Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

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: Paul Lewin

Age: 44

Occupation: Palm Springs City Councilmember

Interview done: Phone

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

Oh, progress. I think that’s going to be a really terrific spot, and it’s very hard for people to visualize the final product, because all we’re looking at is the first legs of that skeleton. But as you know, there’s a lot of beauty that gets wrapped around a skeleton, so what we’re going to have there, in that corner of course, is a wonderful pedestrian path that runs from that exact corner at Palm Canyon and Tahquitz and runs right through the center of Blocks A, B and C and runs into a new entrance into the Hyatt hotel.

So what we’re seeing is just the beginnings of the reshaping of an urban landscape, and I think that for our residents, it’s been so long since anything like this happened. It’s a very new and startling experience, but we’ve got to remember where we started, which was 15 acres of blight, and this old mall that was absolutely killing a lot of downtown. And now when you add in the new walk … we’re going from an old bank that was vacant and I guess a CPK that was hanging on, to this walking path that meanders through the project, a nice hotel with the first ever—and I think this is one of the biggest selling points—rooftop swimming pool on a hotel, and the views from the top of that Kimpton pool are going to be outstanding. And then people will be able to walk through a mix of retail, residential and restaurants … and of course, behind that is the new central park, which will be directly in front of the museum. So that’s what I see.

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

I think Palm Springs is a safe city to live in—a very, very safe city to live in. Does it have crime? Absolutely. It mostly, thank god, is limited to property crime—crimes of opportunity. In other words, we’re not a very dangerous place to live. You can go shopping and, unlike in Los Angeles, you don’t really have to be afraid of being held up at gunpoint in this town, and I’m proud of that—that we’ve got a very safe city.

But, and I mean this very sincerely, we do see a rise in property crimes. I’ve been chairman of (the Coachella Valley Association of Government’s) public safety committee for the past two years, and we’ve been studying very closely the effects of two laws: One is known as AB109, and the other is Prop 47. AB109 came first, and what that did was reclassify and remand people who would normally be housed in state prison, and sent them instead to county jails. So the class of prisoner that would normally be in state prison now started filling up our jail system. That forced us to increase early releases of other people, and then on the heels of that, the voters approved Prop 47, which reclassified a whole other set of crimes, most especially drug possession and stealing property less than $950—those become misdemeanors now, whereas before, they would be felonies. The result is, yeah, criminals surprisingly, are not dumb. They may be dumb on some level in their life choices, but they are learning to exploit this loophole where they know that, “Hey, if I go in, and all I do is steal a $500 TV, a flatscreen, that’s just a misdemeanor. I’m not going to be faced with prison time.” So that’s a perverse outcome, an unintended outcome of this law.

What we need to do about it? I think we need more feet on the beat. So what are we doing? We added a new lieutenant to our police force, and that’s the command-staff level, right? Because you can’t add more frontline officers until you have enough people to oversee them. So that’s step one. Step two is, most police agencies are having trouble filling gaps in their hiring. So we fully funded our police department, but due to the very, very high standards that we have in Palm Springs for background checks and how they score on their tests and things like that, we’ve been having trouble filling the vacancies that we have. So I think that one of the things we need to do as a city is look at: How we do we incentivize what are known as lateral transfers? … I’m looking for someone who meets our high standards, and I’d like to attract those laterals who already have a few years of experience under their belt so they can hit the ground running when they arrive here, rather than go through 18 months of training in preparation before they’re ready. I think we need a mix of both overall, and I know our chief of police is very, very good at determining who’s a good hire, and who’s a bad hire.

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

The FBI investigation has to be fully carried out, and everyone at City Hall needs to cooperate to the fullest extent. I don’t think I can be more explicit, can I?

I think a lot of people use the word transparency without understanding it. It’s become a bit of a buzzword in this campaign cycle, but, really, we need to know: What does it all mean? Fundamentally, every elected official has the obligation to not just recuse themselves, but explain what their relationship is, and why they’re recusing themselves on something. You could have all the transparency rules in the world you want; if someone chooses not to volunteer that information, how would someone else know? You know, ethics is what you do when no one’s looking.

I’m completely open to new ideas on how we can be more transparent, without a doubt, because it’s been heartbreaking. It’s been my first time in public office. I’m from this town, and it’s heartbreaking to watch this happen, but you’ve got to realize something: I learned about this the same way you did, which is through The Desert Sun. OK, so not only that; I’m the councilmember (who) when I learned about it, I called for an independent investigation to find out what the truth of some of this was. Did we make a mistake? Did we not? What’s going on here? And thirdly, when it was revealed that the mayor had voted improperly on a land transaction, I’m the guy who picked up the phone and said, “We’ve got to cancel that transaction entirely,” and that’s what happened. So from my perspective, when I learned about something, I acted on it. What else can I do? We don’t have staff to investigate each other; that doesn’t exist, so people are going to have to be honest. This is a sad day, but it’s necessary.

