CVIndependent

Fri05242019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Between June 2011 and October 2014, 32 California cities eliminated their red-light-camera enforcement systems—including the city of Riverside in September, according to watchdog website Highwayrobbery.net.

However, the system continues to operate in Cathedral City.

The city’s contract with American Traffic Solutions (ATS) of Tempe, Ariz., expired back in February, but the City Council voted 4-1 to renew the contract in May, after negotiating more-favorable terms. Still, the program remains unpopular with segments of the city’s population (as well as residents of other desert cities who regularly drive through Cathedral City), particularly those who have been captured on video and in freeze-frame images that result in costly citations.

There are three cameras, watching the intersections of Date Palm Drive and Ramon Road; Ramon and Landau Boulevard; and Vista Chino at Date Palm.

“People don’t like getting citations and having to pay fines for violations,” said Cathedral City Police Department Operations Captain Chuck Robinson. “It’s funny, because a lot of times, we get folks who don’t like the fact that they got one, but when you go back and look at the video, it’s a clear red-light violation that they were involved in. So the question you have to put to them is: ‘Do you think it’s OK to run a red light? And if you had stopped, would you have gotten a ticket?’”

Robinson said Cathedral City police receive few complaints about the system.

“I would say out of 200 to 300 citations issued per month, we get a couple of complaints,” he said. “You’d be surprised. We’ve had this system in place since 2006, and we don’t get the number of complaints that you would think based on the attention that the media and other proponents or opponents pay to the system.”

A few months ago, Cathedral City Mayor Kathy DeRosa told local TV stations that the system was worthwhile, even though it was a money-losing proposition for the cash-strapped city.

What was the rationale that drove that one-sided 4-1 vote? “The program actually worked; it did exactly what it was designed to do for us,” said Robinson. “We saw the results that we were hoping to see, which was a reduction in collisions, which means less property damage, fewer injuries and fewer response calls from public-safety agencies. Then it came down to: ‘Was it worth the price for the benefits we were getting out of it?’ When the mayor commented that it was losing money, she was 100 percent correct.”

A request for statistics supporting the claimed decrease in accidents at the intersections in question could not be fulfilled prior to our deadline, reportedly due to staff reductions resulting from city government cutbacks. However, for an Independent story first published in September 2013, Robinson offered statistics that were mixed: The figures showed that the number of accidents at the three intersections were higher in both 2011 and 2012 than they were in 2010, the first full year that all of the cameras were operational. In 2010, there were 15 such collisions at Cathedral City red-light camera intersections. In 2011, that total rose to 25 collisions. In 2012, the number decreased to 17. He also said that the first year the red-light camera was at the intersection of Date Palm and Ramon, the city saw a 30 percent reduction in the number of collisions.

Can Cathedral City afford to support potential additional costs if the system does not pay for itself by taking in sufficient violation revenues? Robinson said new contract terms with ATS should keep the system in the black.

“We used to pay $15,000 total, per month, for the system, or $5,000 per camera. Now we’ve dropped the per-camera cost to $3,500 per month, which is more than a 30 percent reduction in the system’s cost,” Robinson said.

Another element in the cost-benefit analysis is a marked increase in violations revenue since the start of 2014. According to data provided by Robinson, in all of 2013, there were 1,237 red-light-camera citations issued to drivers, while through just September of 2014, 2,181 citations had been processed.

What’s driving this sudden increase? “I’m not sure of the actual time frames (in 2013) without going back to do a bit of research, but I do know that we had quite a bit of construction going on, and I know that as a result, we did experience a lot less violation activity,” Robinson said. “Now, all intersections have opened back up, and if we’re seeing increased activity, that could be the reason why.”

The Independent reviewed data provided by the website highwayrobbery.net, which indicates that construction closures affected two intersections from July to October of 2013. However, the data also revealed that a year-to-year comparison of the months January through May—when there was no construction—showed a substantial growth in citations.

Concerned citizens can take heart, though: The upcoming Nov. 4 elections are guaranteed to result in three new City Council members, so perhaps the council will have a change of heart.

“We built into the contract a clause saying that on 60 business days’ notice, we can terminate the contract,” Robinson said.

Published in Local Issues

What: The cheese Danish

Where: Villa Bakery, 67470 Ramon Road, Cathedral City

How much: 80 cents

Contact: 760-322-5701

Why: It’s flaky, sweet, cheesy and generally delicious.

