Richard Gray is one of four people vying for two spots on the City Council

LA QUINTA — When it comes to the election ballot for La Quinta City Council, the name Richard Gray might sound familiar. Gray, a retired foreign service officer for the U.S. State Department, ran unsuccessfully for City Council in 2020.

Gray is among four City Council hopefuls — Joe Johnson, Brian Hanrahan, and Deborah McGarrey — and one incumbent to have qualified to appear on the November ballot, according to a public records request to La Quinta City Clerk Monika Radeva. Council members are elected at large, so the top two vote-getters will win the council seats.

Incumbent John Peña, a member of the City Council since 2014, is seeking another four-year term. Peña served as mayor from 1988 to 2002.

The other incumbent up for re-election, Robert Radi, is not seeking re-election.

Mayor Linda Evans will face two challengers — Alan Woodruff and Robert Sylk — in her bid for a fifth term as mayor in the Nov. 8 election. In La Quinta, council members serve four-year terms, the mayor is elected every two years.

Registered city voters will also decide whether to approve a ballot initiative to prohibit short-term vacation rentals in residential neighborhoods. You may read the city attorney’s impartial analysis by clicking here.

Uken Report reached out to all City Council candidates with identical questions. Gray’s answers follow.

UR: Who or what motivated to run for City Council at this time?

Gray: I was on the Architectural and Landscape Board of La Quinta for some five years.  I saw some of the “group-think” that I also saw in the federal bureaucracy.  With the CV Link and now with road-diet being essentially pushed on the city, I decided it was time to bring citizen oversight and representation.  The current city council has been too long in office with apparent control and mind-set by the mayor.

My candidacy is based on the idea of term-limits and eventually close consideration of council districting.  A group of neighbors in North La Quinta requested painted crosswalk at the intersection of La Palma and Adams – the Adams Park is at that corner.  That was requested over two years ago – just now done as we had requested.  Instead of a crosswalk, we got road-diet painting that reduced Adams from 2 lanes each direction to one lane and a very large bicycle/golf-cart lane.  Linda Evans told me in a council meeting that I was sponsoring the more dangerous measure of a painted crosswalk since pedestrians would psychologically feel secure while running greater danger.  Two things: they ignored our request even after a meeting in the park, and they made traffic more difficult and more dangerous with the road-diet.  They also left 2 openings in the perimeter fence along Adams, even though that creates a needless risk of kids chasing balls.  Note that the La Quinta Park at Adams and Blackhawk way has no openings along Adams for the whole, long distance.  They are also putting painted crosswalks at the roundabouts which are dangerous to unaccustomed pedestrians and drivers going around the circle without stopping.

UR: What can you bring to the City Council that is currently missing?

Gray: Business orientation and government experience.  I believe the current LQ chamber of Commerce is not as functional as it should be for La Quinta.  We need closer contact with current and future businesses to help them adapt to the new mix of building and internet commerce.  Perhaps encouraging more STVR-type building along the 111 corridor would bring more foot traffic and more business transactions in person.  I also have a regular citizen perspective which is sorely needed.  We face the aristocracy of an elected elite instead of periodical participation from regular citizens.  The city already pays very considerable salaries to employed executive level staff.  They have the experience and expertise with day-to-day city issues.  The mayor and city council are overseers and decision-makers.  We also need more conservative control over expenses, projects, and taxes.

UR: What is the single most important endorsement you have and why?

Gray: I do not seek and do not want “well-known” endorsements, nor donations.  I trust Robert Sylk to have the experience and expertise to be the transformation mayor we need.  And he will need my support and the support of another non-incumbent councilmember.  This election should focus on turning the city government around to a more conservative focus on safety, quality road conditioning, and more motivation for better businesses and more prosperity.

UR: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment either in or out of office?

Gray: My wife and I have raised three wonderful, responsible, and loving grown children.  We now have six grandkids, two living in Brazil with our daughter.  We have mixed Brazilian and American culture and life-style – partial proof being our over 50 year-long marriage.  Our family, our safety, our closeness is the greatest accomplishment I could ever wish for.  Successful living and working in several foreign countries and languages is very good – source of much pride.  But our family is the best thing I’ve ever done.

UR: What is the single biggest issue facing La Quinta and why?

Gray: The biggest issue facing La Quinta is the disconnect between the City Council and the citizens and residents.  An example is the road-diet imposed on the long block of Adams from Fred Waring to Miles.  The request was for a painted crosswalk to help older pedestrians, children, and people with pets to cross the busy Adams.  After all, La Quinta has 4 main north/south roads: Washinton, Adams, Dune Palms, and Jefferson.  Cutting down the usability of Adams creates more traffic, more driver anxiety, and more issues with safety.  After more than 2 years the city painted the crosswalk and installed solar-warning light poles – exactly as I had suggested to them in an email with a real-life example of crosswalk and warning lights.  And yet they still haven’t addressed the dangerous openings of the Adams Park perimeter fence.  That’s with one of the council members having years and years of experience in LA parks. We need citizen democracy and not the aristocracy of an elected elite.

UR: What will you propose to do about it?

Gray: The first and main thing is simply having a new and less autocratic city council.  The citizens should have a voice in long-range and extensive projects.  What is the status of the monitoring lights?  An expensive project, but do we have verifiable data for their usefulness?  And the CVLink?  Get the information out to the people concerning safety, lighting, toilets/hygiene, issues about access and usefulness.  A city-wide vote would have exposed a lot of important points that are and will continue to appear.  The major aim will be to bring city issues to the people whether the facts look good or not for the city council.  We need no more SilverRocks that take longer than a cathedral to build.  Just look at the Acrisure Arena nearing completion in December – huge, but extremely faster than SilverRock.

UR: Is there one decision with City Council has made with which you strongly disagree? If so, what was it and why?

Gray: The main disagreement is with the overall governance as exemplified by the road-diet on Adams, the lack of building the Dune Palms bridge over Whitewater wash, The whole CVLink mess, The extremely slow progress with SilverRock, the drawing out of the permit process for Coral Mountain, the poor street maintenance, the high cost of city staff and other expenses, the lack of council turn-over of the mayor and council members, and so forth.

Image Sources

  • Ricardo Gray: Ricardo Gray