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May 31, 2012

Antelope Canyon

Antelope Canyon.

Antelope Canyon is the most photographed slot canyon in the U.S. IOW, you've seen this before, but it was my first time to visit. It's located a short distance east of Page, Arizona, in the Navajo Nation. You can only visit the canyon as part of a guided tour. Several tour operators are located in Page. The Navajo Nation lists the recognized tour operators on their website, but the list is a bit inaccurate, as are some of the tour operators' websites.

Some (all?) of the tour operators operate both regular and "photo" tours. You pay more for the photo tours. For that additional charge you get to stay in the canyon longer, travel in a smaller group, and your guide will try to assure that you get several opportunities to shoot scenes devoid of other people. The canyon gets very crowded. Our guide said that 1,000 to 1,200 visitors come during the peak hours around noon each day. The Navajos consider this a sacred site. I'm sure I do not know what "sacred site" means to the Navajos. The place was crowded like a discount store on the day after Thanksgiving. I asked if perhaps there were one or two days a year when a handful of photographers might pay an exorbitant fee to get a quieter visit. The answer was no. It's Grand Central Terminal or nothing. There are, however, some other slot canyons in the area with far fewer visitors. It was suggested that I should visit one of those next time. I heard someone ask specifically about the availability of one tour. He was told that it was sold out for more than a week in advance, so plan ahead if you are visiting.

All the tour operators cooperate with each other. Clearly those on "photo" tours outrank the regular tourists, who are ordered to stay out of our way for enough time for us to get our photos.

I ended up with Antelope Canyon Tours. Their "photo tour" costs $80. A regular tour $35. One company offers regular tours for $26. A couple of the guys on our voyage on Lake Powell thought $26 was way too much to pay to see this slot canyon. The notion leaves me speechless. I thought $80 was a bargain.

Our guide was Rob. You will be fortunate if you get him. I heard some other guides instructing their tour groups as to how to take photos. Specifically, I heard one guide tell his tourists NOT to photograph a particular scene because the light wasn't right yet. With a digital camera, there's no reason NOT to take a photo, even if you think the light might get better. I asked Rob if some of the guides were also conducting classes in photography (it was a serious question, not sarcasm!). He said that the guides live on tips, and some of them think that telling their tourists how to operate their cameras will get them more tips. Rob, OTOH, did only what I expected of a tour guide there: kept the crowds out of some shots when possible, pointed out particular views that were good, tried to get us to particular spots when he knew the light would come streaming in most dramatically, and answer any and all questions. He was very good, patient, polite and relaxed. Not all tour guides are so good.

Most of my photos were taken with my DSLR, but one of my pocket cameras has a handheld lowlight setting that works very well. So, while we were rushed (when we were moving we were always rushed) along the canyon, tripods folded, I could take a few handheld shots.

Suggestions for a successful "photo tour" of Antelope Canyon:

  • Have everything set and ready to go before you take your first step into the canyon, because five feet into it, the canyon bends and all the beauty and photography starts and does not stop. There is no prelude.
  • Have your camera on your tripod.
  • Have your lens cap off.
  • Use manual focus. I just set it at infinity and let it go.
  • Have your remote in your hand.
  • Jeez, do I have to tell you to have a fully charged battery and a big, big memory card?
  • Be able to work all the necessary functions of your camera by touch alone. It's usually too dark to see details on your camera, and if you turn on a little flashlight to try to see it, that artificial light will pollute the rich natural light and some photographer will take your head off (and deservedly so).
  • Be able to move, set up and photograph at a rush. Sometimes the guides will give you as much as 30 seconds warning before moving you along. If you are the sort of photographer who takes 2 minutes to set up a group shot of your friends, you will need to revise your habits. There are moments when you can just stare up into the canyon without looking through your viewfinder, but if you want to do a lot of that, you should probably come back on a regular tour.
  • Don't be a dipshit like the woman in our group who carried her tripod horizontally. She hit several people, including myself. If she had hit me a second time I was going to shove that tripod into the canyon wall. It was a Bogen, so I know I couldn't have hurt the tripod - but maybe the canyon wall.
  • Use your camera's auto-bracketing.
  • Some of the guides suggested specific white balance settings, but I left mine on auto white balance, and the results were close enough that virtually no adjusting was needed in Photoshop.
  • Don't get all riled up at tourists walking into your shots. You will still come out with more good than bad shots, if you know what you are doing.
  • And, oh yeah, wide angle. WIDE ANGLE!
  • There is naturally a small amount of sand falling into the canyon constantly. If you point your camera up, the sand will begin to accumulate on your filter. Just remember to blow it off once in awhile.

I left the tourists in some of the photos to provide a sense of scale and to show you what it really, really looks like.

Antelope Canyon (4231)

Antelope Canyon (4260)

Antelope Canyon (4016)
The entrance to Antelope Canyon.

Antelope Canyon (4315)

Antelope Canyon (4360)

Antelope Canyon (0877)

Antelope Canyon (4279)

Antelope Canyon (0914)

Antelope Canyon (4366)

Antelope Canyon (0924)

Antelope Canyon (0949)

Antelope Canyon (4282)

Antelope Canyon (4261)

Antelope Canyon (0871)

Antelope Canyon (0845)

Antelope Canyon - Our Guide Rob (4357)
Rob, our guide.
I think the guides had only one flute among them that they shared, thus assuring that no more than one person would be playing at a time.The complete set of my photos in Antelope Canyon. I suggest the slideshow version.

Filed under Photography,Travel | permalink | May 31, 2012 at 12:07 AM | Comments (1)

May 30, 2012

A Slot Canyon Video

Michael and I kayaked to a slot canyon in the Labyrinth on Lake Powell. Here's a little narrated video of part of our hike in the canyon.

The slot canyon is here. I now see, using that map, that our houseboat was anchored in Utah and we kayaked into Arizona.

Filed under Photography,Science | permalink | May 30, 2012 at 09:53 AM | Comments (0)

Horseshoe Bend Wrap Up

I am home now from cruising the bounding sea of Lake Powell. On the way out of Page, Arizona, I stopped to get a few straight-on daylight shots of Horseshoe Bend (as opposed to those earlier sunset shots). I've uploaded those shots plus more sunset photos here.

Horseshoe Bend (5062)

Horseshoe Bend (3960)
One of the sunset shots.

You can find Horseshoe Bend here - easy three-quarter mile hike from the parking lot - no water, no restrooms.

Filed under Photography | permalink | May 30, 2012 at 09:47 AM | Comments (2)

May 29, 2012

Not My Photo Of Lake Powell - 6

Lake Powell 2011 -5
Photo by Wish I were there.

Filed under Photography | permalink | May 29, 2012 at 06:00 AM | Comments (0)

May 28, 2012

Not My Photo Of Lake Powell - 5

Lake Powell
Photo by Adrian Osmond.

Filed under Photography | permalink | May 28, 2012 at 06:00 AM | Comments (0)

May 26, 2012

Not My Photo Of Lake Powell - 3

Lake Powell
Photo by janeenmedina.

Filed under Photography | permalink | May 26, 2012 at 06:00 AM | Comments (1)

May 25, 2012

Not My Photo Of Lake Powell - 2

Lake Powell
Photo by Garren T.

Filed under Photography | permalink | May 25, 2012 at 06:00 AM | Comments (0)

May 24, 2012

Not My Photo Of Lake Powell - 1

Lake Powell
Photo by Linda Weyers.

Filed under Photography | permalink | May 24, 2012 at 06:00 AM | Comments (0)

May 23, 2012

I'm On A Boat

And I'm sure it's going exactly like this.

Filed under Music | permalink | May 23, 2012 at 06:00 AM | Comments (2)

May 22, 2012

Police Seeking Info In Suspicious Death

INCIDENT: Suspicious Death
DATE OF INCIDENT: May 21, 2012
LOCATION: 12775 Palm Drive, DHS [Arco AM/PM]
SUBJECT: Joseph, Valerie Joyce; White Female; 65 years of age; 5'-07" 155 Blonde Blue, Resident of Palm Springs, CA

On Monday May 21, 2012, Officers from the Desert Hot Springs Police Department responded to the above location regarding a non-responsive female in a white 4-door vehicle. Officers located Valerie Joseph, deceased, inside the vehicle. Detectives are seeking anyone with information who may have seen the vehicle and/or the decedent during the day. The investigation is ongoing.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs | permalink | May 22, 2012 at 05:48 AM | Comments (0)

Horseshoe Bend

Horseshoe Bend (3965A)
Sunset yesterday near Page, Arizona.
More photos here.

Filed under Photography | permalink | May 22, 2012 at 05:00 AM | Comments (3)

May 21, 2012

3 Women

A discussion on Metafilter of 3 Women, the Robert Altman film shot in and around Desert Hot Springs in the 1970s. With links to Roger Ebert's 2004 review of the movie and a review by David Sterritt.

Some screengrabs from the movie are here including this one of Shelley Duvall and Sissy Spacek at Coffee's Spa.
3 Women - Spa (15)


Filed under Desert Hot Springs,Film/Movies,History | permalink | May 21, 2012 at 08:25 AM | Comments (0)

May 20, 2012

Working Mom Saves World

Pretty much.

