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Community Voices

26 Dec 2014
College scholarships for traditional students just out of high school are in relative abundance in the Coachella Valley due to the giving nature of our local community. But what about nontraditional students—individuals who took a detour after high school for one reason or another, and then realized later in life that higher education or occupational training is needed to improve their economic situation and make positive changes in their lives? That’s where the Girlfriend Factor (GFF) comes in. GFF is a local nonprofit that provides educational grants and emotional support to local adult women so they can return to school to achieve their goals and dreams. To date, GFF has helped more than 100 women return to school. The Girlfriend Factor was founded in 2005 by Joan Busick and a group of friends. A CPA who runs her own business in Palm Desert, Joan has a special place in her…
16 Dec 2014
Robert Stearns, the executive director of ArtsOasis, passed away Wednesday, Dec. 3, after a brief illness. There is so much to say about my dear friend and colleague. Robert (pictured to the right, in a photo from last year) graduated from the University of California at San Diego in fine arts and art history. He then began his incredible career in the arts, which started in the early ’70s in arts and cultural management with the Paula Cooper Gallery and The Kitchen in New York City. He curated exhibitions, developed education projects and served as a senior staffer at some of the country’s leading contemporary arts institutions. He was the director of the Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, the performing arts program director of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and the inaugural director of the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, Ohio. He also served as an adviser…
10 Oct 2014
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The brown paper bag I carried out of the bookstore wasn’t there for the sake of discretion. Truth be told, the bookstore refuses to handle plastic anymore. Ideally, the clerk told me, the store was on the verge of going entirely bagless, so I was lucky to be handed a brown paper sack. But it was raining, fortunately, and as I walked down the sidewalk trying to shield my new purchase, I secretly imagined a few genuine watermarks marring the surface of a page or two—indelible reminders that the spine of the West’s summer drought had finally been broken. When (and if) the electronic book revolution gets more flexible and affordable, this bookstore might also be going bookless. Despite our latest national fixation with banning disposable plastic bags, nobody knows exactly how the future will be packaged. From an eBook merchandiser’s point of view, the traditional book is the archetype…
07 Oct 2014
Interior Secretary Sally Jewell came to the Mojave Desert this September to announce a multi-agency effort to boost renewable energy development in the desert. But first, she had to go on a hike. “We went out into the Big Morongo (Canyon) Preserve,” she told reporters. “Fifteen, 20 minutes from here, there are wetlands. Wetlands, and 254 different bird species. Who knew?” I remember being amazed, too, on a 2008 visit to that same preserve with a couple of California conservationists. I thought I knew the dry desert, its banded sunsets and varieties of lizards. But Morongo was a wonderland of seeps and birds, where a couple of times we stopped to behold a desert tortoise munching on purple flowers. It was also a wonderland through which the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power had hoped to string a transmission corridor. The city planned to call it the Green Path…
07 Aug 2014
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Editor's Note: While the Independent has a policy against running press releases, we've agreed to run this piece from Covered California, as it contains important information about the availability of health insurance—which can be a life-changing situation. Despite the best-laid plans, life can sometimes throw you a curveball. So it is with health care. After months of planning, promotion and outreach, Covered California successfully completed its first open enrollment period of the historic Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act—helping more than a million consumers gain health insurance coverage. Some people, however, may have had a change in life circumstances since open enrollment ended on March 31, and suddenly, they have a new need for coverage. If so, the door is not closed. They can still gain coverage through Covered California’s special-enrollment option. “We continue to remind people that we still are open for business,” said Covered California executive director Peter…
04 Jul 2014
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I’m embarking on a trip. Not just any trip—but rather a cross-country-and-back trip on bikes. In fact, if everything went according to plan, I already left, departing from Bakersfield on July 3. Writer and lighting genius Marcus Peck, from San Jose, Calif., did not know me—a freelance writer/photographer/Lindy hopper—before mid-March 2014. We met working an AV gig at a teacher’s conference in Palm Springs; we quickly discovered that we both have an interest in cycling. Marcus mentioned something about a long-term bike-ride for charity at a post-work pub-session. I, without hesitating, said, “I’m coming.” We have been organizing this trip ever since from our respective home cities (he in San Jose, and me in La Quinta). We met again on July 2, and set off into the wind on the 3rd. Marcus has solemnly promised to learn how to Lindy hop and even mentioned something about possible street performances along…
19 Jun 2014
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Did this really happen? Did a young organic farmer discover that the multinational agricultural firm Syngenta had secretly planted genetically modified sugar beets (banned in the company's native Switzerland) near his small fields, and in other leased plots around southern Oregon's Rogue Valley? Did he then plough under his own crop because of the risk of airborne contamination? Did Syngenta and county officials dismiss his concerns? Did he then rally farmers, marketers and patrons of unadulterated local food, who went on to write a ballot measure that would ban genetically modified cultivation in his county? Did they gather more than enough petition signatures in record time? And did the resulting campaign draw big money from outside Jackson County and the state, with the lion's share coming from Syngenta, Monsanto, Dow Chemical and their industry peers? Did the industry carpet-bomb local media with ads—the kind that in both California and Washington…
16 May 2014
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When a racist rancher in Nevada and his armed supporters can command headlines by claiming to own and control publicly owned lands, perhaps it’s time to remind Westerners about the history of the nation’s public-land heritage. Recall that it is we, the American people, who own the public lands that make up so much of our Western states. These great open spaces are the birthright of all of us, not just the residents of Nevada or California or other Western states. The question of ownership of the public lands was settled by the founding fathers, in favor of you and me, by the Maryland compromise reached in 1781, and carried forward in the property clause of Article IV in the United States Constitution. On occasion, diehard malcontents such as Cliven Bundy emerge to promote so-called "Sagebrush Rebellions" to turn the public lands over to the states as a conduit for…
13 May 2014
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I first noticed the Panamint rattlesnake when her head moved just beneath my feet. I hadn't stood on her, not yet; I stood on the edge of our concrete doorstep with my bare toes drooping west, pointing to the Sierra Nevada mountains, six inches above the glacial alluvium around our home. The snake—whom I instantly dubbed Dobby—had curled up against the same step and pointed her wedge-shaped head up like an arrow, her chin an inch below my big toes. Dobby didn't rattle, but her neck muscles tensed, so I backed away and found my shoes. Rattlesnakes had meandered through our yard before, so I counted her rattles (eight), admired her camouflage (rust-brown diamonds scattered on pink tuff) and went for a walk with my husband and our dog. Dobby left before we came back, although I found a snake-shaped hollow among the pebbles. After three short visits, Dobby settled…
18 Apr 2014
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SAGEWorks has begun! The LGBT Community Center of the Desert, aka The Center, is currently serving unemployed and underemployed LGBT adults 40 years old and up with computer training and job-skills classes. The course helps participants build the requisite skills to perform the basic tasks of a job search, and to expand computer knowledge and job skills. SAGEWorks is being led by Bobbie McClain, a graduate of the first SAGEWorks, Palm Springs program in 2012. She credits the connections she made and the support she received at SAGEWorks with helping her find teaching positions both in the Coachella Valley and in Berkeley, Calif. She is particularly grateful for the opportunity to coordinate SAGEWorks, Palm Springs, in her new position at The Center. "Losing a job, or being unemployed for a year or more, can be quite devastating, emotionally and financially," says McClain. "It was a lifesaver for me to find…