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Last updateWed, 27 Sep 2017 1pm

Brian Blueskye

Remember The BrosQuitos? While the band continues on, the name is no more: Frontman James Johnson recently announced the band’s name has changed to Sleeping Habits. Regardless of what they call themselves, the members of Sleeping Habits are great musicians with a bright future ahead. Stay tuned for more information, as well as new music, at www.facebook.com/sleepinghabitsmusic. James Johnson agreed to take the Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

The first concert I ever attended was a Beatles tribute band, The Fab Four. They were really cool. It’s weird that a tribute band was my first concert, but very memorable!

What was the first album you owned?

The first album I owned was something that was “given” to me (I stole it from my grandma): Paul McCartney’s Tug of War. I’ve always been a Paul fan, and I remember popping it in a CD player when I would work on clubhouses with all my friends.

What bands are you listening to right now?

I’m currently indulging in some Bleachers, AWOLNATION, Glass Animals, and Post Malone—a weird but interesting collection of incredibly amazing and diverse artists!

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

Hoomii Mongolian throat-singing. I mean, the singing itself is quite difficult for most people, and throat-singing is probably not something they would even consider. A throat singer can produce two to four notes at the same time; this gives the effect of a deep sound (bass), a medium sound (guitar) and a high-pitched sound resembling a flute or whistle being played. This genre is definitely extreme; some songs can last three minutes, and depending on how good the singer is, could contain only 10 words. (Words are stretched and sometimes transition into “instrumentals.”) I don’t think this is a musical “trend,” but someone needs to check on it. It’s insane!

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

The Killers came back to life a bit ago, and I would really enjoy seeing them live. They’re a long-time favorite of mine, along with the ’00 era.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Some people judge this, but I love Harry Styles from One Direction—not the band he was in, but his solo career really represents some old British rock genres, like some sort of pub rock.

What’s your favorite music venue?

There is something absolutely amazing about Pappy and Harriet’s. The minute you walk into that place, you know it’s kinda speaking to you. It’s a place with built-in emotion, but gently can welcome you into any act/situation. Seriously, a great place.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

“Pineapples are in my head, got nobody ’cause I’m brain dead,” Glass Animals, “Pork Soda.”

What band or artist changed your life? How?

Paul McCartney has changed my life, as a man and icon. He has showed a certain light to creating a band, and has an overall wholesome story of how he took his career along, in every step. He’s a constant inspiration.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

Alex Trimble, Two Door Cinema Club: Why do you always come back from tour with drastic haircuts? It’s overwhelming.

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Revolution 9” by The Beatles, just to really scare people and (make them) wonder what the heck is going on. Maybe it’ll convince someone I’m resurrecting or something.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

Right now, it’s Glass Animals’ How to Be a Human Being. Give it to me like my last meal, and I’m good.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

Go listen to Sleeping Habits’ “Can’t Decide Your Love.” You might end up discovering your new favorite band. (Scroll down to hear it.)

Michael Keeth is one of the busiest musicians in the Coachella Valley. He has multiple solo-performance residencies at places such as The Riviera, the Westin Mission Hills, bluEmber at the Omni Rancho Las Palmas Resort and Spa, and Cork Tree. When he’s not performing solo, he plays with Arthur Seay and Mike Cancino of House of Broken Promises, and Derek Timmons of Sleazy Cortez, in a band called Death in Pretty Wrapping. For more information, visit www.michaelkeethmusic.com. Michael took some time out of his busy schedule to take the Lucky 13; here are his answers.

What was the first concert you attended?

U2 with Rage Against the Machine in Las Vegas for my 15th birthday.

What was the first album you owned?

Probably Eagles’ Their Greatest Hits.

What bands are you listening to right now?

My wife recently introduced me to Glass Animals, who are heavy on percussion and synth production. I also really like Amber Run; they have great melodies and a moody atmosphere. I love all kinds of music, though.

What artist, genre or musical trend does everyone love, but you don’t get?

I like some (music) in all genres, including hip hop. My personal taste doesn’t include mumble rap, but I guess they can’t all be Thr3 Strykes. Those guys kill it!

What musical act, current or defunct, would you most like to see perform live?

Pink Floyd, with David Gilmour and Roger Waters together.

What’s your favorite musical guilty pleasure?

Atmospheric ’80s pop rock. Love that headspace.

What’s your favorite music venue?

They’re all great in that they give us a place to express ourselves. The Date Shed and The Hood Bar and Pizza are my favorites for the vibe, but all are important to our scene.

What’s the one song lyric you can’t get out of your head?

More of a melody/lyric: Glass Animals “Agnes.” The chords repeat, with: “You’re gone but you’re on my mind; I’m lost but I don’t know why.” That gets stuck for days!

What band or artist changed your life? How?

U2 set the bar high when I was 12ish. The bigger-than-life tours, great lyrics and anthemic songs made me want to play in bands.

You have one question to ask one musician. What’s the question, and who are you asking?

Martin Barrera of 5th Town: “¿Alguna vez duermes?”

What song would you like played at your funeral?

“Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and the Waves.

Figurative gun to your head, what is your favorite album of all time?

U2’s Achtung Baby, hands down.

What song should everyone listen to right now?

“Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl)” by Looking Glass. Sing it loud, people! (Scroll down to hear it.)

November is my favorite month of the year. The summer heat is finally fading; more and more snowbirds are clogging Highway 111 (OK, that part is a mixed blessing, at best); and I get to enjoy a turkey dinner or two with friends and family while watching football. Oh, and there are shows galore!

The McCallum Theatre has some great events in November you won’t want to miss. At 7 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 5, comedienne Paula Poundstone will be performing. If you grew up in the ’80s and ’90s, you remember her numerous appearances in film and television. Today, she’s best known as a regular on NPR’s Wait Wait ... Don’t Tell Me! Tickets are $22 to $47. At 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 17, CV 104.3 radio’s Jimi Fitz will be performing as part of Jimi Fitz and Friends, which will feature local acts Faults of Andreas, John Stanley King, Kal David and Lori Bono, and many others. Tickets are $27 to $67. There are a lot of other fine shows taking place this month, so be sure to peruse the McCallum website! McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, Palm Desert; 760-340-2787; www.mccallumtheatre.com.

