CVIndependent

Tue11202018

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

A new grassroots community organization wants this to be the “Year of Indio”—and the first step the group is taking to make that happen is supporting a candidate running against controversial Indio Mayor Michael Wilson.

The group, calling itself Year of Indio, announced its formation and the candidacy of Waymond Fermon during an early January news conference.

“We (in the Year of Indio group) are a group of individuals who care for the city of Indio, and want to see it thrive,” said Tizoc DeAztlan during a recent interview. DeAztlan, an experienced political campaigner who has contributed to the successful election efforts of Rep. Dr. Raul Ruiz and State Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, among others, is an adviser to Fermon’s campaign for the new Indio District 2 City Council seat.

Starting with this year’s election, the members of the Indio City Council will be elected by district, rather than city-wide. This means Fermon will go up against City Councilmember Michael Wilson, who recently rotated into the mayor’s chair. To date, no other candidates have announced an intention to run in this district.

“Recognizing that Indio is a critical cog in the Coachella Valley at large, we have to take ownership of its future and create change on our own,” DeAztlan said. “So, as a collective, knowing that Indio has a tremendous amount of strength if it’s utilized appropriately, we realize that the most impactful thing we can do right now is have Waymond on the council.

“That being said, Waymond is just one part of the puzzle. There are two other council positions up for grabs (in Indio this year), and if Waymond, as well as the other candidates supported by the Year of Indio collective are elected—that’s something that can dramatically change the landscape of Indio moving forward. Waymond is a natural fit, so he’s the first move, but there will be more moves.”

We asked Fermon what motivated him to jump into the District 2 race.

“I think it started when I was a kid,” Fermon said. “Growing up, I watched my mother give her last to help other people out, and as I got older, I started to see that all of our (Indio) residents were not being treated fairly. I think Indio is a thriving city, but I think some of the communities are thriving more than others, and I’d like to even that base out.”

Fermon, 38, is a father of three who works as a California Department of Corrections officer. He attended Indio public schools including Kennedy Elementary, Hoover Elementary, Jefferson Middle School and Indio High School, before attending College of the Desert. He said that if elected, he’d focus on certain community challenges he has long worked to overcome.

“One is our youth,” Fermon said. “You affect change with the youth. If they’re going to grow and raise children themselves here in Indio, you have to have something for them to do that keeps them away from crime, like working to gain a higher education. I’ve always had a passion for working with youth.

“Second is the homeless issue. You know, last night, I went out with a couple of folks just to talk to some of the homeless people in the city. I just wanted to listen to them. I believe that putting your feet on the ground and actually seeing it for what it is—you get a better perspective on it. You can’t just keep throwing money at situations. You have to fix some of the underlying issues.”

The fact that a new group including Democratic political operatives is backing a candidate against Wilson should come as no surprise, considering Wilson is a conservative who has spoken out to criticize Barack Obama, Elizabeth Warren and the media, among others. However, Fermon insisted his campaign is more than just an attempt to unseat Wilson.

“As far as I go, I don’t worry about what anybody else is doing,” Fermon said. “I have my goals and my plans and my agenda that I’d like to bring to the table. I live by a mantra which is: ‘I focus 120 percent on greatness, because failure is not an option.’ So right now, I’m focused on having a successful campaign and getting there (to the Indio City Council).”

DeAztlan said he does see a need for change regarding the City Council’s makeup.

“What we see as a big contrast (between these two candidates) is how each reaches a decision on policy matters,” DeAztlan said. “What’s your value set? What are your concerns, and what are you thinking about when you make decisions? Whether it’s public safety, economic development, education or transportation, all these things affect people’s lives directly. You want somebody who is considering you and cares for you when they are considering all the decisions before them on the dais.

“What we have in Waymond is someone who’s a family guy, connected to the community, and whose value set is in step with yours, whether you’re Republican, Democrat, independent or just someone who doesn’t vote usually. He’s talking the talk, and walking the walk. He wants more for his community than what he sees now. People are frustrated. The incumbent on the board now (Wilson) is someone who recently did some infamous tweeting that showed his concern wasn’t for immigrant families and those who are suffering, but instead, his concern was that people were attacking a president that most people in his district do not believe in and do not support.”

While DeAztlan was willing to go on the offensive against Wilson, Fermon insisted that he was going to remain positive.

“I’m about positive vibes and a positive life,” Fermon said. “And if I can bring that positivity to the City Council, and to the city of Indio, that’s going to be great. I’m looking forward to the future, and I see some great things happening.”

Published in Politics

When we decided to put a story about police-involved killings on the cover of our July print edition, we had no idea that the month would be dominated by news about police-involved killings—and the killings of police.

Yet that’s exactly what happened. The deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, La., and Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minn., sparked yet more outrage about the excessive use of force by law-enforcement officers. The country watched in horror as Micah Johnson mowed down police officers who were watching over a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas, killing five officers and injuring nine other officers and two bystanders. Then came the murder of three law enforcement officers, and the wounding of three others, again in Baton Rouge, La., by Gavin Long.

These terrible deaths prove, yet again, that our country has some deep and serious problems. Way, way too many people are dying at the hands of law enforcement. On the flip side, while the vast majority of police officers in this country are fantastic, some troubled souls view all cops as being bad. And, of course, systemic racism is alive and well.

