PALM SPRINGS –A second  potential candidate vying for a seat on the City Council in the Nov. 5 election is taking umbrage with the “Palm Springs City Council Candidate Forum” set for 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 16. The event is hosted by Desert Stonewall Democrats.

“What I find alarmingly fascinating is that in a city known for its inclusiveness, an event billed as “Meet the Candidates — Palm Springs City Council Candidate Forum,” being held at the Mizell Senior Center, is so non-inclusive,” Scott D. Myer, a civil rights attorney, told Uken Report.

Myer also questions whether the Stonewall Democrats are violating the law by holding a partisan event in a nonprofit organization’s building.

Myer, a registered Libertarian, is seeking the open seat in District 1.

Myer Takes Aim at Stonewall Democrats' Forum

Alfie Pettit

Alfie Pettit, a registered Democrat who is challenging Mayor Pro Tem Geoff Kors in District 3, was the first potential candidate to take issue with the event saying the group’s endorsement process is tainted.

“While I am saddened at what appears to be a breakdown in civility with regard to the Desert Stonewall Democrats candidate forum this coming week, it should be noted that in some respects I agree with Alfie Pettit,” Myer told Uken Report. Palm Springs City Council is supposed to be nonpartisan, as are the City Council Member seats.”

Pettit is not seeking the Desert Stonewall Democrats’ endorsement and has said he will not appear at the candidate forum in protest.”

“I, too, won’t be in the forum either, notwithstanding the fact I am running in District 1,” Myer said. “Yet because I am not a Democrat, I was not invited. Note that I am not a Republican either. So, in this regard, I must agree with Alfie Pettit that this election is not about partisan politics, but instead it is about solving the problems facing every Palm Springs resident.”

Myer Takes Aim at Stonewall Democrats' Forum

Adrian Alcantar

Adrian Alcantar, who is seeking the District 2 seat, is not registered with any major political party. He is a decline-to-state voter. He will not attending the forum, but harbors no ill will toward the Desert Stonewall Democrats

Alcantar said he spoke with former City Councilmember Ginny Foat, who volunteers for Desert Stonewall Democrats, about the forum. Alcantar said he understands the group’s decision to only invite registered Democrats to participate in the forum.

“I did bring up the point that City Council positions are typically non-partisan and that all candidates checked the “Non-Partisan” box in section 4 on their 410 forms,” Alcantar told Uken Report. “I was told that questionnaires were only sent to registered Democrats and only registered Democrats would be able to participate in the forum.  I will be in the audience and will release a statement in response to any topics or questions raised at the forum.  I think a candidate should earn someone’s vote based on their platform, ideas and experience — not based on an endorsement or a political party affiliation. “

James Williamson, president of the Desert Stonewall Democrats, told Uken Report that he thinks the confusion that some candidates may have is in distinguishing between a general forum for candidates hosted by a civic group and an endorsement meeting hosted by a political club for its members.

“The meeting of Desert Stonewall Democrats on Tuesday is for club members to decide which candidates they want to endorse in the upcoming election,” Williamson said. “DSD is a club chartered by the California Democratic Party and as such can only endorse registered Democrats. This is standard practice shared by political clubs throughout the country. In fact, the California Republican Party has the same type of rules for its chartered clubs.”

The meeting on Tuesday is not the type of forum that would be hosted, for example, by the Chamber of Commerce or OnePS where the purpose is to allow the general public to hear from all the candidates running in a race, Williamson said.

The mission of Desert Stonewall Democrats is to help elect registered Democrats to public office, according to Williamson.

The California Democratic Party sets the rules for chartered clubs — one of which is to receive a clubs’ endorsement, you must be a member of the Democratic Party.

“If Scott Myer is complaining that he was not invited to participate then I think that this reflects his unfamiliarity with the political endorsement process in this country,” Williamson said. “Any candidate registered as a Democrat would be welcome to participate in the endorsement process.”

Participation or lack thereof, in the forum isn’t Myer’s only concern.

Since this is a political event, doesn’t this risk the tax-exempt status of the Mizell Senior Center that they excluded non-Democrats, Myer asked, citing the following from the National Council of Nonprofits. Click here to read more.

The IRS says: “…Certain activities or expenditures may not be prohibited depending on the facts and circumstances.  For example, certain voter education activities (including presenting public forums and publishing voter education guides) conducted in a non-partisan manner do not constitute prohibited political campaign activity. … On the other hand, voter education or registration activities with evidence of bias that (a) would favor one candidate over another; (b) oppose a candidate in some manner; or (c) have the effect of favoring a candidate or group of candidates, will constitute prohibited participation or intervention.”

“Although the name bills this as a candidate forum, this is clearly not non-partisan, as non-Democrats were barred, and thus would seem to violate, ‘The Restriction of Political Campaign Intervention by Section 501(c)(3) Tax-Exempt Organizations.’  Myer told Uken Report.

Williamson said the reference to the Mizell Senior Center being a 501(c)3 is a red herring.

“Mizell is not holding the meeting, they are simply renting the space,” Williamson said. “Rental income is a revenue stream for the organization to help them fund their mission of supporting our seniors. Mizell has a rental policy which would allow the Republican Party or Mr. Meyer to similarly rent the space. This endorsement meeting is by nature the same type of event as the Democrat or Republican Conventions – members of the party are picking the candidate from their party that they want to support.”

Desert Stonewall Democrats sent questionnaires to all registered Democrats vying for a spot on the City Council in the Nov. 5 election as part of the organization’s endorsement process.

Six candidates completed and returned the questionnaires. They are:

District 1: Grace Garner, Summer Helene, and Les Young.

District 2: Peter Maietta and Dennis Woods

District 3: Geoff Kors

All have been invited to participate in a candidate forum. All six are expected to participate in the forum, Williamson said.

All of the Democratic Candidates that have filled out a PAC questionnaire for Palm Springs City Council District 1, 2 and 3 have been invited to speak to the members of the club. Following the forum the Desert Stonewall PAC will be presenting their recommendations. Members can then vote their choice for the club’s endorsement. Any endorsement requires a 60% vote of members present and voting.

The endorsement process is a joint effort of Desert Stonewall Democrats, Democrats of the Desert, and Democratic Women of the Desert.


Image Sources

  • Alfie Pettit: Alfie Pettit
  • Adrian M. Alcantar: Adrian M. Alcantar
  • Forum: Shutterstock