Council meeting: Middleton makes history, COVID-19 restrictions to stay
Lisa Middleton was sworn in as the new mayor of Palm Springs Thursday evening, becoming the first transgender mayor in California history and only the third ever in the United States.
“Being transgender in America today is to know both hope and fear,” Middleton said in a statement released before the swearing-in ceremony at the start of the regular City Council meeting. “Our fears are grounded in the lived experiences of each of us. They are grounded in the lives lost to violence. The jobs we did not get or keep. The healthcare that was specifically barred from us.”
The city no longer elects a mayor directly. Instead, council members are appointed to the largely ceremonial role on a rotating annual basis based on their district. Middleton, who represents District 5, replaced now-former Mayor Christy Holstege, the District 4 representative, in the role. Grace Garner, representing District 1, is now mayor pro tem and is next up for the mayor role in December 2022.
This isn’t the first time Middleton has made history in the LGBTQ+ community. In 2017, she became the first openly transgender person in California history to win an elected non-judicial position when she was voted onto the Palm Springs City Council.
The late Stu Rasmussen became America’s first openly transgender mayor
when he was elected mayor of Silverton, Oregon, in November 2008.
Middleton announced her run for the state Senate in October. She wants to fill a spot in the 28th District that will not have an incumbent in the race. If she wins, she will be seated in Sacramento a year from now, allowing her to complete either a full term or a nearly full term as mayor. The timing of her exit from the mayor’s role, should she win higher office, depends on when and how the Council decides to fill her position. The same scenario exists for Holstege, who is also seeking a position in the state capitol.
In other action Thursday evening:
- After hearing from medical experts and staff, the Council elected to keep current COVID-19 emergency orders on masking and vaccinations in place until at least the end of January, out of an abundance of caution as winter approaches. Concerns over requirements for indoor diners to show proof of vaccination were covered in The Post here.
- The Council heard from members of the public regarding the ongoing redistricting process, which is required following the release of data from the 2020 US Census. That issue was covered in detail in The Post here. Following the public hearing, Councilmembers expressed interest in an accelerated timeline for adopting the new district boundaries.
- The Council approved a rate increase for Palm Springs Disposal Service (PSDS) after a public hearing that saw three people speak. The increase, detailed in a story in The Post here, will affect bills for six months starting January 1. Most customers will see a roughly $7.50 increase during that time period. The rate adjustments are needed, PSDS officials say, to recover costs associated with a postponed regular annual rate adjustment and to offset additional expenses incurred during the past two years during the battle with COVID-19.
BONO SEEKS DISMISSAL: The widow of former Palm Springs Mayor Sonny Bono is asking a federal judge to dismiss a $1 million lawsuit brought by Cher that alleges ex-Rep. Mary Bono is unfairly withholding royalties from such 1960s Sonny & Cher hits as “I Got You Babe” and “The Beat Goes On,” according to court documents obtained Thursday. Cher filed suit against the widow of her former partner/husband in the folk-pop duo in October in Los Angeles federal court. According to the lawsuit, after Cher and Sonny Bono divorced in 1975, they agreed to split revenue from the songs recorded together. Attorneys for Cher allege that Sonny’s fourth wife and widow, Mary Bono, “has undone” Cher’s ownership of those rights and royalties in recent years. Attempts to reach Mary Bono were not immediately successful.
CAT CAFE MOVES FORWARD: A cat cafe planned for Palm Springs has cleared a major hurdle after a unanimous vote by the city’s Planning Commission this week. The concept for “Frisky Business” is simple: Cats roam freely through one room while food and beverages are served in another. For a fee, customers are welcome to bring their purchases into the room with the cats and mingle — giving their new furry friends some attention and (hopefully) getting some back. Claire Rogers, the owner of the business, hopes to have cats available for adoption living there overnight, but she first needed the city to determine that allowing cats to be housed there overnight was “consistent with permissible uses in the CBD (Central Business District) zone.” That determination was made unanimously by the Planning Commission Wednesday evening. Rogers said Thursday she is still working on finalizing a lease for the business and hopes to announce its location soon.
