Following our recent trip to Adelanto, I thought I’d try to learn a bit about the town, since they’e the ones that issue – or can cancel – the detention center’s business license, which is posted in both visiting rooms.
One of the surprising things I discovered in the City Council Meeting Minutes, is that GEO applied for a license for another prison to be built on land adjacent to the High Desert Detention Center, which is south of the one we’ve been visiting, also in Adelanto, but much smaller. I had read that facility was run by the City of San Bernadino, not GEO, but other reports say it’s also a GEO facility, and they own undeveloped property there.
The City Council turned them down!
The City Council Meetings are videocast on the internet and archived, so if you have the time, patience, and interest, you can sit through them. Their minutes are posted along with the videos. City Council Meeting Videos:
Their last session, held the day after we visited, was a budget discussion. In either that session, or the prior one, they mentioned that “the prison business hasn’t been good for the town.” Instead they are promoting development of cannabis grow-houses in their industrial districts. This has significantly elevated real-estate values there (tenfold) and reduced their budget surplus from 1.4 million to half a million. Palm Desert and Adelanto are hoping to be the state’s desert cannabis growth centers.
During our return trip, I’d been chatting with Stephanie about artists I met in Joshua Tree, and coincidentally, I discovered that one of them wrote a long article about Adelanto as part of her documentation of Mohave Desert Towns.
Her name is Kim Stringfellow, and I’d really enjoyed talking with her during the open artist studios weekend in Joshua Tree where she lives. We turned out to have known an anti-nuclear activist in Los Alamos, NM, whom I met when I lived there, and she had photographed and documented him much more recently, before his death. He contributed many props for the movie “The China Syndrome,” from his warehouse of surplus lab equipment, housed in an abandoned church he dubbed, “The Omega Peace Institute.”
One of the Adelanto City Council member’s Twitter feeds showed Kim and the Council Member touring the town together, to my surprise. It seemed their politics would probably be at odds, but the meeting appears to have been a town tour.
Hers is one of the more comprehensive and well-written articles I’d seen about the town, and worthy of reading, since it spells out many of the issues in the town and some of the financial and population statistics.
Among the statistics that I remember were that 50% of the town is Latino; 40% of the population lives under the poverty level, and the largest employer in town is still the detention center. There were expectations, if not promises, that GEO would hire exclusively from Adelanto residents, but many people come from nearby desert towns such as Victorville, and hence don’t contribute to the community’s economy. I believe they said the town gets something like $130,000 a year from the detention center; fees for cannabis facilities are apparently much higher contributors.
Adelanto’s Mayor, Richard Kerr, is a former Marine who now works for Motorola as a construction manager. His home and the City Council office were raided by the FBI in May. This was apparently a follow-up to an earlier incident when it was discovered that another City Council member, Jermaine Wright, the Mayor Pro Tem, had offered a bribe regarding a plan to burn down a restaurant he owned for fire insurance pay-out. The restaurant is located on the same road as the detention center nearly across the street from the post office, so we drive by it each visit. It was called Fat Boyz Grill, and the reviews were pretty good for it. It has since closed, unfortunately, as I’d be curious to meet the locals (and have a Rubio’s alternative.)
Here’s the LA Times article about the situation:
Adelanto city councilman arrested on bribery, arson charges in FBI corruption probe
Here’s a CBS spot mentioning the more recent incident:
Their recent City Council Meeting added a new member to the Council, who isn’t listed on their website yet. I’m guessing that might be to replace Wright.
In more small-town news, City Council Member Ed Camargo was accused of not residing within Adelanto, despite being on the City Council. He’s dating a woman who’s a detention center employee; she lives in Victorville and he’d been spending nights there. (The shame, the shame…)
Adelanto Councilman Camargo Disputes Report He Is No Longer Living In The City
The former Mayor of Adelanto, Charley B. Glasper, is a former Air Force and Army First Sergeant who worked at Edwards Air Force Base.
For some context, before the detention center was built, Adelanto housed an Air Force Base, the closure of which resulted in financial difficulties for the town. So it’s hardly surprising that many council members have military ties nearby.
Glasper is still on the City Council.
Perhaps the most colorful City Council Member, though, is John R. Woodard, Jr. He’s a Republican gun nut, looks like a hippie, and works in real estate. As a cannabis evangelist, he’s been spear-heading the cannabis real-estate development in the town. A strange combination, to be sure. Somehow he looks like he might be wild fun to hang out with, if it weren’t for his political leanings. He’s formerly from the east San Gabriel Valley. His twitter page is rather entertaining, although the political discussions are diametrically opposed to our views:
He’s the one that helped Kim Stringfellow write her article on the town; she’s pictured with him on his twitter page and credits correspondence with him in her article.
Here’s another good article, from LA Weekly, describing the cannabis development in the town: Will the Marijuana Industry Save the Struggling Town of Adelanto?
That’s it on the City Council, but one perhaps useful last point of information is that their representative is Steve Knight, for California’s 25th District.
I see some of the figures I quoted were actually from the LA Weekly or Wikipedia articles, so there were some discrepancies.
LA Weekly had more of the statistics than Kim Stringfellow’s article.