OPINION: Student Reporters Respond to Congresswoman

September 24, 2012 /


Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack’s campaign told a local newspaper that her “third world toilet” emailed comments were about corruption at Duroville trailer park (pictured above after a recent storm), not the area or its residents. Coachella Unincorporated reporters share their opinions regarding Bono Mack’s 2006 email, and her campaign’s responses to The Desert Sun and Coachella Unincorporated. PHOTO: Aurora Saldivar/Coachella Unincorporated


Thank you!!!! I heard some of your remarks with the councliman (sic) from Coachella.  You were great!!!!!! Unbelievably great!!! Third World Toilet? That was too funny.

This is the portion of an email written by Congresswoman Mary Bono Mack to radio host Gary Stone on May 2, 2006, that sparked anger in the Eastern Coachella Valley last week. Although the email was published in 2006 by El Informador del Valle, a local Spanish newspaper, and Daily Kos, a liberal website, it went unreported by mainstream media until the campaign of Dr. Raul Ruiz, Bono Mack’s Democratic opponent, recently exposed the contents of the email in a press release.

Coachella Unincorporated asked Bono Mack’s office for a comment specifically tailored for the young people of the Eastern Coachella Valley. The response came from Marc Troast, the political director for the Mary Bono Mack Committee:

“The Congresswoman understands that the email that was sent over 5 years ago was inappropriate and does not reflect her true feelings.”

His comments to Coachella Unincorporated were brief, but Troast told The Desert Sun that Bono Mack was referencing Stone’s comments about “the corruption” that allowed the living conditions at Duroville to persist.

He was also quoted as saying, “I definitely think funny was inappropriate and the wrong term. It had nothing to do with speaking about anyone or any city. … She obviously does not believe — not then or now — that the living conditions should be allowed to exist. I think she regrets using the word funny and thinks there is a better way to say it.”

Coachella Unincorporated reporters read Bono Mack’s email, as well as her campaign’s responses to Coachella Unincorporated and The Desert Sun.

“Her comments might have been made some time ago, but these Eastern Coachella Valley living conditions still exist,” writes reporter Aurora Saldivar. “The residents of these communities deserve far better than to be left behind.”


Following is a compilation of the personal opinions of our staff members, all of whom are high school and college students living in the Eastern Coachella Valley.


“Living Conditions Not Comedy Sketch Material”

As a resident of the Eastern Coachella Valley, I am saddened by the email sent by a member of the United States Congress. Mary Bono Mack’s new campaign ad touts her “effective principled leadership.”  But I see nothing but the polar opposite in her heinous email about her most underrepresented and disenfranchised constituents.

I welcome Bono Mack to walk the streets of Duroville, especially after the recent torrential downpour so she can experience firsthand what it really is like to live a life where the very air you breathe may be poisonous and where the streets you walk are covered in waste.

Like her email, the living conditions at Duroville are, at best, deplorable and egregious. The living conditions of Duroville are not comedy sketch material. Treating them as such is tantamount to playground bullying.

I applaud Raul Ruiz for exposing these remarks but challenge him at the same time for an action plan to make things better in my community.

– Antonio Emmanuel Aguilar, 22, is a Thermal resident and student at University of Redlands


“Entitled to Dignity and Respect”

Agreeing with someone that a place where people live is a “third world toilet” is absolutely wrong and uncalled for. As a resident of the Eastern Coachella Valley, I was infuriated by Bono Mack’s email. We may not have as many opportunities and may not be the richest of all people, but that does not give anyone the right to call our home a “third world toilet.” We are entitled to dignity and respect from the individual who represents us in Congress. Hearing that Bono Mack emailed these remarks makes me think less of her.

It is not inappropriate for Raul Ruiz to bring this up in any way. He is sending a message to the people of the Coachella Valley, more particularly the eastern portion, asking them take a closer look at our representation.

As for her campaign’s explanation to Coachella Unincorporated, I feel that it is very generic. It appears the campaign knows that they are in the wrong and now chooses not to comment in any significant way. The damage has already been done and all eyes are on Bono Mack. I hope that this opens people’s eyes and helps them make the right choice come elections.

-Johnny Flores, Jr., 15, is a Coachella resident and student at Xavier College Prep in Palm Desert


Congresswoman’s Words “Not Acceptable”

Although Duroville might be in terrible, deteriorating conditions, the words used by Mary Bono Mack to describe it are not acceptable. Even if it was meant as a joke, the term “third world toilet” should offend anyone who resides in the area. I know it offends me. If Bono Mack is making such remarks when she thinks no one is noticing, what stops her from feeling the same way about neighboring cities? Furthermore, her inability to make a statement regarding the issue, and instead having her political director Marc Troast make one for her, speaks volumes.

When someone like Bono Mack is more focused on making jokes about her constituents than generating ways to improve these towns says a lot about her character.

Regarding the way in which Raul Ruiz is using the email against her, I feel that such actions are common occurrences in today’s political campaigns. If not for Ruiz, Mack’s belittling of Duroville might not have been brought to light in the same way.

-Fatima Ramirez, 17, is a Mecca resident and student at Olive Crest Academy in Coachella


“Communities Deserve Far Better” from Congresswoman

I felt that the tone of Mary Bono Mack’s email, agreeing with the use of the term “third world toilet, ” to be disrespectful to all the families living and raising their children in the trailer parks which appear to be the target of her comments. For residents living in these so called “third world” living conditions, the term is far more than a punch line but a grim reality of neglect. What concerns me, more than the comment itself, is the attitude behind it. I would appreciate very much if our Congresswoman would see the Eastern Coachella Valley’s current living conditions as a call to action rather than a source of amusement.

Her comments might have been made some time ago, but these Eastern Coachella Valley living conditions still exist. The residents of these communities deserve far better than to be left behind.

Concerns of constituents must be addressed despite their economic standing. The struggle for justice in the Eastern Coachella Valley has been an ongoing plight that far surpasses the passing news cycle of an ignorant comment.

-Aurora Saldivar, 19, is a Thermal resident and student at College of the Desert in Palm Desert


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