The City of Victorville, one of the largest population centers in the western Mojave Desert, is nearing insolvency under nearly $500 million of debt, according to the Wall Street Journal. Victorville has mishandled millions of dollars of bonds accounts and shifted funds without city council authorization. The city has already slashed many of its employees from the payroll, and many citizens complain of deteriorating infrastructure and crime. Nevertheless, Victorville is still investing in ambitious and unnecessary plans, such as a 32 square mile expansion and the High Desert Corridor (E-220), a new highway connecting Lancaster and Victorville. Most residents probably would prefer the City reinvest in existing infrastructure and open up a new east-west route within the city (the Nisqualli overpass) to alleviate burdensome traffic before expanding the city limits and building an unwanted highway.
Victorville officials ran up some of the 500 million in debt when consultants promised an economic revival if the city invested millions in the airport and a power plant on airport property. Neither project did so well, and the airport authority is still running a $101 million deficit.
California historians can tell you about other desert towns that crashed as a result of corruption, mismanaged expectations, and greed. Speculators chased dreams of silver deposits and agricultural abundance throughout the Mojave in the late 1800s. Scam artists would bring wide-eyed investors from Los Angeles up to the desert and promise them wealth in return for investment. Most of the aspiring agricultural fields went fallow and most mines turned up fool's gold. It appears history is repeating itself in Victorville.