TUESDAY, MARCH 27
The economy in San Bernardino is so bad that the idea of using one of the closed military bases to traffic in human misery sounds good. A national immigration bill introduced in Congress last week would double space for detaining illegal immigrants to
40,000, build 20 new detention centers on former military bases, and establish three
more U.S. Marshals Service flight hubs for flying the detainees around. Local officials doubt they have the space for the detention facilities, but they’re examining how they can use former military airports to get a chunk of that money. “Obviously, the detainees don’t bring much economic development because they would be incarcerated, they are not paying taxes,” says Emil Marzullo, economic adviser to San Bernardino Mayor Pat Morris. “But there would be an economic benefit” in construction, maintenance and fueling.
WEDNESDAY, MARCH 28
Then there’s this, from the Dept. of It Could Be Worse: A Border Patrol agent fatally shoots a man suspected of illegally crossing the California border from Mexico, just west of Calexico. The agent began shooting because people were throwing rocks.
THURSDAY, MARCH 29
The Big Morongo Canyon Preserve gets 40 acres bigger—it’s now up to 280 acres–thanks to a gift from San Bernardino County. Its property line will extend east along the base of the hills to just about even with the Morongo Valley Dump. Yeah, well, those new 40 acres aren’t exactly the greatest. They’ve been run pretty ragged by off-roaders, and piles of illegally dumped rummage and rusted appliances can be seen everywhere, especially since the Paradise Fire of 2005 killed most of the plants and animals.
FRIDAY, MARCH 30
Residents of Hinkley, a small community of publicity hounds who are apparently angling to bring Hollywood out to the Mojave Desert for another big-budget movie, file suit against San Bernardino County because—get this—they don’t want tons and tons of rotting sewage to fill their air with stench and bacteria. No, that doesn’t sound like a good subject for a movie … except, maybe, as the basis for a stunt in Jackass II. But stranger things have happened—like, the movie Erin Brockovich, which was pretty much the last time anybody heard anything about Hinkley. That movie told the story of a hot, buxom secretary (it’s still a mystery how Julia Roberts got that role, let alone won an Oscar) who became an environmental activist and helped force Pacific Gas & Electric Co. to pay a $333 million settlement for allegedly polluting the Hinkley’s groundwater with Chromium 6. This time, Apple Valley-based Nursery Products LLC plans to spread the sludge left over after raw sewage is treated at a sanitation plant—think: cookie-dough, but coming out your butt—across 80 acres of Mojave Desert and let it compost. In February, the Board of Supervisors voted unanimously in favor of the project, but the lawsuit alleges the Supes’ approval violated state environmental laws. Meanwhile, I gotta take a dump.
SATURDAY, MARCH 31
Editor Howard Markle is on fire—again—in the latest issue of the Desert Independent in Blythe (www.thedesertinde.com), which is must reading for anybody who loves to hear a man shouting in the wilderness: “At the risk of beating a dead horse, here we go again pointing a finger at the crassness and corruption of education. But let’s first congratulate all the parents, students, teachers, board members, and administrators who in spite of the "system" manage to do a noteworthy job of it. In order to do so, they must take chances by defying the system, a system that’s good only for draining the tax coffers into slush funds, textbook companies, and building contractors, to name just a few. None of this is in print, except here. No education authority wants to examine the documents that drive the system, in this case into the ground. No, we are not talking about the stupidity and negligence of the district when it comes to maintaining the swimming pools, and other forms of incompetence. That horse is dead already.”
SUNDAY, APRIL 1
The cost of getting the hell out of Orange County climbs suddenly and dramatically as increases in rush-hour tolls on the 91 Express Lanes take effect, two days after they are announced. Rates rise from 75 cents to $1 per trip, depending on what day and time you try to use the 10-mile stretch of lanes–which run down the middle of the 91 freeway, from Anaheim to the Riverside County line. At its highest, it will cost $9.50—nearly $1 per mile—to travel between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. in the eastbound lanes. Westbound rates remain unchanged … which makes a perverse kind of sense, when you remember that the 91 Express Lanes are owned by the Orange County Transportation Authority. By hiking the eastbound rates at rush hour, the increases target commuters who are leaving Orange County—who don’t live there and thus have less potential for creating political consequences. Although the OCTA ostensibly created its express lanes to alleviate congestion, it actually calculates its fares to maintain congestion on the non-paying lanes—keeping the price too high for most drivers to afford them, thus keeping them flowing freely for the rich people. OCTA policymakers may be cruel and greedy, but they aren’t stupid.
MONDAY, APRIL 2
Then there’s this, from the Dept. of Cruel and Greedy (But Not Stupid): A bottle of water at the rapidly approaching (April 27-29) Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival – where temperatures will likely be around 100 degrees – will cost $2. If you really want to rage against the machine, that might be a good place to start.