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Community Voices

26 Oct 2015
Editor’s Note: On Oct. 6, bicyclist Trisha Monroe was hit by a vehicle in Palm Desert. She suffered serious injuries. Monroe was just the latest Coachella Valley resident to get badly hurt on our valley’s roadways while riding a bike. Therefore, the Independent asked Brett Klein and Vic Yepello to write a piece on bicycle-traffic safety. By the way, friends of Monroe have launched a GoFundMe effort. Find that here. The Coachella Valley has long been a place for cars—but we are collectively working to make our infrastructure safer for people on bikes. Making our cities function for pedestrians will also take a significant effort. We want the ability to bike or walk from homes or hotels to shopping, parks, convention centers and meeting spaces, casinos and our neighborhoods. For people on bikes, safety matters, and all of us need to learn, listen and be educated. In the last 10…
16 Oct 2015
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I grew up with guns. I never had one as a toy—I did not have the BB or pellet guns that the other boys got for Christmas or birthdays. I had deadly, violent and powerful guns, for hunting. We were taught that there’s no such thing as an empty gun, and that you never, ever point a gun at anything you don’t intend to kill. My first rifle was a 20-gauge shotgun, single-shot, break-open, and its barrel was a cold swirl of metal. I carried it proudly through the deep sagebrush of the Wyoming prairie, following my stepfather and his black Lab, hunting grouse; or through the willows of the river bottoms, hunting ducks. We hunted to eat, and sometimes at dinner, you’d bite on a chunk of birdshot still lodged in the breast of some fowl. My stepfather had seen plenty of violence in Vietnam, and he loved guns.…
22 Sep 2015
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The struggle to gain protection for critical land and water resources, wildlife, Native American cultural sites and spectacular landscapes within the California desert has gone on for more than a decade. With support from a wide group of constituents, including off-roaders, businesspeople, faith leaders, conservationists and veterans, Sen. Dianne Feinstein has developed strong, balanced legislation—but Congress has been either unwilling or unable to act. Her latest proposal, the California Desert Conservation and Recreation Act, hasn’t even been scheduled for a committee hearing, and no bill was introduced in the House. So, the senator pushed forward to safeguard our precious public lands by asking the president to use his powers under the Antiquities Act to declare three new desert national monuments—Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow and Castle Mountains. The responses from editorial boards at The Desert Sun, The Press-Enterprise in Riverside and the Orange County Register were disappointing and perplexing. While…
15 Sep 2015
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We had barely covered the first 10 miles of trail, hiking north from the California-Mexico border, when my hiking partner, Flash, and I found the first Pacific Crest Trail casualty. A man in his 20s, face flushed red from heat, watched us approach with clear embarrassment. He sat in a small patch of shade next to a pack bristling with a solar charger and the latest, most-expensive gear. “You wouldn’t happen to have any water, would you?” he asked. Flash and I eyed each other. We were each carrying six liters, enough to easily take us the first 20 waterless miles to the Lake Morena campground. We had planned our water carry days before: One liter for every five miles, with a little extra to account for the heat. It was before noon, and a big climb out of Hauser Canyon awaited us. How much could we spare? It was…
11 Sep 2015
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As I watched thousands of the faithful cheer ecstatically at the release of Rowan County, Ky., Clerk Kim Davis, I felt both revulsion and empathy. If I’m being honest, the revulsion and the empathy were not in equal parts. To be clear, my empathy is with the faithful—not Ms. Davis, nor the politicians using her gambit for their own electoral power grabs. I believe that, for many, religion is a balm, something that provides genuine comfort and guidance. I honor and respect that. I also happen to believe that, for some, religion is a convenient cloak behind which bigotry in its most virulent forms finds justification. Ms. Davis is a four-times-married, fairly recent convert to Apostolic Christianity. She is also, paradoxically, a Democrat—although we shouldn’t be so surprised. Southern Democrats have been their own rare breed for decades now, so it’s no surprise she is not part of the Bernie…
02 Sep 2015
Many Republicans predicted that the Affordable Care Act, aka “Obamacare,” would send this country into utter chaos. Of course, this didn’t happen. Nonetheless, there is murmuring among a few 2016 Republican presidential candidates that repealing the ACA would be one of the first things they’d do if elected. But in reality, the plan is working so well that it would be political suicide to try to repeal it at this point—and I am one of the millions of Americans who have benefited from the plan. On July 3, 2014, I was diagnosed with a detached retina. A blow to the back of the head a week earlier and two subsequent airplane rides caused the injury. I was in South Bend, Ind., meeting my partner’s family for the first time, when I got the news. I was given a choice: I could have surgery in Indiana, and be forbidden to fly…
20 Jul 2015
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I watched Caitlyn Jenner’s extraordinary speech at the ESPY Awards with fascination. She was poised and passionate, funny and inspirational. It was a heckuva coming-out party. And she was a knockout! Say what you will, but girl definitely has found the right stylist. Leading up to the awards show and now its aftermath, I’ve seen social media all atwitter questioning whether Caitlyn deserved an award for “courage.” Seems there are three camps on this. First, there are those who wholeheartedly endorse Caitlyn as the recipient of the Arthur Ashe Prize. The second group honors the impact she will have, but are skeptical about and uncomfortable with the notion that she has done anything courageous. The third group is the usual assemblage of online haters who consider Caitlyn an abomination and an affront to all things American, Christian or civil. I actually fall into a subsection of the first group (and…
15 May 2015
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On a recent trip to California, I visited the North Coast, where spring usually means green hills with deep grass, strewn with lupine and bright orange poppies bobbing in sea breezes. This year, we found stunted grass, browning hills and the local news obsessing over the worst drought in California's recorded history. Suddenly, the most populous state in the country faces a harsh reality, with water shortages threatening all aspects of life, from the economy, to our food supply, to the very livability of our homes. Holed up in Bodega Bay, I heard Gov. Jerry Brown on the radio talking about mandatory water-use restrictions for California's 39 million people. Brown usually can be counted on to take on issues realistically, yet when asked if he would restrict the amount of water that goes to agriculture, he demurred. Agriculture had suffered enough already, he said. While we are all grateful to…
22 Jan 2015
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There is a stigma that often comes from women talking about menstruation publicly. And the shame happens in many ways. Last year, the online publication Jezebel published an article titled called “What Life Is Like When Getting Your Period Means You Are Shunned.” It profiled the life of a 16-year-old girl in Western Nepal named Radha, who, like all the other women in her village, could “not enter her house or eat anything but boiled rice” while she was menstruating. Radha was not allowed to touch other people during her menstruation cycle, because she’d “pollute them” and perhaps make them sick. She wasn't allowed to sleep in her own house. She must join the rest of the women in the village who happen to be menstruating that week in a tiny shed far away from the village. The Western world claims to be more progressive, yet even here, there are…
26 Dec 2014
College scholarships for traditional students just out of high school are in relative abundance in the Coachella Valley due to the giving nature of our local community. But what about nontraditional students—individuals who took a detour after high school for one reason or another, and then realized later in life that higher education or occupational training is needed to improve their economic situation and make positive changes in their lives? That’s where the Girlfriend Factor (GFF) comes in. GFF is a local nonprofit that provides educational grants and emotional support to local adult women so they can return to school to achieve their goals and dreams. To date, GFF has helped more than 100 women return to school. The Girlfriend Factor was founded in 2005 by Joan Busick and a group of friends. A CPA who runs her own business in Palm Desert, Joan has a special place in her…