Local politicos to attend Pride Prom

Between 150 and 200 students are expected to attend the first-ever Pride Prom at the Palm Springs Art Museum tonight.

The event is supposed to be a chance for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students to enjoy a dance without worrying that their sexual orientations will be an issue.

The event happens to fall during a week when same-sex marriage and LGBT issues are dominating the national discussion.

So it’s little surprise that at least three of the desert’s progressive politicians — Democratic congressional candidate Raul Ruiz, Palm Springs Mayor Pro Tem Ginny Foat and Palm Springs Councilman Paul Lewin — are expected to attend tonight’s prom to show their support.

Ruiz said this week that he agreed with President Obama’s position that same-sex couples should be able to marry. And last year, Palm Springs council passed a resolution to formally support same-sex marriages.

Marriage equality

In an historic announcement from the White House, President Obama today announced his support for same-sex marriage.

It’s an issue of critical importance to many local officials, including Rancho Mirage Mayor Scott Hines.

This week, Hines signed the “Mayors for the Freedom to Marry” pledge, a national effort is designed to generate broad support for same-sex marriage.

Palm Springs’ Steve Pougnet is the only other desert mayor to sign on, according to the effort’s website.

Palm Springs council last year also passed a resolution to formally support marriage equality.

However, we’re not expecting Rancho Mirage to follow suit because Hines said the city doesn’t usually weigh in on state and national issues unless “it directly impacts our jurisdictional authority.”

“I signed the Mayor’s Pledge for the Freedom to Marry because I feel strongly as a community leader to lend my voice to an injustice I personally feel strongly about,” Hines, a gay man, told The Desert Sun.

“I did this as an individual, and though I know at least several on the council agree with me on this issue, it is up to them as individuals to determine how they wish to be involved on this matter.”

Former council candidate takes plea deal

A two-time Palm Springs council candidate has pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor violation of the state’s election code.

Eloise Garcia-Mohsin, a former concierge at the Viceroy Palm Springs, was charged with nine felonies after authorities said she lied about her home address on election paperwork during her 2009 campaign.

As part of the plea agreement finalized today, Garcia-Mohsin was sentenced to 180 hours of community service. She can’t seek or hold a public office during a three-year probation.

Garcia-Mohsin, who now lives in the Bay Area, told The Desert Sun that she took a deal to “turn a page and take control of my own fate” by ending the 18-month long criminal case.

“I totally stay with what I’ve been saying all along: These are baseless charges that are politically motivated,” she said. “I’m more determined than ever to persevere and expose political corruption in Riverside County.”

Garcia-Mohsin ran for city council in 2007 and 2009. She got less than 300 votes in both elections.

Closing the books on Measure J

Today’s the deadline for campaigns to reveal their fourth quarter fundraising efforts.

Both the supporters and challengers of Measure J have already reported their figures. And it is no surprise that developer John Wessman — who needed taxpayers’ help to finance his vision for the Desert Fashion Plaza — invested heavily in the effort to pass the sales tax hike.

Wessman donated more than $95,000 over the course of the campaign, according to the latest reports filed with the city.  Almost half of those contributions came after the Nov. 8 election, indicating Wessman was tapped to cover the costs of late-arriving bills and campaign debts.

All told, supporters for Measure J raised almost $260,000 over the course of the high-profile campaign.

The Measure J campaign also relied heavily on restaurateur Harold Matzner. He gave $52,000 in donations and non-monetary contributions. His restaurant, Spencer’s, donated another $4,657 in meals.

The Measure J debate captivated the Coachella Valley last November, but it wasn’t a competitive fight financially: The opposition campaign raised only $13,473 over the entire campaign, according to the most recent filing.

Measure J passed with more than 57 percent of the vote. It increases the city’s sales from 7.75 percent to 8.75 percent for 25 years, generating an estimated  $200 million for revitalizing the Desert Fashion Plaza and other capital projects throughout the city.

Election results updated

Riverside County election officials provided updated election results today.

The new tally does not change any results in the desert, but it does reflect the votes that were cast in the nearly 4,100 by-mail and damaged ballots that didn’t get counted on election night.

They also show the first results for Wayne Gottlieb, a local tax preparer who was the valley’s only qualified write-in candidate. Gottlieb got 20 votes in his effort to unseat Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet.

