CATHEDRAL CITY – The ongoing tension between a conservative candidate for City Council and a liberal resident has reached fever pitch in the days leading up to the Nov. 6 election.
Alan Carvalho, an outspoken Democrat, has been taunting Ernesto Gutierrez, a registered Republican, since Gutierrez announced his candidacy. Gutierrez is one of four Latino candidates seeking the open seat in District 4.
One of the latest in a series of social media salvos takes aim at Gutierrez for closing a restaurant in Palm Springs after not receiving what Carvalho referred to as “corporate welfare.”
In August 2015, Gutierrez closed the ever-popular Margaritas Mexican Food & Oyster Bar. Some thought it was just for the summer when business slows, but it never reopened.
Gutierrez told Uken Report it was an old building, the air conditioning was 25 years old, it was inefficient and lacked capacity to adequately cool the restaurant. The repairs needed were estimated at $100,000.
The restaurateur asked for financial help from his landlady, he said.
“She was a nice lady but had no money to make repairs, Gutierrez said.
So, he turned to the city of Palm Springs for help. Gutierrez said he spoke with City Manager David H. Ready about the possibility of an incentive grant like other Palm Springs businesses were receiving.
Ready allegedly told Gutierrez he was eligible for a $25,000 façade improvement grant but Gutierrez did not need to improve building’s exterior, he said.
Gutierrez said apparently only businesses in a certain section of downtown Palm Springs were eligible for the economic incentive grants. Former Mayor Steve Pougnet and Ready allegedly determined who received them. That caused some tension for Gutierrez as he did not think he was treated like the others. His restaurant was located on Tahquitz Canyon Avenue in close proximity to the favored area for grants.
“As I recall, Margarita’s was not in the program incentive area – which included parts of north and south Palm Springs,” Ready told Uken Report. “Ernesto, I don’t believe actually applied as he did not qualify – actually, I recall speaking to him myself … staff has not found any formal application.”
Carvalho said he was aware of a story in 2015 on KESQ back in which Gutierrez discussed the fate of Margarita’s and it employees.
“It was only after this candidate stated in a recent response to the homeless crisis that ‘they should just hit bottom,’ that I started digging deeper into his past business practices.” Carvalho told Uken Report. “His was a clear response of insensitivity, cold-hearted-blaming-the-victim mentality. (This is) coming from a man who for some reason couldn’t qualify for a small business loan to purchase new air conditioning for his restaurant. (He) expected the Palm Springs City Council to provide corporate welfare in the amount of $100,000 in incentive grant money for a profit-making private venture. (It) was as much as I could bear.”
Gutierrez has the coveted endorsement of Mayor Stan Henry and is considered a front-runner in the four-way race. That, too, has caused some tension. Henry is only member of the five-member City Council to endorse Gutierrez.
Carvalho said Gutierrez is unqualified and is upping the rhetoric.
The duo is diametrically opposed when it comes to politics, which causes tension. The pair has been verbally sparring on social media with Carvalho deriding Gutierrez for everything from buying his political banners in Mexico to his stance on homelessness in the community. Carvalho has also ridiculed Gutierrez for the length of time it took him to answer a question at a recent cannabis forum, especially since candidates were given the questions in advance. Carvalho videotaped the moment and used Jeopardy theme music to illustrate how long it took for Gutierrez to respond.
Gutierrez said that soon Carvalho will be calling him Councilman Gutierrez. He also said he’s fed up with Carvalho’s constant attacks that border on defamation, slander, and character assassination.
While Carvalho’s opinions are his own, he does serve as chair of the Cathedral City Public Arts Commission. If Gutierrez is elected, this could get interesting and create even more tension.
The former Margarita’s Mexican Food and Oyster Bar has been sold and will be turned into office space for the Palm Springs International Film Festival, according to Gutierrez.