Fantasy Springs Resort Casino has a fantastic November schedule. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 11, country superstars Alabama will be performing. I am not the biggest fan, but even I have to admit that the band features great songwriters—and that Alabama’s material in the early-to-mid-’80s was impressive and occasionally flawless. Tickets are $49 to $109. At 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 17, rapper Ja Rule and R&B singer Ashanti will share the Fantasy Springs stage. It should be a memorable night of music following an especially memorable year for Ja Rule, after his Fyre Festival left many rich millennials—who paid thousands of dollars for tickets—stranded on an island in the Bahamas crying over their “luxury” cheese sandwiches and begging to be rescued over social media. The best part of the story: There is supposed to be Fyre Festival 2018, so get ready to ride this awesome train again! Tickets are $29 to $59. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 18, get ready to live the ’90s all over again when Third Eye Blind performs. If you were alive back in the ’90s and didn’t want to punch your radio every time “Semi-Charmed Life” came on, you weren’t really there. Also: Does anyone remember that whole scandal involving author JT LeRoy back in the ’00s, when it came out that JT Leroy was fake? Well, frontman Stephan Jenkins was in the middle of it all, given he moved in with both of the culprits—and even posed for pictures and videos in which he was cuddling with them. Tickets are $29 to $49. Fantasy Springs Resort Casino, 84245 Indio Springs Parkway, Indio; 760-342-5000; www.fantasyspringsresort.com.

Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa has some notable November shows. At 3 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 5, actress Sophia Loren will be bringing her national tour of “An Evening With Sophia Loren” to the Coachella Valley. The actress will be speaking on subjects including her childhood in Italy, her family life and her career. Tickets are $65 to $175. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 11, Latin pop-rock band Reik will be performing. Reik is kind of a big deal in Mexico—and in the United States, too. The group’s self-titled first album went platinum in both Mexico and the U.S.—while Reik’s fifth and most-recent album, Des/Amor, went platinum in Mexico and gold in the States. Reik won a Latin Grammy award for 2009 album Un Dia Mas. Tickets are $65 to $85. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 25, standup comedian and Comedy Central personality Daniel Tosh will be returning to the Coachella Valley. Tosh is best known for his hilarious show on which he takes Internet videos and provides commentary. Tickets are $80 to $100. The Show at Agua Caliente Casino Resort Spa, 32250 Bob Hope Drive, Rancho Mirage; 888-999-1995; www.hotwatercasino.com.

Spotlight 29 Casino has a couple of events on the calendar that should be a lot of fun. At 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 3, multi-generational Mariachi band Mariachi Vargas De Tecalitlán will be performing. Five generations going back to 1897 (!) have kept this amazing group going. This is Mexican roots music—and it’s history. Tickets are $25 to $45. At 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 11 comedienne and MADtv cast member Anjelah Johnson (upper right) will bring the funny. You might remember her from MADtv as Bon Qui Qui, the King Burger employee who hated complicated orders and would say, “Have it your way, but don’t get crazy.” Tickets are $35 to $55. Spotlight 29 Casino, 46200 Harrison Place, Coachella; 760-775-5566; www.spotlight29.com.

Morongo Casino Resort Spa continues to sell out shows, including a Friday, Nov. 3, Chaka Khan performance—but as of this writing, tickets remain for the month’s other events. At 9 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 9, Fitz and the Tantrums will take the stage. The Los Angeles-based pop/soul band has found a lot of success by licensing music to various films, commercials and video games—including Madden NFL 17, of all things. Tickets are $39. At 5 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 12, musical-theater great David Pomeranz will bring his show to Morongo. He’s written songs for and performed with everyone from Barry Manilow to the Muppets! Tickets are $35 to $75. At 9 p.m., Friday, Nov. 17, crooner Neil Sedaka will again perform in the desert. If you missed his show at the McCallum Theatre last year, you’re in luck! Tickets are $59 to $69. Morongo Casino Resort Spa, 49500 Seminole Drive, Cabazon; 800-252-4499; www.morongocasinoresort.com.

Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace is the place to be in November. At 8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 2, fresh off an appearance at Desert Daze, Allah-Las (below) will be performing. Allah-Las is a psychedelic-rock fan’s dream come true. With a little bit of soul thrown into the mix, Allah-Las’ jams sound like some of the best records to come out of the ’60s rock ’n’ roll scene. Admission is free. At 9 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 9, have you herd that Donna and the Buffalo is coming back? This band plays rock, reggae, country and everything else under the sun—and has a smaller, friendlier Grateful Dead-style following. When I interviewed band founder Tara Nevins back in 2013, she told me she always insists on a show at Pappy and Harriet’s when the booking agent maps out tours. Tickets are $17 to $20. At 9 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 25, the eccentric alternative rock band Meat Puppets will be returning. The Meat Puppets has a fascinating history of starting as a hardcore punk band and then incorporating elements of cowpunk and psychedelic elements into the music. The band members were close friends of Nirvana and appeared at the band’s Unplugged performance in 1993. Tickets are $20. Pappy and Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace, 53688 Pioneertown Road, Pioneertown; 760-365-5956; www.pappyandharriets.com.

The Purple Room Palm Springs will be hopping in November as the season heats up. At 8 p.m., Friday, Nov. 10,and Saturday, Nov. 11, singer and actress Marilyn Maye will take the stage. After 76 appearances on the The Tonight Show during the Johnny Carson era, as well as a Grammy nomination, she’s still going strong. Tickets are $70 to $90. Michael Holmes’ Purple Room, 1900 E. Palm Canyon Drive, Palm Springs; 760-322-4422; www.purpleroompalmsprings.com.

Greater Palm Springs Pride has featured a variety of fun musical acts over the years—but none have been more fun than GayC/DC, which will be playing at Pride for the third year in a row on Sunday, Nov. 5, on the U.S. Bank Stage.

During a recent phone interview, lead vocalist Chris Freeman—also the bassist/vocalist of the legendary queercore band Pansy Division—said Los Angeles-based GayC/DC came about as a result of his participation in an all-male tribute band to the Go-Gos called the Gay-Gays. He told a fascinating tale about how he met one of the band’s guitarists, Steve McKnight.

