CVIndependent

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Last updateFri, 16 Sep 2016 12pm

Two years ago this month, a couple hundred people—Independent contributors, friends, advertisers and readers—gathered at Clinic Bar and Lounge in Palm Springs to celebrate the launch of our monthly print edition, and the one-year anniversary of CVIndependent.com.

Well, a lot has happened regarding the Independent in the 24 months since then. First and foremost, we’ve managed to keep going, distributing 24 quality print editions and publishing at least three pieces every weekday at CVIndependent.com. We launched our Independent Market, which has delighted readers and advertisers alike by bringing them together with half-price gift certificates. We won a national journalism award. We launched our Supporters of the Independent program. And most gratifyingly, we’ve gained a lot of readers and fans.

I think it’s time to celebrate again, yes?

Join the Independent staff and contributors from 6 to 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 16, at Chill Bar, 217 E. Arenas Road in Palm Springs, for our Third Anniversary Party. There will be fantastic music, drink specials, door prizes and all sorts of other great stuff. You can also learn more about the Independent’s programs, including the Independent Market, the Supporters of the Independent, and the Independent’s new CV Job Center website, which we just launched.

Also, a tip: If you come up to me and say, “Hi, the Independent rocks!” I may just give you a card for a free drink.

One other thing we’ll be celebrating that night: The completion of the biggest journalism project the Independent has ever tackled.

In mid-September, I set up interviews with all 14 of the candidates for Palm Springs mayor and City Council; Brian Blueskye did the same thing with eight of the nine Desert Hot Springs candidates. (One DHS City Council candidate refused to respond to numerous messages from Brian.)

I asked all of the Palm Springs candidates a set of 10 questions; Brian asked all the DHS candidates a set of 10 questions. We let the candidates answer. We typed up those answers—and you can find the results at CVIndependent.com.

As always, thanks for reading. See you at Chill on Oct. 16!

Published in Editor's Note

It was a simple, four-step exercise:

1. We came up with a list of 10 questions—five serious, issue-based questions, and five questions that are a little more light-hearted—to ask all of the candidates for city office.

2. We set up interviews with all of the candidates.

3. We asked the candidates the 10 questions.

That’s exactly what Palm Springs resident Jimmy Boegle did over the last couple of weeks. He interviewed every one of the 14 Palm Springs candidates—eight mayoral candidates, and six City Council candidates.

Now, comes the last step.

4. Report the answers to those 10 questions.

Here’s what all of the candidates have to say. We only made minor edits on the candidates’ answers for grammar and style; in some cases, we also edited out redundancies. Finally, in some instances, we did not include portions of candidates’ answers if they went completely off-topic.

Welcome to Candidate Q&A.

Candidate Q&A: Palm Springs Mayoral Candidate Guy T. Burrows

Candidate Q&A: Palm Springs Mayoral Candidate Robert “Rob” Moon

Candidate Q&A: Palm Springs Mayoral Candidate Ricky B. Wright

Candidate Q&A: Palm Springs Mayoral Candidate Bob Weinstein

Candidate Q&A: Palm Springs Mayoral Candidate Ginny Foat

Candidate Q&A: Palm Springs Mayoral Candidate Bill Gunasti

Candidate Q&A: Palm Springs Mayoral Candidate Mike Schaefer

Candidate Q&A: Palm Springs Mayoral Candidate Ron Oden

Candidate Q&A: Palm Springs City Council Candidate Anna Nevenic

Candidate Q&A: Palm Springs City Council Candidate Paul Lewin

Candidate Q&A: Palm Springs City Council Candidate David Brown

Candidate Q&A: Palm Springs City Council Candidate J.R. Roberts

Candidate Q&A: Palm Springs City Council Candidate Jim King

Candidate Q&A: Palm Springs City Council Candidate Geoff Kors

Published in Politics

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.

Published in Politics

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.

Published in Politics

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.

Published in Politics

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.

Published in Politics

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.

Published in Politics

Name: Erbil “Bill” Gunasti

Age: 57

Occupation: Executive producer

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?

Well, any development is a good development. We need investment in Palm Springs, and we need investment throughout the valley. So Wessman, it’s good that the Wessman project took place, but the only thing is that it took 14 years or 15 years, or however long it took; it took too long. I put the blame on whoever was in charge for the past 10 years. If a certain number of people, and in particular the councilwoman who is running for mayor now, and she claims that she has been here, whatever, 10 years or so … in that time, is this the only project you can do?

