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Local Issues

21 Jan 2015
As darkness and a chill fell over northwestern New Mexico on a Friday in late November, two men flagged down a San Juan County sheriff’s deputy to report a scuffle, with at least one firearm involved. The altercation was going down in Spencerville, an ad-hoc collection of homes, beat up cars and dust that lies just off the highway that links the towns of Aztec and Farmington. As the deputies responded, they heard gunshots, and called for backup. Three more deputies arrived, along with a New Mexico state trooper. As the five deputies approached the area from which the shots came, the trooper flanked off to one side, armed with an AR-15. He saw a “silhouette of a person raising a weapon,” according to a court document, and fired two shots. When a male voice screamed that the trooper had missed, he ran to another location, took aim and fired…
15 Dec 2014
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Samantha Bee of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is in a hurry. She rushes down a New York City sidewalk but then bumps into Nate Silver, the data journalist—formerly of The New York Times and now of ESPN—known for predicting the last presidential elections’ outcomes. She stops, and while you might say that Bee appears a little frantic, she’s also relieved. That’s because, on the heels of Michael Brown’s death at the hands of a cop in Ferguson, Mo., she’s trying to learn more about the data behind officer-involved shootings. Like, for instance, how many people die each year at the hands of cops? Bee grabs Silver, the nation’s foremost stat geek, on the shoulder, then asks him, “How many people were shot and killed last year by the police?” “I don’t …” Silver begins. “Those statistics just don’t exist.” Facepalm. Bee appears incredulous. Eventually, she moves on, ever-frustrated.…
25 Nov 2014
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It’s now been more than seven months since an Arenas Road murals project, planned and funded by Venus Studios Art Supply owner Debra Ann Mumm, was shut down by Palm Springs police after city officials claimed the project was illegal—even though the city Public Arts Commission had endorsed the project. It’s now been more than six months since the Palm Springs City Council, in the wake of the controversy caused by the shutdown of Mumm’s mural project, approved a much-needed mural-approval process. However, since these two events, it’s been all quiet on the Palm Springs murals front. Mumm still has plans for mural projects in the city, she said. In fact, she has a mockup of a mural she’s planning for the Arenas Road side of LuLu California Bistro. However, she has not yet started the daunting and expensive journey that is now the city of Palm Springs mural process.…
21 Nov 2014
The 2014 holiday season has officially arrived, and while many of us are busily planning schedules around parties and shopping, more and more of our neighbors are facing formidable food and resource shortages. “Over the last 24 months, we’ve seen the monthly average number of people served meals in our region increase from 80,000 per month to 90,000-plus,” said Chantel Schuering, community relations director for the FIND Food Bank. “We get those numbers directly from each organization that partners with FIND to acquire food resources, and then we aggregate them here.” Those partner organizations include almost all of the agencies who provide meals on a regular basis to those in need of food assistance. One such partner is The Well in the Desert, based in Palm Springs. “I wish we had fewer customers, but we don’t, unfortunately,” remarked Arlene Rosenthal, president of the board at The Well. “And around Thanksgiving…
21 Oct 2014
Between June 2011 and October 2014, 32 California cities eliminated their red-light-camera enforcement systems—including the city of Riverside in September, according to watchdog website Highwayrobbery.net. However, the system continues to operate in Cathedral City. The city’s contract with American Traffic Solutions (ATS) of Tempe, Ariz., expired back in February, but the City Council voted 4-1 to renew the contract in May, after negotiating more-favorable terms. Still, the program remains unpopular with segments of the city’s population (as well as residents of other desert cities who regularly drive through Cathedral City), particularly those who have been captured on video and in freeze-frame images that result in costly citations. There are three cameras, watching the intersections of Date Palm Drive and Ramon Road; Ramon and Landau Boulevard; and Vista Chino at Date Palm. “People don’t like getting citations and having to pay fines for violations,” said Cathedral City Police Department Operations Captain…
17 Oct 2014
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Famed novelist Sidney Sheldon was a fervent supporter of the Palm Springs Library. Sheldon and his wife, Alexandra, even donated a bighorn statue to the library, which is on display by the entrance to the building on Sunrise Way. I once interviewed Sheldon, who died in 2007, at the library, and he passionately talked about the importance of reading: “The kids of today must read books, because some of them will be politicians of tomorrow, and they will be making decisions that influence all of us!” Sheldon is gone now, but his books are still there on the shelves. The library reportedly has 172,000 volumes, and is the leading library in the valley by its numbers. However, in recent months, a series of incidents at the library, at Sunrise and Baristo Road, has been troubling. On Aug. 7, according to Palm Springs Police records, Garrett Kevin Jennings, 54, allegedly stole…
10 Oct 2014
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A smile grows on Jacqueline Aguilar’s face when she talks about local art and her community. Aguilar, a senior at Coachella Valley High School, is passionate about these topics—and she’s eager to share her insight with anyone willing to listen. Aguilar represented Raices Cultura when she spoke about art and her community to an audience of city planners at the 2014 Annual Conference of the American Planning Association’s California Chapter in Anaheim in mid-September. “I was really nervous. I was shaking,” Aguilar said. “I’m not usually that nervous, but people started showing up, and it was really weird to have such a large audience.” Aguilar and other youth representatives from the eastern Coachella Valley participated in a youth panel at the annual conference titled “Legitimate Voices: Youth Perspectives on the Meaning of Building Healthy Communities in the Eastern Coachella Valley.” The youth panel was an opportunity for planners to hear…
29 Sep 2014
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While a storm-water master plan exists for some undeveloped areas of Coachella Valley, residents will continue to suffer from the consequences of inadequate storm-water infrastructure for years to come, due to a lack of funding Portions of the east valley learned this lesson the hard way on Monday, Sept. 8, when storms—including the remnants of Hurricane Norbert—flooded portions of Mecca, Thermal and other communities. In many of the unincorporated communities, storm-water systems have yet to be installed, said Mark Johnson, director of engineering for the Coachella Valley Water District. Mecca and North Shore, for example, are both subject to flooding, even though the master plan for the areas identifies what is needed to provide necessary flood protection. Needed flood control systems would be designed and constructed in the future in accordance with master planning for the area, Johnson said. “I think the (residents of) unincorporated areas are aware of the…
24 Sep 2014
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The Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990 is landmark legislation that prevents discrimination on the basis of disability and requires public accommodations for the disabled. However, the act includes loopholes and flaws, as is the case with many good laws. In most states, the Americans With Disabilities Act allows people to file a lawsuit against a business that does not meet disability regulations; however, the only result is that the business must remedy the violation(s). That’s not the case in California. Due to the state’s Unruh Civil Rights Act, enacted in 1959, those with disabilities can file lawsuits and receive monetary damages. According to the California Bar Association, ADA lawsuits in the state represent nearly half of the ADA litigation nationwide. In Palm Springs, it appears that a couple of individuals and their attorneys are taking advantage of these facts. A woman by the name of Diane Cross, represented by…
05 Aug 2014
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Michael Weems is an artist with an impressive collection, a successful gallery, and a renowned résumé in the art world. As of late, however, he’s had a focus beyond art: Helping the homeless. He’s asking his fellow Coachella Valley residents to assist as well. Weems recently talked to the Independent about what led him to leave the corporate world and become an artist. “I’ve been an artist for about 20 years now,” Weems said. “I had worked as a financial manager with AT&T back in Washington, D.C., for about nine years, and I was downsized with about 15,000 other people. When I was downsized, I visited a friend of mine on my first-ever trip to California. When I visited her in San Diego, she took me to a psychic who said to me, ‘You’re not going to be in the corporate world any more; you’re going to be an artist,…