“We weren’t really working or doing anything, and our singer said, ‘I’m done. I don’t really want to do anything anymore, and I’m kind of tired of it,’” Freeman said. “(The rest of us) thought, ‘What else could we do with the word “gay” in there?’ Our guitar player, Karl (Rumpf), suggested GayC/DC. I stopped and went, ‘Hey, that’s not a bad idea!’ I took the name and ran with it. A logo and all that stuff came really quick. It sort of wrote itself.

“I was the bass-player, and I thought, ‘Well, we’ll get a singer, and we need a guitar-player too.’ So I was looking through Daddyhunt,” Freeman said with a laugh, “and I saw a picture of this guy who was really handsome who played guitar. It wasn’t like I was looking at him like he was hot or anything, but I clicked on his profile, and I sent him a message. He lived in Torrance, and I asked if he was interested in playing guitar. I knew Glen (Pavan) was available and knew he should play bass, because I’ve known Glen for a long time and knew he was a big KISS fan. It worked out.”

Freeman said he didn’t originally plan on handling vocal duties for GayC/DC.

“We couldn’t find anybody to sing. I tried all sorts of people, and no one was willing to do it,” he said. “I thought this idea was too good, and I thought I’d give it a shot. I said to the band, ‘I’ll do it, but you have to audition me. Try me out like anyone else, because I want to make sure it’s right.’ After the audition, they said, ‘You’re in! Let’s do it!’

“It’s been difficult to do the lead-singer thing, because I’ve always identified as a bass-player and a songwriter. I never saw myself as a David Lee Roth. It’s a stretch for me to do this, but it’s working. It does require me to sort of change into this person, because it’s not really me. One of my favorite people is Alice Cooper, who was one of my rock-star crushes—not that I want to have sex with him or anything, but I was into Alice Cooper and Elton John when I was 13.”

Growing up in Seattle, Freeman said he became a fan of AC/DC during his teens.

“I always heard AC/DC stuff on FM radio, and it was stuff my brothers would listen to—some of the early stuff like ‘It’s a Long Way to the Top,’” Freeman said. “One night on the radio, they played the entire Let There Be Rock album when it came out. It was just before I was 16. I was blown away, and I was a fan instantly. That album to this day is my favorite AC/DC album. It’s got everything on it.

“But then I started to realize I was different, and I was probably gay, but I didn’t know yet—and then I started realizing that guys wearing AC/DC shirts … were the guys who would beat me up. So I didn’t go that direction. Within a year or two after that album came out, I was going to punk shows which were all-ages, and that’s where all the misfits were and the people who got beat up. When I would see there would be an AC/DC show, I’d think, ‘I’m not going to that show! I’m a target if I go to that show!’”

Freeman said the most interesting show GayC/DC has played to date was for a rather small group of people.

“We just recently played for a small theater company,” he said. “They were having some kind of improv party. This guy told us, ‘I want you to come in and play for 20 minutes in a small theater where they never have rock bands! You’re just going to walk in and be amped and kick their ass.’ Well, we did, and it was so much fun. … The PA system was where they were standing and talking on the mic—that’s what I was singing into. It was so loud and distorted. It was such a fun show, though. We played five songs and were done.”

Freeman said he was pleasantly surprised to again get the call for GayC/DC to play at Greater Palm Springs Pride.

“I’m shocked! The crowd in 2015 was the biggest crowd to this date that we’ve ever played for,” he said. “I’m expecting it’s going to be more that size this year than it was last year. Last year was a bit of a drag, because it was split between two stages. I actually played with three bands last year: I played in Pansy Division; I played in GayC/DC; and I played with this guy named Devin Tait, and I’ll be joining him again this year for a tribute to Bananarama called Boynanarama on Saturday.”

GayC/DC will perform at 1:15 p.m., Sunday, Nov. 5, at the U.S. Bank Stage on Arenas Road during Greater Palm Springs Pride. Admission is free. For more information, visit PSPride.org.

After the 2016 election saw Donald Trump and Mike Pence take the White House, LGBT movements across the country have made some 2017 pride celebrations much more political.

However, this year’s Greater Palm Springs Pride, taking place Nov. 3-5, will be just like it has been in recent years. However, don’t be surprised if some of the participants take on more of a political, Trump-resisting tone.

Greater Palm Springs Pride president Ron deHarte said he’s definitely noticed a heightened political tone at some pride celebrations.

“There may be a few places where the ‘resist’ movement took a greater voice in the city over traditional pride marches or celebrations,” deHarte said. “Those, compared to the hundreds of pride events that occur across the country, have been few versus a majority.

“What we’re seeing is that there is a need to raise awareness across the country and prevent the LGBT voice from disappearing. In the case of Palm Springs, our parade and festival always (offer) an opportunity for anyone who participates to share their political statement, and share what’s important to them, and raise awareness for the issues of the day for that individual or group. We’re encouraging all participants to make their case, whatever that may be.”

The guidelines to participate in Greater Palm Springs Pride have not changed much over the years, deHarte said.

“We always state in our guidelines—and this has not changed since 2010—that what we encourage the community to do is celebrate the diversity of our community; share their radical or non-radical politics; show their support for equal rights for all individuals in our community and around the globe; share their artistic and sexual expression; and be proud. That’s what we encourage folks to do when they’re participating. That comes out when you watch the parade go by.”

DeHarte said that today in the Trump era, people who wouldn’t previously participate in Pride and other movements are now taking part.

“In California, the state voted in another direction, and I’m not sure we’re going to see any different attitudes come up,” he said. “I think we have a very outspoken community, and the community has become very politically active since the election with a number of rallies and marches that have occurred in downtown Palm Springs. I would anticipate we’ll see that continue, and I think it’s great, because people have gone to these rallies and events, and we’re seeing people who don’t normally participate come out and participate. … We’re going to have increased participation from people who may not have been involved in the political process. That’s a good a thing.”

The theme of this year’s Pride is “Viva la vida!”