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

I am really glad you’re asking this question, and more importantly, I’m really glad that the community cares about this question, because four years ago, I don’t think the public was really looking for a lot of humane solutions. The city was broke at the time, four years ago; we didn’t any extra money. So there were a lot of proposals to try to push people out—make it illegal to camp, make it illegal to panhandle, things like that. … Now the city’s turned the corner financially; we do have some extra resources. We also have this political will in the community to spend that money on more humane options.

So first of all, the homelessness task force is comprised of the right people to come up with the solutions. In my heart, I know there has to be a housing element. It’s very, very important. We’ve got (a dedicated police officer) who walks around to different encampments, but right now, he can’t say to them, “Hey, if you’re ready to get off the streets, we’ve got a place for you to go.” My hope is that when this process is done—when we’re done working with our stakeholders, with our experts in the field—we’re going to devote a significant amount of money to doing just that. Some people call it “housing first”; there are a lot of different labels for it, but I think offering a more humane option, other than, “Here’s a ticket for illegal camping; now go away,” is a priority for me.

I’m interested in the other things that have come about, because there are issues of basic sanitation—where people can store their personal goods. If you’re homeless, you only have a few possessions in your name, correct? That’s why you see encampments set up, is because, gosh, you barely have anything, so you don’t want to lose anything that you have. I’m hoping that the people that we’re working with, like Arlene Rosenthal of Well in the Desert, and people from Jewish Family Services—hopefully, we’ll have some ideas on what we do, so that people’s lives can be improved.

I don’t mind telling you this also: In the end, we’re not going to solve homelessness. We might transition some people out of it, but I’ve talked to a lot of people who are homeless, and a lot of people who work with that population, and there’s a very strong consensus that in that population, there’s a certain group that has become so habituated in that lifestyle, that there’s really nothing you can do to change it, outside of forcing someone against their will.

I think what we as citizens need to focus on is twofold. No. 1, through Roy’s Resource Center, we have helped 2,000 people get out of homelessness and back into stable housing, and you don’t see those people, because they’re success stories. Now the question is: What are we going to do with this much more difficult population that’s become very habituated to living outside in a lifestyle, as they call it, camping? How do we entice them and encourage them, in a voluntary manner, to accept living like the rest of us? It will be very interesting, but if we get 25 percent of them off the streets and into something more stable, I think that’s a win. If we do more, that’s an even better win.

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

You know, that’s an interesting question. Intuitively, just at an emotional level, I like the at-large system, because I am forced to, and it’s my obligation, to represent everyone in the city. I worry (that) in district elections, we’ll be pitting neighborhood against neighborhood. Now, if we were a very large city geographically, or population-wise, like Los Angeles, I really think it’s important to have district elections in environments like that, because, at that point, if you don’t have a district, you could just become too isolated from the voters entirely. But in a little town like Palm Springs, I think it’s something we should tread carefully on, and really examine the implications of having five council members, each representing just a geographic area. What would that do? So I don’t have a strong opinion. Those are my concerns. It’s something I think the community needs to have a conversation about.

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

I’m not going to answer that! I’m running for me. No one should answer that question. If they’re running, they’re running for themselves. I will say this, though: For the first time in a long time, I’m greatly relieved to see that the majority of candidates who are running for office in this cycle are mature, responsible, worthy representatives.

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 dear friend is going to have to spend several nights. This is not a one-restaurant town. I think I’d make them eat my famous grilled steaks in my backyard and enjoy a good glass of wine with them.

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

I’d really like to have a bookstore. I miss having a bookstore, but I know it’s not likely, because Amazon has changed that model.

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

I’ve got to say Splash House. They are all fantastic, first of all. I just really, really love all of (the annual events), and I hope you’re going to print that, because I’m just going to get everyone angry at me for this. Splash House, to me, is so important, because it’s the first major event to take place in the summer time, and it’s bringing in a very important demographic, which is the millennial demographic, and they are getting introduced to the Palm Springs brand for the first time, and having a very positive experience. We know that if they come here when they’re young, they’ll come back throughout their lives, and over time, they’ll end up buying second houses or moving and relocating here. Attracting the millennial generation is really a key part of our long term economic growth. (Editor’s Note: Lewin later made a point to disclose the fact that his girlfriend is involved with Splash House.)

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?

First of all, I don’t think the FBI comes in and breaks things. … I have a painting that’s done by a very famous artist, and I wouldn’t anything to happen to it. It was given to me by my father, and I would want to be broken. The FBI doesn’t break stuff. … I would grab my dog and my cat, quite frankly, now that I think about it. I do not want them broken. I would rather my painting get busted up than my dog or my cat.

Published in Politics

Name: Geoff Kors

Age: 54

Occupation: Legislative policy director for the National Center for Lesbian Rights

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?

