Scott Nevins challenges incumbent Grace Garner in District 1
PALM SPRINGS — Political newcomer Scott Nevins, a TV host and personality as well as a healthcare, civil rights and LGBTQ+ advocate, is challenging incumbent Grace Garner for a coveted spot on the City Council. Garner is completing her first term in office.
To be fair to all candidates, Uken Report (UR) submitted identical questions to all candidates running in the Nov. 8 election.
Following are Nevins’ responses.
UR: Who or what motivated to run for City Council at this time?
Scott Nevins: I am running because, like many of our neighbors, I saw a lot of things not being done and I heard a lot of our residents disappointed that they didn’t feel listened or served. Since District 1 was created, we have seen no real additional focus or investment from the city. Rather, we have continued to be a dumping ground for projects like the homeless Navigation Center that other Palm Springs residents do not want in their backyard. Many of our neighbors still have to walk miles to a grocery store, and opportunities for our kids remain meagre. I have firm plans on how to deal with crime, homelessness and affordability, while providing opportunity for our young people and quality of life for our retirees. And when I see problems going unaddressed, I like to jump in!
This also felt like the right time for me personally. Like so many others, during the pandemic my priorities began to shift (or maybe come into focus?), and after sustaining a career in media for almost 20 years, I felt like there was a new mountain to climb. I love being a Board Member at DAP Health – we are a very active Board, so we get involved and don’t just take votes and raise money – and I loved that the work that we were doing was actually changing people’s lives for the better, and we could see it in real life in front of us. Yet I wanted to do more. I saw the void in leadership in District 1, and while I knew that a lot of people would try to make this race about something other than ideas, plans and results, I decided to take the leap and throw myself into the arena because I believe too much in the power of democracy and the importance of using your vote to effect vital change in your own community. The response from neighbors across the district and the city has been overwhelming, and inspiring.
UR: What makes you a better candidate than your opponent?
Scott Nevins: I vowed to run a very positive, detail and results-oriented campaign. I’m focused on the voters, what they need and what I can do for them. From the moment that I announced my candidacy on the steps of Palm Springs City Hall, voters could access my website where they would find an extensive and detailed platform. When I went door to door to meet voters over the summer, many of them would joke and say “are you running for President?! Your platform is so detailed!” I loved that! What are we doing here if we aren’t showing up with actual plans to help make our city and the lives of our residents better?
My platform is detailed because I believe in putting in the work to understand every issue thoroughly before voting for it and speaking to as many residents, experts and stakeholders as possible before making a decision.
I’ve also always been a people person. Whether I was one on one, speaking at an event, hosting a gala, or on your TV screens, I was connecting with people. I learned early on that people can see through dishonesty and phoniness and that you had to always be genuine. I was born and raised in Queens, NY, and so I don’t do the B.S. game. In fact, I think it’s time we got the B.S. out of P.S.! Call it out or get it out. I think that will be refreshing for people in our city when I am a Councilmember.
To give you an example of how these skills would play out in practice, the council’s vote on the navigation center was a critical moment where a skilled representative, knowing that the vote was going to pass, should have used persuasion, collaboration, persistence, and good working relationships with other councilmembers to get concessions from the council and support for future investment in our district. At a point of maximum leverage, I fear my opponent simply did not put in the work. You don’t just vote no and leave your community with less than it started with.
Finally, my campaign is truly grassroots and community focused. I am supported by neighbors, visitors who care about Palm Springs, as well as many small donations from Democrats across the country who care about the issues. I am not funded by the usual group of big-money interests who fund the majority of city council candidates. And this makes me genuinely able to represent the interests of District 1 and the city in the best way I can.
UR: What can you bring to the City Council that is currently missing?
Scott Nevins: Sustaining a 20+ year career in the Entertainment industry, producing massive fundraisers, hosting major live and television events, going live on cable news around the world to deliver facts, opinions, and to debate opponents, being a well-studied advocate, representing brands and organizations, and being able to make money doing it all is no easy task. All of those jobs took a highly specific set of skills – skills that are often missing from the Council. For starters, our city lives and dies on its “brand”. Palm Springs is an internationally recognized name for resort destination. We must protect that at all costs. Right now, with our major issues with unhoused citizens, crime, the rising costs of living, all have major impact on our brand and our ability to support our local economy and businesses through tourism. Knowing how to properly tackle our biggest issues so that we can honestly say that our town is a beautiful, safe and thriving destination, is a top priority.
