CVIndependent

Thu12032020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

For the first time, Palm Desert residents in November will vote for their City Council representatives by district … sort of.

After two residents sued the city last year, alleging that the city’s at-large voting system violated the California Voting Rights Act of 2001, the council approved a new system: One large district, including the vast majority of the city, will be represented by four council members; it’s now called District 2. A second, smaller district, called District 1, will have one representative. You can view an interactive district map here.

In November, District 2 residents will choose between four candidates for two seats: Incumbents Kathleen Kelly and Gina Nestande, and challengers Evan Trubee and Steven Moyer. The Independent recently spoke to the candidates, asking them each the same set of questions, on topics ranging from the new district voting system to law enforcement in the city.

Here are their complete answers, edited only for style and clarity.

Kathleen Kelly

Incumbent, mayor pro tem

Should you be re-elected, what are your top three priorities for the City Council in 2021?

Some of that has been dictated for us. We positively, absolutely have to manage the COVID-19 pandemic well. That means, to my way of thinking, recognizing first and foremost that the community’s health interests and the business community’s financial interests are totally in sync. Commerce cannot thrive unless people feel safe using commerce. That really requires a broad-based community embrace of the recommended safeguards, such as facial coverings and social distancing. So, if I am re-elected, my top priority will be to try to offer unifying leadership around that issue, and to continue to be engaged with our excellent finance team at the city to shepherd our reserves well, to get us through this. Thankfully, prior councils have left our city on a solid financial footing, so that we are able to weather this without diminishing services—but the same kind of exacting care that they took has to be continued.

Moving past that, even though we are in a crisis, it’s critical to identify some issues where strategic investment has to be made for the future. I would put two (items) at the top of that list. The first is working to improve broadband width, not just for Palm Desert, but for the whole Coachella Valley. This pandemic has exposed our dependence on the internet, so that’s a topic for which we need regional effort. We also need regional effort around diversifying our economy, so that we’re not just hospitality-dependent. Again, this crisis has exposed the problems of being so dependent on the hospitality industry. That’s why I and others on the current council worked very hard to bring about the iHub, the innovation hub across from the CSU (Cal State University-San Bernardino satellite) campus to spark cyber-security startups. That could also be a source of other career options for CSU students. So we don’t just want to survive the pandemic; we want to come out of it stronger, and I would name those two fronts as the most important fronts.

Keeping El Paseo pleasurable has to be on the list, because it’s such a key part of driving the financial resources for the city and for our quality of life. Whether people choose to spend money on El Paseo or not, many people just enjoy walking there. So facilitating outdoor dining is a key priority.

I’m a consistent advocate for more housing choices. One of the great attributes of Palm Desert is that we are a diverse community, and many demographic categories including economic wherewithal are at play, so I do want to see more housing available at all price points.

Did the city of Palm Desert fulfill its obligation to encourage more diversity in political engagement with its two-district solution, or do you believe more districts should be formed?

Experience will answer that, as I expressed when we last spoke. I firmly believe that we should get experience with this new system and learn from that. There are upsides and downsides to a five-district system. I hope that a continuing conversation will inform more residents about both the upsides and the downsides.

In terms of deaths, Palm Desert has been one of the hardest-hit cities in the Coachella Valley by COVID-19. What can, or should, the city do to better deal with the pandemic?

On the topic of the deaths, it should be noted that two particular skilled-nursing facilities accounted for at least 12 of those (COVID-19 related deaths). So, in the early stage of reporting, it kind of skewed Palm Desert higher than our neighbor cities. Unfortunately, the numbers for our neighbor cities seem to be catching up and, in some cases, surpassing us.

I don’t feel there is, or ever will be, such a thing as (doing) enough on that front. This virus is exceedingly challenging, not just because of how highly contagious it is, but because of the range of long-lasting detrimental health effects that people of all ages suffer. So it’s a misconception to suppose that only those over 60 are hardest hit. When you dig into the stories, many younger people who no longer test positive are still dealing with really debilitating consequences. So I feel we have to pull together as a community, without cessation, until it is truly over and done with. That requires constant messaging so that people don’t let their guard down. In early summer, when businesses first started to re-open, some of the public took that as a signal to relax and start having backyard barbecues, and what we hear from county health is that those backyard barbecues became a real source of infection, which hampered the capacity of our businesses to stay open. So if we care about the economy, and if we care about public health, we just have to stay vigilant.

Should the city continue to contract with the Riverside County Sheriff for law enforcement services, given Sheriff Chad Bianco has stated publicly an unwillingness for citizen/community oversight, his refusal to meet with community stakeholders, and the high cost of his department’s services?

That’s a very packed question. It’s appropriate, all of the time, to continue to review that contractual arrangement. I don’t favor being reactive based on any single issue or decision, but it is appropriate to really be in a process of continual review. I would rather see us exert continuing influence on the sheriff than to turn our back and strive to create something from the ground up. Given Palm Desert’s size, there have been tremendous advantages to having public safety delivered from a source that has specialists and task forces that can be tapped for our needs. So I wouldn’t be quick to change the contractual arrangement, but it absolutely is appropriate for us to be, as I said, in a constant state of review.

The City Council originally proposed building an Interstate 10 interchange at the north end of Portola Avenue in 2008. Should the city reconsider moving forward with this plan in light of potential impacts on the adjacent residential neighborhoods, which have expanded notably since the plan was first considered? For instance, should a survey be initiated to gather input from residents most likely to be impacted?

We haven’t. The interchange was designed, in large part, to serve those neighborhoods, and it was put on the schedule in anticipation of that growth in the north part of Palm Desert. Because of the revenue impacts from the COVID-19 pandemic, nothing is going to happen there anytime soon. Your question helps me to appreciate that it has been on the drawing boards for so long that once we return to it as a viable possibility, it will be important to have community engagement to both inform and to listen.

What has been your favorite “shelter-in-place” activity since the pandemic’s arrival?

This won’t necessarily get me any votes, but it’s been a blessing to spend more time with my mom, who is 95. We live together, but before the pandemic, we both had exceedingly busy lives that kept us outside the house all day. So it’s a pleasure just to have three meals together every day.


Steven Moyer

Lawyer

Should you be elected, what are your top three priorities for the City Council in 2021?

I think everyone is, or should be, concerned about two issues, which I really see as one, and that is public health and the economy. I think everyone wants to see the small businesses in Palm Desert re-open, but they’re not going to be able to do that if our residents and the people who work in those businesses aren’t healthy. As far as the public-health aspect of it, I’d like to see the city doing more. I respect everybody’s individual right not to wear a mask or to distance, but I’m suggesting to everyone that when they go out, they wear a mask and they distance, because that’s going to allow our small businesses to re-open. I would like to see the city do more about encouraging people to do that. I don’t think we’ve seen enough of that.

Secondly, we have the issue of the economy. In that regard, in order for the city council to help, there are a number of things it can do. One is to make the permitting of new businesses easier. I think we can continue the San Pablo makeover, although it may be necessary to revisit some of the segments of that project during this time of a recession. I think we should be giving El Paseo a facelift to help the small businesses there. By closing off a couple of blocks and making it into a walking mall, we could have outdoor dining and sales, which would require changing some of our ordinances on a temporary basis, at least. We could install some nice public restrooms for our Southern California visitors, not just our local visitors. Coming from Los Angeles or Orange County or San Diego, people are driving for 2 to 2 1/2 hours, and they usually like to visit a restroom after that kind of a drive. With the restaurants and other businesses that have restrooms being closed, there’s no place for them to go. Also, we need to make sure that we have adequate parking. But if closing off a number of blocks is not a direction that the City Council wants to go in, another approach might be something that I saw recently in Culver City. They closed lanes of traffic, and on the interior street side of the lanes closest to the sidewalks, they installed white plastic barriers and moved outside dining into that area. They put up some nice potted plants and umbrellas, and there were a lot of people sitting outside eating, and they were distanced. That’s something that could be done next week. For those restaurants or shops who have space behind their buildings in parking lots, (the City Council) could make accommodations for them as well.

For No. 2, I think we should extend the ban on short-term rentals into residential areas that currently aren’t covered. I’ve been contacted by a number of people living in Palm Desert who are dissatisfied by the fact that they were left out.

Third would be focusing on making the Cal State University-San Bernardino satellite (campus) into a four-year university so that we can have an educated workforce and provide more jobs. Any city of our size that can have a four-year university is going to provide themselves with a good economic boost.

Did the city of Palm Desert fulfill its obligation to encourage more diversity in political engagement with its two-district solution, or do you believe more districts should be formed?

I believe that we should have five-district voting. At this point in time, I believe that I’m the only candidate running in District 2 who advocates for that. I do not believe that the current settlement of what was essentially a civil rights lawsuit pursuant to the California Voter Rights Act satisfies that act, although I just saw recently something sent out from the city that says it does. Needless to say, as an attorney who represented cities and municipalities in those kinds of lawsuits, I disagree with that representation (on the part of the city). I don’t think it complies with the Voter Rights Act. The current situation provides for voting in District 1 (to elect) one representative who will represent about 20 percent of the city. The other 80 percent is voting at-large, and as a consequence, the way it’s worked out for the last 20 years, and the way it will apparently continue to work out in this 2020 election, is that you have five incumbents, three of which are currently running, and all of whom live in one of the wealthiest sections of the city and within walking distance of each other. The neighborhoods, in the rest of the city, don’t have representatives who share their interests, values and concerns. So I don’t think that’s equal and fair representation. It’s not representative government. It’s government by a few.

