April 30, 2009
Corruption Of Our Youth
Senior year is that special time of life when kids should be practicing drunk driving, experimenting with illegal drugs and behaving in a generally surly manner. But in some parts of Ohio our children are being ripped away from those childish pursuits by the siren song of NAKED WATER-GUN TAG! Horrors. The game is to pursue other high school seniors and get them wet with a squirt gun. It wasn't long before some kid figured out that if you are naked, it's hard to prove you got squirted. So now we have naked youths running and cavorting down the streets and across the lawns of otherwise respectable towns.
April 29, 2009
Terry Nichols Sins Against God Daily
Yes, that Terry Nichols, the one convicted in the bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City in 1995. But he's not talking about THAT sin against God, or the sin of Onan, or any of the usual sins you might think of. No, it's that God intends for people to consume an unrefined diet and the diet of "unhealthy dead and refined foods" being served up in the ADX Supermax prison is "causing him physical, mental and spiritual torment, and to sin against God." It's also violating his 14th, 8th, 1st and 5th amendment rights. But wait, that's not all. Mr. Nichols "has been dealing with chronic constipation, bleeding, hemorrhoids, along with pain and suffering, for over 30 years." He had rectal surgery in 1984.
Considering his delicate intestinal condition, Mr. Nichols should have done some research on the menus at federal supermax prisons before committing himself to bombing a federal building. The knowledge that internet access in prisons is very poor and that the cookies served in prison cafeterias are notoriously stale are all that have kept me from committing an unending stream of felonies.
I just want to squeeze this in here while I can. If you go to the Relay For Life site today, this is part of what you'll see:
Now, I know that won't hold true through the weekend, as there are a lot of people piling up the contributions who haven't reported them yet. But for the last several days I've been sitting in the #1 spot. I haven't reached my goal yet, and any contribution goes to help the American Cancer Society.
An Idea Even More Outlandish Than Permanently Docking The Queen Mary In Long Beach
And that idea is to restore her and return her to the seas. Estimates are $1.5 billion and four years to do it. There are a couple of big challenges (besides the obvious).
(1) The proposal is coming from Cairngorm Entertainment Group, which has no experience at all with this sort of thing. They are a distributor of television programs including "Home and Garden Show," "Sport Fishing with Dan Hernandez" and "Police Rescue" plus "classic series' reruns targeted at cash-rich baby boomers ready to gobble up the same television fare they feasted on as impressionable youths" [their words] such as "Ozzie and Harriet," "The Danny Thomas Show" and "My Mother The Car."
(2) The City of Long Beach and Cunard signed an agreement that the ship would never be used "for trade at sea or as a commercial cruise line," which, of course, doesn't mean she can't be used that way. It only means that Cairngorm Entertainment Group will also have to pay a big bundle to Cunard to make them happy, too. So it's gonna be more than just $1.5 billion.
Tim Cook, president and chief executive of Cairngorm Entertainment Group is trying to negotiate a good deal the same way you negotiate over an old house or a used car: "The Queen Mary is in disrepair. She is at that stage in life when she could implode at any moment. Instead of rivets, nuts and bolts, she is held together by crustaceans."
How very exciting! The City of Long Beach should charge people more to board the ship when the weather is stormy. Imagine the thrill of being on a great ocean liner as she goes down...in about 12 feet of water.
Mac OS X Tips has suggestions for improving the performance of Spotlight. Most, but not all, involve using Terminal, including how to run Spotlight directly from Terminal (in case you need to enhance your nerdness): "just type mdfind query where query is what you want to search for."
I Was Right! (but I don't know why)
Just as I had queried a few days ago, the Desert Stonewall Democrats have called off their boycott of Garff auto dealerships in the Coachella Valley. "Why?," you may ask. "Dunno," is my answer.
"We recognize that our members have diverse opinions on this subject and we want them to be able to have the freedom to choose whether they wish to participate," George Zander, chair the Desert Stonewall Democrats said in a news release.
"While the discussions to end the ongoing boycott are important, the primary goals of The Desert Stonewall Democratic Club continue to be increasing Democratic voter registration and electing Democrats."
And how is that any different from when they started the boycott back in March? The boycott where they didn't explain their goals or reasons for restarting the national boycott which itself had been ended for vague reasons.
John Garff credited the news Wednesday to "good dialogue" with the Desert Stonewall Democrat leadership.
