Maywood and Bell: California’s cautionary tales

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The moral bankruptcy of some of California’s politicians and police is contributing to the fiscal bankruptcy of the state.  The intertwined tales of Maywood and Bell, neighboring cities in Los Angeles County, should serve as a warning to the people of California and the United States. 

Maywood, California made national headlines in recent weeks when, faced with the prospect of bankruptcy, the city fired its entire workforce and outsourced their jobs.  It was ultimately the corruption of the city’s police department that forced it to take such drastic measures.  Euphemistically known as a department of “second chances,” Maywood’s 37-man police force was a haven for “misfit cops,” according to a Los Angeles Times report from 2007: 

     “Among those on the job: A former Los Angeles County sheriff’s deputy terminated for abusing jail inmates; a onetime Los Angeles Police Department officer fired for intimidating a witness; and an ex-Huntington Park officer charged with negligently shooting a handgun and driving drunk. . . . Even the newly appointed police chief has a checkered past: He was convicted of beating his girlfriend and resigned from the El Monte Police Department before he could be fired.” 

By the spring of 2010, there were $19 million in claims against Maywood police, a total that exceeded the city’s yearly operating budget, nearly half of which was already devoted to funding its police department, according to the New York Times.  Faced with a choice between declaring bankruptcy or laying off its entire workforce, Maywood took the latter option, rehiring some former workers as contractors, and outsourcing numerous city functions to other municipalities.  Among these is the neighboring city of Bell. 

Bell has also made national headlines in the last month.  On July 15th, the Los Angeles Times reported that Bell officials had effectively turned the city into their own personal patronage machine, fleecing taxpayers to fund their exorbitant salaries, including nearly $800,000 a year for the city’s top executive, almost $500,000 a year for its police chief and $100,000 a year for members of the city council.  

Unless you are a member of the political class, average per capita income in Bell is under $25,000 a year.  Understandably, residents erupted in protest.  Since last week, the city’s top official and police chief have resigned and city council members have agreed to slash their own salaries.  

Meanwhile, county prosecutors have opened wide-ranging investigations of the city’s administration.  Allegations of serious voter fraud have also surfaced in recent days, potentially shedding light on the relation between the city’s political class and the corruption of its police force.  According to the Los Angeles Times

     “A retired Bell police sergeant claimed in a lawsuit filed this week that off-duty Bell police officers in the 2009 election distributed absentee ballots to voters and told them which candidates to select.” 

Ironically, the city’s former police chief, Randy Adams, had been lured out of retirement by the astronomical salary he was offered to combat corruption in Bell’s police department.  Bloomberg News interviewed Adams shortly before he resigned: “Adams said he had been brought in to end corruption in Bell’s police department. Some of the former members of this force are in the federal penitentiary,” he said. 

If there is any justice, they might soon be joined by current and former city officials. 

Together, the tales of Maywood and Bell, California demonstrate how the moral bankruptcy of some of our politicians and police is literally bankrupting cities in the United States.  There are few, if any, reports in the major media detailing the political affiliations of the elected officials in these two cities.  However, they are most likely Democrats and Republicans.

Though these are extreme examples, there is no reason to pretend that such corruption is not to be found in every state of the union, unless you are one of the few among us who benefits from the system’s malignant dysfunction.  It is time they are held accountable, not only in the courts, but also at the ballot box.  

Consider declaring your independence from the bankrupt ideology that binds us to the two-party state.  Consider supporting Independent and third party candidates for public office.  

The city you save might be your own.  

The Independent Voter Network is dedicated to providing political analysis, unfiltered news, and rational commentary in an effort to elevate the level of our public discourse.


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