Sometimes, good things can result when bad things happen.

I was driving down Ramon Road recently when I saw that someone had kicked or punched in the plastic door on the Independent’s orange distribution box outside of Villa Bakery, located on Ramon and Crossley Road in Cathedral City.

Crap, I thought. I stopped to check the damage; the door was indeed busted, but it appeared that I might be able to engineer a temporary fix with the help of some clear packing tape.

But first things first: I was hungry, and I’d been meaning to try Villa Bakery for quite some time. So … it was time for lunch.

I walked in, scanned the menu at the counter, and ordered the pollo ranchero ($6.75). However, my eyes kept wandering toward the pastry display case.

Hmm. This is a bakery, after all, I thought. So I asked the woman at the counter: What’s your best pastry?

She said the cheese Danish was pretty popular. I added one to my order. Well, now I know why the cheese Danish is pretty popular: It’s the best gosh-darned pastry I have eaten in years.

First, the pastry part of the pastry: It’s flaky, buttery, just sweet enough, and just soft enough, kind of like a really amazing croissant.

Then there’s the cheesy part of the pastry: It actually tastes like cheese—it’s sweet, yes, but it’s got character and nuance.

Put the pastry part and the cheesy part together, and … damn, it’s amazing.

The pollo ranchero was tasty, and I was more than full after eating it and the cheese Danish. But that didn’t stop me from getting another cheese Danish on my way out.

Thank goodness for that broken (and now-repaired) distribution box.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

There is but one ice rink operating in the Coachella Valley: Cathedral City’s Desert Ice Castle, offering “the coolest fun in the desert,” according to its slogan.

While the Desert Ice Castle is open to the public, it also has a mysterious element to it—including the fact that it’s a main training spot for a potential 2014 Olympic medalist. I wanted to talk to the owner—Anthony Liu, a former Olympic men’s figure-skater and a seven-time Australian champion—about the Desert Ice Castle. But for weeks, he eluded my phone calls and requests to talk.

So at 7 a.m. on one recent Saturday morning, I went to the DIC with my camera, hoping to photograph and talk to Liu. I’d been told that he was back in town briefly between international trips to skating competitions being held in preparation for the Olympics—two of which had been won by his star pupil, Japanese Olympic medal contender Tatsuki Machida. On this morning, he was coaching some advanced skating pupils and was already on the ice when I got there.

Shortly after I started taking pictures, I spotted Liu through my telephoto lens: He was staring right at me, and did not look pleased. I lowered my camera, smiled and nodded across the ice. With a curt nod of his own, Liu skated toward me.

I introduced myself and explained why I was there. He smiled and said: “Please don’t mention me in the article.”

“Don’t mention you?” I replied, quite surprised. “But you own this place.”

Again, he smiled. “Well, you can mention I’m an owner, but please don’t use a picture of me. Thank you.”

He turned away and stepped back onto the ice. With that, the hoped-for photo session and interview came to an end.


On a recent warm winter day, as I followed assistant manager Jennifer Gonzalez (right) into the rink area, I was met by an Arctic air blast. The Ice Castle was indeed living up to its aforementioned slogan.

What brings the most people to this Perez Road facility? “The hockey leagues definitely bring in the most money right now,” said Gonzalez. “We have four travelling teams for the kids (ages 4-17), and an in-house adult league with six teams, one of which is made up entirely of players from the 29 Palms Marine Corps Air Ground Combat base.

“The public skating is pretty popular, too, along with the birthday-party-room bookings, and it’s particularly busy on the weekends,” Jennifer said. “Friday and Saturday nights, the crowd is mostly younger folks without parents, while Sundays, we get mostly families skating together. And we’re always busiest in the summer, because it’s so cool in here.”

There must be obstacles to keeping the ice in good condition during those steamy desert summer months. “In the summer, it’s very expensive to run the three compressors needed to create and maintain the ice,” Gonzalez concurred. “And another challenge is to manage the condition of the ice, because the figure-skaters need soft ice, while the hockey teams must have hard ice, or the surface gets so chopped up that it’s unusable for figure-skating.”

The DIC is a family business. It’s owned by Liu, and managed by Andrew Luczynski, Liu’s father-in-law. Caroline, Liu’s wife, plays a substantial role as well.

