October 31, 2008
I Spit On Your Corpse
I happened across this film, I Spit On Your Corpse (aka, Girls For Rent) because a friend recommended another movie with a similar title. When I looked it up I saw that there were four movies with titles that were variations of I Spit/Piss On Your Corpse/Grave and then a fifth entitled I Spit On Your Corpse, I Piss On Your Grave. I thought it would be appropriate to work through some real trash films for Halloween.
I Spit On Your Corpse jumped out at me not because of any high quality values. It is, in fact, distributed by Toma Entertainment, which is infamous for the (sometimes entertaining) trash in its catalog. No, I Spit On Your Corpse grabbed my attention when it became obvious that it was filmed right here in Coachella Valley. I first recognized Box Canyon Road (near Mecca) as the scene of a car chase. Later scenes along the Salton Sea and in the Mecca Hills were easy to pick out. When I listened to the commentary by director Al Adamson, he identified filming locations as Desert Hot Springs, Palm Springs, Palm Desert, Indio, Mecca and Whitewater Canyon. There are some scenes where I recognized the characteristic tailings that are along the Colorado River Aqueduct, plus some of the concrete structures that show up at the aqueduct's siphons. When he said "Desert Hot Springs" he may have actually meant Sky Valley.
Interestingly, Al Adamson was murdered at his home in Indio in 1995 by his "live-in contractor" who buried his body beneath the tile and concrete in his newly remodeled bathroom. Desert Sun articles on the murder and trial can be read here. His murderer is now serving a 25-year sentence.
Green Path North Meeting, November 6
After the election it will be time to turn our attention back to all those political issues that fill our time between elections. The California Desert Coalition will have an update meeting on Thursday evening, November 6, at 7 PM in the fabulous Yucca Room in the Yucca Valley Community Center, 57090 Highway 62 in Yucca Valley.
October 30, 2008
That Was Brief
McCain vs. Obama
If you haven't settled on a minor party candidate who suits your standards, or you feel you must choose one of the major party candidates and you are somehow still undecided between Obama and McCain after this long, long, miserable campaign, I don't know how you happen to be reading Ron's Log, but you've come to the right place because I'll tell you how to vote.
From my point of view any differences in their economic policies are insignificant, mere re-arrangements of deck chairs. They both voted for the $700-billion bailout - but McCain has made it clear the bailout ran against his principles in a number of ways, which says more about McCain than the bailout itself.
Neither of them are proposing to shut down the IRS or repeal the income tax. Neither promises to bring all U.S. troops home from around the globe. Both are about equally afraid to publicly endorse pro-gay rights measures that they may privately agree with as individuals.
Despite the fact that I have asked my readers numerous times to point me to well written endorsements of McCain, I've received no such suggestions. I have received some ad hominem attacks on myself or Obama, however. All the endorsements of McCain that I have read that seemed to come from moderately level-headed people cite his long experience in government as his greatest asset. I agree that experience is an important attribute and that McCain's got it from both government service, military service, and his years as a prisoner of war.
So McCain brings those decades of experience to his campaign for President, the high point of his career, and we should be seeing one damned fine campaign packed with great endorsements written by great people who are drawn from across the political spectrum to his centrist views. But what has been the actual result? A disastrous campaign, erratically lurching on the issues, caving to the non-thinking religious right wing of the Republican party, a campaign based on stirring up fear and hatred among the bigots in our population, and his first and most important selection for his future cabinet: Sarah Palin.
When do we get see the benefits of McCain's experience? Surely he knew these Republican party advisors were giving him advice that ran counter to his long-standing principles of decent political behavior and his knowledge of what's best for our country. How in the course of a few months could he disappoint so many of us by forgetting what he stood for?
What guarantee do we have that between November 4 and January 20 McCain would throw off these Bush-ite advisors and become his own man again? There is no such guarantee.
OTOH, we have Obama who despite less experience has maintained his campaign on a straight arrow basis for two years without deviation despite the curs of hatred and innuendo who are still yapping and snapping at his ankles. His ability to lead, organize and unify a diverse coalition is as obvious as McCain's lack of it. And 90% of being a good, effective President is being able to lead, organize and unify a diverse nation and even more diverse world. That's more important than where Joe The Plumber's capital gains tax will kick in; more important than the exact ratio of troops in Iraq to troops in Afghanistan.
That's it. If you must vote major party, vote Obama.
UPDATE: Possible future news.
California Proposition 7 - Renewable Energy
It would be easy for me to cite my libertarian free market ideals to explain my opposition to Prop 7 which is a lengthy, lengthy proposition that finagles with electric utilities and how much energy they have to buy from renewable sources. An argument like that would certainly appeal to the other 93 libertarians in California. But it's nice to find agreement from an impressively long, deep and broad list of other opponents to Prop 7 including even the Democratic and Republican parties of California! Whoda thunk I would have found myself in such nasty company! OTOH, the list of those endorsing Prop 7 is rather impressively short and shallow, including no organizations at all, but a few recognizable individuals: Danny Glover, Art Agnos, and others you may know if you are an informed Californian.
In the Voter Guide the Rebuttal to Argument Against Proposition 7 (written by Prop 7 supporters) consists almost entirely of vague ad hominem attacks against its opponents - a sure sign they've got no good arguments to support their position.