Filed under Film/Movies | permalink | May 20, 2012 at 09:50 PM | Comments (0)

Carl May Center Mural Underway

Carl May Center Mural (2194)

Carl May Center Mural (2196)

Carl May Center Mural (2195)

Filed under Desert Hot Springs | permalink | May 20, 2012 at 06:10 PM | Comments (0)

DHS City Council - May 15

One of the items coming up on the agenda this night was liens by Desert Valley Disposal for unpaid bills. As usual, staff from DVD had set themselves up in the Senior Center so that those who had questions or wanted to protest (or even wanted to pay!) could go over there and see them. Mayor Parks, Attorney Duran, Councilmembers Betts and Matas and City Manager Daniels announced this before the meeting was called to order. I think it was handled a bit more clearly this year than in previous years. At least one person left the Carl May to go over to the Senior Center.


Christian Guzman, a Desert Hot Springs High School senior student and athlete, was recognized by Mayor Parks for his accomplishments. He has already been honored as one of 20 top scholar-athletes by Riverside County National Football Foundation. Here's what they say about Mr. Guzman, written by Head Coach L. D. Matthews:

2011- Senior Season (WR/S/Every special teams, Team Captain) (All CIF and Desert Sun have not been released) 1st Team All DeAnza WR/DB Team Offensive MVP Team Golden Eagle Award Stats 63 catches 1169 yards 18.55 106.27 yards per game 11 TDs Long 75 yards 75 Tackles, 46 solos, 6.7 tackles a game, 4 INT, 3 FF, 2 PD, 2 Block FG Leads De Anza League in all WR categories Leading East Valley Division 12 in receptions; rec. yards; yards per game; touchdowns Top 15 in the Southern section in receptions, rec. yards, yards per game State: 21st in receptions, 18th rec. yards, 19th yards per game Other sports: Soccer and Track and Field.Honors classes: English Honors I; English Honors II; World History Honors; Chemistry I Honors; Economics; Biology Advanced Anatomy AP classes: English III; American History; Biology; English IV; American Government; Calculus Ranked 3rd in class out of 399.

Over the past five years I have come to know this young man very well. As a three year, two way starter on the varsity football team he has demonstrated to me that he is a very competent and dedicated person. His leadership ability on the field and in the classroom is second to none. He has been voted as captain by his teammates because of these qualities. His work ethic and determination has earned him the respect of his teammates and coaches. As a two year All-De Anza League selection, and All CIF player, he has earned the respect of players and coaches from other teams as well. Christian is not only a standout athlete, but student as well. He has the same mind set in the classroom as he does on the field. He defines the word, 'Student-Athlete.' He has maintained a 4.32 GPA in the classroom, while taking honors and advance placement classes. As head coach you hate to lose any senior football players. I am extremely proud to have him as a member of my football program. He has already left his mark and his absence next year will be greatly noticed. Christian is a self-motivated person who strives for perfection in every aspect of his life. His discipline and attention to detail will allow him to be successful in any challenge he faces. I believe that the future holds unlimited possibilities for him. When he sets a goal, he does everything possible to achieve it. Little Golden Eagle Participant Youth Football Clinics School Wide Peer Tutor Team Captain 1st person in family to go to college College Major: Interested in Engineering Schools that have contacted him about playing: Brown, Yale, Penn, U of San Diego, UC Davis, Texas State University, Adams State; Pacific Lutheran; University of Redlands, Colorado School of Mines.

Christian Guzman & Mayor Parks (2190)
Christian Guzman and Mayor Parks.

The Mayor also had a presentation for Briana Moore, but she was not present at the meeting.

Heather Coladonato, Executive Director DHS C of C, came to the podium to talk about the rebranding of the Greater Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau (or simply "CVB") which was formerly hardly ever known as the "Palm Springs Desert Resort Communities Convention and Visitors Authority" (or simply "CVA"). She showed a video.

Russ Martin, Chair of the Public Safety Commission, came up to give the first quarter report on the commission. He talked about the changes in the commission, the creation of the new youth violence and gang prevention ad-hoc committee (which includes 3 public safety commissioners), and the vacation rental ordinance.

Roger Rice presented a Powerpoint from the Pathway Ad-Hoc Committee. The committee includes members of the parks committee and the trails committee. The presentation included no information about funding sources, other than to say that funding is always an issue for any large project. The presentation showed a suggested, pedestrian/bicycle/NEV pathway coming north along Palm Drive, going east on Dillon Road, to then turn north to follow the Verbena wash to Verbena at Hacienda. From there it followed the street north to Cabot Yerxa school and then east to Cabot's Pueblo Museum. The route would then continue along Mountain View and Pierson, turning northward again to parallel Foxdale until it catches that wash running below San Rafael. It would follow the wash westerly to Santa Cruz and then south to 8th. It would then head west to the open desert, turning south to follow Cholla Drive between the high school and the new Health & Wellness Center. It would go west on Pierson to Atlantic and then south in what is now open desert, passing by Two Bunch Palms Elementary, and then heading east on Camino Campesino, crossing Palm at the new traffic light and continuing east to close the loop at the Verbena wash. The route would bring take it near Bubbling Wells, Cabot Yerxa, Wenzlaff, and Two Bunch Palms elementary schools, Desert Springs middle school and the high school. It would also pass by Mission Springs Park, Veterans Park, and Wardman Park. Optional branches could bring the pathway to Corsini elementary and Painted Hills middle schools as well as Rotary Park behind Corsini school. As the route nears Cabot's, it would pass near several spas. The route also goes close to the shopping areas around Two Bunch Palms and Palm Drive as well as future shopping at Pierson Professional Plaza and at Dillon and Palm. At Cabot's it would be a natural tie-in with future trails into Joshua Tree National Park (which would not permit bicycles or NEVs).

In short, this is a proposed pathway for Desert Hot Springs and its residents. Mr. Rice said it's a long-term vision.

Desert Hot Springs Pathway

Public Comments

Pamela Berry said there is censorship of the city council meetings on television. Portions of audio are missing from last week's council meeting. [There was no council meeting last week, but there was one on May 1 - the complete video of that meeting is available on the city's website and had no audio glitches that I noticed when I relied on that video to write up the meeting - Pamela Berry's comments begin at the 52-minute mark in that video]. She said that after commenting at the May 1 meeting that she had not received replies to her earlier questions she got a reply from City Manager Daniels on May 2. But she said she didn't have any time to talk about censorship, the availability of the videos, or the response to her requests [she used up about a minute not talking about these subjects]. She said "Can't we all just get along?" She answered herself, "Apparently not with Mayor Parks and two of our council members." She said it would be cheaper to get rid of Mayor Parks than to spend money to fix the problems. She said it was time to recall Mayor Parks, Mayor Pro Tem Pye and Councilmember Matas. She said "These three might be okay with waking up stupid." She said a recall will not cost taxpayers a penny. She had three envelopes bearing their names and handed them to the three council members, saying they were the recall papers. She thanked them for the good work they had done.

Joe McKee thanked the city manager for turning the water back on at the former Bank of America site east of the hardware store. He believes the city council is trying to do well for the city. Palm Desert pays its councilmembers $44,000/year. He said Councilmembers Matas and Sanchez are doing a superb job on the youth violence and gang ad-hoc committee. Mr. McKee is seeking support letters for his community garden project, which is seeing an AQMD grant. He thought that it had been agreed that all projects seeking AQMD grants would be judged by their benefit to the community and not prioritized or excluded for any other reason. But he has heard that people have gotten emails saying that City Manager Daniels will make the determination as to whether the city will back the project.

He said he has worked with lot of people he didn't like. But that's life, he said. He said the council has to be professional. They must be adults and understand that there will be disputes and 3-2 votes. He hopes the city will get beyonds its pettiness. He doesn't care if the council members get along with each other, only that they work professionally with each other. [Applause, no boos.]

Mary Isabelle said she also wanted to address the issue of letters of support. She's the food director at St. Elizabeth's food pantry. She thinks solar panels on the roof of the food pantry can save them almost $1.2 million in electric bills over the next 30 years. Even though the building they rent is on church property, the food pantry qualifies as a 501(c)3. "I don't care if you fight all day and fight all night," she said. She's been on boards that have disagreed, but everyone else has the best interests of the community [at heart]. She also wants a CNG Dodge Ram truck. CNG costs about half as much as gasoline. The food pantry has to go to Indio to pick up groceries. She is also circulating letters of support for her projects. She wants to know if there are criteria for projects the city will support, or will Mr. Daniels make the decision. She said she won't be able to make a slideshow.

Dave Johnson, program director at Food Now, said they will be having their 3rd annual charity golf tournament on Monday, June 4 at Mission Lakes CC. 18 holes. 6:30 AM registration with an 8 AM start. $75/person. All proceeds go to Food Now. The Hole In One Contest has a $10,000 reward; $5,000 for the golfer and $5,000 for Food Now. Breakfast and lunch and swag bag are included. From 1 PM to 4 PM there will be a martini and cigar event at Playoffs.

Heather Coladonato came back to the podium with Chamber of Commerce news. Wednesday night was a ribbon cutting and mixer at Las Palmas Mexican Cuisine at 5th and Palm.

