By Talie Rosa
Our interview began with an invitation from Alfie to join him for lunch at the elegant Eight4Nine Restaurant in the Uptown Design District. I was given a tour of the gorgeous venue that included the private dining room where Alfie’s alter ego, Arial Trampway’s vintage-inspired portrait hangs. The image captures the spirit of Palm Springs perfectly with its rugged desert mountains, the grainy black and white glamour of the mid-century coexisting with the look of blissful freedom on the faces of the Queens of the Desert. Razor sharp cheekbones, heads thrown back, eyes shut, black lace and stilettos, they represent the LGBTQ majority population of Palm Springs beautifully. Once seated, our server thoughtfully took our order right away so we had plenty of time to relax, eat, and enjoy the conversation. The food and service were impeccable, thank you Eight4Nine!
We dug in right away to one of the most important issues for the City of Palm Springs; the rising homeless population. I must first pause and say that it was so refreshing to talk to a potential council member at such length and with such depth on this topic. I found Mr. Pettit to be receptive, open-minded, concerned, and ready to join Street Life Project on their next outreach in Sunrise Park to see for himself what it is like to be homeless in Palm Springs. He challenges the other council members to all commit to attending at least one outreach. Street Life Project conducts outreach every Thursday at Sunrise Park at 6 PM.
Pettit himself has experienced major upheavals in every area of his life. A childhood riddled with abuse and infidelity, a death sentence-HIV diagnosis at 19, the resulting discrimination lawsuit that saved his life, lifelong health issues including a cancer that almost killed him, substance abuse and recovery, and so much more. Petit has had to start over not once or twice, but many, many times. He has a completely different perspective then the current city council members and perhaps will be the one to start really delving into the complexities of our rising homeless population. One of the things we discussed was the disconnect between community services and what our homeless residents really need. Too often we put the cart before the horse and develop money-sucking programs that simply do not work. “You know, let’s try to find things that REALLY work. There is a lot of red tape here, it’s like where did the money go?… and let’s get it to where it is really taking care of people, because what Riverside County is doing and what the City of Palm Springs is doing is less than zero!” Pettit is referring to the 2.2 million dollars pledged to help the homeless and the contract entered into with the non-profit Path of Life Ministries to start housing our homeless residents. I urge concerned citizens to contact them with questions they may have as to where the money has gone and how it was spent. The results are in, our homeless population has grown substantially since this program’s onset. Their website is: https://www.thepathoflife.com/.
Pettit is running on a campaign platform that includes what he describes as “Issues of Substance,” these include homelessness, vacation rentals and its effect on the local rental market, the loss of our elected mayor here in Palm Springs, and the completely baffling new districts and their elections. (I must interject here and say that I am shocked at how complicated our local government has become in the last couple of years.) The topic switched to our housing crises and the rapidly rising cost in the rental market. “It is a huge issue and the problem is vacation rentals, they drive the prices up and people in the service industry aren’t going to be able to afford to live here, they are going to be in Desert Hot Springs or Cathedral City and I think a lot of people are going to be priced out. There was $700,000 spent on a campaign for the vacation rentals, it’s big business. There are a lot of people that want them to stay, what about our little village? It’s not going to be our little village anymore. We need a happy medium. Do we have to do like Palm Desert did and get rid of them altogether?” shared a passionate Pettit.
This ignited a lively conversation about possible solutions. Should they be banned? Should vacation rental owners be required to contribute financially to help alleviate homelessness when their properties stand empty? Should homeowners with vacant properties be required to fill those vacancies or be fined? How ethical is the vacation rental industry if it prices out local residents who contribute every day to the economic health of our city?
After a minor rant on increasing rental prices, Pettit interrupted me and asked, “Do you know what district you’re in?” I could not answer that question. I know my neighborhood is Uptown Design District, but I really had no idea what VOTING DISTRICT I’m in. “That’s interesting, because nobody knows.” Pettit later sent me the link to the interactive map where I could enter my address and find out. Not a great map. Apparently, I am in district two. This means that no matter how much I may personally want to vote for Pettit based on his platform and the changes he hopes to bring to the entire city; I am not allowed to vote for him. Some districts are huge (too huge) and some districts are tiny. After researching the demographics of each district, it could easily be construed as Gerry-mandering, with the largest districts made up of a much higher minority population. The bottom line is that these are huge changes in the way our city government functions, with a great deal of voting power removed from the tax-paying citizens. In addition, as a resident of Palm Springs, I no longer have the right to vote for our city’s mayor. That position will now be filled by an existing council member by majority vote from the council. This is exactly why Pettit is running for Palm Springs City Council District 3. “We weren’t asked and they took away our elected mayor. It comes back to this, there should be seven seats on that council. We have people that are too good of friends on the council and that is never good. There has to be diversity and different opinions.” Pettit is clearly angry at what he deems is a major overreaching of government.
Marlena The Campaign Coach! As opposed to renting a boring, immobile office as a campaign headquarters, Pettit has opted instead for Marlena. “The campaign is turning into a grassroots movement and the media is already buzzing about our awesome chances of winning in November,” Pettit said. Pettit has rolled out a massive, one of a kind, flashy, mobile campaign headquarters that has people stopping all over the Coachella Valley to get a look at the colorful beast of a vehicle. “Our campaign is going straight to the voters and will be visiting every street and house and voter and business in District 3,” Pettit said. “Look, I know what people want from our elected officials, and this campaign is already flying high in a massive 38-foot motor coach,” he said. One cannot deny that this is marketing genius. Marlena, combined with Pettit’s naturally gregarious personality, are a duo with which to be reckoned.