An Unlikely (no, REALLY unlikely) Ally Against Prop 8
You can add Shirley Phelps-Roper to the list of those opposed to Proposition 8, the ballot measure that would take away the right of gay people to marry. Ms. Phelps-Roper is the daughter of Fred Phelps, the preacher for the infamous Westboro Baptist Church. She was in San Francisco to picket at a fundraiser for a charity that was a favorite of Paul Newman. "Phelps-Roper said Newman had lived in adultery because he'd divorced and remarried, and the 'so-called Christians' are 'living in adultery by the droves.'" This is her opinion of Prop 8:
Prop 8 is "too little, too late," she said, adding that Prop 8 backers were "phony, self-righteous, so-called Christians who did not do their duty to serve their God" by protesting same-sex weddings on June 16.
"We were in San Francisco and LA ... where were the 'Christians?'" she said.
"They need to shut the hell up about Prop 8 and take it and like it. They're a bunch of anal-retentive, mean bastards," said Phelps-Roper, referring to Prop 8 supporters.
I find myself wondering what brand of bathroom tissue is preferred in the Phelps-Roper household.
Ms. Phelps-Roper said that if Prop 8 passes "it'll take a judge about 2.4 seconds to dismantle it." Let's hope she's right.
Ocotillo Wells Is Ringing
A series of small earthquakes has been occcurring near Ocotillo Wells which is west of the Salton Sea. Here's the USGS map. Which, at the moment I'm looking at it, lists 84 quakes at that epicenter starting at 7:16 PM on the 28th (Pacific time) ranging from 1.2 to 3.6.
California Proposition 6 - Law Enforcement
Proposition 6 should be a NO vote for two reasons: (1) like Proposition 5 it's long and detailed, touching on this issue and that, funding some things, amending current statutes, to a level of complexity that should be dealt with by the legislature not by the voters; and (2) it writes guaranteed funding levels into law. For example:
(b) The sum of five hundred million dollars ($500,000,000) is hereby appropriated from the General Fund to the COPS Fund for the 2009–10 fiscal year, and annually each fiscal year thereafter, adjusted for cost of living pursuant to the California Consumer Price Index for the purpose of supporting local public safety, antigang, and juvenile justice programs.
Half a billion dollars each year, every year, forever, guaranteed. This provision doesn't even foresee its own success. There are no sunset provisions, no allowance for a reduction if the law works and gang-related crime dwindles in the future. Yes, there is a provision that requires funds to be returned if unspent, but it's a pretty incompetent government agency that doesn't manage to spend its full allocation of funds.
The proposition contains a lot of good elements, but the fact that they haven't been approved by the legislature is not a sufficient reason to bundle them all together into this one gargantuan prop and send it to the voters. Rather, it's more evidence that the legislature needs to be reformed, and the first reform should be to eliminate the requirement for a super-majority to pass a budget.
October 29, 2008
Two Different Views of Mt. San Jacinto From DHS
DHS City Council Study Session, October 28
COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT BLOCK GRANTS
Tonight's fascinating Desert Hot Springs city council study session began with 15 minutes on the subject of Community Development Block Grants. This year Riverside County has decided the smallest possible grant will be $10,000 -- so you will probably wonder, as I do, why we may be eligible for $116,920 for capital projects and $19,034 for community service projects. Despite the $10,000 rule the community service project funds, for example, could be divided between two projects: a $10,000 one and a $9,034 one. The city intends to use all the capital project for streetscape work in the downtown area. Applications for block grants must be received by the city before 5 PM on November 4. The city council will make its decisions at the meeting on November 18.
Councilmembers Betts and Baker in addition to Mayor Parks want city staff to look at abandoning the county's block grant allocation system next year, so that we can request funding directly from HUD.
In a California state enterprise zone an employer can receive a $35,000 tax credit for every employee, in addition to more tax credits on equipment. There is already one enterprise zone in the east valley sponsored by Riverside County and the cities of Indio and Coachella. Two-thirds of that zone are in unincorporated areas, and its closest proximity to us is Thousand Palms.
Desert Hot Springs has met with Palm Springs, Cathedral City and Riverside County to discuss applying for an enterprise zone here in the western valley. The three cities are all committed to it, but Riverside County is not. A preliminary study will be made. A full scale application will require retaining a consultant which will cost $79,000 to $115,000 (the expense to be divided over the three cities, or the cities plus the county if it joins in).
The major hurdle is that the state sees that Coachella Valley already has an enterprise zone, so why should it get a second. No other metropolitan area has two. If we fail to get approval for an enterprise zone, we could request that Indio, Coachella and Riverside County amend the boundaries of the existing enterprise zone. It is already at the maximum permitted size, which is 35,000 acres. To benefit the western valley would mean that enterprise zone would have to reduce its size, and create a zone in the western valley so that the two together total no more than 35,000 acres.
Councilmember Betts suggested that we examine ways to improve transportation between Desert Hot Springs and Thousand Palms to make it easier for our residents to get to jobs in the enterprise zone. He did not propose a monorail, but specifically mentioned the chronic traffic backups on Mountain View and Varner.
DOWNTOWN SPECIFIC PLAN
Or, more specifically, "The Downtown Specific Plan And What Can We Do If, Say Just For Example, Somebody Proposed A Small Grocery Store Right In The Middle Of It That Didn't Conform To Our Not Yet Codified Vision, Just Hypothetically Speaking Of Course."
Assistant City Attorney Ellin Davtyan, discussed the possibility of an "Interim Urgency Ordinance" that would block all but specified development in the proposed area. Such an ordinance would require at least four votes in favor to pass. The ordinance would last for 45 days (just like the marijuana moratorium), and could be extended for 10 months and 15 days and then extended for one more year.
