Votes Against Youth Group Use of City Park
DESERT HOT SPRINGS, CA – Youth sports are universally recognized as a deterrent to crime. The city does not have enough recreational parks to meet the needs of youth baseball, football and soccer. At Tuesday’s council meeting councilman Scott Matas used this logic to throw a hissy fit trying to block a Hispanic soccer organization from using city facilities. He was defeated on a 4-1 vote.
The organization opposed by the councilman is Desert Hot Springs Soccer which operates a year-round program providing recreational activities for hundreds of youth in the region, many poor, nearly all Hispanic.
After more than six months of tumultuous negotiations involving the city’s youth organizations arguing over use of turf, an agreement was finally reached recommending shared use of the city’s one soccer-football park.
Even though no youth group expressed any opposition to the agreement, Mayor Pro Tem Scott Matas said he was “uncomfortable making a decision.”
The Desert Hot Springs Soccer League has been repeatedly challenged by councilman Scott Matas who heads his Parks Committee and serves as Little League president.
Turf War Truce
The Soccer League was required to jump through a lot of hoops in the last year and appears to have satisfied everyone except the councilman. The independent organization was challenged to obtain non-profit status, which they did under the sponsorship by Cal South, a large well-established non-profit organization. That organization was also undermined and disrespected by councilman Scott Matas.
Repeatedly saying it was “rumored that Cal South was falling apart as an organization,” and that the the failure of Cal South “could be a fact in the future,” council member Scott Matas was incredulous and repeatedly pounded on the rumor that the organization was failing despite city staff repeatedly stressing assurances that DHS Soccer “complied with all the requirements” and the sponsor was legitimate and sound.
The councilman sounded oddly obsessive, unreasonable and offensive to Hispanic peoples.
“They have not proven themselves,” said the councilman insisted in reference to DHS Soccer, despite his own admission the Hispanic organization has been using city soccer fields for over a year in cooperation with the city’s other youth recreational organizations.
Adding insult to injury, Councilman Scott Matas also expressed opposition to shared use of youth sports equipment storage on the park site by suggesting that Hispanic organization was somehow untrustworthy since they were relatively new to the city, having only been using city facilities for just over one year. The councilman said that “he knows” that equipment would be stolen if shared storage were approved.
Although city staff made it clear that all the youth sports organizations operating in the city and the city itself were agreeable to the compromise plus that the city council approved a tentative agreement in December, council member Scott Matas continued pressing the issue in disbelief that the Hispanic soccer organization could be trusted.
Desert Hot Springs Soccer has been using the city’s single soccer field as a competitive year-round league in contrast to the American Youth Soccer Organization which is seasonal and geared less towards competition as they guarantee that every child gets a chance to play. Both are trusted to serve the needs of youth recreation.
The dialog got off to a rough start when a young representative from DHS Soccer spoke from the podium answering questions from mayor Yvonne Parks. Councilman Scott Matas interrupted the young Hispanic man by attempting to thwart the free exchange of information, declaring it irregular even though council members – including Matas – frequently engage in the give-and-take question and answering done with members of the public speaking from the podium clarifying agenda item issues.
The attitude and remarks appeared discriminatory.
This shot across the bow was the not the first signal of the councilman’s unusually contentious hysteria in opposing the Hispanic organization. For months, in nearly every meeting discussing the issues, the councilman has found one fault after another with the Hispanic organization.
As the evening wore on the councilman’s arguments were exposed as lacking any merit, leaving the councilman way out on a limb and he appeared content in his self imposed isolation.
During the debate councilman Scott Matas frequently expressed favoritism for longstanding youth organizations that have been in the city for years and spoke in strident opposition to new sports organizations that could come to the city.
“This opens the door for adult soccer leagues… we are understaffed and underspaced… we are overrun as it is,” complained the councilman who continued clutching at straws in a vain attempt to find anything to justify his position.
The Final Vote
Finally, to end the misery, Councilman Russell Betts made a motion to support staff recommendation plus to allow DHS Soccer the ability to use the fields when AYSO and football groups are not in season. The motion was seconded by Council member Adam Sanchez saying he “anticipated a smooth transition” into the new season and requesting Betts to contact the school district to obtain an agreement to use school turf for a 6 week reseeding period.
With his final words once again saying he could not support his city staff recommendation because “there is no way it will work.”
Matas voted no while the other four council members voted yes.