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PALM SPRINGS –It is customary at the end of the year to compile lists, lists of those who left us, list of top songs, top movies, top influencers, and more. As we at Uken Report look back at 2021, we, too, compiled a list. In 2021, politics and political decisions dominated much of the news coverage. Our Top 10 stories of the year reflect some of that coverage across the entire Coachella Valley — not just one city.

We strive to tell stories that might not be told — and tell them first.

Our Top 10 stories of 2021 are:


COACHELLA — Construction was scheduled to begin in November on affordable housing for low-income families at the northeast intersection of Cesar Chavez (formerly Harrison) and 6th Streets in the City of Coachella. The housing will be 105 apartments.

Pueblo Viejo Villas will include 10 apartments set-aside for households with a family member who has a developmental disability such as autism, epilepsy, Down syndrome or cerebral palsy. The new complex will also feature a small street-facing retail component, well suited for local small businesses needing retail or office space.

A commemorative groundbreaking was held via Zoom on Monday, Nov. 2 at 1 p.m. P.S.T.


CATHEDRAL CITY – Amazon, one of the world’s most valuable brands, is opening a commercial hub in this working-class community bringing with it some 152 year-round jobs at $15 an hour in a fragile economy.

Employees will receive multiple benefits, including paid time off and tuition reimbursement up to 95%, Stone James, director of economic development for Cathedral City, told Uken Report.

“This gives Cathedral City residents a chance to improve their lives,” Stone said. “That’s exciting. This is the point of doing the job – to give people a better life.”

The closest commercial hubs are currently located in Riverside and Moreno Valley.


INDIO — Day hikers can explore an ancient fishing site on an extinct lake south of Indio, Calif.

The 1.4-miles round trip Fish Traps Trail rambles past petroglyphs, pottery shards, bedrock mortars, and other artifacts at the Fish Traps Archeological Site. It sits in the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument.

To reach the site, from Interstate 10 in Indio take Jackson Street south. After passing 64th Avenue, the road curves east and becomes Avenue 66. The trailhead is at the point of the curve where Jackson Street becomes Avenue 66. Park on the right/south side of the road.


CATHEDRAL CITY — Following a nationwide recruitment process that attracted more than 200 applicants, Katherine Fuentes, the current assistant city manager for the City of Pico Rivera, has been chosen to serve as Cathedral City’s new Assistant City Manager.

Until now, Cathedral City, the second most populous city in Coachella Valley, has not had an assistant city manager.

Fuentes was serving as an assistant city manager for a similar size city within Los Angeles County where for more than six years she has specialized in long-term strategic planning and innovative transformation.


PALM SPRINGS — For newly named Police Chief Andrew Mills, relocating to this desert community from Santa Cruz is bringing him closer to family, a benefit that tops his list.

Since 2017, Mills has served as police chief of Santa Crus, a Northern California coastal community of 63,000 since 2017. Prior to that, he served as chief in Eureka.

He’s spent more than three decades serving in police departments throughout the state. The Palm Springs position provides him with the opportunity to practice his craft in what he describes as a “world-class city” that also brings him closer to family.

“It’s very important to me is that I continue to police in a world-class city, which Palm Springs is,” Mills told Uken Report. “It’s distinct among its neighbors from the standpoint that all of the United States knows about Palm Springs, and what a wonderful city it is. When the recruiter called me and said, ‘Please take a look at this,’ I did, and talked with my wife. It worked out for the best. The other I think important thing for me personally, is that Palm Springs has an amazing police department. They have a great reputation, and it’s going to be good to go in and to be able to do what I can do to work with them, to support them, and to ensure their mission and their safety.

“Lastly, from a personal perspective, it’s not too far of a drive for me to get down and see my grandchildren in their plays at school, or playing ball on the weekend,” Mills said. “I’ve not been able to do that up to this point with the work I’ve had. So, I’m looking forward to that.”

Mills, 64, and his wife Cathy, college sweethearts, have been married for 40 years. The couple has three adult daughters and four “different, “spectacular and wonderful” grandchildren ages 1 1/2 to 7.

“Each has with their own personalities, and their own hopes and desires, and dreams,” Mills said. “Part of that is grandpa teaching them how to swim, and ride bikes, and all that kind of thing. That’s why it’s so important to us.”


INDIO — The City Council in April approved the appointment of Bryan Montgomery as the next City Manager.  Montgomery began Thursday, May 13, 2021.  He replaced Mark Scott, who announced his retirement last year, and has served as Indio’s City Manager since 2017.

“For over 40 years Mark has given his life to local government,” said Indio Mayor Elaine Holmes.  “And what he brought to Indio is hardly a footnote in that incredible career.  Mark gives every fiber of his being to this city– building relationships that help the city achieve its highest and best goals as envisioned by the City Council.”

Montgomery comes to the City of Indio with over 28 years of local government experience.  Similar to his predecessor, most of that time was spent as a City Manager.  For the last 15 years, Montgomery was City Manager in the fast-growing Bay Area suburb of Oakley, California.  Previously he was City Manager in Mesquite, Nevada and City Administrator in Rupert, Idaho.  He has also held positions in city government in Alamogordo, New Mexico and Provo, Utah.


CATHEDRAL CITY — About  6 p.m. on June 16, former Cathedral City Council candidate Alan Carvalho called City Councilmember Mark Carnevale and blasted him saying, “You’re dead! I’m gonna fuck you up! I’m done. I’m gonna fuck you over,” according to a Cathedral City Police Report.

Carnevale has chosen not press charges for what was described in the report as a “threaten crime with intent to terrorize.”

“There is always a time to forgive and forget,” Carnevale told Uken Report. “I don’t believe it was done out of hate or maliciousness. We used to be really good friends. We had eight years of good friendship. He’s a really funny guy.”


Democrats of the Desert, the largest Democratic Club in the Coachella Valley, met Saturday, Oct. 23 with the sole purpose of strategizing ways to unseat Sheriff Chad Bianco, a first-term sheriff.

“Our goal is to replace Sheriff Bianco,” Stephen Jaffe, president of the political organization, told Uken Report.  “The panel will discuss the best ways to accomplish that goal. e.g., what are the legal qualifications of a candidate for Sheriff, what are the personal characteristics of the ideal candidate to challenge the incumbent, why Bianco needs to be replaced, and in what ways is Bianco politically vulnerable.”

Their angst was heightened after learning that Bianco seven years ago paid dues for one year to belong to Oath Keepers. 


PALM SPRINGS — As thousands of revelers lined Palm Canyon Drive to celebrate the return of the 2021 Pride Parade, a high-profile personality was noticeably missing: Riverside County Sheriff Chad Bianco.

The sheriff told Uken Report that “previous obligations” prevented him from attending. He did not elaborate on those obligations.

On the flip side, newly appointed Police Chief Andrew Mills, whose first official day on the job is today, Nov. 8, walked the colorful parade route pressing the flesh with spectators.

“The sheriff’s nonappearance at (Sunday’s) Pride events is not unexpected,” Mayor Pro Tem Lisa Middleton told Uken Report. “It is disappointing.”

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