On one hand, I see Palm Springs moving forward and developing a downtown. I’m not seeing the old, vacant Fashion Plaza. That makes me smile, and I think turning this into a downtown with streets running through it, versus replacing it with another mall, was a really good decision. I have concern when I look at what will be the West Elm building next to the Hyatt; that the setback is far into the street. I want to make sure that when significant changes such as that are proposed, they return to the commission structure we have so we can get input from the public before a decision is finalized. I think having 3-D models of major developments, which is something I’ve seen in other cities, including Las Vegas, would really help the public and the Planning Commission and the council better visualize a project. While I think architects can look at a drawing and visualize what it is, that’s harder for other people. Even when you’re at City Council chambers, let alone watching on TV, it’s very hard to visualize any project from these diagrams that are on the back wall.

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

Unless there was no crime, there’s a crime problem. I’ve lived in a number of cities, and I’ve never lived in a city where the residents, businesses and police department have as good of a relationship as they do in Palm Springs. Having the police come to every neighborhood association meeting, every business (group) meeting, and be accessible and build relationships with residents really makes a difference, and I’m fully supportive of having us keep our own police department instead of contracting out, as some other places do. Currently, the police department is down 13 patrol staff. There are another five or six who are retiring this year. We need to fully staff our police department. We need to put some money into recruitment so we can get the best police officers possible to come and work in this police department. I went into Los Angeles with the city police department to L.A. Pride as part of a recruiting effort, and I will partner with the city and the police department and the fire department to go other places to help recruit people to come and work in paradise.

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

When I was first thinking about running and met with the folks I was hoping would be part of my campaign team, one of the three issues I said I was going to run on was changing our ethics and our transparency laws and making our government more inclusive. That was back in January and February before any of the current scandal was reported on. I believe very strongly in having an open, transparent and inclusive government. When I first announced, I said I would request that the City Council create an ethics and sunshine task force to look at best practices in other cities, to bring experts and residents together and to come up with a new ordinance to move our city in the right direction. I’ve since proposed eight specific ideas that I would like the task force to consider, and I will work with that task force and help draft that legislation.

When it comes to inclusive government, which people aren’t really talking about, we want as many people to participate in government as possible; it makes for a better city, more engaged residents, and people have more faith in government. Right now, the majority of our boards, commissions and committees meet during the workday. As a result, if there’s an issue you want to testify about, and you work 9 to 5, you can’t. So schoolteachers, my gardener—him and his wife and their two kids who are in elementary school here—he can’t participate. If there’s something at the Planning Commission that affects your neighborhood, you can’t testify. In addition, younger people, working people, can’t serve on boards, commissions and committees, so the vast majority of people in those positions are either retired or self-employed. We need to do a much better job of diversifying our government, and by moving our commission meetings to 5 p.m. or later is one way to do that.

The other way is to make sure that when there are vacancies, we’re going to the neighborhood organizations, and saying, “We have vacancies.” Right now, the way it works is, someone tells friends, “Hey, there’s a vacancy.” We can do better. Second, if someone has a legal conflict, an elected or appointed official, they need to raise it ahead of time to the city attorney, and the city attorney needs to determine if it is a conflict or not. We want to make sure anybody who has a conflict is recusing themselves, but we also don’t want people recusing themselves when they don’t have a conflict to avoid voting on something. People (also) have to disclose the specifics of their conflict, what the conflict is. Just saying you have a business relationship is not enough. In addition, right now, if you work on a nonprofit, for a nonprofit, that has a grant from the city, you have to recuse yourself. That makes sense. But if you’re on a board of directors, where you have a fiduciary relation to the organization, you don’t. There’s a clear conflict: If you vote against the grant, you’ve broken your fiduciary obligation to the organization. If you vote for it, you’ve broken your trust to the voters. We need to fix that. You can find all of (my ideas) at

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

You have to look at short- and long-term solutions, and we need to understand that if we do everything right, we’re still going to have homeless people. But we can do a lot to reduce that number and help people. So first, to the extent there are criminal-justice issues—that’s a small minority of homeless people and can be dealt with through the criminal-justice system. But the vast majority of the issue is poverty, a lack of affordable housing, mental health and people who have fallen on hard times. Short term, we need to have the one shelter we have open 24 hours, and all the beds funded to be utilized. To have people forced to leave the shelter in the morning, and taken back to Palm Springs in 115-degree heat, is inhumane.

Second, we need to try to prevent more people from becoming homeless. Rents went up last year 19 percent. If you’re on a limited income, especially seniors and persons with a disability, and you get a 30-day notice of a close to 20 percent rent increase, you’re going to find it very hard … to find another apartment. What I propose is if the rent increases more than 25 percent over the cost of living, you have to get at least a 60-day notice, or, if you’re a senior or a person with a disability, you get a 60-day notice, minimum. One thing we know is that if someone ends up homeless, if you can get them into rapid rehousing within 30 to 60 days, you can keep them from becoming chronically homeless. After much longer, they are now chronically homeless. I believe the city should find a motel or some existing structure where we can help people and put them in rapid rehousing. I think we can seek government funding from state, county and federal, and foundation funding, which I’ve done a lot of, for this kind of project. Long term, we need to look at housing first programs, which have worked in other places. They work for 80 percent of the people, and they cost a lot less than shelters and arresting people for nothing other than being homeless. Those programs provide usually single-room occupancy for homeless people. They don’t have to be clean and sober first; they don’t have to have a job. But the studies have shown that once you give someone the dignity of a place to live, and (get that person) off the street, and a place to shower and a bathroom, 80 percent of them will end up becoming clean and sober, and getting a job. That’s a longer-term solution, but you know, we have land in Palm Springs. There are corridors where we could build these kinds of projects, and I think we need to really be aggressive about finding funding to do that.