In a city like Palm Springs, next to Hollywood—this is an American brand. America is a brand; Hollywood is a brand; Palm Springs next to it is a brand. Is this what you were able to do? Are you able to only manage to manage or build or operate, administer, three blocks of Palm Springs? After all, (there are) 47,000 people living in it. It is, what, two miles long? Three miles long? This is a very small town. You couldn’t build a university which you were supposed to build next to Mountain Gate, and you couldn’t build a hospital on the south end so there wouldn’t be any homeless or there would be some amount of economic activity? All you built is The Wessman project, and even that Wessman project is negotiated in such a way that Wessman doesn’t have to put up a model—a $40,000 model? … Wessman doesn’t have a clause that he has to do a $40,000 budget to show me where the palm tree will be, where the offices (will be)? I say nothing to Wessman—kudos! He deserves everything. He negotiated one (good) contract. Like Donald Trump says, he negotiated the best contract against people who don’t have the capacity to negotiate anything. This shows what their capacity is. … They are dealing with the three blocks only, and even that is not handled properly for interest of the citizens—simple as that. There’s nothing else. ... Maybe there should have been 10 other clauses that will ensure that the project is (completed in) the best way possible. So it is good for the city—anything is good—but on the other hand, how shortchanged were the Palm Springs residents in this contract? I’m sure we will find 10 different things that have got to change.

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

Because of the complaints, there is a crime problem, and one of the elements of the crime problem is homeless people, and again, we are back to the city councilwoman who is running for mayor now, Ginny Foat. Whenever there is a question on this issue, she proudly says, “I devoted my life to the homeless issue; I did so much.” … On one or two occasions that I was with her on the panel, I said “Ginny, if what you did in 10 years for the homeless, this is the result, this is one of the biggest problems; please don’t do anything else anymore, because it’s getting worse every day you are doing something for them.” And I said, “I pledge when I am mayor I will not do anything that Ginny Foat did, because it has already proven that it is bad.”

Now, am I putting all of the crime issues on the homeless? Of course not, but the homeless (problem) is one of the major issues, and there are so many homeless apparently in Palm Springs, and they don’t know how to handle it. … There are so many ways to answer that question of how to handle that, but the issue is unless you resolve the homeless problem to a certain degree, there will always be crime issues.

And then you look at the police department … it’s 10 spots or so (short). It has a recruiting problem: No matter how much money they are able to pay, it’s still lower (than) where else they can find this job, so they recruit people, and after 15 months, 16 months … they go to some other job, so this is a real problem. A shortage of manpower, of course, encourages crime.

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

We have to see what the FBI, IRS and the (district attorney) are going to do. … Due process is going to take its time, but from what we know so far, what my partner (Daphne Barak) knows so far, some people have to answer for that.

I put the blame for corruption on one or two things. One thing is, everybody has an economic interest on the council. … Once the authorities finish up with this criminal investigation, whoever is in power is going to say, “Hey, we have to change this system, because it (didn’t just) start yesterday; it has been happening all the time.” The extent of it is being investigated right now.

When this question came up from another paper, recusal (and the) 700 forms, I said, “What are you guys talking about? When the FBI and the IRS closed down the City Hall and took all the computers, what form should be changed? … How can you correct somebody like that?” You have to get rid of everybody—out. If I am not saying this, some authorities will. This whole thing is, they should all go out. … New elections should be there because of the criminal investigation. The authorities … they may determine anything during their investigation. They may determine nobody is guilty, or everyone is guilty, or one or two are guilty. My opinion is, two people—more than one person—(will be) found with something, because the facts are on the table.

From that perspective, the corruption issue in Palm Springs is an endemic issue. There’s a problem with this. So I say … the election system has to change; maybe it has to represent the people better. Also, the recusal issue. … When you elect somebody to an office, you have to say, “Hey, you’re not qualified to represent people, because you have so much interest, or you cannot take $11,000, $10,000 from one person.” … Right now, it’s superficial that you’re going to change this paperwork, and it’s business as usual again.

You have to have a fundamental change. … There’s a socio-political revolution, and what does that mean? Everything changes. The system is caput; it’s gone. Well, there needs to be a socio-political revolution here, but this doesn’t mean that the Wessman project should stop, or the other projects should stop. Whatever the projects are should be ongoing.

(Editor’s note: At this point, I re-asked the question, emphasizing specifics.)

First of all, as a mayor, I will make sure that all the other City Council members, whoever they are at that moment, be looked into based on the investigation that is completed by the authorities. … It is not clear they should be forced to resign after the investigation is concluded, (whether) they are tainted … or their economic interests are too much embedded into the taint, they cannot be a part of the City Council, So in other words, the City Council has to be reformed fundamentally so that the corruption element is not there anymore, based on the criminal investigation of the authorities and their findings. … No paper work-fixing. Just fixing the paperwork, you hand to another bureaucrat to look over; that’s a superficial way of handling that problem. Right now, there is a big problem, and it is finished. The camel’s back broke down.

