Volume 42 | September 2020
Mayor Pro Tem
Dear Indio Neighbors,

We continue to navigate this very odd 2020 year. We have devolved into watching baseball games being played in front of life-sized cardboard fans. People get into trouble if they walk into a bank without a mask! And the phrase “back to school” has nothing to do with the campus. But life goes on. Those home-schooled kids will still need new clothes because their bodies keep growing! Interestingly, so does our community.  

We are seeing a surprising strength in some parts of our local economy despite the pandemic. Home building is up in Indio! Does not seem to have slowed down at all.  Our Development Services staff have supported this throughout the crisis. We also have new commercial projects moving through entitlement processes. And new inquiries every week. Our sales tax auditing firm (yes, there is such a thing!) tells us sales are higher than expected. Still down year-over-year, but better than we expected. Part of it is internet sales and part of it no doubt related to people staying home and not traveling as much. This development activity gives us a ray of optimism about a better day at the end of this.

We are still tremendously concerned about our small businesses — restaurants, small shops, gyms, nail salons. Please continue to make efforts to support these businesses to the extent you can. Most restaurants offer take-out. Tired of cooking? Try an Indio take out or one of the delivery services. We need to go extra lengths to keep these retail neighbors of ours going!

The most important thing right now is maintaining safety. As we end the summer and go into “flu season,” please be safe. I think we all know there is no miracle cure about to appear. We need to struggle through this fall and winter, trying to find ways to adapt further to this awkward, tedious coronavirus lifestyle -- but we get closer to medical solutions every day. Please keep your family and friends safe.  

Great communities look after one another. Ours has stepped up to do that these last 5+ months. The medical workers, first-responders, the teachers, construction workers, food providers, the drive-thru and delivery people, grocery and store clerks, our gardeners and pool care staff, the people who still show up in masks to fix our plumbing or AC. There are ordinary people all around us doing extraordinary things on a daily basis. It might be tempting at a times like this to give in to depression, but look first at the positives. Our community is full of extraordinary people who keep on pushing through.  

So, just as our kids keep growing, the rhythm of community keeps its steady beat. Those same kids are counting on us to give them the future they deserve. It’s a tough, troubling year, but we will get there! We are a town full of real people, not cardboard cutouts. Neighbors with a mission not just to survive, but to preserve and improve.

Couple other thoughts — the US Census is still going on. It is CRITICALLY IMPORTANT that we count every resident. Please see the article on that in this newsletter. Our federal and some state funding for the next 10 years depends on getting this right. Masked Census workers are literally on the street trying heroically to help us help ourselves! This matters!

And finally — while it is not exactly big news — I retired in August. At 70, I admit to being on the grayer side of the city manager profession. But I am grateful that the City Council immediately put me on contract to continue as Interim City Manager while we get through election season and then hire a new City Manager. So I expect to still be fully engaged in this role through the early part of next year. That’s good news for me because I love this job and the really great people I get to work with at City Hall. There are some peculiarities about the CalPERS pension system that pretty much forced my hand in filing for retirement, but we are Indio residents and I am hoping the next City Manager will let me stay involved as a City volunteer. Our future is full of hope and promise. I feel so fortunate to have landed here. Like many of our residents, I may be “retired,” but I’m not tired. I believe in Indio. So here I stay.

All the best,
Mark Scott
City Manager

Vintage and commissioned murals, often depicting historic scenes, and sprinkled across downtown Indio, are not only viewed as a cornerstone and legacy of public art in the City, but a source of pride for residents. Murals such as Rebirth, and Monarch Migration, display the vibrance of the flora and fauna of this desert hideaway. The Transportation mural on Indio Blvd. (which is also the oldest mural in the city, dating back to 1997) and the Cabazon Band of Mission Indians mural, connect us to the beauty of the City’s origins and how far it has progressed today.

Those who have been out and about have noticed the beloved murals are in varying states of disrepair, and it is fair to ask “What’s up with that?!” As a City, "We get it and we hear you."

Here’s the not-so-simple answer. Through the assistance of the Public Arts Commission, the City has made repairs to many of the murals over the years to save these pieces for the community. The reality is that the age of the murals, the weather, vandalism and in some cases structural issues, continue to pose a challenge to these works of art looking their best. In addition, in some cases, the City does not have the legal authority to alter, improve, or dedicate funds to the restoration of murals on private property.

These murals need more than just a manicure! They need a full spa day! In order to make lasting repairs to some of these murals, the City is engaging the expertise of specialists who have experience in mural conservation and restoration. The City is dedicated to doing our utmost to save and restore as many murals as we can, so that another generation of Indio residents can experience and enjoy these historic works of art.

