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Wall Flowers: Waiting for Trump With Every Racist Aunt and Uncle in New England

Wall Flowers: Waiting for Trump With Every Racist Aunt and Uncle in New England

Friday, February 05, 2016  |  Chris Faraone

There’s a man with a dark complexion hocking “Bomb The Hell Out of ISIS” lapel pins. His heart’s not really in it.

The next vendor over from him isn’t legitimately feeling the energy, either, his long hair and thick Boston accent a dead giveaway that he’s a foreigner in Trump country. In any case, th...

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Above Normal, but Not Out of the Woods: Precipitation Chips Away at California Drought, but the Water Deficit Remains

Above Normal, but Not Out of the Woods: Precipitation Chips Away at California Drought, but the Water Deficit Remains

Tuesday, February 02, 2016  |  Paige Blankenbuehler

At the beginning of February last year, South Lake Tahoe in California was nearly 60 degrees Fahrenheit—almost 20 degrees above its historic average.

At that time, the drought had been dragging along for four years, and chair lifts at nearby ski resorts were swaying over barren slopes. Representative...

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February Astronomy: The Moon Again Moves Across the Sky, Passing Planets as It Goes

February Astronomy: The Moon Again Moves Across the Sky, Passing Planets as It Goes

Friday, January 29, 2016  |  Robert Victor

For much of February, early risers will continue to enjoy all five bright planets before dawn, as the waning moon sweeps past all of them through Feb. 6. In its next trip around Earth, the moon will go past four planets from Feb. 24 through March 7.

February’s evening mid-twilight occurs about 40 min...

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Not the Only Leak: SoCal's Aliso Canyon Is a Reminder That Methane Emissions Are Widespread and Ongoing

Not the Only Leak: SoCal's Aliso Canyon Is a Reminder That Methane Emissions Are Widespread and Ongoing

Tuesday, January 26, 2016  |  Jonathan Thompson

After one of the many attempts to plug the methane-leaking well at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility in the Los Angeles suburbs, the thing erupted like a geyser, spewing not only natural gas, but also the muddy slurry that company technicians had pumped into the well.

It reminded me of a ph...

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Aiding the Abused: Shelter From the Storm Wages a Lonely Battle to Protect Local Victims of Domestic Violence

Aiding the Abused: Shelter From the Storm Wages a Lonely Battle to Protect Local Victims of Domestic Violence

Monday, January 25, 2016  |  Kevin Fitzgerald

In the United States, 20 people are physically abused by intimate partners every minute of every day on average, according to a 2015 National Coalition Against Domestic Violence report. That equates to more than 10 million victims annually.

While there was a steady decline in the number of incidents ...

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Inspecting Golf Gadgets: Palm Desert's Buff White Travels Almost Weekly as a PGA Equipment Checker

Inspecting Golf Gadgets: Palm Desert's Buff White Travels Almost Weekly as a PGA Equipment Checker

Friday, January 22, 2016  |  Kevin Fitzgerald

Play began in this year’s Coachella Valley PGA tournament stop—formerly known as the Bob Hope Classic, more recently as the Humana Challenge, and now as the CareerBuilder Challenge—on Thursday, Jan. 21.

Tour pros teed off at the La Quinta Country Club (the only layout to return from last year’s compe...

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After one of the many attempts to plug the methane-leaking well at the Aliso Canyon natural gas storage facility in the Los Angeles suburbs, the thing erupted like a geyser, spewing not only natural gas, but also the muddy slurry that company technicians had pumped into the well.

It reminded me of a phenomenon that disrupted small-town life in southwest Colorado in the 1990s, during a coalbed methane boom. An abandoned natural gas well, drilled decades earlier, would periodically erupt, shooting natural gas, water and debris some 200 feet into the air. Locals dubbed it Old Faithful.

Aliso Canyon is a bit like a gigantic, catastrophic version of the geyser gas well of yore. Since the leak was first noticed in late October, some 4.6 billion cubic feet of natural gas have leaked into the atmosphere. Most of that is methane, a particularly potent greenhouse gas, along with smaller amounts of other compounds such as benzene, a known carcinogen, and mercaptan, a sulfur compound added as an odorant to the gas. The mercaptan, especially, has been hellish for nearby residents of Porter Ranch, and as many as 3,000 residents have evacuated.

Celebrity pollution activist Erin Brockovich and others have equated the Aliso Canyon leak to the BP oil spill, on land. Indeed, in infrared images, the methane plume does look like thick crude billowing into the sea. But the BP spill was a rare occurrence, while massive methane leaks are horribly common, happening in America’s oil and gas fields every day.

The aforementioned Old Faithful was in the San Juan Basin of Colorado and New Mexico, one of the most productive natural gas fields in the nation. Locals were more amused than alarmed by the gas geyser, even though it was within spitting distance of an old folks’ home. (Watching the earth projectile vomit was more entertaining than another Lawrence Welk re-run, apparently.) People around the area had bigger things to worry about back then: Dangerous levels of methane were showing up in crawlspaces and drinking-water wells, with occasionally disastrous results, and vast swaths of vegetation were dying off due to methane displacing oxygen.

Aliso Canyon’s leakage rate has averaged just less than 1,000 metric tons per day (a rate which slows over time as pressure on the reservoir is relieved). That qualifies it as thelargest point-sourcemethane emitter in the nation, leaking at about twice the rate of the Walter Energy coal mine in Alabama, which tops the Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse gas inventory.

But add up all the oil- and gas-related methane point sources in one hydrocarbon-producing basin, and the story changes. San Juan Basin oil and gas facilities emitted 291,162 metric tons of methane during 2014, according to the EPA inventory. But the inventory doesn’t account for smaller producers—geologic seeps that have been exacerbated by oil and gas development, abandoned wells or undetected leaks. So actual emissions from oil and gas facilities far exceed the EPA’s greenhouse gas inventory, as numerous studies have shown. Take all that into account, and the San Juan Basin’s total oil and gas emissions rate is probably closer to 500,000 metric tons per year, or 1,400 tons per day, a far higher rate than at Aliso Canyon.

The same sort of leakage is occurring in other hydrocarbon-producing basins, as well, from the Permian to the Piceance, impacting both the climate and the folks who live nearby. As atmospheric scientist Gabrielle Petron told me last spring: “Your air is being impacted. You live on the edge of the gas field.”

Which is not to say that the Aliso Canyon leak isn’t a big deal. It is. And a similar catastrophe could happen elsewhere, and probably already is, on a smaller scale. The Aliso Canyon storage facility is a huge, depleted oil field that enables Southern California Gas Company to store natural gas, much of it from the San Juan Basin and other gas fields in the interior West, and then withdraw it when needed. Another 415 or so of these underground facilities are scattered across the country. Some are in depleted oil and gas reservoirs, others in aquifers or salt caverns, and many are on the edge of urban or suburban areas. With a storage capacity of 86 billion cubic feet, Aliso Canyon is among the largest, but a depleted field near Baker, Mont., can store up to 164 billion cubic feet of gas.

Major incidents, at least ones that directly impact nearby populations, at underground storage facilities have been few and far between. When they do happen, though, they tend to be spectacular. In 2004, ignited gas spewing from a failed valve in Moss Bluff, Texas, created a 1,000-foot column of flames, and in 2001, explosions resulting from gas migrating from an underground storage reservoir in Kansas killed two. Surely many more climate-damaging methane leaks go unnoticed. In depleted oil fields, old wells (the bad one at Aliso Canyon was drilled in 1953) are prone to fail. Meanwhile, a 2013 study published in the Hydrogeology Journal found that in aquifer storage units “gas loss is a possibility via … faults, inadequate caprock seals, or improperly completed wells.”

These facilities fall in a regulatory gray area. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission has jurisdiction over units that are used for interstate commerce, but the agency regulates rates and storage levels, not operations or safety. Others, like Aliso Canyon, are regulated by respective states, often inadequately. (The lack of a safety valve on the leaky Aliso well apparently did not violate California rules.)

New federal rules on oil and gas industry emissions from the EPA and the Bureau of Land Management may help the situation in the gas fields, but the rules will apply to few, if any, underground storage facilities. Colorado regulates oil and gas industry emissions, but not facilities “downstream” from processing plants, like underground storage. A pipeline safety bill introduced in Congress late last year would create minimum safety standards for all underground storage, but its chances of passing are limited.

As long as it is left unfettered, methane leakage, be it on a catastrophic Aliso Canyon-level or the everyday emissions from the gas fields, will continue to sully natural gas’ image as a climate-friendly fossil fuel. Still, it may take a while to catch up with coal, at least over the long term. The Aliso Canyon well is emitting methane at a rate equivalent to 32,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide each day (using a formula based on an assessment by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). The Navajo Generating Station in northern Arizona, meanwhile, spews carbon dioxide at a rate of 47,000 metric tons per day. That’s like the climate’s version of the BP oil spill—and it’s happening round-the-clock, with no end in sight.

Jonathan Thompson is a senior editor at High Country News, where this story first appeared.

The annual Palm Springs International Film Festival’s Awards Gala provides a cadre of A-list film actors and directors with oddly titled awards for their trophy cases—along with a low-stress, fun night in Palm Springs, the “home away from L.A.” for many celebrities.