Built on the site of a former Coca-Cola bottling plant, the DIC development effort began in earnest in mid-2010. The management team projected the rink would open in April 2011, but financial and construction challenges pushed back that date to Sept. 9, 2011. During construction, the common belief in the international competitive figure-skating community was that the Desert Ice Castle was built to complement the training capabilities of a Southern California sister facility, the world-renowned Arrowhead Ice Castle, which had been bought by Liu in 2003.

For several decades, the Arrowhead Ice Castle was the picturesque training site of choice for many of the world’s most-serious Olympic figure-skating contenders, as well as their coaches, including the legendary Frank Carroll. The reigning 2010 Olympic men’s figure-skating champion Evan Lysacek had trained there, as had Michelle Kwan, Robin Cousins, Nicole Bobek, Surya Bonaly and Chen Lu. The list goes on.

When the DIC opened, Frank Carroll (who has a home in Palm Springs) committed to using the new rink as his training base. But in May 2013, an announcement came that he was returning to his former host rink, the Toyota Sports Center, in El Segundo. “Our figure-skating department is thrilled to have the return of this elite level of training,” said Juliette Harton, the director of skating at the Toyota Center, in a press release issued at the time. “Mr. Carroll brings strong, respected leadership to a superb staff deep with Olympic, world and national level coaches.”

That development was followed by another surprising move, made this past August: Liu closed the beloved Arrowhead rink. The announcement shocked the competitive figure-skating community. Liu cited the inability to get enough revenue from the community-participant activities such as hockey leagues and public sessions, and invited all of the coaches and athletes still working there to follow him to his new rink in Cathedral City. It’s unclear how many have.

Today, when you walk into the DIC foyer, you are confronted immediately by the wall of competitive figure-skating coaches who work there—headed up by Frank Carroll. Given Carroll’s publicized departure, one wonders why his photo still leads off the coaching display.

So who has replaced Carroll as the Ice Castle’s most-accomplished coach? It’s none other than Liu himself, thanks in part to his tutelage of Tatsuki Machida, who trained often at the DIC in 2013.

But no photo of Mr. Liu can be found on the coaching wall of fame—or anywhere else I saw at the DIC, for that matter.

Why does Anthony Liu insist on keeping such a low public profile, when promoting his professional stature could benefit his Desert Ice Castle endeavor? And what will happen to the stature of Liu and the Desert Ice Castle if Tatsuki Machida wins an Olympic medal, with the whole world watching?

Stay tuned.

Published in Features

More than 40 cities in California have terminated red-light camera programs within the last 10 years, according TheNewspaper.com, “a journal of the politics of driving.”

San Diego announced the end of that city’s program—in which drivers were mailed tickets after tripping sensors and then getting photographed in the act of an apparent traffic violation at an intersection—in February of this year. Numerous cities in other states have similarly ended participation in this well-intentioned, but often ill-conceived approach to traffic law enforcement. At least eights states prohibit the use of red-light camera systems, including Arkansas, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wisconsin.

Yet Cathedral City is sticking with its red-light camera program—at least for now.

Since March 2006, the city has had a red-light camera at Date Palm Drive and Ramon Road; in February 2009, the city added two more: At Date Palm and Vista Chino, and at Landau Boulevard and Ramon.

“It’s a cost-benefit exam,” said Capt. Chuck Robinson, the Cathedral City Police Department’s public information officer. “When we look at the system over the first five years, we saw a lot of good things come out of the safety aspect. A lot of the issues that have been brought up as arguments against the system, we’ve essentially nullified, because we did it right. We did it right from the beginning, and we did it for the right reasons.”

Public officials generally cite two reasons for supporting red-light camera programs. The first is that they benefit public safety by reducing vehicle collisions in the targeted intersections.

However, the statistics provided by Capt. Robinson show that the number of accidents at these three intersections were higher in both 2011 and 2012 than they were in 2010, the first full year that all of the cameras were operational. In 2010, there were 15 such collisions at Cathedral City red-light camera intersections. In 2011, that total soared to 25 collisions. In 2012, the number decreased to 17.

As for the statistics at those intersections before the cameras were installed, Capt. Robinson said he couldn’t provide them. “We had a crime analyst who we lost during all the cutbacks last year. That crime analyst had all the historical data, especially the red-light camera stuff. So when we lost him last year, basically we lost all his work.”

However, he did recall one statistic: “I know anecdotally that the first year we had the red-light camera at the intersection of Date Palm and Ramon, we saw a 30 percent reduction in the number of collisions at that intersection.”

