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Tue09172019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Desert Hot Springs has been in a fiscal emergency ever since last year’s surprising November revelation that the city was facing a budget deficit upward of $6 million.

In an effort to bridge that gap, the city put Measure F on the June 3 ballot, proposing to drastically raise taxes on vacant parcels of land. Even though more than 60 percent of the city’s voters said yes to the measure, it did not pass, because of a state law requiring two-thirds approval.

Today, after slashing the budget, city officials are considering placing another revenue-raising effort in front of voters, this time in November.

Had Measure F passed on June 3, it would have provided the city with just more than $3 million. Mayor Adam Sanchez said the city has two realistic options for the Nov. 4 election.

“We can go again with a (initiative) similar to Measure F … but we have to change it, because by law, you can’t do the same thing twice,” Sanchez said. “There are people in the community who would rather put an increase in the sales tax on the ballot. That will be part of the debate and discussion at the city council meeting in August.”

Sanchez said he still prefers the parcel tax on vacant lands.

“What’s good about the parcel tax is it’s an opportunity for all the residents and anyone who owns property to make it fair and balanced,” Sanchez said. “The reason we didn’t go to the sales tax before is because it’s all the regular residents who own homes and work here who pay that tax. The parcel tax is on the vacant landowners, many of whom don’t live here. … It’s still a challenge, because you have to get to that 66.7 percent voter approval.”

Per Proposition 13, any increase in special taxes requires a two-thirds majority vote. Measure F received support from 61.5 percent of voters on June 3.

Measure F was proposed as a way for the city to avoid bankruptcy, and to ensure that public-safety services such as police and fire remain viable.

The primary argument against Measure F in the voting guide sent to voters was written by Robert Bentley, who railed against a corrupt City Council and suggested the measure was a “trick” being pulled on residents. The Inland Empire Taxpayers Association also campaigned against Measure F.

Neither Bentley nor the Inland Empire Taxpayers Association responded to interview requests from the Independent.

Michael Burke, a Desert Hot Springs resident and the owner of BurkeMedia Productions, signed the argument in favor of Measure F.

“I was in support of Measure F for one major reason,” Burke said. “Desert Hot Springs has this huge deficit. The City Council worked really hard to reduce it. We needed a solution, and Measure F was brought to the council. At first, they were going to make the parcel tax around $570 per acre, and that was ridiculous. They brought it down to around $375, which I also thought was a little high. After researching it, what the owners (are paying on vacant) parcels … is $29.50, which is ridiculously low.”

Burke said the solution made sense to him after he did his own research.

“Measure F would have raised the vacant land tax to still be lower than (the tax paid by) homeowners,” he said. “It would have made it a little bit fairer, because they would at least have to pay for the basic services that they use.”

After the failure of Measure F, city funding for groups and agencies such as Cabot’s Pueblo Museum, the DHS Health and Wellness Center (which also includes the Boys and Girls Club) and the Desert Hot Springs Police Department was jeopardized.

“During this process, we were already having discussions with the Desert Healthcare District and Borrego (who run the Health and Wellness Center) about how we can minimize our costs of operating the Health and Wellness Center. It’s a $1 million operation,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez said the city wants to keep its own police department, rather than contracting with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department for police services.

“Right now, I hate to say it, but we’re taking the police department on a month-to-month basis,” Sanchez said. “They have their budget now, so they have to make adjustments and reductions within the department. They recently had to let go the records clerk because they had to reduce the budget by $500,000. They can’t afford to remove a police officer, because that’s a priority, so they had to look at administration to reduce some of those costs.”

Sanchez said he hopes that voters realize the city’s budget crisis is a serious matter.

“I think people realized that as we had to do a budget without Measure F, and how we had to reduce the police department and police budget even further, that (the budget situation) was critical. We had to make reductions in terms of staff and accounting. There are a lot of details in the budget where they had to reduce cost. They can’t even have any more training.

“What we have now is a bare-bones police department, because Measure F didn’t pass. But how can a bare-bones police department function without putting their own safety and the public’s safety in jeopardy?”

