On November 3rd voters in the City of Palm Springs will choose a new mayor and up to three seats on the city council. The seat held by Councilwoman Ginny Foat, a declared candidate for mayor, would be the third council seat to be filled should she be elected mayor. Two seats are up for election to the five-member Desert Water Agency’s Board of Directors. Is it too early to predict which candidates will be successful in winning election to one of the open seats?

     The official candidate filing period runs from July 6 to August 7 for council seats and to August 17 for mayor. Prospective candidates must file a Declaration of Candidacy during that time, along with optional Candidate Statements, and must be nominated by 80 to 120 registered Palm Springs voters. The public’s right to inspect Candidate Statements starts on August 8. 

     July 6 may be the official start of the political season but the true beginning occurred several months ago. A number of prospective candidates have announced their candidacies and most have been actively campaigning and fundraising.

     Mayor Steve Pougnet has announced his intent to not seek reelection. The seat he leaves open has attracted considerable interest and at least four contenders are campaigning for it. Measure J Commissioner Robert Moon was the first to announce his candidacy. Others with declared interests include Councilwoman Ginny Foat, Psychologist Michael Birnberg and Civil Rights Attorney Bob Weinstein.

     Councilmember Rick Hutcheson announced he too would not seek reelection. That seat, the up-for-election seat of Councilmember Paul Lewin and a possible third open seat have served to create considerable interest in the council elections. Former Equality California leader and LGBT activist Geoff Kors was the first to announce his interest in the vacant council seat. Others throwing hats into the ring are Planning Commissioner J.R. Roberts and Neighborhood Leader Jim King.

     Desert Water Agency board members Craig Ewing and Richard Oberhaus are expected to seek reelection to their seats. Their only apparent opposition is from Neighborhood Activist Kristin Bloomer who initially announced her water board candidacy via Facebook.

     With four candidates for mayor plus four council member candidates and only one seat held by an incumbent seeking reelection, it would appear the current season could resemble a political horse race. That may not be the case for it’s quite possible the list of winners turns out to be rather easy to pick. The candidate for mayor with the most recognizable name is Councilwoman Ginny Foat. The candidates for city council with the most recognizable names and/or campaign support are incumbent City Councilmember Paul Lewin, LGBT Activist Geoff Kors, and Planning Commissioner J.R. Roberts. Other prospective candidates suffer from lack of name recognition, lack of widespread support and/or inadequate campaign finances. They are starting from the back of the pack and the odds of any finishing with a win are stacked against them.

     The two Desert Water Agency board member seats are held by incumbents. It’s extremely difficult to unseat an incumbent and particularly so with the water agency board. Their area of coverage extends beyond Palm Springs city limits and the difficulties in reaching the large number of voters outside of Palm Springs represent serious obstacles. Incumbents Craig Ewing and Richard Oberhaus are expected to easily coast to victory.

     With a four month campaign season ahead anything is possible. But if ballots were cast today there’s a strong possibility only those with recognizable names and support would be elected. Serious campaigning will be required from others who are new to local politics if they are to receive sufficient votes for election. Betting today against the perceived “front runners” would be a rather poor one to make. It may not be an actual horse race for the winners appear ready to cross the finish line.

Bond Shands
www.DesertObserver.com
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5.00 avg. rating (96% score) - 1 vote

     With the announcement by Mayor Stephen Pougnet that he would not be seeking another term the question immediately became who will be his replacement. Measure J Commissioner Robert Moon had already announced his candidacy for mayor in advance of Pougnet’s statement. Today, June  18th, City Council member Ginny Foat is announcing her own candidacy for election to the mayoral position this November. The filing period for November’s candidates is not until July and already two major contenders are actively campaigning for the seat. And, considering the number of days until the early August filing date cutoff, voters may see more mayoral candidates on the campaign trail.

     Robert Moon is a decorated military veteran, successful businessman, city commissioner and is involved with, or a member of, numerous local activities and organizations. His candidacy platform is one in which he promises to be a full-time mayor who best represents significant change in the way city affairs are handled. A difficulty his campaign quest for mayor faces is its start-from-behind uphill battle. He lacks the name recognition, funding, connections and number of contacts that serve to benefit other candidates. He’s seldom been spotlighted or otherwise in the public eye. It’s very difficult to get the attention of a  significant number of voters in the short time that remains before ballots are cast in October and November. His quest remains an uphill battle.

