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Community Voices

01 Jul 2013
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What would it take to have a comprehensive, supportive advocate for arts, culture and creative enterprises in the Coachella Valley? An accurate, up-to-date and smartphone-accessible calendar of all those kinds of events? Expanded opportunities to attract cultural tourists to the valley? A marketplace for local creative talent? A way for young students to learn about engaging, well-paying creative jobs here at home? At artsOasis, we’re working on all of these. ArtsOasis emerged from conversations begun six years ago, in July 2007, among dozens of people who saw the need for some kind of intermediary to “promote, network, educate and advocate” for the creative community and economy of the Coachella Valley. The first task was to convince civic and business leaders that there even is such a thing as a “creative economy.” But that was accomplished when the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership (CVEP), our regional economic development agency, included “Creative Arts…
07 Jun 2013
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This spring, the Gulf of California’s shores near the mouth of the Colorado River were littered with dead bodies. They weren’t casualties of the drug trade; instead, they were victims of another international market—the Asian desire for wildlife. Chinese demand for the swim bladders of the giant totoaba fish, thought to aid fertility, inspired the poaching of hundreds of the rare fish. The single organ was removed; the carcasses were left to rot. The totoaba, which can reach 6 feet long and weigh more than 200 pounds, has been protected since the ’70s by both the Mexican and U.S. governments. But with one totoaba bladder bringing more than $10,000 on the Asian market, there's major incentive to catch the fish illegally. Poachers turned to totoaba after a similar species of fish in China was eaten nearly to extinction, says Jill Birchell, a special agent for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife…
28 May 2013
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Cochise Stronghold rises abruptly from the desert outside Tombstone, Ariz., a craggy nest of pink granite spires and domes. Rock-climbers like me flock to the area for its tall, coarse slabs, weird rock formations, epic sunsets and remote backcountry feel. Although it’s never happened to me, many climbers I know have encountered tattered backpacks, energy bars with Spanish wrappers, clothing or migrants themselves, a group drawn similarly drawn to Cochise’s inaccessibility—but for obviously different reasons. Increasingly, immigrants aren’t making it beyond secluded border areas like Cochise: New statistics released by the U.S. Border Patrol show that while fewer people are sneaking over the border than a decade ago, more are dying in the process. According to the National Foundation for American Policy, someone attempting to enter the U.S. illegally today is eight times more likely to die than approximately 10 years ago. In the 1990s, stepped-up enforcement in border cities…
24 May 2013
For more than a century, monopoly electric utilities have nurtured the West. They fed the mines and the mills, and now deliver the juice to our thirsty digital devices and air conditioners. Now, it appears as if the offspring is offing its mother, as rooftop solar slowly strangles utilities. While the green media has gleefully spread word of this apparent matricide, it was first spawned by a report right out of the utility industry itself, and then bolstered by a prominent utility executive, lending it credence. The concern from the industry is fairly straightforward: If customers produce their own energy, they won’t need to buy it from the utility, and revenues will drop. And if those consumers produce more energy than they use, they become competitors, lower the price of electricity and take another bite out of the utilities’ bottom line—until we just don’t need the utilities anymore at all.…
15 May 2013
As with a lot of other families living in the eastern Coachella Valley, when one of our family members fell sick, it meant driving about 100 miles across the border into Mexico, to the city of Mexicali, to get taken care of by a doctor. The only other option, it seemed, was not being taken care of at all. Now, because of health-care reform efforts in the United States, young people growing up today in the eastern Coachella Valley—the unincorporated rural communities of southern Riverside County—don’t need to go without health insurance the way I did. The scenario is finally beginning to change. At least it can change—if people here are made aware of the health services now available to them through federal health-care reform, right in their own community. “We owe it to our country to inform the citizens to take advantage of all these resources that are available,”…
14 May 2013
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In February in Salt Lake City, Amy Meyer stood on the street and used her cell phone to record what was happening outside a slaughterhouse. She then became the first person charged under one of the new so-called “ag-gag” laws. Six states currently have such “farm protection laws,” deliberately designed to stop video recording at slaughterhouses. The bills are largely industry-funded and based on a template drawn up by the right-wing American Legislative Exchange Council. Another eight states have similar legislation in the works. Although the effort to clamp down on slaughterhouse recording has never been more organized, two such bills, in Indiana and here in California, recently failed, and the historic prosecution of Meyer also failed when her case was dropped last month. What the ag-gag bills reveal is the uphill battle the meat industry faces. Footage of sick or injured cows being dragged to slaughter, animal cruelty, and…
13 May 2013
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Regarding "Get the Lead Out: Effort to Ban Lead Ammo in California Should Be a No-Brainer": Assembly Bill 711 would ban all hunting with lead ammunition throughout California. Self-proclaimed environmental groups, largely opposed to hunting in general, claim condors feeding on game carcasses are poisoned by lead ammunition fragments, and are pushing this ill-conceived proposal through the Legislature to bypass the scrutiny their claims received from the Fish and Game Commission. The commission enacts hunting and fishing regulations, and analyzes scientific claims before taking regulatory action. This is the second time these groups have tried to skirt the commission’s review. There has been a ban on hunting large game with lead ammunition in the California condor range since 2008, due to the passage of Assembly Bill 821. The same anti-hunting groups pushed AB 821 through the Legislature to get around real scientific inquiry into the source of lead poisoning in…
10 May 2013
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Lead is banned in paint, gasoline, dishes and children’s toys, and now California is looking at removing the largest unregulated source of the neurotoxin by also banning lead ammunition. One motivation is to generally protect wildlife and human health, but some see it as a way to improve the prospects of California condors; lead poisoning is the leading cause of death for the massive, inky-feathered carrion eaters. Twenty-six endangered California condors have died from lead poisoning since 1996. One recently notable lead casualty was a 9-year old bird in Big Sur that died last November. Even though lead ammunition is already banned in the bird’s California range, the source of the lead was a .22-caliber bullet, and he likely swallowed it while chowing down on a shot-up carcass. Condor No. 318 was one of the first captive bred condors released on the California coast around Big Sur. According to the…
01 May 2013
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Earl Butz, Richard Nixon’s controversial secretary of Agriculture, was a profane man known for his hair-trigger temper and his rough handling of subordinates. So when the chief of the Forest Service stood him up for a meeting, Butz unloaded in response: “There are four branches of government,” he reportedly snarled, “the executive, legislative, judicial and the Gawd-damn U.S. Forest Service.” Although current Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack might have worded it differently, he probably appreciates the sentiment now: He recently discovered how ornery the powerful Forest Service can be. At issue was one of Vilsack’s pet projects—an attempt to reshape the image of the entire $132 billion Agriculture Department, which oversees everything from plant and animal inspections, food safety and ending hunger to the health and productivity of national forests. Dubbed “One Brand,” this graphic facelift has engaged Agriculture Department officials overseeing the agency’s 20 departments for the past three years.…
19 Apr 2013
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When I told my family I was going kayaking on the Salton Sea, their reaction was just what I expected: “Are you sure that’s safe?” my mother asked with uneasiness. That is precisely what had crossed my mind when I was invited to join Assemblymembers V. Manuel Pérez and Ben Hueso (now a state senator) on a kayaking excursion on the manmade sea bordering Riverside and Imperial counties. As a beat reporter for Coachella Unincorporated, there is no “standard” assignment. I never know what will come out of an editorial meeting, but I am usually up for anything. However, this particular assignment made me nervous and excited at the same time. The nervous part of me worried I would flip the kayak upside down, forcing me to swallow gallons of the toxic salt water. The excited part of me couldn’t wait to row a vessel across this controversial body of…