Hard-working people call Cabazon home

CABAZON — Late in our 19th century a railroad siding was established by the Southern Pacific Railroad  in mid-Riverside County.  Later that siding became the city of Cabazon. What has happened to the little city is a sad tale of corruption and poverty.

The little city, according to historians, is a speed trap, City leaders, who rely on speeding tickets for revenue of $ 20,000 per year to pay for city services, believe the revenue generated by police and the speed trap will be history if the 10 freeway opens up.

Card rooms dotted the tiny town of Cabazon, named to honor a tribal Chief, but the city was a mess. Almost two dozen police chiefs quit and city council seats seemed to change hands every election cycle. Instability and allegations of corruption ran rampant.

A battle for control of the city between residents and card room operators had developed. A special  election resulted in the city residents voting for disincorporation.

That was the only option if voters wanted to kick out card room owners.  State laws did not allow for card rooms in unincorporated communities. In a close vote, disincorporation prevailed. The city of Cabazon was dissolved .

Once the vote was final and election results certified, the city was no more. Public support came  from county government. It remains that way today.

Today, Cabazon has a thriving series of outlet shopping  centers along the Interstate 10. It is also adjacent to the massive and very popular Casino Morongo. Its closet incorporated city is Banning, which is struggling to make ends meet.

Cabazon fortunes were never realized. It is a pocket of poverty. Many of its residents live below the poverty line.  A large percentage of her residents are on public assistance. Life isn’t easy in Cabazon and it’s not going to get any better without an all-hands approach.

It is depressing to see what could have been  a proud and promising community, named after a great tribal leader, devolve into a pocket of object poverty in a county of 2.5 million residents.

A drive through the community also reveals a community center, library, and child care facilities — all investments made by former county elected officials James A. Venable and Marion  V. Ashley.

Both leaders tried to bring in services and recreational facilities for the community residents. A newer fire station and sheriff’s station also  serve the community. County purchasing and fleet facilities were also relocated to the area . Most of the county activity is on the south side of Interstate 10 and is near residents.

Today, Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Hewitt, almost a year into his first four-year, is trying to revitalize the community. He has brought in targeted services and is trying to clean up the community he serves.

As valiantly as the county tries to serve and restore Cabazon it cannot do so alone. A federal, state, and local task force must work toward a solution and roadmap for recovery. It’s been done before and a unified approach is in order in Cabazon.

Just a Dollar General, Circle K, and a small liquor store serve the residents south of the Interstate 10. Solid waste , abandoned cars, and debris are scattered in the neighborhoods.  Substandard housing exists in the form of old mobile homes, travel trailers, and shacks.

More than half the residents rent their residences.  The majority of the community is comprised of a minority population. A new state senator-elect,  Assemblymember Chad Mayes, and U.S. Rep. Raul Ruiz, M.D., serve alongside Hewitt in representing the area and its residents.

Tribal government leaders have always stepped up for Cabazon residents. Jobs and charitable assistance have marked the tribal commitment  to Cabazon.  Morongo tribal leaders help during the holidays with food drives and as the need arises .

Driving through the neighborhoods and seeing those who live in this community is heartbreaking. We are better than this.  America is a great country and seeing children, seniors, and others living in extreme poverty is sad and should not be ignored.

It is Time for Action in Cabazon [Opinion]

Cabazon Dinosaurs is a roadside attraction in Cabazon. Dinny is one of two enormous, steel-and-concrete dinosaurs.

Riverside County leaders stepped up in 1999 at the urging of the late County Supervisor  Dr. S. Roy Wilson . The former college professor brought a national  and state focus to the plight of  exploited migrant farm workers in his district.  They lived in housing that looked a lot like what today’s Cabazon residents live in. Children and adults were dying from fires in those old mobile homes and electrocutions caused by faulty utility lines.

Back then Housing and Urban Development Secretary, now New York Gov. Cuomo, was enlisted to help Wilson called on him to support allocating targeted federal resources.

On the state level,  former state Sen. Jim Battin helped bring state resources to the table.

County officials dedicated 100% of its housing funds to start improving living conditions and services in Mecca, North Shore, Oasis, and Thermal.

It was a team effort and earned the County of Riverside special recognition from the Clinton Administration and HUD.  Wilson, a Republican, worked across the aisle and had the respect of Democrats who worked for a bipartisan solution.

Results have been far better for farmworkers and their families. Some 1700-plus housing units were built or manufactured. No, it hasn’t resolved every issue but the improvements have made a big difference for children, seniors, and families.

Fourth District Supervisor V Manuel Perez has brought more resources to the region, picking up where the late Roy Wilson left off. Still, finding the funds necessary isn’t easy when the county has piled up a COVID budget deficit over $ 100 million. Still Perez presses on.

Solving poverty, unemployment, health care and education challenges requires a combined effort. A Strike Team of  federal, state, local, tribal, business, residents, and not for profits can make a difference in Cabazon.

Hats off to Fifth District Supervisor Jeff Hewitt,  his staff, and the county team for the renewed  focus on Cabazon.

Nothing is easy in COVID California. But federal and state elected leaders can help regional government, too.

It’s time for action in Cabazon. Helping hands will make a difference for those hard-working  people who call Cabazon home.



Image Sources

  • Cabazon dinosaur: Shutterstock
  • Interstate 10 at Cabazon: Shutterstock