"Honestly, it's just a better understanding of issues on both sides," he said.
"Good dialogue," huh? Does that mean Garff got the Stonewall Democrats to pull their heads out of their asses and listen? Maybe so.
New Hampshire Legislature Approves Gay Marriage
The N.H. Senate passed the bill today with some amendments banning polygamy and incest (but I think I could still marry my pet iguana). The bill goes to a conference committee to resolve differences with the House version. Then it's on to Governor John Lynch, where we will find out if he's a better man than Governor Schwarzenegger and Governor Douglas (of Vermont).
Live free or die, boys!
Tomorrow, Thursday, April 30, National Organization for Marriage ("A Storm, She's A-brewin'") will release a new ad featuring Miss USA California, Carrie Prejean. The ad will be titled No Offense. Clear your schedule and dust off your video editor.
66028 12th Street
Graffiti, broken windows, trash, a disappearing roof, it's got it all. More photos here.
General Plan Open House
Saturday, May 9, 10 to 2 at the Skyborne Recreation Center. More info on the General Plan Update here.
DHS City Council Study Session - April 28
The study session commenced with a flurry of discussion of the accuracy of the clock on the wall. Is it four minutes fast? Are most of the council members just early birds? I'm sure that if some concerned citizen were to donate a clock that automatically sets its own time, it would be appreciated.
The first item on the published agenda, "Music Festival Presentation," was removed. City Manager Rick Daniels explained that the city had engaged a consultant to work with the Community and Cultural Affairs Commission on development of a "signature event." The arrangements were made in "quick fashion" and there is no signed contract and the consultant has not provided a detailed workscope or other necessary paperwork.
Dot Reed got up to make her final public comment prior to Relay For Life, which starts this Saturday. After her comment, Interim City Clerk Pat Hammers pointed out that at special meetings of the city council, such as this one, only comments relevant to agenda items are permitted. IOW, comments on non-agenda items are NOT permitted. News to me.
(This discussion begins at 6:14 in the audio recording.)
The issue here is that Granite Construction wants to construct a new quarry (called "Liberty Quarry") in an unincorporated area along I-15 near Temecula. It's opposed by local residents, the Sierra Club and the Audubon Society. The main point of contention, in addition to the usual objections to a quarry (noise, dust, visual blight), is that the proposed site is adjacent to the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve. Riverside County is preparing the Environmental Impact Report, but the draft hasn't been released yet. The city of Temecula is in the process of trying to annex the area. If they succeed, the county's EIR process would end, and the city would take it up. The strong local opposition would probably guarantee that the quarry would not be built if Temecula annexes the area.
Gary Johnson, Resource Development Manager from Granite Construction, was there to tell us about our "dog in this fight," as Councilmember Scott Matas phrased it. Currently, 33% of the aggregate quarried at their Indio location is exported to the west, mostly for construction in San Diego County and southwest Riverside County. This generates 32,000 truck trips annually on I-10. Eventually, the Indio quarry will be exhausted, which will require us to import aggregate to the Coachella Valley. Granite Construction wanted a resolution from the DHS city council. Whether they wanted that resolution to merely "register [our] concern regarding impacts created from shipping aggregate long distances and urging Southwest California to add local facilities to serve local needs," as Indio, Beaumont and Banning have done (according to Granite Construction); or to clearly express support for Liberty Quarry; or express opposition to Temecula's annexation of the area, was not clearly stated. But it was clear that no resolution could come out of this study session. It was only a study session to determine if the city council would want some resolution to be placed on a future agenda.
Several members of the city council were concerned that no opponent to Liberty Quarry had been invited to give a presentation to counter Granite Construction's. City Manager Daniels said that he had talked with the city manager of Temecula earlier in the day and their city manager was satisfied that the subject was being discussed in a study session and no resolution would be decided on. There were in the audience several citizens from the Temecula area who had comments in opposition to the quarry.
The proposed quarry site is an undeveloped area. There are about 15 property owners in the area, ten of whom say they support the quarry, one of them is clearly opposed. The nearest residence is about 1,200 feet away. Mr. Johnson said that truck traffic on I-15 (in addition to I-10) will be reduced if the Liberty Quarry is permitted. Granite Construction will enlarge and improve the Rainbow interchange on I-15 [link is to a Google map of the interchange] in order to mitigate the increased truck traffic at that location. Granite Construction began the permit process in 2005.
