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Archived: EDITORIAL: Maywood Disbands City Government: Other Cities Should Heed Their Lesson

The dangers associated with a city being unable to manage its police force, and a city council that allows its meetings to get out of control, all the while failing to get tough and set policies to ensure its own viability, should be viewed as a lesson on how not to conduct city business.

The Maywood City Council on Monday voted to disband its police force and to turn over all its municipal functions to its neighbor, the City of Bell. The Los Angeles County Sheriffs’ Department will patrol the city. It is our understanding, however, that the city will continue to remain an independent city. The question is, should it?

The city of 40,000, mostly Latino residents living in an area that encompasses just over one square-mile tucked not so neatly between the cities of Vernon and Bell, is one of the most densely populated areas of the County.

For years, it has been plagued by allegations of police misbehavior and racism, political fighting and government mismanagement. Those allegations have led to the replacement of council members and a bevy of lawsuits, mostly against the police department.  The lawsuits and the extraordinary risk of liability that comes with them have resulted in the city losing its insurance coverage.

City officials, namely the city council, point to the loss of coverage, and not a budget shortfall, as the reason it was forced to shut down its municipal government, and turn over operation of its services to outside entities.

Whereas virtually every other municipality, from the state right down to the county and a growing number of cities are experiencing significant shortfalls in revenue, some even on the verge of bankruptcy, Maywood’s problems don’t appear to be just a question of a lack of financial resources.

Rather, their greatest shortfall appears to be in electing leaders who can actually lead, and a constituency that will force them, and in some cases allow them, to make hard choices.

Maywood’s situation should serve as a warning to other small cities that they should, at all times, conduct themselves with professional decorum and hire personnel with the proper credentials to control and supervise its affairs.

While the California Joint Powers Insurance Authority says Maywood is the first city to have its general liability and workers compensation terminated, its up to the people to ensure that no other city in Los Angeles County goes down this same road.