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Local Issues

19 Feb 2014
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The spot that once was home to downtown Palm Springs’ Desert Fashion Plaza—and before that, the legendary Desert Inn—is under construction. It’s slated to eventually become home to a shopping center and a Kimpton Hotel, under the direction of developer John Wessman. One man has been leading the charge against the project as it is planned: Frank Tysen, the owner of the Casa Cody Bed and Breakfast Inn. Because of his opposition to what many consider “progress,” some city officials—most notably Mayor Steve Pougnet—have harshly criticized and even demonized Tysen, who has been a fixture in various Palm Springs development battles now for more than two decades. On Jan. 16, during his State of the City speech, Pougnet issued his most vicious public attack on Tysen to date. He referenced a series of letters that Mike Depatie, the CEO of Kimpton Hotels, was supposedly sent by Tysen and Tysen’s colleagues.…
27 Dec 2013
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Siouxzan Perry, a graphic designer and website developer, was the manager of Tura Satana, the lead actress in the 1965 B-Movie classic Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! “She passed away in 2011 on my birthday,” said Perry. Perry was devastated by the loss of her client and close friend. At Perry’s home, Tura Satana is in every room in some way—paintings, photographs, film props, movie posters and even some of her personal items. While Perry has always been open about the fact that she’s a lesbian, she was in no rush to date. She explained that past romances have included drama, ex-girlfriend issues, and other things she didn’t want to deal with. Then Helen Macfarlane entered her life. “I met Helen on Facebook through a friend. I do something called ‘LP of the day.’ I’ve been doing it for five years now: I put up an LP everyday that’s absolutely hideous,…
14 Dec 2013
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It’s 9 p.m., and my Porsche’s thermometer reads 55 degrees. Felicia Tichenor is wrapped in a thin blanket on her concrete “bed” behind the Staples at Gene Autry Way and Ramon Road. We’re supposed to have a night photo shoot, but Tichenor is out of it. Next to her is a big Budweiser can. She’s not going to pose tonight. Tichenor, 41, is not good at keeping appointments. She has been homeless for eight years now. Her blonde hair is tangled, and her blue eyes are bloodshot. It wasn’t always like this. She had a home once, and a family, too. “My mom died when I was 14, and my dad in ’06,” Tichenor says, shrugging her shoulders. “I’ve a son; he’s 20 now.” She stops to light a cigarette. “At 32, I lost my job; things in my life turned for worse. I lost all I had, and when…
02 Dec 2013
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On a recent Monday evening, around 60 people mingled on a patio at Jackalope Ranch in Indio. The attendees—a mix of students, teachers, business people, tech experts and politicians—sipped drinks and munched on chips, guacamole and skewered chicken as they chatted. All in all, it was a typical-looking business-related social gathering. But the goals of the people at this innocuous-looking event, called the Desert Tech Meetup, are far from innocuous: They want to make the Coachella Valley a technology-business hub. The gathering—the second such Desert Tech Meetup—was held by Silicon Springs Ventures, in partnership with web/marketing firm Graphtek, and the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership (CVEP). “We’re all here for Silicon Springs: the movement,” Joel Fashingbauer, Silicon Springs Ventures’ president and chief operating officer, told the crowd. “We want to create another Silicon Valley, one that’s smaller and more efficient, in the desert.” In between mingling time and giveaways of gift…
25 Nov 2013
Zackary Davis always dreamed of becoming a nurse. The 26-year-old graduated from Cal State San Bernardino’s Palm Desert campus in June 2012; he was the first in his family to go to college. He estimated that he has applied to more than 100 health-care facilities since. Davis said he has had five interviews—and no job offers. Today, he works as a valet at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells. “I’ve basically let go of the chance of getting the ER or ICU like I want,” said Davis, who lives in Indio. “I’m sure there are a ton of stories that are just like mine. It’s cruddy, but I’m trying to stay positive about it.” He’s not alone. A 2011 survey by the National Student Nurses Association found that 36 percent of newly licensed registered nurses did not have jobs four months after graduation. It’s worse in California. About 46 percent of…
11 Nov 2013
