Volume 41 | August 2020
INDIO CITY COUNCIL
Mayor
Mayor Pro Tem
CITY MANAGER'S MESSAGE
Dear Indio neighbors,

It’s August and still no end in sight for the Covid impacts on our lives. Indio City Hall, as with virtually all government offices in this part of the State, remains closed to direct public access, but we continue to do face-to-face (masked and distanced) public appointments when circumstances do not lend themselves to telephone, email or online transactions. Although the methods are different, I believe we are still providing about 98% of the services we have always provided. 
 
Our employees are in that category of “essential workers” who face a certain amount of risk in their job-related public interactions. Many of them work in the field where the exposure is particularly high. I am surrounded in the City by truly dedicated people who consider public service a true value.

As City Manager, I have an obligation to these employees to provide as safe a working condition as I can during this difficult time. Therefore, where possible, we rotate many of our employees between working in the office or working from home.   We do that because we cannot afford to have one employee test positive and cause all the rest of the staff to be placed in quarantine. A member of the public complained to me that they were having trouble getting a live person on the phone. I am afraid that may be true more often than we would like, but hopefully we are good about calling back when citizens leave messages. We are trying hard under difficult circumstances. 
 
We are a small group. Only 250 employees for a City of nearly 100,000. That places us among the lowest staffed full service cities in the State on a “per capita basis.” And keep in mind that we are a 24/7 operation. But the staff does not complain. We feel fortunate to have these jobs and to have a chance to serve such a great community as Indio. We pride ourselves on being able to perform with such minimal staffing.  Nonetheless, when we fail to meet expectations, I do want to hear about it. That is MY job. My email is mscott@indio.org, and I respond to emails 7 days per week. 
 
One of the challenges in local government these days is dealing with the variety of attitudes the public has about what should be done with the Covid crisis. I do believe that most people now understand that wearing masks is critically important. Not everyone agrees, but there seems to be growing sentiment that it is the least we can do out of respect for one another. It is the law in Indio that people should wear masks in public indoor places and in outdoor places if distancing is not possible. Sometimes we get criticized for not being more aggressive in citing people who are not complying. Quite frankly, we do not want to issue citations. We much prefer that people to do the right thing out of respect for others. Typically we ask for compliance, and we almost always get it. We are not averse to citing someone who refuses, but it is very rare for that to happen.
 
We are also getting complaints about short-term rental (STR) tenants. In fairness, I believe that the vast majority of short-term rental tenants are very respectful of the neighbors.  I live in a subdivision that includes many STR properties. Most people are almost invisible to us. The obnoxious exception is those people who come here to hold loud parties with many guests. We are determined to do something about those tenancies. Not just during the Covid crisis, but on a permanent basis. The whole concept of short-term rentals is one of “home sharing.” You don’t share someone’s home to hold a party. We don’t have a “commercial party venue” ordinance. We have a short-term home sharing ordinance. Thus, we want to crack down on the abusers of that program. 

City staff is working on recommendations to the City Council that will give us the teeth to make these STR enforcement changes. As a City, we embrace the normal short-term rental. We appreciate that these visitors enjoy Indio. We appreciate that they spend money in our businesses and provide much needed City budget support. But the “party houses” are too much and need to be addressed. We are actively working toward that end.
 
Changing subjects – As I write this column, I am watching tributes to Congressman John Lewis for his lifetime commitment to the civil rights movement. I was a 14 year old when Mr. Lewis and other brave souls walked across the bridge in Selma, Alabama, and were so brutally beaten. I remember trying to imagine the courage and commitment it took to walk across that bridge that day knowing what was possibly waiting for them. Thank God for people with that kind of resolve. What I could never fathom was what could possibly be going through the hearts and minds of those who were so hateful as to dole out the inhuman beatings. John Lewis was perhaps the single most outspoken advocate of non-violent protest. “Getting into good trouble,” as he said. He has championed efforts to address many different sorts of civil rights injustices through the years. On a very personal level, I credit the John Lewis’s of the country for inspiring my career, although I can claim no achievements remotely of the magnitude he achieved. But I do know it has contributed mightily to my faith in community and those who believe in the collective good will that great communities cherish.  And that is important because we have issues to address right here in the Coachella Valley – neighbors among us who deserve our greater support. And I know we will!
 
There is not a lot of good I can say for the year 2020. But as I approach my 71st year, I have tremendous hope. I thank the Indio community for being one of the very best communities in which I have been privileged to work. We have a very dedicated and talented City Council and staff, and a deserving population of residents and businesses who are a pleasure to serve. This year has been a big challenge for everyone, but I believe deeply in Indio’s future! 