Recently, I had a conversation with an old friend who will remain nameless, who lives nearby. He said, ‘Don’t you think that people who live in one area of town might be more talented than the others?’ That’s elitism. We can do better than that in Palm Desert. I don’t think that anyone on the north side wants to be governed by a bunch of people who only live in a small area of south Palm Desert, and that’s the situation that we’ve got now.

If we get sued again, it’s going to cost the city a lot of money, and I think we’ll lose. This time, nobody’s going to settle for this flim-flam settlement. They’re not going to buy that. I’ve spoken to the plaintiffs (in the original Voter Rights Act lawsuit), and they feel that they weren’t given adequate disclosure. Now they’re thinking that if they had known before what they know now, they wouldn’t have entered into this settlement. Nobody else will do that (moving forward). They’ll either go to trial, or they’ll get a settlement for something like five districts. There are other ways to skin a cat, so it doesn’t have to be five districts. I think it should be. You could have four districts and a mayor who’s elected at-large, which would essentially be five districts. By the way, as best as I can tell, this is the only city in the state of California that has two districts.

In terms of deaths, Palm Desert has been one of the hardest-hit cities in the Coachella Valley by COVID-19. What can, or should, the city do to better deal with the pandemic?

The City Council, the city and other departments within City Hall need to do a much-better and more-aggressive job of communicating with our full-time, part-time and visiting residents about the necessity of wearing masks and distancing. As an example, if you go into Palm Springs and just take a drive down Palm Canyon, you see digital signs on wheels saying that you are required to wear a mask and distance. They have banners (hanging) above the street saying the same thing. We were just there recently, and there were a ton of people on both sides of the street walking. Lots of people were enjoying outdoor dining, and everybody was wearing a mask. Nobody was scared off. I think that a lot of folks are anxious to enjoy that kind of experience in Palm Desert, but there are a lot of people who are afraid right now to go into our shops or restaurants where people aren’t wearing masks. I think that the City Council and the departments within City Hall who are responsible for this issue need to take that into consideration, and also remember that there are many more residents in this city than in most in the desert who are over the age of 60. We need to protect them.

Should the city continue to contract with the Riverside County Sheriff for law enforcement services, given Sheriff Chad Bianco has stated publicly an unwillingness for citizen/community oversight, his refusal to meet with community stakeholders, and the high cost of his department’s services?

That’s a good question, and this is an issue that I’ve given a lot of thought to. I have no information that leads me to believe that, at this time, we’re paying too much for the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department. I have not seen the contract, so I don’t know what it provides for. I have been informed that we are paying $300 an hour for the services of a deputy sheriff. So since I have no other information, that (point) sitting in isolation doesn’t really help me very much. Some people might think that sounds like a lot of money for a police officer. We’re not hiring a high-priced lawyer. But we don’t know what goes into that figure, and we don’t know what other law-enforcement agencies in the valley are being paid. However, I have been informed that Coachella is moving away from the Sheriff’s Department and is going to form its own police department. I would like to get more information on that, and I’ve contacted one of the members of their City Council to find out why they’re going in that direction. It may or may not be applicable to Palm Desert. Coachella is a much larger city, and its demographic (makeup) is completely different than Palm Desert. It may be that many of our residents are satisfied with the Sheriff’s Department in Palm Desert. There may be others who aren’t. I think that, in these sensitive times, we should consider having some public hearings in order to get more information about the issues I just raised, as well as find out how the rest of the city feels about this. So I’m not saying that we shouldn’t continue the contract with the county sheriff; I’m just saying that we should get more information and see how that contract is working in comparison to other contracts of a similar nature throughout the desert, and perhaps elsewhere, to see if we’re paying too much, and to compare it to the cost of running your own police department, and to see how the rest of the city feels about it.

The City Council originally proposed building an Interstate 10 interchange at the north end of Portola Avenue in 2008. Should the city reconsider moving forward with this plan in light of potential impacts on the adjacent residential neighborhoods, which have expanded notably since the plan was first considered? For instance, should a survey be initiated to gather input from residents most likely to be impacted?

It should be looked at again. The City Council seems not to be fully aware of the fact that we are living in the worst pandemic in a century, and a very bad recession that could be worse than the one in 2008. During these unforeseen and unprecedented times you have to adjust, and they don’t seem like they’re adjusting. They’re just like, ‘Let’s talk about the golf-cart parade.’ OK, we can talk about the golf-cart parade while putting in an onramp and an offramp for Portola, but I think we should re-visit the issue and think about if this is the right time for something like that when we could be spending our dollars on things like helping small businesses throughout the city, and maybe hiring some more people at City Hall, so that the staffing is at 100 percent. According to what I’ve been informed since announcing my candidacy, they are understaffed, and, for example, as a result of being understaffed, they can’t do certain types of code enforcement in the manner in which they should be. So maybe we should be spending our dollars on things like that instead of an onramp and offramp that might be nice during flush times.

Also, that (logic) applies to what I believe is Phase 2 of San Pablo, which has a plan for two roundabouts, I think, which maybe we could be doing in flush times. But I’d have to look at how much it costs and how much we’ve got for it (to decide) whether or not that’s something we can afford to do now. Maybe we ought to put it off, and make our priority hiring more staff at City Hall, and paying them adequately and things like that.

What has been your favorite “shelter-in-place” activity since the pandemic’s arrival?

This with the approval of my health-care providers. We had one standard poodle, and we decided to get her a companion. We got her a puppy, another standard poodle who is now 7 months old. So we’ve been training her and playing with the dogs out in the backyard, and just walking the dogs in our small development early in the morning, partly to get exercise for us as well. We’re appropriately masked and distanced from everybody who lives here right now in the summer.

And I’m taking ukulele lessons online from a very fine musician who, I think, is in Torrance. But he’s one of the premier ukulele players in the country, and I just recently picked up two of my instruments that were being worked on. There’s a luthier named Dey Martin in Palm Springs. Who knew? We have a luthier in Palm Springs. A luthier makes string instruments. He makes guitars, ukuleles and maybe violins, but I’m not sure. But he also does work on them and repairs them. So I asked him to do some work on a couple of my instruments so that it was easier for me to play them. And now they play great.


Gina Nestande

Mayor of Palm Desert; real estate agent

Should you be re-elected, what are your top three priorities for the City Council in 2021?

My No. 1 top priority is to continue to make sure that we’re doing everything possible as a city to keep our citizens safe in terms of COVID, and to help and support businesses by making sure that they have the supplies that they need. It would be wonderful if we get a vaccine or better medications to fight the COVID, but since right now we really don’t, that would be a top priority.

Following that, for the economic health of our Palm Desert businesses—especially the restaurants that have had to go through a second shutdown, and the hair and nail salons—I want to continue to spur economic development and make resources available for when they can re-open, which we hope is sooner rather than later.

We have some economic programs in place right now. We have an emergency loan program where we’re disbursing $1 million to our Palm Desert businesses. Also, we haven’t voted on it yet, but it’s a priority of mine to give $900,000 to our hotels like the J.W. Marriott (Desert Springs Resort and Spa). When people come to the desert, they typically stay for a couple of nights, say Friday and Saturday, and then they go back on Sunday. What we’re going to do is subsidize (a promotional offer) where if somebody comes for two nights, then they can get a third night free, paid for by the city, although they still will have to pay the (transient occupancy tax) on that free night. I serve on the marketing committee (for the city), and research shows that if people stay a third night, they are more likely to perhaps stay for the whole week. So what we want to do is be able to drive customers to our restaurants, to our nail salons and to all of our businesses. So we’re trying to do what we can to support businesses in Palm Desert.

My third priority is the California State University-San Bernardino satellite campus. I want to help nurture and support expanding the degree programs offered there. Just recently, they had a graduation of 400 students. That’s amazing, and we’re very proud of that. We’re adding a cyber-security program, for example, and we’re expanding hospitality (programs). We want to grow technology programs out of this university, and our city has donated money to help with this expansion. So that’s my third priority, and it’s one that is looking to build the future of Palm Desert. One day, we hope it will become a stand-alone campus and it will just be Cal State-Palm Desert. But we’ve got to grow the student body, and we’ve to grow the degree programs in order to make that happen.

Did the city of Palm Desert fulfill its obligation to encourage more diversity in political engagement with its two-district solution, or do you believe more districts should be formed?

I’m going to answer that this way: We have a population of about 50,000 in Palm Desert. I don’t feel we’re comparable to like a Los Angeles, where you’ve got millions of people. I’m not saying we’re homogeneous, but for me, I don’t like the idea of balkanizing, per se, Palm Desert. I believe that El Paseo, which would probably not be in my district, is near and dear to my heart, and I care about that area. Cal State’s in another area of Palm Desert, and I care about that area. So I want to be representing Palm Desert, and I believe that (a multiple-district approach) is actually dividing us. Reluctantly, I went along with the two districts. But the jury is out on it. I tend to agree that I don’t want (the current) District 2 to feel like it’s, how do I say, not as important, because there’s four districts versus one, is how I see it. So I don’t really like that either. But I just went along with what the majority of the council wanted to do on this issue.

