Past president, others worry power play will kill COD Palm Springs campus
Worried that College of the Desert (COD) leadership plans to cancel a campus in the city, Palm Springs Mayor Christy Holstege went on the offensive Thursday morning.
“My residents are extremely concerned about how COD is operating and have questions about how decisions are being made” Holstege told the Desert Community College District Board of Trustees during its regular meeting. “We know you spent $22 million to purchase the mall. Now the site sits vacant with no information from COD, the president, or its trustees. It’s unclear what will happen to that site.”
At issue for Holstege and others is a recent decision by the college to unexpectedly cancel a project in Cathedral City and accusations from its recently retired president that East Valley elected officials are working to shift money promised for West Valley projects to Coachella.
The money comes in the form of nearly $600 million in bond sales approved by voters in 2016. COD Board members voted unanimously Thursday to sell $300 million of those bonds, but made no comments about how they will be used.
Campaign ads at the time of the bond vote touted construction of a Palm Springs campus. The measure earned overwhelming support from voters. The college subsequently purchased a 29-acre site off Tahquitz Canyon Way and tore down the decaying Palm Springs Mall in preparation for building a campus in the city.
Then came the COVID-19 pandemic, the retirement of COD’s president, and the appointment of Martha Garcia — president and superintendent of Imperial Valley College — over longtime COD administrator Annebelle Nery, by a 3-2 vote.
Since Garcia’s appointment this summer, COD has announced several potential land purchases and projects in the East Valley, suddenly canceled plans for an automotive project in Cathedral City, and remained mum on plans in Palm Springs.
“My phone has been overheating with calls from Palm Springs and Cathedral City,” Trustee Fred Jandt, who represents Palm Springs and parts of Cathedral City, told fellow board members during the Thursday meeting. “It’s not just one issue. It’s just general uncertainty and [discomfort] with what we are doing and what we are saying.”
The last word on the COD campus in Palm Springs was prior to Garcia’s appointment, when Jeff Baker, then serving as acting COD president, told The Desert Sun newspaper: “This whole COVID thing has caused the college to step back, to pivot and look at all the plans we have out there. Palm Springs is one part of that.”
Lack of answers from COD leadership has Holstege worried. But others, including Joel Kinnamon, who retired as COD president in March, see politics at play. They worry the shift in power at the college was purposely driven by East Valley politicians, including Ruben Perez, vice-chair of the COD board. Perez is the son of Riverside County Supervisor V. Manuel Perez and a field representative for State Assembly member Eduardo Garcia, who proclaimed the new COD president “Woman of the Year” in 2018.
“College of the Desert is now a tool or a pawn or a device to further the political interest of some of the elected officials in the Coachella Valley,” Kinnamon said during a Zoom meeting with college faculty last summer, viewed Thursday by The Post. “This is about politics, and money, and power.”
One of Kinnamon’s former colleagues, present in the online meeting, was more direct.
“I’ve been here 35 years,” the retired faculty member said. “This is the shitshow of all shitshows.”
Kinnamon grew emotional as he spoke with faculty members, including COD Faculty Senate President Kim Dozier, urging them to fight the new COD president’s appointment, and encouraging them to cast a vote of no confidence for her, Perez, and the other COD Board members who voted her in — Board Chair Aurora Wilson and Trustee Bea Gonzalez.
That vote has yet to take place. But during the Zoom meeting Kinnamon proposed another route to oust Garcia.
“You’ve got to vote out Aurora Wilson and Ruben Perez,” Kinnamon told faculty members during the meeting. “You’ve got 18 months to do it. I don’t care who you find, but for the college to get back control of being a college and not a political pawn …that’s the reality of what you’re dealing with.”
PARADE HONORS VETS: Palm Springs patriotism and pride were on full display Thursday afternoon as the town turned out to honor the men and women who have served us all during the city’s annual Veterans Day Parade. Muscle cars, marching bands, and military were all part of the annual event down Palm Canyon Drive, which was preceded by a flyover of historic aircraft. The evening concluded with a post-parade patriotic concert and fireworks finale.
ERCOLI GETS NEXT STAR: Dr. Frank Ercoli was a distinguished physician and surgeon who for more than 30 years served as the Director of the Trauma Service at Desert Regional Medical Center. During that time, he personally saved thousands of trauma victim’s lives with both his abilities as a technical surgeon and as a critical care physician. Dr. Ercoli built the Desert Trauma Service into one of the best treating facilities in Southern California. For that and much more he will be honored today with a star on the Palm Springs Walk of Stars at 3 PM. The star will be dedicated at 120 North Palm Canyon Drive. Following the dedication there will be a wine and appetizers reception at Hanson House, 380 E. Paseo el Mirador. The event is designed to raise funds for Hanson House, which is described as a home away from home for the loved ones of critically ill and injured hospitalized patients. More information about the event can be found by visiting this website.
LIBRARY AUCTION: The Friends of the Palm Springs Library, established in 1971, continues to host an online auction to celebrate 50 years of support for the Library. It ends Sunday at 6 PM. The auction will be held online at this site. Auction items include rare books, bundled books by genre, beautiful art pieces, a few vintage items, and of course themed gift baskets. Winning bidders can collect their items at the Palm Springs Library beginning Monday, November 15. The Auction Administrator will contact the winners by email to schedule a convenient pick-up date and time.
