CVIndependent

Fri09222017

Last updateFri, 16 Sep 2016 12pm

After a nasty and bitter campaign to become the mayor of Desert Hot Springs between City Councilman Scott Matas and incumbent Mayor Adam Sanchez, Matas bested Sanchez by just 63 votes.

During a recent interview, Matas said that already being on the City Council helped him settle into the office fairly quickly.

“I think because I was fortunate enough to sit on the City Council for eight years, there really wasn’t a lot of transition for me coming into office,” Matas said. “I think a lot of times, new mayors have made campaign promises and figure out, ‘Oh my God. I got into office, and now I can’t do that!’ So I was very aware during my campaign that anything I said, I was going to be held accountable for.”

However, Matas said he wishes he’d gotten more help with the transition from Adam Sanchez.

“The one thing that’s sad is that my opponent never conceded to me. He never shook my hand; he never congratulated me, and he never transitioned me into his office,” Matas said. “I understand it was a bitter election toward the end, but if I want my programs to be successful that I’ve started, I would transition the next mayor. If I lose my next race, that’s what I plan to do—transition the next mayor into office to make sure he or she is aware of the programs I’ve started and want to see successful in the community.”

Matas said he intends on continuing some of the things Sanchez did during his two years as mayor.

“I’ve spent a lot of time running around meeting with different organizations and different people, trying to see where he started and where he left off, and to keep the momentum going. Little things he did during the two years he was mayor, I want to keep going,” Matas said. “The Martin Luther King Day event is important, and he helped build that event, so I want to see that annually continue. Some of the educational programs he helped build, like Smooth Transitions (a nonprofit that helps at-risk people find employment and education, which recently began serving DHS) … I want to help continue those programs in the community.

“Except for those couple of things I mentioned, I don’t think he accomplished a lot in his two years. One thing he didn’t do that I wish he would have done was set goals for the city staff. On Feb. 5, we’re going to have a meeting with our staff and set some direction.”

Sanchez did help the city move from near-insolvency and near-bankruptcy toward financial stability.

“When I first took office on Dec. 1, I asked the city manager, ‘Do we need to declare another fiscal emergency?’ He said no, and we’re going to have in our mid-year budget about a half-million extra dollars,” Matas said. “At the end of the fiscal year, we’re going to be up $5.2 million. There was no reason to declare another fiscal emergency. We’re healthy. We’re looking out to 2020, which is a fiscal cliff for us with the tax measures ending, so we’re now starting to plan for those measures ending and see if the cultivation of marijuana is going to help our budget overall. We also have to look at the tax measures ending and how much that’s going to take away. If we don’t have those tax revenues in 2020, we could be $4 million in the hole. We have to make sure we measure all that and plan for it.”

While Sanchez did help strengthen the city’s budget, Matas said Sanchez exaggerated his accomplishments when Sanchez claimed during the campaign that the city had accumulated $2.5 million in reserves.

“Mayor Sanchez put campaign banners up that were absolutely not true. We never had $2.5 million in reserves this year,” Matas said. “We were floating with $2.1 million that went down to $1.8 million in ‘cash flow.’ But that’s how you pay your bills: If we put $2.5 million in reserves, the city staff would come back to us two weeks later and say, ‘We have to pay some bills.’ There was no reason for him to say that. … The budget is healthier, and we have to continue to build on that.”

Potential new revenue sources in DHS include a proposed Walmart—and large-scale marijuana cultivation. Matas joked that he previously thought marijuana was consumed simply by “picking a leaf off, rolling it up, and smoking it,” and said he’s learned a lot about the marijuana business—and the healthy amount of revenue it could bring to city coffers. He said he’s also debunked the myth that marijuana dispensaries lead to more crime.

“Cultivation is going to be huge for our community. There are five cultivation operations that are in an approval stage,” Matas said. “The largest one is 1.1 million square feet of cultivation. …. There are many skilled and well-paying jobs involved, and they’re looking for space in the community to start a training program.

“We had our police chief pull numbers, and there were 30 calls for services to the two dispensaries we have open. The 30 calls for service were for things like, ‘Someone looks suspicious outside our store; can you come check it out?’ It’s not contributing to any crime to our community. On the cultivation side, one of them is planning to hire ex-military for their security.”

While dispensaries may not bring an increase in crime, Desert Hot Springs as a whole has crime issues that have painted the city in a negative light. However, things are starting to improve, Matas said.

“Our new police chief, Dale Mondary, has established himself and has good programs going,” Matas said. “The problem with us is we have positive and negative press going every day: They catch some knuckehead doing something stupid, and a press release goes out on social media; it’s a positive and a negative perception on our city. People don’t realize we have less crime than Palm Springs; we get a bad rap for crime.”

For the most part, Matas had kind words about his colleagues on the City Council.

