Palm Springs voters will re-write history Tuesday as they chose three people to sit on the City Council in the city’s first round of by-district elections since the shift was made in the 1960s to an at-large system.
The election is the city’s first to use the district system since 1964, a year after voters approved a ballot measure to switch from a seven-member district system to a five-member at-large system, city clerk Anthony Mejia said. Palm Springs was originally broken into seven districts when the city was incorporated in 1938.
With the most recent switch, the city will now be divided into five districts, with residents of each selecting a council member from that specific area. City Council elections were previously conducted on an at-large basis, with voters citywide choosing from a slate of candidates to fill available seats.
Voters on Tuesday will chose representatives from Districts 1, 2 and 3. The transition to the district system will be completed in November 2020, when elections are held for Districts 4 and 5.
The switch was prompted by the threat of a legal challenge contending the at-large system violated the California Voting Rights Act. The threat has prompted municipalities across the state to move away from the at-large system.
The City Council approved the district maps last year. District 1 represents the northern and northeastern parts of the city, with the districts generally moving numerically southward, with District 5 covering the south and southwestern parts of the city.
Only one incumbent is up for reelection on Tuesday. Councilman/Mayor Pro Tem Geoff Kors is looking to represent District 3.
Mayor Rob Moon and Councilman J.R. Roberts — who both also live within the boundaries of District 3 — are not seeking reelection. Moon will be the city’s last elected mayor. The job will henceforth rotate among the council members.
A total of 10 candidates will be running for office Tuesday. The highest vote-getter in each district will win the seat.
In District 1, the candidates are:
— Michael Shogren, a real estate agent, who said he is running for the seat to “make a difference in the city by adding a new younger voice to the community,” according to his candidate statement. “I am here to provide a voice for my generation to help bridge the gap between the older community that lives here and the new younger generation that is starting to move into our city.”
— Les Young, a retired banker, said voters may recognize his name through his many years of community service in Palm Springs. Among the issues he said he will help tackle if elected include more effective homeless programs, bringing additional affordable housing and supporting the city’s tourism economy and local businesses.
— Scott Myer, a civil rights attorney, says his background in civil rights, paired with the diverse nature of Palm Springs, makes him “uniquely suited to serve our diverse residents’ interests as I’ve done for 32 years as an attorney.” Among the ideas he lists in his candidate statement include “less city meddling with residents and businesses” and revitalizing the North Palm Springs and 111 corridor.
— Grace Garner, an attorney, who describes herself as a second generation resident and serves as a commissioner on the Palm Springs Planning Commission. “I have direct skills and insight into how our city government works,” she wrote. “I have strong bonds with the diverse communities of District 1.” Garner also emphasized the need for additional affordable housing.
Vying for the District 2 seat are:
— Dennis Woods, an urban planner, is the current chair of the Palm Springs Planning Commission. Woods says this and other political successes have shown he has ”successfully demonstrated the ability to navigate the political process to get results.” If elected, Woods seeks to encourage ”smart growth” that helps retain the uniqueness of Palm Springs. He also wants to build affordable housing and reduce homelessness.
— Peter J. Maietta, an interior designer and self-described political outsider, says he has worked in financial services for over 20 years before opening his small business. He has also managed multi-million dollar budgets and teams of all sizes. ”This experience makes Peter uniquely qualified to manage City finances and City staff and deliver services to residents,” his statement reads.
— Adrian Alcantar, a small business owner, wants to prioritize public safety and improve infrastructure. He also said he wants to “create housing options for all,” all while collaborating to find solutions to homelessness. As a small business owner, Alcantar said he will keep a close eye on the city’s budget.
In District 3, the candidates are:
— Alan “Alfie” Pettit is an entertainer and drag queen. Pettit is running for the council seat to “end the back room political gameplaying.”
“Let’s fix our streets, curbs, sidewalks and gutters in our neighborhoods,” Pettit said. “Let’s end homelessness once and for all here.”
— Michael J. Dilger, a gig economy worker, earned a bachelor’s degree in history with minors in biology and chemistry from Loyola University of Chicago in 1999. He then performed both clinical medical and independent basic research while managing a laboratory at Northwestern Medical School. In 2009, Dilger said he moved to New York City to work as a licensed financial advisor where he self-financed a bid to become mayor of New York City in 2013; and
— Geoff Kors, the incumbent councilman and LGBTQ activist. Among the successes Kors listed as reasons for supporting his reelection bid include his assistance in securing funding, and implementing programs, which are providing permanent housing for more than 200 previously homeless residents, and, obtaining funding to hire additional fire, police and medical personnel.
Residents must vote at a polling location within their district, Mejia said. Mail-in ballots can be dropped off at any polling location or at Palm Springs City Hall, which is to hold extended business hours until 8 p.m. Residents still standing in line at 8 p.m. will be allowed to vote.
The following polling locations will be open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.:
— for District 1, the James O. Jessie Desert Highland Unity Center. 480 W. Tramview Road, and Demuth Community Center, 3601 E Mesquite Avenue;
— for District 2: Desert AIDS Project, 1695 N. Sunrise Way, and Palm Springs Fire Department Training Center, 3000 E. Alejo Road; and
— for District 3, the Church of St. Paul of the Desert, 125 W. El Alameda, and Palm Springs Public Library – Learning Room, 300 S. Sunrise Way.
For a complete roster of candidates, or to find out which district you live in, visit VotePalmSprings.com or contact Mejia at 760-323-8206.
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