Raul Ruiz, Brian Nestande compete over Salton Sea

If Friday’s schedules are any indication, the Salton Sea will be a major focus of next year’s congressional campaign.

Rep. Raul Ruiz and his Republican challenger, Assemblyman Brian Nestande, have scheduled competing events Friday in their respective efforts to save the dying sea.

Granted, both events are being coordinated through their legislative offices. But it’s hard to separate those platforms from what will eventually end up on campaign literature.

Ruiz, a Palm Desert Democrat, will host a day-long gathering of federal dignitaries that includes U.S. Department of the Interior Assistant Secretary Anne Castle.

The event starts at 9 a.m. at the North Shore Beach and Yacht Club.

Ruiz announced his plans Wednesday.

Today, Nestande’s office put out a news release that said the Palm Desert Republican would spend Friday visiting three local high schools. He plans on touting an art contest for the new Salton Sea license plate.

If approved by lawmakers, sales from the license plates would benefit the sea’s restoration. And, out of full disclosure, The Desert Sun is supporting the contest.

Rep. Ruiz joins veterans caucus

Rep. Raul Ruiz is now a member of the Congressional Veterans Jobs Caucus, his office announced today.

The bicameral and bipartisan caucus formed in the last Congressional session as a way to help the more than 800,000 veterans who are unemployed nationwide, according to federal leaders. Their efforts include the “I hire veterans” initiative.

“Veterans in the 36th District and all across the United States have served our country honorably and they deserve our steadfast support,” Ruiz, a Palm Desert Democrat, said in a statement today.

“Unfortunately, too many veterans struggle to find a good job once they return home. This caucus is taking meaningful action to find work for our returning service members, and it’s a great example of what can be achieved when members of Congress put partisanship aside and come together to support our nation’s veterans.”

On Monday, Ruiz praised the Department of Veterans Affairs for working on the backlog of benefit claims.

Federal leaders speak out

The two federal leaders who call the Coachella Valley home spoke out today on issues of national interest.

Rep. Raul Ruiz, a Palm Desert Democrat, commended the Department of Veterans Affairs for a new plan to deal with the backlog of benefit claims.

“Our veterans put their lives on the line to defend our freedoms, and it is unacceptable that so many of these brave men and women must wait years to access the benefits they have earned in service to our nation,” Ruiz said in a statement.

“While the VA’s new initiative is a step in the right direction toward reducing the backlog, it is not a permanent fix. I look forward to working with my Democratic and Republican colleagues, the VA, and veterans’ organizations to find long-term solutions that will improve and streamline the benefit delivery system for our nation’s veterans and eliminate the backlog once and for all.”

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer took a moment to recognize Earth Day.

The Rancho Mirage Democrat noted that the holiday contributed to the founding of the Environmental Protection Agency as well as legislation to improve air and water.

“Over the past four decades, we have made a tremendous difference in protecting the environment and the health of our children and families,” Boxer, the chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, said in a statement.

“However, the growing threat of climate change puts our environment and public health at risk, and scientists tell us that the impacts of climate change continue to worsen.  …  We must do more, and I will continue to work with my colleagues in the Senate to address climate change and its dangerous impacts.”

Meet the Palm Springs movers and shakers who emerged in recent years

Photo by Rob Lebow

Why does the shortest month of the year always seems to have so much going on? The Palm Springs calendar especially seems to be nearly bursting with annual traditions and parties with a new twist.

Many of the major events are spotlighted in the February issue of Desert Outlook magazine, out Feb. 7. For instance, we revisit the genesis of Palm Springs Modernism Week through the memories of LGBT residents who passionately restored midcentury modern homes in the ’90s and early 2000s and were involved in the event’s origin.

We also explore the annual Steve Chase Humanitarians Awards gala through a historical look at Steve Chase, the man whose commitment to the marginalized helped establish Desert AIDS Project; Olympic gold medalist Greg Louganis, who’s presenting an award during this year’s ceremony to actor Mario Lopez; and Jim Casey, the businessman and movie producer at the center of our cover story. Find out what motivates Casey to generously support the gala and numerous other Coachella valley events and organizations.

Other February highlights include a chat with Democratic Congressman Raul Ruiz about his gay constituents and priorities for his first legislative session. And that’s just a sample.

Pick up your free copy of Desert Outlook starting Feb. 7 at any of the following locations.

