CVIndependent

Sat08242019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

All five candidates for the three Palm Desert City Council seats up for election this year, not surprisingly, say they’re proud of their mid-valley city.

All agree that the city’s wide roads, pleasant parks, good schools and upscale neighborhoods are virtues that continue to make Palm Desert an attractive destination for tourists and new residents alike.

However, the city is facing fiscal and developmental challenges that could threaten the future growth and fiscal stability of Palm Desert.

The Independent spoke with each of the candidates and discussed their concerns, their priority issues if elected, and their views on Measure T. The only city measure on this November’s Palm Desert ballot, Measure T calls for a 2 percentage-point increase—from 9 to 11 percent—in the city’s transient occupancy tax (TOT), charged to every traveler who stays in a hotel within the city’s borders.

On this one issue, the candidates agree: They all say they’re voting for the increase.

Incumbent Van Tanner (right), a retired insurance-company executive and former member of the city’s Parks and Recreation Commission, is wrapping up his first term on the City Council. He was the most outspoken proponent of Measure T.

“Wherever (tourists) go to stay, they’re going to pay a TOT. Well, we’re the lowest in the Coachella Valley, and (if Measure T passes), now we’re going to be right in the middle. So the 2 percent is going to generate $2 million in additional revenue, and it is something that we need to pass. It’s not a question of how we’re going to do it; we need to do it.”

Businesswoman and local pastor Kathleen Kelly explained why she supports Measure T.

“We have the absolute lowest TOT in Coachella Valley, and there’s nothing strategically beneficial to the city in holding that spot,” she said. “We’re not gaining an advantage by being last. We’re just forgoing the opportunity to appropriately look for income to cover the added expenses that the tourism brings with it.”

Susan Marie Weber (right), the other incumbent who is running for re-election as her first term draws to a close, said she’s a libertarian who normally does not like taxation. However, she supports Measure T.

“A hotel tax is a little bit different. It’s more like a user fee, which is a voluntary tax,” she said. “We use the (TOT) money to make sure that the roads are clean, that we have public safety available to keep you safe, and we have our other amenities.

“Two years ago we tried to pass a similar measure, but it was so specific that people living here thought they were going to be taxed,” Weber said. “But this time, it’s clear that the resulting revenue will go into our general fund to be used as we (the City Council) think it should be used. For instance, the police and fire services surprised us with increases, so we sure could use a little more money to offset those costs.”

Gina Nestande is the wife of former congressional candidate and former State Assemblyman Brian Nestande. She said she hopes to contribute her fundraising and leadership skills to the council’s work.

“This one time I am—but it’s only a Band-Aid that the city needs right now,” she said about Measure T. “We can’t rely on raising the TOT every couple of years to help our budget. We need to increase revenues, diversify our economy and keep the young people here—or if they do go off to college, (we need them) coming back here to work. But that will only happen if we have the infrastructure here for them. We can’t just rely on the golf and tourism industries. Tourism is great, and we can be a wonderful tourist destination—but again, we have to think bigger.”

Jerry Martin is a former golf professional, entrepreneur and insurance agent who is the driving force (pun intended) behind El Paseo Cruise Night and several other car-centric events.

“I am in favor of raising that TOT by 2 percent,” he said. “It doesn’t really affect the residents of Palm Desert, and that added revenue is really important. We need to come up and be more in line with the rest of the cities here in the desert. You know there are a lot of additional costs (regarding tourists) involved in operating the city, especially when it comes to fire, police and ambulance service, so those funds will be really important.”

The candidates also largely all agreed on the strong need for improved cooperation among the nine Coachella Valley city governments.

Kelly (right), who moved to the valley at the age of 7, made the case succinctly: “Regional cooperation is increasingly important to our quality of life in Palm Desert. As the Coachella Valley has built out, we have increasingly become one large community. So it’s not possible to go it alone, even if someone philosophically thought that was desirable. Reaching across party lines, generational divides or other potential boundaries to inspire and facilitate collaboration—that’s my skill set.”

All the candidates voiced cautious optimism that the CV Link project—a proposed valley-long pedestrian/bike path—could be completed if no undue burdens were placed on Palm Desert’s citizens, and if environmental-impact studies raised no major concerns.

Some of the candidates identified one key issue on which they’ll work first.

“There’s the redevelopment of Highway 111, which is already in progress,” Martin said. “Many buildings along the highway will be given a facelift, and there are plans to put the stores, markets and services on the first level, with living spaces on the top levels. Younger people are gravitating toward a lifestyle where they can leave their homes and apartments and walk to shops and restaurants.”

Weber sounded the alarm regarding the potential financial risk posed by the generous pension and retirement packages being granted to city employees. “We need to complete a pension review,” she said. “We started a couple of years ago to try to change our method so that when new people were hired, they’d come in under a different pension structure, but we’re still doing like 30-some percent, you know? So if you’re earning $100,000 a year, we’re putting $30,000 aside in pension for you. Way to go, huh? That’s unsustainable, and we’re going to be in a death spiral if we don’t work on that.”