I was born in ’63, and when I grew up as a child, Martin Luther King was a hero to me. He changed the United States with his quote about being judged by his character, not the color of his skin. But I feel that this Voter Rights Act is throwing that out the window.

In terms of deaths, Palm Desert has been one of the hardest-hit cities in the Coachella Valley by COVID-19. What can, or should, the city do to better deal with the pandemic?

I’ve been partnering with the Riverside County Department of Public Health to get a deeper dive into the (COVID-19) numbers. It takes them a long time to (research a request), because it’s such a huge county, and they can’t respond every week to every little mayor’s request. But the last time I got data, we found that about half of the deaths were occurring in nursing homes here in Palm Desert. We have several nursing homes here, and many of their patients already have underlying conditions. So I think we just need to continue to support our nursing homes and our nurses working there. I think when we go out and about, people should wear their masks. When we go into the grocery store people, should be social distancing. I think our citizens are doing a great job. We just need to make sure we continue to have enough hand sanitizer and face masks if a business is running short. We were given $700,000 in funds from FEMA to use for our (COVID-19 related) supplies. So we’re being very conscientious with those funds, and we’re using them appropriately where needed.

Should the city continue to contract with the Riverside County Sheriff for law enforcement services, given Sheriff Chad Bianco has stated publicly an unwillingness for citizen/community oversight, his refusal to meet with community stakeholders, and the high cost of his department’s services?

I will say that almost half of our budget goes to police and fire. I do support our police, though. I believe safety is a top priority, and that, first and foremost, we need a safe city. That needs to be the foundation. We need law and order. We can’t condone violence and anarchy. Also, when COVID hit, we had to start looking at our budget again to make up for the shortfalls, and I will say the Sheriff’s Department looked long and hard, and they found a way to cut back about $3.5 million for this year. So that was a big plus. And I do not support de-funding the police.

The City Council originally proposed building an Interstate 10 interchange at the north end of Portola Avenue in 2008. Should the city reconsider moving forward with this plan in light of potential impacts on the adjacent residential neighborhoods, which have expanded notably since the plan was first considered? For instance, should a survey be initiated to gather input from residents most likely to be impacted?

It was 12 years ago (when this plan was first initiated), and over time, the cost to do that interchange has gone up astronomically. Now there’s not enough money to do the project. It’s millions of dollars short, and that (projection) was made pre-pandemic. We greatly want that interchange, and we were partnering with (the Coachella Valley Association of Governments) on it. CVAG came back to us and said, ‘Sorry, city of Palm Desert. We’re several million dollars short. You can try to help us raise the money to find the funds.’ So, that’s where we are with it—and then the pandemic hit. So it’s on hold. But I do think it needs to be looked at again, and we’ll know more in the coming months.

Gosh, if we get a vaccine for COVID, I think it will be such an uplifting thing for the state of California and the whole United States that maybe the flood gate of funds will re-open. Another issue that sort of ties into this one is that we just got our sales-tax (report) from the county for the month of May. Typically, we get about $600,000 approximately, but this May, we got approximately $1 million. Our finance director, who couldn’t believe it, wanted to make sure there wasn’t a mistake, because we don’t want to spend money that we don’t have. But it’s been confirmed. We’re not sure if it’s coming from more online sales, but the economy seems to be firing up. So we’ll see if that trend continues.

We have $100 million in reserves. This is a very well-run and financially sound city. But we don’t have the money to fund this whole project. We have to get state credits, grants and find other monies. But, having said that, if the economy comes roaring back, it will make it easier.

What has been your favorite “shelter-in-place” activity since the pandemic’s arrival?

Actually, my children and I have been playing board games, and that’s something that we didn’t do anymore. The game called Catan is a great game. It’s about trading, building and settling communities, and it can go on for hours.


Evan Trubee

Owner of Big Wheel Tours

Should you be elected, what are your top three priorities for the City Council in 2021?

Not necessarily in order, I would say the top three issues are making sure we preserve the short term rental rule, and maybe even look at—and this is a can of worms, and I don’t really want to go there—but maybe look at some of the loopholes that were created in the current ordinance, because it did not cover the planned residential communities. In other words, it restricted short-term rentals in R1 and R2, but planned residentials were left out of it, almost like HOAs, even though many of these planned residentials don’t have CCRs that prohibit short-term rentals. I’ve talked to several residents, and it’s becoming a bit of an issue. The current regulations need to be protected, and maybe enhanced. We’ll see. But the feedback that I’m getting is that there are some pretty unhappy residents in those PRs.

Second, I want to make sure we maintain our economic strength and foundation. We’re going to lose quite a bit of (transient occupancy tax) revenue, and we need to be judicious about keeping a balanced budget. This year turned out pretty well, but we’re going to have to be pretty disciplined on the budget so we don’t run into trouble. And we need to think about diversifying the economy away from tourism so much, and try to cultivate more local businesses that don’t necessarily have to do with tourism.

Third, I would say, is to make sure we keep the pressure on advocating for the four-year university, meaning that Priority One foundation that’s been set up and that the city’s giving $150,000 to. My point is that even if the state of California, which is looking at a budget deficit, put the building of another four-year university on the back burner, I think we should keep the pressure on our lobbying efforts in Sacramento to make sure we stay on their radar.

I just want to make sure to get this in: We can’t forget supporting the College of the Desert. Let’s keep the four-year university as an emphasis, but not at the expense of supporting College of the Desert.

Did the city of Palm Desert fulfill its obligation to encourage more diversity in political engagement with its two-district solution, or do you believe more districts should be formed?

I followed that process pretty closely. I did go to the redistricting meetings that were held just this past winter, and even before that, I was paying attention. I think they came up with a solution that is in compliance with the California Voting Rights Act. In other words, they created a district that was as close as you can get to a majority-minority composition. So in that regard, they achieved the objective of the CVRA. It was adjudicated, and both parties agreed to it. So you’ve got to trust the judicial system. It went through the process. I’m curious to see how it plays out in this 2020 election cycle. Now, going to five districts, if that’s what you want to consider, you couldn’t carve four districts out of what is now District 2 and come up with anything even close to a majority-minority district to help try to get Latinx representation on City Council. So then you’re talking about a different issue. You’re talking about Palm Desert being a city of a size where you can justify having five separate districts of roughly 10,000-15,000 people if we get to that point. So it becomes a different issue other than just complying with the CVRA in terms of ethnic composition.

I guess the short answer is that I’m willing to let this current cycle play out, (and) see how the residents respond. I believe they did achieve the goals of complying with the CVRA in this instance. But I’m flexible. I mean, if down the road, Palm Desert residents say, ‘Hey! We feel under-represented because we live in the northern sphere, and there’s nobody who lives in our district on council,’ well, then, shoot. I’m all ears. Let’s talk about that, and talk about maybe down the road dividing it up into five.

In terms of deaths, Palm Desert has been one of the hardest-hit cities in the Coachella Valley by COVID-19. What can, or should, the city do to better deal with the pandemic?

From what I understand, and I have not been able to verify this officially, there were one or two places, and I think they were assisted-living (facilities), where a big cluster of the deaths happened which spiked our numbers relative to other valley cities. That’s what I understand, and I’ll give my answer based on that understanding. So, that was unfortunate. That’s terrible. I don’t know how it happened, and I don’t know if the city could have prevented it. However, I do advocate wearing masks.

At first blush, when this thing happened in March and April, I said, ‘Oh I’m a believer in personal liberty and in an educated populace deciding whether or not they want to do it.’ And the question was, ‘Were (the masks) really effective?’ I’ve come to the conclusion, after doing research and studying, that masks are effective. So I’m all for mandating masks here in Palm Desert at businesses, and when people are in stores in close proximity to one another. Beyond that, I think the city has done a pretty good job with education programs. They were part of the Greater Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau campaign to promote mask-wearing, so I guess that’s my answer. I think the city has done a decent job so far. Like I said, I believe our numbers (of COVID-19 deaths) are higher just due to that one unfortunate outbreak that may, or may not, have been preventable by the city of Palm Desert.

Should the city continue to contract with the Riverside County Sheriff for law enforcement services, given Sheriff Chad Bianco has stated publicly an unwillingness for citizen/community oversight, his refusal to meet with community stakeholders, and the high cost of his department’s services?

You know, I’ve talked to city officials about this, because since I’m running for this office, I have to consider all of these issues. Palm Springs has their own police force. Desert Hot Springs has their own police force. There are pros and cons to each (type of) service. When you contract out with the Riverside sheriff, then you’re spreading out the liabilities. You know, I was told by an employee of the city of Palm Desert, ‘Look, each one of those police officers is a walking liability.’ So it creates a great risk for the city if, God forbid, there is some kind of lawsuit or issue. You spread that out when you contract with the sheriffs. I like that aspect of it. From what I understand, and the research that I’ve done, the three main things that are front and center nationally are addressed. The sheriffs use body cameras; they’re not allowed to do “no-knock” warrants; and they don’t use choke holds.

