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Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Local Issues

07 Jul 2018
Democratic legislators say they've settled their differences on net neutrality in California, advancing bills that, if passed, would create the most far-reaching internet regulation in the country. In December, the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal net-neutrality protections that ensured internet service providers such as Comcast and AT&T give consumers and partners equal access to the web. It jettisoned those rules as of June, saying they were unnecessary and “heavy-handed” market interference. Critics characterize this as a play by the Trump administration to undermine consumer safeguards. California—if this bill were to become law—would restore the old nationwide net neutrality regulations within the state. “The Internet wasn't broken in 2015, when the previous FCC imposed 1930s-era regulations on Internet service providers. And ironically, these regulations made things worse by limiting investment in high-speed networks and slowing broadband deployment,” said the FCC. Last month, net-neutrality bill author Sen. Scott Wiener, a San…
05 Jul 2018
California is struggling to confront its homelessness crisis: After big-city mayors up and down the state lobbied hard for more funding, state leaders agreed to spend an additional $600 million to help fight the problem. Here are some basic numbers to help understand one of the state’s most vexing issues. How many Californians are homeless now, and how has that changed over time? While it’s tough to say precisely how many Californians are experiencing homelessness, the federal Housing and Urban Development Department estimates the number statewide at 130,000 on a given night. That’s 25 percent of the entire nation’s homeless population. Since 2016, California experienced a larger increase in homelessness than any other state. “Our state has more than 1.7 million low-income households spending more than half their income in housing costs,” said Ben Metcalf, the director of the state Department of Housing and Community Development. “When you’re paying that…
25 Jun 2018
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With a population of about 25,000 people, Desert Hot Springs is one of the smaller cities in the Coachella Valley—yet DHS has the second-most traffic accidents among the nine cities. These accidents are often deadly: In 2016, there were seven fatal traffic collisions in DHS, while in 2017, there were eight—and the stretch of Palm Drive between Pierson Boulevard and Camino Aventura seems to be particularly dangerous. “Our accidents are actually decreasing, but it’s still a major issue for us,” said Desert Hot Springs Police Chief Dale Mondary. “In 15 years, we’ve had at least 25 fatal accidents. It’s not as many as Palm Springs … but that’s still a lot for Desert Hot Springs.” In an effort to curb the number of accidents, a safety-enhancement zone will soon go into effect on that stretch of Palm Drive between Pierson and Camino Aventura. “Any fine for a moving violation is…
20 Jun 2018
During the short and unsettled lifespan of California’s End of Life Option Act—signed into law by Gov. Jerry Brown in October 2015, and taking effect on June 9, 2016—terminally ill patients diagnosed as having no more than six months left to live have become the targets of repeated legal challenges, leaving their precious final days in this world unsettled and unclear. The fate of the law has been particularly unsettled since May 15, when Riverside County Superior Court Judge Daniel Ottolia ruled the law was invalid on the grounds that it was passed unconstitutionally during a special session of the California Legislature. During the session, Gov. Jerry Brown directed legislators to enact legislation that would improve healthcare for the state’s citizens. As result of Judge Ottolia’s ruling, participating physicians were barred from writing prescriptions for sanctioned life-ending drugs, while pharmacists were forbidden from providing those drugs to qualifying patients. A…
14 Jun 2018
Rob Lyman of didn’t know what to do. The Redwood City resident was helping his aunt, Sharron Evans, who had early-onset Alzheimer’s disease and needed constant supervision. A former teacher, she had run out of money and had no income. She qualified for government health-care assistance, but it appeared she’d need to go to the only setting that would be covered: a nursing home. “Basically, that’s a hospital setting, and that was our only choice,” Lyman said. To him, that didn’t make sense. “My aunt just needed a safe place to be; there was nothing physically wrong with her,” Lyman said. “She didn’t need that level of care. It’s inappropriate. It costs the state a lot of money. But this is what people do. That’s the default choice.” The baby boomers are aging. By the end of the next decade, 11.1 million Californians will be 60 or older, and the…
04 Jun 2018
With just a week left until the federal government intends to roll back net neutrality, California’s Senate has stepped into the void by advancing a bill that aims to maintain equal internet access for all its citizens. This fight over who pays for the internet and how it should be regulated now shifts to the Assembly, and if it passes there, on to Gov. Jerry Brown. If he were so sign it, the state would have the strictest net-neutrality rules in the nation—but could well face a court challenge from internet service providers who contend the state is overstepping its authority. Democrats have been pushing legislation to require internet companies to play by net-neutrality rules ever since the Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal net neutrality last December. The federal regulations, set to be jettisoned June 11, ensured that internet providers such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon give equal access…
24 Apr 2018
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The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians made it perfectly clear to the city of Palm Springs: The tribe strongly objects to Measure C, the ballot initiative that would effectively ban vacation rentals, which will be decided on by Palm Springs voters on June 5. “The tribe is concerned that this ban is onerous and unnecessary restriction of the use of allotted trust land,” said the letter from Tom Davis, tribe’s chief planning and development officer, hand-delivered to City Manager David Ready. “The complete prohibition of vacation rentals in R1 zones is an extreme action that will likely only serve to drive this activity ‘underground.’” According to city records, approximately 770 of the 1,986 permitted short-term vacation rentals are on tribal land. As a sovereign nation, the tribe does not need to implement any of Palm Springs’ ordinances when it comes to properties built on its reservation. After sharing the…
13 Apr 2018
Cops have a lot of pull in the California Capitol, and over the decades, that’s added up to this startling reality: The Golden State now goes further than many states in terms of protecting police from public scrutiny. It’s a stark contrast to the state’s “left coast” image. On abortion rights, gun control and climate change, California has embraced some of the most liberal policies in the nation. But even with a statehouse controlled entirely by Democrats, California laws are friendlier to law enforcement—and less transparent to the public—than those in Wisconsin and Florida, states with Republican governors and legislatures. One explanation is that politicians from both parties seek police endorsements to help them sway voters. Polling from last year showed that two-thirds of Californians think their local police are doing a good job controlling crime. Another is that labor unions representing officers donate generously to elect officials at every…
05 Apr 2018
Astronomical prices are forcing a rising share of California families to postpone buying a house. As a result, the state’s record-low homeownership rate has been a boon to one growing segment of California’s housing market: single-family home rentals. Between 2005 and 2015, the number of owner-occupied homes in California shrunk by nearly 64,000 units, according to the Public Policy Institute of California. Meanwhile, the number of renter-occupied homes increased dramatically: California now has 450,000 more homes used as rentals than it did a decade ago. Compare that to the 1990s, when the number of rented homes grew by less than 120,000, while the state added 700,000 homes owned by the people who live in them. The rising tide of single-family rentals has renewed attention on where the rent payments that nearly 2 million Californians make each month are going. Lawmakers and first-time homeowner advocates have been scrutinizing a relatively new…
27 Mar 2018
In 1948, the Desert Healthcare District was created by the state of California. Health-care districts were intended as a “response to a shortage of acute care hospitals as well as minimal access to health care in rural parts of the state,” according to the DHCD website. In the ensuing 70 years, the service portfolio of the DHCD has evolved and expanded. Today, with an annual operating budget of roughly $7 million, the DHCD provides support to a variety of organizations (such as Find Food Bank, Volunteers in Medicine, Coachella Valley Rescue Mission, etc.) that provide health and wellness services to residents in the current district—some 515 square miles of the western Coachella Valley, including Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage and the portion of Palm Desert west of Cook Street. While a Riverside County property-tax allocation paid by all county residents helps fund the DHCD, it serves…