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Local Issues

30 Jan 2019
As a publicly traded corporation, Pacific Gas and Electric reported $17.1 billion a year in revenues from its electric and gas operations. After operating costs, expenses and taxes, it still made out with a profit of $1.7 billion last year. So why has California’s largest utility filed for bankruptcy? PG&E may be solvent, but it is facing a cash-flow problem as a byproduct of $30 billion in potential liabilities from a series of catastrophic wildfires in Northern California in 2017 and 2018. In the company’s own words, the board has determined Chapter 11 “is ultimately the only viable option to restore PG&E’s financial stability to fund ongoing operations and provide safe service to customers.” “A company the size of PG&E needs access to the capital markets, and right now, it’s under stress,” said Robert Labate, a San Francisco bankruptcy attorney with Holland and Knight, which has clients that do business…
24 Jan 2019
Emelyn Jerónimo is only 12 years old, but she already has $3,000 saved toward college. Socked away by her mother in chunks of $100 or less since Jerónimo was in kindergarten, the money may not seem like much, but it’s helped fuel the San Francisco sixth-grader’s dreams of becoming a pediatrician. Jerónimo’s nest egg is part of a first-of-its-kind program that automatically sets up college savings accounts for every kindergartner in San Francisco’s public schools, each seeded with $50 from the city treasury. If Gov. Gavin Newsom gets his way, the model could soon roll out to other cities across California. Newsom launched Kindergarten to College as mayor of San Francisco in 2010, and recently proposed spending $50 million on similar pilot projects around the state as part of what he’s calling a cradle-to-career education strategy. “You want to address the stresses, the costs of education?” Newsom said at a…
24 Dec 2018
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Cathedral City Police Chief Travis Walker stood tall—he’s 6 foot 4, after all—in December when he dedicated the Fallen Police Officer Memorial next to the police department building. Among the speakers honoring the ultimate sacrifice by Officers David Vasquez and Jermaine Gibson—who lost their lives in 1988 and 2011, respectively—was Rep. Raul Ruiz. He was joined by representatives of other nearby law-enforcement agencies. Walker unveiled the memorial along with the officers’ families. “We pray we’ll never have to add any new names to this memorial,” he said. The memorial’s unveiling was the latest event in a busy first year as police chief for Walker, an accomplished law-enforcement veteran with 23 years in service—including a stint as the tactical commander during the 2015 mass shooting in San Bernardino. During a recent interview with Chief Walker, we discussed topics ranging from the city’s recent removal of red-light cameras to his favorite basketball…
19 Dec 2018
An Election Day decision by eastern Coachella Valley voters could have a positive impact on all valley residents’ access to quality healthcare moving forward. Voters overwhelmingly approved Measure BB—written by the Desert Healthcare District in conjunction with the Riverside County Board of Supervisors—as the final step required in the DHCD’s efforts to expand its borders east beyond Cook Street. While the expansion of services to some of the valley’s most underserved communities may have seemed like a no-brainer during the run-up to the election, the process did not get this far without a lot of work. “I think it’s important to note that this has been an extremely robust, kind of overwhelming process just to get to this point,” said interim DHCD CEO Chris Christensen during a recent phone interview. “There were times when there was concern whether the public would potentially (be able to) vote for passage of the…
26 Dec 2018
So many school districts are struggling to deliver the basics of an equal opportunity for education that one in three statewide has been targeted for special assistance, according to a comprehensive state report card released by the California Department of Education last week. The state identified 374 school districts out of roughly 1,000 that qualify for additional help—more than 60 percent more than last year, when the state issued its first set of ratings under the new “school dashboard” system. School districts that qualify for the so-called “State System of Support” show such low scores or so little progress among student groups that they fall into a “red zone” on two or more educational indicators, from test scores to suspension rates and chronic absenteeism. Last year, the state identified 228 such districts, but critics questioned those numbers, noting that test scores pointed to a far more widespread need for assistance.…
11 Oct 2018
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In 2010, Ron deHarte joined the Greater Palm Springs Pride board of directors. He’d soon become the president of the board—and under his leadership, the Pride festival has grown from a fun but quaint event at Sunrise Stadium into a huge, weekend long party downtown. In fact, it’s now the second-largest Pride festival in the state of California. Greater Palm Springs Pride events last year attracted an estimated 140,000 people—with a direct $24 million impact on the Coachella Valley. This year’s festival, on Saturday and Sunday, Nov. 3 and 4, will again be in downtown Palm Springs—but it’s being moved off Palm Canyon Drive, and into the redevelopment area around the Palm Springs Art Museum. We recently spoke to deHarte about the changes to this year’s festival—and what it means to celebrate LGBTQ pride in the Trump era. Tell me a little about the changes that are occurring to Greater…
28 Sep 2018
Rob Purdie is an upbeat guy. You can hear it in his unfailingly positive statements, his voice tinged with a Central Valley twang from a life spent in Bakersfield. You wouldn’t guess this is a man with a reservoir surgically built into the top of his skull, and that he spends one full day a month with antifungal drugs pumping directly into his brain. Purdie has valley fever, or coccidioidomycosis, a disease he caught in 2012 that’s caused by an airborne soil fungus. In his case, the fungus gave him meningitis, a swelling of the membranes that line the brain and spinal cord. The pain in his head has been intense, and the monthly drug injections are even more excruciating, he said. “It sounds horrible, and it is,” Purdie said. But “lucky for me, Valley fever meningitis can be treated.” The number of reported valley fever cases set a record…
19 Sep 2018
Alan has now lived in the Coachella Valley for 17 years, ever since he was 17 years old. Even though he has always worked hard and played by the rules—at least the rules that aren’t stacked against him—he doesn’t want his last name used in this story. The reason: Both he and his wife are undocumented immigrants. They have a son, 10, who is a U.S. citizen by birth. “Since President Trump has been in office, we have seen all the anti-immigrant statements and all the news coverage on TV of what’s happening,” he said. “We’ve been afraid to go out and go about our normal life routines, because if a cop stops us, they will call the immigration (agents), and we will be taken away. “We’re very uncomfortable, and it is not easy for us to live every day. We always have to be looking behind our backs.” The…
06 Sep 2018
Sean Kayode says he watched his whole world roll away from him at 3 a.m. Kayode had been living in his car in San Francisco for about two years. During the early morning on March 5, traffic police towed and impounded his black 2005 Mercedes Benz—for having too many overdue parking tickets. “I wake up at 3 o’clock in the morning and there was a guy behind me. And I’m like, ‘What are you doing behind my car?’” Kayode said, now standing in the lobby of the Next Door homeless shelter in downtown San Francisco. “He says, ‘I’m just waiting for the tow truck to come get you.’” For Kayode, who now lives at Next Door, his car wasn’t just a place to sleep; it was how he earned a living, he said, delivering food through Uber Eats. He shakes his head in disbelief at where he was, and where…
28 Aug 2018
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Reid Milanovich, son of the late, legendary Agua Caliente Tribal Chairman Richard Milanovich, is in his fifth year as a tribal councilmember. The young Milanovich, 34, has the same disarming smile and green eyes as his father. He also inherited good looks and a political wit from the man who led the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians for 28 years, up until his death in 2012. During a recent 90-minute chat, we started off by discussing the construction of the Agua Caliente Cultural Center in downtown Palm Springs; it’s set to open at Tahquitz Canyon Way and Indian Canyon Drive in 2020. “There’s going to be the museum and the spa, and each building will be about 45,000 square feet,” Milanovich said. “In between the buildings, there will be a pathway, and that walkway will symbolize our Indian Canyons. We want to give the public the feeling that they…

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