So I like what the Sheriff’s Department is doing in that regard. I’m not familiar with Bianco’s unwillingness (to cooperate with civilian review). Actually, I haven’t read anything about it, so I can’t really speak to any of Bianco’s actions. I’m just talking from my perspective, and from what I know about Riverside sheriffs, I would advocate for continuing the contract with the Sheriff’s Department moving forward, for sure. In my mind, it’s one less thing the city has to worry about or staff. I think they’re doing a good job so far here in Palm Desert. I’m happy with the job they’re doing as a citizen.

The City Council originally proposed building an Interstate 10 interchange at the north end of Portola Avenue in 2008. Should the city reconsider moving forward with this plan in light of potential impacts on the adjacent residential neighborhoods, which have expanded notably since the plan was first considered? For instance, should a survey be initiated to gather input from residents most likely to be impacted?

I’ve noticed it on the agenda for the past year or so as well. From one meeting to another, when the issue of the interchange is brought up, the projected costs seem to go up considerably. I know a lot of it is being borne by CVAG (Coachella Valley Association of Governments) and the county, but the costs to the city went up considerably. As with any construction project, over time, costs typically don’t go down; the estimates go up. That’s a concern. When you talk about moving forward with the Portola interchange, I do think we need to take into consideration the (opinions of) the residents in the northern part of the city. Also, you have to take into consideration the BlackRock housing development, which is projected to bring almost 1,000 homes into that part of the city. I feel that you want to get the infrastructure in place before you have the impact on that infrastructure. In other words, build the infrastructure first, and then the housing development. So, I think that’s something to consider as well. I would like to see it happen, as long as it doesn’t adversely impact our budget to the point where we’re digging into reserves.

What has been your favorite “shelter-in-place” activity since the pandemic’s arrival?

Being able to spend time with the kids. My son, who’s 19, came home from college early, in March. And my two daughters are teenagers. So when you get to this point of parenthood, you can see the light at the end of the tunnel where they’re going to be out of the house. I’m going to be an “empty-nester” in five years. I’ve just really enjoyed spending time with them. We’ve been playing games, reading books and just being together. I know it’s going to end; we’ll go back to our busy lives and busy schedules where we’re going in 20 million directions. So being with them has been a treat, and we’re enjoying it. Luckily, I have a loving family and it’s just fun to spend time together.

Published in Politics

Welcome to June! Things are a mess!

Here’s the latest:

All of Riverside County is under a curfew starting at 6 p.m. today. Yes, all of it—including the Coachella Valley. The curfew lasts through 6 a.m. tomorrow. But you probably already know this because of an alert screamed by your phone earlier this afternoon.

Some of the details, according to the county:

The curfew is in response to several areas of rioting and looting in Southern California over the weekend, as well as planned protests set to occur today in Riverside County.

“We want the community to be able to peacefully assemble and exercise their first amendment rights,” said (County Executive Officer and Director of Emergency Services George) Johnson. “We must also take action to protect our community from threats of rioting and chaos. If you plan to visit a protest today, we urge you to do so peacefully and return home at the time of the curfew.”

The curfew will expire Tuesday morning at 6 a.m. and will not apply to residents who must leave their homes to attend essential work or business after 6 p.m. The curfew is intended to prevent any potential acts of destruction and violence at protest sites. Law enforcement will continue to serve the community by conducting patrols and responding to calls for service.

Three protests motivated by the death of George Floyd were planned for the Coachella Valley today. The first one started at 10 a.m. in downtown Palm Springs, and, by accounts, has been calm and peaceful.

The other two were scheduled for tonight—and there are some key differences.

The first one that was announced was slated for 6 p.m. in Indio, at Miles Park. This was, in every way, a transparent and local effort: The organizers of #NoMoreHashtags said who they were, what their plans were, and emphasized safety—both in terms of being peaceful, and the need for social distancing and masks due to the pandemic.

However, that protest has been cancelled by organizers, in light of the county curfew. Organizer Erin Teran wrote on Facebook:

We the committee of the No More Hashtags Candlelight Vigil regret to inform you of the decision to postpone. The vigil scheduled for this evening, June 1st in Indio will be moved to a future date due to the notification of curfew put in place by Riverside County officials, which currently commenced at 6 p.m. this evening to tomorrow at 6 a.m.

We have made a group decision to postpone the vigil pending further notice in an effort to cooperate with our county and local officials.

We are upset and disappointed to have to postpone the vigil, as we feel it is important for us to assemble together as a community to grieve and express our emotions; however we also acknowledge the concerns of our community.

We ask the public to please respect the curfew. As we had planned a peaceful expression and Vigil, we also do not condone any negativity surrounding this tragedy.

This was and will be a peaceful candlelight vigil and we will see that it will proceed in the coming days.

• The other planned protest is, well, shrouded in mystery.

It was announced by an Instagram account that has no posts published before the protest announcement. At first, the “Coachella Valley Activists” account announced the protest would be starting in front of California Pizza Kitchen, on El Paseo in Palm Desert.

Then, earlier today, the account announced that due to fears over the location chose for the protest—why pick the ritzy shopping area?!—it was being moved to Palm Desert’s City Hall and Civic Center Park. After the curfew announcement, the account said the protest would start earlier than originally scheduled, and would go from 4 to 6 p.m.

There are several things worth pointing out about this announced protest. First: It’s odd to schedule a protest at the same time as another one just 10 miles down the road. Second: The organizers have refused to identify themselves. The Independent asked the organizers who they were, as did other media sources and all sorts of commenters on the Instagram page—but they have so far refused say.

“It’s been brought to our attention that people believe that the El Paseo protest is a setup,” posted the page. “We can assure you this is not. We’re a group of diverse friends (Black, Latino, White, etc.) who believe that our voices should be heard, and we’re locals but not residents of PD.”

Regardless of who is behind this protest, it scared the living hell out of people, given the violence and destruction that’s taken place over the weekend. At one point on Sunday night, the Palm Desert Chamber of Commerce on Facebook announced that “busses are arriving already with people,” but soon after removed the post, because it wasn’t true. Meanwhile, much of El Paseo has been boarded up … just in case.

So … yeah, things are a mess.

Other news:

A Villanova University professor, writing for The Conversation, says research has shown “that officers with extensive complaint histories were disproportionately more likely to be named subjects in civil rights lawsuits with extensive claims and large settlement payouts.” Translation: The nation’s police departments are *BADLY* in need of reform, as these needless acts of violence, often racially tinged, show us over and over and over again.

• Frustratingly related: According to CNN, “under President Donald Trump, the Department of Justice has all but abandoned broad investigations into unconstitutional policing practices, a half-dozen former DOJ lawyers who worked on similar cases told CNN—essentially giving up on one of the federal government's most effective tools to fight police misconduct.”

• A tale of two presidents, presented without comment: Earlier today, former president Barack Obama issued a statement. A key quote: “So the bottom line is this: if we want to bring about real change, then the choice isn’t between protest and politics. We have to do both. We have to mobilize to raise awareness, and we have to organize and cast our ballots to make sure that we elect candidates who will act on reform.”

• Also earlier today, President Trump lashed out at governors on a phone call with them. Key quote, according to Fox News (yes, Fox News):You have to dominate; if you don't dominate, you're wasting your time. They're going to run over you; you're going to look like a bunch of jerks. You have to dominate.”

• The more things change, the more things stay the same: Today’s the 99th anniversary of one of the most awful chapters in American history. If you don’t know about the 1921 Tulsa race massacre, please read up.

• These protests, while necessary, are coming in the middle of a pandemic that’s far from over—and it has medical professionals very worried that these mass gatherings will help the virus spread. Heed the warnings of Atlanta’s mayor: If you’ve been part of a mass protest, please go get tested for the virus.

• Late Friday night, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling, affirmed California’s right to place restrictions on religious services during the pandemic. Fascinatingly, Chief Justice John Roberts joined with the liberal wing of the court.

• Showing, YET AGAIN, how little we know about this damned virus: There’s evidence that SARS-CoV-2 attacks blood vessels, meaning it’s not merely a respiratory disease.

• And finally, a teeny, tiny sliver of good news among all the chaos: Hey, the Palm Springs Air Museum is (responsibly) open again!

That’s enough for this odd and sad day. Please be safe. If you can afford it, please consider supporting ethical, honest local journalism by becoming a Supporter of the Independent. We’ll be back for what we’re hoping is a better day tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

What: The black truffle pommes frites

Where: AC3 Restaurant + Bar, 45350 Larkspur Lane, Palm Desert

How much: $9 separately; $7 at happy hour; $4 upcharge with the lobster B.L.T. (as shown)

Contact: 760-340-6069; www.ac3palmdesert.com

Why: They’re crispy and delicious.

AC3 Restaurant and Bar opened with one of the best pedigrees of any new local joint in recent memory: The restaurant—inside the gorgeous Hotel Paseo—is the result of a partnership between Trio’s Tony Marchese, and Copley’s on Palm Canyon’s Juliana and Andrew Copley.

