The High Desert meth enclaves of Lancaster and Palmdale--while seemingly identical to "lower Angelenos"--are at war, split by the narcissism of their small differences. The latest battle is over a power plant on their shared border, but the war itself is far-reaching and petty as hell. The LA Times reports from the front, the "concrete ribbon" called Avenue M that roughly divides Palmdale (home of the indoor mall) and Lancaster (home of the farmers' market). Locals call it the Cactus Curtain. Nice work, locals. "The two cities are geographically isolated, demographically identical and economically similar," and so they've both taken to furiously throwing money (and more!) at corporations like Costco to incentivize them to move to one side or the other of the Cactus Curtain. Here are the best (pettiest, worst, saddest) parts:
-- "Relations may have reached a low point last year when Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris held a Chuckie doll during an interview with a local television news channel, pretending it was Palmdale Mayor Jim Ledford."
-- "Palmdale puts out a regular email newsletter that debunks what it calls Lancaster's absurd and unsubstantiated public statements."
-- "Some say the cities haven't gotten along since Palmdale broke away from Lancaster and was incorporated in 1962. Others theorize that it all started with a particularly potent high school rivalry."
-- "The mall, which eventually lured Lancaster's J.C. Penney and Sears, opened in 1990 and touched off a long campaign of economic warfare which, by Parris' estimate, has cost both cities more than $100 million in lost revenue."
-- "Palmdale built an auto mall, and soon Lancaster built a competing one. Both malls would receive millions in government aid to stay afloat, and Palmdale took over its auto mall for $6 million, according to news reports in 1993."
-- "In 1994, Lancaster gave $7.3 million in redevelopment funds to help build a Costco, and later handed over 4.5 acres of parkland to keep the big-box retailer happy, according to news accounts at the time. A few years later, it was reported that Palmdale had agreed to refund up to $2 million in sales tax in its successful effort to lure a Dillard's."
-- During one attempt at reconciliation, "Leaders organized a peace march on the anniversary of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s 'I Have a Dream' speech, Hearns said. A group from each city met in the middle at Avenue M for a rally and speeches."
-- "Ledford says Parris is a bully and believes he is sowing chaos in an attempt to assert greater control over the region. Parris says Ledford runs Palmdale as a personal fiefdom and will say anything to achieve political objectives."
-- "In a 2010 State of the City Address, Parris said he wanted to keep Lancaster a Christian community. Ledford was a member of a county task force on hate crimes that responded by labeling Parris' comments a hate incident."
-- "That same year, Parris called sheriff's deputies to a meeting of the Antelope Valley Transit Authority where Ledford was present. Parris said he wanted to seal the meeting as a crime scene after learning that the agency's director, Randy Floyd, was being investigated for extortion."
-- "Parris, a trial attorney, said that by the time he decided in 2012 to help the Antelope Valley Chapter of the NAACP sue Palmdale for racially biased elections, his relationship with Ledford was a lost cause ... Parris deposed Ledford for more than six hours in a frequently confrontational interrogation whose topics ranged from the brand of Ledford's heart attack medication to the personal finances of Ledford's wife."
-- A business owner and son of a former mayor points out that "This fighting means less money for parks, tree-trimming, paving on the streets, and paying for streetlights instead of setting up lighting districts and dumping the cost on the homeowners."
Man, if they could only just work together--combined, they'd be the third-largest city in LA County and the twelfth biggest in California. Think of the Walmart they'd lure.
· The Cactus Curtain splits a prickly pair: Lancaster and Palmdale [LAT]
· Palmdale and Lancaster Having a Hilarious Power Plant Dispute [Curbed LA]