The city of Bell has created quite a stir over the past month. This has clearly been a defining moment in California local government – maybe the defining moment for local government salaries.
When the excessive salaries and the arrogance of City Manager Rizzo are combined with the current public pension examination, the fiscal crisis and the demographics of the community, it has just been the perfect storm.
Yet, in a way that Proposition 13 was the response to the inequity of property tax in the 1970s and the way that derivative investments were made illegal following the bankruptcy of Orange County, we don’t want this event to make state and federal policy makers to over react.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, we had some cities that were pushing the limits of redevelopment policy. Some violated the letter of the law but others certainly violated the spirit of the law by “redeveloping” open space. The abuses by a few lead to restrictions on everyone. Let’s hope that doesn’t happen here.
Were the compensation levels in Bell excessive? Absolutely.
Who is the best group of people to correct this problem? The voters in the city of Bell.
It seems already that every politician in the state is clamoring to beat the dead horse of Bell. Here at PublicCEO.com, we have even been accused of taking advantage of the situation. Yet the last thing we need is more attempts to control the actions of local government.
The press has a role to play in getting information out to people. In this case it actually has worked. The information is out, the excesses have been made public and corrections are being made. This does not mean that every City Manager and City Council in California needs to fall in line with what will end up bringing the City of Bell out of this mess.
As the Legislature finishes work for the year, the city of Bell will certainly be an opportunity for some Legislators to make a name for themselves in the news. We encourage them to pause and look at the entire issue next year when they come back. Sometimes the short term “solution” just leads to long-term problems that are over restrictive.
Organizations like the League of Cities and California State Association of Counties have stepped right up to address this problem by being transparent and willing to work with the state leaders. Any option that is available now will certainly be available in January.
The PublicCEO Editorial Board is comprised of editor James Spencer, PublicCEO writers and local government officials throughout the state. All editorials represent the opinion of our entire board. Reach the editor at firstname.lastname@example.org.