Councilmember Betts asked if this was just the same as the oft-discussed moratorium on new construction. The attorney explained that this ordinance would be crafted to block only specific types of development in the specified area.
Assistant City Manager Rudy Acosta said that things had been going swimmingly on the downtown plan so far, and so he was very reluctant to consider expanding the area as that would mean increased costs and work and delays. Councilmember Schmidt said he thought the plan should be expanded to include ALL of Palm Drive, to the depth of one parcel, so that the city could exercise complete control over this gateway route.
Councilmember Baker said city staff had not done its due diligence on updating the General Plan, and that no Interim Urgency Ordinance would be required because any proposed development would require a General Plan amendment and a zoning change, so the city council could kill any proposal at that point. It's not clear to me if an Interim Urgency Ordinance as described by the attorney might afford the city additional legal protection against lawsuits from denied developers. At the last city council meeting Attorney Duran did suggest that the developer of the proposed market at 2nd and Palm could pursue litigation if the city turned him down.
City Manager Rick Daniels said that to his chagrin developers were NOT advised about the downtown specific plan underway when they first contacted the city. He said that the EIR for the General Plan update will take a MINIMUM OF 270 DAYS! So in case, you thought this was finally getting close, just be patient. Here is a timeline that was handed out for the General Plan update:
Click the image to get the full size version. I do believe I heard someone say that attempts to update the General Plan began in 2000. In case you can't remember back that far, Bill Clinton was President, AOL was bought by Time Warner, the dot-com bubble pushed the Dow Jones Industrial Average to 11,722.98, Windows 2000 was released, George W. Bush defeated Al Gore for President, Vladimir Putin was elected President of Russia, Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon, Ehud Barak and Yasser Arafat met at Camp David, a French Concorde crashed during takeoff in Paris, the summer Olympics were in Australia, the Yankees beat the Mets in the World Series, and I was still working (by some definition of the word) in Boston and had probably never even heard of Desert Hot Springs.
And here's the timeline for the Downtown Specific Plan:
Full size you will get by clicking.
You'll see the Downtown Specific Plan timeline says it will be complete in April 2009.
Citizen Hank Goodreau [yes, I just make up these spellings] rose to remind the council that we are "the spa city," not the mini-mart city, not the tire store city, and that businesses on our main corridors and downtown should be those that will draw visitors and tourists to the city. He said that any developer that actually did not know that the city had been working on a plan for downtown for the past two years should not be building here at all. His comments were met with applause from the audience.
If you want copies of the Palm Springs and West Hollywood medical marijuana ordinances referenced at the meeting, you should download the agenda [PDF] which includes those ordinances. For further reference, here is the incredibly brief text of proposition 215 and here you can read SB 420 which fleshed out that simple proposition. Here is an 11-page [PDF] set of guidelines issued by Attorney General Jerry Brown this past August.
We had a number of new faces in the audience for this discussion. KMIR channel 6 was there to record most (or all) of the discussion.
But first, Councilmember Baker really laid into Assistant Attorney Davtyan. Not just those half-joshing jabs he makes at Attorney Duran during council meetings, but really attacked her saying that she hadn't presented what the council had asked for, and that she was trying to write policy. Specifically, he complained about the long list of "whereas's" in the draft ordinance to ban medical marijuana that cited many (probably all) of the alleged problems with medical marijuana distribution without citing any evidence whatsoever to support those statements.
The attorney said she had been instructed to bring back a "banning" ordinance and a copy of the Palm Springs ordinance (which has not yet been finalized).
PUBLIC COMMENTS ON MARIJUANA
Ted Mayrhofen got up to say that he had not read any of the proposed ordinances, and he didn't know if there were any provisions to keep marijuana distribution sites away from schools. Several members of the council interrupted him to say that, yes, they all did that. He said that anybody with 8 ounces of marijuana was a dealer in his opinion. He wondered if the California law would permit the smoking of marijuana outside in the backyard where neighbor kids might be able to smell it. He then rambled on into a discussion about hemp versus marijuana and wondered if we allowed medical marijuana would we also permit the growing of hemp? Oh, dear lord, whatever was he thinking? The informed citizen will recall that Governor Schwarzenegger vetoed a narrowly written hemp bill in 2006. Hemp growing is technically allowed under federal law, but it is regulated by the DEA which has never seen fit to permit any actual growing. Those who are interested in agricultural and industrial hemp should check out the Vote Hemp site which has a lot of good, well written information on the subject.
Hank Goodreault rose and told us that Mr. Mayrhofen's comments were an example of the sort of ignorance that exists about medical marijuana. Mr. Goodreau is a nurse and cited examples of the relief from their symptoms that several patients had enjoyed when using marijuana. He also told us there are 20 types of THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), a fact that I did not know. He specifically cited "Delta," I believe. Here is some information about Delta-9-Tetrahydrocannabinol.
Roger Fisher, a DHS resident and patient who uses marijuana, told us that collectives and coops are now referred to as "compassionate patient groups," although when I Google that phrase I find nothing. He mentioned the tax benefits to the city resulting from having a marijuana site in DHS.
Lanny Swerdlow (here is a YouTube video of the DHS city council meeting from EARLY 2007 where Mr. Swerdlow makes a comment on the proposal to impose a moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries) - we haven't had a meeting as exciting as that in a long time) who is with the Marijuana Anti-Prohibition Project told us that he recommends the Palm Springs ordinance and said that the Palm Springs Planning Commission will have it on their agenda at their next meeting, Wednesday, November 12 at 3 PM. He said that currently Palm Springs is the only city in the Inland Empire with marijuana collectives, and that Palm Springs (and potentially Desert Hot Springs) could receive substantial tax benefits if they permit marijuana sites.