Published in Local Issues

Film

MOVIES IN THE PARK: THE CROODS

Bring chairs, kick back and enjoy the start of summer! The movie will begin the second the sun goes behind our mountains. 6 p.m., Friday, May 9. Free. Mecca Community Park, 65250 Coahuila St., Mecca; apm.activecommunities.com/desertrecdistrict.

SHORTFEST ‘SHOOTING STARS’

In preparation for June’s ShortFest 2014, the Camelot will host a program of the best of the “Shooting Stars” programming, featuring major Hollywood names appearing on screen or behind the camera. 7:30 p.m., Thursday, May 15. Free. Camelot Theatres, 2300 E. Baristo Road, Palm Springs. 760-322-2930; www.psfilmfest.org.

Music

BEST OF COACHELLA VALLEY SYMPHONY

In Coachella Valley Symphony’s season finale, local physician and soprano Dr. Lisa Lindley headlines this gala event with selections from both the opera and pop worlds. This special evening will include a grand VIP reception and auction following the concert for those patrons who purchase a $125 ticket. All proceeds from the auction will go toward youth education programs. 7 p.m., Friday, May 9. $25 to $125. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

MARIACHI EXTRAVAGANZA

Don't miss the dynamic sounds, the rich colorful costumes and the cultural celebration of the Mariachi Extravaganza. Embajadores Del Mariachi, Mariachi Sol De Mexico, led by Jose Hernandez, is a Grammy-nominated and platinum-selling group that has performed to sold-out audiences around the world for more than 30 years. Las Primeras Damas De Mariachi Reyna De Los Angeles is the first female mariachi ensemble in the United States. 7:30 p.m., Saturday, May 24. $20 to $40. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella. 800-585-3737; startickets.com/venues/item/spotlight-29-casino.

MARIACHI VARGAS DE TECALITLAN

Mariachi Vargas de Tecalitlan has been in existence for 100 years and has been credited with revolutionizing the style of music. They've recorded albums, starred in more than 200 movies, and performed all over the world. 4 p.m., Sunday, May 11. $40 to $100. McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert. 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

PEPE AGUILAR

Five-time-Grammy winning artist Pepe Aguilar is an impressive master of fusion with an undisputed capacity to inspire audiences. 8 p.m., Friday, May 2. $39 to $79. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio. 800-827-2946; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

ROCK YARD AT FANTASY SPRINGS

The Rock Yard at Fantasy Springs brings music fans free, live rock shows. At 7:30 p.m., the full-throttle rock music fires up with cover band Rok of Ages and gets audience members out of their seats. At 9 p.m., the tribute band takes over and plays audience favorites. At 10:30 p.m., the cover band comes back out and continues the live music until midnight. Friday, May 2: Pat Benatar. Saturday, May 3: Tribute to U2. More shows to be announced; check the website for more information. Free; 18 and older. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio. 800-827-2946; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

STAYIN’ ALIVE: A CELEBRATION OF THE BEE GEES

Stayin' Alive offers the songs and sights of a full Bee Gees concert, singing blockbusters such as “Night Fever,” “Jive Talkin,” “How Deep Is Your Love,” “You Should Be Dancing,” “Nights on Broadway” and “Stayin’ Alive,” along with video clips, photos and dazzling imagery. 8 p.m., Saturday, May 10. $20. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella. 800-585-3737; startickets.com/venues/item/spotlight-29-casino.

Performing Arts

THE FABULOUS PALM SPRINGS FOLLIES’ FINAL SEASON

The Follies’ final edition, entitled “The Last Hurrah,” will conclude on Sunday, May 18. The Fabulous Palm Springs Follies has been seen by nearly 3 million patrons, and celebrates the music and dance of mid-century America with a cast ranging in age from 55 to 83 years young. Various dates and times through Sunday, May 18. $29 to $95. Palm Springs Follies at the Historic Plaza Theatre, 128 S. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 760-327-0225; www.psfollies.com.