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

I’ve proposed that over the next two years, we have community meetings to discuss electoral reform. One of the issues is district elections. I see pros and cons to it, and I’m undecided, and I want to hear from the residents on what they think makes sense. The pros of district elections are you have one councilmember you can go to for something in your district, and people can run campaigns that are purely grassroots, because if it’s just a district, you can go door to door; you can spend less money; and I think it would give more diversity to the council.

The downside is in a small city, you can more NIMBYism. We can get a situation where people feel only one of five people is who they want, instead of right now, they get to vote for everyone. It’s something I really want to explore. We used to have district elections in Palm Springs, years ago, when the city was first formed, so I’m very open to it, but I think it’s a discussion, and then something that would have to go on the ballot, to the voters, and I would support allowing the voters to make that decision.

But there are other things we should do. We shouldn’t be electing a mayor with what could be 20 percent of the vote. We should have a runoff system, and whether we do that through rank-choice voting, like San Francisco and Oakland do, or a second runoff between the top two, as Los Angeles does and we do in statewide elections, is something we should explore. … Another thing I propose, which sort of fits this and ethics, is that I’ve requested that the city should post people’s form 700 financial-interest statements, and their form 460, campaign-contribution statements with names, amounts, employer and occupation, on the city website. I posted mine on my website, so people can see mine. I think it’s really important to have transparency.

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

I’m going to answer it this way, which is: Whoever else is elected, I’m going to work with. I have decided not to support anyone else, because I think it’s really important to have a good working relationship with every member of the council.

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?

Obviously, it would depend on the friend, and their budget. We have wonderful restaurants in Palm Springs, and I frequent many of them. I’ll tell you some I frequent: I frequent Trio. I frequent Lulu. I frequent Zin. Going out to a nicer dinner, I like our new Eight4Nine. I like Johannes. I like Le Vallauris. We have just a whole bunch of restaurants at different price levels, and I go to many more than that—especially now that there’s no time to cook at home during an election.

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

I’d like to see restaurants open later. I would like to see the Buzz bus, which has been a great addition for Palm Springs … instead of coming every 15 minutes, it came every 20 minutes, and it took a route that went down Sunrise and Ramon to Palm Canyon, because we have a very large number of retirement communities and residents in assisted-living facilities on that route, and if we could provide free transportation, especially to people who don’t have other transportation, it would be a really good thing for the city to do. I’d like to see us have better public transit … so people can easily get from one place to another, especially in a city that has so many seniors who otherwise are relying on (transportation) once a week from an assisted-living facility, like my dad. My dad’s 88; he lives in an assisted-living facility in Palm Springs, and I’m here, so I can take him where he wants to go, but that’s not true for a lot of other people … .

Since we’re on seniors, I’m my representative for my neighborhood on Organized Neighborhoods of Palm Springs, and I serve on the Code Enforcement Committee, and the traffic, bicycle, pedestrian safety committee. Our crosswalks are set so the average person, walking quickly, can make it across the street (with every green “walk” sign). I can’t make it across Sunrise at Baristo or Ramon with my dad when I’m with him. He’s too scared to go out without me. We either need to adjust our crosswalks so people who walk slower, or with a walker, or (are) in a wheelchair can get across the street. Or on big streets, we need to have a bench and a hand that tells you how long you have, and a place for people to wait halfway. But seeing elderly people with walkers trying to get across the street, where they could fall and get hurt, needs to change.

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

My favorite event that’s a really big event here is the (Palm Springs International) Film Festival. I see films I would never otherwise see; I think it brings visibility to our city and has dramatically changed our brand. And it’s a lot of fun. I also love the Festival of Lights Parade. As a little kid, my grandfather took me to the Thanksgiving Day parade at Macy’s in New York, and I’ve loved parades since—and my husband loves them even more than I do. I think I love them because he almost jumps up and down when the lights are coming down Palm Canyon, so I find that really exciting and fun.

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 mom, who passed away eight years ago, loved elephants. I wear no jewelry except my recent wedding ring, and often an elephant bracelet that I bought in memory of her. When I moved things out of my folks’ house in Palm Desert, when my dad moved in to assisted living in Palm Springs, she had her favorite glass sculptural elephant, which I keep on my night table, and I’d be crushed if that broke.

Published in Politics

Name: Jim King

Age: 66 on Oct. 1

Occupation: Retired business executive

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, development’s going to happen. Palm Springs is resurgent. The mall (had) been there for such a long time; it’s good to have something new in town. We need to have something new. I took over neighborhood watch in my neighborhood, and I had to change our neighborhood watch signs—something new. We have a police badge that says “We call police,” and it’s something new. … So, we’re looking at new ideas coming to town.