     Ginny Foat has been a fixture in city politics since 2003. She has served on the city council since that time and sailed through several re-elections without serious difficulty. Her current incumbency status on the council gives her the edge – a head start in the quest for mayor. She has about as much local name recognition as is possible to obtain. Foat has a lock on the downtown business community vote, the women’s community vote, the outgoing mayor’s support, the endorsement of too many in the community to list, lots of campaign works waiting to get started, as much money-money-money as may be needed, and the LGBT community vote may split in her favor. The race for mayor is her’s to lose! She has lots of negatives, detractors, unpleasant ancient history issues (though mentioned so many times they’ve reached the yawn state), and a reputation for being dismissive, unforgiving, rude and sometimes unpleasant. Those negatives, little different from many others holding similar political positions, failed to sway voters in the past and there’s little reason to believe they’ll have any effect on her quest for mayor. That race is definitely “her’s to lose!”.

     Making political predictions is always risky for intervening events before ballots are cast could serve to change the entire character of the mayoral race. Suffice it to way that if balloting were to occur today, tomorrow or even next month, it would be foolish to place bets on anyone other than Ginny Foat as the winning candidate. The list of advantages that favor her provide a huge head-start in the race. The financial support and campaign workers needed by another to overcome her lead show little promise of being there. Ginny Foat will be the next Mayor of Palm Springs.

Bond Shands
www.DesertObserver.com
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Twitter Handle: @BondShands

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

      Each year the Palm Springs annual budget appears on the City Council agenda during the first meeting in June for the required “hearing”. Then again on the agenda of the second meeting in June for its adoption. Despite the 292 pages in the budget documents and the $97,514,596 size of the Appropriations Summary totals, there’s little discussion and it sails through the proceedings faster than a request for a new traffic signal.

     This year’s budget documents are divided into three sections consisting of:
…..  Appropriations Summary data – 100 pages
…..  Positions and Compensation Plan – 100 pages
…..  Comprehensive Fee Schedule – 92 pages

     The Appropriations Summary section is not all numbers and spreadsheet data. The second half  includes copies of all the letters and other data provided by those seeking donations of taxpayer funds as Contributions and for Special Events. It’s a section with sufficient narrative detail to interest those who otherwise care little for accounting numbers and spreadsheets. The $97,514,596 supporting figures in the first half are probably the ones of most interest to financial analysts and others concerned by the lack of transparency associated with city finances.

     Residents of Palm Springs are being shortchanged by the speedy procedures that serve to swiftly move the near-secretive budget process towards approval. The city has many different boards, commissions and committees but none exist to oversee the city’s finances. There are no independent eyes watching the budget preparation process, no opportunities to interview departments and learn the specifics supporting individual appropriations, and no ongoing monitoring of budgeted expenditures. The budget process is one of the most critical functions of city government and in Palm Springs it’s one that’s done behind closed doors.

     One of the greatest services new city council members could perform would be to seriously consider the manner in which city finances and the budget occur without a lot of independent scrutiny. We need a watchdog team of qualified individuals to work with the city to make the finance and budgetary activities completely transparent and one that benefits from outside scrutiny. It’s time for a continuing Board, Commission or Committee to be chartered by the city council to serve as independent guardians of the finance and budgetary processes. As for those seeking election to city government positions, they should be questioned by all to learn their views of this subject.

Bond Shands
June 17, 2015
Desert Political Opinion at www.DesertObserver.com
The Notebook at www.BondShands.com 

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If intended for posting online here please note FOR PUBLICATION in your message.

 
Access June 17th City Council meeting agenda -use following link.
http://www.palmspringsca.gov/ /Com /Calendar/Event/9748/526

Access Budget Part 1 document using the following link.
http://www.palmspringsca.gov/home/showdocument?id=35617

Access Budget Part 2 document using the following link.
http://www.palmspringsca.gov/home/showdocument?id=35619

Access Budget Part 3 document using the following link.
http://www.palmspringsca.gov/home/showdocument?id=35621

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

Palm Springs Politics page on Facebook
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/

The Palm Springs Politics page on Facebook is a group in which almost anyone may participate. While the group description indicates that it is closed, clicking on the Join option usually results in automatic acceptance as a member. The purpose of the group is defined in the moderator’s remarks below.

Group Moderator – David A. Lee – May 21, 2015
The Palm Springs Politics group page is a forum for local, state, and national political discourse. It is intended to foster discussion and allow group members to express their opinions and views in an environment that will not be censored. However, personal attacks against members will not be tolerated. “Lively discussion” regarding politicians, candidates, policy, and state and local measures and propositions is highly encouraged. The politics of the Coachella Valley are intricately interwoven and membership on this page is open to all Greater Palm Springs residents and homeowners–full time and part time–who are interested in discussing our political landscape


I started posting to the Palm Springs Politics page on Facebook in May, 2015. The following is a listing of my posts to that group page.

