‘The most ridiculous thing ever’: Attack ads have no connection to Well in the Desert, nonprofit’s president says
Whoever is behind thousands of dollars in attack ads against city officials that have appeared on Facebook is not being backed by and has no association with Well in the Desert, its leader said last week.
“I think it’s criminal,” said Arlene Rosenthal, president of the nonprofit organization. “I think it’s the worst that somebody can do.”
At issue is that whoever is behind the ads, posing anonymously as a “neighborhood news organization” called The Palm Springs Account, is using an address belonging to Well in the Desert on a website linked to in the ads. That fact and the fact leadership at The Well has sparred publicly with some elected officials this year led to speculation in the community that The Well was somehow behind the ads or associated with the person or organization paying for them.
While tensions did flare between the nonprofit and the city this year, Rosenthal said nobody associated with The Well would hide behind an anonymous effort to shame anyone.
“We’ve never tried to hide anything,” she said, adding that the building listed as the address for The Palm Springs Account — located at 181 North Palm Canyon Drive — is used only by Well in the Desert to store and distribute food.
“We laugh about it during our conversations at night,” Rosenthal said when asked if board members and others in her organization were aware that the address associated with The Palm Springs Account belonged to her organization. “It’s the most ridiculous thing ever.”
There was no reply to a message sent to the person who manages The Palm Springs Account Facebook page, asking why the address on the website is the same as The Well’s. That person earlier told The Post they prefer to remain anonymous and that “The issues stand up for themselves.”
Facebook data shows The Palm Springs Account has spent more than $12,000 on 46 ads since August. The ads claim city leaders have lied, “dumped” unhoused residents into a minority neighborhood, and that Palm Springs has the highest crime rate in the nation, all without detailing facts that led to the claims. All but one of the ads has been found to be in compliance with the social media site’s advertising policies.
Attacks against former Mayor Christy Holstege have been particularly harsh. The councilmember from District 4 has been accused of asking taxpayers to pay for her childcare needs, ignoring crime while running for higher office, and benefiting from her husband’s real estate business.
“Mayor Holstege wants you to pay for her childcare, while she is running for another office,” one ad states. “Meanwhile her husband can make significant money if they build a City homeless navigation center on property he is the agent for. Tell her to Resign!”
Holstege has advocated for childcare at City Council meetings to allow more parents to attend and floated the idea that elected officials in the city need to earn higher wages to help ease childcare costs while attending to city business. The Firm Commercial, owned by her husband, Adam Gilbert, represented the seller of one property being considered for a homeless “navigation center” in the city, but it was not chosen. Holstege recused herself from the discussion of that property.
“Adam and I actually check every single city council agenda for any potential conflicts from his work,” Holstege wrote in a social media post denouncing the Palm Springs Account ads and website. “We flag any potential issues and bring those to the city attorney every week. If you watch the council meetings, you know I generally recuse when there’s even a remote possibility that I could appear to have a financial conflict, which I did here.”
Holstege has called for whoever is behind the anonymous ads to stop. She and others have also pointed to the fact that Grass Valley — a city in the Sierra Nevada Foothills — is listed as the address of whoever is running the Facebook ads as proof that they may not live locally.
“It’s time for the out of town Palm Springs Account (that clearly has a political goal to oppose my candidacy) to end their lies about our community,” Holstege wrote. “Intentionally sharing completely false information that [was] already debunked by the city attorney harms our city and our democracy.”
For her part, Rosenthal said she could think of better ways to spend money in the community than on anonymous Facebook ads.
“We put our money toward our clients,” she said.
SCHOOL DISTRICT BENEFIT: Students in the Palm Springs Unified School District will benefit from a toy drive being held Wednesday at The Village Palm Springs, 266 South Palm Canyon Drive. Greater Palm Springs Realtors are hosting the event from 5 PM until 7:30 PM, offering a free drink ticket to anyone who brings a new, unwrapped gift. The Foundation for Palm Springs Unified School District will collect the gifts and distribute them to students in need this holiday season.
PREPARE FOR RAIN, OUTAGES: A powerful winter storm system from the Gulf of Alaska will continue today and into tonight, possibly affecting power customers in Palm Springs. A Southern California Edison (SCE) spokesperson said Monday that the utility company has additional personnel on standby to respond to any impacted power lines. Customers can report or inquire about outages at 1-800-611-1911 and get the latest outage information at sce.com/outages. Updates are also available at twitter.com/sce and facebook.com/sce. In addition, the city of Palm Springs is making sandbags available at all five fire stations in the city for residents who need them.