This year’s honorees at the Saturday, Jan. 2, gala at the Palm Springs Convention Center included Steve Carell, Christian Bale, Matt Damon, Johnny Depp, Bryan Cranston, Michael Fassbender, Cate Blanchett, Brie Larson, Saoirse Ronan, Alicia Vikander, Rooney Mara and Tom McCarthy.

The 11-day festival proudly presents a broad gamut of films within nearly every genre, produced both here and abroad; some of these films receive little or no viewership in the commercial marketplace otherwise. In contrast, the celebrity cast of honorees and presenters—Michael Keaton, Helen Mirren, Kate Winslet and Ridley Scott were among the latter this year—as usual included a host of attention-grabbing nominees for the rapidly approaching major award season in Los Angeles. This proven strategy creates fund-raising fodder for the mix of industry players and local philanthropists who pay to get inside the Convention Center event. This year, more than $2 million was raised to support the year-round community service and film appreciation activities of the Palm Springs International Film Society, organizers said.

However, for me, the night proved to be a bust. While larger national media sources received prime space on the red carpet, the stars—most of whom were accompanied by a phalanx of PR representatives—were quickly whisked past those of us at the very end of the carpet where media outlets not offering national outreach were banished. (As for photos … the Independent was denied a photo credential, period … hence the mediocre smart-phone pics below.)

Special recognition was earned by Mr. Depp, who took time to amble at a leisurely pace, offering smiles and a couple of mumbled responses to urgently proffered inquiries.

In summation, I offer, for your enjoyment, a few freeze-frame stills and a brief video I shot to prove that I did, in fact, cover the event.

Enjoy. 

Name: Ricky Wright

Age: 66

Occupation: Former principal at Palm Springs High School

Interview: Phone

1. When you stand at the intersection of Tahquitz Canyon Road and Palm Canyon Drive, and look northwest, what comes to mind?

What comes to my mind is that the development is a lot different than what we have around it. That’s what I see. I mean, frankly, it doesn’t seem to fit, but that’s what was approved, I guess. It’s not what I perceived it to be when they were talking about it, and I never saw the plans or anything, but I thought it would fit a little better.

2. Does Palm Springs have a crime problem? If so, what should be done about it?

Yeah. I don’t think it’s as bad as it’s made out to be by some folks, but I do think it’s increased, and we need more officers. I think we’re down nine officers, and maybe more than that. So because of the cutbacks and the recession and all that, we need to add probably 12 new officers. I actually had a conversation with the chief about this, and he wants to balance that with experienced officers as well as new officers. You don’t want to hire 13 brand-new officers. He wants to have a balance, and I agree with that. The other issue is, if you’re going to attract experienced officers and have them leave the areas in which they live, there’s going to have to be some kind of bump in the pay for those officers. I think, as a city, we need to look at doing that.

3. What, if anything, should be done about alleged corruption in Palm Springs city government? Be specific.

At this point, it’s alleged. What’s going to happen as a result of it, is there’s going to be complete transparency for the new folks coming in and from this point on. It’s too bad it had to happen the way it happened. But the more transparent you are, the less likely we are to have those kinds of issues. That’s my feeling. Whatever happens, we’re going to work it out as a community. But, honestly, I’m embarrassed by it. My roots grow deep in the community. I’m embarrassed that … all around the state and country, they’re looking at this happening to us. It’s kind of embarrassing for us, although I think we’re going to get through it. It’s going to make us closer. I know in my career as an educator, it always came out to be when we had incidents like this, as a school community, we got stronger. As a community, I think we’re going to get stronger as a result of this.

4. What specific steps will you take to help solve the city’s homelessness issue?

I’ve said this repeatedly: The homelessness issue is not just a concern here in Palm Springs. Every major city has this issue, and I’m really glad they established the committee to look into it, but I think what we ought to do is canvas the country and the state and find out which programs are being successful, and then bring that back to Palm Springs and adjust it to meet our needs. The other issue is, we need a treatment center on this end of the valley to deal with those folks who are homeless who have addictions, who maybe have mental illness, and that would give the city more leverage—in particular the police department. Right now, we don’t have a lot of leverage to deal with people who are loitering and creating those situations that are causing problems for us.

5. Do you support electing City Council members by district, or do prefer the current at-large system? Why?

I prefer the system we have. I don’t know enough about the options of having wards. I don’t know enough about that. I don’t think that the system we have right now is a failure at all. In my experience of being here almost 20 years, it’s worked fine. So unless I can see some reason why we need to change, I’d like to keep it the way it is.

6. If you were not running for this office, which of your opponents would get your vote? Why?

I haven’t thought about it much. I don’t know. I mean, I don’t know the other candidates. The only other candidate I really know is Ron Oden. Would that mean I’d vote for Ron Oden? I don’t know. I’m getting to know the candidates better.

7. A dear friend is in town for just one night, and asks you where to go for dinner. Where are you sending this dear friend?

I like Melvin’s. There are several places my wife and I like to go. Depending on what kind of situation it is, I like to go and listen to music. I like Lulu.

8. Name one business or service that you wish Palm Springs had (but currently does not have).

I would lean toward having more tech businesses in the valley. Being a former educator and realizing the importance an advancement of technology, I’d like to have a big tech company here in the Coachella Valley where we can train our kids and be a part of the international technology movement. At the same time … we need a university here, a college in the Coachella Valley. … It’s best to have our own UC in the Coachella Valley.

9. Which annual Coachella Valley event or festival is your favorite? Why?

I like Coachella Valley festival—all of them. I like the ones that we have by Goldenvoice, and I think that does a lot for this city. The entertainment they bring in is fantastic. Now I do like the things that the younger folks are doing, like the Tachevah block party and Splash House. I really like those, and those are the products of some of my former students, so that makes it even nicer.

10. If the FBI was about to raid your home or office, which personal item would you grab to make sure it didn't get broken?

The keepsakes that are pictures of my mom and my grandparents … are real dear to me. I have a little mantel in my den that has their pictures on it, and I’d make sure that they didn’t bother those and break those. I have a vase that my grandmother gave me when I was younger, and I’d want to make sure that didn’t get broken. The mementos that are related to my family, in particular my grandparents and my mother and father, I’d make sure that those aren’t damaged.

Name: Bob Weinstein

Age: 50

Occupation: Attorney/businessman

Interview: Phone

1. When you stand at the intersection of Tahquitz Canyon Road and Palm Canyon Drive, and look northwest, what comes to mind?

Well, I’m not happy with the development. There have been too many waivers and too many variances granted with that particular project, without much input. I’m in construction myself and have a lot of developments around Coachella Valley, and I know that sometimes going through changes and variances, where change was never quite the plan, things change a little bit here, and a little bit there. But … you have height issues; you have frontage issues, setback issues. It not only goes up to the sidewalk, but it overhangs into the street. And it blocks the beauty of the mountains, you know, which is what Palm Springs is all about. So, I think it’s atrocious. I think it’s obnoxious, and that’s one of the reasons why I’m running, because you know, I refuse to take any special interest money; I’m independent as far as my interests are concerned, so I don’t need to take special interest money. … I—me and maybe two other people—are the only people who refuse to take money, who don’t need to take money in order to run, and are really putting a lot of our souls into this.

I have a vested interest in Palm Springs. I have many, many, millions of dollars invested into commercial property. I’m the largest commercial office landlord in south Palm Springs. I have these signs, which some people think are obnoxious, but I tell people that if they say anything about my signs on my buildings … why don’t you turn around and look at the atrocious blight directly across the street from my building. Look at the McGruder Chevrolet that’s abandoned. We have hundreds, sometimes thousands of homeless vagrants living there. They come out at night; they start bonfires in there. Sometimes the fire department is called; sometimes the fires spread, throwing embers all over my property, and thank god my property hasn’t caught fire yet, but these people are committing serious, serious, crimes all over south and central Palm Springs. The vagrants are not only emanating from these blighted properties, but they’re coming in from all over, because they know that it’s a city that allows it. It allows these vagrants to commit these crimes, and I’m not talking about the chronic homeless; I’m talking about the kind of people who are meth addicts, drug addicts, alcoholics and, of course, your regular thieves. And they go around on bicycles, you know, casing out places; they’re trying to find people to sell drugs to, and I find needles on my property on a regular basis. In fact, before I bought my properties around four or five years ago, people living there, they were attacking my tenants. I spent hundreds of thousands to secure my property. I called the city everyday trying to get some response from City Hall, from the City Council. You know I never got one single returned phone call? Not one. And that’s why I’m running, because our city council is not responsive.

2. Does Palm Springs have a crime problem? If so, what should be done about it?

I did a number of YouTube videos on my website, discussing the crime problems and discussing the solutions. If I am mayor, I will have the crime problem cut by 50 percent, in half, within the first two years. I guarantee it; otherwise I’m not going to not run again. It’s very simple. No. 1: We reopen the jail.

First of all, we have a much greater chance of being victimized by a crime here in Palm Springs than we do in Desert Hot Springs or in Compton, even in Detroit. We have a one in 20 chance of being victimized here in Palm Springs. We are rated No. 6—100 being safest, the least safest being 1, we are No. 6. These are FBI calculations, and FBI statistics; I’m not making this up. … I even printed it on my website. We are at the bottom 6 percent of the most unsafest cities, ranked (among) the most dangerous cities in the nation, by the FBI statistics.

