Summary:
Desert Sun editors oppose the democratic citizen petition process and label a current petition “sour grapes”. Editors continue to whine about the potential for delays in the rushed Desert Fashion Plaza “Build something, anything, And ASAP” renovation plans of the project.


Desert Sun Editors Whine About Desert Fashion Plaza Petition


Palm Springs, California
.  In their “Thumbs down: A Sour grapes backlash” opinion piece The Desert Sun editorial board complains about concerned citizens filing a petition requesting City Council reconsideration of  a hotel as part of the Desert Fashion Plaza renovation project. It should be noted many in the community view the proposed hotel’s design as an architecturally ugly structure inconsistent with community standards. Editors claim “voters had their say when they approved Measure J” and assert the petition “reeks of sour grapes“.

Citizen rights to petition the government for redress are part of the democratic process. While Desert Sun editors acknowledged “At first blush, it seems like democracy in action” it appears clear the newspaper’s support for democracy doesn’t extend much further than their front door. When ordinary citizens seek their democratic petition rights the editors view such action as “sour grapes“. Editors would be wise to consider that some of the alternatives to petitions are riots, street marches, advertiser boycotts and newspaper subscription cancellations. Such reflection on their part may help them view citizen petitions in a more positive light.

The $300,000 campaign that persuaded voters to pass the Measure J 1% Sales Tax Hike included many photos, project designs and promises about Desert Fashion Plaza renovation plans. Some of these are incorporated in a financing agreement between developer John Wessman and the City of Palm Springs. That agreement is the only document detailing plaza renovation costs, designs and plans – and it was never approved by the voters! The agreement – now a city ordinance – has since been amended several times. One amendment released the developer from an expensive requirement to include an entertainment complex in the design. Another amendment adds a previously unplanned large hotel structure. It’s the alleged ugly hotel structure that has led to the citizen petition.

The editorial claim “voters had their say when they approved Measure J” is simply mistaken! That vote was a simple Yes or No whether to approve a one percent sales tax hike. Nothing in the vote included specific requirements of how the money should be used or the actual Desert Fashion Plaza renovation plans. The voters have had absolutely no say in whether a hotel, bowling alley, theatre, market or other business are part of the renovated plaza property. Those decisions are being made by the developer and Palm Springs city officials. The only way for citizens to play a definitive role is via the ballot box. A citizen petition asking reconsideration or repeal of the ordinance – is the democratic way to proceed and a normal part of the process. It’s the right thing for them to do!

Desert Sun newspaper management has now produced at least five editorials in support of the current taxpayer-funded Desert Fashion Plaza renovation project. Their position is akin to a horse with blinders to prevent seeing either side. It’s probably fair to assume none are conversant with the actual financing agreement covering plaza renovation. That’s probably because they really don’t care! Their view appears to more closely approximate “Build something, anything, And ASAP!

” It’s that type of thinking that results in a “sour grapes” denunciation of their opposition. And the term “their opposition” probably best describes how they view those who disagree with their editorial opinions on the subject.

Desert Sun editors are mistaken to categorize democracy in action as “sour grapes“. Their views are undemocratic and they speak for the economic interests of their advertisers. Palm Springs residents are not well-served by Desert Sun management and their editorial board. The newspaper does not deserve community support.

Bond Shands

Desert Political Opinion at www.DesertObserver.com
January 26, 2013


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Summary.
This year’s plan for a citizen commission to independently solicit recommendations for use of Measure J 1% Sales Tax funds has been shelved. The 2012-2013 fiscal year plan recommends the entire $4.6 million be spent on a list of City Hall approved General Fund projects.


MEASURE J OVERSIGHT COMMISSION A JOKE


Palm Springs, California
.
The Measure J Oversight Commission concept has turned out to be a joke! That’s been proved by the absence of an independent recommendation to spend this year’s $4.6 million from Measure J Sales Tax money.

A single reason promoted by the City Council led to creation of the Measure J Oversight Commission. It was that an appointed panel of residents would independently solicit community input and then recommend how Measure J Sales Tax money would be used. The entire concept was to completely separate City Hall influence from the 1% Sales Tax fund spending process. We’ve now learned absolutely no independent solicitation of community input has occurred and this year’s $4.6 million will be used to pay for a list of General Fund projects dictated by City Hall.

The upcoming City Council session has on its agenda a recommendation to spend $3 million for streets and $1.6 million on an assortment of other General Fund items. The entire list, submitted in the name of the Measure J Oversight Commission, originated from City Hall. It includes Kitchen Equipment, Light Fixtures, Swim Center Deck, Dog Park maintenance, Parking Lot Repair, Water Valve Maintenance, Stadium Fence repairs, Aging Palm Tree replacements, and a new Traffic Signal for Ralph’s Shopping Center, etc.

