Voters in Bell, Calif., recalled the mayor and three city councilmembers Tuesday in the aftermath of a scandal that saw city officials pay themselves exorbitant salaries. But with a $4.5 million deficit, the cleansing and healing process is just beginning.
Catalina Mora points out the window of her bargain clothes outlet to snow-covered mountains framing the Los Angeles skyline: “Like those white peaks, we have risen above the filth ... and things look very good from here."
One block away, actor Tye Justis is not so sure. “This is a good beginning but it’s still just a beginning. Honestly, we have a long way to go.”
The two comments frame a debate that started last July, when it was revealed that officials here in the tiny, 2.5-square-mile city of Bell (population 40,000) were among the highest paid municipal employees in the nation. According to the Los Angeles Times, City Manager Robert Rizzo was being paid an annual salary of $787,637, Police Chief Randy Adams $457,000, and assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia $376,000.
The scandal found some measure of resolution Tuesday with an overwhelming vote to recall Mayor Oscar Hernandez and council members Teresa Jacobo, George Mirabal, and Luis Artiga. Media reports said that there were long lines outside polling places well past the 8 p.m. deadline.
Residents and political analysts alike say the episode has been a wakeup call for citizens to be more alert and realize they can impact public affairs.