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Local Issues

29 Jun 2015
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The nascent Sunny Dunes Antique District had a coming-out party, of sorts, on Saturday, June 20. Various businesses in the district kept their doors open a little later than normal for the Pop Shop Hop, “an evening of shopping and discovery of all the shops on Sunny Dunes,” according to the event’s Facebook page. A decent-sized crowd—considering it was about 110 degrees outside—wandered among the various shops and chatted with proprietors; anybody who visited all of the participating businesses received a free entry into a raffle. Of course, participants could purchase extra raffle tickets, with the proceeds going to the Safe House of the Desert, which operates the Pop Shop thrift store in the area. Around 8 p.m., people assembled at the Tool Shed, a gay/leather bar on Sunny Dunes, for the raffle drawing; all of the prizes were donated by various area businesses. “I love this neighborhood,” said George…
11 Jun 2015
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A bike can mean a lot to a kid. “It comes down to wellness,” said Brett Klein, chair of the Palm Springs Sustainability Coalition. “It also comes down to the ability to get from point A to point B.” He used a not-so-hypothetical child who lives in the East Valley as an example. “A kid may need to get to the Boys and Girls Club—and may need to travel three to five miles to get there, at a time when the parents are working,” he said. This is why the City of Palm Springs Office of Sustainability, in conjunction with the Coachella Valley Bicycle Coalition and Sun Tran, is in the midst of a bicycle drive. The goal: To get more than 100 working, functioning bicycles to kids in need via both the Boys and Girls Club of Palm Springs, and the Boys and Girls Club of Coachella Valley, in…
03 Apr 2015
Agua4All is a program with a catchy, informative name and an inarguably laudable objective: delivering safe drinking water to every resident of the state, regardless of location or income level. The program aims to provide this necessity via its proprietary water-filling stations, which are being installed in schools and community-meeting areas like parks, youth clubs and libraries. For too many Californians, the only accessible source for safe drinking water is commercially sold bottled water—an unaffordable solution for many underprivileged families. Currently in its pilot phase, Agua4All is focusing on disadvantaged communities in southern Kern County—and right here in the eastern Coachella Valley. “The original idea was actually conceived by The California Endowment, which has been the major funder of the program,” said Sarah Buck, rural development specialist for the Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC), which is charged with supervising and coordinating efforts around this program. “They have given us the…
27 Mar 2015
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Taking care of the Coachella Valley’s homeless is no easy task—but it’s something the people at Martha’s Village and Kitchen in Indio have now been doing, and doing well, for 25 years. Martha’s Village, as the story goes, began with a $5 donation to feed the homeless 25 years ago. The organization will be celebrating its anniversary on Saturday, March 28. Martha’s Village and Kitchen has a transitional housing facility that can house 120 people—96 beds for homeless families with children, and 24 beds for single adults. The organization also serves 250,000 hot meals each year to anyone in need; provides child care to parents for children up to 5 years old; and offers educational and career services, as well as health-care and case management. The organization’s primary goal is to break the cycle of homelessness for residents. During residents’ stay of up to 12 months, they are given the…
26 Feb 2015
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We’re living in a video world. Cameras are everywhere: on streets, tablets, smart phones and satellites. Cameras can also help protect the public and law enforcement alike when placed in key public areas and—increasingly—on police officers themselves. However, you won’t find very many law-enforcement cameras in the Coachella Valley. For instance, Palm Springs Police Department officers do not wear body cams, nor do their police vehicles have dashboard cams. The same goes for the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, which enforces law and order in Palm Desert, Indian Wells, Rancho Mirage and elsewhere. An early February request to talk about cameras with Alberto Franz, the Palm Springs chief of police, was answered by an assistant who stated that the chief was busy until the end of month. On the contrary, San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman was happy to talk, both one-on-one and via email. “I am a huge proponent and…
18 Feb 2015
In 2000, Riverside County agreed to a settle a dispute with the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development which was triggered after 24 Coachella Valley families filed complaints. According to HUD archives, the complaints stated “that Riverside County had targeted Hispanic-owned and -occupied mobile home parks for selective and discriminatory enforcement of its health and safety code and regulations.” "The enforcement agreement is a major victory for a largely disenfranchised population, compensating victims of housing discrimination and resulting in a multi-million-dollar cooperative effort to build housing and provide needed services to farmworkers throughout the area for years to come," said Ilene Jacobs, then the director of litigation for California Rural Legal Assistance, which represented the farmworkers in the case. (The statement came from a HUD news release.) Today—a decade and a half later—the county is still working on upholding its end of the settlement. In December, the Riverside…
13 Feb 2015
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The call comes on your cell when you least expect it. The doctor, a specialist from out of town, says: “The telephone isn’t the ideal way to deliver test results, but ...” You urge him to proceed. He tells you about your brain cancer. It has metastasized with a vengeance. His words are both shocking and anticipated. You know you are hearing your own death sentence. You have fought valiantly for years to be rid of this disease. You’ve endured the onslaught of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Your loved ones rallied in support. You’ve done everything you can to continue living fully. Now, you find yourself at a new stage, with six months to live. You’re aware that people who die with your disease may face distressing events before the end: seizures, loss of functions, dementia, anguish and undeniable pain. What are the options in this hypothetical? In California, you…
26 Jan 2015
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Coachella Valley residents who use medical marijuana must currently travel to one of a small handful of dispensaries in Palm Springs—the only valley city which has allowed dispensaries to operate. However, two other local cities will soon let dispensaries open their doors. Last year, both the Desert Hot Springs City Council and the city’s voters OK’d dispensaries, while Cathedral City’s City Council narrowly voted in favor of allowing them. Desert Hot Springs will initially allow up to three permits to be issued for dispensaries, with the possibility of adding more after an evaluation. Currently, 19 applications have been submitted, but there is a list of three applications that have received the highest score. Cathedral City will allow two permits to be issued; so far, the city has rejected four applications and approved one. City Manager Charlie McClendon explained the criteria the applicants must meet. “The ordinance laid out some fairly…
21 Jan 2015
As darkness and a chill fell over northwestern New Mexico on a Friday in late November, two men flagged down a San Juan County sheriff’s deputy to report a scuffle, with at least one firearm involved. The altercation was going down in Spencerville, an ad-hoc collection of homes, beat up cars and dust that lies just off the highway that links the towns of Aztec and Farmington. As the deputies responded, they heard gunshots, and called for backup. Three more deputies arrived, along with a New Mexico state trooper. As the five deputies approached the area from which the shots came, the trooper flanked off to one side, armed with an AR-15. He saw a “silhouette of a person raising a weapon,” according to a court document, and fired two shots. When a male voice screamed that the trooper had missed, he ran to another location, took aim and fired…
15 Dec 2014
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Samantha Bee of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart is in a hurry. She rushes down a New York City sidewalk but then bumps into Nate Silver, the data journalist—formerly of The New York Times and now of ESPN—known for predicting the last presidential elections’ outcomes. She stops, and while you might say that Bee appears a little frantic, she’s also relieved. That’s because, on the heels of Michael Brown’s death at the hands of a cop in Ferguson, Mo., she’s trying to learn more about the data behind officer-involved shootings. Like, for instance, how many people die each year at the hands of cops? Bee grabs Silver, the nation’s foremost stat geek, on the shoulder, then asks him, “How many people were shot and killed last year by the police?” “I don’t …” Silver begins. “Those statistics just don’t exist.” Facepalm. Bee appears incredulous. Eventually, she moves on, ever-frustrated.…