WEAPONS SEIZED: Eight people were behind bars Thursday after authorities investigated illegal weapons in the city. According to Sgt. Paul Heredia, the arrests spawned from a Riverside County Sheriff’s Department investigation regarding unlawful weapon possession and theft Wednesday. The incident began with the arrest of Carlos Mayorga, 29, of Palm Springs during a traffic stop at the intersection of Palm Drive and Two Bunch Palms in Desert Hot Springs for two outstanding felony arrest warrants. Deputies issued a search warrant at his house in the 1400 block of Ramon Road in Palm Springs shortly after, in which a handgun and shotgun were found to be illegally possessed by Mayorga, according to Heredia. Mike Perez, 39, of Palm Springs, was also arrested at the location for a felony vehicle theft arrest warrant. A follow-up investigation was conducted at a residence in the 66000 block of Fifth Street in Desert Hot Springs in relation to a theft, in which a short standoff occurred with the residents inside who refused to exit, said Heredia.
POLICE BLOTTER: Curious about crime in Palm Springs? Each week we produce a list of some of the incidents police officers respond to in the city. This week’s Police Blotter, for the week ending December 5, is located here.
MIZELL CENTER: The Mizell Center, 480 S. Sunrise Way, offers backgammon, a drawing class, chair yoga, and more, starting at 8 AM. A complete list of everything offered can be found online here.
SUNSHINE SISTERS: Palm Springs Sunshine Sisters will meet for a holiday lunch at Spencer’s today at 1:30 PM. You can sign up to be part of the group — formed to help women make new connections and friendships — on Meetup here.
GAY MEN’S CHORUS: The Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus (PSGMC) is back and ready to perform for its spectacular holiday show “Sparkle, Twinkle, Jingle!” at the Palm Springs Museum Annenberg Theater starting this evening and running through Sunday. The performance is sold out for this evening, but takes place again on Saturday at 7 PM and Sunday at 3 PM. The Chorus is proud to welcome its new artistic director Jerry R. Soria-Foust, who will premiere his talents in their annual fun-filled holiday show. To purchase tickets, click here.
MUSIC FEST: An electronic dance music festival is scheduled to take place at the Palm Springs Air Museum, 745 North Gene Autry Trail, from 4 PM until midnight. The festival, called Desert Air, is also scheduled Saturday. Information on how to purchase tickets can be found on this website.
Palm Springs comes alive in December with events for all ages and all tastes. The Post has put together a list of those events, organized by category, from reader submissions. Click here for the complete list. Want your event included? If it’s happening in Palm Springs, or involves a Palm Springs-based organization or business, Email [email protected]
LEGION OPEN TO ALL: Palm Springs American Legion Owen Coffman Post 519 is hosting its annual membership drive and a toy drive Saturday, starting at 3:30 PM. The event is open to everyone, which is allowed only once per year. Expect live entertainment, free food, and more at the historic building located at 400 North Belardo Road. Guests are asked to bring a new, unwrapped toy to contribute to the American Legion Riders toy drive or pay a $10 fee.
PALS CAFE: PALS (Planning Ahead for LGBTQ Seniors) holds a seminar titled “Estate Planning: It’s Never Too Soon to Start” via Zoom at 10 AM on Saturday. The organization is a volunteer-led community initiative based in Palm Springs that helps LGBTQ+ adults and friends plan ahead before a health or other life-altering situation arises. More information about the organization can be found here. To participate in the seminar, check out the Zoom link here.
SOUND OF MUSIC: Palm Canyon Theatre’s staging of “The Sound of Music” runs Thursdays through Sundays until December 19. Showtimes are 7 PM on Thursdays, 8 PM on Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 PM on Sundays. For tickets or other information, call the PCT Box Office at 760-323-5123 or order online at PalmCanyonTheatre.org. Tickets are $36 for adults, $32 for seniors, and $15.00 for students and children. The theater is located at 538 North Palm Canyon Drive.
FARMERS’ MARKET: The Palm Springs Certified Farmers’ Market is held at 2300 E. Baristo Rd. (adjacent to The Camelot Theatres) from 8:30 AM until 1:30 PM. All Certified Farmers’ Markets offer a $15/$15 match to customers participating in CalFresh EBT and a $10/$10 match for WIC, SSDI, and federal unemployment. Find more details about all three Coachella Valley certified farmers’ markets here.
SUNSHINE SISTERS: The Palm Springs Sunshine Sisters hosts a trio of events this weekend. On Saturday, the group will be attending “An evening with Shag” at the artist’s store at 745 North Palm Canyon Dr. On Sunday, group members are invited to a holiday jazz brunch at PS Underground at 11 AM and then the “Martinis & Moxie” event at Palm Springs Cultural Center at 5:30 PM. You can sign up to be part of the group — formed to help women make new connections and friendships — on Meetup here.