I met friend and colleague Kevin there for a recent weekday lunch to see if AC3 lived up to that distinguished pedigree. The verdict? The figurative jury is still out on AC3’s offerings as a whole, but I can enthusiastically endorse one thing we had: the black truffle fries. In fact, I’ll even go so far as to say that these may be the best damn fries that I’ve had in the Coachella Valley. Really.

Being in a hotel on El Paseo, the restaurant serves all three meals—and the food isn’t exactly cheap. If you want the truffle fries on their own, an order will set you back $9, although you can get them for two bucks less during happy hour. In my case, I upgraded the fries that came with my lobster B.L.T. entrée … and was socked with a hefty $4 upcharge as a result.

While the lobster B.L.T. was good but not great—it was tasty, but the poached lobster didn’t have enough flavor to stand up to the other ingredients—the truffle fries were stellar. They were perfectly prepared, with the perfect amounts of truffle flavor, grana padano cheese and other seasonings. Oh, and they were delightfully crispy—just as french fries should be. The accompanying truffle aioli was a delight.

I’ll be returning to AC3 soon for these fries at either lunch or dinner. (Alas, they’re not available on the breakfast menu.) No matter where you are in the Coachella Valley, these fries are worth the drive.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

John Neumann’s sculptures have been featured in solo exhibitions and group shows throughout the country for decades. His abstractions are thematically tied to movement, in series focusing on mythology, dance/music—and even the universe.

Neumann is prolific; for his current Sol series, Neumann has produced 14 pieces since February—and will complete another three before the end of this year. In fact, one of those sculptures was just given a rather prominent temporary home: “Sol III” is an 8-foot, 9-inch sculpture selected by the city of Palm Desert for a two-year display in the El Paseo median between San Luis Rey Avenue and Larkspur Lane.

“Sol III” includes bright, cheerful red and blue linear bars holding a yellow sphere, offering a lyrical feeling through its Constructivist style. Considering some Constructivists seek to create works that have active viewers, the placement of “Sol III” on El Paseo is perfect.

“Constructivism is about negative space or the orchestration of positive to negative space,” Neumann says. “The Sol series is about the relationship of linear elements to a sphere. It is the movement of how one color works off another, with a sphere as the catalyst that sets them in motion.”

Other influences on Neumann’s sculpture include Surrealism, with its “auto-sense of thought/dream and creation,” he says, and “Abstract Expressionism, because it has a look of spontaneity, as if it just happened—even if it took a long time to create!”

Beginning with a thumbnail sketch, Neumann develops a design from which he creates a maquette—about 10 inches tall, maybe a little higher.

“Changes always occur from the sketch, since the space is different when it is realized three-dimensionally,” Neumann says.

An intermediate-scale sculpture is next—generally 3 to 4 feet tall, a standard gallery size.

The sculpture is made of steel and then painted with automotive paint or acrylic enamel paint. “Acrylic enamel paint is quicker-drying and tougher—I think more durable, and better for the environment!” Neumann says. Prices of works in the Sol series range from $1,500 up to about $25,000.

“My work has always been inspired by movement,” Neumann says. “Visual movement is the same; sometimes, the thought process and inspiration to capture something in motion is different.”

Earlier series were mainly inspired by dance and music, with sculpture titles like “Waltz,” “Flamingo,” “Slow Dancing,” “Swing” and “Jitterbug.” He also made one sculpture titled “Take the A Train.”

“Whether about mythology, dance or the universe,” says Neumann, “my biggest concern is capturing something in motion. The newer pieces (in the Sol series) are like drawing in space—very linear and not as massive as with others. With the cosmic story between negative and positive space, the work is open.”

In some of Newmann’s older pieces, the edges were closed, encompassing space; in the Sol series, the axis points seem to unleash playful bolts of energy with airy negative space.

John Neumann’s sculpture is on display at a La MOD in Palm Springs; Rondevoo Art + Design in Palm Desert; and Heath Gallery in Palm Springs. Neumann lives and works in Desert Hot Springs. He is available by appointment at 661-428-1125.

Published in Visual Arts

What: The Merguez lamb sausage

Where: Cuistot Restaurant, 72525 El Paseo, Palm Desert

How much: $9.50

Contact: 760-340-1000; cuistotrestaurant.com

Why: It’s affordable and delicious.

A round of applause, please, for the bar menu.

I can’t count the number of times I’ve gone to a restaurant and eschewed the main dining room in favor of the bar—and as a result, presumably had a superior experience while saving a few bucks to boot.

My most recent amazing bar-menu experience came at Cuistot, the much-loved, longstanding French restaurant at the western end of El Paseo in Palm Desert. The hubby and I had stopped in for the restaurant’s Palm Springs Craft Cocktail Week drink, an amazing (and gorgeous) gin-based beverage called the Aviation, so we headed for Cuistot’s bar area—cleverly named BARcelona. We were a bit peckish, so we decided to also get a small bite from the BARcelona menu. Our choice: the Merguez lamb sausage.

The sausage wound up being so delicious that we had to talk ourselves out of getting a second order. The reddish meat was impeccably flavorful—slightly spicy and pleasantly earthy. My only quibble is that the menu said the dish came tzatziki; it would have added a delightful creaminess, but it was nowhere to be found. On the plus side: The arugula beneath the sausage, doused with lamb jus, was no mere garnish; it was also delicious. We devoured every bit of it.

Bonus: From 4 to 6 p.m. in the bar, Cuistot also offers a happy hour menu. From that menu, an endorsement within an endorsement must go to the homemade pate, which was an utter steal at $9.50.

It was an amazing experience: The food, the drink, the affordable prices, and the conversation with Fernando the bartender were all impeccable.

Another round of applause, please, for the bar menu!

Published in The Indy Endorsement

Here are the results of the third annual Best of Coachella Valley readers' poll!

An all-time-high number of people voted in both rounds this year—and the slate of winners and finalists represent all parts of the valley.

Come celebrate the winners with us during the Best of Coachella Valley 2016-2017 Awards Show and Celebration, presented by Renova Solar. It will take place at 5:30 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 7, at Copa Nightclub—this year's Best Nightclub winner.

Thanks to all of you who voted in this year's poll!

Welcome to the Best of Coachella Valley 2016-2017.

—Jimmy Boegle, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.


ARTS

 

Best Art Gallery

Coachella Valley Art Scene

 

Runners up:

2. CODA

3. Heather James

4. Melissa Morgan

 

Best Indoor Venue

McCallum Theatre

 

Runners up:

2. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

3. The Hood Bar and Pizza

4. Fantasy Springs Special Events Center

5. The Date Shed

 

Best Local Arts Group/Organization

Palm Springs Art Museum

 

Runners up:

2. Coachella Valley Art Scene

3. McCallum Theatre

4. La Quinta Arts Foundation

5. Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre

 

Best Local Band

Venus and the Traps

 

Runners up:

2. The Flusters

3. Brightener

4. The Myx

5. War Drum

 

Best Local DJ

Alf Alpha

 

Runners up:

2. DJ Day

3. Alex Harrington

4. DJ Pwee

5. Tommy Locust

 

Best Local Musician (Individual)

Jesika Von Rabbit

 

Runners up:

2. Nico Flores

3. Keisha D

4. Kal David

5. EeVaan Tre

 

Best Local Visual Artist

Sofia Enriquez

 

Runners up:

2. Elena Bulatova

3. Ryan “Motel” Campbell

4. Marconi Calindas

 

Best Movie Theater

Century La Quinta and XD

 

Runners up:

2. Camelot Theatres

3 TIE

Regal Palm Springs Stadium 9

Regal Rancho Mirage Stadium 16 and IMAX

5. Century Theatres at the River

 

Best Museum

Palm Springs Art Museum

 

Runners up:

2. Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert

3. Coachella Valley History Museum

4. Agua Caliente Cultural Museum

5. La Quinta Museum

 

Best Outdoor Venue

Empire Polo Club

 

Runners up:

2. The Living Desert

3. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

4. Fantasy Springs Rock Yard

5. Palm Desert Civic Center Park

 

Best Producing Theater Company

Palm Canyon Theatre

 

Runners up:

2. Coachella Valley Repertory

3. Desert Rose Playhouse

4. Coyote StageWorks

5. Dezart Performs


LIFE IN THE VALLEY

 

Best Alternative Health Center

La Quinta Wellness Center

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Healing Center

3. Desert Hot Springs Health and Wellness Center

 

Best Farmers’ Market

College of the Desert Street Fair Farmers’ Market

 

Runners up:

2. Certified Farmers’ Market Old Town La Quinta

3. Certified Farmers’ Market Palm Springs

4. Palm Springs VillageFest

5. Certified Farmers’ Market Palm Desert

 

Best Local Activist/Advocacy Group/Charity

Coachella Valley Rescue Mission

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Animal Shelter

3. Desert AIDS Project

4. LGBT Community Center of the Desert

5. Shelter From the Storm

 

Best Gym

24 Hour Fitness

 

Runners up:

2. World Gym

3. EOS Fitness

4. In-Shape

5. Planet Fitness

 

Best Public Servant

Rep. Raul Ruiz

 

Runners up:

2. La Quinta Mayor Linda Evans

3. Palm Springs Mayor Rob Moon

4. Palm Springs City Councilman Geoff Kors

 