It’s clear the commission is not functioning this year as an independent community representative recommending how the $4.6 million is to be spent. Since the commission is serving as little more than an advocate for City Hall interests the question needs to be asked: “What’s the point of having a commission?”

In my opinion, as previously noted, the Measure J Oversight Commission concept has turned out to be a joke! It’s clear City Hall won’t allow the commission to independently produce a list of recommendations for use of funds.

Bond Shands

Desert Political Opinion

October 14, 2012 ($4.5 million corrected to $4.6 million)

Comments may be posted below or sent to politics@desertobserver.com.


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Palm Springs, California.  With much fanfare and many promises the Palm Springs City Council created a Measure J Oversight Commission to guard against unwarranted expenditure of 1% Sales Tax monies. A new eleven member commission was appointed to determine how the Sales Tax funds should be spent and make their recommendations to the City Council. Commission members met in June, July and August but have not yet considered or recommended any uses for the new 1% Sales Tax revenues.

City Staff are planning an end run around the Measure J Oversight Commission. They’ve sneaked a resolution onto this week’s City Council agenda’s automatic CONSENT CALENDAR authorizing the City Manager to spend $247,555 for downtown maintenance costs. The use of funds and their purpose are being made exempt from review and recommendation by the Measure J Oversight Commission.

Bond Shands
September 3, 2012


 

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5.00 avg. rating (96% score) - 1 vote

Summary:
A photo of the “Forever Marilyn” sculpture has been added, without explanation, to the Measure J Oversight Commission page on the Palm Springs city website.


“Forever Marilyn” and “Measure J Forever”


P
alm Springs, California.
  The Measure J Oversight Commission has its own page on the Palm Springs web site. The page summarizes the November 2011 Measure J ballot measure, the Oversight Commission purpose, and lists the eleven members who currently serve on the commission.

One of the many recent photos of the “Forever Marilyn” sculpture in the little downtown park has been added to the Oversight Commission web page. There is neither caption nor explanation that indicates the sculpture’s relationship to the commission. Who placed the photo on the page, when it was done and why have yet to be made known. It’s just there. The original sculpture in the park is, of course, a privately funded highly controversial icon in a pose as if forever ready for another closeup.

Forever Marilyn 

Discussion of plans to designate the “Forever Marilyn” sculpture as an Oversight Commission responsibility has not appeared on any published meeting agenda. Whether its role will be that of an official representative logo of the commission is not known. However it’s apparent the privately funded “Forever Marilyn” sculpture now has an official relationship with a city commission. That relationship may serve as future justification for Measure J funds being made available for the sculpture’s maintenance and possible acquisition. “Forever Marilyn” and the Measure J Oversight Commission may be destined for a role as yet another of those uniquely Palm Springs public-private partnership funding arrangements.

Will “Forever Marilyn” and “Measure J Forever” turn out to be a perfect fit?

Bond Shands

Desert Political Opinion

July 24, 2012



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0.00 avg. rating (0% score) - 0 votes

Summary:
Mayor Pro Tem Ginny Foat engaged in a spirited email exchange asserting no Conflict of Interest exists with respect to her functions as a paid City Council member or salaried Executive Director of Mizell Senior Center. She claims her actions securing Measure J Oversight Commission appointments for two of her Mizell Senior Center employer representatives did not violate any legal restrictions.


Mayor Pro Tem Ginny Foat on War Path


Palm Springs, California.
  City Council interviews of 42 applicants ended with council members instructed to submit their list of 11 candidates for nomination as Measure J Oversight Commission members. Those lists were then consolidated into one of 26 nominees, of which 10 each received a majority of 3 council member nominations. The council agreed to appoint the 10 as members of the new commission.

Mizell Senior Center president John Williams and Mark Marshall, the Center’s 1st Vice President, were among those receiving the minimum 3 nominations. Mayor Pro Tem Ginny Foat is Executive Director of Mizell Senior Center and both Williams and Marshall are officers and board members employing her services. Foat’s was one of the 3 council member nominations that placed her employer representatives on the prestigious Measure J Oversight Commission. Despite the obvious conflict of interest Foat failed in her duty to refrain from promoting her employers for the coveted commission appointments.

