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Community Voices

10 Feb 2014
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In 1913, Los Angeles’ legendary chief engineer William Mulholland watched water flow from the L.A. Aqueduct for the first time and proclaimed, “There it is. Take it.” The project drew water from the eastern side of the Sierra Nevada, more than 200 miles away, across deserts and mountains, drying up the Owens River and the once-vast Owens Lake, and dangerously lowering eerily beautiful Mono Lake. Over time, it also made modern Los Angeles possible in all its awful glory: sprawling suburbs linked by clogged freeways underneath a blanket of smog. Later, L.A. tore out its rail system to make room for a booming car culture. And even today, despite the dramatic natural setting—10,000-foot mountains, 30 miles of Pacific beaches and one of the nation’s largest urban parks smack-dab in its middle—many of L.A.’s 4 million residents have no easy access to nature, making the city one of our most park-poor.…
13 Jan 2014
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“When I see an adult on a bicycle, I do not despair for the future of the human race.” —attributed to H.G. Wells When I was a small child, in a little village in Southern Germany, my bike was my golden key to exploration, adventure and new worlds. I lived in Africa between the ages of 5 and 8; I liked to wear turquoise saris and pedal my massive, maroon bike through the dusty fields and back roads. When my family moved to the suburbs of the Eastern U.S., my embarrassing orange-cream-and-white bike got me to town, to the library, to civilization. Then came that magic age of 16, and the freedom to drive. I could go farther than the library! My bike got dusty in the garage. Fast-forward a decade. I was 26 and had been living in London for seven years. I had no need for a car…
13 Dec 2013
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The rains had been heavy on and off for weeks, soaking the ground, washing away the soil and undercutting our yard and those of our neighbors. This happened 45 years ago, when we lived on a steep mountain ridge in the Santa Ynez Mountains of Santa Barbara, about 100 miles northwest of Los Angeles. Where once we had an ample yard, 15 feet of grass now separated our house from the precipitous edge of the slope. That led to anxious nights with images in my mind of our house sliding down the slope while I slept. Although our house never went over the edge, those feelings of anxiety sometimes recur during big storms. A little research reveals that the worst storm ever recorded in California struck on Christmas Eve of 1861. The rains continued almost nonstop until February 1862, soaking California with almost four times its normal rainfall, and creating…
28 Nov 2013
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Editor’s Note: A representative of the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce’s Athena Awards approached the Independent about publishing this Q&A with Mariah Hanson, the founder of one of Palm Springs’ largest annual events: the Club Skirts Dinah Shore Weekend, aka “The Dinah” ( The 2014 event takes place April 2-6. Hanson is the recipient of the 2013 Athena Leadership Award, presented by the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce. She—along with Carol Channing and Helene Galen—will be honored at the 2013 Athena Luncheon, at 11:30 a.m., Thursday, Dec. 5, at the Renaissance Palm Springs, 888 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way in Palm Springs, Tickets are $85, or $65 for chamber members. To register or get more information, visit How does it feel to be recognized and honored by the city of Palm Springs with an Athena Award? I am beyond honored, humbled and grateful to be receiving this award. To be…
15 Nov 2013
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The Desert Womans’ Show is a fabulous opportunity for women to connect, grow, learn, socialize and be entertained. Held Sunday and Monday, Nov. 17 and 18, at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa in Rancho Mirage, the two day event brings together incredible Coachella Valley women with the goal of enhancing their business and personal lives—while also having fun. This show is close to my heart. It originated with me in Canada in 1986 as an opportunity to work with other businesses looking to market to women and benefit local charities. In 2008, friends encouraged me to hold such a show here in the Coachella Valley. This year’s event will be the sixth-annual show. The exceptional women in our community are always eager to be involved in the goal of helping other women while making new friends and business liaisons. We now boast a 70 percent return on exhibitors, with a…
28 Oct 2013
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“Litter, and it will hurt. It hurts the community, and the fines will hurt when you get caught. Half of the litter is accidental, from things blown off trucks and such, but the other half doesn't reflect positively on the community.” —Walt Thompson I have a message for the person who intentionally dumps trash and unwanted items into the desert. You are a total jackass. It does not matter whether you dump in a neighborhood or an open space. Shame on you, as you are responsible for: • Environmental degradation. Bringing in hazardous waste, plastics, plastic bags, diapers, clothes, tires and commercial waste is not conducive to a healthy ecosystem. Waste gets into waterways; it damages vegetation; animals and birds eat it; it attracts rodents and crickets. “Dump sites containing waste tires provide an ideal breeding ground for mosquitoes, which can multiply 100 times faster than normal during our warmer…
08 Oct 2013
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A Los Angeles Times headline from August sums it up: “Killer bee season underway with a vengeance.” Whoa, and not just because of the cliché. So far this year, the list of killer-bee victims in the U.S. begins with a confirmed fatality, 62-year-old Larry Goodwin, who got stung more than 1,000 times by a Texas swarm that was estimated to total more than 40,000 bees. In Arizona, “a massive black mass of bees”—whoa, and not just because of the massive repetition—attacked several people and horses in a Phoenix suburb. Other Arizona swarms killed four dogs in Tucson, and maybe (not confirmed) killed a mountain climber and his dog in the Santa Rita range. A woman who witnessed an attack on an Arizona landscaper who was using a Weedeater in her yard reported: “I saw (him) throw his equipment into the air; his sunglasses fell off; and all I saw was…
30 Aug 2013
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One official calls Interstate 70 through Colorado’s Rockies “the Berlin Wall for wildlife.” Animals killed there include cougars, bears, moose, elk, two of the state’s reintroduced Canada lynx, and Colorado’s first recorded wolf in more than 70 years, who had wandered all the way from Yellowstone—only to be struck by a car. The amount and diversity of roadkill reflects the area’s value to wildlife and helped inspire a recent international competition to design a wildlife highway crossing over I-70 at Vail Pass. Now, a newly formed coalition of engineers and conservationists, calling itself the Rocky Mountain Wildlife Bridge Company, wants to build the crossing. It envisions a revolutionary design to add to a growing number of highway wildlife crossings across the country—including some right here in California. Each is changing the way we think about roads and promising big benefits for both motorists and wildlife. The crossings reflect a national…
13 Aug 2013
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When the Gang of Eight authoring the Senate immigration reform bill, which would be the first major overhaul since the 1980s, recently announced a new provision to create a “human wall” at the U.S.-Mexico border, tensions rose in D.C. The move would double the number of U.S. Border Patrol agents and funnel more than $46 billion to border security in the Southwest. Since then, Arizona Sen. John McCain has said that the plans for a human wall might need to be tweaked, but an increase in border enforcement will continue to be central to the debate over this bill. As deliberations continue, a new study for the American Sociological Review puts a new spin on the fundamental question of why there are so many (around 11 million) undocumented immigrants in the U.S. to begin with. According to the new research, the danger of arrest and punishment at the border is…
18 Jul 2013
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A modest metal building sits behind a chain-link fence in the industrial quarter of Prescott, Ariz., with only a small sign to identify it: Granite Mountain Interagency Hotshot Crew. By now, the story is well known: 19 of 20 members of the Granite Mountain Hotshots were fighting to save the town of Yarnell, Ariz., when they were hit by what might best be called a fire hurricane on June 30 Just a week and a half earlier, these men had inserted themselves between hundreds of homes north of Prescott and a ferocious wildfire that swept over the very mountain for which the hotshot crew takes its name. Thanks to their efforts and the help of additional firefighters, ground and aerial equipment, homes and citizens were spared. Many of us who live in Prescott have had numerous occasions across the years to offer thanks to the men of the Granite Mountain…