True Value/Ace Hardware, 1785 E. Palm Canyon Drive
Ace Hotel & Swim Club 701 East Palm Canyon Drive
Albertsons Sunrise & Vista Chino (Gay Section) 1751 N. Sunrise Way
All Worlds Resort 526 Warm Sands
Azul Tapas Lounge 369 N Palm Canyon Dr.
Brien O’Brien Hair Salon, 515 N. Palm Canyon Drive
Camelot Theatres 2300 E Barristo Rd.
Skylark Hotel, 1466 N. Palm Cyn. (* 80 copies per month)
Casitas Laquita (Women’s hotel) 450 East Palm Canyon Drive
Espress Cielo 245 S. Palm Canyon Drive
Desert Aids 1695 N. Sunrise
Desert Hand Car Wash, 645 S. Palm Canyon Drive
Desert Regional Medical Ctr 1150 N. Indian Canyon Drive
Desert Women for Equality 555 S. Sunrise Way, Suite 209
Estate Sales Company 4185 E. Palm Canyon
Gay Mart 305 Arenas
Gideon Fine Art Gallery, 2682 S. Cherokee Way
Golds Gym 4070 Airport Center Drive
Hacienda Resort 586 Warm Sands
Hilton Palm Springs 400 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way
Hotel Zoso 150 S. Indian Canyon Drive
Hunters 302 Arenas
Hyatt on Palm Cyn 285 N. Palm Canyon Drive
Inn Dulge Resort 601 Grenfall Rd.
Inn Exile Resort 545 Warm Sands
Just Fabulous, 515 N. Palm Canyon Drive
Koffi Café 515 N. Palm Cyn.
Koffi Café 1450 E. Palm Canyon
LGBT Community Ctr. Of the Desert 611 S Palm Canyon Dr., Ste. 201
LULUs 200 S. Palm Canyon Drive
Mail Boxes Ect. 611 S. Palm Cyn.
Palm Springs City Hall 3200 E Tahquitz Canyon Way
Palm Springs Coffee 123 N. Palm Canyon
Palm Springs International Airport
Palm Springs Visitor Center 2909 N. Palm Canyon Drive
Palm Springs Public Library 300 S. Sunrise Way
Palm Springs Fitness
Q Trading 606 E. Sunny Dunes
Ralphs 425 Sunrise
Ralphs 1733 E. Palm Canyon
Read Brown Hair Salon
Renaissance Hotel 888 Tahquitz Canyon Way
Revivals 611 S. Palm Cyn.
Riviera Hotel 1600 N. Indian Canyon Drive
Saguaro 1800 E. Palm Canyon Drive
Santiago Resort 650 San Lorenzo
Shermans 401 Tahquitz
Spurline 200 Arenas
Street Bar 224 Arenas
Toucans Lounge 2100 N. Palm Cyn.
Triangle Inn Resort 555 San Lorenzo
UPS Store near Revivals, 611 S. Palm Canyon Drive
Wang’s in the Desert 424 S Indian Canyon Dr.
World Gym 1751 N. Sunrise #F1

College of the Desert 43500 Monterey Avenue
Jensens Palm Desert 73601 Highway 111
McCallum Theatre 73000 Fred Waring Drive
Palm d’or Theater 72-840 Monterey
Plummers, 72-767 Dinah Shore
Sun City Palm Desert 38180 Del Webb Blvd.
Trader Joe’s 44250 Town Center Way
UC Riverside 75080 Frank Sinatra Drive

Rancho Mirage Public Library 71100 Highway 111
Shame on the Moon restaurant in RM 69950 Frank Sinatra Drive
The River @ Starbuck’s Coffee 71-800 Highway 111

Auto Dealerships in CC? (Subaru) Perez Road and Highway 111
Studio 111 67555 E. Palm Canyon Drive
Cathedral City Boys Club 68-369 Sunair
Cathedral City Hall 68-700 Avenida Lalo Guerrero
Cathedral City Public Library 33520 Date Palm Drive
Cello’s Restaurant 35943 Date Palm Drive
DiGS 36-737 Cathedral Canyon
Don & Sweet Sue’s 68955 Ramon Road
Palm Springs Lanes 68-051 Ramon Road
Revivals 68-401 E Highway 111
Sunshine Cafe, 36815 Cathedral Canyon Drive
Trader Joe’s Cathedral City 67720 East Palm Canyon Drive
UPS Store In Target Area

Old Town Coffee Company 78-100 Main Street, Suite 102
Trader Joe’s La Quinta 46400 Washington Street

Mary Bono Mack breaks her wrist snowboarding, plans to work on book

Mary Bono MackFormer Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack will be spending the first weeks of her new civilian life convalescing. Bono Mack broke her wrist over the weekend while trying her hand(s) at snowboarding at a Colorado ski resort. But the injury won’t stop her from working on a new project: a book.
Bono Mack was, according to her official Twitter account, vacationing at Purgatory at Durango Mountain Resort with husband Connie Mack when the incident happened.

First (above), Bono Mack tweeted about giving snowboarding a try on January 18. Then, on Sunday (Jan. 20), Bono Mack tweeted to share news of her injury with her 10,751 followers.

