on Sunny Dunes,” according to the event’s Facebook page. A decent-sized crowd—considering it was about 110 degrees outside—wandered among the various shops and chatted with proprietors; anybody who visited all of the participating businesses received a free entry into a raffle. Of course, participants could purchase extra raffle tickets, with the proceeds going to the Safe House of the Desert, which operates the Pop Shop thrift store in the area. Around 8 p.m., people assembled at the Tool Shed, a gay/leather bar on Sunny Dunes, for the raffle drawing; all of the prizes were donated by various area businesses. “I love this neighborhood,” said George…
11 Jun 2015
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A bike can mean a lot to a kid. “It comes down to wellness,” said Brett Klein, chair of the Palm Springs Sustainability Coalition. “It also comes down to the ability to get from point A to point B.” He used a not-so-hypothetical child who lives in the East Valley as an example. “A kid may need to get to the Boys and Girls Club—and may need to travel three to five miles to get there, at a time when the parents are working,” he said. This is why the City of Palm Springs Office of Sustainability, in conjunction with the Coachella Valley Bicycle Coalition and Sun Tran, is in the midst of a bicycle drive. The goal: To get more than 100 working, functioning bicycles to kids in need via both the Boys and Girls Club of Palm Springs, and the Boys and Girls Club of Coachella Valley, in…
03 Apr 2015
Agua4All is a program with a catchy, informative name and an inarguably laudable objective: delivering safe drinking water to every resident of the state, regardless of location or income level. The program aims to provide this necessity via its proprietary water-filling stations, which are being installed in schools and community-meeting areas like parks, youth clubs and libraries. For too many Californians, the only accessible source for safe drinking water is commercially sold bottled water—an unaffordable solution for many underprivileged families. Currently in its pilot phase, Agua4All is focusing on disadvantaged communities in southern Kern County—and right here in the eastern Coachella Valley. “The original idea was actually conceived by The California Endowment, which has been the major funder of the program,” said Sarah Buck, rural development specialist for the Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC), which is charged with supervising and coordinating efforts around this program. “They have given us the…
27 Mar 2015
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Taking care of the Coachella Valley’s homeless is no easy task—but it’s something the people at Martha’s Village and Kitchen in Indio have now been doing, and doing well, for 25 years. Martha’s Village, as the story goes, began with a $5 donation to feed the homeless 25 years ago. The organization will be celebrating its anniversary on Saturday, March 28. Martha’s Village and Kitchen has a transitional housing facility that can house 120 people—96 beds for homeless families with children, and 24 beds for single adults. The organization also serves 250,000 hot meals each year to anyone in need; provides child care to parents for children up to 5 years old; and offers educational and career services, as well as health-care and case management. The organization’s primary goal is to break the cycle of homelessness for residents. During residents’ stay of up to 12 months, they are given the…
26 Feb 2015
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We’re living in a video world. Cameras are everywhere: on streets, tablets, smart phones and satellites. Cameras can also help protect the public and law enforcement alike when placed in key public areas and—increasingly—on police officers themselves. However, you won’t find very many law-enforcement cameras in the Coachella Valley. For instance, Palm Springs Police Department officers do not wear body cams, nor do their police vehicles have dashboard cams. The same goes for the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, which enforces law and order in Palm Desert, Indian Wells, Rancho Mirage and elsewhere. An early February request to talk about cameras with Alberto Franz, the Palm Springs chief of police, was answered by an assistant who stated that the chief was busy until the end of month. On the contrary, San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman was happy to talk, both one-on-one and via email. “I am a huge proponent and…
18 Feb 2015
In 2000, Riverside County agreed to a settle a dispute with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development which was triggered after 24 Coachella Valley families filed complaints. According to HUD archives, the complaints stated “that Riverside County had targeted Hispanic-owned and -occupied mobile home parks for selective and discriminatory enforcement of its health and safety code and regulations.” "The enforcement agreement is a major victory for a largely disenfranchised population, compensating victims of housing discrimination and resulting in a multi-million-dollar cooperative effort to build housing and provide needed services to farmworkers throughout the area for years to come," said Ilene Jacobs, then the director of litigation for California Rural Legal Assistance, which represented the farmworkers in the case. (The statement came from a HUD news release.) Today—a decade and a half later—the county is still working on upholding its end of the settlement. In December, the Riverside…
13 Feb 2015
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The call comes on your cell when you least expect it. The doctor, a specialist from out of town, says: “The telephone isn’t the ideal way to deliver test results, but ...” You urge him to proceed. He tells you about your brain cancer. It has metastasized with a vengeance. His words are both shocking and anticipated. You know you are hearing your own death sentence. You have fought valiantly for years to be rid of this disease. You’ve endured the onslaught of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Your loved ones rallied in support. You’ve done everything you can to continue living fully. Now, you find yourself at a new stage, with six months to live. You’re aware that people who die with your disease may face distressing events before the end: seizures, loss of functions, dementia, anguish and undeniable pain. What are the options in this hypothetical? In California, you…
26 Jan 2015
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Coachella Valley residents who use medical marijuana must currently travel to one of a small handful of dispensaries in Palm Springs—the only valley city which has allowed dispensaries to operate. However, two other local cities will soon let dispensaries open their doors. Last year, both the Desert Hot Springs City Council and the city’s voters OK’d dispensaries, while Cathedral City’s City Council narrowly voted in favor of allowing them. Desert Hot Springs will initially allow up to three permits to be issued for dispensaries, with the possibility of adding more after an evaluation. Currently, 19 applications have been submitted, but there is a list of three applications that have received the highest score. Cathedral City will allow two permits to be issued; so far, the city has rejected four applications and approved one. City Manager Charlie McClendon explained the criteria the applicants must meet. “The ordinance laid out some fairly…