Why is the anger of latinos (most of them certainly illegals) "justified", while those of white "teapartiers" is not? You fraking anti-white racists.
By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
View more photos in Ted Soqui's slideshow, "Disgusted! Residents Furious Over Bell City Council Corruption."
And don't miss our 2009 story, "How L.A. City Council Got Those Huge $178,789 Salaries."
The residents of Bell shook fingers and fists, their faces flush with vituperation, as they shouted about an unfair tax burden and the corrupt cabal that had infected their local government.
The elected officials, meanwhile, sat passively, like children being scolded, which only infuriated the crowd even more.
Perhaps this sounds like a Tea Party uprising at a health-care town hall in that summer of rage, 2009.
Indeed, that is what the Bell City Council meeting this week resembled, except that the crowd and the council were nearly all Latino, with half the residents shouting in Spanish.
A dozen TV cameras, from Inside Edition to all the local affiliates, lined the wall of the city's community center, while at least a dozen cops stood stone-faced.
"You guys should be ashamed!" Flora Carlos shouted. "My dad makes minimum wage. He works under the sun, carrying heavy loads. My dad suffers so you can sit and work a part-time job!"
If anything, their anger seemed more justified than that typically heard from mostly white and upper-middle-class Tea Partiers.
In this city of fewer than 40,000 — 90 percent Latino, with an income well below the national average — the tiny political class took advantage of the residents' lack of civic engagement to create a slop-filled public trough for elites while cutting services and laying off workers.
Thanks to the Los Angeles Times, the public learned that city manager Robert Rizzo was making nearly $800,000, or twice that of the president of the United States, while his deputy was paid $376,000. Police Chief Randy Adams was pulling in $457,000, 50 percent more than Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck. Since the exposé last week, they've all resigned.
The City Council (including the mayor), meanwhile, was quietly paying itself nearly $100,000 per year for what are part-time jobs.
Councilman Luis Artiga, a minister, was appointed to fill an unfinished term and said he had no idea what he'd be paid. In a comment for the Obtuse Hall of Fame, he told the Times his first paycheck seemed like a "miracle of God."
Except, of course, that it was an act by public officials who knew that no one, not even God, was looking.
And now they were. Juan Bautista, 28, a community-college instructor, barked out: "Step down with dignity, and stop taking our money."
The City Council was apparently enthralled with Rizzo, its city manager. He started in the early 1990s at $72,000 per year, reaching $300,000 in 2004, one of the highest-paid public employees in California. His contract called for raises of 12 percent per year. This, to run a city with, according to Governing magazine, just 80 employees.
Perhaps to ensure their loyalty, Rizzo pushed the council members to change Bell from a "general-law" city — governed by state laws that restrict City Council pay — to a "charter" city, which has wide latitude to, among other things, pay the council members far more, in this case nearly $100,000 per year.
(As a charter city, the Los Angeles City Council used these same wide-ranging salary rules to push through a complex, voter-approved pay-raise formula that has steadily hiked the council's salary to $178,789, making it the highest in the U.S. They now earn more than members of Congress or federal judges.)
In Bell, the changeover to a charter city passed easily, though fewer than 500 Bell residents voted.
But Gomez's yea vote was hardly unreasonable, says Bob Stern, president of the think tank Center for Governmental Studies. "We want to control our destiny. We all like local control. They didn't say, 'By the way, we're going to pay our City Council $100,000 per year.' "
To help pay the exorbitant salaries, in addition to cutting services and laying off workers, the city devised a cunning scheme to raise revenue. In its working-class neighborhoods, the parking rules in front of apartments and homes make Santa Monica's seem inviting. Bell City Hall reaps big ticket revenues by restricting its residents from enjoying overnight visitors, and ticketing and towing when they do.
Bell's populace has been both championed and mocked by talk radio, at least ostensibly because residents allowed their government to take advantage of them. There's also been the subtext that immigrant bashing makes for good ratings. But in reality, a town of immigrants is ill-equipped to deal with a government so committed to fleecing them.
"It was a matter of no one asking the right questions, and no one having the clout to get the information," Stern says.
Some months ago, she heard that Bell was merging its police department with Maywood's in order to save money. She and 300 others showed up to protest the merger, but the council moved ahead anyway; Rodarte found them to be arrogant and disinterested.