Envisioning Our City's Future: Introductions

Cindy Bernard introduces the guests: Chris Clarke, Paul Razo and Carrie Williams (Photo: Kurt Schaffner)

Cindy Bernard: Hi. Thank you all for coming. I'm Cindy Bernard. I'm the editor of the Desert Trumpet, which is a citizen engagement and government accountability Substack that serves 29 Palms in the Morongo Basin. This is our first ever Twentynine Palms Town Hall. We're the host and if you don't have one of these (waves agenda), there's one on the back table or there's a few on some of the empty chairs. This is a program for what we're going to be doing today to give you a rough idea of what you can expect. Thank you all again for coming. I should add that Desert Trumpet operates as a nonprofit under the auspices of Aha Projects, and our director of Aha is here today. So thank you very much for coming, Cheyanne. 

I also want to mention that should you need to use the restroom, if you haven't been here before, the restrooms are out the double doors that way or to the right. And if there should be some kind of emergency, which we do not anticipate, there are four sets of exit doors where you can leave as well as another exit door out that way. 

I'm going to quickly go over our agenda and I'm going to introduce our guests. We have Chris Clarke, who's the host of the 90 Miles From Needles Desert Protection podcast. Paul Razo is a business owner, member of the Downtown Business Association (DBA) and also a member of the Public Arts Advisory Committee, also known as the PAAC. And Carrie Williams, co-owner of Jeanine Beauty Supply and CEO of Women of Color Global 29. 

Today, we're going to have four topics; each topic will have about 25 minutes of discussion, depending, more or less approximately, and each topic will be introduced by one of our guests briefly. Chris is going to do Creating An Affordable and Sustainable City, Paul is going to be Balancing Development with Maintenance of the Desert Ecosystem, and Carrie is going to talk about Creating An Inclusive Community and What Does Positive Change Look Like. 

So, this is intended to be a community discussion. So feel free to speak up. We have three fabulous people helping us run mics today. So the way that will work, if you want to talk is, raise your hand, and I'll point at you and they will bring the mic so that you are able to be recorded. This entire thing is being recorded. We're going to produce a transcript. And if there are action items coming out of the transcript, we will share those with Council. The point of this is just sort of brainstorm and think about what does the future of our city look like? So feel free to brainstorm and give those thoughts. That's the purpose of the day.

Something I wanted to read just to start it off is the current Twentynine Palms General Plan guiding principles, which were written in 2012. So they're more than 10 years old now. Obviously, a lot of things have happened in the last 10 years, including a pandemic, and a lot more pressure on our town about where things should go. And different kinds of developers are coming in. And yeah, some of that is a good thing. Some of it, I don't know. So that's some of the things we can talk about. So here's what's in our general plan.

These are the guiding principles as of 2012:
•Promote a high quality of life while preserving the city’s desert and small town feel, •Encourage high quality development compatible with the Joshua Tree National Park, the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center, and the city's desert small town character, •Develop a strong and diversified local economy with a focus on arts, culture, tourism, retail job growth, and the overall quality of life for all community members.
•Preserve the desert environment, its natural and cultural resources for future generations
Promote sustainable and adaptable growth principles in the development of the city. 

So like, one of the things we're talking about today is, to what degree do we still believe in these five principles? To what degree do we think they should evolve? So that's one way of looking at what the conversation might be. 

There’s also, on the back of the agenda, there are some ground rules for today:
•Please limit comments to three to five minutes contingent on the overall time that we're taking up.
•Personal attacks and foul language are of course not permitted. Hope that goes without saying. 

•Please raise your hand if you want to speak and I'll point. Wait for the microphone to come to you prior to speaking, state your name and your neighborhood before you speak. So we know who's talking about what when we make up the transcript. 

•The forum is being recorded and photographed. Participation here today constitutes your agreement to be photographed, and for your name, and the comments and potentially your image to be published.  Making sure everybody's aware of that. There's a couple of people running around with cameras. So it's probably kind of obvious.

