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Local Issues

20 Sep 2017
Since 2007, the California Legislature has worked to encourage the development of telephone and Internet access through the California Advanced Services Fund. The fund provides financial assistance to both large telecommunications companies—including Frontier, AT&T, Charter and Cox—and independent broadband projects driven by community organizations that partner with smaller Internet service providers. Thanks in part to the fund, the Legislature has grown closer to its goal of deploying broadband Internet service to 98 percent of Californians by 2017. But as the end of 2017 drew closer, many California legislators wanted to update the broadband-support program. The result: AB 1665, aka the Internet for All Now Act, which was authored by eastern Coachella Valley Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia. After overwhelming approval in both houses, the bill now sits on the governor’s desk, as of this writing. “We know that having broadband Internet access improves the state’s economy, enhances educational opportunities, and benefits public…
28 Aug 2017
In April 2016, the Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC) held a rally to highlight its achievements in bringing safe, clean and potable water to schools in the Eastern Coachella Valley via its Agua4All campaign, which installed 75 clean water-bottle-filling stations for student use. For many of these local children, these stations offer the only consistent and free access to safe drinking water they have. (See “Potable Progress: Agua4All Meets Its Goal of Giving East Valley Students Access to Safe Drinking Water—but There’s Work Left to Do,” May 8, 2016.) Since then, however, Agua4All’s progress has slowed significantly. Just those initial 75 stations are operating; no others have been installed. “I wouldn’t necessarily say that the program has stalled,” said Olga Morales, the RCAC regional manager. “Originally, we had two pilot programs, in the Coachella Valley and Bakersfield. Most of our resources were utilized in those two communities. Then, we expanded…
25 Aug 2017
People in half of California’s households struggle to afford the roof over their heads. Home ownership—once a staple of the California dream—is at its lowest rate since World War II. Nearly 70 percent of poor Californians see the majority of their paychecks go immediately toward escalating rents. As of this writing, state lawmakers are debating a long-delayed housing package.Here’s what you need to know about one of California’s most vexing issues. Just how hard is it to buy a home in California? Hard. Really hard—both compared to how hard it is in other states, and how hard it was for previous generations of Californians to buy homes. While it’s always been more expensive to be a homeowner in California, the gap between us and the rest of the country has grown into a chasm. The median California home is now priced 2 1/2 times higher than the median national home.…
25 Jul 2017
On June 27, the California Department of Public Health issued its first data report on residents’ participation in the new End of Life Option Act. The law was signed by the governor in 2015 and took effect on June 9, 2016. The report reveals that 258 terminally ill California patients—diagnosed as having less than 6 months to live—started the process as called for under the law, as of Dec. 31, 2016. Of those 258 patients, 191 were prescribed the life-ending medications, by 173 unique physicians. The report states: “111 patients, or 58.1 percent, were reported by their physician to have died following ingestion of aid-in-dying drugs prescribed under EOLA, while 21 individuals, or 11 percent, died without ingestion of the prescribed aid-in-dying drug(s). The outcome of the remaining 59 individuals, or 30.9 percent, who have been prescribed aid-in-dying drugs, is currently undetermined, as there has been no outcome reported for…
21 Jul 2017
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East Vista Chino has claimed another pedestrian’s life—the third since last October. This time, according to the police report, the deceased was 62-year-old Palm Springs resident John Palladino, who was hit by a car on the night of Sunday, June 18. He was hospitalized and fought for his life until June 23, when he succumbed to the injuries he sustained in what police call a vehicle-versus-pedestrian collision. “The preliminary investigation revealed a white 2011 Mercedes E-350, driven by a 76-year-old male from Palm Springs, was traveling westbound on East Vista Chino toward the intersection of North Sunrise Way,” said Lt. Mike Kovaleff. According to Kovaleff, Palladino was walking northbound across Vista Chino, at Sunrise Way, on the east side of the intersection, outside of the crosswalk, against a red light. “The Mercedes entered the intersection with a green light and struck the pedestrian as he walked in the intersection,” Kovaleff…
23 Jun 2017
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The closing of Roy’s Resource Center in North Palm Springs—what was the western Coachella Valley’s only shelter for the homeless—has thrown many people onto the streets, and Coachella Valley Association of Governments (CVAG) is trying to act. However, on June 20, the Desert Hot Springs City Council voted against a proposed program that would offer 12 rental properties across the west valley for up to 90 days to those who are homeless or at risk for homelessness. The council decided to revisit the issue in September. The proposed program is a collaboration between CVAG and Path of Life Ministries. Desert Hot Springs City Councilmember Russell Betts said that he doesn’t feel the program is a good idea. “They keep deflecting to, ‘Oh, this is just trading a home for anyone who you’d love to have as a neighbor,” Betts said. “That’s the rapid rehousing portion of it. The part that…
08 Jun 2017
California’s Democratic legislators want to extend health benefits to undocumented young adults, the continuation of an effort that ushered children without legal status into the state’s publicly funded health care system last year. It is unclear when the program would start or how much the state would spend if the proposal, which could cost up to $85 million a year, is approved by Gov. Jerry Brown. Lawmakers are working out details ahead of their June 15 deadline for passing a new budget. The plan would provide full-scope coverage for 19-to-26-year-olds who qualify for Medi-Cal, the state’s name for Medicaid. Currently, the federally funded program covers only emergency visits and prenatal care for undocumented residents. Under the proposal, revenue from taxes on tobacco products would absorb expenses for all other coverage. Democratic Sen. Ricardo Lara of Bell Gardens has been one of the strongest voices for expanded care. In 2015, he…
01 Jun 2017
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Three of four African-American boys in California classrooms failed to meet reading and writing standards during the most recent round of testing, according to data obtained from the state Department of Education and analyzed by CALmatters. More than half of black boys scored in the lowest category on the English portion of the test, trailing their female counterparts.The disparity reflects a stubbornly persistent gender gap in reading and writing scores that stretches across ethnic groups. The data provide a unique glimpse of how gender interacts with race and class in mastery of basic reading, writing and listening skills tested on state exams. While California publishes separate figures on the performance of various ethnic and economic groups, it does not make public a more detailed breakdown of how boys and girls are performing within those groups. State officials say they do not sort the data that way because of complexity, cost…
19 May 2017
After months of rain—and increased revenue from last year’s rate increases—both the western Coachella Valley’s Desert Water Agency and the eastern valley’s Coachella Valley Water District find themselves wading in more riches than they could have imagined just one short year ago. However, that does not mean that all of the water-conservation mandates are a thing of the past. “The drought is over, but conservation isn’t,” said Ashley Metzger, the DWA’s outreach and conservation manager. “That’s the big message.” While Gov. Jerry Brown declared on April 7that the drought was officially over in most of the state—including Riverside County—many of the water-usage restrictions imposed during the drought may be with us for some time. “We live in the desert, and we’re always in a drought,” said Heather Engel, the CVWD’s director of conservation and communication. “Even though there were many areas of the state that were facing unprecedented circumstances, for…
08 May 2017
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LOS ANGELES (Reuters)—California legislators have raised fines for traffic infractions to some of the highest in the United States to generate revenue—and the poor are bearing an unfair burden, losing cars and jobs because they cannot pay them, civil rights activists said last week. The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area said in a new report that the $490 fine for a red-light ticket in California is three times the national average. The cost is even higher if motorists want to attend traffic school in lieu of a conviction or are late paying. “Our state is raising money off the backs of California families to balance the budget for special projects, and it’s using traffic tickets as a revenue generator instead of to protect safety, instead of to do justice,” said Elisa Della-Piana, the group’s legal director. The report comes as lawmakers in some states…

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