It finally happened, 8 former and current Bell officials have been arrested on a long list of public corruption charges, not the least of which is stealing public funds earned through illegal taxes, fees, and property seizures.
Though there seemed little doubt in recent days that arrests were forthcoming, what remains unclear is what those arrests truly mean for Bell residents, and the city’s governance as the prosecutions move forward.
While it is okay to spend time celebrating the jailing of the alleged wrongdoers, Bell residents must now turn their efforts to creating a model of citizenship participation and oversight uncommon in most municipalities.
Can an appointed interim city administrator, city attorney and the lone remaining council member continue to run the city departments and provide services to the residents? While there is a great deal of talk about placing the city in receivership, it is unlikely to happen quickly, if at all.
And lest we forget, Bell’s mayor and council members who were arrested on Tuesday have not yet been convicted of any crime and can remain in their positions until either recalled or convicted.
While we understand how repugnant it must be to Bell residents to have these scoundrels continue in office, there is no better immediate solution than continued vigilance and participation in the governing process.
In the days ahead, the city of Bell and its residents will be faced with many questions as to how to proceed in taking back control of the city. Should new council members be appointed? How soon can a special election be called?
There will be countless “Kingmakers” standing ready to step in and “lead” Bell residents into the future, a future they have determined, through good intentions, ego or opportunity, to be the only way forward.
There is nothing more attractive then being a big fish in a small pond. Bell is not alone in this regard, in every city there are those who seek the opportunity to control rather than serve.
We say, beware of the wolf in sheep’s clothing. The only way to keep a fiefdom from forming is to be sure the would-be kingmakers are exiled.