The solutions: We only have two to four police officers on duty at any given time. Desert Hot Springs is also shorthanded, and so is Cathedral City. These are all independent police forces versus the county sheriff. So what do you do? Before 2010, our crime problem was under control … it was actually decreasing. It was much less than what we have today. In 2010, we closed the jail; we let five police officers go. We’re short between five and 10 right now; if we (add) between five and 10, we’ll be back in recession levels—not post-recession; we need 15 to 20. … You cannot book the prisoners here in Palm Springs. The officers have to drive the prisoners all the way over to Banning or Indio, and book them, and it wastes the whole day. … Now keep in mind, when we had our jail open, both the surrounding cities—Cathedral City and Desert Hot Springs—were using our jail to book prisoners. Now I asked (Ginny) Foat, “Can we reopen the jail?” “No, it’s going to cost $3 million.” Then I spoke to the captains, and the captains said it would cost zero. It’ll cost $3 million if we create a prison system, where you keep the prisoners there for a prolonged period of time. However, most of the arrests are prisoners who are immediately released … you book them here, and you release them. … On top of that, we (could) let the surrounding officers, and surrounding communities, book in our jail. They pay between $500 and $750 a head, so we can actually be making money on the jail, and these officers won’t be taken off their beat, so the entire western Coachella Valley will be safer. … You see, the criminals know they have a really good situation here in Palm Springs, so they come from all over. It’s only going to get worse.

Now, the other issue is Cathedral City has real-time surveillance cameras at main intersections, and it is hooked in with the 911 dispatch, so in case there’s an issue, they can automatically go and check out the intersection for car accidents or what have you. We’re the only city that doesn’t have these at the main points of entry, which is only at three or four points, because if you look at south Palm Springs and west Palm Springs, it’s all mountains, so you only have north and east. I say put surveillance cameras at those points of entry—make it visible; you don’t want the small ones; you want the big ones—and then at the main intersections, put another 20 or 30 surveillance cameras. That will cut crime down … by 30 or 50 percent, and the studies (proving this) are in my website.

Of course, I want to hire a few more police officers so you have enough. And I want to engage specific communities to provide point people who will be available for observation, to work with the police officers. … Now, we have a really good professional police force, but we have a totally dysfunctional council that refuses to allow the police any resources whatsoever. Instead, what they do is take $55 million, and they give it to Wessman so he can build two underground parking structures as part of his hotel to make his hotel functional, and to make his hotel the most obnoxious structure that I’ve ever seen in my life.

3. What, if anything, should be done about alleged corruption in Palm Springs city government? Be specific.

There’s a disclosure form 700 where you have to disclose all your resources and income for the past year, and I would require anyone who’s either on the City Council or who’s mayor, to not be allowed to be on a payroll for any local developers or anyone who might come to the City Council for approval for some type of project. It’s a part-time job; it’s supposed to be part-time job. I prefer it to be a full-time job, but most of these people don’t have the wherewithal, so they have to make do with other sources of income. But that really is no excuse; the size of Palm Springs has grown so much in the past couple years, and it’s going to continue. The growth has increased; we’re on the upswing economically, so you have tremendous amounts of money coming in for development.

You’re going to have a lot of temptation to give to these politicians to get approval, and side deals like Pougnet and what Ginny Foat did at the Sherman’s Deli, trying to win her over; you’re going to have that. You’re going to have a lot of influence-peddling there. So what you have to do is prevent these guys like Pougnet from allowing themselves to be employed or accepting any kind of numeration, any kind of money, as a salary, or quote-unquote “consultation fees.” They should not be allowed to have employment with an entity that might have adverse interests to the city, because that’s an inherent conflict of interest. … These guys who take money from these developers and then have votes on there—they should be immediately arrested, not to mention immediately dislodged from their seats. He hasn’t even resigned, Pougnet; I’m shocked. He’s already admitted that he’s taken money; he’s already admitted he voted on one of the sales which was below market price, after he took the money—and Ginny knew about it. So the two should resign. These are inherent conflicts of interest (and) violations of the canon of ethics, and it’s clearly illegal … .

I fight for people’s rights day and night. So as a candidate for mayor, I don’t think there was or will ever be (someone) as qualified for mayor, specifically (mayor of) Palm Springs, having a huge gay community, than me. Because I represent all the interests of the community. In my regular life, as an attorney, I fight for these people, day in, day out. And plus, I know all about real estate, so I very qualified. I know all about government, and on top of that—are you sitting down?—I’m also a court-assigned or court appointed mediator for the county superior court system … .

4. What specific steps will you take to help solve the city’s homelessness issue?

We need to get more local, county, state and federal monies. We haven’t applied for any, and were not getting any monies to take care of homeless people. Most of the homeless people here are chronically homeless; the others are just vagrants and alcoholics. …  So the criminals are automatically out of the picture in terms of being prosecuted. You have the alcoholics and the drugs addicts who need special attention, detox centers; they need counseling. Then you have the mentally ill people. Now, the mentally ill people, we need counseling for that. You also have a great deal of veterans who also need help, because there’s a lot of homeless veterans, believe it or not, and there’s a huge suicide rate. So we need more counseling for the mentally ill. But we need more housing—temporary, low-cost, or free housing—for the chronically homeless until they’re back on their feet.

I propose what Coachella is doing by building low-cost or free housing for the very poor, and we need to do that, because we have plenty of land; we just have to allocate the resources, and we have to get the funding for it. It’ll bring jobs for the development; it’ll bring a lot of monies, to the community, to the development. Or we can work with outside surrounding communities, such as Desert Hot Springs or Coachella, and provide them with our homeless and refer them to that sector of housing and provide some type of payment to them.

Now, what Robert Fey is doing … he’s the (chairman) of the Temple Isaiah. He has a program to provide the homeless with basic training skills, like cleaning, cooking and so on and so forth, so we can get some people who are capable of working off the streets, and give them a trade, and then send them out into the community, where they get a job, which is what I recommend. He is a great man. … You have Roy’s, but Roy’s isn’t doing the job they should be doing. It houses around 100 beds or something, but the people they house—they don’t train them; they just let them sit there at night. They need special training, so some of the people who come from Roy’s, they come to Temple Isaiah for training. Or if there’s an overflow, and there are no beds, what Bob does is he buys a few blocks of beds, maybe like 20 extra beds, at, say, the Musicland Motel, at a special rate, so they can stay there a few days, which is fine—I mean, if they’re empty, why not use them? I’m not talking about the vagrants; I’m talking about the chronically homeless people who really need help … .

So we need more funding, and if the county doesn’t want to give us the funding, we have to persuade them to give us the funding by threatening them with a lawsuit—which, I’m good at that—and forcing them to pay us, because we should not bear the sole burden of what the county should be paying for. We’re a city; we don’t have as much money as the county, because when you pay taxes on your property, on Prop 13, all the money goes to the county. They only give you back anywhere from 17 to 20 percent of what you paid, but if you have all these extra problems, institutionally, like homeless problems, they need to come up with some more of that money, and we need to get more money. It all boils down to money.

5. Do you support electing City Council members by district, or do prefer the current at-large system? Why?

I don’t prefer either. I think we should have an at-large system; however, I think anyone could win. You could have 100 people running in one election, and you could have one person winning with just 10 votes; it’s the most ridiculous thing. What we need to do is have a run-off on each vote. For instance, there are eight people running for mayor, and you have a couple of good people. A lot of these people are going to split the vote, and you can have an unacceptable result. So, what I recommend is you take the two highest, like, in most elections, and then you have a run-off. … Right now, you don’t win by majority; you win by a small plurality, and that not correct; that’s not right. That’s what I want to change.

6. If you were not running for this office, which of your opponents would get your vote? Why?

I like Ron Oden. I think he’s very receptive, and he’s a very nice guy. He may not be as effective as I’d like him to be, but he’s a very nice guy.

As far as Ginny Foat is concerned, she’s been tainted with too much corruption, and I think many, many, people do not personally like her. She’s been involved with a great deal of—let’s just say she was associated with, I believe, two murders, and she was arrested for at least for one of them, and she just has a very sordid history which I’m concerned about. And plus, there was also that recent assault on another candidate’s wife. Apparently, one of her campaign managers slashed the face of Mr. Gunasti’s wife, who is interestingly enough a reporter or a celebrity publicist. So, because she was making some comments about (Foat), one of (Foat’s) assistants slashed her face when we were doing that town hall meeting over at the American Legion. That concerns me. So, obviously, I try to stay away from (Foat). If I have to be near her, I’ll probably get a bodyguard.

