Election 2022: A Conversation with Brothers of the Desert

Candidates Statements & Answers

In advance of the Brothers of the Desert event on Oct. 18, 2022, we asked all invited candidates to provide an introductory statement and answer two questions prepared by the BOD Community Outreach and Support Committee. Each candidate who committed to participate could respond with video and/or written replies. We asked each to cap their written statements to 300 words and video replies to 2 minutes per statement and per answer.

Question 1: What do you see as the biggest challenges facing Black Americans and how would you address these challenges?

Question 2: How would you advocate for communities of color once you are in office?

Video Statements

Written Candidate Responses

Grace Garner
Palm Springs City Council District 1 Candidate (Incumbent)

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing Black Americans and how would you address these challenges?

We know that Black and Latinx residents are most impacted by racial disparities in Riverside County and that Black folks specifically are disproportionately impacted on all issues in California at large, except for voting. The fact that the Black community consistently turns out to vote despite this shows the resiliency of the community and their belief in the power of the vote. I take those votes seriously and will continue to work to curb violence in our communities, increase access to homeownership opportunities by working on sweat equity projects on city-owned lots, and improve job opportunities with workforce development at city hall and with our local unions. When we lift up those who are most impacted by racial disparities, we lift up the entire community and everyone benefits. 

How would you advocate for communities of color once you are in office?
As a second-generation resident and a Latina, I got into this race in 2019 to be an advocate for communities of color. I had many existing relationships and have worked hard these past three years to build more. I have successfully advocated for neighborhood improvements in our Black and Brown communities, assisted with COVID vaccination sites, helped secure over $2.1 million dollars in grant funding for local organizations, and uplifted the concerns of the community – including assisting in roof repairs, landscaping, connected tenants to attorneys, and worked with a local church to clean up the community space at Golden Sands mobile home park. In the next four years I will continue to engage with and advocate for communities of color. It is essential that all of our voices are heard at city hall.

Palm Springs City Council District 1 Candidate

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing Black Americans and how would you address these challenges?

Throughout our country's history, even in the most progressive of times, it's often felt like once we were on the brink of achieving long overdue goals for Black Americans, those in power say, "not yet, we need to wait." That "wait" turned into lifetimes of lost opportunity and equity. I grew up in Queens, NY, one of the most diverse places in the world, and as a young boy I quickly identified disparities between the treatment, opportunities and advantages I received over my Black friends. As an adult I still see those disparities when dealing with some of life's most basic necessities — jobs, housing, education, access to quality healthcare and more. It's why I've spent most of my life fighting for marginalized communities that are underserved. We see this in Palm Springs’ northern end where residents are often painted as having lives engulfed in violence, poverty and disarray. The true story is one of a beautiful community that is proud, caring and working hard to fill in the gaps where the city and government sometimes fail them — making the most out of being given the least. The community does deal with systemic issues caused by income inequality as well as many of the situations stated above, but this does not, and should not, define them. The creation of more affordable housing is crucial for the entire city, and we must move quickly to get residents into housing that is attainable and financially sustainable. We also see inequality in diversity-owned businesses, either due to lack of access to financial institutional funding or a lack of city infrastructure to help support and bolster diversity-owned business enterprises. While our city is not unique to these issues, we should be doing much more to create a more equitable city.

How would you advocate for communities of color once you are in office?

As a longtime civil rights, LGBTQ+ and healthcare advocate I can honestly say that I am not waiting until I am in office. Most of my career has been spent advocating for underserved communities, and my detailed platform contains sections developed directly to combat the issues facing communities of color. Ending the ”food desert” in District 1. This lack of access to fresh food can have ripple effects, including rising rates of diabetes and food insecurity. I propose that we develop a food co-op, which would be led by members of the community along with experts, giving the community access to fresh food, a sense of ownership and pride, and create jobs. From the success of the co-op, we can also build into the community other life necessities that are missing like pharmacy, banking and laundry services. Move the city forward as a "smart city” by investing in free, city-wide fiber optic internet. Besides city-wide technological advances, this would help close the gap of inequality to internet access. In California, 21% of all Latino homes are unconnected, and Latino and Black homes have the highest percentage of students with no connection to the internet.Create community youth / young adult programs so that our young, especially our black and brown youth, are supported in ways that foster opportunities for success. Similarly, I will also hold College of the Desert accountable for opening the promised West Valley campus, offering higher education programs to steer our citizens into well-paying career paths.

