Looking back at the news headlines of 2012 for the Coachella Valley reveals some interesting highlights with huge implications for the future, along with a few low lights that cannot be swept under the rug.
The most significant story in 2012, which grabbed headlines for months, was the growing tight race for the 45th/36th congressional seat. The race culminated in November with an upset win by Dr. Raul Ruiz over incumbent Mary Bono Mack. Mack, who had no previous political experience, assumed that congressional seat after the sudden death of her then-husband Sonny Bono. Mack held that seat for 14 years with little opposition.
Ruiz, an emergency room doctor and more importantly, a Latino, demonstrated how powerful the Hispanic vote really is. And his timing couldn’t have been better. The recent redistricting of the 45th/36th district equaled the playing field between Republican and Democratic voters. Add to the equation Mack’s vicious television ad campaign against Ruiz which backfired in a big way prompting Undecided and Independent Voters to cast their vote for Ruiz.
Since the election, Congressman-elect Ruiz has been making all the right moves, and I predict he will be the first Hispanic to run for the office of President of the United States somewhere in the future. That’s a long way down the pike, but I see it coming.
Another big development that got lost in the election headlines is the commitment for a University of California, Riverside School of Medicine (UCR SoM) to open in the Coachella Valley. The UCR SoM is the first medical school to receive accreditation by the state in the past 45 years. This is great news for the Valley and really good news for the City of Desert Hot Springs because the newly built, but never opened county health facility on Palm Drive finally has found some good tenants.
The controversial Jewish Community Center located on Pierson Blvd., is back in the news. The city of DHS has been engaged in talks with the Redevelopment Agency (RDA) to release the property so the Borrego Springs Health Foundation can resurrect the facility through a grant. But the biggest news in DHS was the opening of the Boys & Girls Club, the Health & Wellness Center and John Furbee Aquatic Center.
The Desert Hot Springs Police Department added five new police officers to its force and swore in new Police Chief Kate Singer after former Police Chief Patrick Williams relocated to Petaluma to accept a position there. Some of those new police officers came from Cathedral City after they were laid off due to deep budgets cuts there.
Cathedral City Mayor Kathy DeRosa was reelected in the tightest race of the November 2012 election, winning by a mere 13 votes. The squeaker race prompted a recall which kept the Registrar of Voters office working overtime. This race vividly demonstrated the old adage that “every vote counts.”
Cathedral City also named a new City Manager. Andy Hall, the Community Development Director succeeded Don Bradley, who retired after 13 years.
On the downside in 2012, residents had to deal with the stench floating from the east Valley. That stench could be smelled all the way to Los Angeles prompting local officials to find the cause, and Western Environmental Inc., a recycling yard in Mecca was targeted as the source. A survey is being conducted and environmental health officials are keeping their eyes on the company.
The Salton Sea is drying up. That was the rally cry heard from environmentalists and concerned residents across the Valley. Supervisor John Benoit along with Assemblyman Manuel Perez invited U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar to join the Salton Sea Authority to help find a solution to this growing problem that can no longer be swept under the rug.
There are three big “Oops, or did that really happen,” from the College of the Desert. First it saw its expansion plans come under scrutiny while members its football team were accused of criminal activity, only to be followed by the scandal surrounding campus administrators who allegedly miscalculated the number of full-time students attending the college, which garnered the school an extra $5.3 million.
Another low light came when Indio City Councilman Sam Torres suggested an $18 tax per ticket for the Coachella Valley and Stagecoach Music and Arts Festivals. That ill-fated proposal quickly fell by the wayside when Goldenvoice promoters said they would move the festivals to a new venue if the tax was approved. Luckily, that didn’t happen. The festivals generate approximately $250 million in revenues across the Valley.