Councilman Russell Betts: Mayor campaign ‘not in the cards’

Just days after telling The Desert Sun that he was open to running for Desert Hot Springs mayor, Councilman Russell Betts has changed his position.0

“It’s just not in the cards this time,” Betts said this morning. “At this point in time, there’s no option open.”

Betts had earlier said he was “not ruling out the option” of challenging Mayor Yvonne Parks this fall.

Betts previously tried to unseat Parks in the 2009 election.

Odd display in Desert Hot Springs

Most city halls prominently display photos of their elected leaders in nicely framed portraits.

But in Desert Hot Springs, it seems Councilman Adam Sanchez isn’t getting the same level of recognition as his colleagues.

Check out the gallery that my newsroom colleague, Kate McGinty, recently spotted at city hall:

That would be Sanchez’s photo, sans frame, taped to an 8-by-10 piece of paper.

We’d like to say that the display is just temporary. But Sanchez has been on council for a year, often irritating at least two of his colleagues by his frequent opposition to the mayor’s ideas.

Desert Hot Springs mayor wants ‘to be queen,’ city councilman says during debate

Desert Hot Springs Mayor Yvonne Parks (left) and Councilman Adam Sanchez

Desert Hot Springs City Council named its new mayor pro tem Tuesday — but not before one scorned city council member repeatedly vowed that he would no longer sit on any committees the mayor appoints him to because of the decision.

Mayor Yvonne Parks asked the council to approve Councilman Scott Matas as mayor pro tem, a selection that is made at the first meeting of every December at the mayor’s recommendation.

Councilman Adam Sanchez, the newest member of the council and the only one who has not served as mayor pro tem, kicked off a feisty 31-minute debate.

He accused Parks of unnecessarily “driving a wedge” between council members by nominating Matas.

“It’s almost like you just want to be the queen,” he snapped.

Sanchez — who sits on the policy and procedures ad hoc committee, which will present to the council in January — said he would prefer a rotating mayor pro tem position.

He warned that the mayor should never again ask him or any other council member why they couldn’t all get along.

“If that’s the way you’re going to continue to lead this council, you’re leading us down the wrong path, and for us to sit here and have to support this is the wrong thing to do,” Sanchez said. “… I will no longer serve on any committee you appoint me to.”

Parks, who said she followed council policy in choosing Matas, contended Sanchez was only upset because she didn’t select him.

“Why didn’t you bring this up earlier? Why didn’t you say something to me earlier? Why now?” Parks asked Sanchez.

After the heated debate, Matas was approved as mayor pro tem, 3-2. Parks, Matas and Mayor Pro Tem Jan Pye voted for the selection. Sanchez and Councilman Russell Betts dissented.

Meanwhile, later in the nearly five-hour council meeting, the council decided without any discussion to abandon the Wellness and World Music Festival after the city paid $265,000 in taxpayer funds.


Politicians hit the fest

Hollywood’s elite flocked to the desert this weekend to attend the Palm Springs International Film Fest gala.

But the red carpet included several political notables well.

Rep. Mary Bono Mack is a regular at the festival that was started by her late husband, Palm Springs Mayor Sonny Bono.

On Saturday, the Palm Springs Republican presented the Sonny Bono Visionary Award to “The Artist” director Michel Hazanavicius.

Florida Rep. Connie Mack, a Republican who is currently campaigning for U.S. Senate, left the campaign trail to join his wife on the red carpet.

The valley’s own senator, Barbara Boxer, also caught up with The Desert Sun on the red carpet.

“It’s the first time I’ve ever done the red carpet, and I’m warming it up for the real stars who are coming behind,” the Rancho Mirage Democrat quipped.

“It is such an exciting festival. And this year seems to me to be even more exciting. They keep getting bigger and bigger and bigger stars and the films are spectacular.”

My Desert Sun colleagues also spotted Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet and Desert Hot Springs Mayor Yvonne Parks at the black tie event.

The film festival runs through Jan. 16.

The lineup features many political films, including a documentary about former Gov. Edmund G “Pat” Brown.

That film – “California State of Mind: The Legacy of Pat Brown” – screens on Friday and Sunday.

**Update on Thursday, Jan 10:

After spotting this blog, one Desert Sun reader sent in photos that showed a small crowd of protesters gathered near the Palm Springs Convention Center on Saturday.

The protesters’ signs called for the ouster of Bono Mack from Congress, and at least one sign also targeted Mack as well.

Mailer touts Baker’s former endorsements

A campaign mailer for embattled Desert Hot Springs Councilman Karl Baker touts the support of four elected leaders who aren’t actually endorsing his re-election.

The mailer describes Baker as “effective,” “experienced” and “endorsed.” It then quotes U.S. Rep. Jerry Lewis, Desert Hot Springs Mayor Yvonne Parks and fellow council members Scott Matas and Jan Pye.

The three city leaders all pulled their endorsements amid allegations that Baker violated the state’s conflict of interest laws.

A spokesman for Lewis, whose district includes Desert Hot Springs, said the Redlands Republican doesn’t make endorsements in local elections.

Baker told The Desert Sun that the mailer was put together before his council colleagues yanked their sup port. Baker said he had permission to use a photo taken with Lewis, but never sought the congressman’s endorsement.

“I did not mean to imply in the mailer that he endorsed me,” Baker said. “What I wanted to do was support the information on the other side (of the flier), which was all the money I brought to the city.”

For more on this story, check out Thursday’s Desert Sun.

Eyeing a comeback

Between a proposed tax hike and Mayor Steve Pougnet’s campaign launch, Palm Springs’ upcoming election garnered plenty of attention this week.

But the Desert Hot Springs’ mayoral race may be just as interesting.

Mayor Yvonne Parks is being challenged by none other than Alex Bias, a controversial former mayor who Parks actually unseated in 2007.

Perennial candidate Robert Bentley has also pulled papers for the seat.

Candidates have until Aug. 12 to qualify for the ballot.

Parks back at dais just 8 days after surgery

Desert Hot Springs Mayor Yvonne Parks is recovering from a June 27 surgery where doctors removed the right half of her thyroid because of tumors.

The tumors were benign, Parks said when she discussed the surgery during last night’s council meeting.

But it has left the energetic mayor’s voice weak and scratchy, forcing her to occasionally stop and take deep breaths in order to be heard.