We are resilient and innovative in Palm Springs. Together, we will meet today's challenges as we build a prosperous, safe and more equitable community.
Thoughtful leadership that is focused on results is needed now more than ever.
The COVID-19 health crisis reminds again that homelessness is a public health crisis that affects all of us. The causes of homelessness are multiple and they are not easily overcome, but what remains clear we are going to have to make an investment in building more permanent supportive housing.
I am proud of the leadership within the Palm Springs City Council working with Assemblyman Chad Mayes and Governor Newsom to bring state funding for homeless housing in Palm Springs. We must continue to work with local leaders to help get people off the streets and safely into housing.
For some, it is simply an issue of finances; but for so many it is issues of addiction and mental illness. Yet, for those on the streets access to the health care they need is nearly non-existent. That has to change.
City Finances & BuDGET
In early March, our local economy went from full-speed to full-stop in a matter of days—6000 hotel rooms and 2000 vacation homes were empty at the height of our season.
Through prudent planning we entered the economic crisis with $49 million in municipal reserves for an annual general fund budget of $125 million. Tourism taxes, Transit Occupancy Taxes and visitor paid Sales Taxes are nearly half of our annual revenue. No one anticipated a full-stop in tourism; but moving forward our efforts to expand the foundations of our local economy beyond tourism must take on increased urgency.
One of my first acts on City Council was to help pass a very strong solar preference so that with limited exceptions all new residential housing would have solar.
A recent report showed that Palm Springs ranks second to Honolulu in the per capita use of renewable energy. We have in Palm Springs with our abundant sunshine and consistent wind the opportunity to lead in the use of renewable energy.
Palm Springs, through our Desert Community Energy program is positioned lead in purchasing renewable energy, support new local wind and solar farms and provide incentives for homeowners and businesses to build new solar panels.
California has committed to be carbon-neutral by 2045. I believe Palm Springs should commit to being the first city in California to achieve carbon-neutrality.
The events of the past few months have touched us all. No one could watch the murder of George Floyd and not be changed by it. In our city, as in every city there are tough conversations that must be had. Those conversations about racism need to happen with someone else whose experience with racism is different from our own.
We are fortunate to have a leader such as Police Chief Bryan Reyes who was immediate in his condemnation of the murder of George Floyd, has implemented best practices for de-escalation and believes in neighborhood policing. Our Police Officers and Firefighters perform essential necessary work. Our Police Officers and Firefighters run to trouble. Police Officers have seen people at their worst and seen humanity at its worst. Our Firefighters save lives and at times must recover bodies.
But as we move forward we cannot lose sight of the fact that public safety remains the first responsibility of municipal government.
For the past many decades, we have as a society pushed too many issues onto law enforcement to address. It is time to step back and ask questions about who and with what training and resources are best to respond to specific problems.
We simply have to do a better job of crime prevention by taking a more holistic approach in identifying causes early in life and providing appropriate resources that help change trajectories for more positive outcomes. This includes ensuring that those who have been incarcerated have the economic opportunity to build a full and free life.