NOT GUILTY PLEA: A Palm Springs man suspected of trying to arrange a sexual liaison with a 13-year-old-girl he met online who was actually an undercover investigator pleaded not guilty Monday to attempted lewd act charges. Roy Phillip Basquez, 27, appeared for arraignment at the Larson Justice Center, where he pleaded not guilty to the charges and was ordered back on January 10 for a felony settlement conference. Basquez was arrested July 9 in Indio after allegedly attempting to meet the girl, who turned out to be an investigator with the Riverside County Child Exploitation Team, according to District Attorney’s Office spokesman John Hall. Basquez, who is free on bail, is facing one felony count each of attempting to commit lewd acts on a child under 14 and communicating with a minor with intent to commit the specified offense.
MIZELL CENTER: The Mizell Center, 480 S. Sunrise Way, offers Zumba, a laughter clinic, and Tai Chi, among other programs, starting at 8:30 AM. A complete list of everything offered can be found online here.
ONE-PS IN PERSON: The Organized Neighborhoods of Palm Springs (ONE-PS) returns to in-person membership meetings this evening at 5:30 PM at the Mizell Center, 480 South Sunrise Way. Check-in begins at 5 PM, and masks and proof of vaccination are required at the door. The public is welcome to speak during the designated public comment period of the meeting. There will be a social gathering at the end of the meeting, which is expected to wrap up around 7 PM. More information about the organization is available here.
VILLAGEFEST: The city’s VillageFest board is scheduled to meet via Zoom at 5:30 PM. Complete instructions for participating or viewing the meeting, as well as an agenda, are available here.
WORKSHOP CANCELED: A community workshop to discuss the planned redistricting in the city at Vista Del Monte Elementary School at 5:30 PM has been cancelled due to expected high winds and heavy rain. There is no word yet on whether the workshop will be rescheduled. More information about the redistricting process is available at https://mappalmsprings.org/.
TOASTMASTERS: Toastmasters, a nonprofit educational organization that operates clubs worldwide for the purpose of promoting communication, public speaking and leadership, meets virtually every Tuesday in Palm Springs starting at 6 PM. Interested in participating? Send an email to [email protected] for more information and the Zoom link.
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]
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
SPEAKER SERIES SOLD OUT: The Mizell Center’s sound bath event with master Lisa Botts, scheduled for Wednesday starting at 6 PM, is sold out. The free introductory experience is designed to engage participants, particularly older adults, who are new to the sound bath experience. Information for attendees is available here. Mizell Center is located at 480 South Sunrise Way.
MOVIE PREMIERE: Don’t miss the premiere of Musical Theatre University’s first full feature musical film. Tickets are now on sale for “Blame it on the Mistletoe,” showing at 7 PM on Thursday at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, 2300 E Baristo Rd. Musical Theatre University students traded stage lights for the big screen this holiday season. Ticket sales benefit The Foundation for The Palm Springs Unified School District, which is working to save the arts in schools. Tickets are sold only online and include admission, popcorn, and a fountain drink. They may be purchased here.
BREAKFAST WITH SANTA: The City of Palm Springs Parks and Recreation Department, along with the Palm Springs Gay Softball League, will host Breakfast with Santa, a free community event for local children and their families on Saturday, December 18, from 8 AM until 11 AM at the Palm Springs Pavilion, 401 S. Pavilion Way. Reservations are recommended. The ‘all-you-care-to-eat’ pancake breakfast will also include a wide range of activities, including gingerbread house making, presents from Santa, and photos with both The Grinch and the Big Guy himself. With generous contributions from BMW of Palm Springs and Contour Dermatology, each of the expected 200 boys and girls, ages 5-12, will be able to select and take home a brand new toy for Christmas.” If you’d like to register, click this link. BMW of Palm Springs donated $5,000 for the event.
SANTA PAWS 5K: Run Palm Springs presents the annual Santa Paws 5K run and walk on Saturday, 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. The event benefits Guide Dogs of the Desert.
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.
10K YOUR WAY: Angel View’s biggest fundraiser of the year — the 10K Your Way event — begins December 31. The public is encouraged to register to swim, run, walk, bike, or roll 10 kilometers and collect donations to support their efforts. Funds raised will support the organization, a nonprofit founded in 1954 that is dedicated to helping children and adults with disabilities. Last year, despite the pandemic, more participants joined in than ever and fundraising surpassed $80,000. Anyone interested in raising money through swimming is invited to the Palm Springs Swim Center, 405 South Pavilion Way, during its open hours on December 31. To register, send email to [email protected] or call 760-835-0464