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Sat11172018

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

When Desert Hot Springs Mayor Scott Matas defeated then-Mayor Adam Sanchez in 2015, the city was recovering financially after narrowly avoiding bankruptcy.

Today, the city’s finances are on solid ground—thank you, marijuana!—but Desert Hot Springs still faces a lot of challenges and issues, all of which will be on the minds of voters when they head to the polls on Nov. 6.

Matas is running for re-election to a two-year term, and he’s facing relative political unknown Stephen Giboney.

Matas says he wants to keep the city’s progress going; Giboney views the city as having many problems that have potential small-government solutions. We recently spoke to both of them; here’s what they had to say.


When I met with Matas at the RV resort that he manages, he described what he hopes to accomplish over the next two years.

“My focus will be getting the new City Hall up and running, because that’s important for our image,” he said. “Public safety-wise, I’ve been talking about building a fire station on the east end of the city for a long time. We’re finally at a point where we have a fire chief who believes we can build a fire station there. Finding the capital money to do it, I think we can do that over time, but the problem is staffing it on a regular basis at a million dollars a year. My goal before I leave office, hopefully in two years, is to make sure we’ve at least broken ground on the new fire station.

“Financially, I want to make sure we stay on the same path we’re on now. We put $8.5 million in the bank for our reserves … so if anything happens like we had happen in 2012 and 2013, where we had $400 in the bank, we’ll now have the reserves to fall back on.”

Matas touted his economic achievements.

“Economic development is really starting to build in Desert Hot Springs, and not just with the marijuana industry,” he said. “Our consultants are starting to bring businesses in, and we recently signed a contract with Grocery Outlet to bring them into our community. … A lot of politicians use quality of life as one of their points; I use youth (and) seniors, because it matters all the way up. Our senior services are better now with the Mizell Senior Center there for us. Youth services are getting better with the recreation center and youth sports. We’re working on some at-risk youth programs, and we are bringing back our PAL program.”

A lot of DHS residents are concerned about increasing rents; however, Matas said he was not sure whether the city should get involved.

“It’s tough in our community, because you can only control so much. Do you bring in rent control or not?” he said. “Our community is anywhere from 40 to 50 percent rental properties. Because of the recession, a lot of buyers came into the city and bought a lot of properties and … now they’re starting to raise the rent. My wife and I got married about a year ago, and we leased a house for a couple of years while we were getting ready to buy. We bought a house and just left the house we were leasing, and the rent on that house went up about $200. The market is there for the homeowners to raise the rent; the question is, does a city government step in and try to regulate that? I try not to get involved in that type of business.

“If the rent goes up, does that mean there are more jobs out there, and people are being paid more? Possibly. We would have to do the analysis, and it’s a tough question, because we haven’t been approached to do that yet.”

Matas dismissed concerns held by some citizens that the marijuana industry could bring in more crime.

“When it comes to the marijuana industries in the industrial area, I always tell people that’s one of the safest areas you’ll ever be in. The product growing out there, 99 percent of it leaves the community and never reaches any of our dispensaries,” he said. “The marijuana industry, when it comes to dispensaries in the city, most people are respectful; they know from the medical side of things that you go buy it; it’s in a brown bag; you take it home, and you use it responsibly or as prescribed. Same with the recreational side: You can’t walk around with it or use it on the streets. We have nothing related to crime going up based on the marijuana industry. If anything, it stayed the same or lowered because of these armed guards at these locations. … I think we have a bigger problem with heroin and prescription drugs in our community. That leads to petty crime, because people need to find ways to support their addiction.”

While Matas said this will likely be his final term, he didn’t rule out running again if he feels the need.

“My wife, Victoria, has been my rock. It’s no secret that I had a couple of marriages before her. I did a lot of good things good in my life, but some relationships haven’t been the greatest,” Matas said. “I raised my sons alone for the most part, and my youngest son was getting ready to graduate high school when I met Victoria. I never thought I’d get married again. She really energized me and thought I’d be a good mayor. I thought I was going to finish my term on the council and ride off into the sunset, because it takes up a lot of time, but she convinced me to run for mayor. But one thing I’ve learned as mayor is family is very important: I make sure Sundays are my day off. I have support from this company I work with to take Tuesdays off to go be the mayor, and we have a great staff now.

“Our City Council over the last two years has worked well together. We debate respectfully, and when it’s done, we move on. It’s not like the arguments in the past where we used to scream at each other. I love it right now.

“If I’m re-elected for two years, I’m most likely done, and that will have given me 13 years at that point of serving my community,” he said. “I spent 20 years as a volunteer firefighter, and two years as president of Food Now. My wife says, ‘Don’t ever say for sure.’ If it’s a perfect world for me in two years, I can support someone trying go in the same direction I want to leave the city. If there’s no one in two years, I might have to reconsider. But (as of) right now, after this term, I’m done, and I’ve served my community.”


Aside from a few YouTube videos and a radio interview related to the subject of geoengineering and chemtrails, there’s not a lot of information out there about Stephen Giboney—and many residents were downright puzzled by some of the things he said during a recent debate that was broadcast on Facebook.

After sitting down with Giboney at Starbucks in Desert Hot Springs, I found that he has some strong opinions on the city.

“I was tired of waiting to see some of the problems I see in this city be fixed,” Giboney said. “The city can thrive, and I don’t see it thriving. It mostly has to do with the perception of the city. Even if it’s better than Palm Springs, it’s still perceived as poor. I don’t see anything changing, and I have a real problem with the crime rate in this town. It can be handled much better than it is.

“First of all, I believe the city has to stop encouraging miscreants from coming here, and I believe (the city) encourages them to come here,” he said before delving into some confusing territory. “You get into a system that is more underground and more of a spoken system where it’s nothing you can track on paper. We know what it is. But how do we put it in terms where we can publish it? It’s happening. You see new people coming through the city all the time. When you have a city government that always wants to look good, they aren’t going to give out information that they don’t have to. We have to read between the lines as to what’s going on. The latest thing I heard from the mayor is, ‘It’s not illegal to be homeless.’ That seems to be his way of addressing it, which is not really addressing it.”

Giboney said he supports marijuana decriminalization, but he is not a fan of many elements of the industry.

“I believe in the free market. If you’re a legal business, and you’ve applied and been approved, I have no problem with that kind of business,” he said. “… (But) I believe there’s an agenda. California has been very interested in marijuana since the early 1900s, and they’ve been implementing things since the ’70s. It’s not a small industry. This is a very controlled industry, and there are a lot of hands in that industry that they don’t talk about. Eventually, it’s going to be a big-pharma thing. At the small grassroots level of the industry, I have no problem with it. I’m for total decriminalization of the product across the board. I want it to be no more dangerous of a product than tomatoes.” 

He elaborated on his views.

“Government likes to run in debt. Our federal government is in debt; our state is in debt; and our city is in debt. They may not say it’s in debt, but they have $14 million in liabilities they they’re responsible for. My belief is that if an industry is coming into a city and offering a financial supplement to the tax base, fine. But what’s going to happen is the city is going to take that income and boost it up to where they’re going to go into debt more. That gives them the freedom to go that much higher in debt. They don’t use (the new revenue) to pay down their debt; they use it to justify spending even more.”

Giboney is not a fan of the city’s taxation of marijuana, either, even though the voters approved the taxes.

“I can’t stand bullies, and I believe the government stands there exploiting the lack of information in the heads of the average voter. They exploit that,” he said. “(The voter initiative approving the marijuana tax) was passed saying they were going to tax the retail side of it and the manufacturing side. What came out shortly after the cultivators started to come in was the cultivators were writing the rules of the city. If you want to ignore the history of how government is controlled by special interests, you can say, ‘Yeah, they voted for it. Isn’t that great?’ History tells you that they have no voice.”

Giboney said he sees rising rents to be a continuing trend—and claimed there’s already a solution in place.

“There’s an exodus from Los Angeles and San Francisco, and people can’t afford to live in those cities anymore. What that causes is competition for the same houses here,” he said. “People will do the same work and move outside of a city to lower the cost of living. … Part of what’s going on is people want the same house, and they’re going to raise the prices up. That’s supply and demand, and it’s a simple concept.