Recently, the City has taken additional steps to work with the building owners where the murals are located in an effort to gain their permission to begin restoration.

Learn more about Indio's Arts in Public Places program, the Indio Arts Commission, and the murals themselves at Indio.org

Let your voice be heard! Every ten years, people across the U.S. are asked to fill out a short form to be counted. This year, the deadline to take part in the Census is September 30, giving people only a few more weeks to respond.
Indio's response rate remains among the lowest in the Coachella Valley (just 51.1 percent as of Aug. 28), with a few neighborhoods averaging participation below 25 percent.

The Census is confidential, and requires only a few minutes to fill out. Despite this, some people have questions about the content of the Census. Not only what it means, but how the information will be used. That is why the City of Indio partnered with the U.S. Census to set up Mobile Questionnaire Assistance sites throughout the community in high-traffic locations (such as the AM/PM convenience store on Golf Center Parkway), so that Census takers can help walk people through the process. Additional pop-up Census help centers at Indio shopping centers and schools are in the works, and resources are available at these locations in English and Spanish.

Fill out the Census in English at 2020Census.gov or in Spanish at 2020Census.gov/es. In addition, track Indio's response rate, compare it to other Coachella Valley cities, the state and national averages, and get answers to FAQ about the Census and Census takers in both English and Spanish at Indio.org/2020Census. Social media resources and informational videos are also available on the City's website. These assets will allow you to spread the word about how vital the Census is to allocating funding to Indio, and to securing representation for our community.

Indio's City Council recently approved a land sale to Sage Las Palmas, LLC for the development of a drive-through Dutch Brothers location on Highway 111 near Monroe Street, south of Indio High School. This coffee shop will come with outdoor seating, which customers should like a "latte." Construction is expected to start in January, with a scheduled grand opening date before June 2021.

In addition, Indio's Building and Safety team issued permits for a new Arby's and Chipotle. Arby’s will be located in The Palms Shopping Center east of the Avenue 42 and Monroe Street intersection, while Chipotle will be located in the Showcase Shopping Center southwest of the Avenue 42 and Jackson Street intersection.

Whether you are a tenant who is unable to pay rent, a homeowner unable to pay your mortgage, or a business owner who wants to protect your employees and clients from the spread of COVID-19, various programs and services are available in Indio to address your needs.
Through various partnerships and funding sources (such as Community Development Block Grants and the Coronavirus Aid, Recovery and Economic Security Act), the City is helping fund the following services to help mitigate the financial impacts of COVID-19.

Rent Payment Assistance
United Lift Rental Assistance Program
United Lift (Inland So Cal United Way, Lift to Rise and County of Riverside) may cover 100% of past due rent (if due to impacts of COVID-19) up to $3,500 per eligible household. Applications currently being accepted.
Contact Info: www.unitedlift.org

Tenant, Landlord and Homeowner Services
Inland Fair Housing and Mediation Board (IFHMB)
IFHMB provides tenant/landlord mediation services which can lead to arrangements for the repayment of past-due rent, answering questions regarding tenants/landlords rights and responsibilities, and providing Mortgage loan modification assistance.
Indio Dedicated Hotline: (888) 885-8020

Inland Counties Legal Services (ICLS) 
ICLS provides free legal services (consultation and court representation) to low-income tenants facing evictions/unlawful detainers or other legal housing challenges.
Indio Dedicated Hotline: (888) 245-4257 (dial “1”, then “1”)

Employment/Business Supportive Services and COVID-19 Resources
Riverside County’s Workforce Development Center in Indio provides various employment resources and assistance to workers, employers and businesses impacted by COVID-19.

Desert Recreation District has also partnered with United Lift to help facilitate rental assistance to residents of Indio and Riverside County. DRD will host two events at the Indio Community Center (the Rec), where eligible residents can apply for rental assistance and get conditionally approved on the spot. The events will take place on Thursday, September 17, 2020 from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. and Saturday, September 19, 2020 from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the Indio Community Center located at 45-305 Oasis St, Indio, CA 92201.

Be sure to bring the necessary documents, so to approve your application faster! Below are some of the documents residents will need:
●   Landlord contact information (phone number and email address)
●   A form of ID (e.g. ID include driver’s license, identification card, consular identification card, or any similar form of identification)
●   Copy of your lease agreement
●   Proof of financial impact due to COVID-19 (you can find a list of acceptable documents here)
●   Proof of income (you can find a list of acceptable documents here)

The City of Indio’s COVID-19 Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) Business Assistance Program will open up this month, providing free PPE (gloves and 3-ply disposable masks) to eligible Indio businesses on a first-come, first-served basis to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.