“Each year, there’s a worldwide theme selected by the international pride organization called InterPride, and through the years, Palm Springs has adopted the worldwide theme occasionally—maybe just a handful of times over the past 30 years,” deHarte said. “This year, we adopted the worldwide theme in support of the movement around the world—in particular, to show support for our brothers and sisters in Central and South America.”

Palm Springs Pride continues to grow each year—dramatically so since the festival was moved from Sunrise Park to downtown in 2014. Attendance-wise, Palm Springs Pride is now the second-largest in the state, behind only San Francisco Pride.

“We’re no longer hidden behind the backdrop of a baseball field and the fences surrounding the baseball diamond over in Sunrise Park,” deHarte said. “We are as visible as you can be in downtown Palm Springs, and that says a lot for our community and for the city of Palm Springs, which has embraced the Pride Week activities to allow the festival and the parade, which causes the largest street closure annually in Palm Springs. … We have a larger presence today. That awareness is what we really strive for—increasing awareness for the LGBT movement and issues important to the folks promoting equality for all individuals.”

For more information, visit PSPride.org.

Of the six candidates running for the Palm Springs City Council this year, Robert Julian Stone is certainly the most blunt.

The author, film critic and community advocate certainly was not shy about sharing his views during a recent interview—including a conspiracy theory regarding the current City Council and two of his opponents.

But before we get to that … on the subject of homelessness, Stone was rather thoughtful and analytical. He told me the recent film The Florida Project was helpful in exposing the national problem of homelessness.

“The solution everyone talks about is the ‘housing first’ solution,’ Stone said. “It’s the best solution for a certain number of people who find themselves without homes. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs states that there are three things human beings need to be productive in society: They need food; they need shelter; and they need clothing. If you take any one of those things away from them, they cannot be a productive member of society. That’s the challenge that we’re facing: We must provide shelter, but how you go about doing that is a very expensive proposition, because (homelessness) numbers continue to grow. The ‘housing first’ solution works best for people who are living one paycheck to another. When you fall out of your housing, and you’ve lost your job, or you have a ruined credit rating because you’ve been evicted, or you’re unemployed—what it takes to get back in is the first month’s rent, a security deposit and employment. If that’s not immediately available to you, you’re out on the streets. The ‘housing first’ model works really well. because (these people) aren’t used to living on the streets, don’t want to live on the streets, and want to get back into a stable situation.

“If you’re talking about the people who don’t want four walls and a roof over their heads, or have addiction and mental health issues—those people are more difficult to handle.”

Stone said the vacation-rental situation in Palm Springs has been poorly handled.

“Airbnb is not going to go away, and it’s here to stay. The thing that we need to do is figure out the best way to manage it,” he said. “I don’t think creating a $1.7 million-a-year bureaucracy to handle the problem was necessarily the right way to go. When Palm Springs did their big vacation rental ordinance, they did not run it through the Planning Commission; they didn’t hold public hearings over a period of time. It was mostly Geoff Kors and J.R. Roberts in a back room coming up with this proposal, which went through a tumultuous unfolding when they got slapped with petitions to recall them and recall this ordinance if they didn’t change it. It was badly handled, and the biggest thing they missed was they didn’t do any density controls, and there’s nothing that prevents 98 percent of the homes next to your home from becoming short-term vacation rentals—and that’s a problem.”

Stone didn’t mince words on transparency—especially involving the funding for Measure J, a 1 percent sales and use tax approved by voters in 2011 that was slated to go toward city services, maintenance and redevelopment.

“They’re certainly transparent on the general-fund portion, but there are dozens of other side funds that don’t appear anywhere in the public forum for the city’s residents to understand or (figure out) exactly what’s going on with that money,” he said. “The city budget is $110 million; the other dozens of other funds make up an aggregate of another $110 to $120 million—things like the airport fund, the Measure J fund, the utility tax fund, the gas tax fund—and they’re run like a sideshow. They’re controlled by the city manager, who dips into those funds to transfer into the general fund as he sees fit, or to transfer from the general fund into those funds when they have shortfalls. Some have income; some of them, like the golf course fund, have income and expenses. We never really get a true picture of what our budget is, because half of it is run behind a curtain, and that’s a problem.”

Regarding the city’s relationship with the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, Stone said the city needs to work with the tribe in a more cooperative fashion.

“That’s a very difficult question, because the city has taken a position that changes from day to day depending on the subject on the table,” Stone said. “Sometimes, they say, ‘They’re a sovereign nation; we have nothing to do with them.’ I’ve heard Ginny Foat articulate that many times, saying they don’t get involved in their business. At the same time, we have a master plan … a bilateral agreement that both sides signed and should be adhering to. But when it comes down to enforcing it, the city never tries to. We need to invite them to the table. … If you look at the history of Palm Springs and the tribe, it’s very checkered. We need to have a better agreement with the tribe; we need to have one that is neutrally supportive. With the way the downtown (redevelopment) project was handled, and the 31 counts of corruption which relate directly to the downtown plan, we can’t really take the moral high ground when it comes to the tribe’s property, given the way the city handled their own downtown development.” 

Stone is not happy with the downtown redevelopment project.

“I think the hotel is a scar on the landscape. It will always be that,” he said. “If you look at the very first building near Tahquitz (Canyon Way) and Palm Canyon (Drive), that building which will house the Starbucks, that’s exactly the scale we were promised: It’s single story; it’s a tall building, and it’s a nice addition to the neighborhood. Then you look at these other buildings, and they’re horrible. It’s better than what we had, because what we had was terrible, but it’s so much less than what we deserved.”

What does the city need to do to be more transparent? Well, here’s where that conspiracy theory part comes in.

“The first thing that we can do is elect me,” Stone said with a laugh. “I also want to talk about where we’re headed if the Lisa (Middleton) and Christy (Holstege) train pulls into the station: We are going to be doing old-school Chicago politics with Councilmember Geoff Kors in the role of Mayor Richard Daley. We’re going have two people seated solely because of the support and the campaign management and campaign contributions that came from a sitting councilmember. Lisa’s campaign is being run by Geoff Kors’ husband. … They are the chosen two—so Geoff Kors will have the two votes he needs if they are seated, and then all bets are off, because it’ll be government by Geoff Kors, for Geoff Kors and about Geoff Kors. If you think that those two women are going to do anything to oppose what he wants, you’re too naive to be talking to—because that’s what we’re going to get, and that’s very troubling, because that’s not good for democracy.”

