Attempts to Stop Holiday Event Foiled
DESERT HOT SPRINGS, CA – There was more than one Grinch trying to stop the holiday parade. Those opposed to the parade included a council member, city manager, acting police chief and chairman of the commission responsible for culture and recreation. Together they conspired to undermine the holiday parade. They failed to stop it.
Conspiracy is sometimes a strong word. Not this time. Thanks to internal emails obtained through the California Records Act, the lengths the players identified above were willing to go to stop the parade is provided in black and white.
I was a member of the 15 member parade committee that worked for three months to organize the parade. These are first hand accounts backed up by the emails I obtained.
The conspiracy wasn’t limited to a few naysayers complaining it couldn’t be done. These were people who went out of their way to add roadblocks, worked the media to create a bad impression about the parade efforts and tried other means to make it impossible for the parade to take place.
Council Member Pye Voted NO
The effort to kill the parade started with a very loud NO vote from council member Jan Pye. After listening to public comment of community support, after hearing how well organized and how well funded the event was, Pye alone cast a bah humbug vote attempting to veto the parade from marching on.
Even Mayor Parks expressed reluctant support, agonizing over her lukewarm approval – not as if it was life and death decision – but worried that her vote of support would find her in trouble with the city administration.
After an hour long debate, Parks cast her finger to the wind and saw a vote of disapproval might end up biting her in the reelection ass if the parade were successful. She ended up being the swing vote that gave the parade the sanction of the city council but was overheard saying afterwards, “I’ll have hell to pay in city hall for that vote.”
During the debate, however, it was Councilman Adam Sanchez that carried the ball, working hard to convince Parks the right vote was YES for the parade. But it was the level-headed comments by Joe McKee as a member of the Community and Cultural Affairs Commission, which carried the day. To every objection raised by Parks, McKee made it obvious the details had been worked out.
Continued enthusiasm for the parade from that point on carried the effort forward however the parade committee was still left with the the task of breaking through continual roadblocks encountered by city administration subterfuge.
Secret Emails Revealed
Thanks to open government guaranteed by our American constitution, the California Public Records Act opened up secret emails of City Manager Rick Daniels for public review.
These emails and more illustrate a sorry tale of deceit occurring at the highest levels of our city government. The curtain will now be pulled back to showcase to the public what happened behind the scenes.
Jan Pye didn’t stop with voting no, she went further by preventing parade organizers from reaching boxing champ Tim Bradley to ask him to be Grand Marshal.
The event committee needed his phone number and Pye instructed staff not to share the phone number with the city’s parade committee even after she was informed Bradley’s phone number was no secret, it was on the Tim Bradley webpage.
City Manager Tried To Stop Parade
Rick Daniels was the email point of contact for the conspiracy manipulating facts and fictions to sidetrack the parade and “get ‘er done” attempting to sink the showboat as best he could.
Wanting to make sure the public was aware that city management considered the parade to be a big problem, Daniels instructed police Commander Dan Bressler and Senior Manager Martin Magana to add “parade status” to the agenda of the November 6, 2012 council meeting.
Daniels explained the purpose as “reiterating your collective concerns and that a permit has not been issued.” In other words, that the parade had problems and to knock down public expectations that the parade was actually going to happen by noting a parade permit had not yet been issued. Issuing a permit was an easy thing to do, instead Daniels blew it out of proportion.
Bressler replied to Daniels suggesting taking the effort further.
“If I could be so bold, can we send Jackie Deveroux at the desert star the list of conditions?” wrote Bressler.
Bressler went on complaining that Devereaux [editor at the Desert Star Weekly] had been critical of him in an article published the previous week about the parade, and Bressler identified those working to put on the parade as the “opposition” complaining how they were quoted saying how great the parade was going to be.
“She ripped into me in a recent article as speaking against the parade and she let the other side ramble on about how great it’s going to be,” wrote Bressler. “She didn’t take the time to talk to me or I don’t imagine either of you about it before printing it. I think she needs to hear the conditions so she kind of knows what’s really happening.”
Daniels liked that idea but he did not want Bressler to simply contact the Desert Star Weekly reporter, he ordered more.