Wednesday May 30 will be the Chamber's Leadership Breakfast at Mission Lakes Country Club at 7 AM. Check in starts at 6:4 AM. They will be honoring Desert Hot Springs teachers of the year. RSVP to [email protected]. Cost is $1 with RSVP, or $20 without. The next leadership breakfast will be in October!

Nominations are sought for Citizen Of The Year, Business The Year and Non-Profit Of The Year. When you make a nomination, provide a written statement of support and explanation. Send nominations to [email protected].

The Chamber's golf tournament will be Monday, September 10 at Mission Lakes CC.

Donn Sholty said he was going to bring this issue to the Public Safety Commission, but they didn't meet this month. He first brought up the issue of the safety of Desert View east of Miracle Hill 4½ years ago. The speed limit is 35 MPH, but visibility is obstructed and the street is very narrow. Miracle Hill, despite its greater width and better visibility has a speed limit of only 30 MPH. He has seen that Cabot's eastern gate is open into the patio area. There are some plants and then only about 6 feet of space before you reach the 35 MPH roadway. He knows that kids playing can easily cover that distance in no time, and not be seen by a westbound driver on Desert View. He sees that they are doing yet another engineering study, but those have failed in the past to get a lower speed limit there. He is asking the council to lower the speed limit to 25 MPH and put a stop sign at Reposo. Alternatively, the eastern gate at Cabot's could remain locked at all times. He said we know that drivers are actually going 40 MPH there.

Let me just summarize some of the recent history of the speed limit on Desert View, since comments made later in the meeting suggest that everyone on the city council is well aware of this issue.

November 17, 2010 - Mr. Sholty raised the issue in a comment at a meeting of the Public Safety Commission. Chair Bowman asked for it to be agendized for the next meeting. He recalled that the commission had looked at the issue three years earlier.

December 9, 2010 - At this meeting of the Public Safety Commission a city engineer was present to explain the options. He warned that when a speed study is done, California law requires the speed limit to be set at the speed at which the the 85th percentile of drivers are going. He warned that with low traffic volume a speed study ran a great risk of producing a recommendation for a higher speed limit. Vice Chair Martin recalled from earlier discussions that the city was permitted to set a lower speed limit, but it would not be enforceable with radar. He made a motion to override the most recent speed recommendation for Desert View and recommend to the city council to set a 25 MPH speed limit there. It was approved 4-0. I don't have any record of this coming to the city council.

June 9, 2011 - Another meeting of the Public Safety Commission. This time they were discussing an upcoming speed survey. The city engineer spoke specifically about Desert View. He said the problem was obvious and agreed the limit should be lower. He could find no records of how 35 MPH was established. (Word on the street is that some public works people years ago just put up some speed limit signs without proper authorization.) The engineer promised to focus on Desert View and expected a recommendation of 15 or 20 MPH.

September 8, 2011 - The speed survey results came back to the Public Safety Commission and whaddaya know, the recommendation was to keep Desert View at 35 MPH. There was no particular discussion of Desert View and I imagine Mr. Sholty was not at the meeting, or he would have commented. The official minutes of that meeting say that the commission asked the engineer to return in October with more information. My write up of the October 13, 2011, Public Safety Commission meeting does not show the subject being discussed.

November 1, 2011 - At this city council meeting Russ Martin, now Chair of the Public Safety Commission, made his report. He talked about Desert View and the speed survey and said the commission recommended a speed limit of 25 regardless of the speed survey.

There were no meetings of the Public Safety Commission in November or December 2011.

January 17, 2012 - Finally we come to this city council meeting where much time was spent in a congenial discussion of the various boards and commissions and who would be appointed to them. The speed survey came to the city council for its official approval at this meeting. The staff report does not suggest any changes from the speed survey's recommendations, which means leaving Desert View at 35 MPH. The survey showed the 85th percentile speed on Desert View was 35.6 MPH and the average speed 31.4 MPH.

Mr. Matas and Mr. Betts both had property close to one or more streets with changes and a four-fifths vote was required, so they drew straws. Mr. Betts stayed and Mr. Matas recused himself. Mr. Betts had questions about the speed limit on Little Morongo and on Mission Lakes. A motion was made to approve all of the survey's recommendations except for Mission Lakes Boulevard, and additional information about that would be brought back to the city council in February. There was no discussion of Desert View. The motion was approved 4-0.

I don't think the issue of the speed limit on Mission Lakes has ever been brought back to the council for a final decision. I also haven't found the minutes for the January 17 meeting, either, which I looked for just in case I misheard the motion.

So that's where things are with Desert View. I think because Donn Sholty missed that critical meeting of the Public Safety Commission, it wasn't included in their recommendations and the city council overlooked it entirely. I don't think the issue has to be redeveloped from zero with a new speed survey. They've still got the Public Safety Commission recommendation from December 2010 for a lower speed limit. The city council can set a lower speed without a supporting speed survey. If it returns on some future agenda and I don't see Donn Sholty in the audience, then I guess I will get myself up to the podium to remind them to set a lower speed limit on Desert View.

Tom Hile from the Elks Lodge said he had good news. Their golf tournament broke a record and netted over $25,000. They will be able to continue to support most of the youth activities in town. Remote caller Bingo has returned. It restarted one week ago. All the problems with the state should be resolved over the next week so that other remote caller sites can join in which will mean bigger payouts for all. They play every Tuesday with three sessions: 4:30 PM, 6:30 PM and 8:30 PM. Last week they had 8 winners, which was more than any other location in the state.

Bruce Montgomery thanked new Fire Chief Pat Tomlinson for the good fire service Grace Church got when there was a fire. The 5 or 6 fire trucks showed up in less than 5 minutes. Chief Tomlinson showed up, after coming from Washington Street. The fire was confined to a ladies bathroom, although smoke damage was widespread.

He also said "To Mayor Parks, and Councilwoman Pye, Councilman Matas, City Manager Rick Daniels, and Chief Pat Williams you have my continued support as well. I applaud what you have done for our city and I, for one, am very, very grateful and I pray that you will continue a long time in the positions in which you are, at which you've been elected and which you are diligently and transparently serving. So thank you, from Bruce Montgomery, one citizen of this beautiful city."

Connie Taylor spoke for Jr. All American Football, saying their carnival would be on Sunday, May 20. On Tuesdays and Thursdays from 6 PM to 8 PM they have conditioning for the kids who are participating. Sign ups will be the first Saturday in June and the first Saturday in July. Practice will start July 30.

Mike Chedester from Cabot's Museum introduced their new museum director Ginger Ridgway. She worked 15 years at the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum.

Cabot's "Evening At The Pueblo" will take place June 2. They will celebrate the museum's placement on the National Register of Historic Places. They will be honoring Donna and Cargill MacMillan, Mary Bono Mack and Cabot's Historian Barbara Maron.

George Fisher announced the CERT class that would take place May 18-20. On May 28, Monday, will be the Memorial Day ceremony at 11 AM at Veterans Park.

Tim Brophy came up to deliver the comment that I already reported:

Good evening Mayor, Council, city staff and ladies and gentlemen.

As many of you know, I'm a back of the room man; someone who observes, lends support and speaks out only on occasions where I believe my voice can really make a difference. Tonight is one of those occasions.

What Ms. Berry and her henchmen are not aware of is that an action like this recall has far-reaching consequences in addition to being misguided. It diminishes the brand of Desert Hot Springs, the hard work we have done until now, and it is demeaning to our citizens as well as a waste of precious resources. A recall is reserved for occurrences like criminal wrongdoing, serious malfeasance in office, and great deficits of character. Instead, this action is rooted in a grudge match.

It bears mention that this action does not reflect the views of Ms. Berry's employer, The Desert Star newspaper, or the new owner of that paper. I do not speak for that owner either, as a matter of record. But the difference is I do not pretend to be so arrogant as to even be his mouthpiece at this point in time. I also know the story carrying in last week's paper violated a directive given to Dean Gray regarding controversial and combative content. None of this matters now, however.

What does matter is that the business community as a whole does not support this action. And anyone on this dais not a target of this recall [Mr. Sanchez and Mr. Betts] who chooses to remain silent or states that this is simply a voter's right runs the risk not only of my wrath, but that of the community leadership overall.

In a city with real problems and children in it who will, in fact, go to bed hungry tonight, we have far greater problems to solve, jobs to create and mountains to climb.

Fellow citizens, please join me for a climb to a better day where jobs are plentiful, housing is affordable, and we are the city we can be proud of. For those who don't, with my last breath and dollar in my pocket, I will fight against this foolish action. Good night and God bless our city.

Dot Reed said she agreed with everything Mr. Brophy said. She talked about "the gang." Mayor Parks has done an outstanding job, she said. She is respected by other cities and their leaders, and by county leaders. The Economic Development Committee has made great strides. It is co-chaired by Mr. Matas and Ms. Pye. "Those spiteful gang members must be jealous of the progress and would like to wipe out the progress of the last five years." She hopes the tide turns soon.

Desert Valley Disposal Billing

7,226 accounts for a total of $1,918,069.44. The rate is $265.44 per account which is a 2.17% increase from the current rate of $259.80.

Approved 5-0.

Desert Valley Delinquencies

They've got 419 delinquent accounts owing a total of $109,723.91. These go on the tax roll and the city gets a 10% cut for its trouble as the amounts are paid. Those customers have until June 15, 2012, to pay the amount they owe if they want to keep the amount of the tax rolls and prevent a lien.

