It started as a local story about small-city graft but quickly grew to become a national symbol of greed and failed government.
Nine months ago, the 40,000 residents of the city of Bell, Calif., – where 1 in 6 lives below the poverty line – became incensed with the discovery that several city officials were making six- and seven-figure salaries after creating secret boards and giving themselves outrageous raises.
Now, the light shined on the city of Bell by journalists, public officials, and the courts will reap large lessons from coast to coast, several political analysts say. As eight current and former officials await trial for fraud, Bell voters – one-fourth of the city’s population – will select five new city council members Tuesday from among 17 candidates in a recall election.
"The city of Bell is typical in that voters don’t pay much attention to their state and local legislative bodies, and the media are too stretched to look at each of the governmental jurisdictions within their territories,” says Robert Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies. “Governmental officials in the smaller jurisdictions rely on this lack of attentiveness and interest. There are a lot of Bells throughout the county; we just don’t know about them.”
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Dan Wood writes at The Christian Science Monitor: