Desert Hot Springs Mayoral Candidate Special ‘Yvonne Parks’
Following are key excerpts from interviews with the candidates by Desert Star Weekly. While our transcripts have been edited for length, redundancy and organization, the context of every response highlighted here has been preserved.
Parks on DHS Now: “Overall, as far as the infrastructure, recreation for our youth and seniors, our medical clinic that’s opening in a couple of weeks, our new Health and Wellness center — all that is very good.
“We’re having some difficulty with our budget. The projected budget is $18 million and projected revenue is $16 million. So we’re behind by about $2 million — maybe a little bit more. We’re looking every month at expenses and revenues so that we can try to keep expenses down. We’ve had a high increase in sales tax year over year, and our assessed valuation for property tax is up. If the trends continue upward, we may have more revenue than we anticipated. But we’ll cut wherever we can.
“Something we’re going to be looking at is how much we’re allocating to each department. The way we should start is say, ‘Okay, this is how much you have. Show me how you can make it work.’ But let each department have the opportunity to come back to us and say, ‘We can make it work on that budget,’ instead of us telling them we’re going to make cuts.
Parks on Developing Business: “When I was elected mayor in 2007, we knew two things for sure: We had to improve infrastructure and reduce crime. If you don’t have a safe and clean community, you will never attract investment. We have worked very hard — putting 48 miles of (repaved) streets in, getting graffiti under control. You have to make your city attractive, we’ve done that.
“Instead of us going to the businesses, the businesses now are coming to us. We feel very positive for the next four, six, 10 years. And that’s how long it takes in economic development; it doesn’t happen overnight. (Investors) like a stable government.”
“The last report from the economic development consultant was that there are 15 active projects. Five of those are already in the permitting process, the others we’re still working on. If that trend continues, five, 10 years from now, we’ll have shopping opportunities that all of our residents want and deserve.
“Walmart saw, after their research, that they needed a bigger store here — a Super Walmart. So they had to do another environmental impact report. My feeling is, they’re not going to do anything until after the election. They know a couple candidates are backed by the unions, and the unions do not want Walmart — especially the grocery unions.”
“Experience shows, regardless of what anybody says about Walmart, when Walmart comes, (other businesses) follow — because they know Walmart has done their homework. Look what happened at Monterey and I-10 once Walmart and Sam’s Club went in.”
Parks on Promoting Tourism: “We have a wonderful hotelier’s association. Up until this budget year, we budgeted the hotelier’s association $50,000 for marketing and billboards. They have a wonderful radio ad for the drive-in traffic (from) Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange County. We have to take another look at restoring the marketing budget to the hoteliers to promote our city, because they know how to do it best. I believe you need to spend money to make money.”
Parks on Reducing Spending: “I am not in favor of cutting personnel or salaries. Our staff is the hardest-working in the Coachella Valley. With the number of hats they are wearing, they’re well worth the money they’re getting. I’m willing to give up 50 percent of my travel, it that helps.
“We have contracted almost all of our services because of the benefit package that we have to provide to an employee. California’s Public Employee Retirement System, which all public employees in the state are in, is killing us. They’re not making any cuts (at the state government level), so contracting is the answer. Fewer staff, more contracts. We look at the best-qualified for the lowest price.
“(Opponents) are complaining about the code enforcement contract. We had been paying upwards of $900,000 a year for code enforcement. It’s been very cost-recovery because we’ve had an income from code enforcement of over a $1 million a year (in fines). We’ve got seven code enforcement technicians on the streets with the current contract of $750,000. The only way we’re going to cut it is by cutting the number of code enforcers. And I can’t see cutting back on the cleanliness of our community. We have to keep that for economic development and pride of ownership.”
Parks on Passion for Leadership: “I’m very passionate about this community. When I moved here in 1994, there were about 15,000 people. We had one street light. We had one development. The city did not know how to work with contractors or developers.
“I got on the planning commission. I became an executive member of the chamber of commerce. I joined the Women’s Club; I’ve been a member since about 1995 and I was president for three years. I’m a member of the rotary, the Elks. I’ve been very active in the community and I know that there are a lot of wonderful people here that really deserve a good quality of life.
“We really need the team of Parks, (council member Scott) Matas and (council member Jan) Pye to move forward. The three of us have worked very hard on a vision for this city. We developed the downtown Vortex-specific plan — with a theater, restaurants and nice apartments where people could live and work downtown — several years ago, and we’ve got the zoning for that.
“We also have a Miracle Hill plan around Cabot’s Museum, which is sitting right on the hot water, and that is to have a Glen Ivy (Corona, Calif.)-type spa facility plus a trailhead right into Joshua Tree National Park. It’s a matter of getting developers interested and putting their money where our ideas are.”
Parks on DHS Tomorrow: “From Day One, my goal has been to provide a city where our residents can work, eat and play. Our vision statement is that we’re a destination resort community. I want more hotels and shopping — that’s what I’m going to be concentrating on in this term. The for-fee doctors have already started making inquiries, because what we had to take care of our (medically) uninsured population, which we’re doing with the coming Borrego Community Health Foundation on Palm Drive.”
“I would love, at the intersection of Palm and I-10, another Jackson Street development — with tons of other stores. Desert Dunes golf course is working on annexation into the city and has big plans for its property.”
“I know the (business) people; I’ve worked with them. They see this council as a workable one and they’re supporting us. I’m very excited about seeing all of this come to fruition, because when it does, this city will be the destination we all dreamed about.”