The second rationale is that the fines—almost $500 per ticket—imposed on drivers provide a revenue stream to cash-strapped municipalities. However, in the case of Cathedral City, that’s not the case; in fact, only the company that manages the program is making big bucks.

Along with the red-light statistics supplied to the Independent by Capt. Robinson, he wrote, “The cumulative revenue generated by the program since March 2006 to present is $1,455,817. The cost of the program management by ATS (American Traffic Solutions, a company based in Arizona) over that same time period is $933,227. The city acquired approximately $522,580 over these last seven years, which equates to approximately $74,654 per year in revenue.”

Capt. Robinson continued: “The personnel costs associated with reviewing each citation, handling citizen inquiries and complaints, attending court and processing public-record requests during the year is about $65,000.”

That means the Cathedral City Police Department is reaping approximately $9,654 per year from the cameras.

“That sounds about right, because the whole intent of the program was to be cost-neutral,” Robinson said. “We didn’t install (the red-light camera enforcement system) to generate revenue. … Over the last seven years, the overall revenues versus what we’ve expended and paid out are negligible.”

Meanwhile, a review of public records by the Independent shows that the city’s justifications for starting the program in the first place may have been less than accurate.

The original Cathedral City authorization document for initiation of the red-light camera program, dated May 25, 2005, shows that the proposal by then-Police Chief Stanley Henry—now a member of Cathedral City’s city council—offered only one example of a successful red-light camera: Indian Wells.

The “Background” section of the document states: “Indian Wells has had a successful program for approximately four years.” It then goes on to mention: “According to their public safety manager, the Red-Light Camera Program has been part of their overall traffic strategy. He reports more awareness, less speeding and collisions. … The cameras have created few complaints and according to the Public Safety Manager have been well-received by the community. He said Cathedral City will be happy with the results.”

However, at the time of that writing, the city of Indian Wells was already in the process of terminating its red-light camera program. In fact, public records show that Indian Wells shut off its red-light camera system sometime in 2004, and officially ended the contract for services in July 2005—no more than two months after the City Council of Cathedral City cited them as a program to be emulated.

So why did Cathedral City cite Indian Wells as a red-light-camera success story when, in fact, it was not?”

“At the time that the Indian Wells program was in effect, they were very satisfied with it,” said Capt. Robinson. “The problem that Indian Wells had was that the initial technology they were utilizing was wet-film-based. The technology was in its infancy, so for them, it was very labor-intensive, which is why I think they ended up getting rid of their program.”

However, Indian Wells’ personnel director and public safety manager, Mel Windsor (who was working in the same capacity while the city’s red-light camera system was operational) differed on some of these points. Regarding the Indian Wells citizen satisfaction levels described in the Cathedral City Police Department’s proposal to the City Council, Windsor recalled, “When we first implemented the system, I fielded complaint calls all day, every day, beginning as soon as I got to my desk each morning.”

What about technical challenges in Indian Wells' system? “No, we never had any technical problems. We contracted with ACS/Lockheed Martin, and they had pretty well worked out any bugs in their system while managing their system in San Diego. … We shut down the system because it cost too much to run, and the city council made the decision to use any funds earmarked for the red-light camera system to hire additional motorcycle deputies, who can operate in more of a stealth mode and address multiple driver behaviors that pose a danger to the public safety.”

Today, some Cathedral City officials may be reaching a similar conclusion.

“The bell curve on safety benefits has flattened out,” said Capt. Robinson. “I don’t think we’re going to see any more safety that we can get out of the program in those intersections. We’re looking at the program from the standpoint of: Is it cost-effective for us to keep it? There have been a lot of costs aside from just paying for the system itself and the service behind it. So all those things have to be weighed together, and we’re in the process of doing that now.

“Our contract expires in February or March of 2014. We don’t have any addendums or extensions; it actually expires. So we’re already heading down that road where we decide if it’s something we want to continue with, or if we try something else.”

When a decision is reached by first quarter of 2014 on whether or not to extend the Cathedral City red-light camera program, will that decision be announced to the public with any fanfare?

“You know, that is a very good question,” Capt. Robinson said. “From a safety standpoint, I would say it would be in our best interest to make that as quiet as possible. But … I also realize that in a lot of areas, the popularity or unpopularity of the red-light camera systems is political. … I would say if it were up to me, (we’d) go quietly into the night. If people still believe it’s there, then they’re still going to behave. But word travels fast. I mean, it’s a small valley, so regardless, (drivers) are going to know at some point, anyway. But whether it’s with fanfare or not, I don’t know.”