Palm Springs FY 2015-2016 Annual Budget
 – Tuesday June 16, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1052737101446483/

GOP Presidential Standard Bearers
 – Tuesday, June 16, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1052717461448447/

Palm Springs Campaign Fundraising
 – Monday, June 15, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1052359128150947/

Preparing for War!
 –  Sunday, June 14, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1052086954844831/

New Palm Springs Downtown Event Center
 – Friday, June 12, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1051043521615841/

ONE-PS Neighborhood Reps Monthly Meeting
 – Thursday, June 11, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1050617174991809/

A California Water Czar?
 – Thursday, June 11, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1050632051656988/

Another Palm Springs Incentive Grant Problem
 – Thursday, June 11, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1050413205012206/

Campaign Events: Candidate Meet & Greet vs Fundraising
 – Wednesday, June 10, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1049905195063007/

Ginny Foat Running for Mayor?
 – Tuesday, June 9, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1049215731798620/

ONE-PS Monthly Meeting Date
 – Sunday, June 7, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1048190825234444/

Mass Mailing Targets Desert Sun Executive Editor
– Sunday, June 7, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1048365358550324/

Palm Springs City Council Race News
 – Sunday, June 7, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1048317115221815/

Tourism Brain-Clutter Syndrome In Palm Springs
– Sunday, June 7, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1048164541903739/

“Justice Delayed is Justice Denied”
 – Saturday, June 6, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1047640088622851/

Palm Springs to hire 2 firms to look into its programs
 – Thursday, June 4, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1046983158688544/

CV Link – Bad Politics for Valley Bicycling
 – Tuesday, June 2, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1046303958756464/

Fox News Revealed as Over-the-Hill Fable – “a Retirement Community”
 – Tuesday, June 2, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1046173732102820/

One-PS.org Summer Newsletter
– Monday, June 1, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1045958758790984/

California Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom Greetings
 – Monday, June 1, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1045802642139929/

 MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) DUI Award
 
 – Monday, June 1, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1045964395457087/

Palm Springs Weekend Vacation Rental Practices
 – Saturday, May 30, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1044724748914385/

The CV Link Roadway Boondoggle?
 – Friday, May 29, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1044359258950934/

CV-Link Supporters Continue Attacks Aimed At Questioners
– Wednesday, May 27, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1043335305719996/

New Home for Well in the Desert
 – Wednesday, May 27, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1043350649051795/

A Community Rally to Celebrate Same Sex Marriage Decision?
 – Wednesday, May 27, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1043360819050778/

El Nino is Coming. Will It Provide Drought Relief?
 – Monday, May 26, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1042754402444753/

New Segregated Class in America for U.S. military and civilians are increasingly divided. A Must Read report!
 
– Monday, May 25, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1042618239125036/

Palm Springs Political Landscape Changes
– Sunday, May 24, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1042279049158955/

Catholic Republicans Feeling Deprived Not Having One Of Their Own As Pope.
– Sunday, May 24, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1042256605827866/

Ireland Voters Said Yes!
 – Sunday, May 24, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1042256842494509/

Desert Sun Attacks Rancho Mirage Mayor Dana Hobart
– Tuesday, May 19, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1040548689331991/

Reporter Misrepresents Interview With Mayor Hobart
 – Sunday, May 17, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1039760462744147/

Water resources allocation between farms, the environment and cities
 – Saturday, May 16, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1039517426101784/

Ralph Nader’s Op-Ed Summarizing Presidential Candidate Prospects
 – Friday, May 15, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1039176702802523/

Religious Discrimination Against America’s Muslim Residents
 – Wednesday, May 15, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1039161642804029/

“Guilty Until Proven Innocent?”- Revisited
 – Wednesday, May 15, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1039069869479873/

Guilty Until Proven Innocent?
 – Thursday, May 14, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1038847742835419/

CV Link in Palm Springs
 – Tuesday, May 12, 2015
https://www.facebook.com/groups/238920752828126/permalink/1037974469589413/

Bond Shands
June 17, 2015
Desert Political Opinion at www.DesertObserver.com
The Notebook at www.BondShands.com

All comments are welcome and should be sent to editor@desertobserver.com.
If intended for posting online here please note FOR PUBLICATION in your message.
 
0.00 avg. rating (0% score) - 0 votes

     Repetition, repetition, repetition – that’s the best way to brainwash others and the public at large. It’s probably one of the oldest of political and media tactics in the playbook. It’s also the best way to mount an attack (or defense) – simply repeat what you want others to believe and keep repeating it until they finally show evidence of having tasted the Kool-Aid and now belong to the club of true believers.

