Residents mobilize for the automotive training center
Cathedral City Holds Rally to Keep Planned Roadrunner Auto Technology Training Center in Community
CATHEDRAL CITY — Activists as well as political and community leaders are planning a “Build It Here” rally on Saturday to visibly and vocally lean on Desert College officials to build a long-planned automotive training center within the Boundaries from the city.
The rally is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. on the Cathedral City Festival lawn at 68-600 Avenida Lalo Guerrero, next to the Civic Center.
Coachella Valley voters approved the Desert Community College District’s CC Bond Measure in 2016, a $577 million bond. The Roadrunner Motors project is a project that is expected to be funded by Measure CC, a $577 million bond measure to pay for capital construction projects. In 2017, Stone James, Cathedral City’s director of economic development, helped COD conduct research on the Cathedral City site. In 2019 College of the Desert purchased 5 acres located between Desert Lexus and the VW dealership.
On October 27, 2021, Dr. Martha Garcia, President of College of the Desert, announced the cancellation of Roadrunner Motors in a press release.
“This was done without consultation with Cathedral City officials, staff and the public,” Terry Applegate, who is helping organize the rally, told Uken Report. “To do this without input from the people of Cathedral City shows the complete disrespect they have for us in Cathedral City.”
On February 24, City Council voted to invite Dr. Garcia to attend a meeting on a date of his choosing, to address questions and concerns from our council and residents. This offer was rejected.
On March 20, Applegate said it sent a letter to Aurora Tenorio Wilson, who represents a number of Cathedral City residents on the board. Applegate said she was disappointed (to put it mildly) that a trustee representing Cathedral City residents would vote to cancel the Roadrunner campus, without bothering to ask us for our opinion. I have not received any awnsers.
“The board has completely mismanaged the construction projects for the Roadrunner campus, as well as the Palm Springs campus,” Applegate said. “At this point, I truly believe that the California Board of Governors of California Community Colleges, the Riverside County Attorney, and the California Attorney General should investigate how the bond money is being spent.”
There is a Citizenship Duty Oversight Committee, Applegate said, but it is NOT an independent body. The website, agenda, reports and procedures are all controlled by COD. If citizens wish to apply to serve on the Bond Oversight Committee, they send their letter to the Office of the COD Chair, who then makes recommendations to the Board, which then decides who is nominated. The Bond Oversight Committee meets quarterly, which is too infrequent. At this last meeting, the COD did not attach the reports, as required by the brown law. And, they limited audience participation to a MAXIMUM of 15 minutes for the entire meeting, another violation of Brown’s Law.
COD keeps saying the Roadrunner campus is $10 million over budget, Applegate said. Yet their information is wrong and they refuse to show real numbers and data.
For example, Applegate pointed out, in the March 18 board report titled “Roadrunner Motors Project”, they state that the new project cost is $35.6 million. They have an asterisk on this page that says “automatic program flags additional instructional needs”. This is NOT a cost overrun. If you change the projections, of course, the budget will change.
On the next page, Applegate pointed out in an email that they site “Perez Road Access, Extensive Retaining Walls, Extensive Land Leveling”, etc. The Commission has never included access to Perez Road. The original plan called for PEDESTRIAN access to the bus stop. I have read the geotechnical investigation report, which does NOT say that extensive land grading is required, but rather corrective land grading.
“I want to make it clear that I am writing as a resident/activist,” Applegate wrote. “My goal is to have the Roadrunner campus built here in Cathedral City.”
The rally is a first step in the “Build It Here” process. On April 6 at 3:30 p.m., the board will review “3 possible sites” for the Roadrunner campus. I believe Cathedral City gave COD 13 sites to review. At this meeting, two sites in Cathedral City will be reviewed, as well as a site in Indio. Would the COD ask the council to consider a site in Indio without all required geotechnical investigations being completed? So a good question is how Indio got into this mix just months after Dr. García was hired.
On April 22, at the regular meeting of the board of directors, the board will vote to approve one of the sites.
“I think it’s a rigged process and just a facade.” Applegate alleged. “We want Cathedral City residents to attend both meetings and voice their opinions.”
This warrants further investigation not only by our local reporters, but also by investigative bodies who can ensure bond funds are spent fairly, she implored, the people of Cathedral City will continue to pay taxes on this bond measure with nothing in return.
“Can I say with certainty that shady deals were made behind closed doors?” Applegate asked rhetorically. “No, because I am not a member of the board and I have not been aware of the discussions. At the same time, the Indio Campus Extension, which started last week, is over budget by more than 100%, but was approved by the board. I think it’s fair to ask for an investigation, as well as a civil grand jury regarding violations of the Brown Law. Secrecy is associated with an attack on the democratic rights.
Applegate recalled that when it moved to the wilderness in 2006, COD made frequent headlines over the years for several scandals. They had to repay the state millions of dollars for exceeding class hours, there were investigations into the football team and the police science program. When I visited friends in the San Jose area who worked in different community college administrations, they asked me what was going on with COD.
“I think the board leadership is lacking,” Applegate said. “It is clear from statements by trustees that there is a lack of understanding of the role of a community college, a lack of understanding of the role of the trustee, and a lack of understanding of what bond funds can and cannot do. cannot be used. At previous board meetings, one of the trustees said she had a conversation with our mayor about wanting to use funds to redo downtown Cathedral City. And she said she wanted to “share the love” with multiple cities. Bond funds CANNOT be used for such projects. Bond measures B and CC are clearly stated in what they can and cannot be used for. I find it scary when our admins don’t understand the basics, and I fear COD is going back to its previous days of scandal.
In an Oct. 27 statement to residents, then-Mayor Raymond Gregory said, “The most troubling part of the decision to suspend the new Roadrunner Motors Automotive Technology Center at Cathedral City Auto Center is not that the project will not go ahead, but that so much time, effort, public contributions and taxpayers’ money is wasted just to free up funds for another project in a different community without any contribution or study on what this means for those who supported the project and counted on it. When the local bond was passed to fund the centre, there was a promise that the spending of the funds would follow a process, be monitored and be in the best interests of students in need of the education the facility would provide and these businesses and the public in need of the skilled labor that was to follow. It seems obvious that these promises and this trust have been violated in the crude exercise of political power, outside of the prescribed process and without transparency. It is simply wrong.
- Build it here: Cathedral City