In an email to Mizell Senior Center president John Williams, with copies to both Marshall and Foat, I noted my status as a member and supporter of the Center, and my objection to Foat wearing two hats – that of a city council member and Executive Director of the Center. My objection was based on the conflict of interest actions I had observed. I subsequently posted the “Palm Springs: A Pay-To-Play City?” blog that detailed specific concerns regarding Foat’s conflict of interest actions with respect to her Oversight
Commission nominees.

Neither of the Mizell Senior Center officers replied to my email. Instead a quick response was received from Mayor Pro Tem Ginny Foat along with a “spur of the moment” No Conflict of Interest opinion from the City Attorney. Foat and I exchanged several messages. She made clear I have absolutely no right to question her actions as Executive Director of Mizell Senior Center or as a member of the Palm Springs City Council. She referred to me, my letter and a related blog using such terms as “divisive”, “mean and wrong”, an “incredible insult”, “designed to hurt people”, an “injustice”, filled with “venom”, “outrageous”, “laughable”, “harming others”, and “poison pen”.

The content of Mayor Pro Tem Foat’s two emails border on the uncivil and are not couched in the polite phrases one would expect of an Executive Director or a city council member. Her style is rambling, somewhat haughty and definitely reminiscent of the “kill the messenger” variety. Another remarked, after seeing the email content, that she is clearly “on a War Path”. Click below to view copies of four (4) emails exchanged with Foat.

Bond Shands
May 6, 2012





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0.00 avg. rating (0% score) - 0 votes

Summary:
The recommendation and vote of Palm Springs Mayor Pro Tem Ginny Foat, who is also Executive Director of Mizell Senior Center, made possible the appointment of two Center board officers to the new Measure J Oversight Commission. Ms. Foat, a Mizell Senior Center employee, failed to recuse herself from the conflict of interest inherent in her actions.


Palm Springs: A Pay-To-Play City?


Palm Springs, California.
The appointments of residents to the newly created Measure J Oversight Commission have been made. While many are individuals with histories of local community service and accomplishments, it is also true most of those appointed are personal friends/supporters of City Council members. Such appointments, though political, are perfectly legal. Politics is often played as a game of winner-take-all and that’s certainly the case in Palm Springs.

Mayor Pro Tem Ginny Foat is employed as the salaried Executive Director by Mizell Senior Center. At the time she was selected for the job it was understood she would not be casting her City Council vote on issues related to her employment with the Center. The act of recusing herself would protect all parties from any real or perceived conflicts of interest or similar ethics issues. It is now clear Ms. Foat has violated that understanding and has used her position on the council to satisfy the interests of her employers.

The appointment of Mizell Senior Center board president John Williams and its 1st Vice President Mark Marshall to the commission was made possible by the recommendation and vote of Mayor Pro Tem Ginny Foat. Mssrs. Williams and Marshall, to whom Ms. Foat reports, are her employers. She should not have recommended nor voted for either individual to be one of the members of the prestigious Measure J Oversight Commission. While both gentlemen appear qualified, the third vote needed for their appointment should have come from one of the other City Council members. Ms. Foat has a clear conflict of interest and the requirements for ethical actions by government officials should have been her guide.

Local KPSI radio broadcaster Steve Kelly has often asked on his morning Desert Today program whether Palm Springs is becoming “a Pay-To-Play city“. The actions of Mayor Pro Tem Ginny Foat in placing her employers on the new Measure J Oversight Commission appear to speak to that question.

Bond Shands
May 4, 2012






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Content:
The latest listing of candidates for the new Measure J Oversight Commission numbers twenty-six – from which nine are expected to receive appointments. Ten candidates appear to be front-runners and Downtown Business Community interests appear to hold a majority among that group. None of those active in the “No on Measure J” campaign are on the list of candidate names.


Measure J Oversight Commission Interview Short List


Palm Springs, California
.  Members of the city council devoted substantial portions of two days to the interviews of 42 candidates for appointment to the new Measure J Oversight Commission. Afterwards each Councilmember selected 11 candidates for consideration. The 5 lists, one from each Councilmember, were consolidated into a single list of 26 names. The next step will be for the council to select 9 members plus 2 alternates for appointment.

None of the 26 candidate names appeared on all  5 Councilmember lists. The following are those on the Short List of 26 names.