Be safe,

Mark Scott
Indio City Manager

mscott@indio.org
NEWS OF INDIO
GETTING THE ROYAL TREATMENT

From thirsty grass to desert gold, King Street received a much needed makeover this summer. Take a drive through this historic neighborhood west of downtown Indio some time to see the difference this drought-friendly project made. Six median islands received special treatment, with a cost covered by a rebate from the Indio Water Authority.
Construction began in early June and lasted approximately eight weeks, as grass was replaced with sustainable groundcover and colorful native plants like Coral Fountain, Dallas Red Lantana, and Little John Bottle Brush.

For information on how to receive a rebate from IWA to replace grass with sustainable landscaping on your property, email conserve@indio.org or call (760) 391-4038 

FROM ASHES TO ART

A window to history opened out of the ashes of a fire behind a commercial building in Indio this month. It happened when Indio firefighters from Station 87 responded to a brush fire along the north side of Indio Blvd. and Monroe Street on July 14. "Firefighters were able to quickly contain the fire, but while extinguishing it, the stucco was damaged," said Battalion Chief Joe Taylor. "As the stucco slid off the wall due to the heat, it unveiled a painted mural behind it." (see photo) 

The mural appears to show an old "Hamm's Beer" bear that was painted many years ago, and later covered up with stucco. Hamm's was founded in 1865, although the mural is likely much more recent.

CELEBRATE NATIONAL WATER QUALITY MONTH IN AUGUST

Are you aware that August is National Water Quality Month? August is that time of the year when outdoor water use is at its peak and many people are enjoying recreational activities involving water. 

Indio Water Authority was established to ensure that the City of Indio has a safe and reliable water supply. Clean water is essential for healthy communities and we monitor water quality regularly to ensure it is safe for consumption, cooking, and other uses. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has demonstrated the importance of delivering a safe and reliable water supply to the 85,000+ people in our service area – water that is used for crucial life-saving functions at hospitals, fire hydrants, homes, and businesses. We are proud that our customers can always count on us for this essential resource. 

100% of IWA’s water supply is pumped from the groundwater basin, also known as the aquifer. Many people are unaware of the little ways they can pollute our groundwater. This month is a great time to start protecting our precious water supply. Here is a short list of ways you can help:

  • Read the Annual Water Quality Report, also known as the Consumer Confidence Report, in English or Spanish.
  • Prolong the availability of our high quality groundwater by using less water; visit www.indiowater.org/conservation for incentives and rebates to help reduce your water use. 
  • Properly dispose of hazardous waste such as motor oil, paint, solvents, chemicals, and household cleaning products so that they don’t pollute our groundwater; visit the Indio Sustainability website for additional information.
  • Just like hazardous waste, don’t flush unwanted or expired medications down the toilet/drain; check with your local pharmacy for drug take back options or visit the FDA drug disposal website for collection sites and periodic drug take back events. 
  • Do not illegally dump household trash, bulky items, yard trimmings, medical waste, and dead animals because they will pollute the storm drain and ultimately run off to the Whitewater Channel where the contaminants will reach the groundwater. 

Helping protect our groundwater basin not only makes summer fun but also protects our communities and ultimately your drinking water. 
MAKING STRIDES IN SOUTHWEST INDIO

On July 15, 2020, Indio's City Council approved a "Specific Plan" for Citrus Plaza II, paving the way for future development. This "Specific Plan" is similar to zoning and establishes regulation for different land uses, development standards (density, height limits, and setbacks), and architectural design themes for the future development of a vacant 9.19 acre parcel located 700 feet north of Avenue 50 and Jefferson Street in Southwest Indio.

This project is directly north of the existing Citrus Plaza Shopping Center, home to Ralph’s. The Citrus Plaza II Specific Plan provides for horizontal mixed use development, outdoor plazas, outdoor dining and pedestrian walkways. The Specific Plan allows for a maximum of 75,000 square feet of general commercial (services, retail and restaurants), a maximum of two drive through restaurants, a gas station, and an option for a maximum of 90 multifamily residential units. Future development will be subject to additional City reviews and approvals and will occur in two phases.
ROLLING OUT THE WELCOME MAT

On July 16, the new Hampton Inn & Suites opened following approval by the City and Hilton corporate. The project site is located at 42261 Spectrum Avenue just east of the Walmart in the Palms Shopping Center, and has 93 guest rooms.