But the other candidates are also amusing; I’ve never seen such a group of personalities in my life. Gunasti is a great guy; his wife is fantastic. They both have tremendous personality. And there’s Robert Moon. Robert Moon is a little bit on the conservative side. I’m much more to the right than he is. I’m a fiscal conservative but a social liberal. But Moon, when he talks, he talks in a monotone, like he thinks he’s still in the Army. He was in the Armed Forces at some point, and he has this interesting demeanor about him, where, when he speaks, it’s a monotone, one level, without any passion. He doesn’t wave his hands like Ron—Ron Oden throws his hands up in the air, and he makes these huge, passionate gestures, and he jumps! And he bends! And he yells! I like that, because it is very effective. On the other hand, you have Moon, who’s just the opposite. I’ve been telling Moon since day one, “Robert, you have to use more passion,” because a lot of these guys, they call me for legal advice all the time. I mean, I talk to these guys; they’re friends of mine. So, I said, “Robert, you have to use more hand gestures, use more passion in your voice, bring your voice a notch or a level higher, at least, when you’re trying to express something that you think is more important than the rest of the speech.” So he says, “Yeah, yeah, I’m trying, I’m trying,” because he’s so rigid, and so firm, it’s hard for him to break out of that because of his general persona. So he thinks he’s still in the military for some reason; I don’t understand it. I’m trying to work with him.

And then you got the Schaefer guy, who’s a pretty interesting character. He’s an older man, name is Michael Schaefer. I looked him up. It looks like he was disbarred for assault and battery, and he was a member of the California and Nevada bars, and he was disbarred for the assault and battery. Plus I looked him up, and he had 10 or a whole bunch of complaints lodged against him. But it’s a matter of public record; you can look that up.

Ricky Wright is an interesting character. He was a principal for a period of time for the high school, and he’s going to get a lot of parents voting for him. I don’t think his students are going to vote for him, because I don’t think they’d vote for anyone who was their principal; you know, if they are adults now, they can vote. But he is very, very low key and soft-spoken. I can barely hear him speak, and the points he makes are very generalized. I’m sure he’s a nice guy, but he’s not investing any money into the campaign to let people know what he stands for. I’ve sent out fliers, and I’m going to … cover the airways, so people also know who I am and what I stand for.

There’s one other interesting character who I met; his name is Guy Burrows. He’s actually a neurosurgeon. He’s smart, but he’s very introverted, and he doesn’t speak much. He gets nervous up onstage, and in fact, over (at) the Legion, he started crying, saying that he used to be homeless. He has an interesting background. I don’t think that as a doctor, he’d be the best qualified, because he’s busy with surgery. He’s not going to give up his practice, he told me, to run the city full time, so he’s going to be preoccupied. He’s on staff over at Cedar, so he’s going to be in L.A. most of the time.

But the interesting thing is, I’ve never seen such an interesting group of people in my life, and I’m fascinated, just up onstage, listening to these people. And then I’m up onstage at Legion. Ginny Foat is speaking, right below—and people in the audience can’t see this—but in the very first seat right in front of Ginny, right below Ginny, there was a guy mouthing off everything she’s saying, so he was acting as her proctor or something. So she was staring at him, because, you know, she’s getting older—I don’t know—she’s not the brightest person in the world, either, so she was getting her speech from the guy up front. I should have said something, and all the people started to, up onstage, but no one down below. But it’s quite an interesting group of people.

It turns out that the person who slashed the face of that other woman, her name was Julie Montante. Turns out that she … was operating an illegal pot shop in the county, outside of city limits. … Remarkably enough, working for Ginny and her campaign, she was given a pot license to operate a pot shop in Palm Springs. I mean, that is another example of a problem we have. That should be revoked … and if there was any influence from Ginny, and I’m sure there was, if there was any influence in … procuring that license, then, again, you’re dealing with another corruption scandal, scandal No. 2005. I’ve lost count already.

7. A dear friend is in town for just one night, and asks you where to go for dinner. Where are you sending this dear friend?

I like the Kaiser Grille, and their food is usually fresh. Lulu is OK; it’s just for tourists, and the food is just average, but they have a beautiful ambiance there; it’s great just to get a drink, but I would not go there to eat. … I’m friends with Mel Haber … so I hang out over (at Melvyn’s). He’s got really good salads. It’s a great place; he’s got entertainment.

8. Name one business or service that you wish Palm Springs had (but currently does not have).

We already have an airport, which is good. I think we have just about everything that we need. … What I’d like to have, and I’ve been mentioning this for quite a while, is a movie studio. Wouldn’t that be great?

9. Which annual Coachella Valley event or festival is your favorite? Why?

I love the Palm Springs International Film Festival, but my favorite has to be McCormick’s car auction.

10. If the FBI was about to raid your home or office, which personal item would you grab to make sure it didn't get broken?

It would have to be the server.

Name: Mike Schaefer

Age: 77

Occupation: Former attorney, financial analyst, securities investigator, real estate manager and San Diego city councilman. Perennial candidate for offices in California and Nevada; he most recently came in 12th (of 14) in a Los Angeles City Council primary earlier this year

Interview: Phone

1. When you stand at the intersection of Tahquitz Canyon Road and Palm Canyon Drive, and look northwest, what comes to mind?

I’m at the (Welwood Murray) Library, and I might want to go in there and use computers, is my first thought. My second thought is: The stuff we’re debating that they’ve already got under construction, let’s finish it up! I’ve seen buildings that sit like skeletons for years, like the Fontainebleau on the Strip in Las Vegas. I want to see the stuff, whether we like it or not, developed. The people who spend a lot of time debating whether it should be there or not when the cranes are there, and they’ve got the approvals, and lots of money has been burned up in litigation—I don’t think that helps us at all.

2. Does Palm Springs have a crime problem? If so, what should be done about it?

I don’t really think our crime problem is as bad as people might think. First of all, the demographics of the valley, and the demographics of Palm Springs, don’t really include a lot of the people who are most essential with misbehavior—gangs, and things like that. Those are in larger urban areas. I once owned an apartment building in Los Angeles that had a couple of murders the last year I had it. We just don’t have that kind of stuff here. We do have some tragedies, and … police officers getting attacked, but overall, I think we’re doing pretty well. That’s not to say we don’t need more support of our police department. I go to Los Angeles every couple of weeks to run the Kiwanis Club in Hollywood, and I’ve become friends with Jim McDonnell, who (is) the sheriff of Orange County (Editor’s Note—he’s actually the sheriff of Los Angeles County), since Lee Baca. I have a personal rapport with him. He has 18,000 staff members, the largest police department maybe in the United States. I’d have no problem talking with him about our police problems and needs, and possibly get some of his officers who are shell-shocked with open crime and some of the things we don’t have out here—I’d get us a couple of officers to come out here to the desert. It would be a lot cheaper than getting paid in Los Angeles (because of the) intense tax they have there.

3. What, if anything, should be done about alleged corruption in Palm Springs city government? Be specific.

Out of the eight candidates for mayor, there’s only one who’s been a prosecuting attorney, and that’s me, and that’s another reason you need me at City Hall. Could I be more specific? I think (it is good) to give the councilmen a district. At large, they are not accountable to anybody. They have the same constituency as the mayor. If we had a council divided up into districts, and maybe a fifth or sixth or seventh councilman—we had seven councilmen back in 1938 and what were called wards; they each had their own territory—they would be able to have a strong constituency of their own, apart from the mayor. If Ginny Foat had had her own district, and she’d walked and knocked on everybody’s door, and hosted coffees and mixers and gone to graduations and Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts and Cub Scouts and all that kind of stuff, she would have a strong base of people within her district, and she could hold her own and not be so intimidated as she is by whoever’s mayor. I mean, I bet in five years of them both serving on the council, or how many ever years it’s been that Steve (Pougnet) was mayor, I don’t think she’s ever voted differently than he has on anything. That would not be the case if she’d had her own constituency, as a councilman should have. I was a councilman twice in San Diego, and I had my own constituency in District 8 … .

I’m going to appoint a charter-review commission that’s going to review all these things. … I want term limits. Let’s say you have no term limits. Well, the mayor can say, “Well, I’m going to be here forever, so you’d better do it my way.” 

4. What specific steps will you take to help solve the city’s homelessness issue?

The issue for the homeless is two-fold. One is to see that they have a little bit of assistance in figuring out what their rights are, (that they) don’t have legal council or certain entitlements under state law, or Riverside County—it’s more of a Riverside County problem, because the homeless here are also residents of Riverside County. We should explore that to reach the (Palm Springs homeless population of) 200 people, and as soon as that is done, I want to get them all a one-way bus ticket to Santa Monica, which is sort of the paradise for homeless in the state of California. They have more procedures and benefits and amenities, including a free lunch on Friday at City Hall. … I also want to give them a little bit of cash to motivate them to stay there and not return to Palm Springs. I think this is a win-win situation that will help the homeless and reduce our population of 200 homeless maybe down to a few dozen, because homeless are a great irritation to our tourist population, because (tourists) want to be in a little fantasy land without some of the problems of urban life, and I think we must be more sensitive to being tourist-friendly here.

5. Do you support electing City Council members by district, or do prefer the current at-large system? Why?

That was my answer previously. I think it’s very important that we have a review of whether we should have four councilmen, or five, six or seven, as we had in 1938, when we were chartered as a smaller city. I think it’s very important that these councilmen have a district so they can develop their own political base. … If I have an issue over where I live, over by Vista Chino and Gene Autry, I don’t really have a councilman to go to. I have the mayor, or I have all of the councilmen, since they’re all elected city-wide. Once more, the councilmen don’t even have an office at City Hall, which is astounding. The first thing I’ll do as mayor is require each councilman to pick an hour a week that they’re going to be available, and my offices will become the council office.

