Name: Scott Matas
Occupation: Marketing, DHS City Council member
Interview: In person
1. Describe the city’s current budget situation. How do you plan to balance the budget and take care of the city?
The city has obviously been through a financial crisis over the past couple of years. Politically, I think it was taken out of context. There’s $2.9 million in our cash-flow account, which is to pay the bills. That’s basically what our city manager said earlier this year and said, “I need you to make sure you have enough in cuts.” We believe that the tax revenue coming in from medical marijuana is also helping. In December, we get another push from property tax. In January, we’ll do a mid-year review to see where we’re at.
2. Aside from hiring more officers, what can be done to tackle DHS’ crime rate?
We need to go back to a community-policing model. We know Prop 47 released a lot of offenders back into the local cities without any money to counter it. The individuals doing the smaller crimes are getting released faster and going back to those crimes. Part of my plan is to build a rehabilitation center for prisoners coming out of the system. The parole department had a couple of them in the state, and I went to visit the one in San Diego; it’s very successful and has an 80 percent success rate. Youth is always a problem when they grow up in a poor neighborhood and commit crimes, so we need to focus on the youth programs. We have 50 different programs, and people talk about how there’s nothing for the youth to do. Well, parents aren’t getting them to where they need to be.
3. How do you plan to attract new businesses to Desert Hot Springs?
I sat on the Economic Development Committee for five years as a co-chair. We had an award-winning plan through the state of California, but unfortunately, the current mayor became leader of the committee, and he devastated that committee and took everyone off of it. I want to bring that plan back; I want the City Council to go out and believe in spending a couple hundred dollars to send City Council members to international conferences, and get back on track with that.
Also, we need a red-carpet program similar to the one we had three years ago. We have to roll out the red carpet and say “You’re important; we want you to come to our community; here’s the process to make sure you have what you need, and a line that you can call to someone to get through that process as quick as possible.”
4. DHS has a problem with homelessness. What can the city do to fix this?
You can’t fix homelessness. We had a bad homeless problem going back 10 years ago. We had a camp near the back of the Kmart with 20 people living in it. We had a shopping center full of panhandlers all day. We also work with Roy’s Resource Center to come up here and convince the individuals to go through their program.
The problem with homelessness is that it’s not because they want to be homeless; it’s usually because of addiction problems and/or mental illness. The mental-health services building built in DHS by the county only helps mental-health patients 62 or older. I want to go back to (County Supervisor) John Benoit and say, “We really need to do something about that, and we need your help”; 62 and older is important, but what if we opened that range up to 19 to 110? That would help everybody with mental-health issues. Roy’s Resource Center can assist them with that, but trying to get (homeless people) there is always an issue.
When you have a small encampment, it only gets bigger and bigger. We can’t just bring food and water to them; we need to offer them the services they need to get out of that lifestyle.
5. If you could challenge every DHS resident to do one thing, what would that one thing be?
Service to your community. Donate a can of food to Food Now; pick up trash with the pickup crew; or just find a way to give back; that’s all I’m asking. Our community is always in need of something, and we don’t need to start any more programs, because there are enough of them out there, and I believe the city is covered.
6. Palm Drive/Gene Autry or Indian Canyon? Why?
They are two of our main entrances. In 2007, I was elected in a special election, and later that year after the general election, Yvonne Parks was elected mayor. In 2008, she was switching the committees around and appointed me to the transportation committee. I was a public-safety guy and a volunteer fireman, and she told me, “You’ll really like transportation, and I really need you on that. We need you to help get these interchanges done.” We had over 7,000 people leaving the city every morning for work, and there was a lineup of cars from the freeway all the way back into town. It was a terrible drive. I became part of the transportation committee, and I put together a coalition that included Palm Springs and Cathedral City, and there was money being funneled back into the east end, and we said, “No, we’ve been waiting 20 years for these interchanges.” So we fought hard on these two committees and got our way: $40 million to get these interchanges done.
7. Date shake or bacon-wrapped dates? Why?
I’ve never had bacon-wrapped dates, but I had a date shake once, and I loved it.
8. If someone gave you a $100 gift card to the DHS Kmart, what would you buy?
I’m recently engaged, and my fiancée has three young daughters from ages 5-11. I also have two sons; one of them is 23, and the other just started college and is 18. So right now, after ordering books and supplies for college, I would probably take my youngest son shopping and give him $50, and $50 to my girls to buy whatever they wanted. I’m a softie when it comes to the kids.
9. If someone walked up to you and told you that DHS was the worst place to live in California, what would your response be?
I’ve had that. We just had that ridiculous RoadSnacks article. I would tell them that I was born and raised here, we went through a very hard period in the ’90s, but it’s really progressed since then. It’s been up and down when it comes to politics, and when it comes to crime, but I don’t think crime is because of the residents, but because of the state and Prop 47. Dodger Stadium can fit 59,000 people; we only have 28,000 people living in this city, which is half of that stadium. If you look at it that way, it’s manageable.
10. Award-winning water from the tap, or bottled water?
Award-winning water! My fiancée will buy the bottled water and tell me she needs to travel with a bottle of water, and I tell her, “Fill it up in the sink! It’s beautiful water!” We argue about that. I love the taste of our water, and it’s award-winning.