Comments from all three candidates vying for seats on the Rancho Mirage City Council are under scrutiny for the ageist undertones they allegedly carry.
Supporters of incumbents Mayor Charles Townsend Vinci, Mayor Pro Tem G. Dana Hobart and Councilmember Iris Smotrich are crying foul over comments that Robert Mueller, Katherine “Kate” Spates and Michael Harrington have made in the early days of the campaign.
In a message to Uken Report, Beth Ellen Fromm, a Rancho Mirage residents, said opponents of the current City Council brought ageism it into the race by suggesting the current Council members are too old to continue running Rancho Mirage in the very best interests of the residents.
Many of those sharing comments of opposition don’t even live in Rancho Mirage, she said.
“All they want is new people who they believe will get them their bike path running down Highway 111 in the business district of Rancho Mirage without regard to traffic making turns in front of them repeatedly into cross streets and businesses,” Fromm said. “Approximately 80 percent of Rancho Mirage voters have already voted against ALL of the measures regarding this. After the horrible (fatal) bike accident this past weekend during the bike race in Palm Springs, one would think they would prefer to ride on safer streets.”
Fromm is, of course, referring to the CV Link, a popular and sometimes controversial $100 million, 50-mile transportation corridor in the Coachella Valley.
Almost from the outset, incumbents’ supporters said they were picking up on ageist comments from challengers.
Mueller told Uken Report, “… Recent alleged embezzlement by a city employee occurred for nearly two years before being discovered. This is unforgiveable. The current city council is nodding off in the rocking chair. …”
The mention of rocking chairs ignited a backlash among incumbents’ supporters who said it was a not-so-subtle jab at the three incumbents facing re-election. Townsend Vinci is 76, Iris Smotrich is 74, and Hobart declines to publicly release his age.
In an attempt to clarify his statement, Mueller, 70, said his word choice, “Rocking chair,” has more to do with mentality than chronological age.
“The Council’s isolated, inward viewpoint disregards the city’s chronic property crime problem and fails to recognize future opportunities,” Mueller told Uken Report. “I enjoy rocking chairs as much as anyone. I also love my 90-year-old grandmother but I don’t plan to have her prepare my taxes.”
A comment from Kate Spates, 50, also had incumbents’ cheerleaders wincing.
Spates, a mother of two, said she believes the City Council should be representative of the city, saying that 56 percent of the city is under age 65 and that the makeup of the current City Council does not represent that demographic.
Some of the incumbents’ supporters in particular took umbrage with the comment, complaining it was a shot across the bow at their ages.
Asked directly if she thinks current council members are too old, it was clear she did not appreciate even the hint of such a notion.
“No,” she said emphatically. “I absolutely do not think that.”
Spates said she would like the city to be portrayed as more than a retirement community.
Harrington, 59, said it is time for “new” council members.
The top three vote-getters in the April 10 election will be seated on the City Council. Only Rancho Mirage residents will get a say in this matter.
The last day to register to vote is March 26.