Cathedral City City Council District 4 Candidate

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing Black Americans and how would you address these challenges?

I have a very successful anti-recidivism program that helps men and women returning home from incarceration. The challenges that put many of these men and woman who are often  black Americans are the same. Poverty, broken homes and addiction. My work focuses on restoring the lives of individuals and breaking the challenges mentioned above by offering men and women the resources needed, like career work, education and most importantly mentorship. In my opinion these are the challenges that Black Americans face. I am volunteer at the Alan M. Crogan Youth Treatment Educational Center (Formally California Youth Authority ). I speak with incarcerated juveniles as young as 13 years old who are all share the same challenges. I advocate for the youth at risk of all colors and help restore the lives of those who have be set back by challenges. 

How would you advocate for communities of color once you are in office?
Please see my answer above.

Palm Springs City Council District 3 Candidate

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing Black Americans and how would you address these challenges?

Racism, criminal justice reform, and economic inequality are significant challenges I see Black Americans face across the country. As an individual, I can advocate for significant reforms to ensure fair treatment. This starts in our community. I will continue to shine a light on racial inequality and work to bring about change for all communities of color, one baby step at a time.As a city councilmember, I can:Advocate for the support of Black businesses and investments in our Black Community.Advocate for investing in mental health and social services.Collaborate with other providers and programs and invest in youth education.Embrace a culture at city hall where race equity and inclusion are part of every action the city takes.

How would you advocate for communities of color once you are in office?

I’m full of hope, and I believe in our lifetime, we will see meaningful positive changes for communities of color. We can’t give in and accept racism in our laws and by people. I’ve dedicated two decades to fighting for human rights in California and around the world. As a city councilmember, I’ll continue my work to end racial inequity with a keen eye on our government and social service providers.I feel decisions for the entire community must always be grounded by looking out for unfair policies and practices, discriminatory treatment, and inequitable opportunities and outcomes. When we understand our cultural racial bias and resulting inequities based on skin color, we can challenge the status quo bias.In addition to my foundational values above, other ways that I’ll advocate for communities of color as a councilmember include:Economic development is a priority of my campaign, and I fully support BIPOC ownership programs citywide and in BIPOC communities.Encourage engagement opportunities between the community and the city especially for our youth.I will never stop learning and seek answers as needed.I pledge to be just, impartial, and fair in my actions.I will be prepared for each issue and work to have the greatest benefit for the people of Palm Springs.

41st Congressional District Candidate (D)

Opening Statement:
I became a national security and counter-terrorism prosecutor because of 9-11. I wanted to help keep America safe. But over my career, I’ve seen the threats to our country change. Today, some of our biggest threats are right here at home, as people become radicalized by conspiracy theories and lies. I have been on the front lines in the fight against extremism, helping to prosecute those who attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6th and QAnon conspiracy theorists. This is a systemic problem. Extremists, Big Tech and media outlets are profiting from spreading division based on lies, even as they erode our democracy and make it easier for adversaries like China and Russia to exploit us.If Americans can start agreeing on basic facts again, we can start working together to tackle the big issues of our generation: lowering costs for working people, reforming our criminal justice system, improving access to health care, growing our economy and protecting our planet. That’s why I’m running for Congress.While I’m incredibly proud of my service as a federal prosecutor, I recognize that many people in today’s audience might view law enforcement with skepticism. I believe it is possible to both protect our communities and reform our criminal justice system at the same time – these are not mutually exclusive, but rather mutually fulfilling. Americans can criticize people like me who worked in law enforcement, recognize that biases exist in our system, and stand up for racial justice, while also appreciating the good work that most police officers do every day keeping us safe in our communities.\

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing Black Americans and how would you address these challenges?