City Manager Daniels went over to the Senior Center to check on the progress of things. He reported back that everyone had gotten their questions answered and issues resolved, and there might be one resident who would come back and comment, but there were no outstanding issues.

Approved 5-0.

Contract With Cathedral City For 3 Cops & 1 Records Supervisor

Currently Desert Hot Springs is employing one records supervisor from Cathedral City and one police officer from Beaumont. The contract for the records supervisor expires June 30, 2012, as will the contract for the Beaumont officer.

This proposal is to contract with Cathedral City to keep the records supervisor and pick up three officers from that city where they are laying off cops. We pay full cost. The total for the contract would be $575,000 for one year.

Chief Williams gave the report on this, saying we have been contracting with Cathedral City since 2009 for law enforcement services. Cathedral City may lay off 35 from their police, including 14 sworn staff (9 actual staff plus 6 vacancies). We have openings and need staff.

Mr. Sanchez asked when our contract with Banning runs out. Chief Williams explained that we have never had a contract with Banning and suggested he might mean Beaumont. The Beaumont contract expires June 30, 2012. Mr. Sanchez asked the chief to clarify the numbers. Chief Williams said there will be three Cathedral City officers. Mr. Sanchez asked what the window will be to get out of the contract. The Chief said we can get out of the contract with a 30 day notice, but that if we get out of the contract that means we are cutting police officers. Mr. Sanchez said we're the only city in the valley in this particular position (i.e., need police and got the money to hire them). Chief Williams said "it's value for the dollar" and we are "trend setters." He referred to the two investigators we contracted from the DA's office. We are in talks with Indio, Beaumont and Cathedral City on a possible joint dispatching arrangement. Mr. Sanchez asked if the POA had any comments on this. Chief Williams said he had a routine conversation with them and they are comfortable with it. The Chief said he would prefer to have his own staff, but when our neighbor city is laying off, we can cushion that a little, get good police, and give them a chance to check us out. We've done this before and a couple of Cathedral City police made the decision to come to Desert Hot Springs permanently. We can still hire from elsewhere long term. The Chief pointed out that POA President Ken Peary was present if Mr. Sanchez wanted to talk to him directly. Some of our vacancies are due to worker's comp matters which eventually will come to a resolution. Mr. Sanchez said he tells the general public to introduce themselves when they see an out of town cop in DHS. Mr. Sanchez says he waves hello to them and sometimes gets a double look, but he hopes it helps him if they ever pull him over. Chief Williams said our visiting cops are not used to be being waved at using all five fingers of the hand, so it's a nice treat.

Ms. Pye asked the Chief to explain this from the report: "The CCPD patrol officers shall be assigned to work one of two patrol shifts beginning at 6:00 a.m. and ending at 6:00 p.m., or beginning at 6:00 p.m. and ending at 6:00 a.m., Sunday through Thursday, and every other Wednesday, or Tuesday through Saturday and every other Wednesday." The Chief explained that all officers work a 12-hour daily shift. The weekly schedule is either Sunday through Thursday or Tuesday through Saturday. On either of those, the officers get every other Wednesday off (or have every other Wednesday on, if you want to look at it that way).

Mr. Betts asked how many are our own police and how many are contracted. Chief Williams said the only contract we have is the one officer from Beaumont. With this new contract we'll have three, total. Right now we have 6 vacancies, 3 of which are due to leave (military) or medical matters. Net result at the end is we will have 34 officers (which is max) and 3 of those will be out on leave. mr. Betts asked if this is in the budget, or should it wait until the council gets a chance to look at the budget. Chief Williams said it's built in tot he 2012-13 budget and that if the council, for any reason, wanted to cancel the contract, they could do so with 30 days notice.

Approved 5-0.

Late DVD Comment

A man who had gone over to the Senior Center to talk to DVD about a delinquency had returned to the Carl May and Mayor Parks invited him to comment. He said he had it worked out, but he had a problem with them wanting his money since he doesn't use their service. He owes $63, and he's just going to let it slide for awhile, as long as they deliver trash bins to his house.

MOU With Cabot's Foundation

This item was presented by Jeanine Plute, formerly of the police, but now in the city manager's office. The city approved an MOU in January 2012. This revision restructures the Oversight Advisory Committee by incorporating it into a Museum Advisory Committee. The OAC had too many responsibilities, and they were time consuming and repetitious, and they would impede collaboration between the city and Cabot's Foundation. The MAC will be a special committee to the board of Cabot's Foundation. The MAC will be made up of a representative from the Foundation, the City Council Parks & Recreation liaison, the City of Desert Hot Springs, a Community member, and a member with Museum experience. The Museum Director sits on the MAC, but does not vote. The committee's responsibilities:

  • Review and monitor implementation of policies for museum management, collection management and conservation schedule, acquisition and preservation; building and site curation risk management; volunteer policies, volunteer risk management policies.
  • Provide ongoing direction to the Museum Director as it pertains to conservation and expansion of the collection and exhibits, and curatorial responsibilities.
  • Develop short and long-term strategic plans with Foundation and the Museum Director participating in those plans for conservation, preservation and expansion of the museum and its exhibits.

The MOU also includes a scope of work for the registrar who will report directly to the museum director.

John Mahoney came up to speak. He said the intent is to simplify the process. They had met with a museum expert who saw difficulties in the previous structure. He suggested some revisions that he had discussed with Ms. Pye earlier. He suggested taking the second bullet (above) out of the description of the MAC and put it in the section describing the responsibilities of the Foundation. He suggested re-writing the third bullet to say "Work under the direction of of the Foundation in development of short and long-term strategic plans for conservation, preservation and expansion of the museum and its exhibits."

Approved 5-0.

"Training Program To Increase City Performance"

The report on this items says "Council requested that there be some additional attention to establishing better working relationships to maximize the performance of the Mayor and Council and with the City Manager and senior staff and to better serve the residents and businesses of the City." The city sent out an RFP. Ms. Pye and Mr. Sanchez reviewed the proposals that came in. They concluded that Mathis Consulting Group had the best offer. City Manager Daniels then met with Mathis to come up with an exact work scope and fee structure. It lists the goals (ultimately to improve service to the public) and a 7-step process of interviews and meetings encompassing a total of 45 billable hours, for a total cost of $17,500.

Phillip Gittleman had a comment. He was concerned that Mayor Parks had called a council member a son of a bitch and when interviewed by the Desert Sun said she couldn't deny it, and couldn't apologize because she meant it. He said that crystallized his opposition to this proposal. He said that the Mayor had the right to her beliefs, but she didn't have the right to ask the citizens to pay for her anger management therapy. The city council's inability to serve the citizens in an intelligent and responsible way does not shift the burden for that to the citizens. He has lived here 12 years and the litany of irresponsible mistakes has cost the residents hundreds of thousands of dollars, he said. He cited "a city manager who wrote his own contract" and the $250,000 loss on the wellness festival. "If you can't manage yourselves, you can't manage the city." If they can't do that, then resign.

Mr. Betts said he would vote no on this proposal. He said it was okay if Mayor Parks didn't want to apologize. He suggested that if everyone [on the council] supported this proposal, then they should pay for it themselves [$3,500 per council member].

Mr. Sanchez said the goal that stood out for him was "B. Establish Agreements for Council decorum." He said the council can do it on its own. He said "we're all professional, educated adults" and they don't need to pay someone $300/hour to tell them what the decorum should be.

He said this goal stood out as well "D. Establish protocol and respect between staff and Council members." He said the council can work this out without Mathis.

Mr. Sanchez said that the issue of Mayor Parks' insult needs to be resolved.

Mayor Parks said that team building only works if everyone wants to participate. "I shouldn't have said what I said. It was in the heat of the moment. And I do apologize." Mr. Betts said he accepted the apology. She said that if everyone went into this with their ears open and their mouths shut, each of them could come out a better person. But everyone needs to be on the same page. She was surprised to hear that some members of the council feel that they have nothing more to learn.

Ms. Pye said that Mr. Gittleman was correct. She had said earlier that she didn't think this proposal was going to work because not all five were willing to make it work. She said we got here because we are dealing with change. One new councilmember. Some people says it's now a "3-2 council," which is a change. "The change is not bad," she said. The issue is how the council deals with it. Ms. Pye said she turns 60 this month and she's too old to play in the sandbox. She asked her fellow councilmembers to step out of the sandbox.

Mr. Matas said they need to get along and every one is "feeling their way." He acknowledged that he and Mr. Betts do not see eye-to-eye, but both are trying to get to the same place. He doesn't think this city council is unique in its disagreements. He didn't think he could vote for this item. He said he would step out of the sandbox.

Ms. Pye said that when there is change, people's "buttons get exposed" and when a button gets pushed, sometimes it's natural to push them harder. "We need to cover up our buttons," because they have nothing to do with city business. "It's not a personality contest; it's about business."

Mr. Sanchez asked for clarification of "stepping out of the sandbox." Ms. Pye answered that it's a paraphrase for acting as an adult. "Let's debate the issue; let's debate the facts. Let's not try to get at each other personally."