MIZELL EVENTS: The Mizell Center, 480 S. Sunrise Way, offers art classes, chess, and more today. The center is located at 480 S. Sunrise Way. A complete list of everything offered can be found online here.
MEN’S CHAT: The LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert offers a chat group for all men to discuss topics of interest and find connections every Friday at 10:30 AM. Information on registering for the event can be found here.
TASTE OF ON THE MARK: The staff at On the Mark will be highlighting some of their favorite products found at the shop, including various organic and natural wines, craft beers, and artisan provisions during an event this evening at Flannery Exchange, 750 North Palm Canyon Drive, that begins at 5:30 PM. The event will take place outdoors on Flannery Exchange’s second level terrace. Price includes admission to the event, a tasting cup, and an all-access pass to sample all offerings. Tickets may be purchased here.
RUN FOR IKE: The Run for Ike 5K is Saturday at 8 AM. It is held in memory of Palm Springs Police Department K9 officer Ike, who was killed in the line of duty in 2011. The event starts at the Police Department, 200 South Civic Drive. Registration for the event is open now at runpalmsprings.com, as well as active.com and racewire.com. Questions? Feel free to contact Molly Thorpe, the race director, at [email protected] or 760-413-6508.
COMMUNITY CLEAN-UP: The Community Partnership on Homelessness (CPOH) is holding its next community cleaning event Saturday, starting at 8 AM. Community members are invited to join the group at the KFC parking lot on the corner South Palm Canyon Drive and Sunny Dunes for an hour or two. Disposable gloves, trash bags and water will be provided. Each month, members of the group gather in a different place in the city. More information about how to join the organization is available here.
ADOPTION EVENT: The Humane Society of the Desert will be bringing adoptable dogs to Flannery Exchange’s downstairs patio next to Café La Jefa. Stop by on Saturday or Sunday from 11 AM until 2 PM for a chance to meet what could become your new best friend. Flannery Exchange is located at 750 North Palm Canyon Dr.
FARMERS’ MARKET: The Palm Springs Certified Farmers’ Market is held at 2300 E. Baristo Rd. (adjacent to The Camelot Theatres) from 8:30 AM until 1:30 PM. All Certified Farmers’ Markets offer a $15/$15 match to customers participating in CalFresh EBT and a $10/$10 match for WIC, SSDI, and federal unemployment. Find more details about all three Coachella Valley certified farmers’ markets here.
FOOD DISTRIBUTION: Well in the Desert distributes food every Saturday at 6 AM and 10 AM at 181 N. Indian Canyon Dr. For the early distribution, guests typically begin lining up at 5 AM and must show proof of residency (a rent receipt, utility bill, etc.). For both distributions, guests are asked to bring a box, bags or other containers to transport food items. More information is available by phoning the Well’s office at 760-656-8905. The Well also offers hot lunches Monday through Friday at 11 AM and 1 PM at various locations throughout the city.
FLEA MARKET: A flea market and food fest is held Saturdays at 675 Crossley Rd. from 8 AM until 2 PM. Information can be found here.
ONGOING & UPCOMING
WELLNESS SUMMIT: Brothers of the Desert is conducting its third annual wellness summit focusing on Black gay men and their allies in the Coachella Valley and beyond in-person (and virtually) on Saturday, November 13, at Margaritaville Resort in Palm Springs, 1600 North Indian Canyon Drive. The one-day event runs from 8:30 AM until 4:30 PM. Registration for the event is available here.
TALK OF THE TOWN: The next installment of the popular Talk of the Town series, presented by ONE-PS, is coming up on Tuesday, November 16. ONE-PS invites the community to join Julie Warren and David Gray, co-founders of The LGBTQ+ History & Archives of the Desert, as they speak about the rich and deep fabric of our shared LGBTQ+ history. Also joining during the discussion will be Palm Springs Pride President & CEO Ron De Harte, who will share news about the establishment of an LGBTQ+ Wall Of Honor and monument. More information is available at the Facebook event page here.
SPEAKER SERIES: The next event in the 3rd Wednesday Speakers Series is November 17 at 5:30 PM at Mizell Center, 480 S. Sunrise Way. A screening of L.A. A Queer History – Where It All Began, a film by Gregorio Davila, will precede a talk moderated talk with the filmmaker. The screening is a free event. More information is available here.
SINATRA CELEBRATION: Palm Springs Point of View, a YouTube channel that covers “Eats, Art and Culture” in Palm Springs and elsewhere in the Coachella Valley, is holding its next Martinis and Moxie event on November 19 at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, 2300 E. Baristo Rd., at 6 PM. Tickets for that event are available here.
DESERT JAM: The annual benefit for Palm Springs-based Well in the Desert — Desert Jam 2021: Jammin’ for the Well — is slated for Monday, December 6 at the Agua Caliente Resort Casino ballroom in Rancho Mirage at 6 PM. The Jackson-Garrett Band and a host of other musicians are slated to perform, with Jeanie Cunningham serving as master of ceremonies. All proceeds benefit The Well’s work to feed and provide for those experiencing homelessness in our community. More information, including how to purchase tickets for the event can be found here or by calling 760-285-7297.
POLICE AND FIRE EVENT: The Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce is taking reservations for its annual Police & Fire Appreciation Luncheon, held Tuesday, December 7, from 11:30 AM until 1 PM at the Palm Springs Convention Center. More information about tickets and sponsorship opportunities is available here.