GROUP ONE – NAMES WITH FIVE COUNCILMEMBER RECOMMENDATIONS
None

GROUP TWO – NAMES WITH FOUR COUNCILMEMBER RECOMMENDATIONS
Aftab Dada   –  Elizabeth Glass   –  David Vogel

GROUP THREE – NAMES WITH THREE COUNCILMEMBER RECOMMENDATIONS
Kristin Bloomer   –  Leo Cohen   –  Christine Hammond
Mark Marshall   –  Robert Moon   –  Kevin Towner   –  John Williams

GROUP FOUR – NAMES WITH TWO COUNCILMEMBER RECOMMENDATIONS
Ted Briggs   –  Harry Bruce   –  Greg Rodriguez
Steve Rosenberg   –  Mark Walthour   –  Curt Watts

GROUP FIVE – NAMES WITH ONE COUNCILMEMBER RECOMMENDATION
Thom Bettinger   –  Adam Gilbert   –  Terrence Jones
Bruce Kassler  –  Andrew Levine   –   Keith McCormick
Ulrich McNulty   –   John Stiles   –   Anthony Toia   –  Joseph Wild

It is probable the 9 commission appointments to be made will come from the top 10 names listed in groups two and three. Councilmember Lewin recommended 8 of the top 10 names; Councilmembers Foat, Hutcheson, and Mayor Pougnet each recommended 7; and Councilmember Mills recommended 4 of those now topping the list.

It seems clear the new commission will be heavily influenced by downtown business community interests. Most of their candidate application forms suggested downtown revitalization as an important use of funds. The community spheres of influence represented by the top 10 names include the “Yes on Measure J” campaign, Chamber of Commerce, P.S. Neighborhood Involvement Organizations, Downtown Business Community, P.S. Police Officers Association, the LGBT community, and personages with some degree of affluence.  Only one candidate, based on actual residency and community involvement, is clearly not qualified.

The Measure J Oversight Commission ordinance was the right step to take regarding recommended and actual use of the 1% Sales Tax funds not dedicated to Desert Fashion Plaza renovation. Whether the new commission will be able to devote the remainder of the funds to city needs and areas other than downtown cannot now be answered. Some may view the breadth of the commission appointees as unrepresentative of the entire community. What is clear is almost all those topping the list are residents who care about our city for they are individuals whose past community involvements have proven their commitment and dedication.

Bond Shands
April 30, 2012





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0.00 avg. rating (0% score) - 0 votes

Palm Springs, California.  Two weeks ago The Desert Sun editors reviewed Palm Springs City Council actions with respect to the Measure J Oversight Commission candidate selection process.  At that time they gave it their THUMBS DOWN in an editorial stating “...the council shouldn’t be in the position of picking the oversight board in the first place. What’s to stop the council members from picking participants who are beholden to their own views or interests? Unfortunately, not much.”

The editors have again reviewed the Measure J Oversight Commission selection process and their opinion has undergone a complete flip-flop. In their “New selection process for Measure J Oversight Commission is better” editorial they now give THUMBS UP support to the process because the City Council has increased from 25 to 44 the number of candidates to be interviewed. No mention was made in the editorial of the remaining 55 candidates who will not be interviewed nor given further consideration.

The Desert Sun
editors previously stated the council should not pick the oversight board. Nothing has changed! The council remains firm in their decision to be the only body that interviews and recommends candidates for appointment. No official public acknowledgement of the question about council members picking those beholden to them has been reported. Where is that better selection process the editors report?

Less than half those who were encouraged to apply will be interviewed. The only change is the decision to increase the number of interviews from 25 to 44 candidates. Is the addition of 19 candidate interviews really a “new selection process”?

The City Council’s candidate selection process was arbitrary and secretive. The 55 who were not selected have been publicly identified as either “unqualified” or not “overly worthy“. City Council actions in this regard have resulted in unacceptable treatment and disregard for individual reputations. None of those not selected were notified, no thanks have been extended in recognition of their participation, and no apologies have been made for disparaging remarks with respect to them as candidates. 

What has happened with the selection process that it now merits a THUMBS UP report from The Desert Sun editors? Certainly a flip-flop that leaves so much unanswered reflects poorly on the paper and its editorial staff. And they surely realize their flip-flop action brings into question their credibility. Why did they choose to reverse their position?

Bond Shands
Palm Springs – March 11, 2012
 



0.00 avg. rating (0% score) - 0 votes

Palm Springs, CaliforniaThe Desert Sun‘s “Palm Springs City Council to interview 44 Measure J panel hopefuls” report confirmed the intent to interview only 44 of the 99 applicants who qualified for appointment to the new Measure J Oversight Commission. Mayor Steve Pougnet has implied the 55 who will not be interviewed are not “uniquely qualified” and Councilwoman Ginny Foat has indicated her view that some were actually “unqualified” for one of the seven commission appointments. None of the 55 has received written notice of their rejection.

