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Big, Fat Tuesday for Little City of Bell: Residents Get to Elect Whole New Slate of Leaders

Big day for the small Southeast L.A. County town of Bell: It gets to replace its entire City Council if voters so wish.

And while there are two distinct factions of candidates running for office -- a police-union-backed slate versus one that wants to disband the Bell P.D. to save money -- the city turns a big corner either way.

In the rear view? The biggest political corruption scandal to rock metro L.A. in years.

Yeah, the one where former city manager Robert Rizzo, assistant city manager Angela Spaccia, Mayor Oscar Hernandez, City Council members Luis Artiga, Teresa Jacobo and George Mirabal, and former City Council members George Cole and Victor Bello were charged with misappropriation of public funds after it was revealed that most of them were receiving outrageous salaries.

Sixteen candidates are running, including a defiant Jacobo as well as Lorenzo Velez, a councilman who was not implicated in the scandal.

The pro-police slate is called United4Bell, which includes Violeta Alvarez, Fidencio Gallardo, Danny Harber, and Ali Saleh.

They want to keep the department. The other side says disbanding it and contracting with the sheriff's department could save $4 million.

The slate in favor of disbanding Bell's department, Justice for Bell, included the recently deceased Miguel Sanchez as well as Nestor Enrique Valencia and Mario S. Rivas.

Complicating things was a $60,000 contribution to the Justice for Bell trio by a retired Woodland Hills businessman who the powerful Los Angeles County Federation of Labor has called a Tea Party member (he denies it).

Christina Garcia, spokeswoman for the Bell Association to Stop the Abuse (BASTA), a key player in reform efforts following the city's salary scandal, says she expects record voter turnout -- with as many as 6,000 voting in the blue-collar city of 36,000 today.

In a lot of respects," she tells the Weekly, "tomorrow is just the beginning of a new chapter. We have to actually deal with the hard questions.

"Whatever happens tomorrow we're all neighbors and well have to bare the burden together."

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