And with that, I'm going to turn it over for brief opening comments from each of our guests. And then after that, we will open it up to the topics and discussion. Thank you very much for coming.

Chris Clarke: Well, really great to see a bunch of familiar faces and a bunch of unfamiliar faces here. That's, that's like the best of both worlds– meeting some new folks. I have lived in 29 for not that long. I've been here since the beginning of the pandemic. I was living in Joshua Tree for about nine years before that. So anything I say here today is with me knowing right up front that there are people in this room that know a lot more about 29 than I do. And so I'm really happy to hear where I might go off the rails or if you have a slightly different take or something like that. 

One of the reasons that I like living here as much as I do, and one of the reasons that this is one of two places in the world I'd ever committed to enough to buy a house, is that this is a diverse place. It's diverse in a way that people don't usually think about when they talk about diversity. It's got some economic diversity – there are a few fairly well-to-do people here – and a lot of folks who are all the way at the other end of the economic spectrum, and then a lot of people that are somewhere in between. 

This is not Santa Monica. But it's also not like Eagle Pass Texas or someplace like that. You have a real diversity of political opinion, and in the course of my job, until recently was working to protect desert landscapes through the National Parks Conservation Association, and I met people who thought that that was a horrible idea, and that we should be doing the opposite, and opening up lands for recreation and things like that. And even if those people thought that I was doing a horrible thing and saying things that were wrong, they were kind. And they were straightforward. And I just really valued that. And that's the kind of place that 29 is, to me. It's just, there's no subterfuge, there's no pretension. We are what we are, and I love that. And I guess that's what I'll say to start off.

Paul Razo: Hello, everyone, my name is Paul Razo. My partner and I first came out here, I think for the first time, just as a visit in 2016, and really we were just looking for the best place to see the stars closest to us. And then once we got here, we just fell in love with it immediately and just knew that this was where we had to end up. 

So we moved out here officially. We got our home in 2018 and it was definitely a fixer upper. We met a lot of local old timers digging through their junk and looking for ways to decorate our home and that's where we started meeting a lot of the community initially. 

Then we opened our business. My partner opened Mojave Moon Apothecary, which was initially a small space at Hi Desert Daydream downtown, and that got us talking to local business owners and building those connections. And then just at the end of last year, I became a member of the Public Arts Advisory Committee (PAAC), and then we started talking more to behind the scenes – the government, what people really had in store for this town, not just at the business level but the government level. 

And then in September of last year, we opened our store at Historic Plaza, our first brick and mortar. And that has just been a pleasure in the sense that you can feel the energy of that space when you go there – Historic Plaza. And we've just had so many old timers that come through and tell us the story, and tell us about this town and tell us what this town used to be. And you look at the Facebook groups even now and how close knit this community is in all these different ways. And it's just brilliant to watch and it's been great to be a part of. 

And so making all these connections, obviously you're like – okay – you start to see the gaps and where the gaps need to be filled, and how you can help this person and help that person. So that's really just been my goal – just meeting different people in the communities and sort of tying those knots up and saying, Well, you know, you're working on this island, so-and-so's working on this island, just meet up and let's do this together. So I mean, I think that's really just a big, big part of my own personal advocacy is just bridging the gap between what 29 Palms was, is, and can be. That's what I'm looking forward to and I'm looking forward to hearing all your guys' opinions on everything today.

Carrie Williams: Good afternoon, my name is Carrie Williams. You probably hear an accent. I'm a native New Yorker, and it took me two and a half years to get over the culture shock when I first got here, I didn't know about looking up at no stars because in New York, you will not see stars.

I'm a business owner of Jeanine Beauty Supply. I've been in business since 2014. And it took me until 2014 to appreciate the desert. 

So now, after being out here all them years, I see how close knit this community is – when my store got ran in by a truck, I seen the community come out. And that was such a good feeling to see the community come out, reach out and help. So I'm just asking you all this evening, relax, put your thinking caps on and come on out and enjoy. Enjoy what we're getting ready to talk about this evening.

Next: Creating An Affordable and Sustainable City

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