Nestande (right) highlighted education and Salton Sea protection. “I’d like to focus on fast-tracking the Cal State University,” she said. “It is our only four-year university (located in the valley), and it has limited degree programs. I’ve met with the chancellor, and they really have a wonderful agenda to try to increase the number of degree programs offered here.”

She suggested this new approach for saving the Salton Sea: “We need to think regionally and expand beyond Palm Desert. What’s been proposed is that the big stakeholders create an Enhanced Infrastructure Financing District. This plan has to be approved by a vote of 55 percent of the citizens, but if it were to pass, it could raise as much as a couple of billion dollars.”

Tanner said he would focus his work on developing and implementing a new general plan for Palm Desert.

“It’s a systematic way to take our city into new areas over the next 20 years,” he said. “It deals with land use as well as economic fiscal responsibility, because we want to make sure that our tourism stays strong, and our retail sales stay strong. That’s what’s going to create the revenue for our general fund for everything that needs to be done in the city.”

Published in Politics

Cathedral City has faced some tough times in recent years.

Developers have broken promises. Redevelopment in the downtown area, along Highway 111, has seen ups and downs.

These are just a couple of the issues Cathedral City’s City Council is dealing with as the November election approaches. Mayor Stan Henry is running unopposed for his seat, while two City Council slots are up for grabs. Incumbents Gregory Pettis and John Aguilar are both running for re-election, and are being opposed by Sergio Espericueta, a member of the city’s Planning Commission.

The Independent recently reached out to all four candidates. Espericueta (right), however, did not respond to a request for an interview.

“We have a couple of challenges, one of which is to maintain our balanced budgets,” Mayor Henry told the Independent. “We’re doing a very good job. We actually have two-thirds of our budget in reserves, which is one of the goals the current council wanted to have. The other issue is development in our downtown and northern area, and we’re currently working on both of those things. We’re in the process of working on development agreements with developers to work on our downtown area. We have a developer that’s building a hotel and retail north of Interstate 10, at Bob Hope Drive and Varner Road, so both of those are good things that will help with our ability to keep the budgets in a balanced position.”

Henry cited economic development as a challenge the city faces.

“We definitely need to do more, and that’s one of the reasons we need to make it a high priority, and I’ve made it a high priority,” Henry said. “We’ve hired an economic director to make sure that we get the right type of development in Cathedral City. We don’t want a developer to come in, make all kinds of promises, land-bank it and not do anything. We’ve had that in the past. We’re making sure in our development agreements that we know it’s going to take time to do the development, but we want to see time frames and milestones … or we get the land back, or keep possession of the land.”

Henry said he believes the downtown area is on its way toward success.

“I think the downtown area needs some multi-housing,” he said. “It’s going to be a great area for entertainment and restaurants. Are we going to get big boxes there? No, we’re not. But we’ll get great assets for our downtown area and make it very vibrant.”

Henry said his biggest accomplishment during his four years on the City Council—two of those as mayor—has been making sure the city has balanced budgets.

“We almost depleted all of our reserves, and after talking to our finance director, there were projections that we’d be in the red,” he said. “We’ve turned that around and balanced our budgets. We’ve added staffing appropriately where we’ve needed to. Plus, we’ve had developers looking at us now who never have in the past.”

Gregory Pettis (right)—one of the valley’s longest-serving public officials—has been serving on Cathedral City’s City Council since 1994.

“I think our downtown area continues to be a challenge, coming out of the relinquishment of a development agency and trying to find ways to partner with developers to make it financially viable for them,” Pettis said. “We’re beginning to see things coming together.”

He said the city is seeing an improvement in the number of vacant storefronts.

“We have very little vacancy in the city,” he said. “We have a couple of large big boxes that are vacant … but our smaller centers are still full, and it’s becoming harder and harder to find (space), so we’re actually going to have to start to build some more smaller commercial centers. It’s the larger centers we’re having some issues with. It’s educating (large retailers) about the city, and that they don’t have to be in Palm Desert or Palm Springs.”

Pettis feels his greatest accomplishments during 22 years on the City Council have been bringing in new businesses, and annexing new land into the city.

“I can point to Big League Dreams and bringing them in,” he said, listing some accomplishments. “The annexation of (areas) north of I-10, and now we’re getting ready to annex Thousand Palms, which will take us all the way to Washington Street north of I-10, which will open us up for numerous development opportunities for the city. The building of the two movie theaters at the civic center. Those are all great things that have happened for our city.”

Pettis said that while Cathedral City enjoys low crime rates, there’s more work to be done.

“We continue to see the lowest crime rate in the Coachella Valley,” he said. “It’s a good thing, but … we need to continue to do better, and we need to work hard on prevention so that our young people have opportunities and don’t slip into something their older brothers and sisters fell into. … We’re fully staffed in our police department, but we want to add some additional officers and increase the amount and quality of their training. We’re also going with body cameras to increase accountability.”

