Mayor Parks Approves Benefits for Other Cities
DESERT HOT SPRINGS, CA – When does a council member speak for the city without first seeking the formal approval of the city council where they serve? That is a question at the center of a brewing conflict on the Desert Hot Springs City Council.
Continuing down a familiar path, mayor Yvonne Parks recently sent a letter on behalf of the city endorsing enterprise zones in California. A statewide debate is underway over their effectiveness.
Twice the city has taken the position that enterprise zones creates an unfair advantage for communities that compete with Desert Hot Springs’ economic development efforts. To put an end to that unfair advantage, the city has twice applied for enterprise zone status, both times being rejected.
Yet despite those formal positions of the city council, a February 6, 2013 letter unilaterally initiated, signed and sent by Yvonne Parks says “The City of Desert Hot Springs formally supports the positive benefits of the Enterprise Zone Program in local communities and on a statewide economic level.”
It is a position that never came before the city council for approval.
“Yes I have a problem with the Mayor acting unilaterally without first obtaining council approval,” said Councilman Russell Betts. “She did this before when she volunteered our city to be an overnight homeless shelter without authorization and when she voted to support the 1e11 electric parkway [Golf Cart Path] despite a council vote against it.”
Russell Betts said he suspects if the matter were to come before the council a majority of the council may well think it is a good idea to support enterprise zones but that he does not support enterprise zones when their benefits do not include the city he was elected to represent.
“If you look at the significant disadvantage our city is placed in by not having an enterprise zone while neighboring areas do, there is a good case to be made why we should not be supporting a statewide initiative on this subject” said Russell Betts.
“The immediate problem, though is not that Yvonne [Mayor Parks] putting other area’s interests ahead of our city, it is that she acted on her own without obtaining required council concurrence,” said Betts.
The letter from Yvonne Parks was created on city stationary and sent to the Department of Housing and Community Development in Sacramento.
Businesses locating in a state designated enterprise zone receive tax breaks and other favorable advantage. Those advantages lure those businesses to other areas and act as a disincentive to locate in cities like Desert Hot Springs that do not have a enterprise zone designation.
The industrial park in Desert Hot Springs is nearly empty of business while the industrial parks off Bob Hope and on the south north side of the freeway going north all the way to Coachella in the Enterprise Zone are filling up with businesses and associated local jobs.
Spectrum Cabinets, a Desert Hot Springs cabinet manufacturer that is located in the city’s industrial park has spoken of relocating to an Enterprise Zone for those advantages. It is harder for a manufacturing company outside of an enterprise zone to compete.
Defending enterprise zones, Parks said “Enterprise zones provide a geographically targeted economic development tool designed to improve poor and blighted communities.
“It looks to me as if Yvonne is doing her best to encourage a local manufacturer and three dozen jobs to say goodbye to Desert Hot Springs,” said Russell Betts. “I don’t see how this helps us.”
Councilman Russell Betts, who has a manufacturing business background, said the city’s focus should first be on economic development inside the city where council members are elected to serve.
Sacramento is discussing elimination of enterprise zones as it is unfair to neighbor cities, is a way for certain businesses to avoid paying their fair share of taxes and has been a cash cow for consultants without creating new jobs.
The homeless shelter referenced by Betts deals with an invitation to Coachella Valley cities to use Desert Hot Springs as an overnight shelter for Valley homeless. In 2008, Parks secretly gave the OK to locate the homeless shelter in a residential neighborhood off Mountain View.
Homeless people were bused into the neighborhood from as far away as Indio to the east and as far away as Yucaipa to the west. The homeless from out of town were left wandering the neighborhood after they were bused in for the night.
Both the police chief and city council were not aware of the mayor’s actions until the story broke on television news. As a result of a crime spree in the area and neighbors’ complaints, the fire marshals and police stepped in to shut it down.
On the golf cart path, the city council voted not to support funding for the path because the project was in competition with the city for funding from the CPV Sentinal power plant. Despite that vote by the council, Parks voted in favor of funding for the Golf Cart Path at a Coachella Valley Association of Governments meeting.
For over 40 years Dean has been published in a variety of small newspapers and magazines. As publisher he founded an alternative city weekly newspaper in 2008 and published over 200 uninterrupted issues over 4 years to over 20,000 readers via 800 locations (and online) before selling the business.
Dean is a Master Carpenter and the author of the biography of Hilda M Gray, desert homesteader.
In 2014 he was appointed Planning Commissioner for the city of Desert Hot Springs, California.
Dean M Gray is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors and lives in Desert Hot Springs, California.