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

First, you have to know who the homeless are. There are five types of homeless, I learned. One of them is veterans. (Another) one is youths; we don’t know why they leave their home and become homeless. Then the third one (is) mentally ill people. And the other people are AIDS-related type of people. Why? Because they need the social services. … Economically, they are in bad shape because of their illnesses, their issues.

So I say that homeless people are lonely people. We have to resolve the loneliness issue. How do you resolve the loneliness issue? For veterans, you have to get their retired peers. There are plenty of them here, so an R&R program or something like that—and then the retired veterans can take care of these veterans. Youth need a big brother or big sister— somebody to take care of them. Mentally ill (people) need doctors; nobody can help them. You have to have a doctor for them. And then social workers are there to help the AIDS-related, economically deprived people. The other 20 percent, we don’t know who they are, so your guess is as good as mine; we have to take care of them.

Now the other way to look at … those five groups: Half of them, we have to give them a fish, because they cannot feed themselves. Mentally ill, this, that—you have to give them something, so you have to take care of them. The other half, you can teach them how to fish. That’s what you have to do. In other words, it’s not only categorizing them into five, but also splitting them into two.

Economically … I am going to do two things. One: Clean the house; clean the system; clean everything in Palm Springs. Two: Bring investment. That’s what I’m coming in for. I am becoming a mayor to bring investment—no thanks to these people (at City Hall). I have to clean it first, then bring the investment, because no investment is going to come to Palm Springs (otherwise). If they don’t come to Palm Springs, then they are not going to come to the valley. Its reputation—it has a ripple effect.

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

I didn’t have any study on that; I didn’t reading anything on that, but I read some material that was presented to me. Representation is important. Who are you responsible to? We are for Palm Springs. Good—47,000 people. I am responsible for my home, for my neighborhood, my community, my neighbors around my community, and only then do I go to the next layers of that. I am impacting my actions and decisions, my care, my attention will be first where I am. It has to be like that. I have to be responsible to people so that I cannot throw the burden: “Oh, I did my share; he didn’t do it.” That is what they are doing right now. … I survived eight prime ministers, 15 years. You know how I survived? By not making mistakes, by showing up to work. That’s what you need to do as a bureaucrat. Don’t do anything; collect your salary. That’s how you survive. … I did more than that. That’s why eight prime ministers kept me, whether Republican, Democrat, different elements; they couldn’t get rid of me. They said, “This guy is important.” … We have to change the system; they have to be responsible. Whether they go on a vacation or live somewhere else, their people have to say, “No! We don’t want you to go. We want you to be here.” So I am for breaking into districts.

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

I would give it to Bob Weinstein. … We come from the same background—the background is Israel. We are two Jewish people, and Israel is the first thing that comes out of our mouths. … I find something (good) about being a fiscally conservative Republican; that’s one way I look at it. … He is an active lawyer, so that makes sense.

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 give them more than one option, because I like Japanese food, and I also like Italian food. Next to Starbucks, there is a Japanese restaurant (Gyoro Gyoro). Or it could be Kaiser. It could be Lulu. It could be (the Purple Palm).

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

Palm Springs doesn’t have a resort. It has about 40 hotels, but it doesn’t have a resort. … Where is it? What does Palm Springs have? That’s one thing. The other thing it should have: There’s no place for the youth to spend their time. Youth need places to go … that engage them. Otherwise, they go home, and they get bored at home. You asked the question of crime. Of course, things happen. They’re bored. They have all the energy.

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

The (Coachella) music festival is good, because it is known, and then Stagecoach is good. … Of course, the (Palm Springs International) Film Festival is important for us, because that’s what (my partner and I) do. … We’d like to make that 15 days, and then, because we know all these famous singers—whether it’s Lionel, whether it’s Bocelli, all kinds of singers, and they’re good friends, so when I become the mayor, and this becomes our home, we’d like to do events focusing on music. It’s not that we have to do the Coachella festival again … but do a high-end, some sort of an event that will be 10 to 15 days, so we’ll be known for that music. The other thing is art. There’s a great museum here, and lots of great people.

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’ll protect my teddy bear. … I have more than one, and they are very precious.