John Aguilar (right) is running for his first full term; he was appointed to the City Council two years ago when Stan Henry became mayor. He expressed more serious concerns about Cathedral City’s economic challenges, and mentioned mistakes made by previous councils.

“There was a blend of factors that have created vacant land that has gone undeveloped, and I think prior administrations didn’t take advantage of development offers to the city; I think they decided to wait for something better,” Aguilar said. “I think that’s a missed opportunity. I also think the recession hit when redevelopment began, and caused it to dissolve. That was a huge hit. But I think the city is recovering, and we have some good proposals that we can’t talk about until the development deals have been vetted.

“We’re seeing reinvestment. The (Coachella Valley Repertory) folks have purchased the old Cinemark facility, which is going to be great and bring live theater downtown. We’ve had a new investor come into the Mary Pickford Theatre, which is great, because that brings people downtown.”

Aguilar said one of his top priorities is to increase diversity.

“One of the reasons I wanted to become more actively involved is because I believe in transparency in local government, and want to increase diversity within the ranks of the city and also within the commissions in the city. Historically, there’s been a lack of representation, especially from the Latino community, on the council and its commissions. I think strengthening our life-safety divisions in police and fire has been a vital factor. We’ve hired a new fire and police chief, and they’re both fantastic.”

Aguilar added that the city has taken proper steps to keep the crime rate down.

“Our crime rate compared to other communities in the Coachella Valley—it’s quite low,” he said. “It still requires that we be very vigilant in monitoring crimes, especially crimes against persons. We promote community-watch organizations; we’ve hired a homeless liaison to try to make sure the homeless problem is handled compassionately, and our local businesses and communities won’t be harmed in the process. I think we’ve done a good job.”

Published in Politics

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Published in Comics

Rep. Raul Ruiz upset Mary Bono Mack four years ago to become the California District 36 congressman.

This year, state Sen. Jeff Stone hopes to pull off an upset of his own.

The Democratic Party has high hopes this year. Party leaders think it’s possible to retain the presidency, regain control of the Senate, and increase the number of Democrats in the Republican-dominated House of Representatives.

Given this electoral outlook, incumbent Congressman Dr. Raul Ruiz is in what seems like a fairly favorable position. He garnered 58.5 percent of June’s primary vote and had raised close to $2.5 million through June.

District 36 is a former Republican stronghold that includes all of the Coachella Valley, yet Ruiz’s challenger, State Sen. Jeff Stone, attracted only 31.6 percent of primary voters in June. (Another Republican received 9.9 percent of the vote.) He had raised only about a tenth of Ruiz’s haul through June—around $250,000.

What a difference four years makes.

Stone is measured when asked about his chances for an upset this year. “I’m not presumptuous to tell you that I will be elected—but I hope to be elected,” he said during a recent interview with the Independent.

When asked about the major differences between him and Ruiz, Stone mentioned last year’s nuclear deal with Iran. “It’s my belief that the (Iran nuclear) deal, that Congressman Ruiz supported, has aided and abetted a rogue country like Iran, the largest sponsor of terrorism on the globe, to continue their sponsorship of terrorism. But more importantly, it allows them a pathway to get to a nuclear bomb.”

Of course, Ruiz views his vote differently. “I voted for the Iran nuclear agreement,” he told the Independent, “because its purpose is for Iran to never, ever, ever—not now, not in 10, not in 15, not in 20, not in 50 years, not ever, ever—get a nuclear bomb. And already, we are seeing results.”

Stone also takes issue with the way that he said Ruiz arrived at his stance on the controversial deal.

“I was in the room (in Washington, D.C.) with members of the Coachella Valley contingent when Raul Ruiz made it very clear that he was not going to support any deal with Iran that allowed them to continue with their nuclear program. He flip-flopped for reasons I’ll never understand,” Stone said. “(Ruiz) said in a subsequent Desert Sun editorial that (paraphrasing), ‘It is with great humility that I am supporting this deal with Iran.’ Well, that humility could translate into future generations of Americans being the beneficiaries of a nuclear bomb on our soil.”

Ruiz said keeping his constituents safe is a major priority.

“We’ve got to keep the pressure on (Iran),” Ruiz said. “We will continue to conduct aggressive inspections which will give us intelligence that gives us the upper hand, now and in the future, to always maintain strict vigilance and ensure that they never get a nuclear bomb.”

Each candidate shared their views on other issues of concern. Ruiz mentioned the economy.

“We have to make sure that life is more affordable,” Ruiz said. “A lot of the American people and a lot of my constituents are struggling, working hard and still finding it hard to make ends meet. We need to make sure we expand the middle class by empowering our consumers and giving them a raise in the minimum wage.

“Locally, I’ve worked very closely and aggressively in promoting and helping our small businesses. I’ve successfully brought the first and only Small Business Administration office in the entire Inland Empire right here to the Coachella Valley so that our businesses have the tools, the equipment, the information and the capital they need to expand and create more jobs.”

Stone sees border security as a major challenge.