Special Events

BIRDS OF JOSHUA TREE NATIONAL PARK

The deceptively barren Mojave Desert landscape is home to and resting grounds for numerous endemic and migratory bird species; more than 240 species of birds have been recorded in Joshua Tree National Park. Kurt Leuschner, professor at College of the Desert, will guide this three-day field class through the Mojave and Colorado deserts to identify common and rare birds. Leuschner’s focus will be on identifying individual species and separating summer and winter residents from true migrants. 6 to 8 p.m., Friday, May 2; 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., Saturday, May 3; 7 a.m. to noon, Sunday, May 4. $125 to $135. Black Rock Visitor Center, 9800 Black Rock Canyon Road, Yucca Valley. 760-367-5525; www.joshuatree.org/desert-institute/field-classes/birds-of-joshua-tree-national-park.

BREW AT THE ZOO

“Save wildlife one beer at a time.” Enjoy a sampling of handcrafted beers, food and live entertainment, with participation by more than 50 local breweries and restaurants. Proceeds help The Living Desert. 6:30 p.m. Saturday, May 3. $35 to $125. The Living Desert, 47900 Portola Ave., Palm Desert. 760-346-5694; www.livingdesert.org.

AN EVENING AT THE PUEBLO

Join Cabot’s Pueblo Museum for a fabulous cocktail and dinner celebrating the placement on the National Register of Historic Places and the preservation of the integrity of Cabot Yerxa’s history, pueblo and collection of artifacts. 6 p.m., Saturday, May 17. $150. Cabot’s Pueblo Museum, 67616 E. Desert View Ave., Desert Hot Springs. 760-329-7610; www.cabotsmuseum.org.

EVENING UNDER THE STARS’ 2014 GALA: FIRST LADIES OF DISCO

The 21st annual Evening Under the Stars gala to benefit the AIDS Assistance Program (AAP) will feature a star-studded performance by fabulous female pioneers of the ’70s disco scene. Scheduled to appear are Linda Clifford, France Joli, Evelyn “Champagne” King, Maxine Nightingale, Pamala Stanley, Anita Ward, Martha Wash and the ladies formerly of Chic: Alfa Anderson, Luci Martin and Norma Jean. The event includes cocktails, dinner, dancing, and silent and live auctions, one-of-a-kind collectibles, marvelous merchandise and more. 5:30 p.m., Saturday, May 3. $395 and up. O'Donnell Golf Club, 301 N. Belardo Road, Palm Springs. 760-325-8481; aidsassistance.org.

Visual Arts

ART AT SUNNYLANDS

Sculpture Taking Place: Cast, Carve, Combine allows families to wander Sunnylands Gardens and view local sculptors at work in this thematic family day; from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., Sunday, May 18. Plein Air in the Gardens admits artists for extended hours to paint, sketch or sculpt in the gardens. Pre-registration is required; from 7:30 p.m. to 4 p.m., Wednesday, May 21. Free. Sunnylands Center and Gardens, 37977 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage, CA 92270. 760-202-2222; sunnylands.org.

CALIFORNIA DREAMIN': THIRTY YEARS OF COLLECTING

The exhibit includes art works purchased by the Palm Springs Art Museum with funds provided by the Contemporary Art Council and other contributors since 1984. The acquisitions were created by contemporary artists who worked in California or were influenced by spending some time in California during their artistic careers. This is the first time these artworks have been on exhibition together. The exhibit is a celebration of the commitment of the Contemporary Art Council to growing the museum's collection of significant contemporary artists, and is a survey of art in California since the 1980s. On display through Thursday, July 31. Included with museum admission (free to $12.50). Palm Springs Art Museum, 101 Museum Drive, Palm Springs. 760-322-4800; www.psmuseum.org.

PALM SPRINGS PHOTO FESTIVAL

Connect 2014 offers the opportunity for professional, emerging professional and serious advanced amateur photographers to study with legendary photographers, show portfolios in the celebrated Portfolio Review Program, and attend cutting-edge seminars. The program is intended to inspire, educate and instill or reignite passion for the art and commerce of photography. Various times Monday, April 28, through Friday; May 2. Prices vary. Hyatt Palm Springs, 285 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs. 310-289-5030; 2014.palmspringsphotofestival.com.

Published in Local Fun