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27 Sep 2015

Candidate Q&A: Palm Springs Mayoral Candidate Bob Weinstein

Written by 
Bob Weinstein. Bob Weinstein.

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.

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