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Local Issues

20 Jun 2018
During the short and unsettled lifespan of California’s End of Life Option Act—signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in October 2015, and taking effect on June 9, 2016—terminally ill patients diagnosed as having no more than six months left to live have become the targets of repeated legal challenges, leaving their precious final days in this world unsettled and unclear. The fate of the law has been particularly unsettled since May 15, when Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia ruled the law was invalid on the grounds that it was passed unconstitutionally during a special session of the California Legislature. During the session, Gov. Jerry Brown directed legislators to enact legislation that would improve healthcare for the state’s citizens. As result of Judge Ottolia’s ruling, participating physicians were barred from writing prescriptions for sanctioned life-ending drugs, while pharmacists were forbidden from providing those drugs to qualifying patients. A…
14 Jun 2018
Rob Lyman of didn’t know what to do. The Redwood City resident was helping his aunt, Sharron Evans, who had early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and needed constant supervision. A former teacher, she had run out of money and had no income. She qualified for government health-care assistance, but it appeared she’d need to go to the only setting that would be covered: a nursing home. “Basically, that’s a hospital setting, and that was our only choice,” Lyman said. To him, that didn’t make sense. “My aunt just needed a safe place to be; there was nothing physically wrong with her,” Lyman said. “She didn’t need that level of care. It’s inappropriate. It costs the state a lot of money. But this is what people do. That’s the default choice.” The baby boomers are aging. By the end of the next decade, 11.1 million Californians will be 60 or older, and the…
04 Jun 2018
With just a week left until the federal government intends to roll back net neutrality, California’s Senate has stepped into the void by advancing a bill that aims to maintain equal internet access for all its citizens. This fight over who pays for the internet and how it should be regulated now shifts to the Assembly, and if it passes there, on to Gov. Jerry Brown. If he were so sign it, the state would have the strictest net-neutrality rules in the nation—but could well face a court challenge from internet service providers who contend the state is overstepping its authority. Democrats have been pushing legislation to require internet companies to play by net-neutrality rules ever since the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal net neutrality last December. The federal regulations, set to be jettisoned June 11, ensured that internet providers such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon give equal access…
24 Apr 2018
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The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians made it perfectly clear to the city of Palm Springs: The tribe strongly objects to Measure C, the ballot initiative that would effectively ban vacation rentals, which will be decided on by Palm Springs voters on June 5. “The tribe is concerned that this ban is onerous and unnecessary restriction of the use of allotted trust land,” said the letter from Tom Davis, tribe’s chief planning and development officer, hand-delivered to City Manager David Ready. “The complete prohibition of vacation rentals in R1 zones is an extreme action that will likely only serve to drive this activity ‘underground.’” According to city records, approximately 770 of the 1,986 permitted short-term vacation rentals are on tribal land. As a sovereign nation, the tribe does not need to implement any of Palm Springs’ ordinances when it comes to properties built on its reservation. After sharing the…
13 Apr 2018
Cops have a lot of pull in the California Capitol, and over the decades, that’s added up to this startling reality: The Golden State now goes further than many states in terms of protecting police from public scrutiny. It’s a stark contrast to the state’s “left coast” image. On abortion rights, gun control and climate change, California has embraced some of the most liberal policies in the nation. But even with a statehouse controlled entirely by Democrats, California laws are friendlier to law enforcement—and less transparent to the public—than those in Wisconsin and Florida, states with Republican governors and legislatures. One explanation is that politicians from both parties seek police endorsements to help them sway voters. Polling from last year showed that two-thirds of Californians think their local police are doing a good job controlling crime. Another is that labor unions representing officers donate generously to elect officials at every…
05 Apr 2018
Astronomical prices are forcing a rising share of California families to postpone buying a house. As a result, the state’s record-low homeownership rate has been a boon to one growing segment of California’s housing market: single-family home rentals. Between 2005 and 2015, the number of owner-occupied homes in California shrunk by nearly 64,000 units, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. Meanwhile, the number of renter-occupied homes increased dramatically: California now has 450,000 more homes used as rentals than it did a decade ago. Compare that to the 1990s, when the number of rented homes grew by less than 120,000, while the state added 700,000 homes owned by the people who live in them. The rising tide of single-family rentals has renewed attention on where the rent payments that nearly 2 million Californians make each month are going. Lawmakers and first-time homeowner advocates have been scrutinizing a relatively new…
27 Mar 2018
In 1948, the Desert Healthcare District was created by the state of California. Health-care districts were intended as a “response to a shortage of acute care hospitals as well as minimal access to health care in rural parts of the state,” according to the DHCD website. In the ensuing 70 years, the service portfolio of the DHCD has evolved and expanded. Today, with an annual operating budget of roughly $7 million, the DHCD provides support to a variety of organizations (such as Find Food Bank, Volunteers in Medicine, Coachella Valley Rescue Mission, etc.) that provide health and wellness services to residents in the current district—some 515 square miles of the western Coachella Valley, including Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage and the portion of Palm Desert west of Cook Street. While a Riverside County property-tax allocation paid by all county residents helps fund the DHCD, it serves…
22 Mar 2018
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On the morning of March 7, a fire broke out near the kitchen of Bongo Johnny’s Patio Bar and Grille—about one hour before the Arenas Road restaurant in downtown Palm Springs was scheduled to open. The Palm Springs Fire Department quickly put out the blaze—ruled an accident, after linens and oil-soaked rags in a laundry hamper spontaneously combusted—but by then, the damage was done: Bongo Johnny’s kitchen was essentially destroyed, while smoke and water damage closed three of the four other businesses in the building: Stacy’s at Palm Springs, Mischief Cards and Gifts, and the Palm Springs Piercing Company. Only Streetbar, located at the east end of the building, remained open. More than two weeks later, those four businesses remain closed—and frustration is mounting over a Palm Springs City Council that Bongo Johnny’s general manager called unresponsive, as well as a landlord, Plaza Investment Company, Inc., that’s allegedly being uncooperative.…
22 Mar 2018
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Vacation rentals are one of the most contentious issues in Palm Springs—and on June 5, voters in the city will decide on a measure that opponents say would effectively ban vacation rentals, if approved. Measure C is the culmination of a battle that’s been brewing for more than a decade over short-term rentals, or STRs. The housing-market crash during the Great Recession created an STR boom in Palm Springs, as buyers both local and from out of town snapped up foreclosed-property bargains, and later turned them into vacation rentals. The problem is that these homes—available for weekend getaways and short retreats through Airbnb and other services, and at times the sites of rather raucous parties—are intermingled with homes occupied by full- and part-time residents. According to Rob Grimm, the campaign manager for Palm Springs Neighbors for Neighborhoods—the group that got Measure C placed on the June ballot—there are 1,986 units…
07 Feb 2018
Growing tension between California and the federal government over immigration has business owners in the crosshairs—worried about the potential effect on their enterprises, and unsure which laws they should follow. Those in immigrant-dependent industries, such as hospitality and agriculture, say conflicting messages from the state, with its new laws to protect undocumented residents, and the federal government, which is cracking down on people in the U.S. illegally, put them in an especially tough spot. “It’s a bit scary to be caught in the middle of a stand-off between the feds and local law enforcement,” said Sharokina Shams, spokeswoman for the California Restaurant Association. On Jan. 2, the interim director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement said California should “hold on tight,” because he planned to send in a flood of agents and conduct more actions to counter the state’s new “sanctuary” law. That law, which took effect Jan. 1, limits local…

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