College of the Desert administrators question learning hotel; $400 gas discount?

Editor’s note: ICYMI is a recap of last week’s top headlines from The Desert Sun. This covers news for the week of March 14.

On Friday, the College of the Desert Trustees asked why the planned Palm Springs campus should include a learning hotel, one asking why 60% of a $577 million bond measure should be spent on campus and instead suggesting bond funds should be used to revitalize downtowns in other desert cities .

Plans for a Palm Springs campus have been underway since at least 2004, and plans for the campus on the site of Palm Springs’ former mall really took off after 2016, when voters approved Measure CC. However, the college is now reevaluating those plans in light of the COVID-19 pandemic and following a change in leadership at the school. COD now estimates the campus could open in late 2026 or 2027.

Administrator Bea Gonzalez said the resources available to the college represent “a great opportunity for economic development.”

“I’m sure every city here that’s been promised a campus would love to see some of the bond money used to revitalize some of their downtown areas,” she said. “And talking to the mayor of Cathedral City a bit, he mentioned that as well. As [their downtown] needs a facelift. So, you know, I want us to be aware of how we spread that love? … I’m sure everyone would love to use the bond money to revitalize their downtowns.

Board chairman Ruben Perez told the Desert Sun that he agrees with Gonzalez’s sentiment to “spread the love.”

“Since I’ve been on the board, I’ve always advocated for the bond money to be used a little more equitably across the district,” he said after Friday’s meeting.

—Jonathan Horwitz

California lawmakers offer taxpayer $400 rebate to soften blow from rising gas prices

In response to California gas prices reaching historic highs, a group of Democratic state lawmakers released a proposall to offer a rebate of $400 to each taxpayer in the State.

The proposal, which would cost about $9 billion and be paid for using part of the state’s multi-billion dollar budget surplus, was announced by a dozen Democratic lawmakers, led by Assemblyman Cottie Petrie-Norris, D-Irvine, as well as Assemblyman Chad. Mayes, I-Rancho Mirage.

“Soaring gas prices are hitting Californians at the pumps,” Petrie-Norris said at a press conference on the steps of the Capitol in Sacramento on Thursday. “We know our constituents are hurting right now.”

The $400 rebate for California taxpayers would be equivalent to a one-year gas tax holiday “for most vehicles,” Petrie-Norris said.

The average price of a gallon of gasoline in California is by far the highest in the country at $5.78, according to AAA.

—Tom Coulter

Melissa Melendez misses filing deadline to challenge GOP Rep. Ken Calvert

Melissa Melendez.

After taking steps to participate in the race earlier this month, State Senator Melissa Melendez, R-Lake Elsinore, missed the deadline to qualify for the ballot and challenge incumbent Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Corona, in this year’s election to represent Palm Springs and other Coachella Valley cities in Congress.

Melendez, who cannot seek re-election to the California State Senate due to term limits, entered his name in the race with the Riverside County Registrar of Electors on March 7, but did not fill all the documents needed to qualify for the upcoming ballot by the March 11 filing deadline.

Melendez also formed a committee with the Federal Election Commission on March 8 indicating his intention to run, but ultimately changed course. She has provided no public explanation.

—Tom Coulter

Amazon enters the charity scene in the Valley

Amazon will pay $100,000 to be the presenting sponsor of DAP Health’s 28th Annual Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards. The news comes as Amazon ramps up its overall presence in the Coachella Valley with a new facility in Cathedral City and amid speculation that its grocery stores will arrive in Rancho Mirage and La Quinta.

This is the first time in several years that The Chase awards will include a presenting sponsor – the highest level of sponsorship available. The event is scheduled for April 9 at the Palm Springs Convention Center.

The relationship between the two began after David Ambroz, Amazon’s community engagement manager in the Inland Empire, reached out to DAP Health and other nonprofits earlier this year, Henke said. DAP Health CEO David Brinkman invited Ambrose for a tour, which took place on February 4.

“We recently toured the DAP Health campus and saw firsthand how the organization is applying lessons learned from the AIDS crisis to fill gaps in current health care needs,” Ambroz said in an announcement. published by DAP Health on Monday. “We were impressed by their innovative solutions to provide comprehensive care to the inhabitants of the valley.

When Ambroz asked how Amazon could help, the company was asked to sponsor The Chase awards.

—Maria Sestito

The Mensch Foundation organizes a vigil for Ukraine in Palm Desert

A small crowd gathered in the grounds of the Palm Desert Civic Center Thursday for a vigil and fundraiser in support of the Ukrainian people.

The vigil was organized by the Mensch Foundation, which recognizes people of integrity and honorable as “mensches”. The word “mensch” in Yiddish is “someone to admire and imitate, someone of noble character.”

Steven Geiger, founder of the Mensch Foundation, spoke of his own journey as a refugee from Hungary in 1956. “I know what it means to be a refugee,” Geiger said. “I said goodbye to my grandparents…and got on a train. From the train, we headed for the bushes.”

“We walked for 22 km, my mother holding a bag and my hand. My father holding a bag and my other hand. Finally our leader said: ‘You are now in Austria’.”

From Austria, his family boarded a plane and ended their journey in New Jersey. He then talked about watching Ukrainian children on TV holding their mothers, hugging their fathers and grandfathers, leaving their homes and lives behind. “I know in my gut how they feel,” Geiger said. “We have to help these people and we have to stop this.”

Palm Desert Mayor Jan Harnik said: “Today we are once again watching atrocities imposed on a country of 44 million innocent people. We are watching a mad man bombard residents and hospitals. .. One day we will meet here again because the best part of humanity will find that our strength is in peace and love,” she said. “Not in hate and murder. “

—Kevin Mann

Indio’s Willcockson House, a mid-century gem, is not razed, owners say

The Willcockson House is located on a large lot at the intersection of 49 Avenue and Jefferson Street in Indio.

Rumors are circulating that the Willcockson House, a mid-century modern house in Indio designed by architect Walter S. White, is to be demolished.

But in an interview with The Desert Sun, Gary Funtas – who owns the house with his brother – and his wife, Judi, dispelled some of the rumors circling the house on the southeast corner of Jefferson and 49 Ave.

“It’s not going to be torn down. If anything, the person who cares about it wants to come in and completely renovate everything and redo the grounds and just make it a lot nicer than it is now,” said Judi Funtas. Gary Funtas said the house would not go to a developer, although they had offers from some in the past who wanted to demolish it.

The Funtas family did not disclose the sale price or the name of the buyer, but said it would be sold to someone with experience in home renovations and that the purchase agreement specifically states that it cannot be demolished. County records show that no deal has yet been completed.

Prior to the appearance of the new buyer, the Willcockson House was to be part of a new church at the Red Door worship center, but that plan fell through after the city denied access to the church through 49 Avenue, near the house, due to residents’ concerns about traffic.

Plans for the church are moving forward on a smaller scale than originally planned, and the house will remain just a neighbor of the new facility.

— Eliana Perez

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