Free and fair elections in which citizens’ right to vote is protected and easy to exercise are essential to ensure that we have a functional, representative and genuinely inclusive democracy. Right now, that right to vote is under threat, and while limits to voting access hurt everyone, Black Americans are being targeted disproportionately.Before and since the outcome of the 2020 Presidential election, Donald Trump and others have been trying to undermine democracy by employing ever more aggressive Jim Crow-style tactics that create barriers to voting access, as well as by deploying false and misleading information to cast doubt on legitimate election results. The risk is two-fold: we fail to include the voices of millions of Americans, and we risk disenfranchising the next generation of voters who lose confidence and hope in our democracy.In addition to passing the For the People Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, we should outlaw partisan gerrymandering of Congressional districts, allow people to vote by mail if they want to, and modify campaign finance laws to require more transparency.Congress should also restore the full protections of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which were gutted in recent years by the Supreme Court.

How would you advocate for communities of color once you are in office?

My partner Paolo and I grew up when being gay was still a crime in many states and homophobia was pervasive. We know firsthand the impact discrimination has on succeeding in America. That has motivated us to improve the lives of others who face discrimination.In pursuit of justice for communities of color, meaningful reform of our criminal justice system is necessary. We need to ensure practices and policies are in place to prioritize public safety, fairness and equal justice. The federal government should invest more money in reforms such as restorative justice programs and community-based re-entry platforms which data shows can help end recidivism, make our streets safer, and put more people to work. In general, I also support providing more rehabilitative options for nonviolent offenders with drug addiction, mental illness, and minimal criminal history.Additionally, far too often, race continues to be a factor in access to and the quality of healthcare a patient receives. This was acutely obvious throughout the pandemic when communities of color suffered disproportionately. Congress needs to continue efforts to: raise public and provider awareness of racial/ethnic disparities in care; expand health insurance coverage; improve the capacity and number of providers in underserved communities; and increase the knowledge base on causes and interventions to reduce disparities.I will have an open-door policy for constituents, and I will commit to regular town-hall meetings to ensure that I’m hearing diverse voices. Equal access to the decision-making process is crucial in ensuring all Americans have the opportunity to thrive.

25th Congressional District Candidate (R)

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing Black Americans and how would you address these challenges?

The biggest challenge facing black Americans is voting. I am aware of housing, health, education, and income inequalities. However, we must get involved. It's been discouraging to look at the registered voting numbers amongst the black community: 22 million registered and only 704K registered blacks. We spend too much energy asking other people to focus on the black community. It is time we elect people from the black community who know the issues personally. A huge disparity.

How would you advocate for communities of color once you are in office?

Please visit https://www.blackvoicesofthevalley.org/. I have advocated for communities of color since I was alive. When I was elected to the city council in San Jacinto, I started Black Voices of  the Valley to build a strong economy for people of color

Palm Springs City Council District 2 Candidate

Opening Statement:
My name is Jeffrey Bernstein. I’m running for Palm Springs City Council, District 2. I moved to Palm Springs 13 years ago and instantly fell in love with it; so much so that I started an entire business, Destination PSP, that is an homage to Palm Springs. I’ve been in the business world but always believed businesses have corporate social responsibility and an obligation to give back to the community. I believed that 30 years ago when I founded the Cable Television Industry AIDS organization and today with my business which actively incorporated over 15 area non-profits into our business model. Through my experience with all these organizations and extensive experience on small business and tourism boards, Chair of the Measure J Oversight commission, founder of the Palm Springs Sister City Committee, among many other activities, I have great insight into what makes our city special but also the challenges we face. I’m running because we need a full-time working resident who understands where change, growth and development is needed but values that which makes Palm Springs unique: our small-town vibe with world-class events, open spaces, neighborhoods, small businesses and diversity in all areas.

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing Black Americans and how would you address these challenges?

I believe that the biggest challenge facing Black Americans as a whole is the inequitable access to and ability to vote. Since our founding, America has limited the rights of Black Americans to vote, while simultaneously giving advantages to Southern slave states. It wasn’t until the second half of the 20th century that the Voting Rights act was enacted and once again, we see that chiseled away at. Redistricting and other measures continue to limit the ability to vote. Without a vote, without a voice, Black Americans face challenges in all areas: economic and educational inequality, discrimination, legitimized racial profiling, etc. Without a vote, politicians who do not support the rights of Black Americans are able to spread their influence to our judicial system. The unfortunate result is that sometimes Black Americans see voting as futile. A city councilmember can’t change this in other states, but we can ensure we don’t experience this locally. More importantly, we can encourage our residents to see the value of their voice on a national basis. We can set examples for the rest of the country.We can encourage residents to take up this cause elsewhere. I have already encouraged the Palm Springs Unified School District to involve students in local elections, even suggesting a student candidate forum. While most are not of age to vote, they are the future and need to understand the importance of voting. They need to understand the importance of having a seat at the table where decisions may be made that affect all aspects of their lives.We’ve made major milestones in the 21st century with a Black American President and now Vice-President but we are in danger of moving backwards.

