Bell Election: "The City Cannot Get Any Worse" - NBC Southern California

Bell Election: "The City Cannot Get Any Worse"

With several city leaders facing corruption charges, honesty is the best policy for candidates in Bell's March election



    Bell Election: "The City Cannot Get Any Worse"

    The bar hasn't been set high for the 17 candidates in next month's Bell City Council election.

    "The city cannot get any worse than it is,'' Ali Saleh, a lifelong Bell resident and one of the candidates, told the Associated Press.

    Most of the candidates, including Saleh, in next month's election for five council seats are leaders of last summer's recall drive. They participated in forums this week to discuss the city's woes, of which there are many.

    The city became a symbol of municipal corruption after a series of LA Times reports exposed city officials' large salaries. Four of the city's five council members were paying themselves about $100,000 a year for their part-time service to a city where one in six people live in poverty.

    A fifth council member, Lorenzo Velez, did not take a high salary and was not targeted for recall. He is seeking re-election.

    Then there was Bell City Manager Robert Rizzo. He had an annual compensation package of $1.5 million.

    Rizzo, four council members and three other former officials have since been charged with fraud. The council members facing charges include the mayor and vice mayor. All have pleaded not guilty.

    Many of the council candidates are novices, but as Saleh noted, some very experienced officials put Bell in its current dismal state.

    The interim city manager recently reported the city is as much as $4.5 million in debt and may have to disband its police department or take other drastic action to balance the budget.

    The candidates made few campaign promises Wednesday, according to the AP, but most said they adamantly oppose disbanding the police department.

    About 200 people attended Wednesday's forum. Seven candidates attended the forum.

    The election is scheduled for March 8.