6. If you were not running for this office, which of your opponents would get your vote? Why?

We have a number of really good opponents. I think I might vote for Mr. (Guy) Burrows, who’s a physician, and he’s had both a lot of good times and a lot of rough times in his life. I like Mr. (Rob) Moon, but I’m afraid of Mr. Moon, because he’s running for city manager, really. He vows he’s going to be here 30 days a month to run all the problems of the city, when really, we pay the city manager 300-and-some-odd-thousand dollars to do just that. … The mayor’s job is to get out of town a couple of times per month and bring home the bacon. The mayor has to go to where the convention decisions are being made, and in lockstep with our convention officials, make a plea and a pitch to see what we can do to host them. We have to go to the richer people who are doing development and let them know that this is a good place to invest. I’ve met with a lot of celebrities—you know, Canadians, movie stars; I got a street named once for Debbie Reynolds, so I know very well you’ve got to talk to these people about getting a second home in our city. Charlie Ferrell did a lot of that stuff, and so did Frank Bogert when they were mayor. That’s the kind of mayor I want to be—to be the chief cheerleader for the city, more than the mayor. The mayor’s a ceremonial job, to supervise our city manager and see that he does what we want, but we’re not the people who run the city.

7. A dear friend is in town for just one night, and asks you where to go for dinner. Where are you sending this dear friend?

I would take them to Melvyn’s. I would show them the wallpaper up there, which is pictures of all the famous people who Mel Haber has entertained over the years—President Gerald Ford, Bob Hope, you name it. They’re very good, very gracious; the food is outstanding. It’s one of many fine restaurants in our community. And I would tell them I wish they’d bring back the Chart House, which used to be (in Rancho Mirage) off Highway 111, which burned down. But until that happens, we’d have the one night there, and probably go to Elmer’s the next morning, or one of my favorites, Sherman’s.

8. Name one business or service that you wish Palm Springs had (but currently does not have).

I said in my interview that night at the American Legion: I’m going to try to get us a White Castle. … We can always use good restaurants. I guess I might pick some national chain that’s not here, maybe The Prime Rib steakhouse. I go to The Palm a lot, too; that’s another national chain. Maybe we have enough high-end business here that we could put in a bid for that. These are the things the mayor, as cheerleader for city … these are things on his agenda.

9. Which annual Coachella Valley event or festival is your favorite? Why?

Hands down, it has to be Coachella Music Festival. I’m very biased, because my son, Derek Schaefer, has been a leader in that for many, many years. He’s been with AEG Live for about nine years, and he’s a principal at Goldenvoice, which has a lot of interests in the valley. He’s a real professional of music management.

10. If the FBI was about to raid your home or office, which personal item would you grab to make sure it didn't get broken?

I would have my cell phone, which doesn’t contain any secrets; that’s the first thing I would grab. I don’t know that I have anything else that they’d be interested in, except my laptop; these are the ways I communicate with the world as a citizen. I really have nothing to hide. … You’re looking at a little bit of humor. I want you to know before I decided to run for this job, I contacted my friend Shecky Greene, who’s 89, who’s a landmark comedian who made as much as $150,000 a week performing in Las Vegas. I said, “Shecky, you’ve got to come out of retirement and run for mayor.” We’ve had famous mayors before like Charles Farrell and Sonny Bono; I said, “We need Shecky Greene.” I said, “I’d even design your signs. … They’d say, ‘It isn’t easy being Greene,’” courtesy of Kermit the Frog.

Name: J.R. Roberts

Age: 54

Occupation: Planning commissioner/entrepreneur

Interview: In person

1. When you stand at the intersection of Tahquitz Canyon Road and Palm Canyon Drive, and look northwest, what comes to mind?

It’s a mixture of excitement and disappointment. The excitement is that I’m a planning commissioner, so I’ve been fortunate enough to have my hand in what that is, and what it will become, and we have molded it into something that I think’s going to be great. The disappointment comes in that some of the decisions that came about were taken away from the planning commission, and the council took them—specifically, the three story building that sort of hangs over directly on Palm Canyon. In that building, we had actually approved the one-story restoration of an existing building. In fact, if you drive down that street, there are renderings on the fence, and if you look at the rendering with the Hyatt, you’ll see what we actually approved. So again, a mix of joy, a mix of disappointment. Overall, I think it’s going to be really good for us. A lot of people are upset about tall buildings coming to town, and I understand that. They see it as a threat to our village character. The village character is the thing I want to preserve the most, and I think that a few tall buildings won’t hurt that. But one of my goals on the City Council is to cap the height in the future, maybe to three stories, for anything that comes before us. Again, a few tall buildings are good; a lot of tall buildings, we become Wilshire Boulevard or Las Vegas.

2. Does Palm Springs have a crime problem? If so, what should be done about it?

Most definitely. Crime is up 30 percent, according to our police association, and that has to do with a number of factors, including the fact that the state released a lot of inmates early, and shifted a lot of inmates to local jurisdictions.

The saddest part of all this is our police department is budgeted for nine more sworn officers, but as many people know—it was just in The Desert Sun last week—they are having recruiting problems, and as the police association told me, it has to do with not a lot of people wanting to come work in 120 degrees in a dark blue uniform. So my goal is to see what I can do to make Palm Springs more appealing for new recruits and for the quality of officer that our police are looking for. Oh, and I want to see more biking and walking patrols. I think that is really important as well.

3. What, if anything, should be done about alleged corruption in Palm Springs city government? Be specific.

One thing is that we need new people there. The best way I know to deal with some of that is to bring in some fresh faces, and bring in some new thinking and new leadership. We’ve got to regain the public trust that was lost with this, and it’s one of the reasons I’m running. I can’t think of a better answer. Transparency—you’ll hear that word bandied around. The bottom line is, I think some decisions were made by our current council members that weren’t in the best public interest—specifically, selling our public lands at hugely discounted prices to developer interests. We’ve got to stop that once and for all. Those kinds of decisions need to be more public, and the sale of public lands needs to be a very public process.

4. What specific steps will you take to help solve the city’s homelessness issue?

I’m really excited about that. Just last week, I think it was, I spent a half day with Arlene Rosenthal, who heads up Well in the Desert, and talked to her about an idea I had to try to create some sort of a processing center to bring people in from the street, with the first goal of getting rapid rehousing—in other words, getting a roof over their heads, and then finding the next best path for them, which could be anything—balancing their medications, dealing with substance abuse, dealing with mental issues—and seeing if we can get them back to an everyday life like ours. Arlene already has some great successes. She’s already got a few houses up and running, and what makes her so remarkable is that everybody that she works with was formerly homeless. I see revenue opportunities, not only with development fees, but potentially with the Desert Healthcare District, if they’ll get involved with us on a very specific project. I could go on and on about this, but regardless of whether I win the City Council seat or not, I’ve committed to working with Arlene to work on this problem. The days of shuttling homeless people from one end of the city to the other has got to end. It’s not working for anybody, and especially not them. 

5. Do you support electing City Council members by district, or do prefer the current at-large system? Why?

When you have an honest, focused City Council, I think our current system works. I don’t really think we are big enough for districts, and I don’t think it would be a big improvement. I think it would be a lot more work and a lot more expense. If one day, we, as a community, come together and think that will be more beneficial for it, I’m very open to it, but right now, I don’t think it’s necessary.

6. If you were not running for this office, which of your two opponents would get your vote? Why?

I think I’m going to name one: Geoff Kors would get my vote. Although he doesn’t have the experience that I have in local municipal governance, I think he’s very smart. I think he comes with experience at the state level and the county level that will be valuable. I think having an attorney on the City Council will be good. We all bring different skills, and I think that Geoff will bring a great skill set with him, and he’s a likable person. I trust him, and I like him.

7. A dear friend is in town for just one night, and asks you where to go for dinner. Where are you sending this dear friend?

Oh my God, I have like three favorite restaurants. I would send them for cocktails to Spencer’s, maybe, and then I would send them to dinner at Jake’s. I just love their food. I think that for a true Palm Springs experience with excellent food, Jake’s just is unique.

8. Name one business or service that you wish Palm Springs had (but currently does not have).

Whole Foods. I just love the quality, particularly of their meats and produce, and I think that we lack an innovative and interesting deli department. I just love the variety of healthy foods that they offer.

9. Which annual Coachella Valley event or festival is your favorite? Why?

I have to say Modernism Week, because it’s something that I’ve been involved in from the very beginning. I think that it builds on and preserves our very unique brand here in Palm Springs, and what could be better than having 50,000 people show up to your city just to adore your city, without any extra music or special things that had to be brought in? In other words, they simply come to adore our city, and leave all their dollars behind.

10. If the FBI was about to raid your home or office, which personal item would you grab to make sure it didn't get broken?

My dog, Moose. I think he’d be terrified in something like that, and I’d want to ensure that he wasn’t. I want to protect him from that.

Name: Ron Oden

Age: 65

Occupation: Nonprofit executive/former mayor

Interview: In person

1. When you stand at the intersection of Tahquitz Canyon Road and Palm Canyon Drive, and look northwest, what comes to mind?