“I believe we need to secure our border—and I’m not for doing it the way that Donald Trump has been stereotyped,” Stone said. “We need to secure our borders in the name of national security. I am so worried that we are going to have a person from the Mideast who is going to transport radioactive material that is smuggled into Mexico and then smuggled into the United States and used as a dirty bomb.

“In addition, the scourge of narcotics that is claiming the lives of so many youngsters in our country … all of it is coming from Mexico because of our porous borders,” Stone said. “I’m not an advocate of building a big wall. I believe that with technology and allowing our Border Patrol agents to do their jobs, we can accomplish these tasks.”

Ruiz weighed in on the topic as well.

“I’ve got to make sure that we secure America and that we keep my constituents safe,” he said. “We need to make sure that our military and law enforcement have the tools that they need. That’s why I have voted repeatedly and consistently to give them those tools.”

Ruiz touted his achievements in supporting U.S. veterans.

“I’m very proud that we started the first-ever Veterans University that brought in over 500 veterans, their family members and community members who care about veterans in order to give them the tools necessary to improve their access to the benefits that they’ve earned,” Ruiz explained. “We help them navigate the health-care system so that they can get the mental-health services they need to prevent suicides and reduce the effect of post-traumatic stress disorder. In terms of legislation, last cycle, one of my bills … made it into the CHOICE Act that became law.

“Locally, I’ve been working hard to expand the VA Palm Desert clinic to bring in more mental-health specialists. We just successfully brought in a mobile veterans’ center that will be making stops in Hemet, Palm Springs and Indio. But you know, I miss seeing patients in the emergency room, so I’m doctoring by seeing my constituents on the case work when they come into my office. We’ve been very successful in bringing in over $2 million in benefits owed to our veterans and cutting through the red tape to make sure they get the health care that they need, when they need it.”

Stone shared his thoughts on how to improve veterans’ services.

“To me, it’s very tragic when you have 22 veterans (nationwide) who are committing suicide every single day,” Stone said. “Now I appreciate that he (Ruiz) has got this van that’s going to provide for some mobile services. … I commend him. But my plan is completely different. It will allow people not to wait for a van in a district as large as our 36th Congressional District. If I am elected, one of my first bills is going to be to completely privatize the VA—to sell off the Veterans Administration hospitals to private-sector hospitals and to enroll every veteran into the Medicare program or a Medicare-like program that allows them the freedom of choice to get the physician they want and go to the hospital that they choose. This will eliminate the backlog of people who are falling prey to a monstrous bureaucracy within the Veterans Administration.”

We asked the candidates about the failure of Congress to approve any funding thus far to combat the increasing presence of the Zika virus.

“I think that it’s an example of the partisan gridlock that puts partisanship against the best interests of the citizens of the United States of America,” Stone said. “I strongly support funding for the development of a vaccine quickly, because we’re seeing the horrific birth defects caused as a result of the virus. I think that something needs to be done in the next 30 days. They need to sit down like adults and come up with the appropriate funding, and let’s get that Zika vaccine out there before we see an epidemic of the Zika virus … infecting a lot of pregnant women who will have severely disabled children on their hands.”

Ruiz said he’s also concerned about the virus and its possible effects on families.

“I’m concerned not only about potential stressful and emotional experiences tied to giving birth to infants with microcephaly, because that means they’ll have to cope with the burdens and emotional stress of caring for a developmentally challenged loved one for the rest of their lives, but also about the struggle with a $10 million or more financial burden for the lifetime of that loved one,” he said. “That is why I’m advocating for the full funding that the scientists and public-health experts and health-care providers have said they need.

“I am thoroughly disappointed that the House Republicans introduced a bill that only had a third of the funding necessary. Still, there are things that I can do locally. I’m holding town halls, and educating my constituents through social media and PSAs so that they know how to keep themselves safe from the Zika virus. I’ve visited the Coachella Valley (Mosquito and Vector Control District) and discussed ways that we can collaborate so that they have the resources and information that they need to move forward. I’ll encourage (Speaker Paul Ryan) not to play politics and put riders into a bill. … There is no ‘wait and see’ here, because once a child has microcephaly, they will always have microcephaly in their lifetime.”

Stone said he supports a bipartisan approach to tackling problems.

“You know, it shouldn’t depend on whether you have a ‘D’ or an ‘R’ after your name. If you come up with a good solution to a problem, it should be embraced in the best interests of the state of California, or if you go to Congress, in the best interest of the 339 million people living in this country,” he said. “It shouldn’t be based on just partisanship. Those are areas that I think the public is frustrated with, and I think that’s why you’re seeing the popularity of Donald Trump. I think that’s why you saw the popularity of Bernie Sanders, because people are tired of politically correct speech and people just toeing party lines and not getting things done. This is going to be a very unique election.”

Ruiz expressed optimism about his chances in November.

“I’m very excited for the opportunity to represent my constituents in my home area for another two years,” he said.

