PALM SPRINGS — J.R. Roberts, elected to a four-year term on the City Council in November 2015, confirmed to Uken Report that he will not seek re-election when his term expires in 2019.
The driving force behind his decision is the city’s move from at-large elections to district-based elections.
“I believe districts work much better in larger cities where representation isn’t as close and accessible as it is in a small town like Palm Springs,” Roberts told Uken Report. “I also believe that there will be unintended consequences like councilmembers now fighting and negotiating for city dollars for their districts rather than thinking holistically.”
Roberts, a longtime Palm Springs resident, added, “I also know that there are much better ways of encouraging or enticing other racial groups to come forward and run for office. At the end of the day, we’re doing this not because we chose to, it wasn’t our idea. It was all a reaction to a lawsuit that’s not winnable for us. That’s not the way to write important policy. I love serving our city, but I want to serve our entire city not just one small piece of it.”
Roberts’ confirmation that he will not run again comes on the heels of the City Council’s 3-2 vote on Monday, Dec. 10 to approve a final five-district voting map in compliance with the California Voting Rights Act.
Mayor Robert Moon and Roberts voted no. Within a five-district electoral process, the position of mayor will rotate among Councilmembers and be appointed annually.
Mayor Robert Moon and Councilmember Geoff Kors both live in District 3 and unless one moves, they will face each other in the November 2019 election. Roberts also lives in District 3.
The city of Palm Springs is expected to begin the move from at-large to district elections in November 2019, when Mayor Moon, Mayor pro tem Kors and Roberts are up for re-election, according to Communications Director Amy Blaisdell. The seats of Councilmembers Lisa Middleton and Christy Holstege will move to districts when they are up for re-election in 2021.
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, according to City Manager David H. Ready.
There are currently no Latinos on the City Council — and no Latinos sought election in the most recent city race. All candidates were Caucasian. The current panel of elected city officials is comprised of two women and three men; all are Caucasian.
Before moving to Palm Springs Roberts served as mayor and a member of the Sausalito City Council. Prior to his election, Roberts served on the Palm Springs Planning Commission and was the former Managing Director of the Palm Springs Art Museum’s internationally renowned Architecture and Design Center, according to his biography on the city’s website. He also served as the Chairman of the museum’s Architecture and Design Council and is the former Vice President of the Palm Springs Modern Committee.
Roberts is well-known in the world of architecture for his preservation efforts, including the city’s famed Edris House, which Roberts extensively renovated and is now designated a Class One Historic Site.
Roberts attended UCLA and worked for individual clients before spending 12 years as a partner with Boccardo Roberts Architecture and Design.