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Last updateFri, 16 Sep 2016 12pm

Local Issues

17 Jan 2017
A recent review of the budgets of all nine Coachella Valley cities confirms what multiple sources have mentioned over the last several months: The costs of providing police and fire protection have been rising every year—and could soon become a worrisome financial burden. “About 50 percent of our general-fund budget at this time goes specifically to public safety,” Coachella City Councilmember V. Manuel Perez told the Independent in a recent interview. “In the course of the last few years, public-safety expenses have increased between 5 and 7 percent every year. “The passing of Measure U a couple of years ago, which was a 1 percent sales-tax increase, is the only reason why … we’ve been able to sustain ourselves—and we understand that these annual (public-safety cost) increases are going to continue.” With 50 percent of the general fund being allocated to public safety, Coachella falls in the middle of the…
22 Dec 2016
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When children turn 18 and age out of the foster-care system, they face a difficult transition into adulthood: Not only do some of these young people lack a family; they also lack the skills to live on their own. For LGBT youth in foster care, it’s even harder. That’s where Sanctuary Palm Springs comes in: Sanctuary is working toward providing a home with support services to LGBT youth between the ages of 18 and 21 who leave the foster-care system. Sanctuary was founded by David Rothmiller and LD Thompson. Rothmiller explained how they started down the path of creating Sanctuary. “Originally, it was the desire to be a parent,” Rothmiller said. “… My spouse, LD, and I had begun with the intentions of starting a family. We were licensed (for foster children) in Washington state, and that system made us wait for two years for a placement in our own…
19 Dec 2016
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Jana Ploss used to walk the short distance from her condo in Riviera Gardens to her sister’s house on Chia Road almost every given day. She did it for years—walking back and forth, always crossing Vista Chino at Via Miraleste. On Monday, Nov. 14, she left her sister’s home shortly after 6 p.m. About 6:13 p.m., according to police reports, she was struck by a car at the intersection of Vista Chino and Via Miraleste. She was rushed to Desert Medical Regional Center. Some 20 minutes later, according to the coroner’s office, Ploss was pronounced dead. Ploss was 64. She was the second pedestrian killed by a car at that intersection in six weeks; James Harper, also 64, was killed on Oct. 6, according to police reports. Roxann Ploss said that her sister was just 30 yards away from Jana’s front door at Riviera Gardens when she was hit by…
05 Dec 2016
If you’re a casual golfer like me, you have undoubtedly seen signals that seem to portend an uncertain future for public golf courses, private golf clubs and golf retail outlets here in Coachella Valley. When booking a tee time online, you may see more available slots—and cheaper rates—than there used to be. You may hear conversations about a certain club that’s eliminating all ladies’ golf events this season because of the dearth of female members. Then you hear about another club where revenue has fallen so low that the owners are poised to close it down and sell to real estate developers. In La Quinta, the citizens and their City Council are struggling to create a viable community development to support the beautiful SilverRock golf course. Earlier this year, Lumpy’s, which had been serving the local golfing community for some 30 years, closed both its outlets in Rancho Mirage and…
22 Sep 2016
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The Palm Desert Sheriff’s Station, located on Gerald Ford Drive, is the home of the Coachella Valley’s most robust local policing force. The station covers all unincorporated areas of the western valley, as well as the cities of Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage and Indian Wells, each of which contracts with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department to provide police services. Officials in one of those cities, Palm Desert, are expressing concerns about rising public safety costs. Palm Desert Mayor Bob Spiegel recently told the Independent that for the first time, public-safety costs now make up more than half of the city’s budget. After hearing that, we decided it was time to talk to the commander of the Palm Desert Sheriff’s Station regarding the local state of crime, public-safety issues and law-enforcement needs. Unfortunately, our media requests were either ignored or shoved off to the cities with whom the Riverside County Sheriff’s…
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…

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