     The Desert Sun newspaper’s front page “Palm Springs to hire 2 firms to look into its programs” story about Mayor Steve Pougnet has a new face. It’s been produced under the bylines of street reporters Barrett Newkirk, Skip Descant and Kia Farhang. Together, these three managed to produce an 890+ word tabloid ostensibly about the June 3rd Palm Springs City Council meeting. It turned out to be just another in the long-running series of witch hunting hit pieces targeting Mayor Steve Pougnet.

     The newspaper articles’ second half, of approximately 450 words, is a series of cut-and-paste rehashed information previously reported ad nauseam about Mayor Pougnet, developer Richard Meaney, Financial Disclosure Forms, Redevelopment Agency property sales, and the Hacienda Cantina & Beach Club. Of the four photos appearing in the online version of the story, three are of Mayor Steve Pougnet (and he wasn’t even at the city council meeting). A summary of the story would need to  identify the first section as about the city council meeting and the second as just another rerun of their earlier Steve Pougnet newsprinting excesses.

     There are moments when Desert Sun street reporter articles actually give “yellow journalism” a bad name. That’s the case with the newspaper and its current three-member team pulling together to ferret out more trivia from which to fashion headlines linking Mayor Steve Pougnet and the Palm Springs city council to scandal. They may succeed, not because they’re being truthful, performing a service or acting as 4th Estate public guardians, they may succeed for the simplest of reasons. It’s that vast supply of printer’s ink that allows them to engage in “repetition, repetition, repetition”.

     Here’s a defanged version of the Steve Pougnet story minus the lust for blood. In his regular occupation as a consultant Mayor Steve Pougnet was employed by local developer Richard Meaney. (Note: The mayoral position is considered part-time and includes a small salary. There are no restrictions prohibiting the mayor or city council members from having regular full-time employment positions separate from their part-time city responsibilities.)

  • 1.)  Mr. Meaney reportedly has benefited from legitimate financial dealings with the City of Palm Springs. The transactions were handled by city staff and ultimately approved by the City Council. Mayor Steve Pougnet has since apologized for overlooking a need to abstain from a procedural vote regarding one of the financial transactions.
  • 2.)  Questions have arisen whether the city received fair value from the arrangements with Mr. Meaney or whether undue influence occurred with respect to any of the transactions.
  • 3.)  No evidence has been produced indicating undue influence occurred. No evidence has been produced linking these transactions to Mr. Meaney’s employment of Steve Pougnet as a consultant.
  • 4.)  No evidence or link has been produced indicating that Steve Pougnet benefited from other than his regular fee for consulting services.
  • 5.)  A former Palm Springs resident now residing in the San Francisco Bay Area reportedly filed a complaint with the FPPC. Copies along with the FPPC form letter reply were shared with the local media. There’s no evidence that an actual FPPC investigation is underway.
  • 6.)  That same San Francisco Bay Area resident reportedly filed a complaint with Riverside County’s outgoing civil Grand Jury. Copies were shared with local media along with a response indicating the complaint would be passed along, without action, for consideration by a new civil Grand Jury in July. The media identified the complainant as “a long-time detractor of the mayor”.
  • 7.)  An opinion was requested from the county District Attorney for an interpretation of the state’s ethical requirements for elected officials. That opinion was provided but no other indication exists that the District Attorney currently has an interest in the local media’s political targets.

     Whether in war, peace or the media there are some who appear to have an unquenchable thirst for fresh blood. That’s beginning to appear to be the case with Desert Sun street reporters and Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet. If reports of an ongoing FPPC significant investigation were to surface, a criminal Grand Jury indictment handed down or evidence that crimes or other violations of law disclosed, then the newspaper would be performing the right job in reporting such events. None of this has occurred, no evidence produced and nothing beyond speculation presented to substantiate the series of Desert Sun stories on this subject. It continues, in the minds of many, to be just another instance of a “Guilty until proven innocent” judgment from those who would surely expect something better should they ever become targets of a media witch hunt.

Bond Shands
June 4, 2015
Desert Political Opinion at www.DesertObserver.com
The Notebook at www.BondShands.com

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3.00 avg. rating (71% score) - 2 votes

      CV Link is the motor vehicle roadway being designed for use by DMV licensed small electric passenger cars. The route is intended to link eight of the nine valley cities from Palm Springs to Coachella using a 50+ mile route that’s mostly on the Whitewater River channel embankment. These small electric vehicles are currently defined by DMV as having attainable speeds of 20mph but not more than 25mph. Those attainable speed requirements for users of CV Link are not mandatory and the future may see the need for higher speed attainment limits.

