PALM DESERT — Palm Desert City Council Chambers are expected to be teeming with vocal opponents to a pair of controversial, hot-button issues. One is a campaign mailer many characterize as a  racist ad. The second is the City Council’s refusal – to date – to take an official stand on California’s sanctuary bill.

Ad Incites Cries of Racism, Protest at City Hall

Alan Carvalho

The first group, led by Alan Carvalho, a Democrat from Cathedral City, takes umbrage with a mailer and television ad campaign that City Councilmember Jan Harnik has released  that portrays Riverside County Fourth District Supervisor V. Manuel “Manny” Perez as a man whose “misguided policies released cop killers and rapists from prison.”

In 2012, California was under court order to reduce prison overcrowding.

Carvalho told Uken Report he has always found Harnik “charming and respectful.”

“But this attempt at scaring people into voting for her while diminishing her opponent with a character assassination so vile (and) cheap (with) racist overtones … will forever darken her hopes for a viable political future. It’s beyond disgusting, beyond fake news, and so divisive. She will not recover from this.”

Carvalho added, “Our country is so divided, that instead of taking the high road to unify our diverse ethnic community, which is the duty of  true leadership, she taps into fear and hatred, racism and low-level scare tactics. Shameful behavior for someone who has (garnered) respect from Republicans, progressives and independents alike. Our entire valley will never sit still for campaign racism, for campaign homophobia, for any form of political scare tactics that cheapen the dignity of civil servitude.”

Harnik, a Republican, is challenging Perez, a Democrat, in the June 5 election. One of the pair will be the next Fourth District Supervisor in what is technically a nonpartisan role.

Neither Harnik nor her campaign consultant will answer questions about the mailer and companion ad campaign.

Palm Desert Mayor Sabby Jonathan has endorsed Harnik, adding that he endorsed her as “an individual,” not as mayor, adding that he would provide Uken Report with his perspective on the hotly debated mailer.

Ad Incites Cries of Racism, Protest at City Hall“I’m, frankly, not a fan,” Jonathan said. “It’s unfortunate that in campaigning for office,sometimes campaign rhetoric is elevated to a level that I don’t appreciate. I have known Jan for a very long time. I don’t believe that she has a prejudiced bone in her body. But I am not a fan of that particular mailer.”

The chambers are also expected to be filled with residents opposed to California’s sanctuary bill, along with an anti-sanctuary state group called “No Sanctuary” based in the Inland Empire, Jonathan said. Members of both groups have vowed to make their presence known at Palm Desert City Council meetings until the panel takes an official stand on the issue.

Jonathan said he is unaware of any formal protests but understands there “may be some people coming up during the public comment portion of our agenda to express opinions regarding … campaign material.”

Ad Incites Cries of Racism, Protest at City HallThat’s a pretty safe bet. The invitation to call out Harnik about the ad campaign and mailer has been well-publicized on social media.

So, how will Jonathan, in his first term as mayor, handle what  could be verbal chaos? He suggested their might be attendees taking the opposite opinion.

“We might hear all sorts of interesting opinions,” Jonathan said. “But to answer your question, I think there’s a balancing act when it comes to public comment. First and foremost, it’s an opportunity for people to be heard and to express themselves, their opinions, their concerns, and that’s important. We value that highly in Palm Desert. On the other hand, sometimes people come up and express their opinions on issues that have nothing, absolutely nothing, to do with the city of Palm Desert”

The fine print of the public comment period says that this is the time for people to comment on issues that are relevant to this city.

The exact wording, in part, says, “Any person wishing to discuss any item not appearing on the agenda that is within the subject matter jurisdiction of the City Council, Successor Agency to the Palm Desert Redevelopment Agency, or Palm Desert Housing Authority may address them at this point by stepping to the lectern and giving his/her name and address for the record. Remarks shall be limited to a maximum of three (3) minutes unless additional time is authorized by the City Council, Successor Agency, or Housing Authority ….”

You may read the entire explanation on this week’s agenda here.

It will be an art of balance, Jonathan said.

“It’s a balancing act between giving people an opportunity to be heard but at the same time it is a business meeting,” he said. “The purpose of our council meetings is to attend to the business of running the city of Palm Desert. I’ll try to keep both of those objectives in mind and see if I can walk the tightrope of this balancing act.”