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Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

Local Issues

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…
22 Jul 2013
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The 100 or so community judges were watching the sixth of 22 entries in the LGBT Community Center of the Desert’s “In a Center Minute” Commercial-Making Contest. Shortly after that sixth commercial started playing, the judges knew they were watching something special. In fact, when the commercial finished, the audience broke into a spontaneous round of applause. The commercial—which would go on to take top honors in the contest’s student category—was made by College of the Desert student Daniel Meyers. Using dry-erase drawings, the commercial tells the story of Aaron, an 18-year-old who discovers he is gay as he is dealing with the death of his father. He goes on to find low-cost grief counseling and a community of friendship at the Center. Meyers’ commercial, simply put, was amazing. (It’s the first commercial embedded below. Go ahead and stop reading, and scroll down to watch it; come back here when…
26 Jun 2013
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With its lavish resorts and golf courses, the Coachella Valley is a getaway to some, and a retirement home for others. But beyond the shadow of the country clubs and music festivals lies a Coachella Valley that is largely unknown. “Revealing the Invisible Coachella Valley: Putting Cumulative Environmental Vulnerabilities on the Map,” a report released this month by the University of California at Davis Center for Regional Change, shows the cumulative environmental health hazards of living in the Eastern Coachella Valley. “You can see the east versus west story,” said Jonathan London, the principal investigator and primary study author, “where in the west valley, there are much lower levels of environmental hazards, and much higher levels for quality of life, compared to the east.” While this data seems to state the obvious to those living and working in the eastern Coachella Valley, it wasn’t until recently that people outside the…
14 Jun 2013
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Shann Carr thinks that The Center—the Coachella Valley’s community center for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender folks—is grossly underutilized. She says that when she discusses The Center with locals who are L, G, B or T, she learns that a shocking number of them aren’t familiar with the services it provides. “Half of them have never even been here,” says the center’s volunteer and community outreach coordinator. Therefore, she’s decided that it’s time for The Center to get the word out—and that’s where its Commercial-Making Contest comes in. (Disclosure time: I’ve helped Shann and her “secret meeting volunteers” here and there as they got the contest off the ground—and the Coachella Valley Independent is a sponsor of the contest. That's just how we roll.) The rules for the contest, which can be found at thecenterps.org, are pretty simple: Anybody can sign up for the contest, and winners will be selected…
08 Jun 2013
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Earlier this week, nonprofit medical-marijuana dispensary Desert Organic Solutions celebrated its third anniversary. While three years does not sound like a long time, in medical-marijuana-dispensary terms, it’s practically an eternity: Since the June 5, 2010, opening of Desert Organic Solutions, the legal landscape for medical marijuana has been constantly shifting, and as a result, countless collectives and dispensaries have come and gone in that time. The most recent shift came on May 6, when the California Supreme Court unanimously ruled that local governments had the authority to prohibit medical-marijuana dispensaries. Since Palm Springs is the only Riverside County city to license marijuana dispensaries, all medical-marijuana storefronts in the Coachella Valley—other than the three allowed by Palm Springs—were either forced to close, or risk an ugly government shutdown. Gary Cherlin, the president of Desert Organic Solutions, had nothing to worry about regarding the May 6 legal decision. His dispensary—located at 19486…