Mr. Sanchez said the $2.5 million shortfall on next year's budget was a far greater issue than this $17,500. It's all about retail and economic development and businesses that look at the city to see if this is the place they can invest. Investors look at the newspaper and they drive through town. "Let's focus on getting through the budget."

He said City Manager Daniels was doing his due diligence by bringing this to the council for them to decide on.

Mayor Parks said Indian Wells, Coachella and Indio did organized "team building" and they're functioning better now. But it needs to be a buy-in from everyone, and we don't have that, so she can't support the proposal.

Mr. Betts said "everything will be civil" but he will continue to press for his issues.

Ms. Pye moved to reject the proposal. The motion to reject was approved 5-0.

Consent Calendar

Approved 5-0 without discussion were...

  • A renewal of the towing franchise with AARCO Towing, who will pay the city $32,782 for the privilege.
  • Receive and file the treasurer's report for March 2012.

Minutes For May 1, 2012 Meeting

Ms. Pye pointed out item 3 in the May 1 minutes. It says: "Council Member Matas moved to approve staff recommendation, motion seconded by Mayor Pro Tem Pye, motion carried 5/0.
Passed For: 4; Against: 0; Absent: 0; Abstain: 0"

In reality, the motion was approved 4-1, she said. As I heard the meeting (city video, not my own recording) Mr. Betts recused himself and the vote was 4-0-1. Mr. Betts said that it was 4-0-1.

Mr. Sanchez added "If I recall, we had two discussion items on this night, this evening, this meeting here. It wasn't just one item we discussed. We even took an informal vote on the second item at this meeting. And that's not in any way reflected on the minutes."

The business agenda for May 1 included (1) the vacation rental home ordinance; (2) the MOU with Desert Healthcare District; and then the Consent Calendar. The city council discussed three items from the Consent Agenda.

Mayor Parks said she was not understanding Mr. Sanchez. Then Mr. Sanchez disclosed that he was talking about the closed session agenda.

The agenda listed only one item for the closed session, and that was the performance evaluation for the attorney. Here are what the minutes say about that closed session: "Ruben Duran, City Attorney, reported that the City Council met in Closed Session to discuss the item listed on the Closed Session Agenda; and that the City Council would adjourn to Closed Session following the open session to complete the item." It returned to closed session at 7:27 PM, and nothing more is said.

Mr. Duran said there was no reportable action from that meeting. Mr. Sanchez insisted that more than one item was discussed.

I did not hear any report of an urgency item added to the closed session agenda for May 1.

Attorney Duran said that he and the city clerk will listen to the recording and make sure the minutes are accurate. Mr. Daniels said he would withdraw the item and re-submit at a future meeting.

Mr. Betts said that he expected the minutes come back to also say "contract was discussed, the amount of a contract."

Now, whether or not the amount of any contract was discussed in closed session, that was not reported in the open meeting and (I'm pretty sure about this) the minutes are supposed to reflect what was actually said, not what somebody thought should have been said two weeks later.

Mr. Duran said it was not his recollection. Mayor Parks said she was a bit scared about talking about closed session in open session. Mr. Betts said he was not. Mr. Betts twice asked if the approval of these minutes was going to be pulled and then brought back to the council at a future meeting. Mr. Daniels confirmed that was correct. Mayor Parks said the attorney and city clerk would listen to the "tape."

"I'll be sure the minutes accurately reflect what was discussed in closed session," Mr. Duran said.

"The tape of what?" Mr. Betts asked. [We're talking about the minutes of the May 1 meeting, I wouldn't think there could be any ambiguity as to what tape they would listen to.]

"The tape of the meeting," Mayor Parks answered.

"For the report out from closed session," Mr. Duran added.

"I'm not talking about the report out from closed session," Mr. Betts said. "I'm talking about what actually took place in the meeting."

[What "actually takes place" in a closed session meeting doesn't go into any minutes - all that goes into the minutes is what is reported out in open session.]

Mr. Duran said he had already shared with the council his thoughts on that issue. He believes the minutes accurately reflect what happened.

"These minutes," Mr. Betts asked. [There were no other minutes under discussion.]

"Yes," Mr. Duran replied. He added "There weren't two items discussed in closed session - there was one."

Mr. Betts begged to differ. He asked again what is being done on these minutes. For the third time it was explained to him that the minutes were being pulled, the clerk and attorney would review the recording, the minutes (possibly revised) would be brought back to the council at a future meeting.

Mr. Matas moved to continue this item. Ms. Pye seconded. The vote was 3-0-2 with both Mr. Betts and Mr. Sanchez abstaining(?!).

Contract With Teaman, Ramirez & Smith For Audit Services

They've been the auditor the past five years. This is a proposal to extend their contract for one more year at a cost of $41,800. Next year they will do an RFP so a new firm can be considered.

Mr. Betts asked if this was a proposal to extend the contract for one year. The answer was yes. Mr. Betts moved to issue an RFP for an audit firm "for this next current year," not a year from now, and to deny the proposal for Teaman, Ramirez & Smith.

Mr. Matas asked for clarification of "this next current year." Mr. Betts said it's a motion to deny renewal of the contract with Teaman, Ramirez & Smith. Mayor Parks asked for clarification that the year we are talking about auditing is 2011-12. Steve Elam confirmed that was correct, and he added that the actual audit work needs to begin "before the end of the fiscal year." [IOW, right now.]

Mr. Betts said he had no problem with Teaman, Ramirez & Smith.

Mr. Matas asked if there shouldn't be a second before this motion was discussed. Mr. Sanchez seconded it.

Mr. Betts said Teaman has been the auditor since 2006-07. He asked if that was 6 years. Mr. Elam said that's 5 years. Mr. Betts said it's essential to change auditors occasionally to get a fresh look. Mr. Elam said that it is standard practice to change out auditors about every five years. Work had begun on an RFP, but the process was disrupted by the departure of Jason Simpson. No RFP was issued, and now we're up against a critical deadline. We can either extend the contract or rush in a new firm without a proper competitive process. Interim work will be done in June. Then the auditors come back in September to finalize their work.

An RFP process is typically about 3 months.

Mr. Betts withdrew his motion.

Ms. Pye moved to accept staff recommendation (one last year with Teaman). Approved 5-0.

Council Comments

Ms. Pye said that HBO would offering a documentary series on how obesity became a disease in America called The Weight Of The Nation.

She said she met with some people from Occupy Coachella and they wanted to tell her that (1) they bathe, (2) they work, and (3) they have a place to stay. She said they had some good ideas.

She attended the CVAG Public Safety Committee meeting. At each meeting they get information on those who are released on probation [or is that parole?]. From October 1, 2011, through March 2, 2012, 1,451 were released in Riverside County. Half are age 35 or older. People in that age group tend have a lower rate of recidivism.

At the Women's Club Scholarship Awards more than $24,000 in scholarships and awards were given away.

Mr. Betts reported that Mr. Sanchez would be going to ICSC in Las Vegas. He asked the city manager to provide the city council with copies of all contracts with a value of $100,000 or more for review in the budget process.

Mr. Betts was distressed to see the presentation on the pathway, because a whole lot of effort and energy went into that. [I guess he's distressed that Roger Rice would overtire himself.]

He said he did not see a lot of effort to approve community projects. He mentioned Mary Isabelle who had commented earlier in the meeting. He said he would read to the council her comment, but he read something a little different. He said that St. Elizabeth's food pantry was providing a letter of support to Food Now for their CNG truck. He said his understanding was that anyone who came up with a worthwhile proposal would get the city's endorsement. [That was, indeed, the essence of Mr. Betts's motion at that earlier study session, but he delivered it in pieces and other people were talking at he same time, so I don't know how clearly it was heard by all - I haven't seen any minutes from that meeting, so I can't say what the City Clerk heard.] Ms. Isabelle got a message back from the city saying they were not doing individual letters of support. He proposed a special meeting of the city council at which all proposals would come to the city council so they could vote to approve letters of support for all.

Mr. Betts said there is a code enforcement issue in Eagle Point. A house there has racked up $18,000 in fines. It was an abandoned property, but he has been told that it was being used as a second home by a couple from Wisconsin. One of them passed away. The surviving partner came back to a short sale. One week away from closing they found out they had $18,000 in code violations. [Presumably, this was from a demand letter that was requested in order to resolve this matter for closing.]

"When we put that ordinance in place," he said, there were a lot of banks not taking care of their properties. He said he had no problem fining banks huge amounts. But in a short sale situation we're messing up a sale for a resident. He asked to have this looked at very carefully and find out what's going on here. He doesn't know if any of these fines went to a hearing. The new buyer will not pay the $18,000 and Mr. Betts doesn't know if the seller will pay it. "I think our original proposal was to go after banks. I didn't know it was to go after short sales."

I don't know where Mr. Betts got the impression that code enforcement had been directed to "go after banks." I've sat through a lot of Public Safety Commission and City Council reports on code enforcement and I'm pretty sure their direction is to go after code violations. They give higher priority to code violations along the main streets in town, but they are also complaint driven - if somebody calls to complain about a possible code violation in a residential neighborhood, they'll go check it out.

He said there was a difference of opinion on a closed session discussion. "The point of that discussion is that the city attorney is feeling that he needs an increase in his contract."