This program is funded through the City’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Program, as approved by the City Council, and is made possible via the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Recovery (CARES) Act.

Non-Residential Businesses, such as restaurants, retail stores, offices, convenience markets, and other businesses (including non-profit 501(c)(3) organizations) are eligible to receive PPE through Indio's program.

To receive PPE for your business, check the City's website for an online form, available mid-September. If you are unable to complete the online form, or for more information about the City’s PPE program, contact program coordinator Juan Rodriguez at (760) 391-4028 or by email at jrodriguez@indio.org

In addition, Riverside County and the Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce are distributing face masks to eligible businesses in the Coachella Valley. Call (760) 347-0676 for more information.

At the encouragement of a group of doctors from Eisenhower Medical Center, the Woman’s Club of Indio (WCI) recently 'adopted' the Indio Nursing and Rehabilitation Center (INRC), committing to caring for their comfort and well-being. In order to protect residents, patients and staff during this pandemic, the INRC has been shut off to the world. Both staff and residents were lonely and suffering from COVID fatigue. The WCI decided to provide art supplies, dolls, toiletries, clothing, cards and letters to residents, and appreciation gifts to the staff.

WCI has exceeded their initial commitment and also provided televisions, air fans, an art cart, and a snow cone machine. iPads are also in the works. "We are planning a pet parade in October to provide some much need entertainment to residents," said WCI President Mickie Reed "We have hosted one staff appreciation day and another is in the works." 

Staff reports that the residents have greatly appreciated their gifts, and that their daily standard of living has been improved. "This was a win/win for all of us, as we are all a little lonely these days," added Reed.

"In" City Hall is a new feature of Indio Live, highlighting some of the City employees who shine in their jobs, and as successful community members.

Spotlight: Erick Becerril, (almost) 32

Known in the City: Building Inspector extraordinaire

Most recent accomplishment: Graduated with honors (Alpha Sigma Lambda) on Sunday from California Baptist University with a B.A. in Public Administration.

Juggling Act: Not only did Erick balance getting a degree while working full time for the City of Indio, Erick runs the highly successful business CV Food Trucks. He credits local coffee shops with helping him get through long days which included work, then lots of studying. "Getting a degree was important to me. I valued the freedom I had when I was younger and had fewer obligations, but I value time so much more now."

Behind the scenes: Erick moved to Indio seven years ago, and grew up in Colorado.

What's so great about working for the City of Indio?: "I enjoy working with such great people who I look up to as colleagues and mentors. Each are able to give me perspective about different areas of my life-- whether it's work or personal."

Words from the boss: "I met Erick six months ago, when I began with the City. From the outset, I was impressed with Erick’s demeanor: personable, full of energy, and enthusiastic. I look forward to watching him grow professionally, and I’m glad to have him as part of our Indio Building & Safety Team!" -- Gil Estrada, Chief Building Official

The Indio Teen Center is expanding its online offerings, now providing three programs daily from Monday through Friday. Because of social distancing and COVID-related challenges, these programs are held via Zoom from 2:30-6 pm. Programming is FREE and open to students between eighth and 12th grades. Students must sign up ahead of time via direct message on Instagram @indioteencenter. Program supplies are delivered beforehand and change monthly, but include opportunities like candle making, cooking and art. Favorites are mac 'n cheese, neon sign canvas art, and even making potato chips! For the latest information on including your teen, you can also check out Indio Teen Center's calendar on the city’s website.

In September 2019, the City Council/Indio Water Authority (IWA) Board approved a significant increase in turf removal incentives to reduce out-of-pocket costs for customers and enhance the overall quality of turf replacement projects.

  • Residential Customers: Increase from $1 to $2 per square foot of turf removed and an increase in the payout limit from $1,500 to $20,000. 
  • Commercial, Irrigation and Institutional Customers: Increase from $1 to $2 per square foot of turf removed and an increase in the payout limit from $4,000 to $60,000. 
  • City/School/Government (Public Facilities): Increase from $1 to $3 per square foot of turf removed and an increase in the payout limit from $4,000 to $150,000. 

“We proposed the increases to the Board as part of a water supply strategy to increase water efficiency while improving landscape quality across Indio," said IWA General Manager Trish Rhay. "We are not against turf grass when it is the right size and in the right place, but many times it goes unused and still requires a lot of water. We hope this added incentive will inspire our customers to beautify their neighborhoods with water-smart landscapes.”

Since the increases went into effect, 67 customers across the city have replaced about three acres of thirsty lawns with more water-efficient, low-maintenance and beautiful landscaping. This represents a $300,000 investment in securing Indio’s water future and making the City more beautiful, colorful, and sustainable.