Pettit credits the 12-step program he belongs to for teaching him the importance of giving back without expectation or reward. “Of course, you know being in the program, I did a lot of fundraising there, a lot of charity work. That really got me started on being of service.” Residents may remember Pettit’s alter ego and fundraising queen, Arial Trampway, whose contribution to numerous local charities over the years has been much admired. His DRG brunch “Drag Challenge” alone raised over $10,000 for local charities during its run. That and countless other acts of charity have earned him a star on Palm Canyon, and heartfelt gratitude from the community from which he serves.
I asked Pettit what the deciding factor was in his decision to run for council. “I was sitting back and I was watching the rest of the council bully Mayor Moon. I had been considering running for a couple of years and I was just sitting back and watching the whole thing and then I was just disgusted by how they were treating him. All because he went on there and tried to do some good, they didn’t like him. I also didn’t like it when they took away our decision to elect a mayor.”
When asked what skill-set he had to offer the council that made him particularly qualified, he was quick to point out that street life in his early years, coming up from the bottom, contracting HIV at 15, diagnosis at 19 facing a 2-year death sentence, fighting for his rights as an HIV positive man, and surviving cancer have done nothing but make him a stronger, more experienced, and wiser man. His tenacity has kept him alive. Addiction and the recovery process have brought him a unique perspective that the council currently lacks. His marketing skills are top notch, he knows how to the get the message and the information out to the community. He is not afraid to ask the hard questions, not once or twice, but over and over until he is satisfied with the answer. He has built up successful businesses with just his creativity and sheer guts. Looking back on his career thus far, he has no regrets. Practically speaking, he has never been healthier. “I went back and forth for a little while to decide if it was the right thing for me, I felt like I could really make a difference. Now that I’m committed, I think I can make a lot of good decisions for this city. So, here I am, running.”
Pettit wants voters to know that his is endorsing District two candidate Adrian Alcazar. He stresses the importance of discovering what district you live in prior to the election so you can have an educated voice in the election process.
I must say, after speaking at length with Pettit about “Issues of Substance” (This isn’t about Bird scooters, or leaf blowers.), I am very much excited to see what happens as the campaign heats up. I believe that Pettit is a qualified candidate who could bring a new and different perspective to the important issues facing our city. It never hurts to have an added layer of experience in our city’s leadership. After all, inclusivity is at the very core of “Palm Springs Values.” If I could vote for him, I would.
You can learn more about Street Life Project and all they do at: www.StreetLifeProject.com. Founders Christian and Blaire Jelmberg are on-hand to organize volunteers and answer any questions.
Voting district map: https://arcg.is/yn4e4. You are able to type in your home address and match the color to your district. Pettit urges all residents, not just those in his district, to vote.
Alfie Pettit: Drag Out the Vote!
Phone: (760) 673-8883
Alfie Pettit for Palm Springs City Council, District 3
My FIVE Top Priorities
REAL TRANSPARENCY AT PALM SPRING CITY HALL
As a member of the Palm Springs City Council I will institute “real transparency” inside city hall. We cannot allow aggressive politicians to hijack our city and we must demand to know how they are conducting the “business of the People” when they are behind closed doors and out of the glare of the public.
REPAIRING OUR AGED INFRASTRUCTURE
I will make sure that our sidewalks are safe to walk on, and make sure that our roads are always in pristine condition and safe to drive on. I will make sure that every resident and visitor to Palm Springs has complete accessibility to our shopping areas, Downtown entertainment district, as well as to make sure that Palm Springs is kept beautiful. Keeping Palm Springs Pristine and Perfect is a value we should all work towards.
A SAFE PALM SPRINGS
Let’s face it, most of us live in Palm Springs because we want to live in a loving, safe, compassionate community, that’s why I moved here almost 15 years ago from Los Angeles. As your City Council Member, I will always make public safety my top priority. We cannot and should never tolerate “crimes of opportunity” and we must expand our Neighborhood Watch Programs and to make sure that our Palm Springs Police Department is well equipped with the most dynamic modern equipment needed to fight violent crimes.
A COMPASSIONATE PALM SPRINGS
I am concerned about the homeless crisis that has already destroyed cities such as Los Angeles, and San Francisco here in California. Being homeless in Palm Springs should never be considered “a crime” but an “opportunity” for the entire community to solve this solution. I will set the example as your elected city council member to work together to come up with a solution for homelessness. We cannot allow our public parks and streets to become “homeless encampments,” and we need to be mindful that being homeless in harsh 120-degree weather is just plain unacceptable and deadly. I will work with business leaders, and homeowners to create a master plan to end homelessness here in Palm Springs.
KEEP PALM SPRINGS IN PICTURE PERFECT FOCUS
Let’s face it, if I am elected as a Member of the Palm Springs City Council, I will demand that everyone in our community is treated with kindness, love, compassion, and honor our iconic past especially our rich entertainment history. Palm Springs is a “state of mind” for many folks around the world, but for those of us who live here and who are the heart of our community, and as an entertainer, I will make sure that we keep Palm Springs full of “lights, cameras and action,” and will help to foster a new, dynamic effort to attract a creative and prosperous entertainment community without impeding on our resident’s way of life.