Rancho Mirage Mayor Charles Townsend Vinci is keeping the pot stirred and boiling when it comes to the both popular and controversial CV Link.
The 76-year-old mayor is intentionally misleading voters about his challengers’ stances on the $100 million, 50-mile transportation corridor and at least two of them are calling him out on what they say is his blatant disregard for the truth.
The latest controversy in the highly charged Rancho Mirage City Council election stems from remarks Townsend reportedly made at the Annual General Meeting of the Morningside Homeowner’s Association held earlier this month. Townsend was invited to discuss the state of the city, but was cautioned not to engage in any campaigning, which he blatantly disregarded, according to minutes of the meeting.
Townsend, according to the HOA minutes, reported that the current City Council remains firmly against CV Link, but did not stop there. He said that the three non-incumbent candidates – Katherine “Kate” Spates, Robert “Bob” Mueller and Michael Harrington — are in favor of CV Link and that if they gain City Council seats, they would have another election to allow CV Link to come through our city.
Marvin R. Hersh, 69, has lived in Morningside for nearly 12 years and has already cast his ballot in the vote-by-mail election.
“I did not attend the meeting, but am thoroughly disgusted by Mr. Townsend’s and his cohorts’ arrogance and tactics,” Hersh told Uken Report in a telephone interview. “It’s not the kind of attitude that sits well with me. They are poisoning the atmosphere. The incumbents are scrambling.”
Hersh then unloaded on incumbent G. Dana Hobart, calling him out for not being a team player with other valley communities, for not being an independent thinker, for denigrating the staff of the Coachella Valley Association of Governments and more.
“Hobart is of the belief we will do everything ourselves and to hell with everybody else,” Hersh said.
While HOA residents usually receive minutes of general meetings, Hersh said this is the first time he recalls getting a summary of a political nature from the general manager.
“It’s disappointing to hear that the mayor would disregard instructions not to campaign at an HOA meeting and then go further and flat out lie to say that all challengers are for the CV Link,” Spates said. “This is the way they try to control and brainwash people, but many are wise to see right through this.”
Spates pointed out comments he made during recent candidate interviews with The Desert Sun. In that interview, Townsend is reported to have said, “There are only three things you can’t get away from in life: death, taxes and the CV Link.” While the line brought light laughter to the room, Townsend said the conversation is inevitable as surrounding cities begin to build out their pieces of the 50-mile bike and recreational path. “It will be an ongoing conversation, and someday and some time, maybe CVAG and Rancho Mirage can get together with a plan for the ultimate route through our city to make it possible, but until then, we will continue to say ‘no.’”
Spates said that is exactly what she has been saying.
“Why am I being villainized for having an open mind to discuss all issues with all residents?” Spates asked.
Mueller did not return three requests for comment.
Harrington said the mayor is misrepresenting his position and record.
“I am not pro CV Link,” Harrington said. In the 2016 election I stressed how I would have succeeded where the incumbents failed in negotiating with CVAG for an acceptable route through or adjacent to Rancho Mirage. That was 2016. This is 2018. I have no intention to ask for another vote on CV Link.”
Further, Harrington added, Townsend Vinci appears to have been campaigning on public time because he gave a speech as the mayor, presumably paid for by taxpayers, which could be a violation of the Fair Political Practices Commission.
“The Morningside HOA ought to want to hear from the challengers, as would the other HOA’s which have been hosting candidate events with only the incumbent(s) present,” Harrington said. “I ask for equal time to communicate my message to their homeowners.”
Read a summary of the HOA meeting here.