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Local Issues

02 Dec 2013
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On a recent Monday evening, around 60 people mingled on a patio at Jackalope Ranch in Indio. The attendees—a mix of students, teachers, business people, tech experts and politicians—sipped drinks and munched on chips, guacamole and skewered chicken as they chatted. All in all, it was a typical-looking business-related social gathering. But the goals of the people at this innocuous-looking event, called the Desert Tech Meetup, are far from innocuous: They want to make the Coachella Valley a technology-business hub. The gathering—the second such Desert Tech Meetup—was held by Silicon Springs Ventures, in partnership with web/marketing firm Graphtek, and the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership (CVEP). “We’re all here for Silicon Springs: the movement,” Joel Fashingbauer, Silicon Springs Ventures’ president and chief operating officer, told the crowd. “We want to create another Silicon Valley, one that’s smaller and more efficient, in the desert.” In between mingling time and giveaways of gift…
25 Nov 2013
Zackary Davis always dreamed of becoming a nurse. The 26-year-old graduated from Cal State San Bernardino’s Palm Desert campus in June 2012; he was the first in his family to go to college. He estimated that he has applied to more than 100 health-care facilities since. Davis said he has had five interviews—and no job offers. Today, he works as a valet at the Hyatt Regency Indian Wells. “I’ve basically let go of the chance of getting the ER or ICU like I want,” said Davis, who lives in Indio. “I’m sure there are a ton of stories that are just like mine. It’s cruddy, but I’m trying to stay positive about it.” He’s not alone. A 2011 survey by the National Student Nurses Association found that 36 percent of newly licensed registered nurses did not have jobs four months after graduation. It’s worse in California. About 46 percent of…
11 Nov 2013
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Over the summer, a former Jewish temple in Desert Hot Springs was converted into the Desert Hot Springs Community Health Center. The building on Pierson Boulevard had been purchased by the now-nearly bankrupt city of Desert Hot Springs in 2008 and was condemned, partially torn down, and eventually sold to the nonprofit Borrego Community Health Foundation at a tremendous loss before its revival. (Meanwhile, a brand-new building behind the Vons grocery store on Palm Drive, which was constructed by the city to be a health-care clinic, sits unoccupied.) Despite the controversies and boondoggles, Borrego has managed to bring much-needed health-care services to Desert Hot Springs, and the clinic has been well-received by citizens of Desert Hot Springs (including myself) since the October opening. “We’ve been seeing that the community was hungry for what we offer,” said clinic site manager Sergio Ruiz. “Little by little, people are finding out that we…
25 Oct 2013
The Palm Springs Unified School District is expected to save more than $6.9 million in energy costs over the next two decades after the installation of solar systems at campuses across the district. Among the 11 sites, including the district’s service center, is Cathedral City High School, where district officials are planning to hold a “flip the switch” event on Monday, Oct. 28. Some of the solar systems are already in place, and the rest are expected to be installed by the end of the year, according to information distributed on a district PowerPoint presentation. The district includes schools in Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Desert Hot Springs, Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage and Thousand Palms. With five different rate tiers between May and October, calculating the district’s power rate is complex, said Julie Arthur, executive director of facilities and planning for the district. However, the district has projected a savings of…
27 Sep 2013
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The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation has an unenviable job even in a wet year, but in prolonged periods of drought, the task of managing the Colorado River is even harder. The agency is in charge of balancing the water levels in the country’s two largest reservoirs: the serpentine desert lakes called Powell and Mead. Seven Western states depend on water from the Colorado for everything from showering to growing lettuce, and keeping the reservoirs at the proper level makes sure everyone gets their legal share—that is, until drought complicates things. Fourteen years of drought exacerbated by a dry spring, and an even drier July, prompted the Bureau of Reclamation to do something it’s never done before: release less water from Lake Powell. That means water levels at Lake Mead, 250 miles downstream of Powell, will continue to drop, threatening to render one of two intake pumps inoperable, and leaving Las…
26 Sep 2013
Residents of Thermal scored a major victory in their 16-year fight for clean air when Riverside County was awarded the funding to pave the roads of 31 trailer parks in the unincorporated communities of Eastern Coachella Valley. The $4.1 million project is scheduled to begin as early as next summer, and should be completed within two years. “When cars pass by, they lift a lot of dust, and it affects everyone that lives here,” said Margarita Gamez, a resident who has been active in the grassroots effort since 1997. In 2008, Pueblo Unido, a community-development corporation, joined the fight for improved environmental conditions in the region’s trailer parks, which are typically situated in areas that lack potable water, sewer systems and basic infrastructure. Trailer-park residents were the backbone of the organizing effort, and the idea to push for paved roads came from them, said Sergio Carranza, executive director and founder…
20 Sep 2013
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When Andrea “Andi” Spirtos was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1993, she did not have health insurance, and had to figure out how to come up with at least $700 per month for treatment. “I sold everything I could think of to sell,” she said. “I’d literally fast so I could save enough money for my chemo.” Spirtos’ story is all too common—and that’s why the Desert Cancer Foundation exists. The nonprofit was founded in 1994 by Cory Teichner, Arthur Teichner and Dr. Sebastian George, and since then has helped many thousands of cancer patients who are uninsured, underinsured or otherwise lacking funds to pay for their care. Today, cancer-survivor Spirtos is in a much better place; in fact, she works for the Desert Cancer Foundation as its director of donor development. October is going to be a busy month for Spirtos and the rest of the folks involved with…
02 Sep 2013
More than 40 cities in California have terminated red-light camera programs within the last 10 years, according TheNewspaper.com, “a journal of the politics of driving.” San Diego announced the end of that city’s program—in which drivers were mailed tickets after tripping sensors and then getting photographed in the act of an apparent traffic violation at an intersection—in February of this year. Numerous cities in other states have similarly ended participation in this well-intentioned, but often ill-conceived approach to traffic law enforcement. At least eights states prohibit the use of red-light camera systems, including Arkansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wisconsin. Yet Cathedral City is sticking with its red-light camera program—at least for now. Since March 2006, the city has had a red-light camera at Date Palm Drive and Ramon Road; in February 2009, the city added two more: At Date Palm and Vista Chino,…
27 Aug 2013
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“You know daddy loves you. … This has to be our secret … just between us. Mommy wouldn’t understand and might keep me away from you.” Words like these are too often said to little kids—and not just little girls. It happens to boys, too. Cathedral City resident and Rancho Mirage family therapist Carol Teitelbaum and her husband, Robert, have started programs too address the abuse of children … all children. The statistics are mind-blowing regarding how many children are abused on a regular basis by the people they trust the most, including parents, teachers and clergy. Boys are much more likely to hide their fears and think there’s something wrong with them … something they should hide. Carol and Robert hold workshops for men who’ve been victimized, some of whom are so ashamed that it’s taken years of failed marriages, substance abuse and other self-destructive behaviors to make them…
19 Aug 2013
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Palm Desert resident Lindi Biggi has taken on the daunting task of advocating for the animals in our desert. She founded Loving All Animals in 2009, and is currently the organization’s president. The organization’s mission is to bring together local and national animal welfare organizations. Loving All Animals currently holds adoption fairs, fundraisers to help local animal groups in need, and supports an Internet networking organization which helps find homes for critters big and small. Biggi recently took some time to discuss the emotional roller coaster that is “animal rescue” at her getaway home at Lake Arrowhead. She also answered some follow-up questions via email. For more information, visit www.lovingallanimals.org, or call 760-776-9397. What ignites your quest to devote most of your waking hours to animal advocacy? In other words, what floats your boat about critters? I am genetically programed to dedicate my life to animals. It’s all my mother’s…