Saxon Burns contributed to this story.

Published in Local Issues

We’re getting older. We’re getting more Hispanic. And we’re getting a heck of a lot bigger.

Those are the conclusions that can be drawn from a series recently released Coachella Valley growth projections. The state of California earlier this year released statewide figures broken down by county, and the folks at the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) were kind enough to release brand-new Coachella Valley-specific projections to the Independent.

The numbers are striking: SCAG projects that while there were 443,000 people in what the association classifies as the Coachella Valley in 2008, there will be 604,000 of us in 2020—just seven short years away. And in 2035, there will be 884,000 of us.

“When you think of our growth over the years, it’s been slow and steady,” said Cathedral City Councilmember Greg Pettis, who also sits on the boards of SCAG and the Riverside County Transportation Commission. “This is an explosion.”

That explosion will largely take place in the East Valley. While the population of every city in the valley is projected to grow by at least 20 percent, Indio is expected to grow from 73,300 people in 2008 to 111,800 in 2035—a 53 percent expansion.

However, the projected growth in Coachella makes Indio’s growth look quaint: The city of 38,200 people in 2008 is expected to balloon to 70,200 in 2020, and 128,700 in 2035, making it the valley’s largest city. (For what it’s worth, the city of Coachella is updating its general plan, and documents show that city officials there are projecting 155,000 people by 2035.)

But the biggest growth won’t happen in any city at all. The unincorporated areas of the valley are expected to see half of all the population growth between 2008 and 2035: While 87,500 people lived in the Coachella Valley’s unincorporated areas in 2008, a whopping 308,600 people will be in those areas in 2035. A SCAG map shows that much of this expansion in unincorporated areas will take place north of Interstate 10 and in the areas south and west of Coachella.

The projections from SCAG and the state show that as we grow, the Coachella Valley’s percentage of Latinos will rise, while the percentage of “non-Hispanic whites” will fall.

Meanwhile, we’ll get older, too. State figures show that Riverside County will be leading California in terms of growth rate. Expanding the timeframe out a bit, these state figures show that between 2010 and 2060, Riverside County’s population will expand by 92 percent (with the Coachella Valley growing at a higher rate than the rest of the county). However, seniors will see the highest percentage of growth: The number of people age 65 to 74 in Riverside County is expected to grow by 210 percent; the number of people between 75 and 84 by 255 percent; and people 85 and older by a whopping 531 percent.

While projections definitely can be wrong—the Great Recession, for example, blew holes in some earlier projections—it’s clear that our little valley will go through a whole lot of change over the next generation.

Reasons for Optimism

The good news is that local leaders said they’re working to prepare for this “explosion,” and in some ways, we’re ahead of the curve.

For example, when it comes to area’s roadways, we’re doing OK.

“So far, we’ve been able to keep up with growth and traffic,” said Tom Kirk, the executive director of the Coachella Valley Association of Governments. “This time of year, some of our roadways are taxed, because we have so many visitors, but our roads are still far less congested than in Los Angeles and other urban areas. We’ve done a good job of keeping up with that.”

He pointed to the fact that Riverside County voters approved—and renewed—a half-cent sales tax measure that funds transportation projects as one reason the valley’s roadways remain relatively viable, and said that impact fees on new developments have—and will continue to—provide funding for new roads.

Pettis noted that Interstate 10 has seen a steady series of interchange improvements, and that there’s a possibility of more new or expanded interchanges, including ones at Da Vall Drive, Landau Boulevard and Jefferson Street.

Kirk also brought up moves that area governments are making to go beyond vehicle-based transportation. Specifically, he mentioned the proposed Whitewater River Parkway, a bike/pedestrian/“neighborhood electric vehicle” pathway—46 miles, at an estimated $70 million cost—that would connect all of the valley’s cities.

“It’s a big part of our plan to move people from point A to point B,” Kirk said.

Kirk also said he feels that the valley is well-prepared to handle the increase in water needs that will come with a large increase in population, noting that the Coachella Valley Water District and other area agencies have long-term commitments to secure the water supply.

“Also, we tend to use less water in newer developments than older developments,” Kirk said.