Jim Camper, the former owner of Organic Solutions, the dispensary that was open in Desert Hot Springs for five months got up and also cited the tax benefits of allowing a marijuana site in the city. He also said that the California Supreme Court had ruled that the DEA could not interfere with California medical marijuana. Councilmember Baker said there had been no such Supreme Court ruling; that a California appeals court had upheld the ruling of a San Diego Superior Court saying that federal law does not preempt the state medical marijuana law. News story here.
Councilmember Baker went on to say that there would be no tax benefits from a marijuana coop or collective. However, in the Attorney General's guidelines it says this:
Business Licenses, Sales Tax, and Seller's Permits: The State Board of Equalization has determined that medical marijuana transactions are subject to sales tax, regardless of whether the individual or group makes a profit, and those engaging in transactions involving medical marijuana must obtain a Seller's Permit. Some cities and counties also require dispensing collectives and cooperatives to obtain business licenses.
There is more info in this memo [PDF] from the State Board of Equalization about taxes and seller's permits.
Mayor Pro Tem Matas asked Police Chief Williams if "the DEA could still raid us." The Chief's brief answer was simply "Yes." I do wish one of them would have taken a moment to clarify who "us" is. Certainly the DEA can (and does) raid marijuana distribution sites. But did "us" refer to the city council? city property? city staff? I have not heard of the DEA raiding a city government simply because it had permitted medical marijuana establishments in its jurisdiction.
Councilmember Schmidt said that he favors a complete ban because of his concerns about any potential increase in crime. He said he does, however, have compassion for those who are ill and need marijuana.
Councilmember Betts said he had "No comment." Later he said he is undecided on the issue, appreciating the compassionate need for marijuana by ill people, but also concerned about a potential increase in crime.
Mayor Parks reminded us that the Attorney General guidelines clarified that only coops and collectives are allowed, that no for-profit marijuana dispensaries are permitted. She wants any ordinance to ban the use of any storefront by a marijuana collective or coop. She is also concerned that any need for police to be involved with a marijuana site will be time they are not available in residential areas of the city.
Police Chief Williams spoke at length about the secondary criminal impact of allowing marijuana coops and collectives, while also recognizing the potential for health benefits. He said that as of August crime is down 18% from a year earlier in Desert Hot Springs. He said that "Cal Chiefs" have substantial evidence illustrating the increase in crime that accompanies medical marijuana. By "Cal Chiefs" I'm sure he means the California Police Chiefs Association. I've searched their site using the terms "marijuana" and "crime" and haven't found anything like what Chief Williams referred to, but it's quite possible that they have not put that information up on their website. He went on to cite robberies and burglaries of medical marijuana sites and customers; loitering in the area, increased traffic, and possible DUI by those patients who do not wait to get home to medicate. He said the U.S. Attorney estimates that 90% of non-profit medical marijuana sites actually turn a profit. If an ordinance permitting medical marijuana establishments were passed, he said he preferred one similar to West Hollywood's which requires neighborhood input, requires on-site security, restricts the number of sites and requires on-site neighborhood ombudsmen.
Councilmember Baker voiced my thoughts exactly when he pointed out that all of the drawbacks the Chief mentioned could also be attributed to a 7-Eleven store. The Chief readily agreed, but added "7-Eleven pays sales tax."
Finally, City Manager Rick Daniels asked the council for direction, so that staff could prepare some kind of ordinance. Things became a bit unclear to the audience not only because of conflicting motions, but because the councilmembers referred to the different positions simply as 1, 2, 3 and 4. Those may be the attachment numbers in the agenda PDF, but in any case I believe that #1 was to take no action (the moratorium would expire and any proposed medical marijuana site would come before the Planning Commission who would have to deal with it using current zoning which is silent on marijuana); #2 was the Palm Springs ordinance; #3 was to ban them; and #4 was a hybrid of Palm Springs and West Hollywood ordinances. Councilmember Baker moved for #1 and #4 with an emphasis on West Hollywood in the hybridization (seconded by Matas). Mayor Parks asked Baker to amend his motion to #3 and #4, but not #1. He was agreeable, but before he could do that Councilmember Betts moved to have staff prepare ordinances for #1 (which actually required no ordinance, but just a report, I suppose), #2, #3 and #4 (seconded by Schmidt). Hoo-boy, if I could have seen the eyes of the attorney I think I would have seen dollar signs at that proposal. Councilmember Schmidt tried to rescind his second, but that is not permitted, it seems, so it went to a vote and failed 1-4. Whereupon, Councilmember Baker did amend his motion and also clarified that the "hybrid" (#4) would allow coops only, would allow them only in industrial areas and include all the restrictions in #2 (Palm Springs, distance from schools, churches, residences, etc.). That motion passed 4-1.
City staff, the attorney and the police chief will commence work posthaste and have something ready by Friday noon, said the City Manager. I believe he said the products of that work would be presented for city council review. The November 4 city council meeting would be the sensible time to do that, but for some reason I've got November 10 written in my notes. That would be the usual day to schedule a study session, but neither the on-line city calendar nor last week's city council agenda list a study session on the 10th. (If somebody will chime in with the correct dates we will all appreciate it, I'm sure.) In any case, the city council would again give direction, I believe, and then it would go to the Planning Commission for their meeting on Monday the 17th of November (the city's on-line calendar still shows that meeting scheduled for Veteran's Day, November 11). The Planning Commission will do the heavy lifting and then the ordinance will come to the city council at their December 2 meeting for first reading.