Published in Politics

Name: Ginny Foat

Age: 74

Occupation: Palm Springs City Council member/executive director of Mizell Senior Center

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 there were almost 15 years, or maybe even more, of a dead center of our town. No matter what we did in the city, and we did a lot of really creative things for our citizens, and encouraged business development and everything, but no matter how you looked at it, there was one dead center of town. I look at it now and see life. Do I love it? Probably not. Do I think there are some things I would have like to have changed? Yes. But through an agreement with the developer who owns the land—we didn’t own the land—and the city, we now will bring life back to the center of our town, which not only will help this particular development, but will also help everything surrounding it. The businesses surrounding it are all going to thrive because there’s this new center of excitement in our downtown.

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

We have a crime problem the same way as everybody else has a crime problem. Our violent crime is very low. Our property crimes are higher, and this has a lot to do with early releases, our close proximity to places where parolees exist, and our reputation as an affluent city. Everybody in the city is not affluent, but we kind of have that reputation. So part of my platform … is the fact that we need to increase our police officers on the street. We have a number of vacancies now. We’ve started looking at increased recruitment tools (for) laterals, meaning police officers coming from other jurisdictions want to come to Palm Springs. So yes, we have a number of vacancies in our police department, so that’s one of the things that I have been working on, and one of the things I will continue to work on.

I’ve worked very closely with the police department. … Every time I’ve run, I’ve been endorsed by the Palm Springs Police Officers’ Association, because of the way that I have encouraged expansion, the way I have encouraged things that they’ve wanted to do, and the way I have listened to my police force and my police chief. I am pretty confident that I again, in this race, will be endorsed by the police department. … Most of the arrests that have been made, or most of the crime that has been perpetrated in the city of Palm Springs, is not (by) Palm Springs residents. We do have some pockets in the city that do have higher crime than others, but the majority of the crime that is committed in the city is not committed by residents. People don’t understand: Our city budget is about 50 percent public safety—that’s police and fire. The reason is we’re different than other cities. People say, “Well, we have enough police officers; we only have 44,000 people who live in the city.” But on any given day, we have 120,000 people who are in the city, in season or on any of the major events. So this is an ongoing problem that we have to deal with, and we’re putting resources toward it.

One of the candidates wanted our jail to be reopened. There is no city in the Coachella Valley, or most cities that have their own jail. Our jail was a 24-hour holding (facility), so it’s not something that’s helped our police department. It’s a run-down piece of property. It would take over $1 million to restore it, to only house accused people overnight. This is a silly idea, and it will not help. The police don’t want it; the police chief doesn’t want it—but I guess it’s a good campaign item. … This is one of the reasons why my candidacy is so important. You throw all these things up in the air—we want to open the jail, or we want to do this or do that—but unless you have the experience to know if that’s the right thing, you’re just throwing things up in the air. … Our police officers do not transport anymore. If (other candidates) were astute enough to check on that, they would know that we have now hired plain-clothes, retired police, all sorts of different people who do transport—trained people, of course. It doesn’t take any police off the street. … If we reopen the jail, and put them in the jail, then 24 hours later, they have to be transported to the other jail. What have we accomplished by opening the jail? To make the jail more than a 24-hour, overnight facility would take millions of dollars, because you go into a whole different set of rules, standards and regulations. You have to have medical personnel on hand, and you have to do all of these other things our jail never was.

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

I’m glad you used the word “alleged.” We have a situation right now in which we are not clear on why the FBI or the district attorney came into City Hall. We are aware of the fact that there are allegations that the mayor had some dealings with one of our developers, but we have no idea what else they would be looking for at City Hall.

As far as I am concerned, I have never experienced anything at City Hall that I would consider to be illegal. I’ve never seen staff or any of our citizens or any of the people we do business with at City Hall—I have never been approached to do anything that was untoward or illegal. So it’s very difficult for us right now. It’s very painful for the citizens of this city. It’s very painful for the council. I’ve been on this council for 11 years. I have worked very, very hard to take us from what was a financial crisis in 2008. I believe we had a $3 million reserve, and a $12 million deficit in our budget. To go from there to having a balanced budget, with a $13 million reserve, was a lot of hard work. And during that hard work, there was nothing that I saw that was being done by staff or anybody that was illegal.

I was not aware of Mayor Pougnet’s involvement with whatever that place was—Abbey something or other. I knew that the mayor had a conflict because of Mr. Meaney, but I believe that conflict was because he was involved in a housing development, the Dakota, which the mayor, I thought, had some money involved, but was nevertheless on the list for purchasing one of those properties when they started the list. That was my understanding at that point, and I guess, you know, I maybe should have asked more questions. But you know, we’ve all worked together, and you tell when you have a conflict—you say something, and you recuse yourself. I just had that experience at the last council meeting; I own a building on North Palm Canyon, and diagonally across the street is 750 Lofts, and so I had to leave the council chambers when that discussion was happening. Of course, I announced why I was leaving—that I own property within 500 feet—and that’s your responsibility to do, and I think all the council members have done that. Chris Mills, when he has his firm, or he is the architect on a project, or he owns property close to a project, he recuses himself. Paul Lewin recuses himself for property reasons and also because his significant other is in the vacation-rental business. There’s no way you’re never going to have a conflict of interest.