The future, and that future involves change. Those decisions have already been made, so it’s a matter of adjusting to the new normal. That’s looking at the physical development, but there’s a whole other level, I think, that represents the gap between the future and the past, and how we adapt to that emotionally is going to really be the challenge. You know? And I think that’s where leadership is going to really step in, is to work and bridge that gap between the past and the future and pull the people together, because that’s what it’s going to take. It doesn’t matter how successful that development may be. The city itself, currently, is disjointed and divided, and I can provide the means. That’s one of the things that I bring to the table is that I can bring disparate groups together; I’m a unifier. I’m not a person who polarizes people, and that’s what our city currently needs, is someone to pull them together.

2. Does Palm Springs have a crime problem? If so, what should be done about it?

Of course we have a crime problem. Anytime you have people, you’re going to have crime. When the economy is down, you have a disproportionate amount of property crimes, and that’s where we are. And we’re down in terms of our police department, and I think it’ll be real important to get that up as soon as possible—but it’s not just hiring police and filling slots. We’ve paid a high price for quality officers, and the fact is, you’re either going to pay in terms of lawsuits by having low-quality officers, or you’re going to pay higher dividends in terms of salary to have competent people. If we’ve erred, we’ve erred on the side of caution by making sure that we have competent people. When you consider the number of people that we deal with on a regular basis, our lawsuits and things are quite low. So having more police officers.

3. What, if anything, should be done about alleged corruption in Palm Springs city government? Be specific.

People are saying, “Let’s have a new committee to look at things and examine things and post things.” Corruption is the exception. It is not the norm. What we need to do is to hire people who we have trust and confidence in. There were things that people saw, I think, along the way that made them uncomfortable, but they didn’t speak up. I think that cities, like families, go through learning experiences, and you learn from those things: “Well, OK, we can’t let those things happen again.” I think the citizens are going to be much more watchful than they’ve ever been before, and I think the leadership needs to encourage that, and to encourage their voices.

4. What specific steps will you take to help solve the city’s homelessness issue?

We have lots of organizations currently that are throwing money at this issue—money, time, effort and energy. What I’d like to do is call for a summit … These are some of the organizations: We need V.A.L.O.R. out of Riverside County, which is Veteran’s Assistance Leadership of Riverside. We need Veterans Affairs; we need the city of Palm Springs; we need the tribe; we need the county; and we need Riverside County mental health; we need their homeless task force; we need Roy’s here. Those are just a few organizations that are currently spending money on this issue. … We know what we are currently accomplishing. What do we really want to see, and how do we make it happen? (We need to pull) all of those groups together in a different way … and, of course, the police force, the police force and fire. Oh, and Dessert Regional. We don’t have any mental-health facilities here, and that’s huge. When you look at mental health, and when you look at drug and alcohol problems among the homeless, and crime, they are all related. We have the opportunity, I think, to do this differently, and I look forward to addressing it.

I talked to someone recently. This guy comes home. There’s someone bathing in his pool and defecating in his yard. People who go on their normal evening strolls are accosted by homeless people. They feel threatened; they feel violated; and they feel unheard by the city. Those are some things that we have to immediately address, and let our citizens know: “Look, you’re paying your taxes in your city. You are a resident, and we will hear you.” Nine times out of 10, people at least want to know that someone is listening. They will get that under my administration. No question. But we’ll go a step further and really try to pull the resources together to address these concerns. Now we’re looking at two different levels. Some people are saying: What are we going to do for them? And others are saying: What are we going to do about them? So we’ve got two things to look at, and some … they only care about one; some people care about both.

5. Do you support electing City Council members by district, or do prefer the current at-large system? Why?

I support the at-large system, and here’s why. Districts … that was an issue that was addressed because of racial disparity. We don’t have that issue in this city. I’d hate to see us become a city that’s divided, one district against another district for resources and revenues. We are one city. So I’d like to believe that we can elect a kind of people that our citizens have confidence in, who will represent the entire city. For example, when I was a council member, the city (effectively) stopped at Alejo. It was under my initiative that the whole arts and antiques district, and what’s happened in north Palm Springs, happened, because we had traditionally put all our resources into downtown. … Our resources focused from Ramon to Alejo … but at the same time, south Palm Springs was booming—well, not booming, but it wasn’t struggling as it is now. Once Magruder (Chevrolet) went down, that changed the dynamic of that entire area. Now that’s another area that needs to see our resources. Of course, our downtown is our meal ticket, but it can’t be our only focus. I don’t care how well we’re doing. It can’t be the only one.

6. If you were not running for this office, which of your opponents would get your vote? Why?

Now that’s a really difficult question, because that’s why I’m running—because I didn’t see anyone who could address the concerns that I have for the city. So I’m in a unique position, because I’m the only person running among the mayoral candidates who really knows what it’s about, and who has actually done the job. … In all honestly, if Paul Lewin had not pulled out of the (mayor’s) race, if he had stayed in, I might not have been doing this.

7. A dear friend is in town for just one night, and asks you where to go for dinner. Where are you sending this dear friend?

Well that certainly depends. There are a couple of things that depends on: how many people, their budget and what they want to eat. Palm Springs is so eclectic, and has so many wonderful restaurants; those are the things I would base it on. If it’s high-end—now, I’ve not been to the new Eight4Nine, but it’s new and trendy, and I know the owner; I would certainly stop there, but Spencer’s is always a place. Le Vallauris. LG’s is a great place, and the Chop House. But it’s not just the food. … If it’s ambiance, too, you have to say Melvin’s. Melvin’s is traditional; it’s older, but it says Palm Springs.

8. Name one business or service that you wish Palm Springs had (but currently does not have).

I’m a clothes horse. (Palm Springs has) a couple of places that I really like, but, of course, you don’t want to see yourself every time you go out, you know? I would say men’s clothing.

9. Which annual Coachella Valley event or festival is your favorite? Why?

I love the Festival of Lights Parade that (former Mayor) Will Kleindienst started. I love that event. I love the gay pride parade, but I really look forward to the Veterans Day parade. I think every American needs a jolt of patriotism at least once a year, and that gives me my jolt. That’s one of the things I miss about the Follies. I would go to the Follies at least one a year, because their finale always had that patriotic moment—standing there, saluting the flag with tears streaming down your cheeks. Those moments make you so thankful.

10. If the FBI was about to raid your home or office, which personal item would you grab to make sure it didn’t get broken?

All the things that are important to me are here. (Oden holds his hand over his heart.) One of the things I’ve learned since I’ve been in office is the true value of all of my relationships, my purpose, my mission. I don’t have to worry about anyone ever taking or breaking those things.

Name: Anna Nevenic

Age: 66

Occupation: Registered nurse

Interview done: Phone

1. When you stand at the intersection of Tahquitz Canyon Road and Palm Canyon Drive, and look northwest, what comes to mind?

Well, what really comes to my mind is that (the mall) was standing there for 10 years, and Wessman got lots of tax breaks, and the city lost lots of money because of that. It’s already all planned, and there’s nothing we can do to change. The only thing we have to do for the future project (is make sure) that everything is done right in a timely manner, and that everybody is informed (about) what is going to be there. (We need) more transparency about every project that we do, because at the moment, there is no transparency; people just hear it after the fact.

2. Does Palm Springs have a crime problem? If so, what should be done about it?

We need definitely more police officers, so they can police all the neighborhoods, not just a limited few. We have to get better relations (between) the police and the community as well, and I would think we should have some more citizen patrols. That would help a lot, so there would be a visibility, and people don’t not know if they are police or not, so that would encourage people to volunteer. … You know, the homeless people are not really creating crimes. I talk with them every day. There are too many mentally ill people just begging, basically for money, but they do not commit crimes.

3. What, if anything, should be done about alleged corruption in Palm Springs city government? Be specific.

Transparency is needed. … Many cities are experiencing these issues, and right now, so many of them are forming the ethics task force committees, because it is really a problem everywhere. Without transparency, nothing can be done. We have to have more public forms, to inform the public about the things that are going on. … Whatever is happening, people are in the dark; they have no idea, and that is very wrong.

They have, at the same time, to know what their limits are, the scope of their job, because you can not be a consultant at the same time you are a City Council (member). … Some of the City Council (members) were hired as consultants. You have to be a lobbyist for that; you have to be a registered lobbyist. They have to know their boundaries, but unfortunately, they don’t communicate with each other. So if you’re recusing yourself from something, they should ask questions: Why are you recusing? What are the reasons for that? What is your relation? But they don’t ask any questions, they just go, “Oh I’m recusing myself.” … Palm Springs (officials have) to learn their lesson, that something like that is going to be discovered one way or the other, and that brings a bad image to our city. Many people are very unhappy, and that’s not good for our city to have such an image. It can be changed.

4. What specific steps will you take to help solve the city’s homelessness issue?

I am a registered nurse. Every city has problems. Many cities are so huge, and they have 20,000-30,000 (homeless) people, but we don’t. We have a small population. We have animal services, and we have (people) crying for animals, which is good, but nobody is really crying for the homeless people. We have to have a big shelter, where they can get (what) they need, and where they can get social services. I would get volunteer nurses and social workers so we can provide them the help they need, and provide them the job training, because some of them have skills. You see, every day, I’m downtown. I talk to them. I sent three or four people to the emergency room, because I saw they were confused and dehydrated, and they don’t have a place to leave their carts, and many of them don’t go to sleep in a shelter, because they don’t allow you (to take) the carts. You cannot go on the bus with the carts, and that’s all that they have in the cart—all of their belongings. It is doable to have a big shelter, because some of them have Social Security; some of them could have disability—and they are isolated. They don’t know how to get help. Some of them have Parkinson’s disease, and they are 60 years old. … Many of them are on their own with nobody to talk to. A couple of them may be there together, but many of them never talk to anybody, unless you sit there with them and see the story.

