PALM SPRINGS – As the city of Palm Springs begins to transition from at-large elections to district-based elections, city leaders are launching an extensive community outreach effort that includes public hearings to ensure residents, especially Latinos and others in underserved areas of the city are well-informed about the process.

The move to districts is designed to empower more Latino residents to seek public office. Latinos make up approximately 25 percent of Palm Springs’ total population and about 16 percent of all voters.

There are currently no Latinos on the City Council. The panel is comprised of two women and three men; all are Caucasian.

Palm Springs joins Indio and Cathedral City in moving to district election. Palm Springs Unified School Board and College of the Desert Board of Trustees have also moved to district elections.

“Palm Springs has long-prided itself on being one of the most welcoming and inclusive communities in the country,” Communications Director Amy Blaisdell said in a news release. “(The city) is committed to civil rights and ensuring equity and diversity among elected officials, boards and Commissions while maximizing the goals of the California Voting Rights Act.”

Other goals of the transition include prioritizing the creation of majority/minority districts, keeping organized neighborhoods intact, if possible, and ensuring the city’s best interest as a whole remains the primary responsibility of all elected officials.

The City’s demographer has prepared a preliminary schedule of public hearings and outreach to ensure the transition process is complete before Dec. 31, 2018.

The demographer will provide a number of tools to assist the community in developing maps, including public participation kits and the creation of an online interactive system to allow the public to draw and submit proposed district plans.

The five-member City Council will draw the districts – after a minimum of four public meetings, City Manager David H. Ready has told Uken Report. However, he added, that councilmembers indicated they wanted to take up to six months to finalize the districts and have significantly more public meetings than required.

The City Council will decide when the move takes effect, Ready said. It could be 2019, or 2021. The City Council will discuss the date as they talk about complying with another state law requiring city elections move to even number years, Ready said. It could all coincide in a 2020 election.

The cost associated with the move to district elections has yet to be determined.

The first public hearing is slated for 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 20 during the City

Council’s regularly scheduled meeting.

Additional public hearings will be held on the following dates during regularly scheduled City Council meetings:

  • 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 11
  • 6 p.m. Wednesday Sept. 5
  • 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 7
  • 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 21

More public meetings will be scheduled outside of City Hall as needed. For more information, click here.