Attorney Duran interrupted saying that Mr. Betts knows that discussion occurred in closed session as part of his performance evaluation. Any discussion about increasing any contractor's compensation must happen in open session. "Mr. Betts and I have a disagreement about how to characterize the discussion in closed session."

"We'll let that one go, then," Mr. Betts said.

That's a bit like the prosecutor who asks the defendant when he stopped beating his wife. The defense attorney objects. The prosecutor withdraws the question. But the seeds of doubt have been planted in the minds of the jury, nonetheless.

Then, Mr. Betts (not really letting it go) said "At any time that somebody feels that a contract needs to be increased, that needs to be done here in open session. It's not proper discussion for closed session."

Mr. Betts said he wanted to address an allegation made against him. It's the accusation that I read in Jason Simpson's harassment complaint about a letter received from Marilyn Heidrick during last year's process of enlarging the RDA area. I haven't heard anyone else make this particular allegation, so I assume he's responding to Jason Simpson's complaint. That complaint (read about it here) was obviously written in haste. Later, upon advice from counsel, Mr. Simpson asked to withdraw it. If he later filed a revised complaint, I don't know about that. But of all the charges Mr. Simpson made in that complaint, this was about the weakest. He provided no substantiation other than his opinion that Mrs. Heidrick couldn't have written that letter without help from Mr. Betts. Even if he had assisted her in writing that letter, I don't see what the problem could be. Open, public information can pass freely back and forth between a citizen and a council member. The citizen can do anything with it she wants, including put it in a letter to city staff. I don't know of any laws this could break, and it doesn't sound unethical to me. But if someone knows otherwise, please let me know.

Nonetheless, this weakest of Mr. Simpson's complaints is the one that Mr. Betts chose to defend himself against. He said he never had any discussion with the residents of Rancho Del Oro. The first he heard from them was when they rose to make public comments at the RDA meetings. He said another part of the complaint said he didn't recuse. Mr. Betts said that upon further research he learned he didn't have a home in the part of Rancho Del Oro that was being considered for the RDA. [But in any case, my report on that May 17, 2011, meeting indicates Mr. Matas left early and all four of the remaining council members had a potential conflict of interest, so they drew straws and Ms. Pye left the meeting, leaving Mayor Parks and Councilmembers Betts and Baker to finally approve the expansion 3-0.]

Somebody could have gone and found this out. "This council has not been long on due diligence." [It sounds like Mr. Betts himself was not sure if he owned a house there or not and it's the responsibility of each council member to make the final decision on his own need to recuse himself or not - it's not a decision of the council.]

He said no one called Mrs. Heidrick to get her side of the story on her letter about the RDA. [But why would anybody, when Mr. Simpson had withdrawn his complaint - unless there is, indeed, a later complaint that we haven't seen yet.]

Mr. Betts said Mayor Parks sent an email to some of the residents of Rancho Del Oro and met with them at the Capri to ask them drop its opposition. [Again, I fail to see the problem with citizens and elected officials meeting to discuss the open issues of the day.] Mr. Betts said he has "duly noted" this meeting and the information has been "sent on and sent forward." [To?]

There was an accusation about code violations on a house. Mr. Betts said it was fully adjudicated. He said the city council could have reviewed that, but "instead they've sent this thing off."

At this point Mr. Betts (who sits at the left end of the dais, from his point of view) turned his head to his right so that he was looking at all of the rest of the council and addressed all or some of them in the second person. "The genie's out of the bottle on some of this stuff and despite us sitting here saying we're all going to get along, I see the same performance here in your activity, things you could've easily researched and found out are true or not true, and instead, you throw them out there as a complaint. And I think it's highly irresponsible for you to have done that."

Mr. Sanchez asked Mr. Daniels to talk about why some council meetings have had video problems and why some things are not up on the website. He also asked him to discuss the future of the library. And he asked about the opening of the county building.

Mr. Sanchez said he was not aware of the pathway committee and he was shocked to be blindsided by that presentation. [Mr. Matas talked about the formation of the committee in his remarks at a city council meeting some time ago.] He said nothing's kept a secret in this city. Everybody knows what's going on.

I was one member of the committee. There was no attempt to keep it a secret. I talked to people about it and spoke at an MSWD board meeting about it. We met at the Visitors Center and bumped up against a Chamber board meeting once, so they knew we existed. Lorraine Becker talked to various people and groups about it. I know the Trails Committee was kept informed about it, and I assume the Parks Committee was too. City staff and anyone who listened to Mr. Matas's comments knew the committee existed. Mr. Sanchez had earlier said he was interested in supporting a bike path in and around the city and that's what the committee proposed. I thought he might have found it a positive first step, but he could only repeat that he was shocked.

Mr. Sanchez said that he and Ms. Pye are meeting as the Policies and Procedures Committee and hope to iron that out. He said when a lot of routine matters are clarified it will eliminate a lot of conflicts.

Mr. Matas said the Ministerial Association would like to have a prayer before each meeting, about 5 minutes before the meeting begins. Everyone will be welcome and they will use the back room of the Carl May Center.

Mr. Matas reminded Mr. Sanchez that he had talked about the pathway committee before, and it was made up of people from the Trails and Parks Committees. The members were selected by the members of those committees. He pointed out that the presentation said nothing about the financial side of the pathway, but focused on what it could do for the city.

He said Donn Sholty has been pushing Desert View "his whole life." He suggested the Public Safety Commission take another look at it.

Finally, Mr. Matas addressed Mr. Betts saying that he asks for decorum, but does not give it. He said Mr. Betts is condescending, speaking to the council as children.

To Pamela Berry he said he would read the recall, but "I don't think you have a shot in the dark. There's your challenge. I dare you."

City Manager Daniels said Cholla Drive will have a second temporary sign naming it "Sarah De La Cruz Way." She is the top senior at DHS High School.

He said the city council has adopted the budget schedule twice. The city lost 6 weeks of planning time when Jason Simpson left.

Mr. Daniels said that there will inevitably be little glitches and gaps in recordings of meetings. It's not a conspiracy. All council meetings are available on the city's website with no issues.

The library is overcrowded and undersized. After the Health & Wellness Center opens, city staff can begin to focus on a plan to expand the library.

The county building is essentially done, but there is a condition that Park Lane must be widened. They must pay their Development Impact Fees. Landscaping on Palm Drive must also be completed. When all those things are done, then the city will sign off on it. Mr. Daniels said he would like to issue a conditional certificate of occupancy that would give them 9 months to make improvements and pay fees. That agreement would have to come to the council for approval.

Mr. Daniels said the council had directed him to prepare applications, do whatever is necessary to prepare applications for AQMD. Among the projects there is support for a "pedestrian-bicycle path" from Cabot's Museum to Cabot Yerxa school, down Ocotillo to the middle school and then to Mission Springs Park. This is not the "1e11" pathway. He is looking for a pathway that connects schools and parks that will allow kids to get back and forth in the safest way possible. They are looking at AQMD funding, Safe Routes To Schools funding and other funds via RCTC. In addition to child safety, fewer parents may feel the need to drive their kids to school, resulting in cleaner air (and more exercise for the kids).

All of the projects that city staff is working on for AQMD funds will be presented to the staff on May 29, in accordance with the motion approved at that study session on AQMD projects. At that meeting the council may simply vote to give a blanket approval to support everybody.

Mr. Betts suggested the city council meet on May 22 so that they can consider AQMD proposals. That date, however, lands in the middle of the ICSC in Las Vegas, so they won't be able to get up a quorum here in Desert Hot Springs for a city council meeting.

The bulk of the meeting on May 29 will be budget issues, however. Not one single person, project or program can be added to the city's general fund, Mr. Daniels said.

This summer the city will undertake $14.2 million in street improvements. $1.2 million in Safe Routes To Schools projects have just been started, including sidewalks on 4th Street. The council will be asked to approve a contract for $6 million more in street rehab. This will finish off all the remaining streets that are in horrible condition. The Western & Scenic project has finally gotten every last single approval that everyone in Caltrans could ever think of and now it's all on the city. Within a week the city will put it out for bid. The project itself is half a million, and Mr. Daniels thinks at least that much has been spent on environmental review. The city has got a $3 million grant to widen Indian from Dillon going south. That will open that area for industrial development. The city is seeking a $250,000 sidewalk grant for the area near Cabot Yerxa school. We got a $1.5 million grant for flood prevention on Palm and Mission Lakes Boulevard. The $1.8 million project to do the streets bounded by Palm, Hacienda, Cactus and Pierson will start this summer. Preliminary work is underway with the water district so that if they receive fortunate news of a grant, then the two agencies can coordinate street work in Area F.

Add the Health & Wellness Center and we could have something like $39 million in construction work going on this summer.

If we are successful in getting AQMD grants, then there will be even more work. Even if the city doesn't get the grants, other agencies in the area will. Mr. Daniels said he is "getting concerned" about people complaining about disruption in the community due to construction. [Yeah, it's those kinds of complaints that I'm sure he'd be happy to wake up to every morning.]

Chief Williams observed that the meeting had gone so long that Dot Reed had finished her knitting and put it away. He addressed the code enforcement matter in Eagle Point that Mr. Betts raised. The Chief explained that this was in the 11000 block of Mountain Hawk. He explained the due process that code enforcement always follows: first a contact with owner/resident; then a notice of violation (no cost); then a citation (a fine); then another citation. Property owners receive written notices. They have rights to appeal. If they act before they get a citation, then there are no fines. IOW, these property owners should have known that they were getting citations. Code enforcement has been working with this owner, the Chief said. They have offered potential solutions.