The recent Coachella Valley Integrated Regional Water Management Plan, prepared by the Coachella Valley Regional Water Management Group, examines many of the water issues facing the valley, and comes up with a comprehensive plan for our water supply. The plan does ring some warning bells, though, including the fact that our local aquifers are decreasing due to over-pumping, and that projected Colorado River water may not be available due to drought and climate change.

Speaking of comprehensive planning, the city of Coachella is putting the finishing touches on its general plan update. Luis Lopez, the city’s community development director, said the plan is the blueprint for the city’s much-larger future.

I asked him: Is the city of Coachella ready to become the valley’s largest?

“As a small-city government, we need to grow and mature and sophisticate into a large city,” Lopez said.

Lopez added that the city is working hard on transportation matters, to make sure future residents will be able to get around the area. He said city planners are putting an emphasis on making streets more pedestrian-friendly, and improving access to public transit.

Officials are also preparing for new developments, such as La Entrada, a 7,800-home project located south of Interstate 10 and east of Highway 86.

“It’s basically like a new town up there,” he said. “We need to create connectivity with the project.”

Causes for Concern

Of course, with growth comes change. Lopez conceded that as more and more agricultural land is gobbled up by homes and development, his small, agricultural town will cease to be so small and agricultural.

“Currently, we’re more rural, with more open space. As those areas become urbanized, there will be a significant change in character,” Lopez said.

Of course, character is just one of many potential worrisome changes. For one thing, less agricultural land means less agricultural business.

And speaking of business: If the size of the valley doubles, where will all these newcomers work?

Pettis cited employment as a potential problem. He said that if plans and proposals to expand College of the Desert (presuming the college can ever get beyond a recent series of scandals and misdeeds) and the Palm Desert campus of the California State University at San Bernardino could come to fruition, that would be a great start. He also said community leaders need to look at expanding the health-care industry (especially considering the increase in the senior population) and getting “some kind of manufacturing” into the desert.

“It needs to be a focus,” he said.

Speaking of a focus, everyone the Independent spoke to agrees that the valley needs to keep the money train that is tourism on track. Pettis is especially hopeful about a proposed (and long-delayed) resort hotel in downtown Cathedral City that he said could bring 500 to 600 jobs.

However, the valley may not need as many jobs, per se, if there were greater rail connectivity to the rest of Southern California. Housing is cheaper in the Coachella Valley than it is in much of Los Angeles and Orange counties, so more people who have jobs in those metropolitan areas could decide to make the commute if the commute were cheaper and easier than it is now.

Both Pettis and Kirk talked up the importance of twice-a-day, seven-day-a-week rail service to Riverside, Orange County and Los Angeles; currently, Amtrak offers only three days of service between Palm Springs and Los Angeles—and the train arrives in North Palm Springs at the ungodly time of 12:36 a.m.

“We have a lot of people traveling (from the Coachella Valley) to Riverside or Moreno Valley every day,” Pettis said. “Well, they’re stuck on the freeways now.”

Finally, Kirk said that the concern that figuratively keeps him up at night is a problem that neither he nor other local leaders can control.

“I do believe for those of us who live in and love the state of California, there’s much that worries me. There are systematic, big picture concerns” when it comes to state government, especially when it comes to funding education and infrastructure, he said.

The Great Unknowns

One of the more interesting aspects of the projected growth involves the fact that so much of it is expected to happen in unincorporated areas. As mentioned above, as of 2008, 87,500 people—or not quite 20 percent of the 443,000 people that lived within the Coachella Valley Association of Governments’ jurisdiction (which, for some reason, includes the Blythe area)—lived outside of an incorporated area.

In 2035, that number is projected to be 308,600, or 35 percent of the total population of 884,000.

In the past, when a large number of people moved into an unincorporated area, the residents would often band together to incorporate and create a new town or city, or an adjacent city would annex the area. However, “the game is different today,” Kirk said, considering that governments at all levels—and especially at the state and county levels—are navigating through financial problems.

“I think it’d be a struggle for a new city to be formed, and a very big challenge for older cities to expand,” Kirk said. “That means the challenge is going to fall upon the county’s shoulders to service these populations.”

That’s not to say that the area’s cities don’t have expansion plans—for example, Coachella is planning some annexation of land involving the La Entrada development, Lopez said, and Pettis noted that Cathedral City has designs on the Thousand Palms area. Still, it’s safe to say that many of the largest-growing areas in the valley will wind up unincorporated.

