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.
Valdez on DHS Now: “The major issue facing Desert Hot Springs is a budget that is not clearing the hurdle. We simply don’t have the money we’re spending, and there are a lot of reasons. People will give you the ‘Coulda, woulda, shoulda’ story: ‘Oh, well, the economy’s down.’
“Now, I’m an economist. It’s one thing to have a down economy, but mismanagement, bad negotiations — these sorts of things are manageable. My professional background in finance and business management gives me exactly the skills that are required to fit the problems we are experiencing here now. And that’s why I’m running for mayor.
Valdez on Developing Business: “Instead of taking a trip once a year to Las Vegas, which is what our current administration and government does — six people go to a Las Vegas hotel suite, they go downstairs and shake some hands, and then they come back with nothing — I’d be campaigning every single day, like I’m doing right now.
“I’m a known figure all the way across this valley on radio and TV. I’m constantly going, ‘I’m going to need a flower shop. I plan on having more weddings up here.’ Desert Hot Springs has one flower shop and one garden center. I look across (I-10), I see a successful restaurant, and I say, ‘Hey, can I entice you to open a brother or a sister version of your particular type of business in our part of the valley?’ Because once I’m in office, we will be having a mayor that is cosmopolitan and savvy enough to support that kind of a draw.
“And so, because of the person that I am, and having worked at Wells Fargo and Wachovia Securities, and having been something of a personality here in the valley for a long time, I’m known as a voice of reason in (financial and business) matters and I do that work every single day. I don’t have to fly to Las Vegas to do it.
“In fact, I’m thinking of axing that out of the budget. They just spent like $60,000 or $70,000 to fly to Las Vegas. I’m like, ‘I want to see the contracts. Where are those contracts?’ To me, that is the work of every day. It’s how you dress and how you speak. What about all the Canadian Quebecois (persons from Quebec) that come here? They would enjoy the fact that I speak French. I’m fluent in four languages, including Spanish. I will be welcoming people from the four corners of the globe in Desert Hot Springs. We will see an increase in tourism here as a result of my being (in office).”
Valdez on Promoting Tourism: “The city already is a tourist draw. I tell people wherever I go that I live in Desert Hot Springs. I’m not embarrassed about it; I’m proud of it.
“I want to be sure that the branding is ‘The Spa City.’ I want to have an official logo that features the words ‘The Spa City.’ Are you aware of the fact that there is actually no official logo? There’s a logo they use, but it’s not, by law, an official one…. I have since, with the help of a graphic artist, redesigned that logo.
“I would say that we have a strong image problem. And a person of my marketing experience, where I’ve worked for General Motors in six countries and worked for Lancôme all over the world out of Paris, I know my marketing. The breadth of my experience can bring tourism to this city in a way that has just not been explored before.
Valdez on Reducing Spending: “The city has too many, too high-salaried outside consultants. If we already have a city administration staff official appointed to a specific task or office at $175,000 or $120,00 a year — which is fine, if they’re competent people — then why do we need an outside consultant to come in to do their job twice at the same salary? Now that (former city manager Rick) Daniels is gone, I won’t have to offend anyone in saying that some of the consultants that he had on were simply because he didn’t have that kind of expertise.
“As a financial manager, I won’t need an additional consultant to bring me the books to have a look at what’s going on.
“As new people come onboard, you simply hire under more stringent rules. One of the things that I’m going to be looking for is, ‘Do these people really live in the area?’ I have a mortgage in my house; I actually live here. I have skin in the game.”
Valdez on Passion for Leadership: “When I saw the devastation hit California, particularly in this area, I was with Wells Fargo, and I felt morally obliged to go out into the community and tell people how to save their homes because there were all these rip-off artists with respect to loan modifications and so forth. I actually left my position with Wells Fargo and took a non-paid consultant position at The News in Spanish, because half of our city is Hispanic.
“For the last three and a half years, I’ve appeared almost weekly on Univision, where I talk about the economy and finance in my second language. I speak to the community directly. If you call City Hall and can’t speak English, if I’m mayor, you won’t get caught with nobody there to help you. To me, in a city like Desert Hot Springs that’s 50 percent Hispanic, it should almost be a requirement.
“Regarding the Affordable Care Act, as of today (9/27), essentially, Mayor Parks has said nothing about it. Desert Hot Springs is at a lower socioeconomic level. So those residents who are able to get signed up under the insurance are going to end up costing us less in ambulances and other (emergency) resources. Where is the link on the city website to the ACA? With the program coming into being in four days, it’s not there. I would take a leadership initiative to form an ACA bilingual liaison committee to make sure people are informed.”
Valdez on DHS Tomorrow: “Desert Hot Springs has a fantastic police department, which adds safety — and safety does attract investment. The other 50 percent of what attracts investment, and increases property values, is financial stability. I can bring to the table a toolbox of things that will increase the viability of this city by that other 50 percent on Day One.
“This city is the rough diamond in the Coachella Valley. And I expect to be leading the way, along with everyone else, in helping it rise to be the shiniest.”