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

Yes, there is a crime problem. I understand crime has increased up to 30 percent. One thing: I rode around with a police officer in June, and we just went from place to place to place. He was busy all day long. Then when he shows up to one place, he has a call from somebody else, because they want to have two officers going … together. … We need more (officers), especially now that development is coming in. We need more police during the non-season and the season time. … We need to have a cost-benefit analysis to see if the jail can be reopened. Because the jail is a critical facility. Instead of taking (arrested people) all the way to Banning or Indio, they can be housed in Palm Springs. This last month, we had two fights in the streets with police officers. That’s critical. We need to have our police officers safe and sound.

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

The state has an ethics course. I was on the Workforce Investment Board. We had to take that course every year, or every two years, to make sure our ethics were balanced. Even though I was just a Workforce Investment Board member, they made us take the ethics course. The same thing should happen in Palm Springs. Also, you have to just tell the truth. … If you do something wrong, apologize, and then go from there, because if you don’t apologize, it gets even worse later on.

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

The mayor and Ginny Foat are working on a homeless project. I went to a meeting. My nephew’s homeless by choice. He’s 34. He had a kid when he was 17. He’s dyslexic, so his skill level is not good enough to find a good job, so he had minimum-wage jobs. His girlfriend took him to court, and they wanted to take part of his salary away, even though he was making minimum wage. They also took his driver’s license away, because he wasn’t paying, so he didn’t have a job. He just chose to be homeless, even though we tried to get him some help from the county. We got him help, but … it was too much paperwork coming at him. He couldn’t read it; it was too much for him. … So I’m interested so I can learn in Palm Springs and get involved with this group, and then I can help my nephew out, and also help other people out. I believe you have to help out one individual at a time. … One idea’s not going to solve everything. I look at Housing First in Utah. If you get people off the street, that will make them a lot better, and then slowly work them into counseling or whatever they need to get themselves squared away. I’m very serious about homelessness, not because my nephew’s (homeless), but because I understand how people can just give up.

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

By district. We need diversity. Right now, most of the people are from the same zip code. Everybody should vote on the mayor. Palm Springs is a charter city. That means the mayor and City Council are supposed to run everything. We may have to look at that also.

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

I haven’t made a decision.

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?

If they’re in town for a night, Lulu. It’s in the center of downtown. It’s kind of festive. That’s where I take people all the time. Or Tropicale, because I like that place. I go to Tropicale for birthdays and special events.

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

We have a fish market, but we don’t have a … “You buy, we fry.” It’s a fish market; you buy the fish; they’ll fry it for you. We don’t have one of those. … They do serve fish at the fish market, but it’s not the same. … We don’t have a Nordstrom Rack. We don’t have a Tommy Bahama store. … A courthouse. … We have a small one, but a nice courthouse. We need a very nice courthouse. (Editor’s Note: Jim King emailed after the interview to say: “A indoor/outdoor wedding chapel to take advantage of our fantastic views, right downtown.”)

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

The Tour de Palm Springs. I like bicycling. That’s good exercise.

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?

Maybe the TV. … My Lladrós. Those are porcelain … statues. They have a black version. They’re made in Spain. You can buy them at fancy jewelry stores. At the gas company, our boss gave me a Lladró, and that got me started collecting.

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

Name: David Brown

Age: 46

Occupation: Dry cleaning manager

Interview: Phone

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

At first glance? Construction. Hopefully, when they’re completed, it’s going to be a nice, completed project. Right now, when I look at it, you’re seeing construction, framework, ironwork and a big crane. All that’s kind of distracting from the mountains, but at the same time, hopefully when this project is done, what they’ve built … is a nice project for the city. We have not seen a model master, which would be nice.

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

They need to have more law enforcement. I know that they’re down probably 13 officers, and they’re going to have some lieutenants and such retiring at the end of the year. On the north area of Palm Springs, I think the whole area needs extra officers. Let the neighborhoods work more with their community policing officers.

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

A lot more transparency on government spending. I would encourage the citizens to be more a part of asking questions and going to see documents. I think that certain documents like budgets and other things (involved with) city spending need to be put in a format to where it’s easy to understand for all the residents—I don’t want to say like a kindergarten language, (but) written in a language that is not so much where you look at something, and it has to be defined by an attorney. … There was also a question on candidate transparencies, whether a candidates’ 460 forms and 700 forms should be posted on the city website. My comment on that would be yes, they should be, for better transparency; at the same time, that’s like an extra 10 pages—I don’t know how many pages you’re adding to the city website. My idea would be post a link, because it is public record; you can walk into City Hall and get those forms, but you can also go to the secretary of state and get those same forms. My recommendation would be to put the links to the secretary of state on the city webpage.