Pougnet garnered 7,318 votes, which was almost 70 percent of those cast in the mayoral race.

County officials still have to process about 1,000 provisional ballots. They hope to complete that tally by 6 p.m. Wednesday, when updated results will be posted online.

Last chance to get a vote-by-mail ballot

Today is the last day to request a vote-by-mail ballot for the Nov. 8 election.

Interested? The easiest way to get the information is by going online to the Riverside County Registrar of Voters’ website.

Five desert cities will have an election next week to vote on elected leadership and proposed tax hikes, including Palm Springs’ high-profile Measure J.

Vote-by-mail ballots allow residents to vote early. As of today, 29,242 of those ballots have already been returned. 

If you are voting by mail, remember that your ballot must be filled out and received by the registrar before polls close on Nov. 8. The postmark doesn’t count.

Permits in place for Measure J’s headquarters

Palm Springs officials today confirmed that the paperwork is in order for the Measure J supporters to set up their campaign headquarters in the old Bank of America.

As reported in Saturday’s  Desert Sun, the committee unveiled a massive banner on the downtown building. But because city hall was closed Friday, city officials couldn’t confirm whether the occupancy paperwork was in order.

City Manager David Ready confirmed today that the certificate of occupancy, issued in 1968 for business or office use, is still valid. The building also passed a 2009 fire inspection – a check that’s done roughly every three years.

“It meets the code, it passed the fire inspection,” Ready said today. “That building, as all buildings there, are eligible for occupancy.”

For more on this story, check out Tuesday’s Desert Sun.

RSA jumps into Palm Springs race

The Riverside Sheriffs’ Association has jumped into the Palm Springs council race, endorsing the position of the Palm Springs Police Officers’ Association.

That means you can expect the well-funded bargaining group to be campaigning for Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet, and council challengers Paul Lewin and Liz Glass.

The efforts included at least one round of automated phone calls to voters this week.

The RSA tends to endorse conservative candidates, so it is unusual that the group would join local Democratic clubs in backing Pougnet and Lewin.

The support for Lewin’s campaign is also surprising as Lewin spearheaded the community opposition to the now-shelved plans to build a county jail in Whitewater.

“We have no issue with Mr. Lewin’s disagreement with the county over the specific location of the new jail,” RSA president Pat McNamara told The Desert Sun in an email.

“The bottom line is he supports adding the necessary bed space and the specifics of a location can be worked out when and if the county is ever able to fund it.”

Notable moments

The strange behavior of Palm Springs mayoral candidate Vincent Ziegler was certainly the most eyebrow raising part of Thursday’s candidate forum.

But there were certainly some other notable moments:

– Mayoral candidate Phyllis Burgess is best known for bringing an oversize Styrofoam cross to the 2008 same-sex marriage rallies. But she caused a stir when she suggested the city should hire more Chinese people in order to get things done faster.

– Council candidate John Tymon did not make a reservation for the event, but he still thought the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce should have given him a seat on the panel.

Chamber officials said they tried multiple times to reach him. Minutes before the event started, a Desert Sun reporter spotted him making his case with chamber staff.

“I’m on the ballot, but couldn’t be allowed on the dais?” Tymon said about not being able to participate.  “It’s not like I tried to crash a party.”

Tourism officials endorse Measure J

In a rare move, the Palm Springs Desert Resort Communities Convention and Visitors Authority is taking a stand on a campaign matter.

The tourism group known as the CVA has endorsed Measure J, a proposed 1 percentage point hike in the Palm Springs’ sales tax.

As a quasi-government body, the CVA can endorse a ballot measure but cannot donate to the campaign.

The CVA hasn’t taken a stand on any other ballot issues in recent memory.

A spokesman for the CVA did not return a call from the Desert Sun today to explain what made the group jump into the Measure J debate.

In a statement released by Measure J supporters, CVA president Scott White said the tourism authority views “the plan as critical to ensuring future success for the City of Palm Springs as well as the entire Coachella Valley’s tourism industry.”

Notably, the city of Palm Springs is a member of the CVA. In the last fiscal year, the city’s paid the CVA $355,587, a figure that’s based on the revenue from the hotel bed tax.