So now we’re sitting here trying to figure out why there was an investigation at City Hall, and we don’t know. The warrant was sealed, and we knew what they took was—we can’t even piece it together from what they took, and almost everything that they took was a matter of public record and had already been requested by numerous media outlets, so it was not anything that’s brand new. But everything that we’ve done seems to come under this suspicion because of that. I’ll give you another perfect example: I had breakfast with Rich Meaney, with Nexus, and with the mayor on March 5. I didn’t remember, but they took the mayor’s calendar. So they called me and asked me and I said, “Yes, of course I had breakfast.” I had breakfast at Sherman’s, and I had made an offhand comment before that to Rich, because he’s from Nexus, about the work-live units. So he brought a picture to the breakfast of the work-live units, which I told him would never work on Tahquitz. So we had breakfast at Sherman’s—we had to wait in line! But, you know, that became a “private breakfast” in the press, when there were hundreds—if you’ve ever been to Sherman’s for breakfast, you know you don’t have a “private breakfast” at Sherman’s. … So that breakfast meeting was actually more of a social thing than anything, but it was in March, and all of this revelation about the mayor and working for Union Abbey didn’t come out until April. So I was just having breakfast at Sherman’s, you know. But, you know, it became something awful and sinister, so I guess that’s the way it is.

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

I, again, feel like I’m the only one who’s running for the mayor’s position who has any history on this. You know, everyone who’s running for mayor has no involvement in the city. They have done nothing for the city, except for Mr. Moon, who serves on the Measure J Committee … and I’m endorsed by most of the people who are on the Measure J Committee, but that’s a whole other story.

My involvement in homelessness has been for the last seven years. One of my opponents said, “Well, she’s worked here for all these years, and she hasn’t solved it.” Well, no one will solve homelessness. If I came up with a house for everyone who is homeless today, tomorrow, there would be another 100 homeless people. That’s just the way situations are, either through health problems or through mental-health issues or through the fact that some people don’t want to live in a house—they want to be homeless. Nine years ago, I think it was, I helped create the (Coachella Valley Association of Governments) committee on homelessness, because I could see it was becoming an issue in the city of Palm Springs, and in the Coachella Valley. From that, I began working with Roy Wilson and the committee, and … through a partnership of the county and the cities of the Coachella Valley, we built and opened Roy’s Desert Resource Center. And Roy’s Desert Resource Center is not what it was set out to be, because it was set out to have a lot more funding than it ended up with. But it is an emergency shelter. Through Roy’s, in the last four years, we have housed 2,000 people in permanent housing. That’s nothing to be laughed at, you know. And 858 people, Roy’s have helped find permanent jobs. So a lot of things have been done. I’m kind of happy with what has happened with Roy’s, under the circumstances of being grossly underfunded. I’m not happy with what’s happened with the homeless situation in Palm Springs, which has just grown.

So (several) months ago, I had a town hall meeting and got all this feedback from the community—we had about 150 people—and at that point recognized that it was a really important issue that our citizens could help solve, because we have so much talent here. I put out a call for people who were interested in working on this issue, and who had expertise. There were hundreds of people who were interested, but I only wanted people who had expertise, who could help us come up and solve the problem. I ended up with this incredible committee which we created. We now are getting ready for our third meeting. Our first meeting, we formed committees. … The housing committee is specifically talking about and brainstorming about what we can do in the housing area. That’s headed up by Arlene Rosenthal, who everybody knows is (the president of) Well in the Desert, and all the successes that she’s had in working the community. Mental health, which is an important aspect of this, is headed up by the psychiatrist and medical director for Michael’s House, who is also an expert in addiction. … We have the youth committee, which is made up of people who are working both with gay and lesbian youth, and straight youth who are homeless on the street. And then we have the jobs committee. So those committees have been meeting and putting together plans, and then I spearheaded having money set aside in the budget for additional community service officers, because … we only had one police officer who dealt with homelessness. … So now he has two community officers who are helping him. Hopefully, this committee, which will be meeting at the beginning of the month, will be coming up with solutions, and we are identifying money to implement those solutions.

