By: Anjuli Kronheim
When you mention the City of Bell, people immediately remember the scandals that garnered national attention. From a city of just 2 square miles and less than 40,000 people, the high salaries, high property taxes, voter fraud, and even mismanagement of city administration seemed unimaginable. How was this level of corruption possible? Why had this gone on for so long?
Some blamed low voter turnout, lack of newspaper resources to cover the story until 2010, lack of government transparency, and some even blamed greed. It has to be a combination of these factors – and only one thing to look forward to – solutions. That’s why we were so excited when Ana Maria Quintana, a Councilmember of the City of Bell elected in 2011, reached out this fall to start talking to California Common Cause about what kinds of reforms might help the City of Bell and serve as an example for other cities.
What can we do to build trust again with voters? What can be done to create more transparency in our government and elections? What can we do to create a government that works for the people?
We started to brainstorm possible reform options:
• Creating a better disclosure database online to track campaign contributions
• Replicating what US Senate candidates Elizabeth Warren and Scott Brown are pledging in Massachusetts – a pledge to ban independent expenditure spending
• Creating a matching funds or public financing system in the city and incentivize small dollar contributions
• Synchronizing elections to match up with statewide primary and general elections to increase voter turnout
• Promoting voluntary expenditure limits and better disclosure on independent expenditure ads.
These are just some of the ideas we came up with and we’re excited to continue the conversation and work with the community to see what they are looking for.
We’d love to bring more people into this discussion – what ideas do you have for reform in the City of Bell? What gets you excited? Leave comments below and stay tuned for updates coming soon!
This post was co-authored by Anjuli Kronheim, an LA organizer with Common Cause California, and Ana Maria Quintana, a Councilmember of the City of Bell