Best Yoga

Urban Yoga

 

Runners up:

2. Bikram Yoga Palm Desert-El Paseo

3. TIE

Evolve Yoga

Yoga Central

5. Bikram Yoga University Village

 

Best Bowling

Fantasy Springs Bowling Center

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Lanes

3. Canyon Lanes Bowling at Morongo

 

Best Auto Repair

Palms to Pines Automotive

 

Runners up:

2. Desert Classic Cars

3. Desert Lexus

4. L&L Automotive

5. Singh’s Automotive Repair

 

Best Car Wash

Elephant Car Wash/Rancho Super Car Wash

 

Runners up:

2. La Quinta Car Wash

3. Indio Car Wash

4. Airport Quick Car Wash

 

Best Plant Nursery

The Living Desert’s Palo Verde Garden Center

 

Runners up:

2. Moller’s Garden Center

3. Vintage Nursery

4. Bob Williams Nursery

 

Best Pet Supplies

Petco

 

Runners up:

2. Bones ’n’ Scones

3. PetSmart

4. Miriam’s Poochella Grooming

5. Desert Feed Bag

 

Best Annual Charity Event

Evening Under the Stars (AIDS Assistance Program)

 

Runners up:

2. McCallum Theatre Annual Gala

3. Ramblin’ and Gamblin’ (Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Desert)

4. Dinner in the Canyons (Agua Caliente Cultural Museum)

5. Center Stage (LGBT Community Center of the Desert)

 

Best Place to Gamble

Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa

3. Spa Resort Casino

4. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

5. Spotlight 29

 

Best Local TV News

KESQ News Channel 3

 

Runners up:

2. KMIR Channel 6

3. CBS Local 2

 

Best Local TV News Personality

Ginger Jeffries, KMIR Channel 6

 

Runners up:

2. Patrick Evans, CBS Local 2

3. Karen Devine, KESQ News Channel 3

4. Bianca Rae, KESQ News Channel 3

5. Gino LaMont, KMIR Channel 6

 

Best Local Radio Station

Mix 100.5

 

Runners up:

2. 93.7 KCLB

3. Jammin 99.5 FM

4. K-News 94.3

5. La Ponderosa 96.7 FM

 

Best Local Radio Personality

Jimi “Fitz” Fitzgerald, CV 104.3 FM

 

Runners up:

2. Bradley Ryan, Mix 100.5

3. Mozingo, Mix 100.5

4. Bill Feingold, K-News 94.3

5. Dan McGrath, Sunny 103.1 FM

 

Best Bookstore

Barnes & Noble

 

Runners up:

2. Rancho Mirage Public Library Booknook

3. Revivals

4. The Book Rack

 

Best Retail Music/Video Store

Record Alley

 

Runners up:

2. Best Buy

3. Barnes and Noble

 

Best Comics/Games Shop

Game Stop

 

2. Desert Oasis

3. Interstellar Comic Books and Collectables

 

Best Hotel Pool

Ace Hotel and Swim Club

 

Runners up:

2. Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa

3. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino

4. The Riviera

5. The Saguaro

 

Best Sex Toy Shop

Skitzo Kitty

 

Runners up:

2. Not So Innocent

3. Spencer’s Gifts

4. GayMart


FASHION AND STYLE

 

Best Clothing Store (Locally Owned)

Bobby G’s

 

2. Wil Stiles

3. Glossy

 

Best Resale/Vintage Clothing

Angel View

 

Runners up:

2. Revivals

3. Gypsyland

4. Penny Lane Boutique

5. Plato’s Closet

 

Best Furniture Store

Mathis Brothers

 

Runners up:

2. Revivals

3. Ashley Furniture Homestore

4. Mor Furniture for Less

 

Best Antiques/Collectables Store

TIE

The Estate Sale Co

Victoria’s Attic

 

Runners up:

3. Misty’s Consignments

4. Classic Consignment

 

Best Jeweler/Jewelry Store

El Paseo Jewelers

 

Runners up:

Leeds and Son

Hephaestus

Daniel’s Jewelers

Robann’s Jewelers

 

Best Hair Salon

J. Russell! The Salon

 

Runners up:

2. Salon 119 and Spa

3. Dishwater Blonde Salon

4. Revive Salon and Spa

5. Read Brown

 

Best Spa in a Resort/Hotel

Spa La Quinta (La Quinta Resort)

 

Runners up:

2. The Spa at Desert Springs (JW Marriott)

3. Sunstone Spa at Agua Caliente

4. Agua Serena Spa at Hyatt Regency Indian Wells

5. Well Spa at Miramonte

 

Best Day Spa (Non-Resort/Hotel)

Massage Envy

 

Runners up:

2. Desert Zen

3. Studio M Salon and Spa

4. Revive Wellness Center

5. Bliss Chakra Spa

 

Best Florist

My Little Flower Shop

 

Runners up:

2. Indio Florist

3. Rancho Mirage Florist

4. Palm Springs Florist

5. Lotus Garden Center

 

Best Tattoo Parlor

TIE

Art and Ink Tattoo Studio

The Tattoo Gallery

 

Runners up:

3. Flagship Tattoo

4. Adornment Piercing and Private Tattoo

5. Strata Tattoo Lab

 

Best Eyeglass/Optical Retailer

Costco

 

Runners up:

2. Desert Vision Optometry

3. Milauskas Eye Institute

4. Walmart

5. Old Town Optometry


OUTSIDE!

 

Best Urban Landscaping

El Paseo

 

Runners up:

2. Sunnylands

3. Downtown Palm Springs

 

Best Public Garden

The Living Desert

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Desert Civic Center Park

3. Sunnylands

4. El Paseo

5. Ruth Hardy Park

 

Best Place for Bicycling

La Quinta

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs

3. Palm Desert

4. Highway 74

5. Frank Sinatra Drive

 

Best Recreation Area

Joshua Tree

 

Runners up:

2. Tahquitz Canyon

3. Whitewater Preserve

4. Lake Cahuilla

5. Coachella Valley Preserve

 

Best Hike

Bump and Grind

 

Runners up:

2. Indian Canyons

3. Tahquitz Canyon

4. Palm Springs Museum Trail

5. South Lykken Trail

 

Best Park

Palm Desert Civic Center Park

 

Runners up:

2. TIE

Freedom Park (Palm Desert)

Ruth Hardy Park

4. Rancho Las Flores (Coachella)

5. Demuth Park (Palm Springs)

 

Best Outdoor/Camping Gear Store

Big 5 Sporting Goods

 

Runners up:

2. Dick’s Sporting Goods

3. Yellow Mart

 

Best Bike Shop

Palm Desert Cyclery

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Springs Cyclery

3. Tri-A-Bike

4. Joel’s Bicycle Shop

 

Best Sporting Goods

Big 5 Sporting Goods

 

Runners up:

2. Dick’s Sporting Goods

3. Yellow Mart

4. Pete Carlson’s Golf and Tennis

5. PGA Tour Superstore

 

Best Public Golf Course

Desert Willow Golf Resort

 

Runners up:

2. PGA West

3. Eagle Falls Golf Course at Fantasy Springs

4. The Golf Club at Terra Lago

5. The Lights at Indio Golf Course


FOR THE KIDS

 

Best Playground

Palm Desert Civic Center Park

 

Runners up:

2. La Quinta Civic Center Park

3. Ruth Hardy Park

4. Rancho Mirage Community Park

5. Cathedral City Town Square

 

Best Place to Buy Toys

Toys “R” Us

 

Runners up:

2. Mr. G’s for Kids

3. Target

4. Walmart

5. Big Lots

 

Best Kids’ Clothing Store

Old Navy

 

Runners up:

2. The Childrens Place

3. Tillys

4. Fallas

5. Revivals

 

Best Restaurant for Kids

Chuck E. Cheese’s

 

Runners up:

2. Shakey’s Pizza

3. Red Robin

4. Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill

5. Old Spaghetti Factory

 

Best Place for Family Fun

The Living Desert

 

Runners up:

2. Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert

3. Boomers

4. Chuck E. Cheese

5. Desert Ice Castle

 

Best Place for a Birthday Party

Chuck E. Cheese’s

 

Runners up:

2. The Living Desert

3. Boomers

4. Lulu California Bistro

5. Desert Ice Castle


FOOD AND RESTAURANTS

 

Best Casual Eats

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. In-n-Out Burger

3. Lulu California Bistro

4. Eureka!

5. Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill

 

Best Caterer

Lulu California Bistro

 

2. Lavender Bistro

3. Jennifer’s Kitchen and Catering

4. Dash and a Handful

5. Cello’s Pantry

 

Best Diner

Keedy’s Fountain Grill

 

Runners up:

2. Café 54 at the Augustine Casino

3. Elmer’s

4. John’s

5. Rick’s Restaurant

 

Best Organic Food Store

Trader Joe’s

 

2. Sprouts Farmers Market

3. Whole Foods

4. Harvest Health Foods

5. Clark’s Nutrition

 

Best Delicatessen

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

 

Runners up:

2. TKB Bakery and Deli

3. Manhattan in the Desert

4. Real Italian Deli

5. Clementine Gourmet Marketplace

 

Best Custom Cakes

TIE

Over the Rainbow

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

 