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

My thoughts on that would be to look at some model cities that have an influx of homeless, to look at the programs they’ve done, to look and see how they’ve handled it as far as resourcing and programs they’ve adapted. Other thoughts I would have on that would be to network with the community organizations here within the city to build a bigger and stronger bond with the community to help fight this problem, because it is an ongoing problem, and we have to address it. The other issue that follows along with that would be possibly working with the county and state as far as mental-health issues go—trying to get more mental-health personnel and those types of resources and counselors here in the valley, or somewhere to help deal with that. Some of (homelessness is due to) mental-health issues, and there are some people who … want to be homeless. That’s their way of life, and they refuse the help.

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

Right now, I kind of like the current at-large system, but at the same time, I like (electing) by districts, because I think there would be better representation. It would probably cost the city a lot more, but that really doesn’t come in to play—whatever would work best with the city. … Maybe they’re not too familiar with what’s going on in the north end of Palm Springs. It’s better representation for the city, for those areas, is what I’m trying to say. The north end, I feel that they should get a little more acknowledgement.

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

That’s a tough one. I guess my first choice would probably be Paul (Lewin), because he’s a little knowledgeable … because he’s got a little experience of what he’s doing. I would probably pull for somebody who’s been on a commission, because I, myself, came from a commission. I spent three years on the Human Rights Commission. At least (commission members) have a little bit of knowledge, but just because you have those big degrees and titles and backgrounds doesn’t mean that someone (else might not) do a better job. That’s kind of like giving the underdog or somebody you wouldn’t expect a chance. They’re a person. Why not? That’s my open-mindedness coming into play.

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?

Considering I live in the north end … a lot of my friends are older, and they’d probably like Billy Reed’s. It’s kind of a laid-back atmosphere. I like the atmosphere.

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

Maybe something for the younger youth, like a skating rink or something. We have a bowling alley; we don’t have a skating rink. I don’t know how that would fly in the community … but it would also pull people from the valley, just like the bowling alley does.

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

Probably the Date Festival. (I like the) food, and you get to meet all different types of people. I’ve always had to work (during) the music festivals, so I’ve never had the opportunity to go to those.

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 pictures. Old family pictures.

Published in Politics

The spot that once was home to downtown Palm Springs’ Desert Fashion Plaza—and before that, the legendary Desert Inn—is under construction. It’s slated to eventually become home to a shopping center and a Kimpton Hotel, under the direction of developer John Wessman.

One man has been leading the charge against the project as it is planned: Frank Tysen, the owner of the Casa Cody Bed and Breakfast Inn.

Because of his opposition to what many consider “progress,” some city officials—most notably Mayor Steve Pougnet—have harshly criticized and even demonized Tysen, who has been a fixture in various Palm Springs development battles now for more than two decades.

On Jan. 16, during his State of the City speech, Pougnet issued his most vicious public attack on Tysen to date. He referenced a series of letters that Mike Depatie, the CEO of Kimpton Hotels, was supposedly sent by Tysen and Tysen’s colleagues. Pougnet characterized the letters as “vile.”

“You know what that reminds me of? ‘We don’t want people here,’” Pougnet. “It’s something we got over in Palm Springs. We’re over it: ‘We don’t want Jews; we don’t want gays; we don’t want blacks; we don’t want Agua Calientes.’ We’ve moved past that kind of rhetoric that Frank Tysen continues to spew.”

Given all the controversy surrounding the proposed Hotel Palomar, the Independent decided to take a closer look at Tysen, his motivations and his future plans.

In a recent series of interviews with the Independent, Tysen denied sending any letters to Depatie that were in any way hateful or vile. (More on that later.) We found Tysen to be far from hateful; in fact, he comes off as polite and even charming. He’s also brilliant: In 1966, he was a Guggenheim Fellow due to his work in architecture, planning and design.

While Tysen is passionate, knowledgeable, resourceful and opinionated, he also has a point of view on the city of Palm Springs that may very well be antiquated. Most notably, he criticizes attempts by some city officials and business leaders to aggressively pursue business from younger professionals.

“The stupid thing that goes on is that City Hall has become obsessed about bringing in the millennials,” he said. “What makes this town work is basically an older crowd, because the older crowd has the time to come in mid-week; young professionals don’t have the time to come in mid-week, because they work.

“Every year now, they’re putting on this rock concert called Tachevah that they call a block party. I went there last year to take a look, and I saw all these youngsters from Coachella and Indio. These aren’t people who are staying here; it’s not going to fill the beds during the mid-week.”

About 25 years ago, Frank Tysen and his business partner were shown the Casa Cody Bed and Breakfast Inn. Tysen immediately fell in love.

“I thought it would be fun to have a little hotel here,” Tysen said. “(Palm Springs) was dead at the time, and there was nothing happening. Palm Springs was at a real all-time low in the ’80s.

“People complain now, but there’s nothing to complain about, because the town is hopping,” he said with a laugh.

“I loved the whole feeling of the place and the natural beauty, but also the lovely architecture, the beautiful estates, and so on. (Casa Cody) was in shambles because it was run like a flop house. We saw the potential and started to restore it. It’s been a nonstop restoration ever since. We’ve added three other properties … over the years.”

Over the last two and a half decades, Tysen has watched as Palm Springs has evolved.

