DHS City Council Candidates Speak: Joe McKee
Each candidate was given three questions and a limit of 750 words in which to answer all of them. Following are their responses, which are presented in the alphabetical order of the candidates’ last names.
McKee on Attracting Business:
Our first priority is to raise the average household income to a level that comfortably supports families. This will not be achieved by bringing in more minimum-wage, part-time retail jobs that offer no benefits. We must attract industry with its higher hourly wage scale and benefits package. Because of our unique access to critical resources — abundant energy, transportation infrastructure, open land — we can offer advantageous, competitive sites for development of the manufacturing segment.
We need to develop educational opportunities so that our residents qualify for these higher-paying jobs. In addition to anchoring the downtown business district with a school to train people for better jobs, I believe we should pressure the Palm Springs School District to develop a true vocational education program at Desert Hot Springs High School.
I share with the incumbents a wish to “enhance the Desert Hot Springs shopping experience,” but that cannot be achieved until the poor economic situation of our residents is turned around. My opponents have put the cart before the horse in this case. They have allowed the dream of increased sales tax revenues to blind them to the reality that people do not earn enough to shop for entertainment. City government serves the interests of its citizens, not the other way around. When families prosper, retail business will come, and government income will increase.
McKee on Budget Balancing:
The budget problem we face is not a surprise. The present majority hoped we could grow our way out of the problem, but as early as 2009, consultants warned of huge deficits in 2013 and beyond. The incumbents reacted by increasing spending. They have resisted reducing the salaries and costs of city employees and contractors. According to the Urban Futures report, city salaries, retirement and benefits cost the city $181,000 per employee. These costs amount to 80 percent of the budget.
Spending is our deeper problem. We now spend at a rate 38 percent higher than like cities. Those cities spend at a rate of around $425 per person. Our rate is $670 per person. We need to study these cities to find out how they provide services more efficiently.
Without reducing payroll and streamlining departmental efficiencies, they have no choice but to raise taxes. My opponents say they will not raise taxes but they have not told us how they will reverse the city deficit. If re-elected, councilpersons Matas and Pye will ask you to pay more.
I promise not to raise your taxes or fees. We have to live within our means.
McKee’s Ideal DHS:
In my view, citizens are the future of Desert Hot Springs. It is the responsibility of city government to create a safe environment, maintain infrastructure, educate and nurture our children through recreational opportunities, and perhaps most important, create a business-friendly community that supports its citizens with good wages. Desert Hot Springs has the greatest people in the valley. They are our best resource.
Our town is not a good place to live. It’s a great place to live. We have to get over the continuous media drumbeat that it is dangerous to live here. During every election cycle, all we hear is public safety is our number-one priority, as if there is danger lurking behind every lamppost. Public safety is much more than arresting people. It is fire protection. It is having access to help when you need it. It is an environment where children are educated in a caring, safe environment. It is providing our children with a path to success that does not include gang membership. It is a city where everyone has the ability to earn a living that will support a family without having to work more than seventy hours a week. It is a city in which property values increase because everyone wants to live here.
We spend way too much time fighting and not enough time listening. All of us want a clean beautiful city. All of us have a piece of the puzzle that will get us there. Government is not about getting your way. It is about working as a team. Not a team of three, but a team of five. I promise to provide both leadership and the willingness to work together to reach our goals.