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Last updateMon, 20 Apr 2020 1pm

Local Issues

26 Jun 2020
Yadira Rayo-Peñaloza, an incoming senior at UC Berkeley, nearly sat out the fall term. She didn’t want to spend another semester taking just online courses, which is what she expects all of her classes to be when school starts up again late August. Rayo-Peñaloza, along with her girlfriend and a few of her other friends, weighed her options, considering the likelihood of finding work during a pandemic and what a pause would mean to her financial aid. Ultimately, she decided she’d remain a student. “It was a hard decision to just say that we’re definitely going to go back in the fall.” She also thought about returning to campus in the fall, but will remain at home in Orange County, where she attended community college before transferring. That decision, too, was tough. “It’s really difficult to concentrate back home,” she said. “‘Are we hurting our GPAs?’ That was our biggest…
22 Jun 2020
When the state closed down schools due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March, an oft-ignored inequity in the everyday lives of Californians became glaringly obvious: A significant portion of the state’s population still lacks reliable broadband access. When families without reliable internet have children who can no longer go to a physical school, those students’ chances of educational success decrease dramatically. “In the Coachella Valley, we met with the superintendents of all three school districts early on in this pandemic, and the distance-learning issue was one of their top challenges,” said Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, who represents much of the eastern Coachella Valley, and serves on State Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Thurmond’s newly formed Closing the Digital Divide Task Force. “It wasn’t from the standpoint of the teacher not being with the students; it was that they couldn’t even connect with some of the families, because they don’t have the…
17 Jun 2020
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Areli Galvez began her speech by asking the crowd to imagine George Floyd’s final moments—without ever mentioning his name. “Nothing is working,” she said, reading from her phone. “So you do what you do best when everything goes wrong: You call for your mom. You begin to yell, ‘Momma, Momma please!’ Yet you’re still stuck in the same position.” The powerful four-minute talk by the 16-year-old La Quinta High School student was one of the key moments of the “Enough Is Enough” Black Lives Matter rally and protest, at Palm Springs’ Ruth Hardy Park on Saturday, June 6. Around 1,000 face-mask-wearing people attended the morning rally, which was organized by Galvez and several other young women—including Hina Malik, Jazlina Morgan and Sadie Reese—who took on the name Young Justice Advocates. During a subsequent phone interview, Galvez explained how her group and the rally came to be. “We came together with…
16 Jun 2020
A group of people—mostly born and raised in Indio—organized a rally on Tuesday, June 9, at Miles Park to fight for racial equality and urgently needed policing reforms. The group called itself We Are Indio—and called the event #NoMoreHashtags. One of the organizers was Erin Teran, a nurse at a local hospital. “There were five of us,” Teran said about the organizing group. “Three of us have grown up together. (Indio City) Councilmember Waymond Fermon and I have been friends since kindergarten, and April Skinner and I have been friends since we were really young, too. Our parents were even friends. They’re both people I talk to all the time, and we always support each other.” The other two members of the team are Maribel Pena Burke and Kimberly Barraza, Teran said. “When the whole George Floyd incident happened, I was so upset and emotional about it, because one of…
09 Jun 2020
Since the killing of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers on May 25, parks and streets around the country and world have become staging grounds for massive outpourings of frustration and anger over systemic racism in the United States. On Monday, June 1, a Black Lives Matter protest took place at Palm Desert’s Civic Center Park, organized by a self-described band of “newbie” community organizers who wanted their voices heard. Their Instagram account is called Coachella Valley Activists. The group originally called for an evening protest on El Paseo. However, on the day of the gathering, the group moved the event to Palm Desert’s City Hall-adjacent Civic Center Park—and made the start time earlier in response to a countywide curfew. “For everyone, it was their first time staging a protest rally,” said Angel Moreno, one of the organizers. “Our team is more than 20 people. It’s a…
05 Jun 2020
Nathaniel Johnson walked past a CVS pharmacy in Hollywood with his phone camera trained on men running out of the looted store with armfuls of stolen goods. After a Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd, Johnson had protested police brutality for two days while dressed in civilian clothes. But that afternoon, he decided to change into the uniform he wore for five years—his Army fatigues. He had no idea that—across the street and two stories above him—a porn star and former reality show actress with 2 million Instagram followers was recording the events on her phone. “Get out of the CVS; you’re criminals,” shouted Farrah Abraham in a 57-second video posted to Instagram. ”Get out of CVS!” She turned her camera to Johnson. “This guy in the Army uniform is literally with them!” she shouted. She later took credit for sending 20 people to jail with her video, adding “I’m…
20 May 2020
Water infrastructure is finally coming to three underserved portions of the eastern Coachella Valley—if state budget cuts don’t get in the way. After nearly six years of work by Castulo Estrada, the rest of the Coachella Valley Water District board and Assemblyman Eduardo Garcia, the water district announced in early May that the State Water Resources Control Board had approved two construction grants, totaling about $3.3 million. The funds will be used to complete three projects that will bring safe, reliable water service and fire protection to two disadvantaged communities and one elementary school in the eastern Coachella Valley. “The reason we put out the press release was because the financial agreement was executed,” said Estrada, the CVWD board’s vice president, during a recent phone interview. “Once an agreement has been executed, it’s a contract between the state of California and the CVWD for the execution of the project (for…
08 May 2020
Ever since the end of the Great Recession, Rancho Cucamonga has been on a tear. New retailers and restaurants have sprung up to serve the residents of its gated ‘burbs. The city’s population has swelled with Angelenos in search of cheaper housing. And at last count, its unemployment rate sat at just 4 percent. The city earned an upgraded credit rating earlier this year. But now that shopping and dining have been deemed non-essential activities, the good times are gone, said Rancho Mayor Dennis Michael. “Since we recovered from the Great Recession, we generated about $9 million in new sales tax revenue,” he said. “We’ve lost all of that gain. We’re basically starting from square one.” For local governments still sporting the budgetary scars of the last “once in a generation” recession, this downturn is at once familiar—forcing elected leaders to cut, furlough and delay—and entirely new. Never before in…
04 May 2020
Although the gates remain closed at The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens in Palm Desert, anyone can hop onto social media to see some of the unusual breeds of animals that call this desert enclave home—all while learning from the videos, photos and descriptive content developed by the park’s team in an accelerated fashion these days. The aim is to inform visitors about the daily lives of this nonprofit zoo’s residents—while inviting visitors to make a much-needed donation. “We have 450 animals here who depend upon us,” said Allen Monroe, The Living Desert’s president and CEO, during a recent phone interview. “We have a commitment to them, and we’re fortunate enough to have a great animal-care team here, and a veterinary team to help support them. “Our first action (when the shelter-at-home orders were announced) was to make sure that the needs of the animals were going to continue to…
01 May 2020
Gov. Gavin Newsom last week announced that eligible seniors throughout California could immediately get three free restaurant meals per day delivered to their door. Yet a week later, not a single meal has been delivered, and tens of thousands of Californians who have tried to sign up have been left disappointed, confused and maybe even hungry. During his press conference last Friday, Newsom said counties and cities were ready—but in reality, most were caught off-guard: Most didn’t know that such a program was under consideration. Now they are scrambling to identify restaurants and eligible seniors before federal funding runs out on May 10. It’s the latest example of how Newsom has announced an ambitious coronavirus response plan before details were hammered out—and in this case, even before the agencies recruited to carry it out were notified. Under the governor’s plan, the Federal Emergency Management Agency will reimburse 75 percent of…

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