Comments opposing Liberty Quarry were heard from Fred Bartz, Fred Hayes, and Kathleen Hamilton who pointed out the proposed quarry's proximity to the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve. Here is more information about the Santa Margarita Ecological Reserve and here are some photos taken there. Here you can find maps of the reserve.
Here's the map I found most useful [warning: possibly very slow to download].
And then attorney Meryle Hammatt introduced herself, saying she is on the executive board of the Santa Margarita group of the Sierra Club. (Her comments begin at 32:05 in the audio recording.) She said that the Sierra Club, the Audubon Society, and the Friends Of The River are opposed to the quarry. She also mentioned the BANGO list, which is a long list of businesses, professionals and groups in the Temecula area that are opposed to the quarry. You can check the list yourself, but in my quick scan of it I saw every sort of business including some construction businesses.
She brought out a clarification of the limits of aggregate in the area. Granite Construction referred to a 16-year limit, but Ms. Hammatt said that is only the permitted limit, that there is no limit to the amount of aggregate out there, and that the permits would only need to be revised. Well, I suspect (but I don't know) that those permitted limits were established based on a lot of input from environmental groups like Sierra Club. I doubt that the Sierra Club really wants to see unrestricted, full-out quarrying from every potential aggregate site. Ms. Hammatt suggested Rosemary's Mountain as an alternative site for quarrying. She said that Granite says Rosemary's Mountain quarry will be exhausted in 20 years, but Ms. Hammatt says that is because Granite is only mining 15% of the potential there, and that they could mine more. Later, the representative from Granite Construction said they are mining only 15% there, because that is all that is permitted due to environmental concerns. See what I'm saying? Here's some background information on Rosemary's Mountain quarry, and here. Here's a news article from 2007 about a citizens groups that oppose Rosemary's Mountain quarry.
Next up was Peter Sturgeon who said he represents "Save Our Desert," a 600-member group with 190 members in Desert Hot Springs. 190 members! I think the only legal organization that might have MORE than 190 members in DHS is the Roman Catholic church, so this "Save Our Desert" group must be the happening thing, right? That's why we've seen them showing up for every clean-up project, and making their views known at every city council meeting where some environmental issue was on the agenda, and they're right there on the front lines fighting Green Path North.
Oh, except they're not. I never heard of them. You never heard of them. Mayor Pro Tem Baker said he never heard of them. During the study session all the anti-Liberty Quarry people sat right behind Vonda and me, while Peter Sturgeon sat with the Granite Construction representatives over in the other corner. His comments echoed the environmental concerns expressed earlier by Granite Construction: the heavy truck traffic generating tons of greenhouse gases, nitrous oxide, burning diesel, exhausting our local supply of aggregate.
Naturally, any industry that's doing some lobbying will organize a parallel non-profit ("Save Our Desert" is not a 501(c)(3) corporation) to make it look like good, honest, hard-working, clean-living Americans just like you and me are in full and patriotic support of the industry's point of view. It's all part of the fun. But usually those groups put a little more effort into hiding their direct connection to the industry. First, you don't sit and chat with your industry representative during public meetings. Second, you've got to establish yourself some legitimacy by incorporating and putting in at least some token effort on some project that is NOT your industry's pet...like, for example, writing a check for $10,000 to the Coachella Valley Coalition. That'd buy you some street cred.
"Save Our Desert" is mentioned here [scroll down] in a letter to the editor by Fred Bartz. Also in these minutes [PDF] of the February meeting of LAFCO.
Peter Sturgeon, Save Our Desert, 74930 Country Club Suite 540 #386, Palm Desert, CA 92260. Mr. Sturgeon stated that this was a major regional issue and affected the residents of the Coachella Valley as well as the residents of the Temecula Valley. Mr. Sturgeon said that they were asking for fairness and for a central location. He said that they would prefer holding the meeting in the Coachella Valley but agrees that it should be centrally located to allow everyone to attend.
Other links on the Liberty Quarry subject:
- Here's a YouTube video made by people who visited the Indio quarry and the proposed Liberty Quarry site. Several parties make comparisons between the two sites, but several parties also point out how different they are. The rock at the Indio site is already busted up (thank you Mr. San Andreas and your wonderful fault), while Liberty Quarry will require blasting.
- Save Our Southwest Hills is the organization leading the fight against Liberty Quarry. They are organizing people to show up at the LAFCO hearing on June 4, 9 AM, at the Riverside County Administration Building, 4080 Lemon Street in Riverside.