October 28, 2008
I've resented suggestions that a vote for a minor party candidate was a "wasted vote." I think the only wasted vote is the one not cast. So here's Bob Barr, the Libertarian candidate, trying to turn it around, saying a vote for McCain is a wasted one. If you are a thinking Republican who can't bring yourself to vote for Obama, you may want to consider a vote for Barr as way of making a suggestion to the Republican Party that it should start making sense again.
A former federal prosecutor, Barr built a national following in the 1990s for doggedly pursuing President Clinton's impeachment. He won the Libertarian Party nomination in May after becoming disillusioned with what he saw as unchecked growth of government and federal intrusions into personal privacy under Bush.
Interestingly, the Democratic governer of Montana, Brian Schweitzer, has suggested that those who place a high value of the Second Amendment should consider voting for Barr. The linked article says that the NRA gives Obama an "F," McCain a "C," but that Barr gets an "A."
OTOH, if you are the "religious-right" sort of Republican, you'd probably prefer to vote for the God-fearing, anti-abortion Constitution Party candidate, Chuck Baldwin.
If you don't like either of them, you can write in Ron Paul.
Anchorage Daily News Likes Palin
In their presidential endorsement editorial the Anchorage Daily News says this:
Gov. Palin has shown the country why she has been so successful in her young political career. Passionate, charismatic and indefatigable, she draws huge crowds and sows excitement in her wake. She has made it clear she's a force to be reckoned with, and you can be sure politicians and political professionals across the country have taken note. Her future, in Alaska and on the national stage, seems certain to be played out in the limelight.
But they don't think so much of McCain:
Sen. McCain describes himself as a maverick, by which he seems to mean that he spent 25 years trying unsuccessfully to persuade his own party to follow his bipartisan, centrist lead. Sadly, maverick John McCain didn't show up for the campaign. Instead we have candidate McCain, who embraces the extreme Republican orthodoxy he once resisted and cynically asks Americans to buy for another four years.
So they're endorsing Obama:
It is Sen. Obama who truly promises fundamental change in Washington. You need look no further than the guilt-by-association lies and sound-bite distortions of the degenerating McCain campaign to see how readily he embraces the divisive, fear-mongering tactics of Karl Rove. And while Sen. McCain points to the fragile success of the troop surge in stabilizing conditions in Iraq, it is also plain that he was fundamentally wrong about the more crucial early decisions. Contrary to his assurances, we were not greeted as liberators; it was not a short, easy war; and Americans -- not Iraqi oil -- have had to pay for it. It was Sen. Obama who more clearly saw the danger ahead.
OTOH, the Frontiersman, the newspaper serving Wasilla, has this to say:
While Democrats may herald him as their "leader," should Obama win the White House the nation will not have gained an independently thinking president as much as a rubber-stamp for the ultra-liberal Pelosi-bots in Congress.
Aside from domestic agendas, we’re a nation at war. America needs as its Commander-in-Chief a warrior, not a wimp. McCain has fought for his country, has a military background and the experience to know that whatever anyone thinks about our war on terror in Iraq, that defeat is not an option.
And this is how much the Wasilla newspaper loves its own Sarah Palin:
As many have turned a tabloid eye to McCain's running mate in the weeks leading up to the election, we urge voters to remember that McCain, not Palin, is the Republican candidate for president, and it’s because of McCain’s proven leadership and integrity we urge Alaska and the Mat-Su to vote McCain.
Pierson and Palm
This building, right at the heart of the city at Pierson and Palm can't be gotten rid of soon enough for me. The exterior details serve as pigeon roosts and I'm told it's infested with mold.
October 27, 2008
From now through November 2 channel 113 on Sirius satellite radio will be playing nothing but spooky sounds and music. You could probably devise some drinking game based on that.
Meet Rick Green
Rick Green, the still new executive editor of the Desert Sun, will make himself available for chatting at the Desert Hot Springs Starbucks on Palm Drive at 7 AM on election morning, November 4. Can you spot the typo in the announcement?
Desert Sun Does As Expected
The Desert Sun has endorsed John McCain for president. They cite McCain's experience. Interestingly, they do mention Palin:
We disagree with...his choice for vice president. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin does not have the experience to match McCain's.
Most of the endorsements of McCain are either silent about Palin, or praise her as the greatest thing since the invention of the humane moose trap.
The editorial concludes: "We support McCain because his leadership is proven and he best reflects the values of this part of California." That translates as (1) experience and (2) we think our readers will like it.
No On Prop 8 - Rescinding Marriage Rights In California
Unlike the other California ballot questions, I have been paying attention to Prop 8. Paying attention to it and its ilk long before the actual proposition oozed out of the squirming brains of those who wrote it.
All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
That should be the end of it right there, but there do seem to be some people who are ill-informed and raise irrelevant arguments.
The religious argument is, of course, not relevant at all. The state is forbidden by the first amendment to impose religious laws on us. Some (actually many) religions do not recognize gay marriage; but some do. Some religions do not recognize marriage if a member of the couple is of a different faith; but some do. Some religions don't recognize a marriage if one or both members of the couple have been divorced; but some do. Some religions don't recognize a marriage if the bride isn't a virgin at the time of marriage; but some do. I invite (encourage even) those who would bring religion into this issue to really stand up for their religions and be consistent. Start floating some ballot initiatives that would require all Californians who would be married to conform to the particular rules of YOUR religion only. Once you've succeeded in establishing your religion's form of marriage as The Only Marriage, then it should be easy to move on and pass some measures to guarantee that all Californians are baptized solely in accordance with your religion's baptism rites, if any. And finally, a state law clearly banning or requiring circumcisions should tie things up nicely with a bow.