When I asked Stone whether he thinks the city is opposed to fun—a criticism some have made against the current City Council—his answer, much to my surprise, involved the ethnic makeup of the city.

“They are so not fun,” Stone said with a laugh. “Hell to the no on that! I’m sorry, but we have too many white people living in this town. I lived in San Francisco, and I’m used to living in a very diverse city where Caucasians were the minority. I was born and raised in Detroit, which was largely an African-American city. That’s the kind of demographic I’m used to. I’ve lived here full time for the past 12 years, so if you don’t mind me mixing metaphors: I know where the bodies are buried, and I can hit the decks running when I sit in that chair. I understand the demographic that lives here, because I’m a part of it, but I always wish there was more diversity in the community and diversity on our City Council. I’m sorry—I’m a white male, and I can’t help it.”

After our interview, he emailed me additional thoughts that were a bit more measured.

“Las Vegas has glitz, but Palm Springs has chill,” Stone said. “And chill is cool, sophisticated, and somewhat fragile. We can’t let (the city) be dragged into the vortex of beer bongs and guzzler helmets. So if the City Council may seem a bit stodgy on some points, I think it’s because they have an intuitive understanding of what makes our city special, and a commitment to maintaining it.”

If elected to the Palm Springs City Council, Lisa Middleton wants to be as transparent as possible, she said, while engaging with the community.

Middleton is well-known as a transgender activist, and she has an impressive work history as well; she retired after 30 years as an executive with the State Insurance Compensation Fund of California, where she was at one point the senior vice president of internal affairs. She’s also a member of the Planning Commission, and was a chair of ONE-PS, the coalition of Palm Springs neighborhoods. (Full disclosure: I’ve known Lisa Middleton since 2013; I met her while I was a volunteer at the LGBT Community Center of the Desert.)

During an interview at her home, Middleton—who would become the first openly transgender individual elected to a non-judicial office in the state, should she win—said the city of Palm Springs is finally starting to handle the issue of homelessness in the right way. She said that the efforts of Well of the Desert and the housing programs proposed by the Coachella Valley Association of Governments are both steps in the right direction.

“The city is making progress when it comes to homelessness,” Middleton said. “We have a dedicated homelessness police officer going from four days a week to seven days a week. … The two additional social workers who have been contracted with the county have produced success, and the city is trying to expand that program. One of the things we found is that it takes multiple interventions for there to be success. There have been, over the last year, 50 people who have been housed, and another 100 who have received housing. It’s been because of these programs.”

Middleton helped to create the ordinances and regulations on vacation rentals that were recently enacted. She said she believes they’re working so far.

“I believe the reforms that were passed earlier this year were very much a step in the right direction,” she said. “The restriction of no more than one (vacation rental) home per person going forward—those who have more than one now are grandfathered in—will remove the investor from the market going forward so that the people getting permits will be the individual or couple who plan to transition to full-time living in Palm Springs. … I came up with the idea through ONE-PS for that restriction. The increase in fines, I supported very strongly, but the most important change was the increase in staffing, and going from a half-time person to nine people in a department, and changing the first responder to complaints from the rental manager to someone within the city, and having them out in cars to where they’re able to respond, as well as being out in cars … (so) they can monitor and drive by. The homeowners and managers are stepping up their game in the review of the people they rent their homes to, because after three strikes, you’re going to lose your license, and could potentially lose your license for good. Those are steps in the right direction, and we need to give this law a chance to work.”

Middleton said she intends to work with local nonprofits to increase the amount of affordable housing in the city.

“I want to work with organizations such as Desert AIDS Project and Coachella Valley Housing Coalition to build more affordable housing in Palm Springs” Middleton said. “A recommendation I’ve made is that … we take and change the public benefit, which is a negotiation that goes back and forth with the Planning Commission and the developer—that it be switched to the public benefit being affordable housing: Either you build a certain number of affordable housing units as part of your project, or you pay a fee to the city to be used to provide funding for other affordable housing projects, based on the value of the project you’re building.”

When it comes to transparency, Middleton said said being accessible and communicating with the public is important, and that she plans to regularly visit each of the neighborhoods in Palm Springs, while making herself as accessible as possible.

“One thing I think would help … is being accessible so people can ask questions and understand things,” Middleton said. “Transparency is extremely important coming from someone such as myself, who managed a public-records office, and I know all of the rules as to what must be released and how it is to be released. Frequently, what I find is somebody says, ‘You’re not being transparent.’ What they really mean is, ‘I didn’t know that was going on.’ It’s that ‘I didn’t know’ that we need to do a better job on … (so that) it becomes easier for them to know what’s going on.”

Middleton said the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians has a great relationship with the city. She cited discussions about the plans for the area around the Spa Resort Casino as an example.

“I do think that for almost everyone who was concerned when they saw that dotted line put into the Desert Sun, and then saw this first set of drawings of the new hotel, there should be great relief that the tribe is a great neighbor and has historically been a great neighbor,” she said.

As a member of the Planning Commission, Middleton said she’s happy the downtown redevelopment project is progressing.

“I’m thrilled that we’re finally getting the hotel up and ready for occupancy, and that the leases have been signed and stores will be opening,” she said. “As for the businesses up further on Palm Canyon, they feel like they’ve been in a construction zone for years, and this project has taken longer (than we anticipated) when we voted for Measure J in 2011. There were lawsuits that slowed down construction, and I was part of the Planning Commission that worked with the new City Council in January 2016 that reduced the scale of the overall project by 40 percent. There have been bumps in this road, and we’re starting to move forward, and the vast majority of people in Palm Springs want to see that succeed.

“The Hyatt Andaz,” the long-delayed under-construction project at Indian Canyon Drive and Alejo Road, “has brought up ideas for a change in the approval process. As a part of the planning and review process when the project is approved by the Planning Commission, we need to review the financial viability of the product. Nowhere in the current process do we ask a developer why they feel the project will succeed financially. That can be built into the approval process, and before someone begins construction, they should be required to demonstrate to the city that they have the funds in place to complete construction.”