Rep. Raul Ruiz and state Sen. Jeff Stone will take part in a debate at 6 p.m., Sunday, Oct. 16. The debate will air live on News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2, and will be streamed live at KESQ.com and Desertsun.com.

Published in Politics

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Published in Comics

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Published in Comics

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Published in Comics

Some columns are more difficult to write than others. This one will attempt to transcend partisan politics while I examine my unexpectedly overwhelming emotional reaction to the nomination of Hillary Clinton for president.

In June, I wrote about the reactions many local women had as they voted for a woman for president in the California primary. However, voting in a primary is not the same as actually watching a major party select a woman to be its candidate. That was history being made in real time, and many women I know—as well as some men, and many of my Republican friends—were similarly astonished at the intensity of their emotions while watching the Democratic Party officially nominate Hillary Clinton.

The gains achieved by the suffrage movement have always been incremental—countries where women were allowed to vote locally but not nationally; situations in which women could vote but not run for office; places where voting rights were granted only to certain races or classes. For example, Britain granted unmarried women who were “householders” the right to vote in local elections in 1869, expanding that to include married women in 1894.

In 1893, New Zealand became the first country to grant full equal voting rights to women. Australia followed with women receiving incremental suffrage between 1895 and 1908, based on where they lived in the country.

Finland adopted full female suffrage in 1906; Norway followed in 1913, and Denmark and Iceland in 1915.

In 1917, when the czar was overthrown in Russia, universal suffrage was declared. Great Britain was still struggling with class distinctions in 1918, empowering women based on being older than 30, or those with a university degree or those who owned certain property. (All men 21 and older were then given the right to vote.)

The United States finally granted women the vote in 1920, when on Aug. 26, the state of Tennessee ratified the 19th Amendment. It’s worth acknowledging that this occurred less than 100 years ago.

Black women didn’t gain full suffrage in South Africa until 1994. Qatari women received the right to vote in 2003; Kuwaiti women followed in 2005. In 2011, King Abdullah issued a decree ordering that Saudi Arabian women be allowed to stand as candidates and vote, but only in municipal elections. Their first opportunity did not come until December 2015.

Today, many women still do not have the right to fully participate in their government. In Brunei, there are no national elections at all, although there is universal suffrage for those 18 and older in elections for village leaders. In the United Arab Emirates, just a small percentage of men and women were allowed to vote for the national advisory council in 2011—in fact, one woman was elected to the council—but neither men nor women can vote for the nation’s leader.

There are women we know here in the Coachella Valley who were born before the right to equal agency was achieved here in the United States—and now they have seen history made again. While my own story has always included the right to vote, it has not always included things we now take for granted, such as getting credit in one’s own name, have access to birth control without anyone else’s consent, qualifying for a loan even if one has children, or being able to apply for any job for which one is qualified (as opposed to sex-segregated “help wanted” ads that were the norm when I graduated high school).

Given all of this history—both my own and that of women around the world—I was still not prepared for the overwhelming intensity of my reaction when Hillary Clinton’s name was announced as the official candidate for president by a major political party. Whether you support her or not, she made history—and that’s worth savoring as indicative of how much has changed in a relatively brief period of time. In evolutionary terms, 100 years is a drop in the bucket.

There are still those who resist the idea that a woman can be president, including a 50-ish woman I saw interviewed on television who said, adamantly, “The president has to be a man. Women have hormones, so it has to be a man.”

In other words … we still have a long way to go.

The impact of the nomination of the first woman as a serious candidate for president is not ultimately of importance merely because it is a “first.” It’s important because, whether Hillary wins or loses, never again in America will any little girl have to set her sights lower than any little boy.

That is what brought my unexpected overflowing tears. I admit to having been taken aback upon realizing how much it mattered to me.

I don’t know about you, but for me, that transcends politics.

Anita Rufus is also known as “The Lovable Liberal,” and her radio show airs Sundays from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on KNews Radio 94.3 FM. Email her at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Know Your Neighbors appears every other Wednesday.

Published in Know Your Neighbors

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Published in Comics

At Mexico City’s historic central square, or zócalo, Jose Adan Garcia Canales was busy balancing a small pipe organ on a wooden peg. He turned its crank, and the instrument let out a shrill tune reminiscent of circus music. Garcia’s partner strolled amid the shoppers, tourists and vendors with a hat in hand, asking for change.

The organillero, or organ-grinder, is one of many in the capital’s massive unofficial economy. He’s a man of the people, with his fingers on the pulse of the city, and that’s why I asked him about one of the most pressing issues in Mexico today: Donald Trump.

What does the everyday Mexican think of “The Wall,” or Trump’s plan to send the millions of undocumented immigrants from Mexico living in the United States back to Mexico, among so many other contentious proposals?

Garcia’s response was to the point: “They’re very radical,” he said in Spanish. “I don’t like them.”

In the weeks leading up to the Republican National Convention, I interviewed a number of Mexico City residents—from teachers to musicians to fellow journalists—about Trump, and asked whether the demagogic candidate had changed their perception of America.