“Yvonne Parks came back to the council after once being mayor. She’s a great ally, and she’ll be there for two years,” Matas said. “Anayeli Zavala is young. She’s 26 and new to politics. She’s probably a little overwhelmed. I know she’s probably been impacted by the community, because anybody and everybody wants to have a conversation with you. She’s made votes on both sides of the issues based on what she believes is best for the city.”

While Matas—a former volunteer firefighter—is generally even-tempered and soft-spoken, he concedes that it isn’t always easy to work with a couple of his fellow council members.

“I think the most stressful thing has been to build consensus with the other council members,” he said. “I have two very strong individuals on the council. Joe McKee is very set in his ways. Russell Betts and I have always had our little differences, but we’ve been working well together.”

Published in Local Issues

Two years ago this month, a couple hundred people—Independent contributors, friends, advertisers and readers—gathered at Clinic Bar and Lounge in Palm Springs to celebrate the launch of our monthly print edition, and the one-year anniversary of CVIndependent.com.

Well, a lot has happened regarding the Independent in the 24 months since then. First and foremost, we’ve managed to keep going, distributing 24 quality print editions and publishing at least three pieces every weekday at CVIndependent.com. We launched our Independent Market, which has delighted readers and advertisers alike by bringing them together with half-price gift certificates. We won a national journalism award. We launched our Supporters of the Independent program. And most gratifyingly, we’ve gained a lot of readers and fans.

I think it’s time to celebrate again, yes?

Join the Independent staff and contributors from 6 to 9 p.m., Friday, Oct. 16, at Chill Bar, 217 E. Arenas Road in Palm Springs, for our Third Anniversary Party. There will be fantastic music, drink specials, door prizes and all sorts of other great stuff. You can also learn more about the Independent’s programs, including the Independent Market, the Supporters of the Independent, and the Independent’s new CV Job Center website, which we just launched.

Also, a tip: If you come up to me and say, “Hi, the Independent rocks!” I may just give you a card for a free drink.

One other thing we’ll be celebrating that night: The completion of the biggest journalism project the Independent has ever tackled.

In mid-September, I set up interviews with all 14 of the candidates for Palm Springs mayor and City Council; Brian Blueskye did the same thing with eight of the nine Desert Hot Springs candidates. (One DHS City Council candidate refused to respond to numerous messages from Brian.)

I asked all of the Palm Springs candidates a set of 10 questions; Brian asked all the DHS candidates a set of 10 questions. We let the candidates answer. We typed up those answers—and you can find the results at CVIndependent.com.

As always, thanks for reading. See you at Chill on Oct. 16!

Published in Editor's Note

It was a simple, four-step exercise:

1. We came up with a list of 10 questions—five serious, issue-based questions, and five questions that are a little more light-hearted—to ask all of the candidates for city office.

2. We set up interviews with all of the candidates.

3. We asked the candidates the 10 questions.

That’s exactly what Desert Hot Springs resident Brian Blueskye did over the last couple of weeks. He interviewed eight of the nine Desert Hot Springs candidates (two mayoral candidates and seven City Council candidates)—everyone except Jeanette Jaime. Brian called her twice and emailed her twice; he even accepted help from another candidate who offered to put in a good word. No dice.

Now, comes the last step.

4. Report the answers to those 10 questions.

Here’s what all of the candidates have to say. We only made minor edits on the candidates’ answers for grammar and style; in some cases, we also edited out redundancies. Finally, in some instances, we did not include portions of candidates’ answers if they went completely off-topic.

Welcome to Candidate Q&A.

Candidate Q&A: Desert Hot Springs Mayoral Candidate Scott Matas

Candidate Q&A: Desert Hot Springs Mayoral Candidate Adam Sanchez (Incumbent)

Candidate Q&A: Desert Hot Springs City Council Candidate Russell Betts

Candidate Q&A: Desert Hot Springs City Council Candidate Larry Buchanan

Candidate Q&A: Desert Hot Springs City Council Candidate Richard Duffle

Candidate Q&A: Desert Hot Springs City Council Candidate Asia Horton

Candidate Q&A: Desert Hot Springs City Council Candidate Yvonne Parks

Candidate Q&A: Desert Hot Springs City Council Candidate Anayeli Zavala

Published in Politics

Name: Adam Sanchez Sr.

Age: 57

Occupation: Mayor of Desert Hot Springs

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?

We have $1.5 million in general cash flow. We also made sure we had $1 million in case of an earthquake, or all the rain we’re going to get this year; we don’t want to be in the position to where we (need) to ask for money from the county to make repairs from a flood or earthquake. It’s our responsibility as a city to manage ourselves. We don’t want to borrow money.

Our priority was to make sure we balanced the budget, had money for cash flow—and financially we’re stable now. A lot of money we were supposed to get from grants, they were holding back because they thought we were going to go into bankruptcy. They told us to wait and see what happens. Now that’s not over our heads anymore, and we did what we needed to do to stabilize the city. We have a true budget, true numbers—and it’s all transparent now.