“Call her and go meet with her. Provide her with whatever information that you provided the CCAC and the Parade Committee. That is public information. Sooner the better. Her deadline is late today for the next edition,” wrote Daniels in a sense of urgency because of the newspaper’s deadline making certain Bressler made a special trip to the newspaper office.
With a literary salute, Bressler replied, “Roger that, will do.” Immediately upon his return from his trip over to the Desert Star office Bressler followed up with Daniels. “I just returned from my mission at the Desert Star,” wrote Bressler. “She [Devereaux] is a total supporter of our PD, our CM, our Mayor and our City.”
These were just some of the tactics used by the city administration seeking cooperation of the editor of one local paper to thwart a parade committee working to put on a successful parade, a committee the city administration secretly called the “opposition.” It was not just a propaganda war that was part of the city administration’s tactics, the attack was another assault on public integrity.
Police Rep Tried To Stop Parade
Dan Bressler, was supposed to be neutral supporting the parade but instead the police commander who was in charge during the absence of Chief Singer marched lockstep with Daniels judging the parade committee in a negative light describing them in his email to Daniels as “the opposition.”
Comparative parades in the city of Coachella only assigned two police officers for parade duty and surveys of similar parades in Yucca Valley and Palm Springs revealed their using less than a half dozen uniformed officers on parade duty. Bressler assigned 23 uniformed officers to parade duty still worrying even that was not enough.
This crowded every intersection along the parade route with as many as three or four performing traffic control as if official barricades were not enough. The parade committee had the help of trained COPS (citizens on patrol) and the Police Explorers already assigned tasks of traffic control leaving officers collecting overtime pay adding an unnecessary parade expense which pleased Daniels as rising costs of the event gave him something to complain about
Commission Chair Tried To Stop Parade
George Fisher as chairman of the Community and Cultural Affairs Commission joined in the effort to stop the parade. He came out openly supporting the parade that was approved by his commission and voted yes in public for the parade to go on. Unfortunately for George he was living a lie as he was secretly emailing Daniels and had committed to Daniels that he would kill the parade at the CCAC
In an October 8, 2012 email to Rick Daniels, Fisher thanked Daniels for sharing with him all the problems with the parade, then wrote, “Thanks for letting me see Dan Bressler’s comment on Palm Drive….I knew there would be problems, its all coming down to the wire now where there is no time left to put this event on. I will ask the parade committee Wednesday at CCAC that the parade committee, step back, take a breath, and find a way to have a parade next year.”
Fisher went on to support his effort to stop the parade. “As one councilman said at our last meeting, he had pledges of $2k, no proof, but who will pay for the bills that come in after the parade should there not be enough donations? The City of course….and that’s not going to happen. Not on my watch.” The council member Fisher was talking about was Betts. Betts, by the way, ended up raising $8,000 for the parade.
Fisher did give credit to McKee, who he acknowledge had done good work but took the opportunity to disparage two council members he did not name and reiterated his commitment to stop the parade at the CCAC level. “I give Joe McKee credit for trying to put an event on and taking a lot of his time to write up his proposal, its a lot of work. He is being pressured by certain councilmen. But common sense tells us there are too many questions not answered. I would rather see this event stopped at CCAC,” wrote Fisher.
In one final hiccup for parade organizers, an emergency preparedness group, Citizens Emergency Response Team or CERT, had volunteered to help with the staging area and had attended an organizational meeting a few days before the parade.
The staging of the event was well planned but thrown into a scramble on the morning of the parade. Ten CERT members volunteered, all called in sick. The CERT group is a volunteer group headed up by Fisher. McKee and other parade organizers quickly recovered by re-allocating assignments with the Jr. ROTC taking over to do an excellent job.
Parade Marched On
In spite of the Grinches that considered parade volunteers “the opposition” the 2012 Holiday Parade was an amazing success. Over 1,500 people participated in the parade and over 3,500 lined Palm Drive watching and enjoying the parade.
In spite of the Grinch opposition the Holiday Parade was an amazing success for participants and thousands who enjoyed the parade made up of 69 entries including three marching bands, attractively decorated floats, equestrian units, car clubs and civic organizations. Hundreds of youth marched in support of youth organizations and a jolly Santa Claus put a holiday smile on every one.
PARADE PICTURE SETS
Max Lieberman with Desert Local News photos
Grinch by Dr. Suess and photos by Max Lieberman of Desert Local News