In case I'm not clear, the marriage rights under California law pertain only to civil marriage. It's a contract recognized by the state that guarantees the couple certain legal rights of access to each other and each other's property. It is not a guarantee of access to Mormon heaven, Muslim heaven, or any other religion's heaven. To get your guarantee of heavenly access you've still got to get that religious wedding.
THIS IS NOT A DEMOCRACY
And by that I mean: Neither California nor the United States is a democracy. You may want it to be a democracy, but to accomplish that you need one of two things: a revolution; or two constitutional conventions to radically revise the U.S. and California constitutions. We live in republics with some democratic elements and unbreakable constitutional guarantees of rights As a republic, our legislative bodies can pass any kind of nutty law they want, but the rights guaranteed in both constitutions cannot be abridged by any law, nutty or otherwise. In the course of exercising our democratic elements, such as California ballot questions, we can propose and vote on more nutty things, but again the rights guaranteed in the constitutions cannot be overridden by mere democracy. The California constitution is subject to the U.S. constitution, which requires its own supremacy and guarantees equal rights for all citizens. IOW, arguments that the citizens of California voted one way or another on a previous ballot question are irrelevant.
RIGHT TO MARRIAGE
In my opinion, obviously, gay couples have the right to marry everywhere in the United States. That right just hasn't been universally recognized yet. You will recall this:
All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men.
We don't get our rights of speech, religion, assembly, privacy, property, etc. FROM the government. We HAVE those rights by virtue of being alive. The government is there to secure our rights, to protect us from those who would take away our rights. The California Supreme Court correctly read the California and U.S. Constitutions and secured the right of marriage to all adult Californians.
THE OTHER SIDE
Let's see what some of the supporters of Prop 8 say.
"Teachers could be required to teach young children there is no difference between gay marriage and traditional marriage." True, they could be. They could also be required to teach that east is pretty much the same as west, that artificial sweeteners are the same as sugar, and that parsnips are just carrots of a different color. But those would all be wrong to teach, and none of them are addressed in Prop 8 (except the parsnip thing).
This whole thing about teaching kids about marriage has me marveling at the weirdness on both sides of the question. First, the pro-Prop 8 people are saying that "public schools would be required to teach gay marriage," dropping the preposition "about" from the sentence. Obviously if the schools were going to teach anything on the subject of marriage they would teach ABOUT civil marriage, ABOUT religious marriage, ABOUT gay marriage, ABOUT common-law marriage, ABOUT second marriage, ABOUT polygamous marriage, ABOUT interesting marriage customs in cultures around the world. So I find it rather off-putting that that No On Prop 8 people (i.e., my side) are so eager to point that nothing is taught about marriage in California schools or nothing is required to be taught. This sounds too much like an Arkansan proudly pointing out that their schools don't teach none of that science stuff. Marriages are an important fact of life, and I think California schools should teach something about them. Same goes for rental contracts, car loans and home mortgages. Imagine how much better things might be if high school graduates were fully informed on both marriage AND home mortgages.
"While gays have the right to their private lives, they do not have the right to redefine marriage for everyone else." Pure bullshit. Point to one marriage, any marriage that has been redefined. The terms on which Mr. A is married to Mrs. A have not changed.
Street Repaving Kick-Off
Here are a couple of photos from this morning's dirt-turning ceremony on Hidalgo to recognize the beginning of the massive street repaving project that Desert Hot Springs is embarking on.
The city council in the front row: Councilmember Karl Baker, Mayor Pro Tem Scott Matas, Mayor Yvonne Parks, Councilmember Russ Betts, Councilmember Al Schmidt. City Manager Rick Daniels can be seen in the back row.
October 26, 2008
Return To Saline Valley
I'm just back from a very laid back weekend at Saline Valley with Great Outdoors. Hot days, almost cool nights, no wind, and absolutely THE LOWEST flyover any of had ever experienced there. We're estimating it at 100 feet and very high speed. Took some minutes for our hearing to resume. Here are some photos.
October 21, 2008
DHS City Council, October 21
The closed session prior to tonight's Desert Hot Springs city council meeting had only one item on the agenda, the performance evaluation of the city manager. There can be nothing official to report out of such a meeting, but Mayor Parks did take a couple of minutes to say that City Manager Rick Daniels has the support of the full city council and that they hope he keeps leading the city to its higher potential for many years. Applause all around.
The meeting itself commenced with a brief presentation on the upcoming annexation to I-10 [I think there is an unwritten rule in effect now that we can call the "Southern California Edison Rule" whereby all presentations such as this are limited strictly to 15 minutes with responsibility for enforcement given directly to the Chief of Police]. Mr. Ireland was very brief, and gave a very condensed version of the informative presentation that will be given in full tomorrow (Wednesday, October 22) at 6 PM (the website says 6:30 PM, but the Mayor says 6) in the Carl May Center especially for those in the zones to be annexed, but open to all.