Responses varied. While the organillero didn’t believe Trump would win the election, some predicted Trump would take it all in November. Others hinted at a conspiracy between Trump and Mexico’s president. A few bluntly compared Trump to Hitler. And some likened his campaign to a stunt, instead of an honest attempt to win the White House. Lots of people described the man with the darkest of humor: His campaign is a joke, but not a funny one.

One common theme emerged from all of these interviews: Trump has to go.

Or, in Spanish: ¡Fuera Trump!


‘He’s Like a Clown’

Fabiola Valdez Gutierrez, interpreter

Fabiola Valdez Guierrez is a Spanish-English interpreter—but her message for Trump needs no translation: He will never build “the wall.”

She actually believes that, if he were in fact elected and did try to push the wall, a litigious private sector on both sides of the border would stop his plans in the courts.

“Mexican companies have American partners that would likely lose money as well, and I cannot see the federal government trying to solve all the possible lawsuits that will be surfacing” because of the wall, she explained.

Valdez understands issues north and south of the border. She works with clients in the United States and other English-speaking countries. She also has family in America and, in 2003, spent a summer in Texas and Arizona. So, for her, the border is personal.

Like many people I spoke to, Valdez was cynical when it came to Trump and his bombastic style. “He presents himself as a great business success, but a lot of reporters have caught him lying,” she explained. She thinks his No. 1 motivation is to further his Trump brand with scandals and constant media attention.

But “his message is so full of ignorance that it is a joke to think that his proposals are serious,” she said.

Is there anything new about Trump’s brand of bigotry? Valdez doesn’t thinks so, calling it a byproduct of “a racist America that is still palpable and very alive, present in a lot of cities.”

The only surprise is that’s he’s a legitimate major-party candidate, she said—one supported by extremists who “won’t recognize the multiculturalism in their own country,” and who want “to go back to an America that never existed.”

For Valdez, that’s why Trump’s popularity is ultimately scary: It validates the idea that “racists think they have the right to impose their world view on the rest of the population, and ultimately the world.”

Despite her concern about Trump and his supporters, she said that his vision is basically a punchline in Mexico.

“He is like a clown,” she explained. “Nobody has real concerns or fears about him becoming president. At least not in my social circle.”


‘We Are Poland, and Trump Is Germany’

Federico Campbell Peña, journalist

A TV journalist who works for Canal Once, or the “Mexican PBS,” Federico Campbell Peña has followed Trump’s campaign from day one. And he is certain that Trump, whom he calls a “unique species,” will win.

That’s a disconcerting prognostication from a man who also recently wrote a self-published book, Stop Trump: Una cronología abreviada, or an “abridged chronology.” However, Campbell doesn’t want Trump to move into the White House; his hope with the book is to inspire Mexican leadership to develop a plan to deal with the possibility of a Trump presidency.

The writer partially attributes Trump’s appeal in America to the scandals that have beset Hillary Clinton. But he also believes that global instability is setting the table for a Trump presidency.

“ISIS is helping Mr. Trump,” he explained, “and also the police attacks.”

If Trump becomes president, Campbell predicted that he would immediately enact a series of “publicity policies,” such as building the border wall, to prove his might.

Another demonstration of power Campbell expects in Trump’s hypothetical first year is the cessation of diplomatic relations between Mexico and America—as crazy as that sounds. “We are not going to have ambassador(s) in D.C. and in Mexico City,” he predicted.

But Campbell does not believe Mexico would fork over the billions of dollars needed to erect Trump’s notorious wall. He cited President Enrique Peña Nieto, who recently said, “There is no way that Mexico can pay.”

He does expect a truly massive deportation effort, although not of every undocumented immigrant, as Trump has promised. According to Campbell, that would be physically impossible. “But he is going to deport more people than Obama.”

If that happens, he predicted the U.S. economy could collapse, due to the sudden removal of a large percentage of its labor force and consumer base. And the situation would be equally as dire on the receiving end. “Mexico cannot receive a lot of migrants,” he said. With the loss of remittances from Mexicans that had been living in the states, the Mexican economy could fold, too.

In an interesting twist, Campbell said conspiracy theories about Trump abound. “A taxi (driver) told me that Peña Nieto has just been with Donald Trump,” he said, implying that the two are somehow in cahoots. He explained that many Mexicans share an inherent distrust of mainstream news outlets, because of their close ties to government.

But it’s also possible that conspiracy theories are simply a means for those who feel disempowered to make some kind of sense of Trump’s madness.

Speaking of which: How does it feel to be Mexican and hear Trump’s vitriolic message?

Campbell was blunt: “We feel as (though we are) Polish in 1938, when Adolf Hitler reached power in Germany. … We are Poland, and Trump is Germany.”


‘The Easiest Way Is Hate’

Ali Gua Gua, punk musician and deejay

Trump previously wasn’t on Ali Gua Gua’s radar—a sentiment felt by many Mexicans.