FOOD DISTRIBUTION: Well in the Desert distributes food every Saturday at 6 AM and 10 AM at 181 N. Indian Canyon Dr. For the early distribution, guests typically begin lining up at 5 AM and must show proof of residency (a rent receipt, utility bill, etc.). For both distributions, guests are asked to bring a box, bags or other containers to transport food items. More information is available by phoning the Well’s office at 760-656-8905. The Well also offers hot lunches Monday through Friday at 11 AM and 1 PM at various locations throughout the city.
FLEA MARKET: A flea market and food fest are held Saturdays at 675 Crossley Rd. from 8 AM until 2 PM. Information can be found here.
BALLROOM BASH: Palm Springs Dance Academy is hosting “Palm Springs Ballroom Bash” on Sunday, starting at 2:30 PM. Attendees can participate in a nightclub 2-step holiday variations class, a social dance “practice party,” and then watch a professional performance by Curtis & Beverly. The event will be held at the academy, located at 611 South Palm Canyon Dr., Suite 12. Tickets include a welcome drink and may be purchased at nickersonrossidance.com.
MARTINIS AND MOXIE: The final “Martinis and Moxie” of the season is Sunday at Palm Springs Cultural Center, 2300 E Baristo Rd. The event begins at 6 PM with a society social. Attendees are invited to come raise a drink to celebrate the birthday of the “Chairman of the Board,” Frank Sinatra. They can also enjoy swingin’ discussions about Frank’s life in the Coachella Valley hosted by Claudia Ried and Conrad Angel Corral of Palm Springs Point of View. In addition, special surprise guests (many of whom knew Frank) will be there, and an all-new art exhibition by local artist Kasey Scott-Brown is planned. Tickets start at $45 and are available here.
STRUT AWARDS: Voting will end, and the STRUT Awards will be handed out on Sunday. The STRUT Awards are a people’s choice voting event designed to honor members of the local LGBTQ+ industry. Nominations were accepted in more than two dozen categories, and now it’s time to vote. You can do that by going here. Winners will be announced and celebrated during an event at Margaritaville Palm Springs beginning at 6 PM Sunday. Tickets for the event can be purchased here.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
NEXT SPEAKER IN SERIES: Mizell Center presents sound bath master Lisa Botts, in conversation with Maria Sestito, senior issues reporter with The Desert Sun, at its next 3rd Wednesday Speaker Series event held December 15 starting at 6 PM. Together they will explore the origins, growth, and appreciation of sound baths – a deeply immersive sound experience that delivers you to a fully relaxed state of ease. The free introductory experience is designed to engage participants, particularly older adults, who are new to the sound bath experience. Please be certain to wear comfortable clothing. Guests are asked to bring a yoga mat or blanket. To register for the free events, go here. Mizell Center is located at 480 South Sunrise Way.
SANTA PAWS 5K: Run Palm Springs presents the annual Santa Paws 5K run and walk on December 18, starting at 9 AM. Gather your family, friends, and neighbors (dogs and reindeer, too) and join the organization for the happiest Christmas race around. All 5K participants receive a five-piece Santa suit, festive T-shirt, beautiful finisher medal, and milk and cookies at the finish line. The course is located in the iconic Las Palmas neighborhood and is expected to sell out. To enter or find more information, turn to the event page here.
MOBILE CHRISTMAS: Well in the Desert is again planning its annual Christmas event as a mobile event due to COVID-19 restrictions. The drive-up event will be held Saturday, December 18, from 11:30 AM until 3 PM at The United Methodist Church, 1555 East Alejo Rd. Volunteers will distribute a frozen turkey and pie, as well as gifts for children to open on Christmas Day to any family in need. Donations can be dropped off at churches where The Well serves hot meals, between 11 AM and 1 PM: Mondays and Tuesdays: United Methodist, 1555 East Alejo Rd.; Wednesdays: Church of St. Paul’s, 125 West El Alameda; Thursdays: Our Lady of Solitude, 151 West Alejo Rd.; and Fridays: Our Lady of Guadalupe, 204 South Calle El Segundo.
INTERFAITH EVENT: Several city congregations are collaborating to present “Blue Christmas: Longest Night Service” on December 21 at 6 PM at The Church of St. Paul in the Desert, 125 West El Alameda. The service is designed as a contemplative service for those carrying grief and trying to manage the holiday season with so much loss and pain.