"The City of Indio has been very helpful from the beginning," said Hampton Inn & Suites Operator Sejal Bhakta. "Since we started the planning of Hampton Inn & Suites, Indio, it has been an absolute pleasure to work with the City Staff."

The Hampton faced multiple challenges during the construction process and Bhakta credits the staff at City of Indio in helping guide them through. "We are very confident that we will achieve greater successes at this location and are very proud to have this location in our portfolio of hotels, and we would like to thank everyone at the City of Indio for their ongoing support, especially trying to open during these difficult times," added Bhakta.

The Hampton Inn & Suites eventually plans to employ as many as 25 people.
CALLING OUT CARES ACT FUNDING

Indio’s Mayor Glenn Miller joined with mayors around the Coachella Valley requesting changes in the distribution of federal CARES Act funding to cities around California.
 
The letter, which was sent to Governor Gavin Newsom, along with State Senator Melissa Ann Melendez and Assemblymembers Eduardo Garcia and Chad Mayes, highlighted the inequity in the allocation of CARES Act funding to cities.
 
Cities with populations smaller than 300,000 are to receive a dramatically smaller proportion of federal CARES Act dollars, compared with 13 cities with populations over 300,000. In some cases, cities like Indio received up to 14 times LESS PER RESIDENT than the more populous cities.

Indio is considered the second “County Seat,” housing the Larson Justice Center and John J. Benoit Detention Center. Indio anchors many social service organizations that service the entire region, such as Coachella Valley Rescue Mission and FIND Food Bank, but receives a mere $12.28 per resident whereas the City of Riverside, as an example, received $85 per resident. 
 
“Cities play the largest role in delivering public service to Californians and ALL of our residents have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Mayor Glenn Miller. “With the loss of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and other gatherings that are part of our City’s DNA, the City of Indio and our entire Coachella Valley region are seeing a sharp decline in revenues.”
 
The letter (available in full on the City's website) asks for the Governor’s urgent consideration of this disparate allocation of funding, and equal and fair treatment.
STEPPING UP FOR CENSUS 2020

From a car caravan through the City, to new signs and postcards mailed to homes, the City of Indio is working hard to encourage and educate residents about participating in the 2020 Census.

Despite all that, as of July 27, 2020 only 49.2% of Indio households completed their census forms, with participation lower than 25% in some areas of the City. Although this rate is slightly improved over June, the City of Indio still has the lowest participation rate in the Coachella Valley.  

Indio’s complete count ensures accurate census data that is critical for our City’s programs. A complete count will ultimately translate into resource, representation, and economic development such as new roads, housing, schools, and medical opportunities. In fact, every person who fills out the Census form in Indio means an additional $2,000 in federal funds provided to Indio to build and maintain roads, provide programs for our area's youth and seniors, among other important and vital projects. That translates to $20,000 per person in funding for the next 10 years! 

COVID-19 is one of several challenges facing Census 2020, but this kind of emergency highlights exactly why the government needs accurate census data. The census shapes decisions about how billions of dollars in federal funds will flow into our community for the next ten years.

 Respond to the Census in English or in Spanish.
SHOWING SOME 'HUMANITY'

Through a special partnership between the City and Habitat for Humanity of the Coachella Valley, the City’s Housing and Neighborhood Services Division and Code Enforcement are improving the lives of low-income homeowners by providing help to address deferred property maintenance and other home security needs. Recently, through this partnership and the help of others like Burrtec, Habitat for Humanity helped an income restricted disabled homeowner resident take care of a number property code violations by replacing a dilapidated/broken wooden fence with a new one, clearing overgrown landscaping in the front yard and removing an overgrown tree that had uprooted the front walkway leading to the front door.

Habitat made these repairs through volunteer work and donations, resulting in no costs to the homeowner or the City. Projects like these are considered by Habitat for Humanity on a case-by-case basis, prioritizing need, financial status, and other circumstances—such as the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest participating homeowner (who lives on Azalea Street in Indio) received a huge emotional and financial lift, as do other homeowners with a variety of needs, which if left unattended, could lead to bigger problems and a housing crisis.

"People can become homeless if they don't pay their taxes or become infirm and can't take care of their properties," said Dave Thornton, Executive Director of Habitat for Humanity of the Coachella Valley. "We hear lots of stories about a spouse who's passed away and a surviving spouse who doesn't know what to do or where to start, and they have 30 years of deferred maintenance, or someone who is choosing to buy medicine instead of repairing a broken window.