How would you advocate for communities of color once you are in office?

Our various communities of color (Black Americans, Latinx population, Pilipino population, Native American population, and others) make up a large part of our population. Yet, they are significantly underrepresented on city staff, commissions, committees, etc. I would work to change that. First, we should make an effort to explain more clearly the role of Commissions to our residents, including to students who are eligible to join. Attending meetings, understanding accomplishments, meeting Commissioners goes a long way. Second, we need to actively recruit residents for government jobs, of which there are many, and they pay well.As someone in the tourism industry, I know first-hand that we have made extraordinary steps to market to the LGBTQ community both in terms of ensuring representation in advertising, but also in targeting where they view their media. We have not made the same effort for communities of color. In highlighting the importance of communities of color to our visitors, we also elevate their profile within the city.I also see this in the small business world and have advocated for locally owned businesses. I have tried to expand the focus beyond the downtown, and as city councilmember I will ensure that happens. So many of our local businesses owned by our community members of color are underserved and underrepresented.We have also begun discussions of reparations for what happened in Section 14. While that involved many Black Americans it also involved many others including our Latinx population and Native Americans. Direct payments will be a difficult process, but we can use this opportunity to identify communities that have been underserved, often redlined, review what will help those communities and invest. I see an investment in part of our community as an investment in our city and will advocate for that.

Palm Springs City Council District 2 Candidate

What do you see as the biggest challenges facing Black Americans and how would you address these challenges?

I believe the issues facing Black Americans are multifaceted and each deserves our attention; for one, the impact of inflation is disproportionately affecting communities of color. A crisis of affordability and rising costs of living have impacted Black Americans especially hard in our own city, where soaring rent costs and home prices have severely limited options for affordable and dignified housing and contributed to the unhoused population growing, of which many of those individuals are Black and Latino. A lack of serious investments into our communities of color (particularly in the North side of Palm Springs) have also left many without good job opportunities, healthy choices for grocery shopping, or accessible services and health-care providers. That needs to change. I also believe Black Americans nationwide have often been the target of inequitable policing which is why I'm pleased our own city is beginning to shift towards community-based policing policies, which emphasize building trust with underserved communities, establishing regular communication between police and residents, and justice-based policing practices. I will advocate for us to continue moving in that direction. For full disclosure, I am against the payment of reparations currently underway by the city of Palm Springs to the group "Survivors of Section 14," not because I disagree with the concept of righting historical wrongs, but rather because as a historian I do not believe the city's assessment of the issue meshes with the historical facts. I also do not agree with the monetary figure being pushed (upwards of several hundred million dollars) because I believe that would negatively impact the city's general fund for the year and prevent us from adequately addressing other issues that directly impact our communities of color, like funding investments into the Northern Palm Springs neighborhoods, combating homelessness, and funding affordable housing initiatives.

How would you advocate for communities of color once you are in office?

If elected I will advocate for more dialogue between city government and our communities of color. To do this I will be an advocate for greater outreach efforts and encourage members of those communities to attend city council meetings and make their voices heard. I will also seek ways the city can make tangible investments into our communities of color, with an emphasis on providing more good union job opportunities and better access to services. I will encourage the city council to consider the impact that each major budgetary or policy decision we make will have on our communities of color and ensure they are included in the legislative process and that their needs are being addressed and met.

Grace Garner: wewinwithgrace.com

Scott Nevins: scottnevins.com

Ron deHarte: rondeharte.com

Joy Meredith: palmspringsjoy.com

Jeffrey Bernstein: jeffreyforps.com

Renee Brown: reneebrownforpalmsprings.com

Raymond Gregory: raymondgregory.net

Rick Saldivar: ricksaldivar.com

Jan Pye: janpyefordhs.org

Gary Gardner: gardnerfordhs.com

Will Rollins: willrollinsforcongress.com

Christy Holstege: christyholstege.com

Brian Hawkins: realpastorbrian.com