The annexation project has its own dedicated website. You can get the details there, but I'll mention a couple. Here's the map. The annexation is split into two zones. Zone 1 is only 354 acres and mostly north of Dillon, but dips south of it to include that mobile home park there. Zone 2 is 3,646 acres and can be considered "uninhabited" because fewer than 12 registered voters live there. Mr. Ireland didn't say, but I'm guessing the reason for the two zones is that if resistance is encountered in zone 1 and the residents vote against it, that annexation of zone 2 could still proceed. I wasn't aware until I looked at the map that Palm Springs had not annexed the industrial area east of Indian (north of I-10), so we hope to get it. No churches there that I'm aware of. It would make a good place for a marijuana coop.
An important detail in the annexation plan is that the General Plan Land Use designations as set by the county will not be changed. They will come into the city as-is...until we finally get our General Plan up, I think, then you can expect some revisions.
Michael O'Keefe started off by reminding us that this Friday, October 24 at noon, the DHS Visitor Center will have its grand opening at Cabot's Pueblo Museum. Also, the first 150 kids who descent on Cabot's at 5:30 PM on Halloween will receive a special trick-or-treat and I think he said something about the red planet, which makes me think they may set up a telescope to look at Mars, or maybe it's something more creative. Maybe they will have a seance to summon up the god of war himself. That would put us on the map.
Sunday, November 2 starting at 1 PM Cabot's Pueblo Museum will celebrate Art Of The Day Of The Dead. Come prepared to do it your way, but a picnic is suggested.
Dot Reed reminded us all that Thursday night is the first Desert Hot Springs Historical Society Soup Supper of the season. Ms. Reed says that advanced reservations are required if you expect to get a brownie. To make reservations call Pamela at 760-329-0282. Cost will be $15 and Judy Bowman will be presenting "DHS Spas - then and now: a history of California's Spa City." I haven't seen the presentation yet, but occasionally Jeff Bowman has shown us some of the historical spa-related stuff he has found and it may knock your socks off (but probably nothing more than your socks).
Ms. Reed also reminded us of the Veterans Day recognition which will be Veterans Park (near Palm Drive and Mission Lakes Boulevard) on Tuesday, November 11 at 11 AM.
Judy Shea announced that "Day Of The Young Child" would be April 18, 2009. And there will be a benefit at Hotel Zoso on November 22 and 23 where you can enjoy "The Girl Would Be King." She also suggested (anticipating the passage of the shopping cart ordinance) that cloth bags be given to the homeless. She already has donated some to the First Baptist Church.
Pamela "The Sound Lady" Edmondson got up to tell us that perfection of the sound system was nearly complete. Some microphones that were causing popping noises ("popping" is the polite word for it) at the study session last week have been returned and will be replaced with better. She and Charles Edmondson also asked to be included in any plans to renovate the meeting room, as they didn't want all their careful wire placement to be undone.
I want to know if we can dispense with that ugly little curl of wire that hangs out of the ceiling near the podium. I've always assumed it was an antenna for the microphone on the podium. But, for all I know, it could be a lead for a thermostat.
PALM DRIVE & 2nd STREET
This was a discussion of a zoning change and general plan change to allow the construction of a very nice looking grocery store in that vacant lot on the southwest corner of 2nd & Palm. That is, it would be between Time-Warner and South Of The Border. The change is needed because the developer needs to take an area on the western edge of that lot which is currently zoned residential and use it for parking and a driveway.
Here are the curve balls in the story:
1. If you are familiar with the "Downtown Specific Plan" or the "Vortex Plan" you will have already noticed that this lot is an essential cornerstone to large development that will extend from 2nd & Palm south to Pierson and west for a similar distance. That plan visualizes something at that corner that will invited out-of-town visitors to come and spend some time. Not a grocery store. The Vortex Plan, however, is not yet law.
2. The owner was not present, even though he had been informed that his development would come up for a vote tonight. Several city councilmembers had questions that only the owner could answer. Many of them could be summed up as "Jensen's or Save-A-Lot?"
3. In his motion to approve, councilmember Betts tacked on the conditions that regardless of how the vote on the shopping cart containment ordinance went later in the evening that the city should require shopping cart containment at this grocery store; and that regardless of how the vote on planning for police surveillance cameras went later in the agenda that this grocery store should be required to have surveillance cameras set up that the police could use.
This grocery store has been in the planning process for two years. We were told that in its slow passage through the Planning Commission, the developer made many changes and revisions to satisfy the commission. The argument was made that he had put a lot of effort into this and that it would be unfair to deny him his grocery store after he had worked so long with the city. Well, I'm pretty sure that every developer who brings his project before the city council has put in lots of work, lots of time, and probably some ego as well. If that's a reason to approve something, then the city council would just become a rubber stamp of the planning commission.
Donn Sholty spoke from the podium to ask if we were going to have the Vortex Plan or not, and that if we were going to have it, we should stick by it.
Gabriel King rose to speak in favor of the project.
Because so many of the council wanted to ask questions of the developer, councilmember Baker moved to continue the hearing to a later date. I will spare you the fascinating details of that vote process, but finally it was decided to move the item to the end of the agenda on the chance that the developer would show up. He never did show up, so councilmember Baker moved again to continue the hearing to the next city council meeting, November 4.
Very reliable sources told me that no one (no one on the Planning Commission and no one on the city council and certainly no one on city staff) ever pulled the developer aside and unofficially advised him to lift his head up from his paperwork and take note of the development of the Vortex Plan which visualizes some big building on his lot. True, no one was legally required to do so, but if someone had done so, maybe the wise developer would have moved this project to another site that he owns and then sold the empty lot at Palm & 2nd to the RDA for the Vortex Plan. It's also true that the grocery store project was started well before Ann Marie Gallant unveiled the Vortex Plan last year. But as the months have gone by and the Vortex Plan has become more concrete (bonds issued, plots of land bought up) somebody could have headed this off so it wouldn't have come to the city council where, if they do the right thing and kill the grocery store, they might make the city subject to litigation. I mean, the guy would certainly have good reason to sue, since the zoning and general plan changes required for the Vortex Plan are not in place yet.