“There are federal and state programs that are mandated for cities to follow to provide a certain percentage of housing to lower income. I believe that this city and its residents have been exploited, again, for their lack of understanding of these programs. There (are special) interests that live in the city. … It’s not creating a new program, just taking advantage of what’s already there.”

Giboney explained what kind of mayor he would be if elected.

“I would be a knock-on-your-door, drive-through-your-neighborhood, go-to-your-meetings mayor,” he said. “The purpose of the mayor is two things: You have to run the City Council meetings and learn the system. The second thing is you have to be a figurehead for the city. You have to go out and ask people, ‘What is wrong in your community?’ so that there is a regular back-and-forth. The mayor is a liaison between the city and the people, so that the people have an ear to tell what their problem is. If someone tells you something about it, because if you don’t do something about it, you’re not doing your job.”

Published in Politics

Let me tell you a little story that illustrates how what we do here at the Independent is different from what most other valley publications do.

At first glance, nothing seems too complex or crazy about “Turnout Turmoil,” Brian Blueskye’s recent political story (which serves as the cover story for our October 2017 print edition). Essentially, it’s an 1,100-word story about a recent change in state law regarding when cities and other local governments have their elections, and how local cities are dealing with this new law.

Simple, right? Actually, it’s not simple at all.

The story behind the story: Brian worked on this piece, off and on, for six weeks. This was initially slated to be last month’s cover story, but we shelved it because, after two weeks of work (again, off and on), we were still figuring things out.

Turns out we weren’t, and aren’t, the only ones still figuring things out. The law, signed into effect by Gov. Jerry Brown two years ago, mandates this: If local governments don’t hold their elections on the same dates as statewide/federal elections, and they have been seeing a significantly lower turnout than statewide/federal elections, they have to move their elections to the same dates as those statewide/federal elections.

Unfortunately, the language in this new law is confusing as hell. This has left cities, school boards, water boards and other local governments around the state scratching their figurative heads as they try to determine whether or not they, in fact, have to move their election dates. Locally, three cities may or may not be affected by this new law. One has decided to move its election immediately; another has decided not to move its election for now; and the third doesn’t yet know what it is doing.

Because of all the confusion, some officials were slow to get back to Brian; others never did get back to him. Of course, Brian, too, needed to take a lot of time to figure out what the law meant (while working on everything else he had to work on, of course).

Some other publications in town are satisfied with running press releases. Yet others are content with simple, easy, space-filling pieces. (And don’t get me started on the publications that take paid advertising and present it as editorial, without disclosing that.)

Here at the Independent, we don’t do any of that. While we’re far from perfect, we do our best to make sure our reporting is fair and accurate—even if we tackle a complex issue, and it takes us six months to figure things out.

As always, thanks for reading the Independent. Don’t hesitate to contact me with feedback or questions, and be sure to pick up the October 2017 print edition, hitting streets this week.

Published in Editor's Note

On Sept. 1, 2015, California Gov. Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 415 into law.

SB 415 was definitely well-intentioned: It mandates that cities and other “political subdivisions” move their elections to the same dates as statewide elections—unless their elections have had a high-enough turnout percentage in recent years. Cities and other political subdivisions are required to have a plan in place by the start of 2018 to move their elections by 2022.

The goal was to increase turnout—often quite low—in elections for seats on city councils, school districts, water boards and other local government bodies, in areas where elections were held on dates that did not match the dates of statewide and federal elections.

Unfortunately… all SB 415 has really done so far is confuse the heck out of everyone.

Three cities in the Coachella Valley have, up until now, held elections on dates different from those of state and federal elections: Palm Springs and Desert Hot Springs have held municipal elections in odd-numbered years, while Rancho Mirage has always held its city elections in even-numbered years—but in April, not November.

Because confusion reigns, the cities are each handling SB 415 differently as of now. Palm Springs isn’t changing a thing; Rancho Mirage isn’t sure what it’s doing yet; and the members of Desert Hot Springs’ City Council voted to immediately switch the city’s election date—generously extending each of their own terms by a year.

