Palm Springs 2015 Local Election Activity

     This year’s elections in Palm Springs for Mayor, two City Council seats and two Desert Water Agency Board of Directors seats, stand a very good chance of changing the way things are being done or continuing the “Business as Usual” program that’s proved satisfactory with many in the past.

     Who will enter the race for Mayor is important because Mayor Steve Pougnet’s stepping down leaves a vacancy without an incumbent? Will we see fresh faces or those whose names are familiar to all? Mayor Steve Pougnet is finishing his eighth year in office and he is credited by many for the economic increases the community has experienced following the recent Depression. His last race for reelection was a cake-walk for he didn’t face any significant challengers. This year’s election could turn into a nasty bloodbath or it could simply take on the characteristics of a beauty pageant.  

     Announced candidate Robert Moon, a member of the Measure J Commission, is one who merits the outsider designation. His exemplary military service background, successful business experience and length of Palm Springs residency are all desirable qualities. He has not been shy in stating his positions on government transparency, help for the homeless, discontent with the existing city council, greater citizen involvement in city affairs, disapproving of city fees paid to developers, and more.  His candidacy apparently is one representing change.

     There are no other announced candidates for Mayor and the rumors that council members Paul Lewin and Ginny Foat are each considering making a run for the job remain speculative – though perhaps not for long. Both have reportedly made known they’re considering throwing a hat into the ring.

     The list of those currently seeking a seat on the City Council is and probably will continue to be the longest. Those announced include LGBT Activist Geoff Kors, incumbent Paul Lewin, Planning Commission member JR Roberts, and Neighborhood Leader Jim King. Of the three, Geoff Kors has taken the lead with large teams devoted to handling campaign development and finances. At this point it’s highly probable that Kors may easily coast to victory for his lifetime record of LGBT community service and support give him a running start in the quest for a city council seat. Among many areas of concern he’s also evidenced an interest in homeless issues and greater attention to water conservation and similar drought-related subjects.

     When the candidates list is complete the next big question is who will receive support from the major political groups? That long list includes Palm Springs POA, Main Street merchants, Desert Stonewall Democrats, the organized GOP community, Neighborhood groups, Religious community leaders, other Chamber of Commerce members, and Big Money individuals and interests.

     Desert Water Agency board member elections are usually rather quiet affairs. The sleepy board positions are great ones for those seeking expense-paid travel and conference trips or in need of something to occupy their time. Most of those currently occupying these positions were first appointed to “planned” vacancies that permitted them to later run for re-election as incumbents. This year’s two incumbents up for re-election are the agency’s current rotating board president, Craig Ewing, and recent appointee Richard Oberhaus. The water board on which they serve operates more like a business corporation than a public agency. There are no citizen committees nor other outreach activities intended to assess public interests and concerns. The directors take their cue from and rely on staff as the source for their monthly meeting actions and decisions. Board member positions appear to be jobs requiring little in the way of conservation and management expertise or community outreach skills.

     Craig Ewing, a retired City of Palm Springs employee, has yet to state his reelection intentions. He is known to oppose many of the water conservation standards being implemented elsewhere though in the past has favored a switch to tiered water rates. Ewing’s lifetime bureaucratic background is evident from the positions he takes with respect to water department management and rate payer interests. He doesn’t appear interested in community input with respect to the agency’s affairs.

     Democratic campaign consultant Richard Oberhaus has indicated he will stand for re-election and is currently developing a website. His record is one sometimes supportive of water conservation goals but is not a leader when it comes to furthering those efforts. As an appointee who can be replaced by a vote of the directors who appointed him, he’s probably wisely kept a rather low profile though that may change if successful in his re-election efforts.

     Neighborhood activist Kristin Bloomer has announced her water board seat candidacy on her Facebook page. Bloomer’s is the only active candidacy currently on the list. If elected she would join Pat Oygar as the second woman on the Desert Water Agency board.

     The most recent Desert Sun newspaper’s commentary on the Palm Springs mayor’s race, titled “Dramatic changes possible with Palm Springs election” is available using the link.

Bond Shands
May 24, 2015
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