Working on major events and live TV, you need to learn how to work well with others, make decisions quickly, and show up prepared. Collaboration is the key to running any successfully entity – including a city. You have to be able to work with groups of people, and if necessary, convince them that your idea, or a compromise, is what would be best. You can’t just say “no” and cross your arms. You can’t be silent or absent, you have to speak up and fight for what you believe is the right thing to do. You have to show up prepared. Know your facts and be ready to defend your points and have the skills to persuade others to join you. Your residents are depending on it.
Communication is key. My entire career was based off of making connections with large groups of people. For me, the first rule of communicating is listening. I’ve often felt that city government often doesn’t truly listen to the people. How do you walk through the doors of the Council Chambers under a sign that reads “The People Are The City” and not truly grasp that fully? Residents are not just votes for you to get – they are your boss. Listening to what they want, instead of telling them what everyone thinks that they need, is vital.
Leadership is a word that gets thrown around a lot in City Government. I’ve had years of leading groups, teams and staff on a multitude of projects throughout my career. For me, as a leader, it was important for everyone to feel valued and heard. I worked hard to make sure that my team felt as if we were equal, and that their ideas or opinions mattered just as much as mine. It was also important for me to remove all ego from the process. Other people are going to have better ideas than you, and thats great! We all learn from one another, and if someone can get to a solution in a quicker, smarter way, you don’t stand in the way of that, and you definitely don’t take all of the credit for it later.
UR: What is the single most important endorsement you have and why?
Scott Nevins: As the only City Council candidate with the endorsement of a U.S. Senator, I am sure everyone would expect me to say Barbara Boxer, because she is a beloved icon of fighting for civil rights, LGBTQ+ rights and of course, women’s rights, and I am extremely proud to have her endorsement, but for me, it’s the endorsements of my neighbors in District 1. Each time someone adds their name to the list of my website or tells me that they are proud to support me because I have strong ideas, and, if I’m being totally upfront, because I’m not just another politician or lawyer, it reminds me of why I got into this race – to be one of the people fighting for the people. I’m not backed financially or endorsed by any of the usual big-money interests in town, and so I have no strings attached to anyone who would like to sway the Council’s vote on certain issues – and that is very attractive to voters. My endorsements and donations are all grassroots.
UR: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment either in or out of office?
Scott Nevins: Throughout my career I have worked to help raise over $50 million for civil rights, LGBTQ+ and healthcare organizations around the country. But personally, I am most proud of being a devoted Uncle and godfather to my three incredible god kids.
UR: What is the single biggest issue facing Palm Springs, other than homeless, and why?
Scott Nevins: The biggest issue is affordability and opportunity. And going a step further, the biggest challenge for our city is to balance quality of life for all of our residents. While some neighbors have genuine concerns like noise pollution, the cleanliness and upkeep of our parks and open spaces, and a desire to live in safe city without crime and disturbances, others struggle to find affordable housing, high quality education, and career opportunities. The city must be able to balance the response to the needs of all residents, making sure they are being served and given equal opportunity and attention. Palm Springs should be an oasis of security for our retirees, and a place where our kids don’t just dream of having a career, owning a home, and raising their family in safety — they expect it. We can achieve both.
UR: What will you propose to do about it?
Scott Nevins: Security is crucial. We must get the unhoused safely off the streets and work with police and community organizations to reduce crime and violence. We also have to invest in affordable housing, after-school programs for our kids, childcare for working parents, and job training. Additionally, we must keep applying pressure to the College of the Desert to get the Palm Springs Campus built! This whole saga has been grossly mismanaged, and it’s time to bring it to a conclusion. All done, our community will have been denied educational opportunity for at least 25 years while taxpayer money has been squandered.
You can read my platform by clicking here where I lay out detailed plans for all of these issues and others.
UR: Is there one decision with City Council has made with which you strongly disagree? If so, what was it and why?
Scott Nevins: Uncompleted development projects litter our beautiful city, detracting from its natural beauty and world class architecture. I believe that the city needs better policies around requiring completion bonds for many of these projects, which can be structured in a way that protects the city without creating an undue burden on developers.
I also believe the council should have taken steps to pay down some of our very large pension debt at a time when it was favorable to do so — low interest rates and high equity valuations. With pension fund assets down substantially this year, exacerbating our problems, we will look back on this as a wasted opportunity.
UR: You are all well-known. What is one thing people don’t know about you?
Scott Nevins: Even though my family-owned a bar, and I spent the early part of my career working in the New York LGBTQ+ nightlife scene, I have never had alcohol, cigarettes, or drugs. I do love sweets though…
- Scott Nevins: Isaak Serrano