So this is what I will do immediately: It would take me two months to find a place for a big shelter where … all will be there. They will have TV like normal people do, (and we will) provide all the services at one place. Nurses could come. Some of them have wounds, and they end up in the hospital for a week with infections, and the hospital is losing lots of money because … most of them don’t have insurance. So everybody would win in that situation. The homeless people would win; the hospitals would have less cost; and the community (would win), because it’s very sad to watch it. Nobody’s happy. The community not happy; the business community is not happy, because you don’t want to smell urine everywhere you go, which we do downtown. You don’t blame the homeless, because there is no place for them to go.

5. Do you support electing City Council members by district, or do prefer the current at-large system? Why?

I’m kind of ambivalent, to be honest. Maybe it is better by district. It probably is, because you would have more equal representation. Because of the moment, most people (on the council) live in Las Palmas or (or other select few neighborhoods). (I’d also like to make the elections) in even years, as opposed to the odd years, when so few people vote anyway. That will save money, too, if we do it in the even years.

6. If you were not running for this office, which of your two opponents would get your vote? Why?

Do I have to answer that? I don’t think I can say that, you know. That’s not so good for me to say who I’m voting for when I’m running.

7. A dear friend is in town for just one night, and asks you where to go for dinner. Where are you sending this dear friend?

I will send them to some place in Palm Springs. I am not making any preference. I would ask them what kind of food they like. Is it Asian, or is it steak, or is it depending on that? But I would make sure that they come to Palm Springs, and not go to other towns.

8. Name one business or service that you wish Palm Springs had (but currently does not have).

I plan to bring the high-tech industry here. If I have a little power, I would go to Silicon Valley and talk to these young social-media entrepreneurs. ... Los Angeles is very expensive. They have created a half-million jobs in two years in L.A. in the high-tech industry, but the housing is very expensive, the rent is very expensive—and we are ideal for that. If we bring a couple thousand high-tech jobs, the people who are paid good wages, they will be able to go to restaurants, because young people love to go out. This is what I’d want to bring. That’s the reason I’m running.

9. Which annual Coachella Valley event or festival is your favorite? Why?

The Palm Springs (International) Film Festival is my favorite, because I like that people from all walks of life come, because everybody likes movies, and it’s multicultural … and it’s a very quiet event at the same time. It doesn’t bring any disturbance. This is, for me, (important), because I’m an older person, I guess. … I think that the music fest is good, too, but that’s mostly for the young people. I’m glad they have that, but my favorite is the film fest.

10. If the FBI was about to raid your home or office, which personal item would you grab to make sure it didn't get broken?

I wouldn’t grab anything, because I have nothing to hide. They could search whatever they want. I wouldn’t grab anything, really.

Name: Rob Moon

Age: 65

Occupation: Retired military officer/businessman

Interview: In person

1. When you stand at the intersection of Tahquitz Canyon Road and Palm Canyon Drive, and look northwest, what comes to mind?

Overbuilt. The building that’s going up next to the Hyatt—to be technical, it’s on block A-1—is way too big. It’s way too close to the sidewalk. It’s too massive. It’s too tall. It is not in the spirit and feel and vibe of Palm Springs. That was supposed to be 16 feet high, and the building that was there originally was supposed to stay. That adjoined the Hyatt, and it was going to be pop-up shops, similar to Raymond | Lawrence, which is really popular. On my walks, I like to go in there and walk around and see all the cool little entrepreneurial shops, which is ideal for downtown Palm Springs. That’s what it’s supposed to be, but John Wessman, the developer, Wessman development, went back to the City Council and said he changed his mind, and he wanted to do retail in that space, and the ceiling wasn’t high enough, so he wanted to do a remodel. So his remodel consisted of ripping down the original 16-foot-high building and building a three-story-high building that’s actually five or six stories high, so that was a bait and switch, and that’s not what was presented to the residents of Palm Springs during the town hall three years ago; that was not a part of the general plan for the downtown museum project, and it’s totally inappropriate … .

One thing about being older is you learn there are some things you have to live with, and you focus on what you can affect. I’m right now very much against his proposal, which is going before the Planning Commission, to build a seven-story, 85-foot hotel right in the middle of the downtown project on block B-1. I’m absolutely opposed to that. That was not part of the original plan. I stood in the City Council three years ago and strongly endorsed the downtown museum project. I strongly endorsed the Kimpton Hotel, and I strongly endorsed what had been presented to the residents of Palm Springs. However, that has changed. … I’m pro-development. I’m pro-growth. However, what they’re doing now is not what the residents of Palm Springs wanted, and what we were sold.

2. Does Palm Springs have a crime problem? If so, what should be done about it?

Yes. The crime problem in Palm Springs—all of the information is not being given to the residents of Palm Springs on the actual, overall crime statistics. I’ve seen the crime statistics, and I’ve asked for a copy of them, and crime is up significantly in the last year. Significantly. I don’t want to quote a figure, but it’s up a lot. Unfortunately, the number of police officer we have is also down. The number that the city gives officially is that we’re short nine police officers; that’s not true. There are also four that we’re short, but we have a couple people coming out of the police academy, and a couple people who have been offered lateral (moves) from other police departments; we’ve offered them jobs, but they haven’t accepted yet. So we’re actually 13 short. … Plus we have several police officers who are coming up for retirement here very shortly, and this is an unacceptable situation, because our crime rates are going up, and the number of police we have available is going down. Also, we should have 42 police on patrol, and we’re running about 24, so we’re barely over half the number of police who should be on patrol. It’s a serious, serious problem, and we need to sit down and address this in a very serious way.

If you look at Palm Springs, the population is 46,400, or something like that. But it’s not. The population of Palm Springs, because of our tourism industry, is probably usually at least 100,000 and up to a quarter of a million. We need to have a police force that is able to handle this, and the City Council tells us things that are misleading. At the last City Council meeting, Councilmember (Ginny) Foat stood up there and said, “Oh, some people are saying that we’re using police officers to run prisoners to (get booked at the jail in) Banning, and that’s not true. We have contract (retired) police officers to do that.” That’s a complete fabrication. She did not tell the truth. She told part of the truth. Yes, we have two people who are hired, who are not police officers, who work 30 to 40 hours a week each, who are used to run prisoners to Banning. However, they are not available all the time. That’s only a proportion of what’s required to get the prisoners there, particularly on a busy weekend when we have a lot of tourists here, and people are arrested for drunk and disorderly, etc. What happens is the police officers have to run them to Banning, which (presents) several problems. One: When they go to Banning, they get outside of radio range, which means they cannot be called, even if there’s an emergency here. Secondly, particularly the drunk and disorderly people, they have a tendency to, shall we say, soil the back seats of the police cars, and when they do that, the police have to come back and swap into another car, and those cars have to go offline until they can be sanitized and cleaned and prepared to be used again. So it causes a problem with the number of police cars and the number of police officers. And Ms. Foat sat up there and told the residents of Palm Springs a lie … .

She also said it would cost millions of dollars to reopen the jail. That is not true. The jail—I’ve taken a tour of it, not long ago—we already spend half a million dollars a year maintaining it, not even using it, and what we need to do is look at a cost-benefit analysis of that jail. To sit up there and say, “Oh, it would cost millions of dollars, and it’s not worth it,” is the way the City Council operates now. They just pull things out of the air. If they were real business people, they’d do what’s called a cost-benefit analysis, and they would look at it, and they would sit with the police, and sit with the CFO for the city, and they would work out what it would cost, and what the benefits would be. How much money is it costing us to use police officers and contract people to run prisoners to Banning? How much does it cost us to run vehicles back and forth to Banning? Also, there’s a way—and we did this before—where we could use space in that jail (and we) can actually charge the federal government, and other local governments, for us to hold their prisoners there, so we can make it an operation that is cost-effective. We just need to look at it and see how to do it.

3. What, if anything, should be done about alleged corruption in Palm Springs city government? Be specific.

It’s alleged. There’s a lot in the media about it, and all I know is what I read in the media. However, it’s very true that in a relationship, whether it’s a personal relationship, a business relationship or a government relationship, once trust has been lost or has been compromised, it is extremely difficult to get it back or repair it, if not impossible. That’s why I really feel because of the lack of trust and confidence in the integrity of certain members of our City Council, including the mayor, we need fresh blood and fresh perspective in City Hall, particularly people whose integrity cannot be questioned. I use as an example my 40 years of (a) professional career, 22 years as a Naval officer and 17 years as a corporate executive. My reputation, my history, is spotless. Those are two professions—military officer and corporate executive—where you’re under a microscope. You’re watched closely. My career is very well-documented. That’s not something I can just say. People Google me.… I was very highly decorated senior officer, and if you go to my website, you can read the citations for medals that I won, and if you Google my career, you can find all kinds of magazine articles about my career. My life is an open book.