“We only know he had, like, some hotels and had a lot of money,” she explained while seated in the middle of a protest encampment full of striking teachers in the heart of Mexico City, where she lives.

Gua Gua—a globetrotting musician prominent in the Latin American punk scene—is perhaps best known as part of the Kumbia Queers, an all-female outfit whose members hail from Mexico and Argentina. She views Trump’s popularity in America as a byproduct of a strong strain of cultural intolerance in the country.

“I think in the United States, (people are) more aggressive when you’re different,” she observed. “And I think Trump is representing these people who think all the problems are because of immigration.”

But she also realizes that the U.S. economy sucks for a lot of people. “I think United States citizens are very scared about the economy,” she said. In turn, they’re drawn to Trump’s quasi-populist message and purported business acumen.

Although she thinks Trump will ultimately lose the election, Gua Gua admitted it’s still frightening that his ideas carried him to the nomination. “The easiest way is hate,” she said.

She also wanted to share a warning for Trump supporters in America: White people will soon be outnumbered.

She dismissed Trump’s claim that the Mexican government uses the United States as a “release valve” for its own domestic poverty. Instead, she said, common people are often faced with an impossible situation. “If you’re a young guy, in a small town in the middle of Mexico, you have, like, two choices, or three: You’re a peasant and you starve (to) death, or you become a policeman, (or) te vuelves narco (or you traffic drugs), or you go to the States.”

Amazingly, she keeps a sense of humor about Trump. During our chat, she joked about his “piggy face,” and how metal bands might find him the perfect target for their derision if elected. In the end, she likened his candidacy to dystopian farce with a musical twist: “For me, it’s like a comic, no? It’s like Jello Biafra’s worst nightmare.”


‘Little Trumps’

Maritza Waldo Molina, English teacher

When Maritza Waldo Molina crossed the border with a coyote, or trafficker, she didn’t even realize it was illegal. She lived for more than five years in North Carolina, beginning in 2005. She only returned to Mexico for her parents’ sake. But she still has family in America, some of whom are legal residents, some still undocumented.

Waldo, now an English teacher, said that her view of Trump is akin to that of the majority of Mexicans: “Everybody thinks he’s a jerk.”

Her theory as to the candidate’s popularity, however, is unique: People get defensive when they feel threatened—“The problem is, like, we blame everybody”—and Trump is the ultimate defense mechanism.

As a Mexican, she isn’t offended by Americans who love Trump—because she isn’t surprised. “I’m not 100 percent neutral, but I know you can expect anything” from politics on both sides of the border.

Her big-picture attitude is that the president doesn’t matter: The rich will get richer, and they’ll continue to ignore the working class.

To that skeptical end, she described Trump as a “Muppet,” who’s “part of a malicious plan.” (More of those conspiracy theories.) She views Trump’s role as the distraction—the guy who says hateful and outrageous things to keep people distracted, while the powerful elite do the real damage.

That’s one reason why she thinks Trump will win.

She’s equally jaded when it comes to Mexican politics. Waldo mentioned the most recent presidential race, in which Enrique Peña Nieto won with less than half of the popular vote, an election reminiscent of the Bush-Gore standoff of 2000.

She also thinks we all have some Trump’s flaws in us, to varying degrees. She called these our “little Trumps.”


‘Mexico Belongs to the United States’

Cuauhtli Contreras, shop owner

On most days, you’ll find Cuauhtli Contreras at his news kiosk in Mexico City’s zócalo, where he sells papers and magazines, bottled drinks and loose cigarettes. He’s a man of the news—so you might be surprised, then, that he sympathizes with Trump.

“He’s defending his country. No one sees it that way, but it’s true,” Contreras argued.

Nonetheless, he believes Trump will lose, because his vitriol disassociates so many voters. “If you’re not blonde and tall, you’re opposed to Trump,” he explained in Spanish.

To Contreras, Trump isn’t directly threatening Mexico. His message is not about Mexicans. “His whole campaign of hate is against Mexicans in the United States,” he explained.

Contreras’ views also stand out because, he said, if Trump were to win, he thinks the Mexican government would, in fact, go along with his plans.

“Mexico belongs to the United States,” he said.

He pointed out that it has been this way since the Mexican-American War, when the U.S. Army occupied Mexico City and flew the Stars and Stripes over the very square where he runs his kiosk.

That’s why Contreras believes that Mexico might bend to pressure and pay for a border wall—even though his country would have to borrow money from the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, or possibly America itself to make it happen. If that occurred, that Mexico would carry the debt for generations.

“It’s like I told you, Mexico is not in a position to refuse the United States,” he said.


‘Se sabe Que no va a Ganar’

Brillyl Sanchez, customer service

Brillyl Sanchez sat in a Quaker-run hostel and community center in central Mexico City, where he sometimes practices English with ex-pats and hostel guests. Sanchez, who is gay, admitted that the current groundswell of global reactionary conservativism, including Trump’s overwhelming popularity, feels not only regressive, but also dangerous.