Thornton recalled when the Indio Housing and Neighborhood Services Division came to him and said, "We're going to help inside this house with assistance through the City’s Minor Home Repair Program. Can you help outside?" 

Using a team of citizen volunteers, Habitat and the City of Indio recently completed work in the front yard (pictured before and after) of the home on Azalea. However, Habitat intends to perform additional work in the backyard, including painting the fence and clearing debris. 

"We believe projects like these are marvelous to help Habitat keep on our mission, while also helping residents of the City of Indio," said Thornton. "Many people do not realize that in addition to building houses, Habitat helps restore existing homes."

To support Habitat for Humanity's Mission, donate or shop at Restore, or find out about current volunteer opportunities by emailing Volunteer@hfhcv.orgor calling 760-969-6917 x 102
TAKE THE PLEDGE

Join your neighbors, family and friends by taking the pledge to join the fight against COVID. Take the pledge to wear a face cover whenever leaving the home and to avoid social gatherings. These actions will slow the spread of the disease and actively work to get our schools and businesses open.

Visit PledgeToFightCOVID.com to sign the pledge and learn more about how you can help stop the spread and control the pandemic in Riverside County, and visit the City's Coronavirus and YouTube pages to learn more about the ways the City of Indio is vowing to stop the spread, including this pledge from Mayor Glenn Miller.

If each person can encourage one other person to remember to cover the face and avoid social gatherings, Riverside County can reverse the rise in cases during the next 30 days. In this way, the health of our families, community and economy are all tied together

GOING THE EXTRA 'YARD'

Indio Woman's Club is bringing back an old project from the past to inspire and encourage others to take pride in, and show off their homes! "We went back to an old idea, in hopes to be more visible in the community and to encourage the beautification of our city," said Mickie Reed, President. 

In July, the Indio Woman's Club recognized residents Horacio Escudero (pictured) and Ed and Cinda Wagner for their beautiful landscaping. "These residents work very hard to have beautiful yards and their hard work results in lots of admiration from neighbors and family," said Reed. 

Eligible yards must be in the City of Indio and make you say, "what a great yard!" To nominate a yard (even your own), contact Recognition Chair, Bernadette Subia-Martinez at inspirehope94@gmail.com. In addition to the recognition, winners receive a certificate and free tickets to the Coachella Valley History Museum, and lunch at a future Woman's Club Meeting. The Indio Woman's Club is the oldest civic organization in the Coachella Valley, founded in 1912, and supporting education and scholarships since the 1960's.
HE'S THE 'PRINCIPAL' PRINCIPAL

Like so many other educators in the U.S., Indio High School Principal Derrick Lawson made a shift on a dime this spring when schools closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But among all the emails from concerned parents, students, and staff, he got one that really stood out. It read: "On behalf of the National Association of Secondary School Principals, it would be an honor to present you with our Association’s highest recognition, the Distinguished Service Award for Service."

"It was a tremendous honor," said Lawson, who has spent four years helming the Rajahs at Indio High School, in addition to more than two decades educating students at other schools within Indio, including Jackson, Roosevelt, Wilson and Monroe.

Lawson, also a graduate of Indio High School, called NASSP an "exceptional support to my personal and professional growth," that inspired his own mantra: educate, motivate, advocate.

The Distinguished Service Award for Service recognized Lawson "for the significant contributions (he has) made to education throughout (his) career. During the virtual awards ceremony on July 20, Lawson told his peers "During this pandemic, parents across all divides are recognizing and commenting in the media and social platforms that we (teachers) are much more than the sum of our parts. They recognize that we do more than teach curriculum from bell to bell. We are now called upon to help students across the country to make sense of the events in their windows on the world."

The City of Indio congratulates Lawson on this outstanding recognition.
BACK TO SCHOOL FOR 2020-2021

On July 17, 2020, Governor Newsom ordered all counties on the "watch list" (including Riverside) to begin the school year with distance learning. All Desert Sands schools will begin the 2020-21 school year with distance learning on August 19. A transition to a hybrid model (combination of distance learning and in-classroom instruction) will take place when it is safe to do so. All parents may choose to have their students remain in distance learning for the entire 2020-21 school year. Parents are encouraged to continue to check the district website www.dsusd.us for the most up-to-date information.