You can be part of this beautiful journey and can start today by replacing underutilized turf areas and narrow strips (less than eight feet wide) with more water-efficient landscapes.

IWA has $250,000 in turf rebate funds available. Visit our website at www.indiowater.org/conservation for program details – before funding runs out! You can also call (760) 391-4038 and a Service representative will be glad to guide you through the application process.

For the third time since the pandemic, the Indio Senior Center is gearing up to hold another care package giveaway this month. Because so many people responded to previous giveaways, Senior Center staff and volunteers are hoping to increase the number of care packages distributed in September and accommodate up to 800 seniors.

This drive-by event for those 55 and older will be held from 6:00 a.m. until 10:00 a.m. on Friday, Sept. 25, at the Senior Center at 45-700 Aladdin St. Care packages will be handed out on a first-come, first-served basis.

Donations of non-perishable food, face masks, hand sanitizers, water, word puzzle books, lotion, towels, blankets, socks, toilet paper, and any items that will help make seniors more comfortable in the months to come will be accepted through Sept. 18. Call (760) 391-4170 or email seniorcenter@indio.org to donate, or for more information.

For more than 15 years, National Preparedness Month is observed each September in Indio and around the U.S. Sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), National Preparedness Month encourages family and community disaster planning now and throughout the year. This year's theme is "Disasters: Don't wait. Make your plan today." Unfortunately due to COVID, CERT classes in Indio are on hold, but you can make a plan with your family using this week by week guide:

Week 1 September 1-5: Make A Plan

Talk to your friends and family about how you will communicate before, during, and after a disaster. Make sure to update your plan based on the Centers for Disease Control recommendations due to the coronavirus.

Week 2 September 6-12: Build A Kit

Gather supplies that will last for several days after a disaster for everyone living in your home. Don’t forget to consider the unique needs each person or pet may have in case you have to evacuate quickly. Update your kits and supplies based on recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control.

Week 3 September 13-19: Prepare for Disasters

Limit the impacts that disasters have on you and your family. Know the risk of disasters in your area and check your insurance coverage. Learn how to make your home stronger in the face of storms and other common hazards and act fast if you receive a local warning or alert.

Week 4 September 20-26: Teach Youth About Preparedness

Talk to your kids about preparing for emergencies and what to do in case you are separated. Reassure them by providing information about how they can get involved.

The California Chamber of Commerce has named the Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce (GCVCC) as a President Circle Award winner for 2020.  The prestigious award was given to only 21 chambers statewide this year.

The GCVCC maintains a regional office in Indio and works closely with the Indio Chamber of Commerce on issues important to the City’s local business community. The chamber’s Business Legislative Advocacy Committee also meets in the Indio office. Additionally, GCVCC President and CEO Josh Bonner is an Indio resident.
The award, first presented in 2009, recognizes chambers for excellence in business advocacy and helping their members comply with California employment laws.
With the cancellation of the Summit due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the award recipients were announced during the weekly local chamber legislative conference call.
“We appreciate the recognition by CalChamber for our efforts on behalf of the business community,” said Indio resident Diana Soto, VP and Director of Public Policy for the Chamber. “The GCVCC has committed itself to representing the Coachella Valley business community from local city halls to Washington DC, while also doing our best to keep our members informed and equipped to handle a constantly changing regulatory environment. We are proud to serve that role within our community.”
President’s Circle Award recipients published vote records of their state legislators on key business issues, generated letters to state elected officials on issues of interest to members, and participated in the CalChamber compliance program at an exemplary level. These collective efforts have a positive impact on shaping policy at every level of government, giving a voice to local business communities.

For more information on becoming involved in the GCVCC and Indio Chamber, go to https://gcvcc.org/indio/

Extremely hot weather in the month of August meant discomfort and extremely high electric bills for people living in Indio and throughout the Coachella Valley. In order to provide relief from the warm weather, and a place to go in case of an energy emergency, the City of Indio opened an additional 'Cool Center' location in mid-August.

The Indio Senior Center (45-700 Aladdin St.), which closed in March for regular programming, now has availability to serve the public as a Cool Center from 12:30 p.m. until 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. People 50 and older can watch television, read, and enjoy cold water and snacks. Masks are required, and seating is limited to ten at a time in order to provide social distancing. Regular Senior Center programming is not currently underway, although some activities are being held online via the Senior Center's Facebook page.

Additional Cool Center locations are available in Indio at Martha's Village and Kitchen from Mon. to Sun. 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and the Coachella Valley Rescue Mission from Mon. to Sun. from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For additional information about Cool Centers in Riverside County, or hours of operation at these locations, go to Capriverside.org/Cool-Centers 
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