Runners up:

3. Pastry Swan Bakery

4. Manhattan in the Desert

5. Exquisite Desserts

 

Best Desserts

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

 

Runners up:

2. French Corner Café

3. Pastry Swan Bakery

4. Over the Rainbow

5. Manhattan in the Desert

 

Best Ice Cream/Shakes

Cold Stone Creamery

 

Runners up:

2. Great Shakes

3. Ben and Jerry’s

4. Brandini Toffee

5. Creamistry

 

Best Date Shake

Shields Date Garden

 

Runners up:

2. Hadley’s

3. Great Shakes

 

Best Frozen Yogurt

Yogurtland

 

2. Beach House

3. Golden Spoon

4. Jus Chillin

5. Eddie’s Frozen Yogurt

 

Best Bakery

French Corner Café

 

Runners up:

2. Aspen Mills

3. Over the Rainbow

4. Pastry Swan Bakery

5. Peninsula Pastries

 

Best Barbecue

Smoke Tree BBQ Bar and Grill

 

Runners up:

2. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse

3. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace

4. Jackalope Ranch

5. Dickey’s Barbecue Pit

 

Best Burger

In-n-Out Burger

 

Runners up:

2. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

3. Tyler’s Burgers

4. Eureka!

5. Smokin’ Burgers and Lounge

 

Best Veggie Burger

Native Foods Café

 

Runners up:

2. Eureka!

3. Palm Greens Café

4. Trio

5. Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge

 

Best Sandwich

Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

 

Runners up:

2. TKB Bakery and Deli

3. The Sandwich Spot

4. Manhattan in the Desert

5. Aspen Mills

 

Best Pizza

Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill

 

Runners up:

2. Bill’s Pizza

3. Giuseppe’s Pizza and Pasta

4. Piero’s PizzaVino

5. Blaze Pizza

 

Best Wings

Buffalo Wild Wings

 

Runners up:

2. Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill

3. Wingstop

4. Neil’s Lounge

5. Billy Q’s

 

Best Bagels

Townie Bagels

 

Runners up:

2. Panera Bread

3. Sherman’s Deli and Bakery

4. Einstein Bros. Bagels

5. Manhattan in the Desert

 

Best Smoothies

Fresh Juice Bar

 

Runners up:

2. Jamba Juice

3. Juice It Up

4. Beach House Yogurt

 

Best Buffet

Café 54 at Augustine Casino

 

Runners up:

2. Grand Palms Buffet at Agua Caliente

3. Fresh Grill Buffet at Fantasy Springs

4. Oasis Buffet at Spa Resort Casino

5. Potrero Canyon Buffet at Morongo

 

Best Coffee Shop for Coffee

Starbucks

 

Runners up:

2. Koffi

3. IW Coffee

4. Vintage Coffee House

5. Ristretto

 

Best Coffee Shop for Hanging Out

Koffi

 

Runners up:

2. Starbucks

3. Old Town Coffee

4. IW Coffee

5. Ernst Coffee

 

Best Tea

Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf

 

Runners up:

2. Starbucks

3. Teavana

4. Koffi

5. Ristretto

 

Best Breakfast

Wilma and Frieda’s Café

 

Runners up:

2. Elmer’s

3. Spencer’s Restaurant

4. Sunshine Cafe

5. John’s

 

Best California Cuisine

Lulu California Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. La Quinta Cliffhouse

3. Zin American Bistro

4. Spencer’s Restaurant

5. Trio

 

Best Brunch

Pinocchio in the Desert

 

Runners up:

2. Wilma and Frieda’s

3. Spencer’s Restaurant

4. Louise’s Pantry

5. The Tropicale

 

Best Chinese

PF Chang’s

 

Runners up:

2. City Wok

3. Wang’s in the Desert

4. JOY at Fantasy Springs

5. New Fortune

 

Best Greek

Greek Islands Restaurant

 

Runners up:

2. Miro’s Restaurant

3. Nina’s Greek Cuisine

4. Koutouki Greek Estiatorio

5. Athena Gyro

 

Best French

La Brasserie

 

Runners up:

2. Si Bon

3. Le Vallauris

4. Cuistot

5. Chez Pierre

 

Best Indian

Monsoon Indian Cuisine

 

Runners up:

2. India Oven

3. Naan House

 

Best Japanese

Kobe Japanese Steakhouse

 

Runners up:

2. Okura Robata Grill and Sushi Bar

3. JOY at Fantasy Springs

4. Shabu Shabu Zen

5. Shogun Restaurant

 

Best Italian

Mario’s Italian Cafe

 

Runners up:

2. Ristorante Mamma Gina

3. Castelli’s

4. Trilussa

5. Livreri’s Palm Springs

 

Best Sushi

Okura Robata Grill and Sushi Bar

 

Runners up:

The Venue Sushi Bar and Sake Lounge

Shogun Restaurant

Dragon Sushi

Edoko Sushi

 

Best Seafood

Fisherman’s Market

 

Runners up:

2. Café 54 at Augustine Casino

3. Pacifica Seafood Restaurant

4. Mitch’s on El Paseo

5. Spencer’s Restaurant

 

Best Steakhouse

LG’s Prime Steakhouse

 

Runners up:

2. Ruth’s Chris Steak House

3. Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar

4. TIE

Morgan’s in the Desert

Steakhouse at the Spa

 

Best Thai

Thai Smile Palm Springs

 

Runners up:

2. Thai House

3. Pepper’s Thai Cuisine

4. Le Basil

5. Blue Orchid

 

Best Vietnamese

Pho Vu

 

Runners up:

2. Pho 533

3. Rooster and the Pig

4. Watercress Vietnamese Bistro

5. Pho Na

 

Best Vegetarian/Vegan

Native Foods Café

 

Runners up:

2. Palm Greens Café

3. Nature’s Health Food and Café

4. Luscious Lorraine’s

5. Café Jasmin

 

Best Upscale Cuisine

Spencer’s Restaurant

 

Runners up:

2. Wally’s Desert Turtle

3. Le Vallauris

4. Johannes

5. Jillian’s

 

Best Outdoor Seating

Jackalope Ranch

 

Runners up:

2. Spencer’s Restaurant

3. Las Casuelas Terraza

4. Lavender Bistro

5. The Tropicale

 

Best Late-Night Restaurant

Yard House

 

Runners up:

2. Lulu California Bistro

3. Alicante

4. Smokin’ Burgers

5. Bongo Johnny’s

 

Best Mexican

La Casita

 

Runners up:

2. Fresh Agave

3. El Mirasol

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill’

5. Casa Mendoza

 

Best Salsa

Las Casuelas (Original)

 

Runners up:

2. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

3. Las Casuelas Terraza

3. Las Casuelas Quinta

5. Felipe’s

 

Best Burrito

Taqueria Guerrero

 

Runners up:

2. Castaneda’s Mexican Food

3. Chipotle

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. Casa Mendoza


SPIRITS AND NIGHTLIFE

 

Best Beer Selection

Yard House

 

Runners up:

2. Burgers and Beer

3. The Beer Hunter

4. Eureka!

5. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brew House

 

Best Local Brewery

Coachella Valley Brewing Co.

 

Runners up:

2. La Quinta Brewing Co.

3. Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brew House

 

Best Place to Play Pool/Billiards

The Beer Hunter

 

Runners up:

2. Neil’s Lounge

3. Hunters

4. Bart Lounge

5. Score the Game Bar

 

Best Cocktail Menu

Tommy Bahama Restaurant and Bar

 

Runners up:

2. The Tropicale

3. Eureka!

4. Mitch’s on El Paseo

5. Trio

 

Best Gay/Lesbian Bar/Club

Toucan’s

 

Runners up:

2. Chill Bar

3. Hunters

4. The Tropicale

5. Spurline

 

Best Happy Hour

Stuft Pizza Bar and Grill

 

Runners up:

2. Applebee’s

3. The Tropicale

4. La Quinta Cliffhouse

5. Mitch’s on El Paseo

 

Best Dive Bar

The Hood Bar and Pizza

 

Runners up:

2. Neil’s Lounge

3. Hair of the Dog

4. Red Barn

5. Score

 

Best Margarita

Las Casuelas (Original)

 

Runners up:

2. Fresh Agave

3. El Mirasol

4. Rio Azul Mexican Bar and Grill

5. Casa Mendoza

 

Best Martini

Sullivan’s Steakhouse

 

Runners up:

2. Mitch’s on El Paseo

3. Mastro’s Steakhouse

4. The Tropicale

5. Trio

 

Best Nightclub

Copa

 

Runners up:

2. Zelda’s

3. Hunter’s

4. Bart Lounge

5. Chill Bar

 

Best Sports Bar

The Beer Hunter

 

Runners up:

2. Burgers and Beer

3. Buffalo Wild Wings

4. Alicante

5. Village Pub

 

Best Wine Bar

Zin American Bistro

 

Runners up:

2. Sullivan’s Steakhouse

3. La Rue Wine Bar

4. Vue Grille and Bar

5. Dead or Alive

 

Best Wine/Liquor Store

Total Wine and More

 

Runners up:

2. BevMo!

3. Costco

4. Trader Joe’s

5. Fame Lounge

 

 

Best Bar Ambiance

Eureka!