Many have urged the council consider changes in the appointment process and to interview all 99 applicants. The Desert Sun editors stated their view “the council shouldn’t be in the position of picking the oversight board in the first place.” All to no avail! Mayor Pougnet convinced fellow council members to adopt his own Oversight Commission appointment agenda and ignore those in the community he referred to as “vocal critics”. One speaker appearing before the council referred to “the firestorm” of criticism about the council not interviewing all 99 applicants. Despite overwhelming evidence of community concern the council barely acknowledged that controversy surrounded their actions and no council member indicated concern with the process. Instead the members completely disregarded all input asking for change and voted in favor of the Mayor’s proposal.

Mayor Pougnet did not campaign on a pledge to place constituent’s interests above his own. He did not campaign on a pledge to always be accessible, listen and represent the views of residents.

No City Council member campaigned on a pledge to place constituent’s interests above their own. None campaigned on a pledge to always be accessible, listen and represent the views of residents.

Is it any wonder The Desert Sun editors asked, “What’s to stop the council members from picking participants who are beholden to their own views or interests?” No council member has provided a public response to this question. In fact no public acknowledgement of the question, from any city official, has been reported.

Those in the community who expected the City Council to listen and modify their actions in response to that “firestorm” of criticism should now realize none on the council actually promised to act in the best interests of their constituents. Council members have certainly proved that to be the case with respect to their Measure J Oversight Commission responsibilities.

Is it too much to ask for a City Council comprised of those who pledge to place constituent’s interests above their own? Is it too much to ask for a City Council whose members pledge to always be accessible, listen and represent the views of residents? When the City Council ignores its constituents interests, is there any recourse available to the community?

Bond Shands
Palm Springs – March 9, 2012
 



0.00 avg. rating (0% score) - 0 votes

Palm Springs, California.  The gang that can’t shoot straight! That pretty much sums up City Council actions with respect to the Measure J Oversight Commission appointment process. The new citizens’ watchdog commission concept The Desert Sun said “exuded noble intentions and goodwill” is turning into a political fiasco entirely of the council’s making. In response to extensive advertising the council received ninety-nine (99) qualified applications from citizens seeking appointment to the new commission. Some council members viewed the large number of potential applicant interviews with distaste. Their solution resulted in a secretive arbitrary selection process that vastly eliminated the number to be interviewed. Mayor Steve Pougnet has described the forty-four (44) selected candidates, none of whom has been interviewed, as “uniquely qualified”. The remaining fifty-five (55) rejected applicants will not benefit from interviews or further consideration.

In an earlier Thumbs Down editorial The Desert Sun editors stated “…the council shouldn’t be in the position of picking the oversight board in the first place.” Mayor Pougnet responded in a morning Valley Voice op-ed piece titled “Only the Palm Springs City Council can make board appointments.” In it he notes the City Charter requires that board or commission appointments be made by the City Council. The mayor’s statement represents a bit of subterfuge. All that has been suggested is that another body handle interviews and then recommend candidates for appointment by the council. No one disputes appointment authority rests with the council, but the only way the public can be assured the process is open and independent is for the council to delegate the interview and preliminary selection process.

Mayor Pougnet’s op-ed asserts the Oversight Commission selection process has been transparent.  It clearly has not! Trimming down the pool from ninety-nine (99) to forty-four (44) applicants was done in secret and without explanation of the selection process used. The council had earlier decided to select and interview twenty-five (25) candidates during a special morning session. That process was cancelled and the decision to do so made in secret. The mayor intends to recommend the council now interview forty-four (44) applicants but the criteria to be used during the selection process remains secret. The Oversight Commission selection process is not and has not been transparent! Instead it has been arbitrary and secretive.

Mayor Pougnet was one who encouraged citizens to apply for Oversight Commission appointment but he never indicated he had no intention of interviewing all qualified applicants. The reputations of the fifty-five (55) fine citizens whose applications have been rejected has not been enhanced by this arbitrary action on the mayor’s part. Those who have been denied interviews deserve an apology.

The Palm Springs community is not being well served in these proceedings. The council’s failure to do the right thing could easily mean the commissioners they appoint will enter into office under the dark cloud of political favoritism with the appearance those appointed will have benefited from political patronage. The action of the council may be one a great many will never approve nor forget. As The Desert Sun editors asked, “What’s to stop the council members from picking participants who are beholden to their own views or interests?”

Will “The gang who can’t shoot straight!” take a step back, decide that all applicants should be interviewed and then assign the actual selection of applicants to others before ending the process and exercising their appointment authority?

Bond Shands
Palm Springs – March 6, 2012
 


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