     The poor public relations evidenced by the founders and management of the CV Link project has and undoubtedly will continue to represent bad politics for the Coachella Valley bicycling community. The project never benefited from a vote of valley residents, no valley-wide written notices of hearings have ever been mailed and many of the early descriptions and/or promises have changed. These public relations failures may haunt the project for years to come and more so because of the number of undocumented expectations of benefits claimed for the project, that are sure to be exposed as little more than hyperbole intended to sway the masses. When it comes to public projects people don’t quickly forget the promises that failed to materialize along with the project’s completion.

     The dream of most bicyclists is that California become a bicycling mecca, a paradise, one that accords equal treatment to both motorized and non-motorized forms of transportation. There have been many victories and obstacles overcome resulting in bicyclists now having legal rights to use of lanes on public roadways. One of the most significant victories is the requirement that new and upgraded public roadways and bridges include separate lanes for bicycle use. Those lanes can be separated from motor vehicle lanes with a white stripe or a divider. The purpose is the eliminate the sharing of a single lane between motor vehicles and bicycles.

     CV Link is a motor vehicle route that has been legally determined to qualify for Measure “A” roadway transportation funds. In the CVAG June 1, 2015 “Legal Opinion on Use of Measure A funding CV Link” it’s defined as a “highway” and “roadway” as defined in Vehicle Code Sections 360 and 530, for “vehicles” as defined in Vehicle Code Section 670; and one that “has characteristics that make it similar to a typical road improvement” that “would operate as a regional facility initially connecting eight of the nine cities in the Coachella Valley and three Indian reservations.” Therefore, “… a strong argument can be made that the LSEV Component is a “regional road improvement” under Measure A”.

     The fact that the CV Link roadway will not have bicycle lanes separate from motor vehicles represents a setback for the bicycling equal transportation facilities movement. That roadway separation right was one dearly won and allowing a newly constructed roadway to proceed without the need for compliance represents bad politics. In future years the usage characteristics of CV Link may change to meet social, political, tourism or maintenance needs that will result in it its use by vehicles faster than 25mph or in numbers greater than currently anticipated. That’s when the failure to include separate bicycle lanes may become a source of genuine regret. That’s when the real cost of bad politics may be realized.

Bond Shands
June 3, 2015
Desert Political Opinion at www.DesertObserver.com
The Notebook at www.BondShands.com

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

     CV Link will be a paved roadway linking valley cities from Palm Springs to Coachella. Most of the route will be constructed on one of the Whitewater River embankments. Its intended use is for slower motorized forms of transportation, such as a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV), that operate at speeds ranging from 20 to 25 mph. The roadway will also include an adjacent path suitable for pedestrians and slow-moving bicycles. The route’s design will accommodate faster bicycles able to share the roadway’s concrete pavement surface with motorized vehicles.

     The following descriptions are from a recent draft copy of the CVAG Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV) plan.

“A Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV) is a type of Low Speed Vehicle (LSV) that can travel up to 25 mph. NEVs can travel on any public street in the general traffic lane as long as the speed limit is 35mph or less. NEVs can travel on a public street with a speed limit of 40mph or greater if there is a separate lane or path provided. Although this plan focuses on NEVs, dedicated lanes and paths may also benefit golf car operators.”

“According to California State Vehicle Code Section 385.5, NEVs are defined as “low-speed vehicles” and:

a) Having four wheels,

b) Attaining a maximum speed of 20-25 mph on a paved level surface, and

c) Having a maximum gross vehicle weight of 3,000 pounds.”

“NEV drivers must be licensed as motor vehicle drivers and abide by the California State Vehicle Code when operating on street. AB-61 authorizes the County of Riverside or any of its jurisdictions to develop an NEV Transportation plan for a designated plan area. The California Streets and Highway Code sections 1962-1962.8 were established to implement the bill.”

     NEVs are included in the ZEV (Zero-Emissions Vehicles) broad range of electric plug-in vehicles (PEVs) that include Battery Electric Vehicles (BEV), Plug-in Hybrid Vehicles (PHEV) and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. CVAG estimates there are currently about 148 PHEVs, 76 BEVs and 440 NEVs in the Coachella Valley and the number is expected to reach 13,000 PEVs by the year 2025. It’s assumed their use will replace short passenger vehicle trips and encompass a “wide range of trip purposes, including commute trips, school, shopping, errands and recreation.”

