CVIndependent

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Local Issues

29 Aug 2016
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The city of Palm Desert is rising up against the state’s tax takeaways by asking its residents to raise a fee on visitors—and this is all unfolding in the shadow of a well-publicized scandal involving the former city manager. According to city officials, the state of California has taken about $40 million away from the state every year in redevelopment funds. So on July 28, City Council members unanimously voted to place a measure on the November ballot that would increase the local transient occupancy tax (in other words, the hotel tax) from 9 percent to 11 percent, to replace a small fraction of the $40 million the state takes every year. That 11 percent would be on par with what other valley cities charge. They nicknamed it Measure T. That may sound somewhat familiar to Palm Springs residents, who in 2011 passed something called Measure J. However, the similarities…
26 Aug 2016
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Kimberly Long was the subject of the Independent’s June 2015 cover story, “Guilty Until Proven Innocent”; she was in prison after being convicted of murdering her boyfriend. Long insisted she was innocent—and her case caught the attention of the California Innocence Project. “I know I’m going home,” Long told the Independent last year. “It’s just a matter of time. … I know I’m coming home, and I have the utmost faith in the California Innocence Project—and faith in God.” Long’s faith was rewarded: On June 10, Riverside Superior Court Judge Patrick Magers reversed Long’s conviction, ruling that Long’s public defender did not provide adequate representation. She was released on bail, after being in prison since 2009. “I couldn’t believe it was actually happening,” Long told the Independent in a recent interview. “Being released from the jail, walking out to fresh air and no correctional officers, it was a different kind…
24 Aug 2016
The eastern Coachella Valley is the home of some of the poorest areas of California. Many residents don’t even have access to safe drinking water—thanks largely to years of institutional indifference. This horrifying truth can be blamed in part on the fact that the Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD) was electing each of its five members at large: While each representative had to live in the “directorial division” he or she represented, voters within the entire CVWD—ranging from portions of Cathedral City, Palm Springs and Desert Hot Springs southeast all the way to the Salton Sea—selected each member. Even though a third of the voting-age residents of the CVWD are Latino, back in 2014, the entire board was white. After civil-rights lawyers threatened to sue the district, the board moved to change the voting process, and in 2014, CVWD constituents voted to change future elections: From that year on, the…
14 Jul 2016
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Desert Hot Springs’ community radio station is off the air—but the family that runs the station still has big plans for what is known as KDHS. The Independent did a piece on KDHS back in March, when the low-frequency station was on the air at 98.9 FM. The story, however, raised the eyebrows of at least one reader, who noted that those call letters were licensed for a station in Alaska. Around that same time, station owner Michelle Ann Rizzio—who a while back took over management from her father, who founded the station—said she learned that something was amiss. “Essentially, I went to check on our (FCC registration number) and validate it, since the story was published. I had my questions about the license, because it didn’t look the way I had seen licenses at stations I worked at in the past,” Rizzio said. “I had brought it up to…
23 Jun 2016
So far this year in the Coachella Valley, water-rate increases have gone into effect in both the Mission Springs Water District (encompassing Desert Hot Springs and northern Palm Springs) and the Myoma Dunes Water Company territory of Bermuda Dunes. In both cases, mandatory public meetings were held—and citizens came out to protest what they saw as unfair increases. On Tuesday, June 14, the latest domino to fall was the Coachella Valley Water District (CVWD), which provides water to most of the valley from portions of Cathedral City eastward. Its board of directors was holding one final public meeting on whether to approve the controversial rate-increase plans it had been proposing for more than three months. Various local media and an overflow crowd of more than 300 customers showed up for the meeting, held under the watchful gaze of armed members of the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. As expected, the board…
21 Jun 2016
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This one may just be eligible for Guinness World Records: Palm Springs resident Tracy McKain has been a victim of vehicle-related thefts four times in the 3 1/2 years she has lived at her current residence. In fact, her latest vehicle, a 1999 Honda Civic, has been swiped three times since last October. During the most recent theft, in May, the car was taken even though half of the steering wheel had been cut off during the previous theft. The police report reveals that the car didn’t even have license plates. “And no gas, nor lights, either!” McKain said. Yet her Honda was again stolen at night, and somehow driven to Desert Hot Springs, where police found it abandoned. For 3 1/2 years, McKain has rented a studio in a small Stevens Road condo complex not far from downtown Palm Springs. Her front window is about 50 feet away from…
13 Jun 2016
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Just after 2 a.m. on Sunday, June 12, Omar Mateen walked into Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Fla., and started firing at the 320 or so people who were still in the club after the bartenders announced last call. In the three terrible hours that followed, at least 50 people lost their lives. The country woke up to this horrifying news on Sunday morning, and the LGBT Community Center of the Desert quickly assembled a vigil to be held at 6:30 p.m. on Arenas Road in downtown Palm Springs. Mike Thompson, the LGBT Center’s chief executive officer, explained how the vigil came together. “It was really kind of a matter of minutes,” Thompson told the Independent. “A few people already coordinated some activities, so it was immediately getting together with them and organizing the community organizers. It was great to have something to rally around, and the support has…
20 May 2016
Since March 24, the Coachella Valley Water District management team has been conducting a series of public presentations billed as “Water Rate Workshops.” The managers’ goal of these presentations: Cnvince wary customers to go along with a proposed four years of considerable water-rate increases, slated to start on July 1. The CVWD board of directors will decide on the first year of proposed increases on June 14. At the May 2 workshop, many customers of the utility—which provides water to most of the valley from portions of Cathedral City eastward—left unconvinced about the need for the rate hikes, despite the arguments made by CVWD General Manager Jim Barrett and Conservation Manager Katie Ruark. The CVWD cites three main factors in the increase request: a decrease in revenue due to successful conservation efforts which obviously reduced water sales; water treatment needed to meet newly adopted state drinking-water standards for chromium 6,…
06 May 2016
The initial East Valley goal of the Agua4All campaign: Bring relief to thousands of students who had no access to safe drinking water by installing 60 bottle-filling stations at the schools of the Coachella Valley Unified School District (CVUSD). An April 8 rally at Toro Canyon Middle School in Thermal celebrated success: By the end of March, that goal had been eclipsed, as 75 stations had been set up. As a result, students now have free reusable water bottles and on-campus access to one or more Agua4All stations, providing safe drinking water on a continuous basis. “It’s been an extremely important effort that was initiated by the California Endowment, the Rural Community Assistance Corporation (RCAC) and Community Water Center. Now we want to take it statewide,” said Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, of the East Valley’s 56th District, in an interview. “We introduced a piece of legislation (AB 2124) that allocates the…
21 Apr 2016
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The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians is at a crossroads. The tribe, which has some 32,000 acres of land across Palm Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage and outlying areas, is making big plans for its prime downtown Palm Springs real estate. Meanwhile, the tribe is involved in a controversial lawsuit against the valley’s two largest water agencies over control of the area’s water rights. In addition, tribal leadership, with Chairman Jeff Grubbe at the helm, is preparing for an uncertain future that includes online gambling—which may or may not hurt the tribe’s casino revenues. The late Richard Milanovich (1942-2012) reigned as the tribal chairman for 28 years, during which he placed winning bets on the gambling industry. He led his people from obscurity to become the first Native American tribe in California to own and operate two major casinos—Spa Resort Casino in Palm Springs, and Agua Caliente Casino Resort…

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