I returned last fall 2018 from visiting my folks in Vancouver, Wash. I was getting caught up on Palm Springs news and heard that the office of elected mayor of Palm Springs was eliminated. The City Council voted 4-1 (October 4, 2018), to abolish the mayor’s position as we know it.

Our last at-large elected mayor cast the only dissenting vote.In December 2018, the Council also voted to create five new districts in Palm Springs, to be represented by five elected Council members. All of whom through an elaborate system of rotation could possibly be mayor of one year. No one I have talked to about this change knows about the new districts or that we will no longer will have an elected mayor.

Honestly, this kept me awake at night thinking about the legacy of mayor(s) in Palm Spring.  Now, granted, the office of mayor has been largely a ceremonial position, but it is a member of the City Council, too.

This is where I started to think that something has to be done. How could the institution of mayor just be swept away with one swift vote. Isn’t this a decision for the electorate to make? Palm Springs Mayor Robert Moon said he believes that the residents of Palm Springs should vote for the position of Mayor.

“I think the people of Palm Springs prefer to have a directly elected mayor. Probably the best-known small city in the state of California and people here like to have a mayor elected by all of them,” Moon said prior to that infamous Council vote.

No More Elected Mayor? [Opinion]Let’s look back at another night, a bellwether event on Nov. 4,1981. A ballot measure was put to the electorate of Palm Springs calling for their approval of an elected mayor for Palm Springs. Prior to that, the position had rotated among the City Council members.by vote for one-year terms. The voters approved the ballot measure by 2-1 and also voted in favor of elected  four-year terms.  The following November the first ever directly elected mayor was voted in by the citizens of Palm Springs.

Jim Stuart was President of Citizens United, formed to back the initiative. He said at the time, “The victory isn’t ours. It belongs to the people.” I know Jim is still in the community and wonder how he feels about the time, money and effort that went into that ballot measure (5,000 signatures were required to even get the measure on the ballot). I only have to get 80 signatures of registered voters in my district to qualify to get my get my name on the ballot for this November.

Frank Bogert, an actor, was the first directly elected mayor of Palm Springs. Bogert helped to glamorize Palm Springs. He greeted Hollywood stars and presidents Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F,. Kennedy,f and Ronald Reagan on the tarmac at Palm Springs International Airport.

Bogert was followed eight years later by Sonny Bono, former husband and singing partner of Cher. Sonny jumped into politics with a, “Bang Bang,”  (I just couldn’t avoid the humorous reference) ready to take on corruption in city government. He said public disclosure about what goes on in this town only comes about when “the Boys” can’t get 10 guys to to stand on the lid anymore.” He continues “I will blow a whistle so loud it will make an explosion in this town, if someone on the City Council does anything for personal gain.” That was over 30 years ago. History repeats itself. I’ve often said that Sonny must be spinning in his grave.

Look at how the city of Palm Springs is actually run. The city manager basically runs Palm Springs. The city manager is appointed and serves as Chief Executive Officer of the the City and as the Executive Director of the Redevelopment Agency. Source: City website.

The current City Manager is David Ready, Esq., PhD. He acme from Flint, Mich., where he was city manager for eight years. He has held his current position as City Manager of Palm Springs since 2000. Former Mayor Steve Pougnet once described David Ready as the “best city manager in the country.”

Pougnet along with two other defendants have been accused of bribery and perjury in connection with the FBI raids at Palm Springs City Hall on Sept. 1, 2015. The developers/co-conspirators allegedly paid Pougnet at least $375,000 to influence votes on the City Council regarding several of the downtown projects that were being considered at the time. In addition, the monies were also to reportedly leverage approvals from the Redevelopment Agency.

Former Councilmember Ginny Foat said at the time the she didn’t believe the FBI investigation would uncover any legal issues with the city’s redevelopment land sales. Incoming Mayor Robert Moon who defeated Ginny Foat, was to embark on a partially futile effort to remove the City Attorney, Doug Holland (he was replaced a short later) and City Manager David Ready. Ready earns over $400K a year in pay and benefits had been essentially unchallenged during his term. Mayor Moon asked for a special review of Ready. Councilmember Foat was “perplexed” at the time by Mayor Moon’s request. Ironically, the tenure of Ready from 2000 on is often referred to as the Reign of Ready.

The public had been vocal after the FBI raids and questioned how the construction contracts for the Rowan and other downtown projects went through with signatures of the City Attorney and the City Manager and that they were not knowledgeable of the bribery that had allegedly taken place.

Mayor Moon quickly learned he was the only councilmember who supported removing the city manager. A closed-door session of the Council ended in a unanimous vote to retain Ready. Mayor Moon had voted on the record to endorse keeping the city manager. Later he would say, “I regret that vote. I should have stood my ground and at least made a symbolic vote against it.” Clearly his sentiment was to fire Ready.

Prior to that closed session vote the public was asked for testimony at council chambers regarding the upcoming vote to fire Ready. Many people turned out to support Ready, perhaps to figuratively to “pad the coffers.” One supporter was Aftab Dada, the general manager of Hilton Palm Springs. He said, “I have known him (Ready) for 16 years. I have worked with him for 16 years, he is always available and accessible, and he I consider a champion of our tourism industry.” Others voiced their opinions and were critical as to his (Ready’s)  role in the scandal.

Some think that Palm Springs.has its own version of a “Deep State,” that actually controls what goes on in the city. Allegedly it consists of business owners and operators like Aftab Dada, Jerry Keller, Harold Matzner, John Wessman (charged with bribery) and the Aqua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, surreptitiously functioning to insure the business interests in Palm Springs comes first.

The power block of the City Council against Mayor Moon continued with the next election of Christy Holstege and Lisa Middleton. The ongoing marginalization of the Mayor continued with members bordering on being completely rude to disrespectful. From the sidelines former Councilmember Ginny Foat (sore loser) recently stated that Moon is “unfit” for office. Clearly fueling the divisiveness from the proverbial peanut gallery.  Clearly an all LGBTQI City Council has not been the “Dream Team.” To the contrary it seem to be “business” as usual and politics before principles.

Removal of our elected position of Mayor of Palm Springs should have been put before the voters, like it was in 1981 when the voters unanimously voted in the elected position of Mayor of Palm Springs. Mayor Moon said when he decided to not run again for another office “I decided that I wanted to go out as the last directly elected mayor of Palm Springs.”

Perhaps not!

The last vestiges of a City Hall in disgrace still connected by association to the FBI raid and scandal is the position of City Manager. I call for the City manager, David Ready, Esq., PhD to resign. Let’s start a new era of transparency at City Hall.

If elected to City Council in District 3 of Palm Springs, I Alan “Alfie” Pettit will commit to full public disclosures and cooperation in local government. Just look at my life story to understand how important truth and honesty is to me and the people who support and surround me.

So, like Sonny Bono said, “If I’m elected and need to, I will blow a whistle so loud it will make an explosion.”






Image Sources

  • PS to Elect Mayor: Alfie Pettit Campaign
  • Unelected: Shutterstock