     The decision to build a new roadway for electric vehicle use was made when it was learned that substantial federal, state and local grant monies would be available for that purpose. The CV Link roadway design will require at least $100 million dollars and a substantial portion of that sum is reportedly available. Public interest in creating and using a NEV roadway network in Coachella Valley has never been independently assessed. There’s been no demonstrable community support for NEV ownership and it’s believed the less than 700 vehicles currently in use are owned by those with wealth sufficient to allow their purchase as an addition to a stable of personal recreation vehicles.

     The original CV Link plan was for a bicycle and pedestrian path – that would NOT require local funding – to be constructed along the Whitewater River embankment. It was touted as a desirably healthy exercise alternative and one expected to produce tourism-related benefits. Claims have been made that it will serve as “a tourist magnet”, “recreational marvel”, benefit “impoverished neighborhoods” and generate tourist dollars. One aspect of these claims that remains unclear is which ones are related to bicycle and pedestrian use and whether any are claimed as benefits from use of NEVs. Some of the benefit claims being made appear farfetched and their credibility cry out for substantiation.

     The latest controversy surrounding CV Link resulted from recently released information about its design and costs. The roadway is planned as a thirty foot wide avenue of pavement and buffer strips necessary to accommodate four-wheel vehicle use together with a separate pedestrian path. Portions of the river embankment have been found not available for CV Link use and the roadway will need to detour onto city streets and communities. Much of the roadway though the City of Rancho Mirage is planned for city streets where it is expected to significantly impact the community areas through which it will go. Another recently released information concern is the revelation that the “will not require local funding” claim is no longer the case. Significant annual funding to be paid by the local communities will be needed in order to cover CV Link operations and maintenance costs. After learning the full extent of the CV Link roadway plans and need for annual funding, the City of Rancho Mirage has taken the lead by insisting the entire project be “slowed down” and that a comprehensive review is made of its design, funding and ways to improve the project’s transparency in order to avoid future surprises of significance.

     There are many who would prefer to see the CV Link electric vehicle roadway plan abandoned in favor of a return to the original bicycle and pedestrian path that has community support. It’s clearly a waste, and perhaps abuse, of public funds to throw $100 million into a roadway that’s unneeded, mostly unwanted and one that has little chance of receiving substantial use from the 700+ battery-operated vehicles currently in the community. It’s a black mark on our entire public financial system that so much in the way of taxpayer funds are available for arcane projects like the CV Link roadway and yet other infrastructure and human existence needs are allowed to remain untended. The completion of the CV Link electric vehicle roadway should not be a cause for general celebration. Despite the elation over a new bicycle path, it will still carry the stigma of a shameful public funding boondoggle.

Bond Shands
Desert Political Opinion at www.DesertObserver.com
The Notebook at www.BondShands.com
May 29, 2015

 

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3.00 avg. rating (71% score) - 2 votes

     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 http://desert.sn/1HpGrUp link.

Bond Shands
May 24, 2015
Desert Political Opinion at www.DesertObserver.com
The Notebook at www.bondshands.com

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

      In an editorial dated May 18, 2015, titled “Our Voice: Rancho Mirage mayor lashes out in path fight“, the Desert Sun newspaper’s management mounts a strong attack on Mayor Dana Hobart’s character. The editorial is filled with the newspaper’s accusatory claims and would have readers believe Hobart’s prudent concerns for the well-being of the City of Rancho, of which he is an elected public servant, are not the reason for his questions about the costs, design and management of the CV-Link bicycle-pedestrian-Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEVs) path that’s planned for the Coachella Valley.

     The editorial includes a number of spurious claims that are not supported by facts nor warranted by other information. Defamation of Hobart’s reputation appears to be the single purpose behind the editorial. The following are some of the specious statements made in the editorial about Mayor Hobart.

…..  “flailing in some of his responses to critics and others, including The Desert Sun,”

…..  “he sought leverage in the dispute with a threat of possibly further bogging down CV Link”

…..  “strategy of threatening the entire project”

…..  “lashing out at those telling the entire story”

…..  making “arguments in a way that elicited his own praise”

     The full editorial may be read or shared using the following link: http://desert.sn/1S3Ekhi

     Mayor Hobart posted a rebuttal to the editorial under the newspaper story’s online Comments section. His full response is quoted below.


 Dana Hobart
Rancho Mirage, California

That the newspaper supports the CV Link without knowing anything at all about Who Will Have to Pay and How Much over the long term debt obligations that the project will impose is a luxury cities cannot afford.