At the next youth and gang violence ad hoc committee on June 4 at 6 PM in the Carl May Sheriff Sniff will be on hand. The Director of adult parole operations will be there, too.

Public Comment

Marilyn Heidrick came up to read a letter that basically confirmed part of what Mr. Betts said. She did not get information from him about the RDA process. She said he had no knowledge of the organization of neighbors in Rancho Del Oro. She and Mr. Heidrick have been attending regional meetings of Municipal Officials for Redevelopment Reform for at least 10 years. She was employed 18 years with the IRS. At the end of her career she was working as an appeals auditor. This gave her experience that was valuable in reading and understanding the redevelopment code.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs | permalink | May 20, 2012 at 04:44 PM | Comments (8)

May 19, 2012

Telephone Opinion Polls

Finally, Slate deals with a question that has nagged me for a long time: how valid can telephone surveys be when any intelligent, informed, aware person simply refuses to participate in them? The answer is: nobody knows. Somehow the Pew Research Center has determined that only 9% of the population will answer anonymous telephone surveys.

The "contact rate" (actually reaching an adult) has dropped from 90% in 1997 to 62% in 2012. The "cooperation rate" (percent of contacted households that cooperated in the interview) dropped from 43% to 14%. The actual "response rate" (percent of all households that cooperated in the interview) dropped from 36% to 9%.

| permalink | May 19, 2012 at 05:43 PM | Comments (0)

Children Protected From The Horror, Oh, The Horror!

The schoolboard of the Annville-Cleona School District (midway between Palmyra and Lebanon, Pennsylvania) voted 8-0 to remove the book The Dirty Cowboy from its elementary school libraries. "The book received numerous awards, including the International Reading Association award in 2004, the Parents Choice Gold Medal, and the Bulletin Blue Ribbon from the Bulletin for the Center for Children's Books." It's about a cowboy who entrusts his clothes to his dog while he takes his annual bath in the river. His dog doesn't recognize him when he's clean and will not let him have his clothes back. Hilarity ensues, appropriately masked by birds, a boot, the dog's tail, and a cloud of dust. One pair of parents objected to the book saying that "Children may come to the conclusion that looking at nudity is OK, and therefore pornography is OK."

From School Library Journal:

Kindergarten-Grade 4-After finding 32 fleas in his hair and tumbleweeds in his chaps, a freckle-faced cowboy decides that it's time for his annual bath. He mounts his horse, calls for his old dog, and heads for El Rio. There he disrobes and commands his companion to guard his duds. After frolicking merrily with a bar of soap (the amusing illustrations show many views of the naked cowboy bathing, while still keeping a G rating), he emerges thoroughly scrubbed and puckered "like a prickly pear." The dog does not detect his owner's familiar "wild boar-like smell" and stubbornly refuses to relinquish the garments. A dust-stirring brawl ensues that leaves the man as dirty as when he started, ultimately restoring his usual aroma. Unfortunately, the togs do not survive the tussle, and the cowboy heads for home, "bare as a shorn sheep." Told in descriptive language that rolls off the tongue, this story makes the most of a humorous situation. Filled with the dusty reds and sundown bronzes of the New Mexico setting, the paintings have a gritty, sinewy look that matches the earthy tone of the tale. Clever touches abound, as the artwork offers framed close-ups of the cowboy's uninvited vermin, a map of his route to the river, and whirling views of the wrestling match. The hangdog expression on the pooch's face when he realizes his mistake is priceless. A fun look at life on the range.

From Booklist:

K-Gr. 2. A cowboy decides to take his yearly bath, so he heads to a nearby river, where he orders his scruffy dog to guard his clothes. When the cowboy returns from the river, he's so clean that the dog doesn't recognize him. The two get into an extended fracas, leaving the cowboy as filthy as ever and the clothes in tatters. Naked and dirty, the cowboy finally returns home, the dog trotting beside him. For some children, the appeal of this story is in the clever composition of the pictures that manages to conceal the cowboy's private bits. Rex's rich paintings add sparkle to the story's dramatic telling with the attention to detail and humor that may remind some grownups of Norman Rockwell's early work. A simple, slapstick tale that is sure to elicit some giggles.

The book has been around since 2003. There are 20 positive reader reviews of it on Amazon and only a single one-star review which comes from a reader in Orem, Utah.

Amazon says this book is recommended for 4-8 year olds. I don't think so. This book should only be sold in the "adult only" section of the bookstore. I wouldn't want any of my children reading this book, ever. It's books like this that get kids curious about what's "under the dust cloud", something which they can easily find out with one simple google search.

So I Googled 'what's "under the dust cloud"." I was shocked - shocked, I tell you. The top hit had to do with a tech meeting in India where they discussed COBOL and Microsoft! To make it worse, there are photos!

Here's a link to some of the illustrations in the book, provided by the publisher, MacMillan.

This week the schoolboard refused to reverse its decision.

Barbara Jones, director of the ALA [American Library Association] Office of Intellectual Freedom, wrote: "Like many books, it may not be right for every student at Cleona Elementary. But the school library has a responsibility to meet the needs of everyone in the school community — not just the most vocal, the most powerful, or even the majority."

"If a parent thinks a particular book is not suitable for their child, they should guide their children to other books. They should not be given the power to impose their beliefs or preferences on other people's children," Jones said.

Author Amy Timberlake responded:

"I think it's kind of silly," Timberlake said of the ban. "Norman Rockwell has more showing in his paintings by far than this."

"[The cowboy] is completely covered — nothing is showing, there's not even a hint of anything showing," she said. "Everyone takes their clothes off to take a bath. We all know how bathing happens."

Filed under Books,Naturism-Nudism | permalink | May 19, 2012 at 05:29 PM | Comments (0)

NAACP For Marriage Equality

By a vote of 62-2 the Board of Directors of NAACP approved the following resolution:

The NAACP Constitution affirmatively states our objective to ensure the "political, education, social and economic equality" of all people. Therefore, the NAACP has opposed and will continue to oppose any national, state, local policy or legislative initiative that seeks to codify discrimination or hatred into the law or to remove the Constitutional rights of LGBT citizens. We support marriage equality consistent with equal protection under the law provided under the Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution. Further, we strongly affirm the religious freedoms of all people as protected by the First Amendment.

Filed under Gay Issues | permalink | May 19, 2012 at 03:02 PM | Comments (0)


Playing on the newest piece of playground equipment.

| permalink | May 19, 2012 at 02:16 PM | Comments (1)

DHS City Council - April 17

Closed Session

Under the rules regarding urgency, an item was added to the closed session agenda concerning a settlement demand from Insurance Company of the West. There was no reportable action.

Upon prompting by Mayor Parks, Attorney Duran added that potential litigation had been considered at their April 3 closed session. The council directed the attorney to settle. The settlement agreement could not be made public until all parties had signed. It would be available the next day (April 18), Mr. Duran said. This was the settlement with Jason Simpson. The closed session discussion on April 3 was the one where Councilmember Betts recused himself.


Louisa Castrodale came up to explain the certificates of recognition for Bubbling Wells Elementary Poetry Contest Winners. She explained that the poetry contest was in celebration of National Poetry Month which was April. They had 60 to 70 entries, and four of the winners were present to read their poems.

Steve Sobotta reported on Planning Commission activities for the first quarter.

Commander Singer then gave the code enforcement quarterly update. Numbers for abandoned properties:
88 new cases
144 closed cases
881 inspections
114 notices of violation
107 citations
$691,900 fines issued
$129,018.12 fines paid
$123,539.59 cost recovery from assessor/Franchise Tax Board

Numbers for the run of the mill pubic nuisances:
151 new cases
122 closed cases
838 inspections
127 courtesy notices
82 notices of violation
52 citations
$33,400 fines issued
$13,033.48 fines paid
117 demand letters with a value of $674,394.11
4 abatement warrants

Councilmember Betts asked when the JAS contract is up for renewal. The answer was (as always) June 30, 2013. Mr. Betts asked if that was a year-and-a-half away. Commander Singer confirmed that it is, but it is more like a year-and-a-quarter.

Fire Chief Pat Tomlinson introduced Mark Williams who had just been promoted to Battalion Chief. He was in Moreno Valley before he came here. Chief Tomlinson will work Monday through Wednesday, Chief Williams will take Thursday through Saturday. Chief Tomlinson's office is out of Station 37 (West & Pierson) with a satellite at Station 35 (Thousand Palms). Chief Williams is just the opposite, working out of 35 with a satellite in 37.

Public Comments

George Fisher talked about the CERT class that would be May 18-20. He also said he is in favor of HR 3125, the Earthquake Insurance Affordability Act. He reminded us of the Memorial Day ceremony that would take place Monday, May 28 at 11 AM in Veterans Park.

Tom Hile said their biggest fundraiser, a golf tournament at Mission Lakes, was coming up on April 28.