She believes the best way to prevent more corruption within the city government is to do reviews and make sure everyone has proper information on what they can and cannot do.

“We should sit down with them constantly and review their 700 form, asking them, ‘If you work for other entities, who are these entities?’” Middleton said. “Annually, we have a very clear understanding of what they reported and why.”

Middleton laughed when I asked her if she considered the Palm Springs City Council to be opposed to fun—a criticism some, such as the Cactus Hugs website, have made of the current council.

“I don’t think Palm Springs is against fun,” Middleton said. “I absolutely want it to be fun, and I want our city to keep its sense of humor and be able to laugh with others and at ourselves from time to time, because we need to do so. I was asked this question a few weeks ago: Is Palm Springs a small city of neighborhoods, or is it a world-class destination? The answer is both. Most people want it to be both. That happens when you set balances so you can truly have communities and neighborhoods where people feel safe, secure and quiet in their home and neighborhood—but also a side that can attract people from all over the world to come and have a good time, to go to the parties we have, to enjoy the restaurants, and to enjoy the cultural facilities.”

Judy Deertrack is one of the loudest and most dedicated critics of the Palm Springs City Council—and it’s no surprise that she again decided to run for a council seat, after an unsuccessful run in 2013.

However, as a voice of opposition, Deertrack—who takes credit as one of the whistleblowers regarding the corruption scandal that led to the indictment of former Mayor Steve Pougnet—is often criticized as being “against” everything and not in favor of much. Deertrack said she’s aware of the criticism—but said her tone is necessary, because the city faces a danger of bankruptcy, and few people are acknowledging the dark cloud hanging over Palm Springs.

When I met with her at her campaign headquarters, she provided photocopies of various information related to the city budget and Measure J—a 1 percent sales and use tax approved by voters in 2011 that was slated to go toward city services, maintenance and redevelopment. The attorney and urban planning consultant has been one of the most vocal voices against the downtown redevelopment project; in fact, she told me she has a storage locker full of this information.

On the subject of homelessness, Deertrack said the problem is due to a lack of affordable housing. She said that the city’s homelessness task force has not been effective and that the city is not devoted to resolving the homelessness issue.

“This is not just a city problem; it’s a state problem,” Deertrack said. “The state is behind in almost 1 million affordable housing units across the state. It’s a crisis at this point. There are multiple causes, but certainly one of them was the loss in redevelopment funding. I’ve looked at housing throughout the valley, and the city of Palm Springs appears to be behind the other cities significantly. There hasn’t been a unit of affordable housing in this city (built) in over a decade.”

As for the new restrictions on vacation rentals, Deertrack mentioned a ballot initiative coming in the summer of 2018 that may decide the fate of vacation rentals—and added that residential zoning laws already define how to handle vacation rentals.

“The primary restriction is set by state law. It’s also set by local law in the general plan update—a general plan that takes years of work with the community working directly with their elected officials to come up with a long term vision for growth and development,” Deertrack said. “One of the first principles of residential development set by zoning laws in the state of California and all across the country is that residential zoning is primarily for residential use of a home for noncommercial purpose, with the outcome to be neighborhood peace and quiet. If you want to put in any type of commercial use, it can only be permitted under state law if you can demonstrate that by adding that … you are not creating a disturbance or not undermining the residential designation. This has been horrifically violated over time, and we have districts over in Warm Sands where you have residential zones … now with major noise problems. I support the people’s vote on it.”

Regarding affordable housing, Deertrack again said the city needs follow its own ordinances and plans.

“There’s a housing plan (city officials) committed themselves to that they abandoned,” she said. “If we do not follow the laws, there needs to be a state audit of the funds in the city, and the state needs to come in with some oversight. Following the general plan would the major part. Bringing in the state oversight due to lack of compliance—part of the problem with that is a good part of California is out of compliance. But I don’t think (other cities) are out of compliance as seriously as this city is.”

Transparency has been one of the key issues in Deertrack’s campaign—and she almost seemed offended when I asked her about it.

“Do you know who you’re asking here?” Deertrack said. “… It’s very unfortunate. We got something (in the downtown redevelopment project) that is five to six times the height and density of what was advertised to pass Measure J. What happened is that they passed a bond issuance a year after Measure J was passed, where they issued $47 million to (now-indicted developer John) Wessman; $42 million went to the project; $11 million that was for the parking structure; and $32 million went into a private escrow account for Mr. Wessman with no auditing powers. To date, when a public request goes into the city, they indicate that they have no powers to check whether the money is there, how it has been used, and what portion of it is remaining.”

Deertrack said she has the experience to maintain good relations with the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians.

“I’ve worked in tribal affairs for over 13 to 15 years in the Taos Pueblo tribal government. My late husband was full-blooded Taos Pueblo,” she said. “I was in a culture where there were 2,000 tribal people, and there were seven non-native people, and I was one of those seven. I lived in the tribe’s restricted area during that entire period. It took years for them to build trust, and it took me years to build confidence and sensitivity to tribal issues, because there is a huge cultural gap. But I’ve had extensive training in tribal sovereignty, and I have enormous respect for tribal culture. We have tribes here that have acted as guardians of this land throughout the millenniums, and I do not intend to see us tear that to pieces.”

The success or failure of the downtown redevelopment project did not seem to be something Deertrack cares about; instead, she expressed concern about the finances of the project.

“Mr. Wessman gets 100 percent of the profits as it stands and gets 100 percent of the ownership value,” she said. “What he did was took the income-producing lots, and got a 75 percent rebate on bed tax over 30 years, which is unheard of. The problem with a project like that is that no one has any information as to the underlying financial structure of it.”

Deertrack said the FBI public corruption task force has a 90 percent conviction rate.