Her followers were quick to send their best wishes for a speedy recovery, with one even suggesting she seek medical attention from her Congressional successor, Dr. Raul Ruiz.

“Maybe Congressman Dr Ruiz can take a look at it ?! ;o),” tweeted DustDevil65.
Bono Mack recently told The Desert Sun’s Bruce Fessier she was working with a literary agent and was in talks with several cable news networks about a possible on-air gig with her husband.

Health Matters 2013: Rep. Raul Ruiz absent, hopes to hear about social responsibility

Dr. Raul Ruiz stood last year to address President Bill Clinton at the first Health Matters conference. Months later, the president flew back to California to endorse the emergency room physician for Congress.

This time around, the newly elected Congressman isn’t among the heavyweights who are talking about the future of the nation’s health at the second-annual “Health Matters: Activating Wellness in Every Generation,” held Tuesday at the La Quinta Resort and Club.

The former president, Chelsea Clinton, Deepak Chopra, Jillian Michaels, Humana Chairman Michael McCallister, and former Surgeon General Dr. David Satcher are featured speakers.

Sen. Christopher Murphy from Connecticut was also on stage.

Ruiz, who was sworn into office earlier this month, was in meetings in Washington D.C., a spokeswoman told us. The House of Representatives is in session this week.

In an emailed response to questions from The Desert Sun, Ruiz said he hopes that conference leaders focus on “social responsibility and the role of the community” in improving health.

Three quick question-and-answers from that email with Rep. Raul Ruiz:

What would you would like to see addressed at the Health Matters conference?
In addition to an emphasis on personal responsibility for healthy living, I would like to see the Health Matters Conference focus on social responsibility and the role of the community in improving health care access and health education for all people.

Any thoughts on what has been accomplished since last year’s Health Matters conference?
I’m very pleased that the Clinton Health Matters Initiative is committed to improving health and wellness and fighting obesity in the Coachella Valley.

What will your “homework,” as President Clinton would say, be for the next year?
My goal is to continue the work I started as a doctor in the Coachella Valley and build coalitions within the community to identify ways we can improve access to affordable, high-quality healthcare and health education for all people.


Ruiz was featured in a brief video interview shown before a panel on “Healthy Communities,” which included the mayors of Coachella and Palm Springs.

Coachella Valley has one of the worst health care crises — both in terms of consequences and access to healthcare — in the nation, Ruiz said in the video.

Ruiz was grateful, he said, that Clinton chose to include the valley in his Health Matters initiative.

“If we can improve the health care access for everybody, not only in healthcare delivery but also in health education, then we can make the Coachella Valley and the surrounding areas one of the healthiest communities in the entire nation,” Ruiz said.

Obama inauguration ticket request process announced

Barack Obama takes the oath of office Jan. 20, 2009, as his wife, Michelle, holds the Lincoln Bible and daughters Sasha, right and Malia, watch at the U.S. Capitol in Washington.  (Chuck Kennedy, pool via AP)

Barack Obama takes the oath of office Jan. 20, 2009, as his wife, Michelle, holds the Lincoln Bible and daughters Sasha, right and Malia, watch at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. Tickets for Obama's second, smaller inauguration are available through Rep. Raul Ruiz's office. (Chuck Kennedy, pool via AP)

The Palm Springs High School band has been invited to march in Barack Obama’s second inaugural parade, and Bill Clinton will be heading to the inauguration from the Humana Challenge since he’s chairiman of the event.

Want to join them for the festivities Jan. 21 in Washington, D.C.? Rep. Raul Ruiz, a Palm Desert Democrat who represents the Coachella Valley, has announced how his constituents can request inauguration tickets.

Ruiz’s office asked anyone wanting tickets — limited to two per person — to email CA36.Inauguration@mail.house.gov by Thursday with this information:
• Name
• Address
• Phone number
• Number of tickets requested

Tickets will be given out on a first-come, first-served basis, according to the congressman’s office.

Information: (202) 225-5330

Palm Springs residents witness history as Raul Ruiz is sworn in as Congressman

Michael Benthall (left) and Joe Enos (right), both of Palm Springs, spend time with U.S. Congressman Raul Ruiz in Washington, D.C., where the freshman House respresentative was sworn in Jan. 3. Photo submitted by Joe Enos.

When Dr. Raul Ruiz was sworn in Jan. 3 as the new U.S. Congressman for California’s District 36, his family members, friends and a few of his strongest LGBT supporters from the Coachella Valley were there to witness the fulfillment of their collective dream.

Among the attendees in Washington, D.C., were Joe Enos and Michael Benthall of Palm Springs. Both recently told Desert Outlook about their experience and why it was important for them to be a part of the historic occasion.

What was the general atmosphere like for the swearing in?

