Cathedral City recount starts Thursday

Riverside County election officials on Thursday will begin the much-anticipated recount of Cathedral City ballots.

The process is being funded by mayoral challenger Chip Yarborough, who has decided to pay $2,800 a day to have the pricier manual recount instead of one that relies on machines.

Yarborough lost to incumbent Mayor Kathy DeRosa by just 13 votes.

“The registrar said that there are chances of the machine missing something,” Yarborough told Desert Sun reporter Tamara Sone. “It’s expensive but people have been calling me saying that I have to do the recount.”

A machine recount would have cost $1,873 per day, according to earlier estimates.

County Registrar Kari Verjil told The Desert Sun that that first day of a recount is typically the slowest, as election officials and the observers get into their groove.

Yarborough has a team of supporters planning to go to Riverside to oversee the process.  He’s also hired a Los Angeles-based attorney to assist.

The recount will continue as long as Yarborough wants to fund it.

If Yarborough calls it off before each of the 12,303 Cathedral City ballots are recounted– as was the case during the 2010 recount of the Rancho Mirage council recount – the certified election results will stand.

The Nov. 6 election results now show DeRosa has 5,729 votes to Yarborough’s 5,716 votes. A third candidate, John David Kauffman got 858 votes.

The current schedule calls for the recount to continue Friday and — if necessary – resume on Monday. Verjil currently has no plans to have her staff work over the weekend.

There is no deadline for the registrar’s office to finish, but it is anticipated the entire recount will only take a few days.

“As a leader of this city, I am looking forward to the election coming to conclusion,” DeRosa said.

Update as of 11:45 a.m. Thursday: The photos in this blog were updated to reflect the activity this morning. The photos were submitted by Yarborough.


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.”

Change in leadership

Rancho Mirage Councilman Scott Hines will be sworn in as the city’s next mayor on May 1.

Hines, a Democrat elected to council in April 2010, is next up in the mayoral rotation although he doesn’t have the mayor pro tem title.

The council never used it after Mayor Pro Tem Ron Meepos died in June.

The May 1 swearing-in ceremony starts at 1:30 p.m. at Rancho Mirage city hall, located at the corner of Highway 111 and Frank Sinatra Drive.

The ceremony should take about 30 minutes, according to the announcement Hines made on Facebook.

Hines told The Desert Sun that the ceremony was initially scheduled for May 3 but has been rescheduled for May 1.

U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer, a Rancho Mirage Democrat, is expected to conduct the swearing-in ceremony.

‘Tis the season for campaigning

And so it begins.

Today marks the first day that  Rancho Mirage council candidates can start pulling papers for the April 10 election.

The all-mail ballot will include the seats held by Councilmen Richard Kite and Gordon Moller, and determine who fills the remaining two years of the seat that was held by the late Ron Meepos.

Kite, Moller and Councilwoman Iris Smotrich – who was appointed to the vacancy – will kick off their respective campaigns with a joint announcement today. Fittingly, the 2 p.m. event will be held on the steps of city hall, 69-825 Highway 111.

It could be the first of many joint events that feature the three incumbents.

A news release previewing the event says the council members “will be running individually but supporting each other in the campaign leading to Election Day.”

Filling a seat

Rancho Mirage council members today will choose who fills the fifth seat on the dais.

The decision is expected to come during today’s council meeting, which starts at 1 p.m. at city hall.

In a report to his colleagues, Mayor Dana Hobart proposed an appointment process where each councilman will nominate someone for the vacant seat.

The council will vote on each nominee, and the first candidate to get three votes will become the city’s newest leader.

Thirteen people — including two candidates from the 2010 council race –applied for the seat, which was vacated by the resignation and subsequent death of Mayor Pro Tem Ron Meepos. Meepos died June 3 from complications of diabetes.

The new council member will be sworn in during the next council meeting, which is scheduled for July 21. He or she will fill the seat until the April 2012 election.

Reporter Blake Herzog will be covering today’s meeting, so be sure to check back to for the latest.

Updated at 2:40 p.m.: Council members appointed Iris Smotrich, a member of the city’s cultural commission and the city library’s foundation board.