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November 7, 2017 — Local Elections
Local

City of Palm SpringsCandidate for City Council

Photo of Robert Julian Stone

Robert Julian Stone

Author / Journalist
2,684 votes (11.8%)
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My Top 3 Priorities

  • Eliminate corruption and reform local government
  • Promote responsible growth and the preservation of our open spaces
  • Restore fiscally responsible budgets at City Hall and avoid increasing taxes

Experience

Experience

Profession:Author/Journalist
Freelance Journalist, self (1986–current)
Palm Springs Public Art Commissioner, Palm Springs Public Art Commission — Appointed position (2008–2011)
Licensed California Real Estate Broker, self (1991–2006)
Newspaper Editor, Bay Area Reporter (1990–1991)
Staff Analyst for the Region IX Commissioner for Social Security, Social Security Administration (1974–1989)

Education

University of Michigan in Ann Arbor B.A., M.A., English/Journalism/Film (1973)

Biography

Robert Julian Stone, who has been a full-time Palm Springs resident since 2006, is an author and community advocate. Robert was a founding member of the Warm Sands Neighborhood Organization, served on the neighborhood’s Advisory Council for seven years, and was President in his final year of service. He was also the neighborhood representative to One PS in 2012. In 2006 he spearheaded the “Jungle Red” public art installation at the corner of Warm Sands Drive and Ramon Road, finding the artist, writing the proposal, and shepherding it through public hearings. In 2011 and 2012 he worked diligently to remedy the damage done by the City’s notorious Warm Sands sex sting and to exonerate the innocent.

From 2008-2011 Robert served as a Palm Springs Public Art Commissioner, bringing many new public art installations to the City. In his final year of service, as Chair of the Commission, he helped coordinate, with the Palm Springs Art Museum, the “Art at the Airport” project which installed eleven pieces of public art from the museum’s collection at Palm Springs International airport.    

Robert previously lived in San Francisco where he was editor of the Bay Area Reporter and a freelance journalist. He has authored four books, two of them about Palm Springs (Postcards from Palm Springs and Hollywood or Lust). He has twice (2008 and 2011) been the subject of Los Angeles Times cover stories about his work in Palm Springs. As a writer, he has contributed to SF WeeklyLA WeeklyChristopher StreetPalm Springs Life magazine, and The Desert Sun; he is currently an Official Blogger for the Huffington Post. During 15 years of government service, he was a Staff Analyst on the staff of the Regional Commissioner for Social Security, specializing in systems analysis. Robert is a licensed California Real Estate Broker; he has been a licensee for 25 years.

Robert received his B.A. and M.A. from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He is a member of Desert Stonewall Democrats; The (LGBT) Center; the Palm Springs Art Museum; and the Palm Springs Preservation Foundation where he has been a volunteer docent for many years. Robert lives in Palm Springs with his husband, Dr. Robert Maietta.

Political Beliefs

Political Philosophy

For many years I have been speaking out about the ways in which Palm Springs local government has not reflected our City’s motto: “The People Are The City.” When I suspected the problems bordered on criminality, I dug into public records and amassed a body of evidence that suggested corruption. On April 10, 2015 I brought that case to the FBI and U.S. Attorney. On May 20, 2015, I publicly advised City Council about the nature of the problem, but they did nothing. Now there are 31 felony counts pending against our former mayor and two developers. Palm Springs remains under Federal investigation and our City needs a steady hand in these troubling times. More importantly, it needs a Councilmember who understands this case inside-out, and will aggressively pursue recovery of over $150 million in taxpayer monies that were shoveled into developers' pockets. In 2015, the voters replaced three members of our governing body, but the change we expected has not materialized. Four years earlier, voters approved a 1% sales tax increase. Yet an unfunded employee pension and health care deficit of $217 million remains, while Council continues to approve 50-million-dollar transient occupancy tax rebates to developers. Now they want a one-half percent sales tax increase to help pay for their own fiscal irresponsiblility. We must start thinking bigger, and spending smaller.

Position Papers

Building the future Palm Springs

Summary

How we need to plan for the future growth of our city. 

For the last decade, I have been following the work of the Planning Commission and closely examining the projects Council approves. When you study these decisions over the years, a definite pattern emerges.

 

First, Palm Springs doesn’t do planning. It responds to developer requests, and usually in the affirmative. I’ve discussed this with many Planning Commissioners and they agree we must do better. Large housing developments have been approved using Planned Development Districts, or PDDs. For these PDDs the city waives all the requirements of the zoning code and ignores the city’s own General Plan. This is why we get projects that are out of scale for our city, are too dense, or look they were dropped into our landscape from a different universe. Instead of preserving a Palm Springs like nowhere else, we’re getting a Palm Springs like everywhere else. This needs to stop. We must preserve the unique character of our architecture and protect our rapidly disappearing open spaces. We need to rewrite our General Plan, which has not been updated in a decade, and we need to update our zoning code, which has not been revised in half a century. Once this is done, we need to start enforcing the provisions, and not waiving them. We need to figure out how to put an end to projects that start construction and shut down before they’re finished. And we need to support our beautiful small hotels, where Palm Springs history still lives and breathes.  