Nonetheless, this is the point we are at, and maybe all questions will be answered at the next city council meeting.
The street renaming ordinance passed 4-1 with councilmember Schmidt voting against. He had a question about the requirement to have a petition signed by owners of at least 60% of the lineal frontage abutting the street to be renamed. Whether he wanted that number to be higher or lower was not clear to me.
Street renamings after the petition will go through the Planning Commission and then to the City Council. The ordinance includes a "pocket veto" provision whereby the proposed name change is denied if the council does not act on it within 60 days. Is that the usual thing for items coming before the council from one of its commissions?
Those who propose the name change pay for the full cost of installation of new street signs.
The shopping cart ordinance passed 4-1 with councilmember Baker voting against. I believe his primary concern was that a significant expense was being imposed on these businesses without any input from them. Others pointed out that the businesses had been invited to make input, but never had. The Police Chief reported that the stores ARE picking up their carts from the municipal lot, but that the city isn't making any profit on the small fines imposed.
The ordinance includes several options for a business with shopping carts, so they won't necessarily have to go to wheel locks and an electronic perimeter. They can hire a parking lot guard. They can install barriers, like Save-A-Lot used to have.
Councilmember Betts reminded us that the standard little two-wheel shopping cart can be bought for about $10, and that those who are concerned that the homeless may also become cartless are invited to raise funds to buy them these two-wheel shopping carts.
Councilmember Matas said the Christmas parade and tree lighting will be on December 7. Details coming soon.
Mayor Parks reminded us that early voting is available in the Westfield Mall in Palm Desert in Suite 166 which, she says, is conveniently located directly across from the Hallmark store. How are you fixed for holiday decorations?
Also, there's the ROVER bus, which some saw at Stater Bros. yesterday. It's a bus operated by the Riverside County Registrar of Voters (although I don't think he actually drives it). Here's the calendar for ROVER if you want to vote in the bus. The calendar is a Google map with each day's appearance mapped. We have a bright person in the Registrar's office, I'm sure. The bus will in Indio on the 23rd at the county administrative center which is at 82685 Route 111, next to the Larson Justice Center.
Councilmembers Betts and Schmidt said that they thought the city council should discuss joining with Indio and Rancho Mirage in considering seceding from the vector control district. Councilmember Baker, who is, of course, also a trustee for the Coachella Valley Mosquito and Vector Control District counseled patience, saying he thought things would work out and that Indio and Rancho Mirage were engaging in a bit of saber rattling. But he does have a meeting planned with the trustees from Indio and Rancho Mirage.
Finally, City Manager Daniels announced that the city had unexpectedly received $63,000 and expected to receive $250,000 more Prop 42 funds which were restricted to use solely for streets.
He has also contacted a local cabinet maker to talk about the possibility of building a new dais for the Carl May Center.
November 12, the city of Desert Hot Springs will be cooperating in the statewide earthquake drill.
Riverside County, having the greatest number of home foreclosures in California received the biggest chunk of some federal money allocated to prevent blight due to home foreclosures, $48 million. You can bet he will make sure we get a taste of that. This may be the first time I've heard of a political subdivision with the greatest need also getting the most money. Who knows what the future holds.
His big news was that pavement rehab will begin for real on Monday, October 27 at 8 AM. There will be a brief, but significant, celebration at the corner of Hacienda and Hidalgo at that time. This is BYO coffee and donuts, plus a little extra for councilmember Baker.
Click for a readable version of this schedule of work for this phase of street work. It plans for total completion on December 17.
The commission approved $5 million in bonds to finance the purchase and rehab of Bella Vista apartments by Vaughn Bay Construction.
They also approved 5-0 an allocation of $40,761 to hire Lockheed Martin Services to design a high-speed, city-wide wireless network video surveillance system. The views from these cameras would only be accessible by the police. Police officers would be able to access the cameras directly from their mobile laptops.
Charles "Husband Of The Sound Lady" Edmondson got up to comment on the project. First, he warned that Lockheed Martin has a history of coming up with a solution that requires equipment that only they can provide. He also noted some technological shortcomings in the specs for the system. He said it called for nothing but immobile fixed-focus cameras, which really surprised me. The police will certainly want to pan, tilt and zoom their cameras. Of course, that will require more expensive cameras and more complex software. He also pointed out that the city wanted a system that used WIMAX while he understands the future will belong to LTE. Here is an article comparing the two. WIMAX is an open standard and is less expensive. LTE should be faster when it gets going, but a new standard of WIMAX coming soon will just about match LTE. I do want to highlight a factoid in that Wikipedia article about WIMAX. It says that Pakistan has the largest fully functional WIMAX network in the world. Perhaps a junket to Islamabad is in order. Mr. Edmondson concluded his comments optimistically by saying that after the Lockheed Martin designed system was installed and crapped out, they would hire him to fix it.
Also approved without discussion was an allocation of $12,415 to hire Dream Engineering to design an improved lighting system at Wardman Park. I look forward to the day that my house is no longer illuminated by those huge lights that seem to point everywhere except down at the park.
Finally, the RDA approved the purchase of a vacant lot for $100,000 on the north side of Pierson, just east of 66430 Pierson, which the city also bought for $100,000.