“Several people came to the city (around the same time that I did) and started picking up the old inns and fixing them up,” he said “Basically, that started what I believe is the revival of Palm Springs in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. People started to discover it again.”

Flash forward to November 2011, when voters in Palm Springs approved Measure J, a 1 percent increase in the sales and use tax, with that money dedicated to the revitalization of downtown Palm Springs. Tysen said he was supportive of the measure.

However, as plans for the old Desert Fashion Plaza emerged, Tysen soured on that portion of downtown redevelopment. One of his main complaints involves the design of the Hotel Palomar, slated to be operated by Kimpton. In particular, the modernist design and height of the hotel was questioned and opposed by Tysen. (Most reports say that the hotel is slated to be six stories tall; however, Tysen insists that he’s seen plans showing the hotel could rise up to nine stories.)

In May 2013, Tysen and his group, Advocates for Better Community Development, filed a lawsuit to block hotel construction; the group also started to collect signatures to force an election on the hotel plans. The group eventually submitted 2,700 signatures—seemingly enough to send the matter to voters. However, the city refused to place the matter on the ballot, claiming the issue was not subject to voter approval. In December 2013, a Riverside County Superior Court judge ruled in the favor of the city; Tysen and his group appealed.

Then came that Jan. 16 State of the City address by Mayor Steve Pougnet. In addition to calling out Tysen’s “rhetoric,” Pougnet shocked the crowd by announcing the city would send the hotel decision to voters after all—during an April special election.

Then on Jan. 29, the city made yet another about-face, agreeing to pay Tysen and ABCD $50,000 (apparently to cover legal fees) to drop the lawsuit, and canceling the April election.

Tysen said he decided to drop the lawsuit because it felt like the right thing to do.

“At that point, there was such a show of hysteria,” said Tysen, who reportedly received a death threat after the State of the City speech. “The city, especially, approached me to drop it. So I tried to look for another way we can solve these problems.”

However, that doesn’t mean it is clear sailing for the redevelopment of the old Desert Fashion Plaza: A remaining lawsuit, also filed by Tysen and ABCD, challenges various approvals of and changes to the redevelopment project.

As for Pougnet’s claims that Tysen and his fellow hotel opponents were sending rhetoric-filled letters to Kimpton hotels, the matter remains unclear. However, Tysen provided the Independent with a copy of a letter that he sent to Mike Depatie, the CEO of Kimpton Hotels. The letter is well-written and politely lays out Tysen’s concerns about the hotel, with no “vile” rhetoric to be found.

“I am very much aware of the wonderful reputation of your company and the sensitive way in which you have fit your hotel in historic areas such as Alexandria, Virginia, and I hope for something like that,” Tysen wrote. (See the letter for yourself at the story's bottom.)

The Independent left multiple messages with Pougnet to discuss Tysen and his opposition to the downtown redevelopment project; the mayor did not return the calls.

What is the point behind Tysen’s opposition to the hotel? He said it’s all in the design.

“The whole thing started off fine,” Tysen said. “Everything looked like it was going to be exciting. There was no mention of a nine-story hotel in the visioning sessions. It was completely different and looked very European, very low-key; they talked about world-class architecture. … Then, suddenly, the mayor decided to drop the eminent domain and started working with a developer (John Wessman), and what came out of that had no relation to the visioning sessions.”

Tysen insisted the architecture is not appropriate for Palm Springs.

“If you see the pictures, it looks more like downtown L.A., in the area near the Staples Center,” Tysen said. “It certainly doesn’t look like Palm Springs. … It’s really nothing that people are going to come and look at. It’s a glass box.

“The whole thing is very dense. Also, the whole surrounding retail … is another stupid thing to do, because we already have so many vacancies that haven’t been filled. To add another couple hundred thousand feet of retail makes no sense.”

Several times, Tysen insisted that the voices of tourists and part-time residents are being ignored—in part because they are unable to vote in local elections.

“The tourists are shocked,” Tysen said. “Unfortunately, they don’t have any voice in it. If they asked the tourists, they wouldn’t build it. Somehow, there’s a group of people in town who are so tired of nothing happening for 10 years, that now, suddenly, they think we should do anything that comes along. To me, it’s something you just don’t do. You do the right thing instead. … The people who are really affected don’t vote here. The tourists and the second homeowners—all these people coming in don’t have any idea of what’s going on.”

Some of Tysen’s critics have speculated he is fighting to protect his own interests, because his hotel is just a few blocks away from the redevelopment site. Tysen insisted that’s not the case; he said he simply believes that the hotel is a bad fit for Palm Springs.

“If anything, we might get more business if people walk around, and they see a small place that looks charming,” Tysen said. “It’s going to affect the feeling of the town and those who do or do not come here. The world is getting so crazy, crowded and congested, and right now in L.A., you can’t even move around anymore. People go to places like Catalina, Carmel or Santa Barbara to get away from all that. People come here to savor the nature of it, and also the feel of a small town. To have this thing sitting in the middle of it—it’s a terrible mistake.”