“This isn’t a popular thing to do, but it’s a very necessary thing to do, and I’ve been relentless on this,” she said. “The indictments (include) the names of nine to 12 people who were trading information. Some were on the Planning Commission, and some were on the City Council. … The scandal hasn’t been addressed or touched in this town, and you have a candidate on the Planning Commission who is running, and no one is talking about this. Every person on that Planning Commission should have, when they knew someone was influencing their vote outside of the public-hearing process, had an ethical and legal responsibility to go to the city attorney and report misconduct, or go to the district attorney.”

When I asked her about claims by some that the City Council seems opposed to fun, Deertrack managed to steer even that question toward the downtown corruption scandal.

“They’ve taken the fun out of my life for the past three years,” Deertrack said with a laugh. “They’re pretty protective of the city’s party environment and its diversity. We have an extraordinary level of public events here, and it’s the strength of this town. We do know how to party, and I have a background as a vocalist in Broadway and in opera, and I go out and sing all over town—restaurants, private parties, assisted living, and it’s part of my donated time. That is the one thing we all have in common. We all need to clean up the other things, because (they’ve) created a dark cloud. There’s an imminent threat of bankruptcy in this city, and nothing is going to stop the party faster than that, so we better attend to this business.”

Henry Hampton wants you to know that Palm Springs is the city where he grew up—and that he believes in its future.

Hampton, a real estate agent, has spent a good portion of his campaign fending off claims that because he’s a Republican, he’s a Trump-loving conservative. Hampton’s response: He said he’s conservative on fiscal issues while being liberal on social issues. He has stated he does not agree with Trump on immigration and that he did not vote for the man who became the 45th president; he’s said his views fit in well with Palm Springs values.

On the subject of homelessness, Hampton said the logistics and locations of services are all wrong

“I’ve done the most research on homelessness than any other thing,” Hampton said. “I actually participated in the time and point count, which is the mechanism that determines how many people are homeless in your community. The numbers have gone up a bit, but realistically, the police department has told me there are 80 solid individuals out there on the streets. These 80 individuals—they don’t really want the option out of homelessness. But you need to have a mechanism that allows people to get into that scenario to get out of it.

“Homelessness is a geographic and geocentric issue. It really has a lot to do with services. … Behind Revivals, there’s a food bank, and wherever there are going to be services, that’s where the homeless are going to congregate. Honestly, I think the city’s model for dealing with the homeless issue—it’s been flawed from the get-go. Roy’s (Resource Center, which closed earlier this year) was a good thing, but it was near the freeway, and 40 percent of the budget was spent on transportation, so it was flawed. We don’t have a rapid shelter. The idea (for a new shelter) now is a former fire department on Dillon Road, which is further out! Honestly, I think one of the best ideas is to have services that are all located in one spot, such as job placement, mental health, food, clothing, rapid rehousing and quick shelter.”

Hampton said he believes the new vacation-rentals ordinance is effective enough.

“The ordinance that we have on the books in Palm Springs was crafted after so many conversations, so many iterations of what was right and wrong—and the community got together and put input in those discussions. Right now, we have an ordinance that doesn’t make everybody happy, but it works,” he said. “It limits them, because one person can only have one vacation rental; it grandfathered in the people who have more than one, but the biggest thing that it did was put teeth in the enforcement and took the enforcement away from the rental company. (Enforcement now) is a city employee who shows up and says, ‘Your partying way too loud, and it doesn’t work.’ Somebody gets cited; they get cited three times, and a fine comes down, and you lose your permit. I’ve seen this play out, and they have what I call ‘Vacation Rental Court.’ It is a day-long exercise of fine appointed commissioners who are like jurors and people who signed up to deal with this issue, and they are like, ‘Here’s what you did. You didn’t have a permit; you are advertising online,’ and it’s pretty serious where people are getting fined. There are teeth in the ordinance, but there weren’t before; it was just an ordinance on the books.”

On the subject of affordable housing, Hampton said the problem is significant, because many jobs in the city are in tourism-related industries that do not pay all that well, and the city is home to a lot of seniors on fixed income.

“What can we do to make sure these seniors aren’t pushed out? You don’t want to push a senior out on the streets,” he said. “There are (apartments), but they are all rented out. So let’s come up with incentives for developers to come in here and, on the few remaining parcels that happen to be left, offer some kind of incentive so they can build apartments into our housing stock and provide housing opportunities for the people who work here. I think that’s important.”

Like most of the other candidates, Hampton feels the city website is next to impossible to navigate.

“Transparency was a word that was coined in the last election cycle a couple of years ago,” Hampton said. “Where are we now? I still don’t really think we’ve progressed anywhere from where we were two years ago. Yeah, the budget is online now; you can see it, and it’s a lot easier to understand it, so that’s good. But I think that Measure J—the website for that could be updated. It’s hard to get around, and when I started campaigning, I was looking on there for where meetings were and this or that, and you couldn’t find what you were looking for. Creating an online presence for Measure J would be a lot more transparent for someone who works and doesn’t have time to be at a Measure J meeting. That’s taxpayer dollars, and everyone wants to know where they’re going.”

Hampton said he would be the best candidate to ensure the relationship between the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and the city remains strong.

“When I grew up here, the tribal council had a very strong relationship with the city government. (Former Chairman) Richard Milanovich was the go-to man for the tribe. There has to be a relationship with the tribe. I come from a background and a generation of kids who grew up here, and those kids are running the tribal council right now—people like (current Chairman) Jeff Grubbe and (Secretary/Treasurer) Vincent Gonzales. These are guys who went to high school at the same time I did. I think there’s definitely an opportunity for someone like myself to have conversations with these people. I am absolutely open for it. The tribe was here first, and we were here second. We have to come to an agreement on things in this town.”

Hampton is a fan of the downtown redevelopment project.

“I remember when the only thing going on down there was Hamburger Hamlet,” he said with a laugh. “We’d go on Sundays and have burgers. There was a California Pizza Kitchen right next to it, and that went away, then Hamburger Hamlet went away, and then there was nothing. For me to see Blaze Pizza—I take my kids to Blaze Pizza once a week, and they love it; it’s fantastic.

“I like what’s going on there. All these hotels wouldn’t be signing up to have a hotel in downtown Palm Springs if they didn’t think they could fill the rooms.”

Hampton said the corruption scandal was devastating to the city.

