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Old May 13th, 2008, 02:04 PM
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Palm Springs Mayor shares his "Renaissance" vision for the city
Public Record, The, Feb 12, 2008 by Slahor, Stephenie
The annual State of the City address was delivered by Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet at the Palm Springs Convention Center, during a luncheon hosted by the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce.
"We work together as a Council to move this city forward," Mayor Pougnet began, as he introduced members of the City Council. "There is a renaissance of the city of Palm Springs occurring and we're taking that to the next level." He added, "This city isn't crumbling as some would want us to believe," and "it has a tremendous opportunity to go to the next level."
He listed a number of projects and activities of the past few years that have helped to advance the city.
The Office of Neighborhood Involvement has 15 of the city's neighborhoods as members, with four more planning to join. The mayor said the group is an opportunity for neighborhood residents to network and discuss issues of importance in their areas. "You've got to have dialog with your neighborhoods," Pougnet said, and he is encouraging homeowners' and condominium associations to consider joining the group.
He also listed the city's budget in being the black, completion of renovations at the Palm Springs Convention Center and the airport's terminal, soon-to-be construction of the Agua Caliente Cultural Museum, and approval of a western campus in the city by College of the Desert as more reasons the city is in a "renaissance."
Pougnet said the city's bond rating has been raised to A-, a rating that will save the city considerably on bond insurance. The city is planning a new animal shelter, renovations to the public library, and purchase of and as bond income, tax increments and redevelopment money increase.
He praised the Palm Springs Film Festival as an event that now attracts people "from all over the world" And, in the sports realm, he cheered the two city baseball clubs - the Palm Springs Power and the Palm Springs Chill and the roles they play in providing quality sports events for residents and visitors to enjoy.
Restoration projects at the Colony Palms Hotel and Racquet Club are well underway, he said, and will help to contribute to, what he termed, 'The wonderful, fabulous setting" of Palm Springs and its fabled history.
"We can't ever have enough money to do the things we need, and know we need, in the city" he said, but he said one item about which many residents voice concern is the state of the streets and roads. He said there is a long-term plan to resurface all the city roads and he is recommending to the Council that a new formula for funding be done to finance the plan. "It is that critical to the infrastructure of the city to do that," he said.
He also has the goal of improving "customer service" in the city. "This isn't a recommendation; this is a challenge," he said.
He pledged continued support for the police and fire services and said they need the "tools to protect this city," and the personnel to do the work.
The mayor would like Palm Springs to emphasize environmentally-sound, sustainable efforts in its water and energy consumption. Audits will be done on city usage, and a summit will be held in late April or early May to discuss "eco-positive" measures. The city is already planning to re-landscape significant portions of medians in the city with plants that require less watering.
On the topic of downtown revitalization, Pougnet said projects such as the planned Port Lawrence mixed use condo and retail development at Alejo and Palm Canyon, the planned Hard Rock Hotel and a Mondrian Hotel near the Convention Center will help greatly in revitalization and bolstering the usage of the Center. But Pougnet said something must he done soon with the Desert Fashion Plaza and the associated Zelda's parcel about 14 acres in the center of downtown. "It is absolutely critical to the future economic success of this city" to improve that area, he said. Although the city has been working closely with Wessman Development for the past three years, Pougnet said the city needs to look at all available options "with Wessman Development, or without them," he said. He did not rule out eminent domain as an option that the city would use. "This downtown has so much potential," he said, but he
added that the city "Will not sit around and watch for another six years that nothing moves forward on that property."
Another challenging area is the Escena project on the north side of the city along Gene Autry Trail and Vista Chino. "It's in trouble - a casualty of what's happening in the business" of real estate and lending, he said. Bonds posted by the developer should help the city maintain the property until a solution can be found, he added. Mayor Pougnet said he is proud to be the city's 19th mayor and he concluded, "I believe deeply and passionately about this city."
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