 

Runners up:

2. Chill Bar

3. The Tropicale

4. Matchbox

5. Workshop Kitchen+Bar

Published in Readers' Picks

What: The No Name 2, as Part of All-You-Can-Eat Sushi

Where: No Da Te, 73655 El Paseo, Palm Desert

How much: $35 during our visit; $9 for just the roll

Contact: 760-340-3698

Why: Sometimes it’s good to splurge … responsibly.

On a recent visit to San Francisco, we decided to try an adorable little Japantown sushi restaurant. Its shtick: All of the customers sat around a little moat that had miniature boats with sushi on them constantly floating by. You could grab whatever you wanted; you knew the cost based on the type and color of the dish.

It was cute. It was fun. And it was fiscally dangerous: One particularly ravenous member of our party wound up racking up a $75 bill. On lunch.

This is why I prefer all-you-can-eat (AYCE) sushi joints: You walk in; you find out the price; and you can enjoy all the yumminess that you want without worrying about receiving a crazy-stupid bill at the end.

This is not to say that AYCE sushi is necessarily inexpensive; for example, when I walked into El Paseo sushi joint No Da Te for lunch recently, I paid $35, which is far more than I’d normally spend on lunch. However, $35 is a lot less than $75—and if I would have paid for everything I enjoyed separately, I would have spent closer to $75 than $35.

The food I had at No Da Te was fantastic across the board, but my favorite item was the No Name 2 roll—shrimp tempura, avocado, crab, egg and freshwater eel, all lovingly wrapped in soybean paper, and drizzled with just a touch of sweet eel sauce. It was splendid.

I recommend calling ahead to No Da Te to find out how much your AYCE meal will be—prices vary—but you can rest assured: Whatever that cost is, that’s all you’ll pay, as long as you stick to the AYCE menu. Relax; eat; savor; enjoy.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The Opera Cake

Where: Pastry Swan’s Fix, a Dessert House, 73580 El Paseo, Palm Desert

How much: $8.50

Contact: 760-340-3040; www.pastryswan.com

Why: It’s a dessert with a lot going on.

Epicurious.com tells the story of opera cake like this: “Many believe that Louis Clichy was its creator because he premiered the gâteau (cake), with his name written across the top, at the 1903 Exposition Culinaire in Paris. It became the signature cake of Clichy’s shop on the Boulevard Beaumarchais. However, another pastry shop, Dalloyau, sold a very similar dessert, known as L’Opéra (in honor of the Paris Opera), and some claim that theirs was the original.”

I don’t know who deserves credit for inventing opera cake, but I do know this: The version served al El Paseo’s Fix, a Dessert House, is pretty freaking incredible.

The Fix opened in 2011 and serves the yummy goodies produced by Pastry Swan, long one of the valley’s top bakeries. However, The Fix doesn’t just offer yummy baked goods; it also serves full meals, including pizzas, sandwiches and salads. Plus there’s a full bar!

However, let’s put aside the booze and entreés for now, because The Fix is most renowned for one thing: desserts. It’s in the restaurant name for a reason, after all.

Desserts are exactly what we were looking for on El Paseo one recent afternoon, and The Fix gave us, well, our desired sugar fix. Everything we had was yummy, but the opera, well, took the cake: The almond sponge cake with chocolate, coffee and marzipan notes was fantastic. This dessert is not for the faint of heart: It has a lot going on thanks to all of the varied yet complementary flavors. It’s also quite rich: After devouring a piece of opera cake, you won’t want a second piece right away.

However, you probably will want another the next day. Bon appétit.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: The capricciosa pizza

Where: Piero’s PizzaVino, 73722 El Paseo No. 1, Palm Desert

How much: $15.90 lunch; $18.50 dinner; $8.90 happy hour

Contact: 760-568-2525; www.ppizzavino.com

Why: Amazing quality and a low price.

It’s often said that pizza is like sex: Even when it’s bad, it’s good.

Well, I strongly disagree. I’ve had some baaaad pizza before that was in no way good. (As for bad sex … well, that’s a discussion for a different column.) After enjoying the capricciosa pizza at Piero’s PizzaVino, I disagree even more: This pizza is so excellent that it makes almost all other pizza worse by comparison.

The folks at Piero’s PizzaVino take their pizza seriously: The menu and placemats emphasize that all the pizzas here are baked at 800-900 degrees for 60-90 seconds or so in the imported “Marra” Neapolitan wood-burning oven. Furthermore, the pizza-makers use only San Marzano tomatoes grown near Naples, Italy; they use only Doppio Zero flour, which has a higher protein content than most flours; and they use only house-made Fior di Latte mozzarella cheese.

Combine all of this with excellent toppings on the capricciosa pizza—ham, mushrooms, artichokes and kalamata olives (the menu incorrectly says black olives), in addition to tomato sauce and mozzarella—and … wow. I would have stood and applauded the pizza right there in Piero’s bar area if that would not have caused a scene.

Why was I dining in the bar area, you ask? Well, Piero’s offers “happy hour” there all day, every day—from 11:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.—and the deals are pretty amazing: The pizza pictured here cost just $8.90. Yeah, it’s a little smaller than the regular-menu pizzas, but it’s certainly large enough to satisfy any hungry diner. Add a glass of nice house wine ($5) to that pizza, and you really have something: one of the best meals per dollar you’ll find anywhere in the valley—on ritzy El Paso, no less. Who’da thunk it?

Published in The Indy Endorsement

We’re living in a video world. Cameras are everywhere: on streets, tablets, smart phones and satellites.

Cameras can also help protect the public and law enforcement alike when placed in key public areas and—increasingly—on police officers themselves.

However, you won’t find very many law-enforcement cameras in the Coachella Valley. For instance, Palm Springs Police Department officers do not wear body cams, nor do their police vehicles have dashboard cams. The same goes for the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, which enforces law and order in Palm Desert, Indian Wells, Rancho Mirage and elsewhere.

An early February request to talk about cameras with Alberto Franz, the Palm Springs chief of police, was answered by an assistant who stated that the chief was busy until the end of month. On the contrary, San Diego Police Chief Shelley Zimmerman was happy to talk, both one-on-one and via email.

“I am a huge proponent and completely support the use of body-worn cameras on our police officers,” Zimmerman said. “We have 600 officers wearing cameras. By the year’s end, all of our officers working in a uniform patrol assignment (about 1,000) will be wearing them. Having officers wearing body-worn cameras is a win-win for both the officer and the community.”

Meanwhile, here in Riverside County, the Riverside Sheriffs’ Association, the union that represents deputies, is going to court in an attempt to stop the county from issuing body cams to on-duty deputies. Deputy Armando Munoz, the public information officer at the sheriff’s Palm Desert station, stated that “nobody … will talk about the body cameras at this point since the whole issue is still in court proceedings.”

While Chief Franz declined to talk about possible body cameras, Sgt. Harvey Reed, the Palm Springs Police Department spokesperson, did talk. He said management has started looking at different makes and models of cameras. Of particular interest is a clip-on camera that attaches to an officer’s shirt below the collar. It shows the area directly in front of the officer, as well as slightly to the left and right, and records in color with sound.

“When policies and procedures are developed, privacy expectations will be taken into consideration,” he said.

Certainly, when it comes to cameras, privacy issues are important. In fact, former police dispatcher Laura Crawford, now enjoying retirement in Rancho Mirage, remembers when officers’ unions even didn’t want global-positioning systems activated in police cruisers.

“It was vital to me as a dispatcher to know where an officer was if all hell broke loose,” Crawford said. “Body cameras have the same issues, as officers feel everything they do is under scrutiny.”

San Diego’s Chief Zimmerman, however, believes the positives of body cameras far outweigh negatives.

“A body worn-camera can be a very valuable training tool for the officer,” Zimmerman said. “Currently, at my department, we are hiring many police officers, and having the ability to see the video will only enhance the training of our officers.”

Surveillance cameras and traffic cameras can also be useful in combating crimes. Yet desert cities are lagging behind when it comes to adopting this technology as well.

David Hermann, the public information officer at the city of Palm Desert, confirmed there are no monitored traffic cameras on public streets in Palm Desert.

Mark Greenwood, Palm Desert’s director of public works, said the city does have a few traffic signals equipped with cameras that allow the signal to change more quickly based on the presence of vehicles. However, these low-resolution cameras do not record, and are not monitored. Palm Desert also has five portable, motion-detecting cameras that are meant to discourage vandalism and graffiti; they take still photos when they detect motion. However, when I spoke to Hermann in February, he said none of the cameras were deployed.

Palm Springs police dispatchers have the ability to monitor 11 cameras, mostly in the downtown area. The video from these cameras, according to Sgt. Reed, is recorded and retained for a period of one year. Palm Springs has 80 intersections with signals.

In the near future, Palm Springs will proceed with the construction of a new Traffic Management Center and Citywide Traffic Signal Interconnect Project. According to Marcus Fuller, an assistant city manager and city engineer, the federally funded, $2 million-plus project will include numerous new traffic cameras, although it has not yet been determined if and how data will be stored.

Stay tuned.

Published in Local Issues

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