None of these problems will be solved overnight—especially considering the fact that one of this country’s two major parties is pushing an agenda that marginalizes LGBT Americans, Mexican immigrants, Muslims and many others. Sadly, more blood will be spilled before things get better.

That’s not to say there’s no reason for optimism. That aforementioned July cover story was about the fact that for the first time ever, the country has access to the fairly complete Fatal Encounters database of law-enforcement-related deaths—and that data can be analyzed and used to create better public policy.

It’s also important to note that violent-crime rates are much, much lower today—about two-thirds lower, in fact—than they were in the early 1990s. So even though it may not seem like it at times, our society today is way safer than it used to be.

Finally, despite all of the political rancor, many amazing people are working hard to unite us and develop understanding. For example, there’s Tizoc DeAztlan, a young local Democrat who’s working with his friend Hugh Van Horn, former president of the Coachella Valley Young Republicans, to hold a series of “Perspectives” discussion groups. Anita Rufus recently wrote about him in her Know Your Neighbors column; read that here.

You can also read Anita’s column in the August 2016 print edition of the Coachella Valley Independent, which is being distributed across the valley and High Desert this week. Enjoy, please, and drop me a line if you have any questions or comments.

Published in Editor's Note

Born in the Coachella Valley toward the end of the Generation X demographic, Tizoc DeAztlan, at 37, is the embodiment of all of the best Gen X stereotypes: individualistic, entrepreneurial, tech savvy, goal oriented—and wanting to make a difference.

DeAztlan is a Coachella Valley native, born to Roberto, a lawyer, and Amalia, a social activist and feminist (and someone I’ve known for more than 25 years). He has two older sisters.

“Yes,” he acknowledges, “I was the baby in the family.”

DeAztlan says he was born into politics. “My mom instilled in me the need to see justice, and to not just settle for conditions in the community as they are, or for less than is fair.”

A graduate of La Quinta High School in its first graduating class, DeAztlan went on to graduate from Fordham University with a degree in communication. He lives in La Quinta with his wife, Briana, whom he met when they were both in high school.

DeAztlan has been actively involved in the world of politics, working on the campaigns of locals like Congressman Raul Ruiz, Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia, Coachella Mayor Steven Hernandez and former Assemblymember V. Manuel Perez. He remembers campaigning with his mom back when he was in the fifth-grade, and his dad driving him around before school to put door hangers on people’s homes.

“I’m involved in party campaign politics and in nonpartisan community organizing,” he said. “I see politics in everything. It’s up to each individual how much to engage. It doesn’t matter your position; there are so many ways to be who you are and play a role.”

DeAztlan’s first job, at the age of 19, was doing field research for the RAND Corporation in Los Angeles County, interviewing people about their lives, access to health care and other personal and community issues.

“It was the first time I saw issues on both a micro and macro level, and saw how research can affect people’s real lives,” he says.

DeAztlan’s latest venture—in coordination with Hugh Van Horn, former president of the Coachella Valley Young Republicans—is Perspectives, a nonpartisan discussion group that held its first meeting in Indio in June.

“Hugh and I are friends who always have discussions about lots of issues,” says DeAztlan. “It’s so easy to fall into ‘talking points’ that often miss the point. We realized people may have more in common with their neighbors than they realize, and wanted to provide a place for people to discuss and share information in a hopeful, compassionate and responsible manner with mutual respect.”

The first Perspectives meeting drew 30-40 people and a lively discussion. A few designated people shared their ideas or feelings on the topic, and then others volunteered to participate; this was followed by small group discussions involving everyone present.

“We want to create an environment where everyone feels comfortable sharing their own perspective,” says DeAztlan. “It’s important that if someone has something they want to say, they have a place to share it.”

DeAztlan hopes to tackle issues like income inequality, race, guns and the role of government.

“I think we have a responsibility to listen and learn others’ perspectives,” he says. “Groups like this happen more in urban areas, but here, we are so segregated by walls and geography. I’m confident people want an arena for discussion without restrictions. We want the questions to be open and give people the ability to learn more that will enable them to back up their opinions. It’s very sobering the effect that being around your peers in the community can have. It goes way beyond talking points. It’s worth much more than just reading about something or hearing it on television. You can’t eliminate the politics around lots of issues, but we want to eliminate ‘labels,’ and we want people to interpret for themselves.

”We’re often told to think a certain way about some issue, but our own lives can make us realize something completely different. You know, just because someone’s a Republican doesn’t mean they’re not a compassionate person. Just because you’re gay doesn’t mean you can’t be prejudiced against others. We all need to listen and learn from each other.”

No date has been set for the next Perspectives gathering, but they plan to announce a date and topic soon. Meanwhile, Tizoc and Briana have started an event production business that allows them to be involved in major events.

While Tizoc and Briana decided to return to the Coachella Valley after college, many young people do not, and yet others who do return have difficulty building their lives locally. Tizoc hopes to see a Coachella Valley future that includes more access to small-business loans, expansion of local education (like the four-year program now at Cal State’s campus in Palm Desert), more local development of technology, and access to jobs.

“Young people need to feel empowered that whatever their skill set is, there’s a local market for it,” says DeAztlan.

Tizoc DeAztlan is an excellent example of a generation that has felt the obligation to do something—and which is inheriting the power to get things done.

“Some choose to ignore, others feel the obligation to do something,” DeAztlan says. “I believe you have to want more than what is right in front of you.”

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors