February 28, 2011
John Brown Interviewed by The Desert Sun
John Brown, President of the Mission Springs Water District board and executive director of Family Services of the Desert talks about his adoption of Cody, his fifth son. Mr. Brown has 12 grandchildren.
Excitement at Palm Desert High on Tuesday
Press Release: "Every 15 Minutes"
Agency: Palm Desert Police
Station Area: Palm Desert
Written Date: February 28, 2011 Time: 10:30 AM
Incident Date: March 1, 2011 Time: 10:00 AM
Incident Location: Palm Desert High School
Reporting Officer: Sergeant Misty Reynolds
On Tuesday, March 1, 2011, starting about 10:00 AM, the citizens of Palm Desert will notice that Palm Desert High School is inundated with emergency vehicles on Fred Smith Lane and Cook Street. Lights, sirens, loud noises should conclude around 12:00 PM. There is no real emergency!!!
All of this activity will be the result of the "Every 15 Minutes" program. Every 15 Minutes someone dies as a result of alcohol related traffic collision. During this program Palm Desert High School students will be witnesses to a unique learning experience, designed to prevent alcohol related traffic accidents.
The following is an excerpt from the Every 15 Minutes website:
"Life's lessons are best learned through experience. Unfortunately, when the target audience is teens and the topic is drinking and driving, experience is not the teacher of choice.
The Every 15 Minutes Program offers real-life experience without the real-life risks. This emotionally charged program, entitled Every 15 Minutes, is an event designed to dramatically instill teenagers with [an appreciation for] the potentially dangerous consequences of drinking alcohol. This powerful program will challenge students to think about drinking, personal safety, and the responsibility of making mature decisions when lives are involved.
During the first day of the event the "Grim Reaper" calls students who have been selected from a cross-section of the entire student body out of class. One student is removed from class every 15 minutes.
A simulated traffic collision will be viewable on the school grounds. Rescue workers will treat injured student participants. These students will experience first-hand, the sensations of being involved in a tragic, alcohol-related collision. The coroner will handle fatalities on the scene, while the injured students will be extricated by the jaws-of-life manned by Fire-Fighters and Paramedics. Police Officers will investigate, arrest, and book the student "drunk driver".
On the following morning, a mock funeral service will be held at the High School. The assembly will begin with a video of school day activities including scenes from the first day of the "Grim Reaper" and the staged accident. The assembly will be hosted by Officer Kevin Cole, who will guide the audience through the devastating effects of losing a loved one due to a bad choice. We will also have a powerful speaker who actually lost a child to a drunk driver.
The assembly stresses that the decision to consume alcohol can affect many more people than just the one who drinks. This very emotional and heart-wrenching event will illustrate to students, the potentially dangerous consequences of their use of alcohol, regardless of how casual they believe their use may be.
This event includes the participation of the Riverside County Sheriff's Department, Palm Desert Police Department, CAL Fire, Palm Desert High School PTO, Palm Desert High School, PHDS Foundation, Classic Party Rentals. Eisenhower Medical Center, KESQ, the City of Palm Desert, the City of Rancho Mirage, the City of Indian Wells, Riverside County District Attorney's Office, Riverside County Superior Court/Judge Hawkins, MADD, Miramonte Hotel, Forest Lawn Mortuaries, TNV Towing, Cardiff Transportation, Albertsons, and KSL Resorts/Rancho Las Palmas Resort. It is our goal to present this very powerful program to prevent drunk driving.
I'm impressed that they are going so far as to involve Forest Lawn Mortuaries for the mock funerals.
From DHS City Manager Daniels
Abridged and interpreted by Ron's Log.
- Two audit reports have identified approximately $39,000 in underreported Transient Occupancy Tax.
- Federal Register Notice of Intent to certif an EIR for the MSHCP was posted today. 30-day public review is already underway.
- The consultant for the West Desert Hot Springs Master Drainage Plan met with the Policy Committee today.
- On February 24, 2011, a stop work order was issued for the Village at Mission Lakes. No work will be permitted until the DIF is paid in full.
- There will be a household hazardous waste collection event at the fire station at West & Pierson on Saturday, March 12, from 9 AM to 2 PM.
- The Parks Master Plan is expected to be presented to the City Council at their March 15 meeting.
- City staff have requested revisions in the documents for Annexation 29.
- Tri-Star began work on San Andreas on February 23.
- Met with Riverside COunty Flood Control District to discuss acquisition of the northeast corner of Camino Campañero and Verbena Drive as part of the Verbena Channel and Basin.
- Improvement plans for Brisas De Paz have been approved. The project is expecte to go out to bid in March.
- Southern California Edison is sending the required right-of-way document to the city for the traffic light that is planned for Palm Drive & Camino Campañero. Upon receipt, the city will contact the land owner.
- Working on a CalRecycle Rubberized Asphalt Concrete Grant for Cactus Drive. I presume this is Cactus between Hacienda and Two Bunch Palms, since that's the only part that hasn't been fixed up yet.
- Skyborne will execute the final lift of streets up to the last completed homes in Villages 1 & 2. Work to begin within about 90 days. Other developments contacted regarding incomplete improvements were Hidden Springs, Agua Dulce, and Tuscan Hills.
- The old city entry sign has been removed and new signs are on order.
- Bids on the Community Health & Wellness Center will be submitted to City Council on March 15.
- Architectural work is underway for facade improvements to "Pacera's Corner." [I've no idea where that is.] Same for the Desert Eye Care Center on the corner of Palm & Pierson. Sidewinder Grill will execute an agreementl and is soliciting an architect.
- Conceptual architectural work is complete for facade improvements at the Aqua Soleil hotel. The RDA's facade money combined with the hotel's own contribution and the formation of a Community Facilities District will mean an investment of $1.2 million in the exterior of what is, effectively, a landmark structure in the city.
- Acceptance of the donated art work from Tim Brophy will return to the CCAC on March 9. It sounds like maybe the CCAC didn't follow proper form, but I may be reading too much into this.
- Public art from Hitzke (the newly complete Hacienda Hills development) and Alibaba Farzaneh will also be reviewed by the CCAC at their March 9 meeting.
- Chief Williams was Principal For A Day at the DHS Alternative Education Learning Center.
- 251 tires were collected at the February 19 event.
- The old gas station at Indian and I-10 has been demolished.
Rosary Beads = Gang Affiliation?
News story (with video) about a student in Collinsville, Illinois, who was suspended from high school for wearing rosary beads "because they are gang related." As always, the school administration had no comment, so we can't verify that was the real reason given. But at least the high school makes its dress code available on the internet in the student handbook [PDF]. It starts on page 31 and here's the list of prohibited items (bolding added):
The following dress/groom items will not be permitted at Collinsville High School: 1) Clothing that contains or suggests vulgar, profane or inappropriate wording, pictures of illegal substances, alcoholic beverages, tobacco products, sexual activity, violence, or racial context; 2) Articles of clothing associated with or affiliated with gangs (this includes (but is not limited to) – caps, clothing, coloring, insignia or other symbol or combination of symbols indicating membership in, affiliation with, or support for any gang or similar organization with intimidation, violence, drugs or illegal activity); 3) The Seven "B's" that should not be visible at CHS: Bras, Bellies, Bottoms, Backs, Bandanas, Boxers, and Bedroom Attire; 4) Pants with holes above the knee. Pants/shorts must also be worn at the normal waistline at all times and shorts/skirts must be no shorter than mid-thigh; 5) Jewelry must be removed in instructional settings which pose student safety concerns; 6) Chains, chains from wallets, metal or plastic spikes, or any other apparel which could be a safety concern (Necklaces and chains must be limited to 16-18 inches in length and medallions on these chains or necklaces should be no more than a quarter in diameter); 7) Coats of a long nature (including 'trench coats' and those worn by certain religious affiliations – clerical robes); 8) Dog collar necklaces, chains or bracelets made with spikes; 9) Eyebrow notching; 10) Eyeglasses with tinted lenses (except for those medically necessary and prescribed by a physician); 11) Hats, caps, scarves, bandanas, doo rags, headbands, hair rollers, hoods, masks, hairnets, picks and combs are not to be worn at any time during the school day either in the building or in outside areas (all headgear will be confiscated); 12) Loungewear, house-slippers, pajamas, and/or housecoats; 13) Unnatural hair color or style which disrupts the educational process of the classroom; 14) Visible tattoos which disrupt the educational process of the classroom.
The rosary beads might violate the necklace length rule, although that rule is written unclearly. Does it mean that all necklaces must be 16 to 18 inches long? That seems unlikely. It probably means that they they are limited a maximum length of "oh, say, something like 16 or 18 inches." So why not just say 16 inches or 18 inches (pick one), since you know they've got a ruler in the office and they can just measure the offending necklace.
And what does "no more than a quarter in diameter" mean? Taken literally, it seems to say that all medallions must be shaped like a wedge of pie. It probably means no larger than the diameter of a quarter dollar. The size of the cross on that rosary looks like it violates that rule, too.
I'm left wondering if the school actually only objected to the dimensions of the rosary beads, but the student made up the gang accusation in order to gain sympathy.
Well now, this makes sense
"Reports continue to pour in from around the nation today of helpless Americans being forcibly taken from their marital unions after President Obama dropped the Defense of Marriage Act earlier this week, leaving the institution completely vulnerable to roving bands of homosexuals."
February 27, 2011
Libertarian to Classical Liberal
As [Chris] Hedges admonishes in his latest Death of the Liberal Class, authentic, classical liberalism is the only political force that can check corporations because it assumes that power craves power, as Shakespeare teaches. Tragically, today's mainstream liberalism, together with our president, has by and large sold itself out to corporate paymasters—witness the Huffington Post/AOL buyout, the Times' and New Yorker's fear-driven support for the Iraq War and Obama's capitulations to Wall Street, the insurance industry and war profiteers—leaving us with a shattered economy, an angry populace susceptible to the emergence of a radical charismatic leader and corporations with enough power to impose classical fascism on the population if force becomes the only option left to preserve the system.
Mission Springs Water Wins Silver Prize
Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting Awards have announced the results of this year's contest. Mission Springs Water District got a silver prize, although they misidentified it as "Desert Springs, CA." Gold prize went to Daytona Beach, Florida.
Attempted Murder At Critical Mass Event In Porto Alegre, Brazil
Critical Mass rides take place on the last Friday of every month in many cities around the world.
UPDATE: "The banker Ricardo Neis, 47, who ran over dozens of cyclists in the Lower City, on Friday granted a quick interview at the Bureau of Crimes, Traffic. He said he was surrounded by demonstrators and that he felt threatened, so he took the decision to proceed with the vehicle."
John Furbee and Jim Haidet
The DHS Historical Society, in the person of Alta Hester, interviewed John Furbee and Jim Haidet about their recollections of the history of Desert Hot Springs. The resulting video is in four segments:
- 00:00 John Furbee introduces himself. He came to Desert Hot Springs in 1969; 01:38 Jim Haidet who came to Desert Hot Springs in the 1940s introduces himself; 07:55 They discuss the locations of various grocery stores, including the homemade bricks for Horton's market at Cahuilla and Palm; 10:30 Recollections of Cabot Yerxa.
- 00:15 They recall Jerry Skuse when he was young; 01:35 When DHS incorporated in 1963, and its first police department; 02:05 John Furbee talks about the drug store he bought in 1969; 10:30 Jim Haidet was on the Mission Springs Water District board. Sewers are discussed.
- 00:00 They discuss DHS Mayors; 02:50 Who was Carl May? 03:16 Bill Gibson, husband of the late Mary Gibson, is discussed; 04:36 John Furbee mentions Mayor Alex Bias.
- 00:00 Jim Haidet discusses the elementary schools he attended; 01:10 They discuss elementary schools; 04:00 MSWD bottled water; 05:00 A discussion of the facts of the supposed seismic fault under the site of the proposed elementary school; 09:50 In 1943 or '44 Jim Haidet would ride in a Model A Ford to get to school in Palm Springs until they began to bring the school bus up to Garnet. In 1946 or '47 the school bus began to come all the way to DHS; 11:40 John Furbee recalls a couple of movies that were filmed in his drug store and in his hotel.
I think you'll find them entertaining.
I have just completed a new fake trailer for the sequel to E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial. I´ve been working on it for a while and like Titanic, it took endless hours of sifting through movies and trying to paste a story together from clips that I found. I can´t tell you exactly how many movies I researched (hundreds), but I can tell you that I ended up using clips from 33 movies along with 11 shots that I had to shoot myself in order to create the trailer. Out of the 115 shots in the trailer, there are 80 effects shots ranging from simple (adding ships to the background) to difficult (animating a talking ET).
Landlords Organize To Undo MSWD Rate Changes...almost
There's a petition drive underway to put a measure on the ballot to undo the recent rate increases approved by Mission Springs Water District - sort of. One of the provisions of the recent rate change was a new way of calculating the rates for master meters, i.e., those meters that serve multi-unit dwellings like apartment buildings and mobile home parks. That provision lowered the water rates for those properties. The initiative is organized by Jim Jones and Tim Radigan Brophy, both of whom are landlords with property in the Mission Springs Water District. The initiative petition does not include a repeal of their lower water rates. Go figure. The net result would be to reduce the water district's income to even less than it was before the rate increase.
The initiative would not only repeal the increases, but would lock the rates down so that they could only increase in step with the CPI. The district would return to losing more than $200,000 per month. With cash reserves of only about $5 million, you can see how long that could last. Before too long, the district would be unable to pay its debts. After that, I don't know what the process would be. Absorption by another water district? A takeover by the county? Would the new owners of the district be bound by the results of the initiative?
UPDATE: My attention has been directed to this information provided by the initiative organizers. They include some numbers that are incorrect. I suspect they may be basing their data on Desert Sun reports, which are all incorrect as well.
"The average [water] savings for a single family home would be $84 per year depending on usage." The average household use is 17 HCF/month. If you go back on Ron's Log to this entry where I calculated the changes at all levels of usage you'll see that for water only, the cost of 17 HCF rose by $5.88/month outside of DHS, or $6.18/month in DHS due to the public safety tax. Multiply by 12 and the annual differences are $70.56 and $74.16, not $84.
"The savings for mastered metered properties will be approximately 70% of their 2009 water bill." This makes so little sense that my mental struggle to understand it made smoke rise from my little brain. I think what they've done is to go back to one step in the calculation of master meter rates where, based on reliable national studies, multi-family residential units use, on average, 70% as much water as a single family home. The rates were adjusted to reflect that. So in some sort of perfect world where economic responses are all simply linear, then potentially a landlord might see a 30% savings, not 70%. In the real world, the levels of usage vary according to the property, and even the water district was not willing to estimate some idealized average savings for multi-family properties.
"The [sewer] saving for a single family home will be $105.60 and for a mobile home, apartment, duplex, triplex $92.88." The sewer rate was increased by $4.12/month for single family residences. That comes to $49.44 per year, not $105.60. The rate changes included a provision for a second increase in the sewer rates, which has not gone into effect. That, if it goes into effect, would be an increase of $107.64 per year compared to the 2009 rates, not the figure they use. The rate for multi-family units is similarly incorrect.
They also repeat the charge that there are 6 employees at the district making over $100,000. Those are figures from 2009. In 2010 the district lost two top employees, so I think the correct figure is 4 making over $100,000, but the district hasn't confirmed that.
"After 30 years an employee can retire on 80% of salary." That's not MSWD, that's how CalPERS works. You could say that about every entity in the state where the employees are in CalPERS. It's an ideal top-end figure that doesn't even apply to this water district. This was discussed at the 218 hearing in November 2010.
Director Martin asked staff to discuss retirement benefits, the 80% at age 55 that was referred to. John Soulliere said that to retire at age 55 a person would have to work 29.8 years at the district. Only one employee has worked 30 years for the district, and that's Brent Gray, who is a long way from retirement. The average CalPers retiree (statewide, not at MSWD) has worked 19.6 years. Future Finance Director Matt McCue read off more statistics. The average CalPers benefit is $26,256. The greatest longevity of any retiree is 24 years and he is getting 60% of his salary. The district has only 4 or 5 people getting a CalPers pension.
Jim Jones was at that hearing, so I'm sure he heard it. The relevant issue related to CalPERS is not how much CalPERS is paying in benefits, but how much the district is paying in to CalPERS. That came up in the MSWD workshop earlier this month. Currently the district pays 7% of salary and the employee pays 1%. The board discussed other possible percentages. One scenario would save the district an average of $2,066 per year per employee for their first ten years of employment. Another scenario would save an average of $1,180.61 per year per employee at a steady ongoing rate.
"This is completely out of line with the private sector." Give me some examples. What are private water agencies paying their employees? The market for water district employees consists of other water districts, which are all providing salaries and benefits comparable to MSWD's (or even a little better). The higher paid employees in water districts are people who are specialized in engineering and public health protection, positions that demand higher salaries and benefits.
All of the complaints focus on employee pay and benefits, but as anyone who attended one of the two town hall meetings or follows along on Ron's Log can tell you, salaries and benefits are not the big expense driving rate increases at the district. You can finesse salaries and benefits and the big picture won't change. You would have to lay off everyone at the district to completely eliminate the gap between income and expenses.
The big drop in income is due to the drop in water sales because empty homes use little or no water. The big expenses are rising electric rates (all that water is pumped with electric pumps); depreciation on an infrastructure that was expanded rapidly by developers during the real estate boom; and the 800-pound gorilla, debt service. First priority every month is to pay on those bonds that were used to build the water and sewer system. Voters may have the power to change rates, but they do not have the power to change reality.
February 26, 2011
"Never get involved in a land war in Asia"
"In my opinion, any future defence secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should have his head examined," Gates said in a speech to cadets at the US Military Academy at West Point, in New York state, on Friday.
I-10 and I-405
Photo by Michael Rymer (cocoi_m)
DHS Earthquake Expo
The threat of a little weather didn't seem to hurt attendance at today's Earthquake Expo at Desert Hot Springs High School. Some photos:
Mayor Parks with her grandkids. The big one is called Karl.
This volunteer (Michael is his name, IIRC) said he reads my blog when somebody else forwards a bit to him, so I had to do this to him.
Taking Their Business Out Of Town
Press Release: Armed Robbery
Agency: Palm Desert Police
Station Area: Palm Desert
Written Date: 02-15-2011 Time: 8:23 PM
Incident Date: 02-15-2011 Time: 6:01 PM
Incident Location: 34-262 Monterey Ave, Palm Desert (T-Mobile)
Reporting Officer: Sergeant Dave Smith, Sergeant David Florez
File Number(s): T110460112
Suspects Arrested: February 25, 2011 Time: 9:00 PM
Booking Photos: 02-26-11
On February 15, 2011, officers from the Palm Desert Police responded to an armed robbery at the T-Mobile Store, 34-262 Monterey, Palm Desert. Investigators from the Palm Desert Sheriff's Station have been investigating the series of armed robberies in the Palm Desert-Rancho Mirage area. Yesterday [February 25, 2011], investigators received a break in the case when two male Hispanic adults were arrested in the West Covina area for an armed robbery at a T-Mobile on Wednesday, February 23, 2011. The suspects were Desert Hot Springs residents.
Yesterday evening, investigators responded to West Covina to interview the suspects and review similarities in the cases. After working through the night, investigators, with assistance from the Palm Desert Special Enforcement Team, served three search warrants; the 19000 block of Tumbleweed Trail in Desert Hot Springs, the 66-600 block of Estrella Dr. in Desert Hot Springs, and the 10-700 block of Ambrosio Dr. in Desert Hot Springs. Investigators also searched a residence on the 68-600 block of Tortuga Road in Cathedral City.
Investigators have recovered several cellular phones believed to have been taken in the robbery. Investigators have also located evidence linking the suspects to the T-Mobile robbery.
The suspects were identified as Julio Marcos Aguilar, a 20-year-old Desert Hot Springs resident, and Jose Cruz Gutierrez, a 23-year-old Desert Hot Springs resident.
Investigators continue to investigate the robbery and are looking into other robberies in the area as to whether they are linked or not. Anyone with further information can call the Palm Desert Police at (760) 836-1600 or Crime Stoppers at (760) 341-STOP.
On Tuesday, February 15, 2011 at 8:50 p.m., officers from the Palm Desert Police Department responded to an armed robbery that just occurred at the T-Mobile Store, 34-262 Monterey, Palm Desert. Investigation revealed a Hispanic male adult wearing a black hoodie and pants entered the store armed with a handgun and demanded money. The suspect stole an undisclosed amount of cash and fled the store northbound in what was described as a silver-colored Honda with tinted windows.
Jose Cruz Gutierrez
Julio Marcos Aguilar
Maddow Fact Checks The Fact Checkers
(via The Huffington Post)
Burning Man Clock
Jim Bowers of Colfax, California, is building "the world's largest working clock" [a claim that I'm sure will be challenged] for this year's Burning Man. The description by Colfax Record reporter Gloria Beverage leaves a bit to be desired, but it sounds like the clock will be positioned horizontally across all of Black Rock City, 40 feet above the ground. If I'm right about that, then it will only look like a clock from an airplane or balloon or parachute. I'm curious as to how he will overcome the fact that some things, like the Man itself, are taller than 40 feet and could block his lasers.
February 25, 2011
Another Hike In The Mecca Hills
Photos from Thursday's hike in the Mecca Hills.
Too Interesting To Ignore
Although, the Desert Sun seems to be doing just that. Carol Jean Bias, who was arrested yesterday after robbing the Bank of America in Palm Springs is the wife of Alex Bias, who was mayor of Desert Hot Springs from 2005 to 2007. His administration was a nadir for the city, with the rejection of the MSHCP and the attempted annexation of Palmwood. Mrs. Bias is also suspected in a robbery of another Palm Springs Bank of America this month.