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Over the summer, a former Jewish temple in Desert Hot Springs was converted into the Desert Hot Springs Community Health Center. The building on Pierson Boulevard had been purchased by the now-nearly bankrupt city of Desert Hot Springs in 2008 and was condemned, partially torn down, and eventually sold to the nonprofit Borrego Community Health Foundation at a tremendous loss before its revival. (Meanwhile, a brand-new building behind the Vons grocery store on Palm Drive, which was constructed by the city to be a health-care clinic, sits unoccupied.) Despite the controversies and boondoggles, Borrego has managed to bring much-needed health-care services to Desert Hot Springs, and the clinic has been well-received by citizens of Desert Hot Springs (including myself) since the October opening. “We’ve been seeing that the community was hungry for what we offer,” said clinic site manager Sergio Ruiz. “Little by little, people are finding out that we…
25 Oct 2013
The Palm Springs Unified School District is expected to save more than $6.9 million in energy costs over the next two decades after the installation of solar systems at campuses across the district. Among the 11 sites, including the district’s service center, is Cathedral City High School, where district officials are planning to hold a “flip the switch” event on Monday, Oct. 28. Some of the solar systems are already in place, and the rest are expected to be installed by the end of the year, according to information distributed on a district PowerPoint presentation. The district includes schools in Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Desert Hot Springs, Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage and Thousand Palms. With five different rate tiers between May and October, calculating the district’s power rate is complex, said Julie Arthur, executive director of facilities and planning for the district. However, the district has projected a savings of…
27 Sep 2013
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The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has an unenviable job even in a wet year, but in prolonged periods of drought, the task of managing the Colorado River is even harder. The agency is in charge of balancing the water levels in the country’s two largest reservoirs: the serpentine desert lakes called Powell and Mead. Seven Western states depend on water from the Colorado for everything from showering to growing lettuce, and keeping the reservoirs at the proper level makes sure everyone gets their legal share—that is, until drought complicates things. Fourteen years of drought exacerbated by a dry spring, and an even drier July, prompted the Bureau of Reclamation to do something it’s never done before: release less water from Lake Powell. That means water levels at Lake Mead, 250 miles downstream of Powell, will continue to drop, threatening to render one of two intake pumps inoperable, and leaving Las…
26 Sep 2013
Residents of Thermal scored a major victory in their 16-year fight for clean air when Riverside County was awarded the funding to pave the roads of 31 trailer parks in the unincorporated communities of Eastern Coachella Valley. The $4.1 million project is scheduled to begin as early as next summer, and should be completed within two years. “When cars pass by, they lift a lot of dust, and it affects everyone that lives here,” said Margarita Gamez, a resident who has been active in the grassroots effort since 1997. In 2008, Pueblo Unido, a community-development corporation, joined the fight for improved environmental conditions in the region’s trailer parks, which are typically situated in areas that lack potable water, sewer systems and basic infrastructure. Trailer-park residents were the backbone of the organizing effort, and the idea to push for paved roads came from them, said Sergio Carranza, executive director and founder…
20 Sep 2013
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When Andrea “Andi” Spirtos was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993, she did not have health insurance, and had to figure out how to come up with at least $700 per month for treatment. “I sold everything I could think of to sell,” she said. “I’d literally fast so I could save enough money for my chemo.” Spirtos’ story is all too common—and that’s why the Desert Cancer Foundation exists. The nonprofit was founded in 1994 by Cory Teichner, Arthur Teichner and Dr. Sebastian George, and since then has helped many thousands of cancer patients who are uninsured, underinsured or otherwise lacking funds to pay for their care. Today, cancer-survivor Spirtos is in a much better place; in fact, she works for the Desert Cancer Foundation as its director of donor development. October is going to be a busy month for Spirtos and the rest of the folks involved with…