- Mayor Pro Tem Baker mentioned "Gravel Gertie" of Orange County. Here's a reference to her that I was able to find. She was a planning commissioner.
Both sides presented valid issues and both sides misrepresented the opposition. Do these people really believe we're all so gullible and stupid, or was Desert Hot Springs a test market to see how little effort they could put into it? Fortunately, the city council didn't have to form an opinion on how good or bad the quarry would be. The main issue was whether Desert Hot Springs should stick its nose into Temecula's annexation process. Imagine our own response if Temecula showed up at our LAFCO hearing to oppose our annexation to the I-10 because it will include Mission Creek and areas of great environmental concern to MSHCP and the Sierra Club. It's not the business of the city to be making enemies of other cities in Riverside County. (Los Angeles County, OTOH, is fair game).
I would be so pleased someday to hear one side or the other of an environmental issue present its arguments without lies and distortions, just as though they thought their opinions were so valid that the truth would serve well. BTW, how come it's always "Save The..." or "Save Our..."? Why doesn't somebody call their group something like "Desecrate The Other Guy's Backyard."
Development Review Process
(This discussion begins at 57:38 in the audio recording.)
Martin Magaña presented efforts to rationalize and clarify the steps in the development review process, including more transparency in the Architectural and Landscape Review Committee. Agendas for the ALRC will be posted and minutes will be kept. The essence of what he presented is here in text form:
Development Review Process Outline
- Current process is fragmented.
- Plans are incomplete.
- Plans that are missing come in at the last minute and don't provide the time necessary for Design Review Committee to consider prior to making a recommendation, thus stalling the project and having it come back to Design Review Committee again.
- Plans do not have enough detail for Design Review Committee to assess projects.
- There is no staff report that accompanies the project plans, just an agenda.
- No minutes are taken at the Design Review Committee meeting so there's no record of what was said.
- Staff has talked to Planning Commissioners, City staff, other cities, and it has been determined that our process is flawed.
When an Applicant walks into City Hall, the administrative clerk assists the person at the counter and answers general questions and gives them general information (development review process chart, application, business card). Applicant reviews information and calls to set up a pre-application meeting with the appropriate staff member.
- Mandatory Pre-Application Meeting
- General Plan/Zoning Consistency
- Plan Set Checklist
- Environmental Process
- Exempt - Replacing a sign, patio covers, block walls, Home Occupation Permits, Temporary Use Permits, interior tenant improvements.
- Negative Declaration - Development Permits, Design Review, Conditional Use Permits such as a commercial shopping center, sign programs, gas stations with mini-market, hotels, residential developments, TTM and TPM.
- EIR - (Large Master Planned Communities with mixed uses that include hotels, restaurants, retail, condos, golf courses)
- Special Studies (if needed) - traffic, noise, biological, cultural, view shed analysis
- Formal Application Submittal - Determine completeness
C.a. Revise application and plans for resubmittal.
- Checklist review
- Plan Sets
- Special Studies
- Issue completeness letter if complete
- Route Plans for Review (30 days)
- Provide affected agencies/departments opportunity to comment and suggest conditions.
- Comments/suggestions from agencies and departments are given to applicant for concurrence - these will result in Draft Conditions of Approval (7 days)
- Revise and re-submit plans (if necessary)
- Schedule project for the Architectural and Landscape Review Committee meeting (one time only)
- Prepare Agenda and Staff Report (14 days)
- Prepare and post Public Meeting Notice (72 hours before)
- Meeting Minutes will be taken
- Meeting minutes will be given to Applicant so that it is clear what recommendations were made.
- Applicant revises plan per Architectural and Landscape Review Committee recommendations (14 days)
- Schedule Planning Commission Meeting (30 days)
H.a. Planning Commission action is final unless appealed to the City Council (15 days)
- Prepare environmental analysis
- Negative Declarations, Notice of Preparation, Initial Study Completed - 21 or 30 day review period. Mitigated Negative Declaration, Mitigation Measures Review and Applicant Concurrence.
- Public Hearing Notice 10 days prior to Planning Commission Meeting
- Prepare Agenda and Public Hearing Notices
- Prepare Staff Report & Conditions of Approval
- Schedule City Council Meeting (30 days)
- Prepare Staff Report & Conditions of Approval
- Prepare Public Hearing Notices
- Prepare environmental analysis
- Negative Declarations, Notice of Preparation, Initial Study Completed - 21 or 30 Review Period. Mitigated Negative Declaration, Mitigation Measures Review and Applicant Concurrence.
