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Local Issues

29 Apr 2014
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When the pain of the Great Recession was just beginning to be really felt in 2009, Brian McGowan—then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s deputy secretary for economic development and commerce—approached Coachella Valley leaders about developing an innovation hub. “We didn’t really have a clue what it meant,” said Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet at a news conference on March 31. Spurred by McGowan, Pougnet—along with Cathedral City Mayor Kathy DeRosa and then-Desert Hot Springs Mayor Yvonne Parks—formed the Coachella Valley iHub. After the three cities chipped in, the iHub became one of the first six in California—there are now 16 in the state—and it’s starting to pay dividends: 21 tech-related companies are currently part of the Coachella Valley iHub. “We do have the top iHub in the state,” said Tom Flavin, the president and CEO of the nonprofit Coachella Valley Economic Partnership, which is now working with the three founding cities (as well…
24 Apr 2014
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The weekend of April 5 and 6 was going to be big for Debra Ann Mumm and local lovers of public art. The owner of Venus Studios Art Supply had joined renowned local muralist Ryan“Motel” Campbell to launch PLANet Art Palm Springs. The project brought four renowned mural artists to downtown Palm Springs’ Arenas Road area to paint four large-scale murals. Proper funds had been raised; the city’s Public Arts Commission had even endorsed the week long project. Everything was ready to go. Except it wasn’t. As the artists started to paint, the police showed up and told Mumm and Campbell that their project was not authorized—it was illegal. Police reportedly threatened arrests if the artists continued to paint. Campbell took to Facebook and other social media to vent his frustration. He even posted a picture of the police arriving and shutting down the project. “ART IS NOT A CRIME,”…
05 Apr 2014
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Promotion is everything when it comes to sports events. Dinah Shore knew that; that’s why, back in 1972, she attached her name, and fame, to a brand-new women’s golf event at the Mission Hills Country Club. To this day, many still call the LPGA’s first major of the year simply Dinah. Soon, that might be the only name this tournament has. As of Monday, April 7, what has been known since 2002 as the Kraft Nabisco Championship will cease to exist under that name. The food giant, associated with the tourney since 1982, will not be the title sponsor anymore. Instead, the LPGA will take over the event, and the hunt for a new sponsor will start. Remember the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, the other famed local golf extravaganza? A while after Hope’s passing, Chrysler dropped out, and the event struggled to regain its former glory. Thankfully, Humana and the…
17 Mar 2014
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Music-promoter Goldenvoice puts on the Coachella and Stagecoach festivals here every year—but that’s not all that Goldenvoice does in the Coachella Valley. Goldenvoice, in partnership with California CareForce, is holding another free health clinic at the Riverside County Fairgrounds in Indio, on April 3-6. Last year, California CareForce and Goldenvoice provided free medical, dental and vision care to 2,770 people at a cost of just more than $1 million. During a recent interview in La Quinta, CareForce president Pamela Congdon discussed the specifics of the four-day clinic. “We’ll have 70 dental chairs and 10 vision lanes, and we can make about 300 prescription glasses per day,” Congdon said. “We give a full eye exam, and with the dentists, we can do extractions, restorative fillings and cleanings. We run it like a mini vision office and a mini dentist's office. Medical will also have acupuncture and a chiropractor.” Congdon said that…
21 Feb 2014
Michelle Brodeur makes regular trips to Mexico for her eyeglasses and contacts. At 50, the self-employed graphic artist and writer is in good health. That’s a good thing, too, because Brodeur hasn’t had health insurance in nearly a decade—and her uninsured status isn’t about to change any time soon, despite the roll-out of the Affordable Care Act. Brodeur, who earned about $23,000 last year, said she makes too much to qualify for free or reduced-cost Medicare or Medi-Cal, expanded under President Barack Obama’s signature health-care reform effort, dubbed “ObamaCare.” With insurance plans that she considers decent starting at roughly $175 per month for her, Brodeur said her premium would be too big of a financial bite. So, Brodeur said she’s opting out. “If it was $95 or $100 a month, I’d be able to manage,” said Brodeur, who lives in Palm Springs, where the median per-capita income is $36,627. “It’s…
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…