“This is a heartbreaking story for most people, because everybody was behind (now-indicted former Mayor) Steve Pougnet from the get-go,” Hampton said. “My parents were really involved in helping him to get elected the first time. Most people would probably agree that he brought Palm Springs up to the levels we’re experiencing today. When I came back in 2014, during that whole corruption-scandal thing, it was like getting kicked in the stomach. Watching the FBI come into your City Hall is also like getting kicked in the stomach. But transparency is lacking, and I think a lot of people are tuned out and don’t have that opportunity (to find out what the city is doing). Most people don’t want to sit in at a City Council meeting from 6 to 11:30 p.m. People want to be heard but can’t speak on anything on the agenda until 11:30 p.m. What is that? That’s crazy to me. Transparency is this,” he said as he pointed to his cell phone. “It’s about being able to see it and it being instantaneous. We need to bring it up to a level so everyone can see it.”

When I asked him whether he thinks the Palm Springs City Council is opposed to fun—a criticism leveled by some in recent years—he gave a serious and matter-of-fact response.

“I think what council members are going to do is look at the issue of liability and concern,” he said.

Glenn Flood told me at the beginning of our phone interview that one of his favorite words is “transparency.”

The Navy veteran and former Pentagon employee—who has run, by far, the lowest-profile campaign of the six candidates on the Palm Springs City Council ballot—said he was aware of how to deal with waste in government agencies.

“Any bureaucracy or government institution—you look at places at where there’s waste, fraud and abuse,” Flood said. “… When it comes to fraud, you have to weed it out. People are using equipment for things they shouldn’t or when they shouldn’t, and you have to cut that out. Waste, abuse and fraud are things I would look at. If you start at the little things, you find out that the little things turn into big things. People at City Hall might be doing something they don’t realize is waste, fraud and abuse—and you have to nip it in the bud before it becomes a big scandal.”

On the issue of homelessness, said the city needs to take a realistic approach.

“It’s a problem in the city, but it’s not just a Palm Springs issue; it’s a nationwide epidemic of people who are out on the streets,” Flood said. “I know the city has a homelessness task force, and if I were elected, I would take a hard look at that, and I’d want to know if they have any concrete proposals on the table. If they don’t, I’d put some on there relating to some of the vacant buildings in the community for those who want to have shelter. We also have to realize we can’t help all of the homeless and lump (them all) into one bag thinking that (one solution) applies to everyone. There are some people out there who never want to come in off the streets, and there are some who have mental issues; some are strung out on drugs, and some are out there because of the economic situations of the times.”

On the subject of vacation rentals, Flood said the existing rules and regulations don’t go far enough.

“From what the people in the community tell me, it doesn’t have enough teeth in it,” Flood said. “We need to make sure that it has enforcement and that it has teeth. If you say that you’re going to get rid of the bad apples, and that it’s ‘three strikes and you’re out,’ you have to be out.

“I don’t believe we should have short-term rentals in residential areas. If you want to run a hotel, get into the area where there are hotels.”

Flood said he’s noticed there is not a lot of moderate- and low-income housing in Palm Springs. He believes developers need to provide plans for affordable housing as their other projects are approved.

“The developers have come into Palm Springs. You’ve probably noticed some construction going on, and they’re building new homes, and they’re starting at some really high prices based on the signage they’re putting up on the developments,” Flood said. “I think we should talk to the development companies who want to come in and build these high-class homes, which are fine and good. At the same time, you have to understand there’s a need for moderate- and low-income housing, so we need to do something to work out a deal with them to build that. We have some vacant lots and land around town; maybe we can convert some of those. I see these buildings that used to be hotels, and maybe we could convert those to some moderate- to low-income housing. We need to look at that with a high priority, and I’m going to do that if I’m elected.”

Flood said the best way to deal with transparency is to be out in the community, making sure people are engaged.

“The people I’ve talked to feel like they have not been represented,” Flood said. “They want someone in there who is going to be fair, honest and give them information as to how their tax dollars are being spent.”

While working for the Pentagon, Flood had some experience in talking to Native American tribes, he said—an important qualification for a new council member to ensure that the relationship with Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians remains intact.

“When I worked at the Pentagon, I worked on base closures. That’s like a four-letter word to some communities, especially back during the ’90s,” Flood said. “Members of Congress would say, ‘Yeah, close the bases—except the ones in my district!’ I would go out into the communities and talk to the people who were impacted by the bases closing, and the fewer jobs that would be in the community. I reached out to all of the people, including tribes in areas when I was in Oklahoma, Texas and even in California. We’d reach out to them and say, ‘What can you do with this land that might be vacant after the military leaves?’ They’d come in and had ideas. In Palm Springs, we need communication, and we need to get out of here and talk to these people. Native Americans have been here since before we got here. Let’s bring trust to the table and open the conversation. We can’t control what they do, but we can put our interests across and work on it. I think communication is key.”

Flood is not a fan of the redevelopment project in downtown Palm Springs. He said he was surprised when he moved here and saw it being built.

“I asked, ‘How did this get approved?’” Flood said. “It looked like the rules were bent to get those buildings so close to the street. There isn’t much of a walkway, and that’s what you see when you walk in downtown Palm Springs. The downtown needed to be redeveloped, but I don’t see us having to do this continuously like the way it’s being done, and I will make sure we don’t do it that way again. I’m for growth, but for smart growth, and in the right places. We don’t need buildings that get started and then not finished like this monstrosity on Alejo (Road) and Indian Canyon (Drive). It’s just sitting there, and it’s an eyesore. If a developer wants to start a project, we make sure the developer has the money upfront and that they’re going to submit a plan to the council that can be approved.”

The city has been criticized by some, including the Cactus Hugs website, for being opposed to fun. What does Flood think of the accusation?

“One thing I’ve been telling people is that if I’m elected, I’m going to make sure Palm Springs stays safe, friendly, affordable, honest and fun,” he said. “The fun part is in there, and I want to make sure the people who come here and live here continue to have fun in this city. It’s a great city, and that’s why I’m here. I don’t want to take the fun out of Palm Springs. Let Palm Springs be Palm Springs.”