In addition, in preparing for 20-21, the last day for summer meal service will be on Aug. 5. Parents and caregivers will be able to pick up student breakfasts & lunches beginning Aug. 19 (the first day of school) at all DSUSD schools. Follow DSUSD on Twitter and Facebook
'IN' OUR COMMUNITY
"In" our Community is a new feature of Indio Live, recognizing the people and places that make Indio such a unique and desirable place to live, work and visit.

Who: Gilbert Sauceda, the ZT Baseball Director for the Coachella Valley and a long standing resident of the City of Indio (for 41 years).

What: "I’ve been a coach in the local baseball community in all levels for 14 years and have had the opportunity to coach athletes who have attended college on scholarships and who have been drafted by major league organizations."
 
Why: "Being around student athletes for such a long time and networking with local coaches in all sports, I've seen the desires and needs of our community. We have so many student athletes who travel an hour or two who train out of a facility. Not at all families have this leisure and free time to make such drives two times a week. So I’ve decided to provide our community with some other resources for student athletes to be successful."
 
How: Outside of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sauceda's program is partnered with Elite Academic Academy, which is a online free public charter school. Elite Academic Academy provides students with traditional education specializing in distance/ virtual learning, giving student athletes an enrichment educational program which allows student athletes an opportunity to train and travel for their sport of choice. This could include:
  • Educational opportunities
  • Kelsey’s Heroes
  • Baseball training
  • Softball training
  • Football training
  • Basketball training
  • Soccer training
  • Strength training
  • Speed and agility training
  • Mental cognitive training
  • In-house College recruiting coordinator
  • ZT sports agency

To nominate someone or something for our "In" Our Community segment, email Director of Communications and Marketing Brooke Beare at bbeare@indio.org  
'IN' THE NEWS

Sparkling like jewels on the streets of downtown, Indio's 20 new and colorful Bigbelly recycling and waste stations are getting a lot of buzz (and gobbling up trash at the same time). The solar powered, remotely monitored receptacles were featured on KESQ News Channel 3the Eagle 106.9 and will be the subject of an article in the upcoming edition of Public Management (PM), the award-winning magazine of ICMA.  

Intended to provide more recycling options in areas with heavy foot traffic, or projected future pedestrian traffic, the Bigbellies were paid for through a CalRecycle grant and specially designated waste diversion funds. Take a tour through downtown Indio (and at the East Indio Hills trailhead), and see which Bigbelly features your favorite design, and learn more about Indio's sustainability efforts here.
9 CITIES BLOOD DRIVE CHALLENGE

Dozens of people rolled up their sleeves in July to help Indio regain its title as the most "giving" during LifeStream Blood Bank’s Eighth Annual Nine Cities Blood Drive Challenge.

Among those helping in the life-saving department, Lucille Dodds, who participated in Indio's official drive at the Teen Center on July 30.

"I understand how my donation can help other people," said Dodds (pictured), "That's why I'm here, and also to tell others in the community to donate as well."

The City of Indio took top honors in the 9 Cities Challenge from 2015-2018, but was knocked off its perch last summer by La Quinta. The City of Indio's next drive will be held at the American Legion Post (44200 Sun Gold Street) from 12:00 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, August 6, but blood can be donated toward the Indio total at any time through August 31. For appointments call (800) 879-4484 or visit https://www.lstream.org/9cities/and designate "Indio" as your city.

Bring a picture ID and utilize ExpressPass (on the day of each drive) to preregister and answer the donor history questions on your smartphone or computer before heading over to give blood. It’s a great timesaver. Use this link to sign up for Express Pass: https://www.lstream.org/ExpressPass/


The Nine Cities initiative aims to bring greater awareness to the need for local blood donation, especially during summer months. This year, to encourage donations and help identify potential COVID convalescent plasma donors, blood will also be tested for the COVID-19 antibody. Donors will also receive a commemorative 9 Cities Challenge t-shirt.
The City of Indio is the largest and fastest growing city in the Coachella Valley with more than with more than 89,000 residents. Nearly 1.4 million people visit Indio every year to attend its world famous arts, food, and music festivals. With nationally recognized public safety services, exceptional schools, great parks and senior and teen centers, no wonder more than 2,700 new housing units are in construction or being planned throughout the city in addition to new hotels, restaurants and retailers. Indio was the first city incorporated in the Coachella Valley on May 16, 1930, and is governed by an elected City Council that employs a City Manager. The City of Indio embraces its diversity and provides outstanding municipal services to enhance the quality of life for its residents, visitors and business community.
City of Indio |100 Civic Center Drive | (760) 391-4000
information@indio.org | www.indio.org