Benthall:  It’s was pure excitement in the House as we arrived. People from all over the country were here to see their newly-elected congressperson.

Enos:  The atmosphere is celebratory. For all the dislike of Congress right now, people have come from all over the country to celebrate the election of new members and the re-election of their representatives.

What, if anything, about the occasion surprised you?

Benthall: It was great to see so many people from the district looking forward to representation for everybody.

Enos:  I was surprised by the number of people from the district who flew to Washington, and the number of lobbyists who were making office visits on this first day.

Why did you want to be there for the swearing in?

Benthall:  I wanted to be here to show support and to witness an historic occasion — this was a true American success story.

Enos:  I wanted to be here to see history made. I’ve believed Raul Ruiz’s story from the beginning- a real American success story – and I think he’ll be a rising star in the Democrat party. It was really thrilling to be here and have him named “most likely to succeed” in the freshman class of the 113th Congress by the political blog Politico (Jan. 3).

How does Congressman Ruiz seem to be adjusting to his very high-profile position?

Benthall:  He’s going to adjust just fine. After all, he’s been an emergency room doctor, dealing with all kinds of situations and people. A perfect match. There’s now a doctor in the House!

Enos: He’s the same Raul Ruiz we’ve known all along — hospitable, kind, caring. He welcomed everyone to his office with a handshake and a hug.

What’s been the highlight of your visit?

Benthall: For me it was speaking to the mayor of Coachella, who had come to Washington, D.C., to support his friend, Raul Ruiz, and what this means to young children from the east valley, and what he said about Raul Ruiz being a role model to them. Dreams are possible.

Enos: It was very exciting to be in Raul Ruiz’s office, when House Whip Steny Hoyer, came to get Congressman Ruiz to take him to the House floor for his first vote. It seemed so historic — so important that a senior leader came to get the freshman Congressman to show him to the floor.  Everyone was just stunned.

What does it mean to you to have Ruiz representing your community in Washington?

Benthall: It’s nice to have support in Washington. And it was stated to me several times by Raul Ruiz’s staff members that there’s an “open door” here for everyone.

Enos:  The election of Raul Ruiz for me means that everyone in our district will have a voice in Washington. That LGBT issues like equality will have a champion. For me, it is symbolic that Raul is opening a district office in Palm Springs and that his district director is Greg Rodriquez, a gay father who lives in Palm Springs.


Raul Ruiz: Congressional office ready; NPR profiles freshman congressman

Incoming Rep. Raul Ruiz's Congressional office, as seen Wednesday (photo submitted by Greg Rodriguez)

On the eve of Dr. Raul Ruiz swearing into Congress, his office — and his plaque — are ready for showtime.

This photograph outside his new office, 1319 Longworth Building, circulated on Facebook today.

Ruiz will take the oath of office Thursday as a freshman member of the 113th Congress. It will mark the first time since 1998 that the Coachella Valley is represented by a new lawmaker in Washington.

Over the weekend, NPR’s Weekend Edition profiled Ruiz as part of a series of profiles of “the most diverse (freshman class) in congressional history.”

The four-minute segment that aired Saturday focuses primarily on Ruiz’s busy schedule and his life story.

“Ruiz’s personality — upbeat and inclusive — earned him voter approval across ethnic lines, and it didn’t hurt that he had a life story that resonated with an electorate that was growing more diverse each year,”  NPR’s Karen Grisby Bates said.

She summed up the race between Ruiz and outgoing Rep. Mary Bono Mack: “It was a nasty campaign.”

NPR also played audio from the only debate of the season, which was co-hosted Oct. 12 by The Desert Sun.

“Raul Ruiz says it pains him to leave his patients and community, but although he’s off to Congress he’s not giving up medicine completely,” she said. “He’s already making plans to volunteer in physician-short parts of DC in his spare time. How much of that he’ll have, though, is anybody’s guess.”

The audio and transcript are available here.

Rep.-elect Raul Ruiz lands first post

Rep.-elect Raul Ruiz today announced he’s been named to the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources.

Ruiz, a Palm Desert Democrat who is sworn-in on Jan. 3, said in a statement that he requested the committee assignment because it handles issues important to the 36th Congressional District.

“This committee is a great fit for the needs of our district,” Ruiz said in a statement today.

“It will allow me to help our alternative energy companies grow and create new jobs. It will give me a platform to push for restoration of the Salton Sea. And, it will let me work on many of the most important issues facing our local tribes.”

The committee’s jurisdiction includes energy production, public lands and issues regarding American Indians.

“My goal is to use this committee to help our area become a national leader in creating alternative energy jobs,” Ruiz said in the statement.

“Alternative energy like wind and solar is not only good for the economy, it also reduces our dependence on foreign oil, and reduces the threat of global warming.”