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

I don’t want to elect them by district. When you’re elected citywide, you’re responsible to the entire city, so you have to answer to every citizen in this city. When you’re district-wide, you tend to seek to solve the problems of your own district as opposed to solving the problems of the city. We’re too small of a city. Los Angeles—that’s the way they do it, and they have to do it that way, because the district that covers the San Fernando Valley is so different … as opposed to what’s happening in East Los Angeles or Beverly Hills or the coastal community. That’s a whole different story. Here, you need to elect the best people for the job, but then cover the entire city, and be responsible for the problems of the entire city, not districts.

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

The only reason I’m running for the office is because none of them would get my vote.

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?

That’s one I can’t answer. We have an incredible array of restaurants. I can’t answer that for myself some nights. OK, do I want to go Spencer’s and sit on that fabulous patio and have great steak and great food and a great atmosphere, or do I want to go to the new Eight4Nine and be really hip? Or how about Trio? Trio has one of my most favorite dishes. Or Lulu? They have a great selection at Lulu. We are so fortunate. … I went last week to a restaurant in Palm Desert. It’s the first time in probably a year that I’ve gone to a restaurant outside of the city of Palm Springs when I’ve been (in the valley).

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

It’s something that I guess is being solved by downtown, and that’s better shopping. I have a friend who works for Saks Fifth Avenue who has to get my makeup for me, because there’s no place in town for me to buy the makeup that I use. .. I guess this is going to be solved by our new downtown. It’s better with more shopping options.

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

The (Palm Springs International) Film Festival, and then I’d would say right after that is Modernism Week. They’re two totally different things. The Film Festival is because I love films; I love the glitz and glamour; I love having all these people. When you walk downtown, you hear all these accents and all these foreign languages. That’s a lot of fun. You’re sitting in the theater next to the people who made the movie. I really think it’s a wonderful event. The second one is Modernism Week, because I am a preservationist, and I love the tours. I’m on the board of the Palm Springs Animal Shelter, and we did a Meiselman tour last year which was very successful. I had never seen any of the Meiselman homes. Also, (Modernism Week) benefits so many of our nonprofits in town, and our neighborhood organizations.

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 very expensive red wine collection.

Published in Politics

Name: Guy Burrows

Age: 62

Occupation: Neurologist

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?

That tall building on the right … that’s taller than what was initially touted as what was going to be built. Also, when I look at it, what I see is an advertisement for two floors of commercial offices. My question is: If you look around the city of Palm Springs, how many empty office spaces do we have? So many, it’s beyond counting. Why, as a city, are we paying a hundred million dollars, partly, to build two floors of office space, when really there’s not a need for office space? Let’s start there. We could have done a lot of other things in that space; why office space? For example, we could have had a health food store there. There is no grocery store that is health food only (in Palm Springs) … other than a small (health food store) over here. … You could’ve brought in Whole Foods, and that would’ve been a great addition, and would’ve been a much better—to me—choice. Because, as a doctor, I deal with people’s health every day, and I’m promoting good health constantly, organic food, eating lean, eating the right combination of foods. So, people are looking for that all the time, so it would have been welcomed.

When I look at the whole project, I ask: Why did we spend a hundred million dollars on this, as a city? And I can’t really, in my own mind, as an individual citizen, or as a person who’s looking at it as a good investment, justify it, and say that makes a lot of sense. I think it makes sense to give incentive, but not to where you’re paying two-thirds of the cost, which is what it works out to. I don’t know what the true cost was; I just know what (Wessman) said the cost would be. So, going by what he said, we’re paying two-thirds. … I also don’t know what he paid for the land. I know he got it at a song and a dance, but I don’t personally know. But we’ve already given him so much money; basically, that land is free and clear, without a doubt. And anything he puts on top of it, were paying a good portion of that. So, what is his investment in the city?

The other thing I notice … is that the property taxes—there’s a summary report on the city, every year, by an accounting firm, and that’s about 200 pages. The last one that is available to look at is 2014, so I looked at that. And what I noticed, interestingly, is that Wessman, in terms of city taxes, was paying a fairly large sum of money in 2008, and in 2014, was paying zero. So what happened to his property tax? Did he get exempted on property taxes for his property during the construction phase? I mean, what’s going on with that? I never heard anything about it, but when you look at the numbers, Wessman, here in 2008, is paying a certain amount, and then Wessman, in 2014, is paying zero. So what is he giving back to the city? How did he get around his property taxes? I’m not sure. Maybe there’s someplace else, but when you look at the paperwork, you’re wondering, where did it go?

