More than 200 people recently came together in Rancho Mirage for the CVAG General Assembly and a celebration of the agency's successes during the 2017-18 fiscal year.
 
The evening served as an acknowledgement of how, by working together, CVAG's members have made the valley's roads safer and more efficient; have helped protect endangered species through conservation efforts; have improved the environment through sustainable initiatives; and have helped address homelessness.
 
The General Assembly included a number of highlights, including a video presentation from the CV Link grand opening. The first segment - stretching 2.3 miles from Vista Chino Road in Palm Springs to Ramon Road in Cathedral City - officially opened in February.
 
Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley, serving as CVAG Chairman, addresses the General Assembly. 

The evening's keynote speakers were Ian McPherson and Bill Zizic, who are principal and managing director of KPMG. The firm has been contracted by Riverside County to find cost savings in the public safety budgets. With so many valley communities contracting with the Riverside County Sheriff's Department for policing, the presentation provided an important opportunity to hear first-hand how these savings might impact cities' own budgets and costs.
From Left: Indio Mayor Michael Wilson, Agua Caliente Chairman Jeff Grubbe, Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashley and CVAG Executive Director Tom Kirk. Supervisor Ashley received a jersey, signed by Executive Committee members, in recognition of his service.
 
CVAG's members also acknowledged the work of Riverside County Supervisor Marion Ashely, who served his second term as CVAG Chairman during the 2017-18 fiscal year. The General Assembly unanimously elected Indio Mayor Michael Wilson as the new Chairman, and unanimously approved Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians Chairman Jeff Grubbe as CVAG's Vice Chairman.
 
General Assembly is CVAG's largest event of the year, bringing together elected officials and stakeholders from all member jurisdictions. This year's dinner was held at the Agua Caliente Casino Resort and Spa.
CVAG continues to lead regional efforts that make it easier to walk and bike across the Coachella Valley.
 
In 2017, the CVAG Executive Committee launched a $10 million Bike and Pedestrian Safety Program, which funded 10 projects valleywide. The first project to near completion is along Palm Canyon in the City of Palm Springs, where crosswalks have been improved. Construction of most of the remaining projects will be underway this summer and fall.
 
Additionally, CVAG is working with the City of Palm Springs to build the second segment of CV Link, a multi-modal pathway that is accessible to cyclists, pedestrians and low-speed electric vehicles, such as golf carts. The next segment, which will be under construction this summer, runs about a mile along Tahquitz Creek near Demuth Park.
 
CVAG is also working with several cities to secure state funding for connections to and from the core CV Link route. One of those proposals -- being planned with the Cities of La Quinta, Indio and Coachella -- will create a community connector that runs primarily along Avenue 48. Residents are encouraged to provide feedback on the planning process by participating in an online survey.

Work is wrapping up along Palm Canyon in Palm Springs, where bike and pedestrian safety improvements have been installed.
While CVAG encourages regional cooperation, sometimes a little friendly competition can be good as well.
 
Throughout July, LifeStream is spearheading the sixth annual Nine Cities Challenge Blood Drive to encourage donations.
 
All donors receive a ticket voucher to Wet 'n' Wild Palm Springs and a coupon for four free Jack in the Box tacos. Each person who donates blood also receives a red #9CitiesChallenge wristband. LifeStream even has "Donor Express" which allows potential donors - the day of the donation - to complete registration and the pre-donation questionnaire on their computer or mobile device. 

The winning City will get bragging rights. But the real winners will be our local hospital patients and area accident victims. Find out more at 9CitiesChallenge.com.
Residents and businesses in Palm Springs, Cathedral City and Palm Desert will have cleaner and more affordable electricity starting this summer.
 
Desert Community Energy (DCE) launches August 1, and it was developed in partnership with CVAG. Modeled after similar Community Choice Aggregation programs across California, DCE will provide customers with a choice in their electricity service. DCE buys cleaner electricity and offers it at a lower cost, partnering with Southern California Edison to feed it into the grid. SCE continues to deliver electricity and manage the lines, poles, and customer service. This means saving people money, while developing jobs and clean energy programs and putting our communities first.
 
DCE is offering two programs: Customers will be automatically enrolled in Desert Saver, which provides a 3 percent savings over SCE. Or they can opt-up to the 100% Carbon Free program, which has the same rates as Edison but provides a cleaner, more sustainable electric choice. DCE is also offering a net energy metering program, so customers who produce more energy than they consume can receive a credit on their future bills.
 
Recently, the Palm Springs City Council voted unanimously to select the 100% Carbon Free option for the electricity consumption at City Hall.
 
"Palm Springs electricity users will now be able to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by as much as 3,794 metric tons per year," said Councilmember Geoff Kors, the City's representative on the Desert Community Energy Board. "The City of Palm Springs is committed to producing clean energy and becoming a model carbon-free community. We are excited to offer this Community Choice Aggregation program to Palm Springs residents, who care deeply about protecting our environment."
 
Residents in Palm Springs, Cathedral City and Palm Desert have been receiving letters and notices with program details. Additional information is available on the agency's website: desertcommunityenergy.org


CVAG's committees won't meet as often over the summer months. But we remain busy coordinating the region's transportation plans, green energy programs, conservation efforts and social services. Be sure to follow our progress by liking us on Facebook and following @CVAGnews on Twitter.