In a community that historically has been known for organized gangsters, crime and civic corruption, it’s heart-warming to see genuine pride beaming on resident’s faces because they feel grateful about the positive change made over the past five years.
Desert Hot Springs’ so-called bad reputation started back in the late 1920s when the infamous Chicago gangster Al Capone made the luxurious Two Bunch Palms Resort his west coast hideout. An average visitor can still see remnants of Capone’s presence at Bungalow 14, the gangster’s actual residence where his initials “A.C.” are carved into a desk and a bullet hole found in a mirror that allegedly was from an assassination attempt. On the roof still exists a former sentry tower and under the bungalow (which I toured in 2009) are escape tunnels large enough for his Dusseldorf cars to make a fast get-away. Capone’s former gambling casino is now The Casino Restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner to guests. However, in 1931, the gangster’s residence at Two Bunch Palms Resort ended when he was sent to Alcatraz prison for tax evasion.
That was our ancient history, but I think Capone’s vibes lingered over this town like a dark curse that couldn’t be lifted. Over the past few decades the town hired more than 10 police chiefs, we had numerous city council members and mayors come and go, most with dubious reputations. Many former civic leaders were accused of making sweetheart deals with land developers exempting them from basic amenities like sidewalks, street lights, parks and paved roads.
Some former civic leaders are blamed for allowing the county and state to send their prison inmates released on parole here so we became known as criminally-infested, drug induced Wild West town with one of the highest crime rates in the state.
That was our recent past. What has happened over the past five years in this small town “on the other side of the tracks” will boggle most people’s minds until put into proper perspective. First, the city hired Police Chief Patrick Williams and City Manager Rick Daniels in mid-2007. Then the city leaders reorganized priorities to public safety. Daniels, with the council’s approval, shifted approximately $2 million to the police department. Former Chief Williams hired more police officers, including current Chief Kate Singer, and Daniels eliminated 20 city administration jobs to pay for the new police force. Together Williams and Singer implemented law enforcement strategies that revolutionized public safety in DHS. By March 2008, they launched Operation Falling Sun where 750 officers from 38 different law enforcement agencies descended on this town and arrested every known felon and chased out many criminal elements. It was the biggest law enforcement sweep in the state ever.
That was the beginning of the big change. Fast forward to Monday, Dec. 3 when the new $17 million Boys & Girls Club officially opened. Daniels, along with many others in the city, worked hard over the past five years to get this state-of-the-art facility constructed for the children of DHS. Philanthropist John Furbee put up $500,000 of his own money to make it happen. It’s probably the greatest gift the community received, but the only problem is, it’s too big for Santa’s sleigh.
The 22,000 sq. ft. Boys and Girls Club is adjacent to the 8,200 sq. ft. Health and Wellness Center and the 2,000 sq. ft. John Furbee Aquatic Center with a 25 x 25 meter swimming pool both slated for a January 2013 grand opening.
Children of this community can now go and play basketball, ping pong, air hockey, billiards and other games that don’t require killing people on a computer screen. Unfortunately, by the time most kids reach 16 years old, they’ve killed millions of fictional character on computer screens. This has to stop! When I was a kid my parents made us go outside and play ball with friends and neighbors. Today’s kids sit on a couch staring at an animated computer game with little or no social interaction.
This gift too big for Santa’s sleigh, gives our children a safe place to interact with others. Its offers general health and dental care. There are separate computer rooms for little kids and big kids. Everyone is encouraged to learn games and to interact.
The local police have succeeded in ridding the community of negative people. They have been replaced with wholesome family-oriented events. Big kudos go to the fraternal and service organizations who volunteered their time and money to help our kids.
It doesn’t matter whether a kid is black, brown, red, white, yellow or other, everyone is welcome at the Boys and Girls Club. We Baby Boomers weren’t allowed to sit in the house and watch TV all day. My Dad coached a boy’s little league team and made his daughter’s play Bobby Sox baseball. They weren’t afraid to send us to practice back then, and parents don’t need to worry now. The club has state of the art surveillance cameras, adult staffers to monitor all internal and external activities which will discourage any juvenile delinquency.
Computer rooms will encourage kids to read and write instead of spray painting graffiti around town. There are a lot of good and descent families who deserve recognition for the high standards they’ve taught their children. And there are too many names to mention and too many organizations involved but each should get some milk and cookies for their dedication and hard work for delivering the Boys and Girls Club – the ultimate Christmas gift to the youth of our Valley.
Jackie Devereaux has been a journalist for 28 years and currently is the Editor-in-Chief of the Desert Star Weekly. Her opinions are solely hers and not those of the owners, management or staff of the newspaper. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.