Mark Twain advised against getting into disputes with those who buy ink by the barrel. Good advice which I have tried to follow. But when a reporter tells the public in sinister fashion that I told him to destroy a document, which he knew had no relevance to anything, and regardless would have remained in the hands of the CVAG Executive Director and his Legal Counsel, a response is required.

I sent an email to Mr. Kirk indicating that we planned to submit 5 motions (which I identified by title only) to be placed on the CVAG Executive Committees June 1, 2015 agenda. The email went to Executive Director Tom Kirk and CVAGs legal counsel and three members of Rancho Mirage staff. Later I decided not to go forward with one of the motions. The reporter asked for and received a copy of this email from CVAG. When the reporter asked me about this email I told him I had changed my mind on the motion and suggested he could destroy his copy of the document as it was no longer relevant.

Subsequently, I praised the reporter for getting the facts out; however, I was critical of him for fabricating a controversy that had no basis in fact making it appear I made an unethical request to destroy his copy of an email I had to sent five others. (Email me at GDanaHobart@aol.com if you want a copy of that email.)

To speculate at my motives, as the newspaper does (Hobarts actions suggest he sought leverage) is the worst of journalistic practices. If a story cannot stand on its own feet, assign some sinister motivation lurking behind the scenes? Our 4 motions were adequate and we decided against the contemplated 5th motion. In essence I explained that the original intention was reduced by one. How could eliminating the motion gain me or the City leverage? The suggestion is absurd.

Two things have motivated me to fight this battle, First, to protect the residents of Rancho Mirage from becoming locked into a project that carries with it significant long term monetary risks. Second, neither I nor our council will be bullied or maneuvered into approving a CV Link route through Rancho Mirage that changes the nature of our community or our quality of life. The CV Link and apparently the newspaper are angry because we wont approve a route going along Highway 111. Or build a charging station on our Library property! What other city has CV Link going down Highway 111? The idea is preposterous.

A third motivation how arises: To defend myself from the cheap shots of the press trying to make it appear I said to destroy something of importance. And to then speculate about why.
It is an old debate tactic: if you cant beat them on the facts, then make up a motive and shoot the messenger.

From day one my message has been this: CVAG has no acceptable plan to pay for the decades of operations and maintenance costs this project will generate. They have spent somewhere between $1M and $5M in design and related expenses. Yet, after three years of work on the project there is no answer to the question, Who Pays and How Much? That may be OK for those who bear no financial responsibility, but in Rancho Mirage that is an important, unanswered question.

—– End of Mayor Hobart’s rebuttal. —–

      I find it extremely distressing to witness the power of the press being used to intimidate and possibly silence a critic who shares positions that differ from their own. In my opinion the Desert Sun’s editorial represents a shameful attack upon the character and integrity of one who has the best interests of his community at heart. It’s for that reason that I’ve added my name by posting my own comments in rebuttal to the Desert Sun newspaper’s editorial. The following is a copy of my statement.


 Bond Shands commented on an article.

Desert Sun Attacks Rancho Mirage Mayor Dana Hobart

.      What I had assumed would be a simple Desert Sun response to Mayor Hobart’s challenging the newspaper’s reporting turned out not to be the case. The paper’s editors have mounted a frontal attack against Mayor Hobart’s character, apparently out of pique over his fearless daring to question their “4th Estate” right to serve as our valley’s unquestioned arbiters.

.      The Desert Sun’s reporting of what Mayor Hobart may have said differs between their May 17th and May 19th stories. In the first one they quote the mayor without accurate context as:

“However, thinking that he might have accidentally given the document to a reporter, Hobart said, ‘Please destroy it.'”

.      Today’s May 19th story quotes the Mayor’s actual email in which he wrote “No, that is not to be a motion. My mistake it was apparently in among the others. Please destroy it. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.”

.      As is evident, context is everything. The newspaper’s reporter failed to accurately include context and instead decided to make it appear that Mayor Hobart was requesting something be covered up. Today’s journalistic instincts often remain little different from those initially used by Randolph Hearst in order to sell newspapers. Don’t report everything, just stuff that makes for a good story. Those instincts appear alive and well in the halls of the Desert Sun newspaper.

.      I remain disappointed in the Desert Sun’s insistence that theirs is the only voice that counts with respect to so many valley issues. There have been a number of instances in which it was clear they acted without basing it on all the relevant information, acted based on opinion rather than facts, went for headlines over substance, or chose to place business advertising community interests first. The newspaper’s determination to act as a “voice of authority” in their editorial denunciation of Mayor Dana Hobart adds more fuel to the fire of their disappointing personal agenda. When they accuse the mayor of “lashing out” perhaps they should step outside the ring and take a look at their own actions for their record, in this instance, is not only a very poor one, but one that smells of hypocrisy.