“I hope that he doesn’t win,” he said with the utmost sincerity.

“It’s the first time that I’ve heard a candidate who talks like this, so openly, about problems … without making a sound judgment about the causes,” he explained.

Sanchez brought up the “taco bowl” episode: On Cinco de Mayo this year, Trump tweeted a picture of himself at his desk with a sad-looking tortilla shell—a classic example of Americanized “Mexican” food—and the caption “I love Hispanics!”

“It’s very weird,” Sanchez lamented. “It’s a comedy.”

Sanchez thinks the motive for Trump’s slapdash campaign is obvious: “I think that Donald Trump only wants to draw attention.”

He sees Trump’s extremism as a side show. “Se sabe que no va a ganar,” or in English: It’s known that he is not going to win.

Sanchez speculated that instead, the entire campaign is about creating a high profile to earn more cash. “His finances aren’t so good right now, and he needs more publicity.”

But Sanchez said that, as a gay man, Trump’s response to incidents such as the Orlando shooting was wildly irresponsible and disrespectful. “I think that was, like, very misguided,” he told me. “Who’s he helping, really?”

Sanchez believes that Clinton would be a better leader for the gay community, and the country in general.

He also dismissed Trump’s statements referring to immigrants as criminals or drug-smugglers. “It’s like saying all Colombians are narcotraficantes. Of course not. It’s absurd.”


‘What Would the United States Gain From Being Constantly at War?’

Isaías Jaime Ignacio Cruz, teacher on strike

The ongoing teachers strike in Mexico City is a mass protest against national educational reforms that would hardly cause U.S. citizens to bat an eye. But critics say President Peña Nieto’s proposals have more to do with privatization than actually improving schools. His government has tried to enforce its will against protesters with violent police crackdowns.

To that end, teacher Isaías Jaime Ignacio Cruz sees similarities between Trump’s rhetoric and the reality in Mexico. “Here too, our government has already become very right-wing,” he explained. “It has become more discriminatory, and it’s affecting its own population.”

A teacher from Oaxaca, Ignacio has been part of the teacher occupation in Mexico City since 2013. He said that what makes Trump worse than most is that “he is a person who discriminates too much and that, in fact, he is racist toward certain groups.”

Ignacio predicted that the U.S. economy would collapse if undocumented immigrants were prevented from entering the country or sent back to Latin America. “They have jobs that Americans cannot or will not do,” he said. He added that U.S. business owners ultimately benefit from undocumented immigration, since those without legal status will often work for less money.

He wonders what supporters think they will gain from Trump’s belligerent policy. “We’ve already seen this gentleman’s intentions to begin cutting ties with all of the developing nations,” he said. “What would the (United States) gain from being constantly at war?”

Hopefully, he says, Americans will come to their senses by November. He quoted Benito Juarez, the first indigenous president of Mexico: “Respect for the rights of others means peace.”


‘God Help Us!’

Jose Luis Diaz Calderón, university professor

Jose Luis Diaz Calderón described Trump frankly: Nosotros la vemos como si fuera algo muy parecido a Hitler.To translate: “We see it as something very much like Hitler.”

But the professor at Instituto Politécnico Nacional, a public university with several campuses in Mexico City, also thinks that Trump’s bark will be louder than his bite if he’s actually elected president.

“It’s understood that, in a campaign, (Trump) can say a thousand things (in order) to win votes,” he explained. But if Trump wanted to pursue a hard line with Mexico, his influence would be limited by pre-existing agreements between the two governments, the counterweight of the U.S. Congress, and state laws along the border.

Diaz also believes that Mexico’s significance as a leading country in Latin America would temper some of Trump’s more extreme proposals. “We say that, in terms of Latin America, Mexico represents the big brother for the majority of countries, with the exception more recently of Brazil, Chile or Argentina,” the professor explained.

He reminded me that Mexico has been the United States’ partner for 150 years. This means that, according to Diaz, the country is an essential intermediary between the United States and other Latin American nations. In other words, Trump would need Mexico.

Mexico also has deep economic ties to the United States. Not only do U.S.-based firms use cheap Mexican labor, but Mexico, with roughly 120 million residents, represents an important consumer market. (Think “Mexican Coke.”)

Diaz reminded me that most voters in Latin America admire U.S. elections as clean and free from repression or corruption. At the same time, he thinks that, in the United States, Latino voters are undervalued as a complementary bloc to white voters, and that their interests are too often overlooked. Trump’s pandering to the concerns of an ever-insecure, mostly conservative base support Diaz’s view.

And that’s the rub in Mexico: “For us, the worst thing is that there’s a mass (of people) who support the proposals of Donald Trump,” he said. “Today, if you ask any Mexican, they’ll say, ‘God willing, Hillary Clinton will win.’”

Interestingly, this anti-Trump sentiment is shared across the political aisle in Mexico, from supporters of the conservative Peña Nieto to those who sympathize with the striking teachers. They’re all saying it:

“‘God help us if Donald Trump wins!’”

Published in Politics