Tysen also said he believes the proposed hotel and shopping center are bad ideas because the millennials who are coming to the city are not spending any money. He claimed that most of the corporate hotel chains in Palm Springs are suffering through too many vacancies.

“The average occupancy at the Hyatt Hotel in Palm Springs is no more than 50 to 60 percent,” Tysen said. “Palm Springs, like many resort cities, is a seasonal town. The high season is February, March and April. Most of the hotels fill up during those few months of the year. With the young market, the Hard Rock Hotel was selling rooms in November for $59 a night during the middle of the week, and that’s the ‘hot, crowded Hard Rock.’ The Saguaro was selling rooms for $69 during the middle of the week in November. The Riviera was selling Thanksgiving for $109. There’s a lot of foolish stuff going on. This would be a big, subsidized thing.”

The Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism did not respond to requests from the Independent for demographics and specific hotel-vacancy information.

“You can’t do everything, and I think … Palm Springs has spontaneously become very popular with young people. They enjoy coming down here, so we’re doing fine, and I’m not worried about it. But these people who say, ‘We need more millennials!’ don’t understand that they have no time or money to spend in the hotels!”

Tysen claimed Palm Springs’ quiet, lovely nature attracts more visitors than anything else.

“Everyone is so impressed by what’s going on at the Coachella festival once every year. Coachella is Coachella, but Palm Springs is Palm Springs. There’s no one at the Palm Springs International Film Festival under the age of 40. Don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg! Don’t kill the flavor of the whole town.”

John-Michael Cooper, the general manager of Palm Springs Rendezvous and the president of Small Hotels of Palm Springs (SHoPS), has worked closely with Tysen, a fellow SHoPS board member. He said portrayals of Tysen as a radical are off-base.

“People judge Frank in a very general way,” Cooper said. “There are a lot of things about (Tysen) that are completely ignored.”

Cooper said he’s worked with Tysen on various matters for five years now. While he does not always agree with Tysen, Cooper said he has a lot of respect for him.

“He’s one of the founding members of the association of which I’m now president of, and he’s a very skilled hotelier,” Cooper said. “We’re all in favor of Measure J, and he’s been very accommodating. But he is very motivated in what he does, and he’s super-passionate. I’ve agreed with him on a lot of sides of this thing that is known as Measure J. I can’t say I think one way or the other about (the proposed hotel and shopping center), because it is pretty multi-faceted—but I have a lot of respect for Frank.”

Tysen said people are quick to make assumptions about him.

“The real sad thing is there are a lot of people who have a lynch-mob mentality,” said Tysen. “You know, ‘Oh, let’s go get him—the son of a bitch! He’s stopping progress and everything.’ Most of the time, they don’t even know what’s going on; they don’t even know the issues. It’s scary to see people crawling out from under the rocks. I came to Palm Springs because I liked what I see. I don’t know why they came to Palm Springs—they could have gone to Las Vegas if they liked that kind of stuff.”

Make no mistake: Agree or disagree with Tysen, he’s no dummy. In fact, before he became a hotelier, he had a long career in urban design, planning and architecture. He also has a history of public opposition to controversial projects.

“I taught for many years at USC in urban and regional planning. I have done lots of studies about all of this. I was a Guggenheim Fellow, and I spent time in India (working) on master-planning in Calcutta. I worked with Gov. Ronald Reagan and had a lot of impact in not moving the (main L.A.) airport from Los Angeles to Palmdale. I was very instrumental in stopping the freeway that was going to go through Malibu and Santa Monica, and I stopped two oil refineries when I was on the … environmental council, in Beaumont and Banning. So I’ve tried to protect the environment all throughout California. It’s not just that I own a small hotel.”

He also took credit for helping make Palm Springs a successful destination.

“The reason this town is so special is because people like me have fought these battles,” Tysen said. “It starts when Nellie Coffman owned the Desert Inn (which was located on the Desert Fashion Plaza site); they fought an asphalt plant that was going to be up the street. There was a group here called Citizens United that had a building moratorium here.

“All kinds of battles have been fought. Pearl McManus would cancel an escrow if somebody built something she didn’t like. All this stuff has been going on, and that’s why this town is special. It isn’t special by accident. Otherwise, it would look like Beaumont, or it would look like Fontana. It’s special because people like me have fought these battles.”

Photo by Kevin Fitzgerald

Published in Local Issues

The annual Festival of Lights parade drew quite a large crowd to downtown Palm Springs On Saturday, Dec. 7.

The cold (for Palm Springs, at least) weather didn’t stop tens of thousands of people from taking in the parade full of illuminated participants, vehicles, bands and floats.

The parade’s grand marshall was Three’s Company actress Suzanne Somers. She wore a white fur coat and waved to the audience while seated on a vintage red convertible.

Some of the more spectacular entries: the Tonga Hut’s Hawaiian themed float complete with a volcano; a lit up Coca-Cola truck; and, of course, Santa Claus, who came through on a lit up sleigh.

Scroll down to see our gallery of CVI Crapcam pics from the event. Enjoy!

Published in Snapshot

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