 

Right now Palm Springs has over 3,000 units of housing already approved for construction in the next three years. And there is not a single unit of affordable housing among them. Palm Springs has not built any affordable housing in 10 years. People who work in the service industry cannot afford to live in Palm Springs. We need to create an affordable housing plan, one that supports our all segments of our diverse community. 

 

Are we overbuilding? This is a question many people ask, and no one can answer. Because Palm Springs has never commissioned a study that projects what our future housing needs might be, or when we will arrive at unsustainable growth. The current planning philosophy is basically, “If we build it, they will come.” That’s not exactly scientific. Let’s take a closer, more analytical look at this topic, and actually come up with a plan that is based in reality and is sustainable. This will be a top priority when I’m elected.

 

 

As a member of your city council, I will have no outside employment. I will work full time for you, and I will always seek and respect your input. We need to start thinking bigger, and spending smaller for sustainable growth. That’s one of the reasons I’m running for City Council I’m asking for your vote on November 7th.

Moving past corruption

Summary

A blueprint for the things the city must to to eliminate corruption in future administrations

As a full time resident of Palm Springs for the last 12 years, I have worked with City Hall closely as both a neighborhood organizer and a former city commissioner. Five years ago, I began observing a series of troubling decisions made by City Council - decisions that waived building and zoning requirements and shoveled over 150 million dollars of public money into the pockets of private developers. I was deeply troubled and suspected corruption. 

 

A local attorney saw the same things I saw. The two of us collaborated for many months, investing our money and thousands of hours of personal time to research the facts. In April of 2015 we took our research to the FBI, the U.S. Attorney, and the Riverside County District Attorney. The District Attorney subsequently filed 31 felony charges for bribery and perjury against our former mayor and two local developers. 

 

All the work we performed to assist this investigation over the last two years was done pro bono - for the public good. We received no financial compensation for our work, and we sought none. And we could not discuss the case prior to the indictments, because we did not want to compromise the investigators. 

 

But the necessary reforms have still not been implemented at City Hall to assure this situation does not arise again. The current Council passed legislation that extends their ability to give $50 million tax rebates to developers. The Building and Planning codes have not been changed to prevent Council from waiving all our zoning and development standards for height and density. We still don’t have term limits for mayor and city council positions. And we don’t have an independent Ethics Commission that can investigate elected officials’ conduct without interference.

 

In order to build the future Palm Springs as an open, transparent, and ethical government, we must elect candidates who stand for change. Because change is what we need. Too many candidates have a history of going along with bad decisions and bad decision-makers, because they seek to enhance their own careers. As District Attorney Mike Hestrin said when he handed down the indictments, “We simply cannot tolerate corruption in government at any level. The people of Palm Springs are entitled to and should expect fair, open, and honest government in their city.” I believe this whole-heartedly.

 

 

We need council members who have taken a public stand against corruption. We need council members with sophisticated research and analytical skills. We need council members who will encourage dialogue, and support the free expressions of diverse points of view.

Measure D Sales Tax Increase

Summary

Why I am opposed to the proposed sales tax increase

“Some people believe continuing to do the same thing while expecting a different result is the definition of insanity.” These are words I wrote for the ballot argument opposing Measure D. The city is now asking for a permanent one-half percent sales tax increase. But the city has historically demonstrated it cannot be trusted to responsibly administer the revenue it receives. 

 

In 2011, the city asked voters to approve a 1% general sales tax increase, in effect for the next 25 years. They promised it would be used to improve police and fire protection and maintain city services. After approval, they shoveled over $50 million in cash, and as much as $100 million more in tax rebates, into the pocket of John Wessman. The city continues to do business with him despite his indictment on felony bribery charges that revolve around his dealings with our former mayor. 

 

Measure J has generated over $63 million in new revenue since its passage, yet the city, by virtue of their Measure D request, establishes it cannot rein-in spending. Since the implementation of Measure J, transient occupancy tax revenue rose from $15.5 million a year to $34 million a year. Despite these windfalls, we are swimming in unfunded pension and health care liabilities that now total $217,000,000. Given the city’s track record, placing additional money in their hands is unadvisable until they have demonstrated an ability to cut costs. 

 

The city wants to blame Sacramento for the shortfall, but this is not a situation that arose overnight. The city’s promotion of the tax increase contains thinly veiled threats that our streets will not be safe and essential city services will evaporate. And they drag fine police and fire safety officers into the mix, using them as pawns. Why has this looming debt not been aggressively addressed, in-house, before now? What were the contracting practices that gave rise to it? weWe need to seriously analyze, in a public forum, the year-to-year decisions that led to this shortfall and figure out how to live within our means. And we need to aggressively pursue recovery of the tainted funds involved in the 31 criminal indictments before we start sending yet another bill to taxpayers. 

 

 

City officials say “if we don’t pass this now, Riverside County will just add a tax next year and we won’t be able to keep that money for the city.” Actually, there is no evidence to support the existence of such a plan. And if the County of Riverside proposes a sales tax increase next year, it will have to go to a vote of the people, just like Measure D. 

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