What’s Making the Yvonne Parks Council Tick
DESERT HOT SPRINGS, CA – It is obvious the Desert Hot Springs city council is not working. The problems are not jabs being thrown by council members at each other or disagreement over issues. It is not a problem of one council member holding one view and another holding another. The problem is far more basic. The council members do not like each other. The threshold of tolerance for each other has been reached and it is spilling over into the council meetings.
The question for those watching this disgusting drama is how to fix it. That answer is also basic. Every two years there is a council election in Desert Hot Springs and the voters get a chance to fix things.
Some may blame voters for electing certain council members in the first place. But with the pickings of council candidates so slim in past elections, who can really blame the voters. With the candidates on the ballot, especially in the most recent mayoral race, who can blame some for thinking that what we have is the best we can get.
God help the city of Desert Hot Springs if that is the case this election. The sad situation on the city council appears to be rising to desperate. The city has a long, long, long history of dysfunctional city councils. This one is simply the latest.
Mayor Yvonne Parks and Crew Playing With Themselves
Mayor Yvonne Parks is frustrated she can’t get her way. Also getting in the way is her emulation of former Mayor Alex Bias when he was mayor. Bias could not get his way. He eventually degenerated so low that his frustration caught him telling [then council member] Yvonne Parks to “go play with herself.”
Frustration boiled over for Mayor Yvonne Parks too when she got caught calling a fellow council member “a son of a bitch.” Mayor Parks has become Mayor Bias. Her frustration is causing Parks to go to equally bizarre lengths to try and exercise control.
Mayor Yvonne Parks blew up during the last council meeting by wanting council members to ask her for permission to go to the bathroom and even to momentarily get out of their chairs to adjust the air conditioning or get a bottle of water. She’s lost control of her self and respect.
Thirsty for Solutions
Councilman Russell Betts got up out of his chair at the last council meeting to get a bottle of water and Mayor Yvonne Parks admonished him to get back to his seat. Betts returned only after getting the water he was after. Betts appeared steadfast in going his own way to irrigate himself. He simply refused to stop in his tracks and instead went right ahead and got the liquid refreshment he was after. He didn’t stop and return to his seat and say please Mayor Parks may I get a bottle of water.
Councilman Russell Betts is also frustrated. He joined the council to fix what he saw as significant problems in city government. For four years he had to bide his time, mostly in a 4 to 1 voting situation. He was the 1.
For those four years Russell Betts had the patience of a saint watching some pretty big mistakes. Too often Betts voted alone, powerless to stop the waste of millions of dollars. His patience is now wearing thin and it is starting to show, especially in his opinion of Mayor Yvonne Parks. Betts might be momentarily absent where he gets up for a bottle of water. But it is Parks’ absence of mind that Betts appears to consider offensive. The result suggests the two should not be in the same room, much less serving together on a city council.
A Piece of Pye
Councilwoman Jan Pye’s involvement is of one willing to return to her chair at the wag of Mayor Yvonne Parks’ finger. That is exactly what Pye did at Tuesday’s meeting when she erred – according to Mayor Parks – by getting up during the meeting to use the restroom. It has been a common practice during meetings for council members to use the restroom and no one has ever raised their hand to ask permission. In fact, speakers are installed in the restrooms so the public and councilors can follow the (long) council discussions.
Tuesday, when council member Jan Pye got up and headed for the restroom, she only made it to the main floor where the public is seated before Mayor Yvonne Parks noticed and made it a public issue. Pye could have kept walking, done her business and returned.
Instead of recognizing the Mayor Bias in Mayor Parks and taking a step to ignore it, Pye reversed her step and embarrassingly returned to her seat beside the mayor at the dais. Pye can’t seem to take a position even when it is obvious to everyone in the room a loony idea has been floated.
Council member Jan Pye went along with the music festival, even though Pye was the one council member with warning of a past music festival debacle. The recent music festival failure was not the first time the city council gave money to a so-called promoter and got nothing in return. It is the second.
Pye is the one person on this council who served on the past council with the added distinction of voting for a failed music festival twice and losing city money on both occasions It seems apparent that independent thinking is not this council member’s strong suit when she is pressured by the council majority. Pye’s frustration is being torn between two voting factions and doing nothing but going along with the majority.
Adam Exposed in the Garden
Councilman Adam Sanchez may be new to the city council but he has a long history in city government. He served as planning commissioner and on several city steering committees. Included in Sanchez’s service to the city is a history of acrimonious run-ins with both Mayor Parks and Councilman Matas. Sanchez has seen his share of jabs thrown at him. That past bad blood spills into the council meetings.
Sanchez tried three previous attempts to gain a seat, coming close each time. Now he is finally seated and trying to get something done. But Sanchez finds he is unable to move the ball. The best Sanchez can hope for is to stay partnered with Betts and be content to stop blunders like the music festival. It take four votes to end discussion at a council meeting.
Together council members Betts and Sanchez can stop any hair-brained scheme simply by talking it to death. That tool has come at a price. A public unaware of council rules has been critical of resulting long council meetings. Sanchez is not at his core only about stopping mistaken initiatives. He wants to get things done. With the present council make up, though, if Sanchez moved that the sky is blue, Matas would immediately argue along with Mayor Yvonne Parks by insisting the sky is green. The meekness of Jan Pye only occasionally breaks ranks from the safety of the council majority and not often enough for Sanchez.
A No Brainer
Councilman Scott Matas’ problem is first his lack of education, and little if any world experience outside of Desert Hot Springs where he has lived all his life. His education was limited to graduating from a small alternative high school in the city. Matas was valedictorian – of a class of five. The school was run by Alon Barak, the previous owner of the Jewish Temple building. Barak is the present owner of $1.4 million of taxpayer’s money, thanks to the vote of Scott Matas.
Understandably, council member Matas is frustrated being the least educated on the city council. A “small man” complex leads to acting tough and Matas over-compensates for deficiencies by attempting to be intellectually macho. This comes off as comical, at other times just mean.
The problem is Scott Matas simply may not have enough upstairs for the job since discussions with the councilman often ends up degenerating to name calling instead of debate, or his simply walking away offended by being challenged. On several occasions he has resorting to openly calling Sanchez and Betts liars when they don’t agree with him and on other occasions walked off the dais in a huff.
The leadership qualities of council member Scott Matas are becoming legendary. Matas is invariably recognized as first to lob snide remarks in a soft voice overturning calm council meetings into acrimony and bickering.
Belief System Auto Pilot
Complex issues appear to easily confound council member Scott Matas. Yet, oddly because of that, Matas often seems best equipped to handle the frustration of a serving on a dysfunctional council. His intellectual blinders are solid when the councilman goes into belief system auto pilot – he believed it once, he believes it now and if he says he believes it often enough he thinks everyone else must believe it with him.
The whole lot of them looks desperate. It will be a desperate situation for Desert Hot Springs if quality candidates do not step forward in the next election. The present city council may not be capable of being fixed, but it can be replaced. The public needs something better.
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. Now online with over 3 million readers worldwide.
Dean is a Master Carpenter and the author of the biography of Hilda M Gray, desert homesteader. He served as Planning Commissioner for the city of Desert Hot Springs from January 2014 to January 2015 when he resigned.
Dean M Gray is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors and lives in Palm Desert, California.