It may take more than a 90-percent pay cut to quell the crowd outside Bell, CA City Hall tonight. This little town made big news around the country recently when former Chief Administrative Officer Robert Rizzo was revealed to be pulling down $787,637 a year. And the uproar from overtaxed, over-regulated citizens has produced a new species on earth: the Spanglish Tea Party.
Hundreds of angry residents of Bell and connected Los Angeles County towns descended tonight on a Bell City Council meeting, demanding the resignations of the city's mayor and all or most of the council. Rizzo, along with Police Chief Randy Adams and Assistant City Manager Angela Spaccia, resigned last week. While Bell Mayor Oscar Hernandez and the council members agreed to a massive salary cut for themselves, the crowd wanted only their resignations.
In canvassing I did with my colleagues Zach Weismueller and Sam Corcos, that sentiment seemed nearly unanimous. Representing the other side, there was one large, professionally done pro-city-council banner. This was held and defended by about a half-dozen stonecold-looking homies with tats and skinheads. Everybody else was chanting "Fuera! Fuera!"
One point about Bell that may not come across in coverage is that it is part of L.A. County's Bermuda triangle, a bunch of towns few have heard of—Cudahy, anyone?—that share a largely Latino, working-class demographic; an orientation south of the 10 and east of the 110; and a propensity for sharing very depleted political DNA. The "city" of Vernon, ably described a few years back by L.A. County native Matt Welch, is California's Liechtenstein, a de facto grand duchy with a token population and multiple generations of single-family control. The troubles of tiny Bell look even better or worse when you realize that the town's more than brotherly next-door neighbor Maywood—which recently outsourced many of its services to Bell—boasts as its interim city manager the same Angela Spaccia who was recently sent packing in Bell.
We'll have more on the Bell fiasco soon. For now, one thing is worth noting: While it has the feel of a Tea Party, the Bell demostration is peopled almost entirely by the Democrats' constituency. The crowd contained public transit employees, "community organizers," even hippie riffraff wheeled in from tonier parts of the county to demand global justice. Cristina Garcia, the radiant co-founder of Bell Association to Stop the Abuse (BASTA) is an academic specializing in community-level activism. There were even a few SEIU purpleshirts out, seemingly fazed by the novel experience of protesting against the thugs. Is this another sea change in a political season full of them? I hope not on this side of the grave, but it was certainly bracing to hear all these people complaining about how they're getting ripped off on taxes, fees and permitting. Adelante!