The biggest concern that the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department has about this extra burden is finding qualified law-enforcement officials to handle it all—especially if growth comes quickly.

“Deputy sheriffs and correctional deputies are required to meet strict requirements to ensure they can handle the demands of a career in law enforcement. The hiring process for a new deputy sheriff can take between eight and 12 months, with another year of training. The skill level and experience takes even longer to achieve, so you need to consider the lead time necessary to reach the intended goal,” wrote Riverside County Chief Deputy Rodney Vigue, in response to an emailed list of questions from the Independent.

These requirements, when combined with the projected growth explosion, have Vigue concerned.

“Less than 1 percent of the candidates who apply for a deputy sheriff position are hired, and all the agencies in the Coachella Valley and throughout the state are competing against each other for the same candidates,” Vigue wrote.

Vigue, like Kirk, expressed concerns about the state’s financial picture.

“The unforeseen impacts the state may have on existing funding sources and any future cuts have the potential to force local communities to evaluate budget priorities,” Vigue wrote. “For example, the recent influx of state prisoners into the county correctional facilities and into our communities, as a result of the state corrections realignment, has strained local obligations. This impact is not only being felt from a county perspective, jail-overcrowding and a rise in crime, but also from each city that is trying to make the community safer. The shift from state responsibility to the county has strained an already overburdened correctional system, which will take years of planning and funding to overcome.”

So, in other words, as the Coachella Valley gets older, more Hispanic and a heck of a lot bigger, don’t expect everything to be smooth sailing.

“The department will need to look toward innovative programs, technology and volunteers to assist with controlling crime and maintaining the quality of life we currently enjoy in the Coachella Valley,” Vigue wrote.

Published in Local Issues

What: The Steve Special sushi roll, enjoyed as part of all-you-can-eat sushi

Where: Edokko Sushi, 69195 Ramon Road, Cathedral City

How much: $19.95 lunch, $23.99 dinner

Contact info: 328-7770; edokkosushicc.com

Why: Because you're hungry, and you looooove tasty sushi rolls

Look, Edokko Sushi ain't Nobu: You are not going to get fresh-off-the-boat toro here. Of course, you're not going to be shelling out $35 for a tiny portion of fish, either.

Instead, you are going to get a decent-enough selection of 30 or so rolls, 16 or so sushi options, and some appetizers (miso soup, gyoza, etc.), as much as you can shove down your gullet, for $19.99 at lunch, or $23.99 at dinner.

Indulgent? Maybe. Gluttonous? Perhaps? A smokin' deal? Absolutely.

The sushi pieces are just fine, but the real reason you will want to check out Edokko is for the sushi rolls: They're tasty, and they come to you fast when the sushi chefs are on their game (which they generally are). The one we most heartily endorse is the "Steve Special" roll—it's the first one on the list—which is quite simple, really: It's a California roll, topped with deep-fried shrimp and a tangy mayonnaise sauce. In an word, it's yummy.

If you're hankering for all-you-can-eat sushi, but you're weighed down by more moderate eaters, never fear: Edokko Sushi also offers an a la carte menu.

But you don't want that. You want all-you-can-eat. And you should start off with the Steve Special roll. 

Published in The Indy Endorsement

What: Yum nua (Thai beef salad)

Where: Thai Kitchen, 67555 E Palm Canyon Drive, No. A105, Cathedral City

How much: $9.95

Contact info: 321-8424

Why: Because it provides a nice combination of flavors, textures and temperatures—with just the right amount of kick!

I've been pretty narrow-minded about Thai food in the past; pad Thai and fried rice have been my normal go-to dishes when dining at Thai restaurants.

Recently, I've been trying to manage my weight and make better choices about what I eat—and I figured that Thai restaurants would be off my list entirely. However, my best friend suggested that I try a Thai beef salad, and I've become quite attached to them.

On a recent visit to Thai Kitchen in Cathedral City, I ordered the Thai beef salad you see pictured above. It was not a huge portion, but it was quite enough for lunch. It's a wonderful combination of warm grilled beef and onions, combined with the cool lettuce and tomatoes, all wrapped up in a spicy, vinegar-based Thai dressing.

There are a veritable ton of Thai joints in the valley—but if you're looking for a tasty Thai beef salad, stop in at Thai Kitchen on your next jaunt down Highway 111.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

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