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

There is a crime problem. It’s not like we have murderers on the streets; it’s not like we have muggings every other day, but we have a lot of home invasions. And a lot of those people (doing the home invasions), fortunately or unfortunately, a good percentage are homeless. I went to the homeless task force (meeting) two weeks ago. … There was a man sitting next to me who was complaining: “Every day, or every other day, I have a homeless person in my pool, or I have them on my porch. I complain to the city. Nothing gets done. I’ve called the police; they say they can do nothing, and here I am dealing with this problem, day after day. What are we gonna go about it?” One of my questions to the police chief was: “I had understood that you had to steal more than $500 in order to be able to be arrested in the city of Palm Springs; they would not arrest you otherwise.” He corrected me and said, “No, its $900.” So they actually will not arrest someone until you have stolen at least $900 in property. Well, guess what? (Criminals) have figured that out. They know that if they break into some place, to only take so much. And they break in night, after night, after night.

I own the Palm House (nightclub) … and when I was opening it up, I had cameras around the whole building. There was one particular homeless person who attempted to break in three different times. I gave the pictures (to the police), because I have it on video. … “Oh yeah, we know who that is. That’s Dave. Yeah, Dave’s a petty thief here in town; he breaks in all the time, We know all about him.” “Well why don’t you arrest him?” “Because he never breaks the threshold. So if we arrest him, they’ll let him out right away. The city attorney will not prosecute, and if he does go in, they’ll let him out the next morning. So what’s the point? We’re not gonna arrest him.” So what happens then, is that enables that person to say, “Hey, you know what? I can do this all I want; nobody’s going to stop me.” And then he’s going to talk to his friends, because it is a social network, in a sense, and suddenly, his friends come here, because they like it, too. “What a great place to come. I can break in; I can put camps on the front and back porches of any business; I can sit on the patios of homes; I can swim in their pools; I can break into their houses, and nobody’s going to do anything about it.” So, I’ve watched the homeless problem grow tremendously in the 3 1/2 years I’ve been here. So one of my missions is to work on that, and I have a whole program on how to address that.

Is there crime? Yes. Is there a problem? Yes. And part of the problem is, we are ignoring it, and letting it occur because it doesn’t reach a certain threshold. And part of that is the tone of the mayor, the tone of the city, the tone of the city attorney as to what we will do. And as I explained to them: I moved here from Beverly Hills. In Beverly Hills, they have a policy of containment. In other words, if you’re (a homeless person) up in a residential area, you are picked up within five minutes. They will be there by squad car, and they will take you away. If you are in a certain business area, where you’re not supposed to be, they will pick you up or they will usher you away. There are only certain areas where you’re allowed to be … .

The problem is we don’t have a jail. So guess what? They don’t arrest them, because they don’t want someone to drive them to Banning or drive them to Indio; you know, I’ve heard this from talking to police officers individually. Now, they’re going to all deny this, but the fact is that … the actions are, they will not arrest them and drive them. Unless it reaches that level of felony, we ignore it. And so, you’ve basically told us, the citizen: It’s up to you to do a citizen’s arrest, and then we’ll decide if were going to do anything about it—if we show up.

It’s not that the police are bad people; they’re not. The first thing is, we have fewer officers than we need; I think the number that was estimated was somewhere around 18 officers fewer than we had, when you look at leave, and people who are getting ready to retire, and people who are on sick leave, and those who are laid off. So we’re short of officers; we don’t have a jail; and we don’t have a mayor or city attorney who thinks it’s important; therefore, what are they going to do? They’re going to address the things they have to because they’re shorthanded … .

We could have opened up our jail for $3 million or $4 million; instead of giving $100 million dollars to Wessman, let’s give him $96 million.

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

I would say it is mandatory that every council member and mayor read the 700 (forms) of people and understand what those relationships are. In the case of Steve Pougnet, it was laid out on his 700, two years in a row, that he was receiving money, and no one ever raised the question. In fact, when I asked about it at The Desert Sun interview, Ginny (Foat) had never read it, and also, never questioned Steve Pougnet about it, yet she’s there sitting next to him on the council and voting on these issues. Really, that’s a responsible council member? I don’t think so. So part of it is to be responsible and look into what our partners are doing, so that we know when there is conflict and raise questions.

Then the other question would be: Why didn’t the city attorney raise the question? He should have read the 700s; he should know where that money was coming from, and he should have known what things were in conflict, and yet that was never raised at the meeting where the vote occurred. So when I look at what’s going on in the city government, those who were responsible did not exercise their responsibilities. So the first thing is to mandate that (reading the 700s) is a requirement, and not to do that is a failure to do your job, and that could be a reason for either a recall in terms of the city councilmember, or a city attorney being fired. … Just using the tools we already have … would be a huge step forward.

