As if the city council in Bell didn’t have enough to explain with its high salaries for city officials. Now the state of California has discovered that Bell paid for those salaries by illegally overtaxing Bell citizens, to the tune of over $3 million in the last three years. (Why, that would have paid their city manager’s salary, and … well … no one else’s.) The city council held a meeting last night to determine the method of returning their illegal booty back to the taxpayers, but those taxpayers had a few things to say to the council first — and four hours later, they still wanted to talk (via Newsbeat1):
The $3 million in property taxes was deemed by the state that the city’s property tax rate was higher than legally allowed.
City officials were ordered to roll back the tax rate after the state controller discovered the city illegally raised its property taxes in 2007. The current rate is roughly 50 percent higher than it was three years ago.
Bell residents were upset that Monday’s meeting was held in council chambers, a room that does not accommodate many people. Some residents felt like they were being pushed out of the meeting.
“Our first priority is for them to resign,” said Cynthia Rodriguez with Bell Association to Stop the Abuse. “Since they’re not willing to do it, we’re going forward with the recall, but it’s a long process. We just don’t want them anymore. We’re tired of their lies.”
Why won’t the council resign? Take a look at the economy. Would you quit a public-sector sinecure that pays $100,000 a year to go into the private sector, especially in Bell? The city hasn’t been investing in anything except obscene public-sector salaries for the last several years, and it’s hard out there for a Bell city employee now that the taxpayers have discovered that they’ve been hoodwinked.
When people wonder why the Tea Party and other grassroots political movements start, this is a great example. Government at any level that grows haughty, insular, and corrupt generates a reaction towards accountability and more modest models of governance. I’m certain that the protesters in Bell don’t see themselves as part of the Tea Party movement, but the two have more similarities than differences. They’re angry at the local model of big government arrogance and at having their pockets picked — especially considering the relatively low average household income in this Southern California community, at just under $30,000.
In other words, don’t bother to ask for whom the Bell tolls in 2010 — it tolls for the corrupt and clueless.