California State Sen. Ben Hueso introduced the bill in July 2015. Ana Molina-Rodriguez, a member of Hueso’s staff, explained the bill.

“Starting in 2018, any local government holding an election off-cycle that results in a voter turnout that is 25 percent less than the average voter turnout in the past four statewide elections will have to consolidate,” she said. “When we started looking at the odd-numbered-year elections compared to the gubernatorial elections or the presidential elections, the incredibly low turnout rates were why we drafted this bill.”

The bill’s language that determines whether a city or other political subdivision has to move its elections—“the voter turnout for a regularly scheduled election in a political subdivision is at least 25 percent less than the average voter turnout within that political subdivision for the previous four statewide general elections”—has left elections officials across the state scratching their heads.

The city of Palm Springs has determined its elections have had a high-enough voter turnout to stay right where they are.

“We have elections in odd-numbered years, and at this time, our city is not required to conform to the even-year-number election requirement,” said Cindy Berardi, of the Palm Springs City Clerk’s Office. “For the time being, our elections will remain in the odd-numbered years. Based on the voter turnout, our city does not need to switch to the even-numbered-year elections.”

Rancho Mirage, which holds vote-by-mail elections in April every even-numbered year, is still determining whether or not it will need to change.

“That is something that our city attorney is going to have to determine,” Rancho Mirage City Clerk Kristie Ramos said. “If it turns out that we need to change, we have until January 2018 to determine what we’re going to do. But we haven’t made a decision yet.”

In Desert Hot Springs, the City Council members extended all of their own terms and called off the scheduled 2017 municipal election in favor of an election in 2018 … sort of. The city will still ask residents to come to the polls this November, to decide on Measures B and C, which would extend tax funding for public safety services in Desert Hot Springs.

Desert Hot Springs City Clerk Jerryl Soriano said that because of the city’s low voter turnout for municipal elections, DHS had to comply with SB 415. The City Council members voted unanimously for the change—and the one-year extensions of all their own terms—in March. She said she presented various options to the council.

“The bill goes into effect in January 2018,” Soriano said. “The bill states that the cities need to have a plan by January 2018. Whatever plan the city chooses has to go into effect by the 2022 statewide election. I presented different options to the council. The first one, that they went with, was to move this year’s election to November 2018.”

Desert Hot Springs Mayor Scott Matas explained why he and the City Council members decided to move the election to 2018, and extend all of their own terms by a year.

“We talked about the different options we had,” Matas said. “That was what was decided by the City Council, and there was no opposition from the public on it, so we went ahead and voted on it. We could have had an election this year, and it could have been a one-year term for the mayor and a one-year term (for the City Council members whose seats would have been up for election).”

In Desert Hot Springs, the mayor is usually elected to a two-year term, while four members of the City Council are usually elected to four-year terms.

“Being mayor, I can say it’s hard to get a lot of things done in two years, because that’s what my term is, but to have a one-year term as mayor, it would be a little tough,” he said. “It was something we took to the public, outlining the different options. … We could go to a (one-time) one-year cycle for mayor and three-year cycle for the council. Or we could go backward and extend our terms by a year to make everything even.”

Beyond all of this confusion, the political science on whether there is a true public benefit to moving these elections remains unclear.

Yes, there will be an increase in voter turnout by moving city elections in places like Desert Hot Springs and Los Angeles to the same dates as state elections. On the other hand, lower-level elections tend to get lost in the shuffle when they’re held at the same time as state and federal elections; odd-year city council elections don’t have to compete with legislative, congressional and presidential races for attention. There is also the issue of “voter fatigue”—some voters get overwhelmed by huge, complex ballots during consolidated elections and skip ballot items toward the end.

Putting aside the pros and cons of various election dates, officials from California cities can agree on one thing: SB 415 could have been written a lot more clearly.

“Good luck reading that and understanding all of it,” Matas said. “It was confusing to us, too.”

Jimmy Boegle contributed to this story.

Published in Politics

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