4. What specific steps will you take to help solve the city’s homelessness issue?

Right now, we have a task force, and this task force, I’m sure, after the election is over, will quietly fade away. It’s not something that’s going to be effective, because it’s temporary. The homeless situation is a permanent problem, a permanent challenge, and it needs to be addressed in a permanent way. I’ve said since Day 1, over six months ago when I first kicked off the campaign: We need a permanent commission, comprised of probably nine, like the Sustainability Commission, residents of Palm Springs who have a passion and knowledge (of) and concern for the homeless situation and for social services, to look at this on an ongoing basis, to study what other cities are doing and come up with some innovative ideas … and bring them to the city and the City Council and the mayor. I don’t pretend to be an expert in social services; I’m not. However, there are people in the city who are, and I learned in the military and in the corporate world: When you have a problem, you put together people who are really experts in that field, and you let them do their job, and you listen to them, which is what we need to do.

Also, we need to hire a permanent person on staff who is a specialist in social services and in homelessness. We have somebody on the city staff now, Michele Mician, who’s our sustainability manager, and she does an excellent job of bringing ideas to the City Council and the Sustainability Commission on how to address sustainability issues. We need to do this with the homeless issue.

We need to go out to the county, the state and the federal government and ask for grants. We currently have no requests out there for grants, and there’s plenty of money in the federal government for this. Also, one out of five of the homeless people out there, from my reading, are veterans, and we need to find these homeless people who are veterans and put them in touch with existing programs to help our homeless veterans. There is money in the federal government to do that, and we need to get that. Also, on this permanent, permanent homeless commission which I want to establish, I would ask the tribe to provide at least two or three seats on that commission, because the homeless issue is something that’s a concern of the Native Americans in Palm Springs … as well as to the city of Palm Springs. I would like to see this as a joint effort between the tribe, and the city of Palm Springs, and the residents of Palm Springs, and the members of the tribe, to find some solutions to this problem, because the homeless problem is getting worse and worse. It’s threatening our neighborhoods; it’s threatening our downtown. It’s threatening our primary industry, which is tourism. I’ve seen tourists virtually chased away from in front of restaurants where they were looking at the menus to go inside, and homeless people come up to them, and they grab their kids and they go down the street, because they’re intimidated. We cannot have this. The first thing you have to do with homeless people is get a roof over their heads—get them in a place where we can help them, where we can get them the resources they need. This is also a very difficult problem which has to be handled carefully. I would work hand in hand with this commission I want to establish. I want to be involved in it, and I want to … meet with them frequently and hear what they’re coming up with, their ideas and their solutions, because one thing you don’t want to have is an unintended consequence of making our city too attractive, where people go, “Oh, Palm Springs is the place to go if you’re homeless, because they have all these wonderful programs. We need to make sure that these are programs where homeless people can help themselves, where we’re not just giving things away to them.

5. Do you support electing City Council members by district, or do prefer the current at-large system? Why?

Absolutely (by district). It’s on my website. The city charter says we would have four City Council members and a mayor. One of the first things I want to do is convene an ad hoc committee—this is what ad hoc committees are for, a one-time look at something, not something like homelessness—with a couple City Council members and some residents to look at our 1994 charter, and look again at a couple of issues. One is, I would like to see six City Council members plus one mayor, because there’s a lot going on in the city, and right now, because of the Brown Act, if you have an ad hoc committee of City Council members, you can’t have more than two, because three is a majority. So if we had seven on the City Council—six council members and a mayor—we could have ad hoc committees of three, and we could have more ad hoc committees, so more work can get done. When I was chairman of the Measure J Commission, that’s how we got our work done, was ad hoc committees … .

I would hope that this task force would look at whether we need four, five or six districts in Palm Springs. We’d have to look at the best way to do this, to be careful we don’t gerrymander it, to make it fair, and perhaps one of these seats would be at large. That’s what some cities do. Perhaps each one, perhaps they should all  … the jury’s out on that. I’d like to see what would be recommended. But people in Desert Highlands, north Palm Springs, Four Seasons, even in south Palm Springs—they’re not being represented, and if we did this, we would have representation of all the people in Palm Springs. Palm Springs is 46,000 people; Palm Springs is not a small section of Palm Canyon Drive and a few wealthy developers and a few powerful businesspeople.

Also, I think we should have term limits. One, there are term limits on every board and commission in the city except the City Council. It’s sort of like Congress, when they exempt themselves from law. The City Council has exempted themselves from the term limits they require for every other board and commission. We need to have term limits, because if you’re in office too long, I don’t care who you are, I think there’s too much temptation to become a little too cozy with the rich and powerful, and we have to stop that. Also, if someone’s been in City Council for 12, 16 years, it makes it virtually impossible for anyone unseat them, because they’ve got all these relationships built, and they can get large amounts of donations from wealthy and powerful individuals, which someone challenging them cannot do. That’s the problem I’ve had. My incumbent is getting large checks from Harold Matzner and other people who have vested interests in what happens on the City Council. They don’t want to see me come in, because I won’t do that.

Third, I think we should have maximum contributions to people who are running for mayor and City Council. Right now, if you were going to support a presidential candidate or a congressional candidate, or virtually any office but City Council or mayor, you’re limited. … However, in city government, if one individual wants to write a check for $100,000 to a candidate running for office, it’s legal, and they can do it. What’s really terrible is if a person or a business writes a check to a candidate for $100,000, and that (candidate) wins, as soon as that candidate’s seated, they have no recusal requirements for those campaign contributions. That is just a rich environment for influence-peddling, and it needs to be stopped. Also, I would like to see us put a spending cap on campaigns, because people who do have the ear of the rich and powerful, with these unlimited contributions, you have to raise $200,000, or $250,000 to run a campaign in Palm Springs. We need to put a limitation, maybe $50,000, $60,000 for a campaign, and let the person who can manage their money the best get the most bang for their buck.

6. If you were not running for this office, which of your opponents would get your vote? Why?

I’m sorry, but there’s not another candidate running who I would support. One candidate who I would have perhaps looked at very closely and supported was Michael Birnberg, who dropped out.

7. A dear friend is in town for just one night, and asks you where to go for dinner. Where are you sending this dear friend?

The opportunities in Palm Springs are virtually limitless. I usually send people to Lulu. The reason for that is because it’s fun; it’s very Palm Springs; it’s got that wonderful mid-century vibe; and it’s right in the middle of downtown. The food is good; the drinks are good; the happy hour goes until closing, and it’s just a fun place to go. It’s not real serious dining. If they want to go out for serious dining, really good food, I’d probably send them to Eight4Nine or Spencer’s. But one night in Palm Springs, and I’ve done this quite a few times, it’s normally Lulu, because it’s fun; it’s Palm Springs; it’s mid-century modern; it’s bright; it’s cheerful; it’s colorful. And the waiters are cute. Jerry Keller says he knows his audience. Oh, one other place, if they really wanted good food, is Zin. Zin has really excellent food.

8. Name one business or service that you wish Palm Springs had (but currently does not have).

One thing I’ve been pushing for is, I’m a retired (information technology) executive. I know the IT world. I know people like Larry Ellison pretty well. Right now, in Palm Springs, our one and only industry, really, is tourism. I would like to see us encourage high-tech businesses, high-tech companies, to open branch offices in Palm Springs. I know, because of experience, that the young people who make good money and are in that field, they like the kind of lifestyle we offer in Palm Springs, and it really doesn’t matter where they work. We can encourage these companies to have their people come to Palm Springs. We have plenty of room around here to build condo-type office space. These young people, these programmers, they don’t use an office on a daily basis. They work from home. However, they need a place where they can go occasionally and work as a team, so to build some quote “condo offices” unquote for high-tech companies here in Palm Springs would be a real shot in the arm, and it would give us young people who have good incomes and are well-educated. They like to go out to eat; they like to go out and enjoy the kind of things we have in Palm Springs. They like the bicycle; they like to hike; it would be ideal for them. And also, if they need to go to San Francisco or Dallas, to where their corporation is, they can jump on a plane and be there in a very short time.

I am going to start, at the very beginning, and reach out to the people I know in the high-tech world, and start encouraging this. When I was an IT executive, I had staff on four continents. I had people in India working; I had people in South America working; I had people in remote cities working, so it would be ideal for Palm Springs.

9. Which annual Coachella Valley event or festival is your favorite? Why?

Opera in the Park. It’s in Palm Springs; it is hugely popular. I think this year, there were like 3,000 people there. It provides an introduction to culture to young people, and it’s free! It’s free, and it’s not provided by the city. The Palm Springs Opera Guild (of the Desert)—full disclosure: I’m on the board of the Palm Springs Opera Guild—raises money through their annual fundraising, etc., to put this on. The Palm Springs Opera Guild also provides an annual program for bringing opera in to all of the schools in Palm Springs and the Coachella Valley. We have plenty of rock music and stuff going on out in Coachella, but having a classical venue like this, a beautiful event on a Sunday afternoon, in beautiful Palm Springs, in one of our parks, that is free and open to the public, is absolutely wonderful.

10. If the FBI was about to raid your home or office, which personal item would you grab to make sure it didn't get broken?

It would probably be one of my art pieces. I have a 15th century Ming Dynasty piece of porcelain which I purchased 35 years ago when I was in the Navy that’s very important to me. I would probably grab that, because I wouldn’t want this 15th century piece of porcelain broken.