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Friday, September 24, 2010

Appathizers at their worst

I don’t know if The Dunning Letter has coined a new word in “appathizers,” but it is the perfect term for the citizens of Bell, California. They are the victims of a city government that mismanaged over $50 million in bond money, and paid its eight city leaders more than $5.8 million in compensation this past year. Robert Rizzo, former city manager, was paid a salary of nearly $800,000 a year. Bell had a population in 2009 of 36,552.

And all this happened because the people of Bell weren’t paying attention to where bond and tax money was going. And if they were, they voluntarily ignored the graft, or were possibly paid off to keep their mouths shut. A despicable example of a citizenry that doesn’t give a damn and ends up suffering the consequences.

All eight city officials were arrested on Wednesday, and it was even necessary to break down the door to Mayor Oscar Hernandez’s home when he refused entry. Pictures of these individuals—which, incidentally, look like a “most wanted” bulletin—can be seen in this MSNBC’s article.

Apathy is everywhere. One of the most dramatic examples is those who think identity theft will never happen to them, and do nothing to protect their personal data. And then it happens. But Bell, California, a blue collar community, has let all this happen at a time when they can least afford it during the economic downturn. What were they thinking when people were losing their jobs, and Rizzo was raising his salary to almost $800,000?

The city had almost no control over spending. State Controller John Chiang said that one man was in charge of the purse-strings, Robert Rizzo, running the general fund like petty cash. The people of Bell were after blood when all of this was discovered and brought into the open. Where were they when it all was being put in place and carried out? Residents apparently demanded no checks and balances, thus, they ended up wallowing in ignorant bliss.

You have to wonder just how much this is going on in other towns and cities nationwide, maybe not up to this level, but a fraudulent government in some measure. Some politicians have always been on the take, but Bell, California has shown us how they can make it their life’s work.

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