3 vacancies on the Rancho Mirage Council draw 6 candidates
Rancho Mirage will soon have some new faces on the city council, as all three members whose terms expired this year have decided not to run.
Six candidates are running for the trio of available seats on the five-member council, including Steve Downs, who was appointed late last year to fill the remainder of Dana Hobart’s term.
Hobart retired last year after nearly two decades on the council, while longtime council members Charles Townsend and Iris Smotrich decided earlier this year not to seek re-election. Councilors at Rancho Mirage are elected at-large for four-year terms.
Alongside Downs are five newcomers – Louisa Davis, Lynn Mallotto, Meg Marker, Kim Martos and Ken Ammann – on the ballot.
The biggest difference between the candidates is their assessment of the current city council’s performance. Half praised the incumbents and said they want to stay broadly on the same path, and the other half said they aim to make some changes, including by making the council more transparent.
“A wonderful job”
Downs, a local real estate agent who served on the city’s planning commission before his election to council, says he wants a full term to maintain the momentum of previous councils at Rancho Mirage.
“I’m here because I think the city is in great shape and I want it to stay in great shape,” Downs recently told The Desert Sun, adding that he wants to keep the “small town charm” which is likely to increase the population of Rancho Mirage.
Marker, who with her husband owns a local broadcasting company that controls several radio stations in the valley, praises the town, particularly its efforts to attract new business.
Marker praised the Cotino project – Disney’s masterfully planned community that will include a hotel, a lagoon and a mix of homes and condos – and Sensei Porcupine Creek, the ritzy resort being developed on billionaire Larry Ellison’s estate.
Marker was assisted by two current Council members – Richard Kite and Ted Weill – and by Hobart, the recently retired member.
Mallotto, a longtime Rancho Mirage resident who served as a Cathedral City community worker for several years before switching to a career in the real estate sector, has also widely praised the work of the current council, saying the city has done a “great job.” , by making resources available to her residents.
With about $70 million in reserves, Mallotto said the city should be prudent but open to proactive ideas. As an example, she hailed a pandemic-era program run by the city where restaurants are delivering meals to the homes of residents most vulnerable to COVID-19.
“I think the city has done a great job using its resources to the best of its citizens,” Mallotto said.
Compared to the other candidates, Davis, Martos and Ammann see more room for improvement on the city council.
Davis, one of the leaders of a lawsuit to overturn the city’s short-term rental ban, says the council, which she describes as “like a castle,” needs more transparency.
Davis says that if elected, she would work to make “controversial” decisions, such as the location of the In-N-Out burger on Highway 111, dependent on a direct vote from local residents, according to her site.
Davis, who ran a Seattle-based candy company before moving permanently to Rancho Mirage eight years ago, says she supports candidate Martos, who came to town from Encinitas in 2019.
Martos, who works in real estate and property management, believes her professional experience gives her useful insight into how the city can meet its affordable housing goals in the years to come.
Martos is also running because she says the council needs “new thinking” and could benefit from more debate among its members.
Ammann, a longtime Valley resident who used to work as a technology consultant for government agencies, says he wants to improve communication from City Hall to its residents. He pointed to the recently opened In-N-Out Burger as a project that could have benefited from more community involvement.
“It seems like there hasn’t been that transparency and accountability that everyone in the community feels, and that’s what I want to bring,” Ammann said.
This election also marks the first time that Rancho Mirage residents will elect their November councillors. It was previously the only Riverside County city to hold its election in April, but last year the council voted to move it to November to conform with state law.
Along with the municipal council race, voters will also decide a new schedule for rotation of mayor and mayoral protest positions among council members. The two positions currently rotate annually in April, and voters are being asked if they want these changes to happen at the end of the year to align with the new electoral schedule.
Tom Coulter covers the cities of Palm Desert, La Quinta, Rancho Mirage and Indian Wells. You can reach him at [email protected] or on Twitter @tomcoulter_.