.      Mayor Dana Hobart has taken a courageous stand in questioning CV-Link’s departure from the original promises to new ones that significantly differ from those that produced initial valley community support. The latest CV-Link design devotes the majority of the path for use by Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEVs) – not quite the healthy benefit the route was intended to achieve. The original plans said the route “will not require local funding”, and yet it’s now reported future annual operating costs must be paid by the community. And the original plan called for a path along the embankment of the Whitewater River channel. That too has turned out not to be the case for the portion through Rancho Mirage is being designed to run along its city streets. The Desert Sun was one of many who rushed in and voiced full un-wavering support for CV-Link. They’ve since endorsed a call for answers to questions but their support shows no sign of weakening. They continue to bolster claims CV-Link will serve as “a tourist magnet”, “recreational marvel”, it will benefit “impoverished neighborhoods” and generate tourist dollars (presumably from the hoards who will flock to the valley in order to ride the trail on bikes or in NEVs). They haven’t yet claimed it will bring about world peace, but the bucket for absurd claims appears bottomless, so don’t be surprised if more ridiculous promises of CV-Link benefits surface.

.      I applaud Mayor Hobart for the stand he and his city have taken with respect to CV-Link design, funding and management questions. He deserves better than cheap attacks on his character by Desert Sun editorial writers. The mayor quoted Mark Twain’s advice “against getting into disputes with those who buy ink by the barrel”. The Desert Sun has wasted too much from their ink barrel on attacking one whose only purpose is to care for the best interests of the city in which he was elected to serve. Is it so wrong (or even shocking) to find an elected public servant who really has the best interests of his constituents at heart?

.      Good work, Mayor Hobart. Thanks for being the voice so many need to have raised on their behalf. I enthusiastically applaud your efforts seeking a realistic approach to the proposed CV-Link dream so that it can proceed towards completion in a manner that warrants full community support.

Bond Shands
“Daily Morning Bicyclist”

—– End of Bond Shands’ rebuttal. —–


Bond Shands
May 19, 2015
Desert Political Opinion at www.DesertObserver.com
The Notebook at www.bondshands.com

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

      The Desert Sun newspaper’s editorial “Drought solutions must be broad based” states Coachella Valley cheap and plentiful water supplies have “lulled our desert community into a false sense of security. New policies that drive customers to smart water use should be what’s on tap today.” And that “…..all stakeholders from the homeowner or apartment dweller to the farmer planting thousands of acres rethink how they use water.

Overwatering

        It’s true that residents throughout the state need to rethink our approaches to water usage and how to cope with the prospect of continuing drought situations. But that rethinking needs to start at the local level here in Coachella Valley. This is where we should focus our efforts and by example prove we too care about water usage and related drought issues.

     Perhaps among water issues on the top of our list should be a focus on grass (or “turf”). What should be our future approach to this important part of our local economy and quality of life? Should grass have any role in our desert world? Is it practical to import water for maintenance of pleasurable environments as well as for the grass-supported economy?

     In the Palm Springs and Cathedral City communities served by Desert Water Agency there are new water rules now in place. There’s also a strong water conservation ordinance that was enacted by the City of Palm Springs in November. Together the new water usage regulations now in effect severely limit the amount of water that may be used for maintenance of grass (or “turf”). Watering grass is now restricted to three times weekly, after 7 p.m., and no more than 15 minutes for any area.

     The State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) has mandated that most of the Coachella Valley’s water usage be cut back 36%. It’s for that reason the latest local restriction are now in place. Water districts must meet their assigned water usage goals or face significant financial penalties. Some have questioned whether one of the SWRCB water conservation goals is to reduce or eliminate most, if not all, watering of grass in the valley? What appears more certain is that the new watering restrictions may achieve that result.

     It’s obvious we need to rethink our use of water. Unfortunately there is no citizen panel, commission or agency that exists to foster the rethinking process. Should not some aspect of the rethinking process be coordinated and/or encouraged by an organized approach? Would not a community water conservation panel be an appropriate step that each of our local agencies, governments and/or communities should consider starting or creating? Surely the immediate goal must be to motivate residents to not only conserve but also to become involved in seeking and implementing solutions. If we fail in the people motivation goal how else will success be achieved without significantly and adversely affecting our quality of life?

     So, when will the actual rethinking process begin?

Bond Shands
April 26, 2015
Desert Political Opinion at www.DesertObserver.com
The Notebook at www.bondshands.com

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