Ahead of Palm Springs’ State of the City Address tomorrow, Mayor Robert Moon is reflecting on the past four years at the helm. News Channel 3’s Karen Devine sat down with the Mayor who discussed what he’s most proud of and what he’s looking forward to as he begins the process of exiting city politics.
“This has probably been the most rewarding 4 years of my entire life,” says Mayor Robert Moon.
And, that says a lot because mayor moon was quite accomplished before he jumped into city politics. He was a naval officer for 26 years and an international corporate executive for 17 years. He says the transition wasn’t easy.
“It took me a few months to sort of chill and get used to the slower pace of city government, it’s not bam bam bam like it is in the corporate world, particularly where time is money, things take time in the government and that was a little hard for me to get used to,” Moon tells Devine.
Particularly challenging, says Moon, was the “Scandal at City Hall” involving Moon’s predecessor Steve Pougnet and two developers, all facing bribery and perjury charges in connection with the downtown redevelopment project. The timing, tough for a new mayor and city council. The Mayor says he and the newly elected council held a marathon meeting, and changed the downtown plans so they could find an agreeable way to move forward.
“It was a little scary for a while because if we hadn’t done that, if our council hadn’t done that as a whole, we’d be seeing a half finished downtown with fences around it with flapping canvas on it and it would have been that way for who knows how many years,” says Moon.
He believes the tough decisions have paid off, telling Devine Palm Srings is booming and experiencing a renaissance with a younger demographic from all over the world flocking to the city.
“Our general fund, our revenue for the city is up 85 percent over the past 7 years. It’s up 43 percent in just the past 4 years. And, TOT taxes are booming and people are coming to Palm Springs,” says Moon.
While the Mayor says it’s important to get tourists to town, he stresses taking care of the residents and business owners’ needs is a top priority. For example, saving the old Town and Country Center, declaring it a historic designation, soon to be rebuilt. And, College of the Desert’s west valley campus. Mayor Moon tells Devine, “I think College of the Desert is the most wonderful, the most life changing event in the last 80 years!”
Mayor moon has been hands on and a visable presence, attending a city event nearly daily. The decision to step away, not to run again, partially based on the city going to district based elections which he voted against.
“I will walk away as the last directly elected Mayor of Palm Springs. Frank Bogert was the first, I will be the last,” says Moon.
Devine asked, “You’ve been quoted as saying the council is a little progressive and it may be a part of the reason you are choosing to leave, is that true?”
Moon responded, “I’m very much a moderate and Palm Springs has become a very progressive city and I think it’s best I move on. Some of our council members like to use the dais as a bully pulpit to address national issues and do “friends of the court” letters for these national and state issues, which I don’t think we should be involved in because we are elected non-partisan. “
That said, Mayor Moon tells Devine he wants to stay involved even after his term is up. His passion project is the restoration of the Historic Plaza Theatre owned by the city.
“It introduced Hollywood to Palm Springs and then the architect who designed it stayed here and he and his sons introduced the modern movement,” says Moon.
Celebrating his 70th birthday this month and 38 years with his husband, Mayor Moon says after traveling the world there’s no better place to be then Palm Springs.
“From the first time I saw the mountains and I saw the sky and I saw the architecture here, and I met the people here, I thought, this is where I have to spend the last few decades of my life.”
The State of the City is tomorrow from 5-7 p.m. at The Plaza Theatre. Tickets are still available. You can buy them at pschamber.org