Dorothy Warren President of the DHS Women's Club said 2013 will be their 60th anniversary. They have donated over $300,000 to scholarships and other charitable needs for the youth of the city. This year they will give twenty $1,000 scholarships to DHS High School students. Each school will also receive $500. The scholarship presentation took place May 8 at Miracle Springs. They meet the first Tuesday of every month at Vista Montaña. All ladies are welcome to join.

Dot Reed pointed out the new art on the walls of the Carl May. They are all from the Spa City Palettiers. They're a non-profit organization with open membership for artists. They can be reached at 760-329-9626. The works on display at the Carl May are all for sale.

Ms. Reed also announced the Soup Supper that would be on April 26.

Carl May Mural

Carl May Mural Final Design
The final approved design for the mural for the east exterior wall of the Carl May Center

This had come before the Community & Cultural Affairs Commission a few times and the proposed design experienced a few revisions. The artist will be assisted by DHS High School students in creating the mural. The cost for materials and expenses will be $5,000 which will come out of the Art In Public Places fund. It will have an anti-graffiti coating.

Approved 5-0.

I-10 Interchange Funding

The funding formulae for all the interchanges on I-10 in the Coachella Valley that were to be rebuilt were put forward in 2003. Since then costs dropped to about half what was estimated. Because of our city's recent annexation, Riverside County wanted to take another look at the funding distribution. The local share was 25%. The 2003 formula had DHS paying nothing towards the Bob Hope interchange, 12.36% to the Indian Canyon interchange, 19% to the Palm Drive/Gene Autry interchange, nothing toward Date Palm, and nothing toward Jefferson.

In 2009 the county wanted to revise those proportions because various cities had annexed territory. At the Date Palm interchange, for example, Desert Hot Springs' share would go from 0 to 8.2%. That would be $182,535.85. Shares would also have increased for Cathedral City and Palm Desert. Shares would have decreased for Riverside County, Palm Springs, and Rancho Mirage. Voting against this proposal at CVAG were DHS, Palm Springs, Cathedral City and Palm Desert. There were five votes in favor.

City Manager Daniels said the new proportions may be fair based on today's population, but it's a change in the funding formula after the project is already underway. The city's DIF fund that could be used for this has approximately $350,000 in it. So we've got the money, but we'd rather use that money for streets here in town.

Councilmember Matas is past chair of the CVAG Transportation Committee. He said the similar adjustments of proportions for the Bob Hope interchange saw Rancho Mirage's share decrease as well, even though that interchange is in Rancho Mirage. He said the study initially included an assumption of major growth in DHS in the multi-species habitat plan area! In reality, no homes will ever be built there. They re-studied, and we see the resulting numbers.

Mayor Parks asked for the rationale for changing the formula after the project has started.

Mayor Pro Tem Pye said she thought the re-allocation also included future interchanges for Da Vall and Landau. Mr. Matas said the Landau interchange is probably at least 10 years away. Jefferson is the next big project and Da Vall will come after Jefferson, but it hasn't even gone into design yet. There has been no final vote on these proportions. The suggestion was for each city to discuss it and then make a recommendation to its Executive Committee representative - the Mayor.

Councilmember Betts asked if the county still has RDA land in our annexed area. Mr. Daniels explained that, like all other RDAs, that RDA is gone. "So, it's ours now?" Mr. Betts asked. Mr. Daniels explained that unincorporated county RDA areas are still in unincorporated areas. But Mr. Betts clarified that the county RDA land inside our city limits is no longer county RDA, so it's the city's to tax.

Mr. Matas said we still don't know if the re-study correctly eliminated all the MSHCP areas from future development calculations.

Mr. Daniels said that unlike most of the other concerns that CVAG works with, CVAG has a means to enforce these shares. If we refuse to contribute, CVAG will withhold our share from other future street project. Indian Canyon is scheduled to be widened to 6 lanes in 2017 using money that will be channeled through CVAG. If we refuse to our new share of the interchange projects, CVAG will take it out of our Indian Canyon project, delaying it until we can find the additional money. In contrast, CVAG has no way to force us to pay our designated share of Roy's Desert Resource Center.

Mr. Matas moved to direct the Mayor to vote to retain the current funding formula and not to approve the revised formula. Approved 5-0.

Consent Calendar

Approved 5-0 without discussion were:

  • Approval of street and storm drain improvements in Vista Santa Fe; acceptance of Sonora Drive; and exoneration of bonds. Mr. Betts and Mr. Matas recused themselves from this vote.
  • Letters of support for HR 3125 an S367 (Earthquake Insurance Affordability Act).
  • Receive and file the letter from the Police Officer's Association regarding a vote of their membership to restructure their Board of Directors. The POA voted on February 28 to make Ken Peary the Interim President, Larry Essex the Treasurer, Jason Hunter the Secretary and Mike Valentich the Member At Large. The position of Vice President is vacant. Regular elections are scheduled for June 2012.
  • An amendment to the contract with United GLI Inc. for landscape services in the landscaping, lighting and drainage assessment districts. They had a one-year contract beginning February 2011. The staff report says they have provided a high level of service. This amendment would extend their contract for two years at a cost not to exceed $16,067 per month.
  • Authorization to submit an application to Caltrans in Safe Routes To School Cycle 10 for funding for curb, gutter and sidewalk improvements on Ocotillo and Desert View. The complete cost of the project is estimated at $453,000 and the city will pay $75,000.
  • An agreement with Reed Smith for federal lobbying at a cost not to exceed $65,000. From 2002 through 2011 Reed Smith "has aided City staff in securing nearly $32 million in funding."

Team Building RFP

Back at the goals setting session (in January, I believe), a "deep desire" was expressed by the majority of the council to develop better working relationships among themselves.

Failure to move forward in this direction exposes the City to dysfunctionality, operational inefficiencies, increased risk liabilities, litigation, and just plain poor level of service to the people of Desert Hot Springs. Policy debates are healthy; destructive behaviors are not.

As reported in the past, economic development investments seek communities that exhibit political and administrative stability. On behalf of our constituents we constantly must be looking for ways to put our best foot forward as we seek to address the needs of the high unemployment rate and low per capita income that this community currently experiences. New business investments will improve the quality of life in Desert Hot Springs for all residents.

The RFP was posted and distributed a month prior to this. This item was on the consent agenda only to receive and file the RFP. No proposals were presented along with this. Mr. Betts asked to pull this item. He asked if proposals had been received. Mr. Daniels confirmed that they had. Mr. Betts asked if they included cost estimates. Mr. Daniels said the proposals had a menu approach - a menu of services (and costs) that the city could select. There were not lump sum amounts. The goal setting session was facilitated by Henry Garcia, and his firm also replied to this RFP. Mr. Betts said the goal setting session cost about $5,000. Therefore, Mr. Betts estimated that cost of this item would range from $5,000 to $20,000. mr. Betts said he didn't see any need to spend funds on this.

Approved 4-1 with Mr. Betts voting against.

Councilmember Remarks

Mr. Betts said he and Mr. Sanchez had been working on a June 30 concert. The planning is well underway. Money has been raised. They don't know how much the permit fees will be yet. He wants the council to decide if it will be a city event (which would mean no fees). He asked to have it placed on the agenda.

Mayor Parks asked if Mr. Sanchez supported Mr. Betts in this. He said he did. The Mayor said that it would be placed on the next agenda.

Mr. Betts asked when the vacation rental housing ordinance would come to the council. It would be on the May 1 agenda, Mr. Daniels said.

Mr. Betts said anyone wishing to oppose the proposed wind turbines on the mesas in the high desert should give him a call.

Mr. Matas talked about ie511.org that has updated traffic information available for southern California. There are apps there that you can download for iPhones or Android.

Ms. Pye reported on the CVAG Public Safety Committee meeting. The names of those who are being paroled are finally being shared with our police, but not until after their release. There was a report that there were 316 homeless parolees released in Riverside County. Ms. Pye said the actual number is 119, because parolees will lie and tell authorities they don't know where they will be living. The more accurate, lower figure is derived from post-release reporting by the parolees.

She also reported that the city is dealing with a report of flooding on 3rd Street (by a commenter at an earlier city council meeting) by putting in a berm at a cost of about $5,000.

Mr. Sanchez said he voted no on the "team building" because he and Ms. Pye will be looking at those people who submitted proposals and the proposals themselves to see what benefit they might offer this council. (He actually voted "yes" on the receipt and file of team building proposals).

City Manager Daniels introduced Steve Elam who will temporarily fill in for some of Jason Simpson's duties. He was previously employed in Moreno Valley and Simi Valley and Thousand Oaks. He'll be with DHS for 6 months. He has experience with deficit reduction in Moreno Valley.

The State of California has awarded the city $2.162 million for the Health & Wellness Center for the aquatic center.

The city and the water district will be coordinating work on the remaining two blocks of Cactus Drive that are badly in need of rehab: between Hacienda and Two Bunch Palms. There will be cost savings as a result.

The new county clinic building at Palm Drive and Park Lane is being delayed because the county has yet to pay its DIF fees and comply with conditions for improving Park Lane and landscaping along Palm Drive.

Chief Williams said that the number of Part 1 crimes in the first quarter of 2012 was 26% lower than the first quarter of 2011.

Public Comment

John Card said Jr. All-American Football and Cheer is focusing on its cheer program. Last year they came in third place at competition.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs | permalink | May 19, 2012 at 10:56 AM | Comments (2)