The second thing I would like to see is … we have a webpage for the city, but if you want to try to figure out things, it is not easy. You have to go in there and sort of drag things from different places. There’s no straightforward, “Here’s the J Measure money; this is what we’ve spent; this is who it went to.” It doesn’t say that as a very clear thing. What they want to do is they want to tout, “Look at what we did at the library; look at the roads; we did this; we did this parking lot of City Hall.” … If you want to try to look at, “Well, who did we give the money to, for projects?” that’s harder to find. You can’t really find it. You can sort of get a list of some names: “Oh, here are some examples of people who got money,” but you can’t get hard numbers. … I would like to see more transparency on the webpage. Make it clear. Make it simple.

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

I do have a master plan. The first thing is you make a nonprofit organization under the city government, so that you can begin to bring all those different organizations into one place. Now, we have Roy’s House on the other side of Interstate 10 and Indian Canyon. We have Well of the Desert; we have Martha’s Kitchen on the other end; we have all these different organizations, which are providing services—but very disjointed. So the first thing is try to bring things under one nonprofit. Within that, you can then draw federal funds, veterans’ funds, sit-stay funds, county funds; you can take some city funds that we’re already using, and you can also go out to prominent citizens we have in this community, like Bill Gates. If I was the city mayor and have this program, and I write a letter to his foundation or him personally, and I say, “We need a donation from you, because were trying to solve the homeless problem. This is our plan; could you help with a million dollars?” The odds are he’ll at least read it, and there’s a chance that we can get some money there. Nobody’s doing that. I mean, we have Larry Ellison here; we have a lot of very prominent people who we can start tapping to try to get resources. Nobody’s doing that … .

In my master plan, under that umbrella, you would hire five to 10 people. Their job is to go out on the street with vans and be able to stop and talk to homeless people and find out why they’re there, and what their need is. Then we have to have a policy of containment. In other words, if they are literally camped on the front doorstep of a business—which they are—you pick them up and you say, “You can’t be here,” and you move them. If they’re in a residential area, you pick them up, and you move them and say, “You can’t be here.” … But then, if you do that, where do you take them?

The idea that I put out was … a tent city, and you put the tent city in a place that’s outside of the main part of the city, in an area where you’re not impacting neighborhoods; they’re not impacting businesses, but it’s a place where you can sort of take care of people, provide services, have mental health, have medical health, have clothing, food, shelter, laundry facilities, bathing, lavatories and cooling stations. You run it almost like a boot camp, in a way. … I was in the military. I ran a tent city in the Middle East, so I know how to do that. … We realize that the Department of Defense has so many of these tent cities sitting in mothballs. Again, as the mayor of the city, if I was to write a letter or contact the Department of Defense and say, “Do you have a tent city of this size that you would be able to give us?” The odds are, because it’s in surplus, they would … . The tent city—that’s the processing center. The next step is to have things like rehab centers, mental health facilities, and then, beyond that, you’ve got to have the ability to put them in halfway houses, (group homes) … .

Roy’s House kicks them out at 8 o’clock in the morning. It’s not a very good solution. It’s a great idea, but it doesn’t function well. My question is: You have 90 people who have a spot for the night, but are kicked out at 8 o’clock in the morning; where do they take them? Downtown Palm Springs, and drop them off. What a great idea. … I was homeless as a teenager, so I know firsthand what that means, so I come to it with a passion and compassion.

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

I like the idea of by district. I think they become more representative, and it requires them to represent the needs of that district. Right now, as I’ve heard people complain, most of the members come from two areas of the (city). What about the rest of the neighborhoods? … Clearly, we want representation that represents all the citizens, and we don’t have that right now.

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

Well, that’s the reason I’m running for this office—because there is no one.

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?

First, I’d ask them, “How much do you want to spend?” Because that matters—and, “What kind of food do you like?” Then based on those answers, there are a number of places—very good places. On the high end, there’s Le Vallauris, of course; in the middle, you have places like Lulu, which is very popular; you have Trio; you have Jake’s; you have Cheeky’s. … Cheeky’s is more for breakfast. … There’s Elmer’s for breakfast; there are a whole bunch.

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

I already said it: Whole Foods. Some kind of full-service health food store or grocery store.

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

For the city, the favorite to me is the (Palm Springs International) Film Festival, because I think it brings a high profile to the city. It brings a nice feel and buzz to the city, and a lot of citizens participate and enjoy it. … It’s more for the citizens, and less for the outsiders. Coachella is really a lot of outsiders coming in, whereas the film festival really caters more to our population.

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’d grab my child, and make sure they’re safe. My wife would grab the other one. And we would just stand back and let them do their thing.

Published in Politics