2. Aside from hiring more officers, what can be done to tackle DHS’ crime rate?

One solution is education. We’re going to bring in a charter school from Moreno Valley called the Rising Stars Business Academy, and they’re certified and accredited in what they’re doing. One of the reasons we’re bringing them out is because the alternative school—they told me they had 140 students there, and wouldn’t tell me what the dropout rate was. My guess is they lose 50 percent of them, because they drop out. But Rising Stars is more one-on-one, and they offer vocational training. It’s for students who aren’t going to go to College of the Desert and who are tired of school. When they’re at Rising Stars, (the school) can connect them to HVAC, being an electrician, learning how to put up solar panels, or learning how to do drywall. Then they wire you to the business community, where you work somewhere. It’s a different approach to dealing with truancy and dropping out of school; a lot of these young people end up going toward that gang culture. Rising Stars is also a nonprofit that can do gang-intervention programs.

3. How do you plan to attract new businesses to Desert Hot Springs?

We’re working on an economic development plan, and it’s working right now. We have Rio Ranch (Market) almost ready to open up. Next to that, we have three residential developments right now, and that’s bringing a lot of contractors here. It shows the market is slowly going to start coming back, and it’s a mark for us with the economy, because the builders are building again because people are looking to buy again. That fuels the economy to create more jobs.

We also have the Walmart. They haven’t finished their environmental impact report. I don’t know how much longer they’re going to wait, but all they have to do is submit that, and the planner we have will analyze it; then it goes to planning, then the council, and that land has been bought already.

We need to work more with small businesses and how can we make it easier for them. One of those things is to not charge a permit fee for a new business owner, and just waive it. The second thing we can do is be a lot gentler when it comes to signage. You have to let small business put their signage up, even if it’s just banners, and extend that from six months to two years. The government needs to get off their backs and make it easy for them to get started. We need to work on that.

4. DHS has a problem with homelessness. What can the city do to fix this?

I think right now, we’re doing what we can. People who are truly homeless and in need of help getting back on their feet will go to Roy’s Resource Center first.

Those who choose to be homeless … we need to come to a consensus in the community to where we have the faith-based (programs) and the food banks (help the homeless, rather than individuals). There are faith-based organizations providing breakfasts and lunches; if you’re homeless, and you need a place to eat, we provide that socially as a community. But one problem is there are those who continue to assist the panhandlers who will be at Del Taco, Subway, Stater Bros. or Vons. They’re panhandling on a regular basis to fuel their addiction, and the majority of it is alcohol. We as kind-hearted individuals, as a city, need to get to a point where we give instead to the food banks and the faith-based organizations. The police department is out there trying to get them off the dividers and get them to understand that if they want to be homeless, that’s the choice they have, but don’t take advantage of the kind-heartedness of the people giving you money.

We need to visit the businesses and reach out to the residents more and develop a homeless strategy.

5. If you could challenge every DHS resident to do one thing, what would that one thing be?

Work closely with Desert Valley Disposal. The reason I say that is because they handle the trash collection and recycling, but one of the biggest complaints we have now from residents is people putting too many items out at one time. Fifty percent of the homes here are either home rentals or apartments. They have a lot of individuals who will be gone in six months. What they do is they throw everything out in the alley or the empty lot next to it and are out within 24 hours. We need to find a way to hold the people who own the homes or rent the homes more accountable. The way we’re doing it now is not beneftting us as a community. The other part is educating the other 50 percent of residents as to how it really works. When they mean two large items per pickup, they mean two large items, not a dozen. A lot of residents don’t understand the process.

6. Palm Drive/Gene Autry or Indian Canyon? Why?

Palm Drive/Gene Autry.

7. Date shake or bacon-wrapped dates? Why?

I’ll take a date shake any day of the week, and I’ll get it at the Windmill Market on Indian Canyon.

8. If someone gave you a $100 gift card to the DHS Kmart, what would you buy?

Usually, when I go in there, I buy pizzas for kids at the Little Caesars. But I think right now, I’d go buy backpacks and educational materials for the kids who are really in need in the community.

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?

This is the only place in the entire world where you have a fault line right down the middle of the city. Because of that fault line, you have the best-tasting water in the world, and the best hot therapeutic water in the world. No one else has that. I’m not talking about the valley, but the world. With the location here, we have the best views. At any given time during the winter, we could have snow on the mountains. View-wise, it doesn’t get any better than this. During the evenings, Palm Springs doesn’t have sunsets because of the mountains—but we have sunsets. We also have wind, which means we also have wind energy, plus we have solar energy. I consider it one of the best places in the world.

10. Award-winning water from the tap, or bottled water?

Tap! No bottled water. My wife and kids buy bottled water because they’re spoiled. 

Published in Politics

Name: Scott Matas

Age: 44

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. 

Published in Politics