- Public Hearing Notice 10 days prior to City Council Meeting
- Submit to Building and Public Works Depts. for plan check review and permits
Commission Alternates Discussion
(This discussion begins at 1:23:20 in the audio recording).
This was discussion about the roles and selection process for commission alternates. They also discussed whether alternate commissioners should get "first right of refusal" when a seat opens up on their commission. Attorney Davtyan had earlier instructed that Alternate Planning Commissioner McCroskery could sit on the Planning Commission, but not vote. Yet, we've seen alternate commissioners vote on other commissions. Interim City Clerk (twice denying she is an attorney) said she believed that the Planning Commission was an exception because its structure was controlled by California law which does not allow alternate commissioners to vote. The policy can be different on the other commissions.
The conclusions were to keep alternate commissioners; that if an alternate commissioner desires appointment to a regular seat, he should let his wishes be known to the mayor or whoever is doing the nominating; and that the city should solicit more applications from citizens to be on commissions.
Last item on the agenda was City Manager Rick Daniels announcing that absentee ballots are out and people are voting on Measure A, the utility tax for public safety in Desert Hot Springs. Legal advice is that an elected city official cannot express support for Measure A while at a city function on city property, but otherwise they are free to encourage voters to support this measure.
April 28, 2009
Photo by jeff tamagini
April 27, 2009
Fools Over New York
Video of the panic caused at Battery Park by the foolish idea to (1) fly Air Force One low over Manhattan and (2) not announce it to the public.
Louis Caldera, director of the White House Military Office, took responsibility for the decision. Buildings were evacuated in Jersey City.
Linda Garcia-Rose, a social worker who counsels post-traumatic stress disorder patients in an office just three blocks from where the World Trade Center towers once stood, called the flight an "absolute travesty."
"There was no warning. It looked like the plane was about to come into us," she said. "I'm a therapist, and I actually had a panic attack."
Donations for "Relay For Life"
Besides doing this to raise money for a good cause, I'm doing this in memory of my friend JT who died of lung cancer back in 2007.
As far as I can tell, everybody in DHS is either donating money or walking in the relay itself. This is the first time a Relay For Life has taken place in Desert Hot Springs. So this is an outreach aimed especially at those outside of DHS who I haven't buttonholed yet. Here's where to go to make a donation. You can also purchase luminarias there. You can dedicate your luminaria to the memory or honor of anyone you like. The luminaria are lighted around the track where we walk after dusk.
Some people, including Cleve Jones, are proposing that we all meet in Fresno on the first Saturday after the California Supreme Court decision(s) on Prop 8, regardless of which way they go. "Fresno?!," you may wonder. It's (A) central, and (B) an important city in the San Joaquin Valley, where the majority voted for Prop 8.
While you're there, you might consider seeing if the Forestiere Gardens are open for visitors. And, if you're coming from the south, why not visit the gift shop at the world headquarters of Sunmaid Raisins at 13525 South Bethel Avenue in Kingsburg.
April 26, 2009
Chicagoan Visits Sagewater Spa
The tale of another happy visitor to Desert Hot Springs. A couple of interesting notes about this story: she makes Palm Springs sound like a tacky place (not DHS), and she is treated to a sighting of City Manager Rick Daniels at the Capri.
VH1 at Terra Cotta Inn Tomorrow
VH1 will be filming for some reality show at the Terra Cotta Inn in Palm Springs tomorrow, April 27. Two days ago they were looking for 3 couples to be extras to play the role of Terra Cotta guests in the background. Costumes are limited to sunglasses and hats. You get a free day at Terra Cotta, plus lunch.
April 25, 2009
I went on a hike today with Great Outdoors and Out & About to one of those mesas near Pioneertown, downhill from Pipes Canyon. Most of the area was burned by the Sawtooth Complex Fire in the summer of 2006. As you will see in the photos, just about everything is recovering except the joshua trees, which cannot recover.
April 24, 2009
Visting Miracle Manor
A Washington Post green/sustainable cooking blogger is visiting Desert Hot Springs and, of course, loving it. They don't seem to have gone anywhere in Coachella Valley worth mentioning except DHS!