By now, I’m sure you’ve heard about the city manager and other officials in Bell, California who are pulling in monster salaries (almost 800k for the manager). It’s ridiculous, to be sure–that’s twice what the president makes and practically four times the salary of Los Angeles proper’s city manager. LA, of course, has a population of over 4 million, while Bell has less than one hundredth of that. Even city countil officials in Bell were earning $100,000 a year–for a job that earns under 5 grand in similarly-sized cities. The local government in Bell was corrupt as shit, raking it in while residents resorted to food banks.
However, Calitics has made some important points in their coverage of this issue. First among them is the reason the city of Bell, with a measly 38,000 residents and only a few miles from Los Angeles, exists in the first place:
The only reason cities like Bell, Maywood, South Gate, Huntington Park, and Compton – among the other so-called “Gateway Cities” – existed in the first place as separate cities and not part of the city of Los Angeles was a desire to maintain racial segregation. In an excellent book about the mid-20th century history of this region titled “My Blue Heaven: Life and Politics in the Working Class Suburbs of Los Angeles, 1920-1965”, historian Becky Nicolaides explained that many of these cities incorporated to prevent being annexed not just by the city of LA, but by the LA Unified School district. The goal was to keep nonwhite residents out of these white working-class suburbs and to keep white students from having to share a school with other students of color in the LAUSD.
Bell, and a lot of nearby, tiny suburbs of Los Angeles, were essentially created as large-scale, lily-white gated communities. They aren’t, uh, serving that (racist, stupid) purpose anymore. Now, I’m not suggesting that Long Beach or Pomona should be consolidated back into Los Angeles city, but a bunch of 2-square mile cities with the population of a large college? Fuck yes, they should be consolidated back into LA. It’s idiocy to pay the salaries of a completely separate local government for such a small area. As Calitics reports, Maywood, CA has already laid off their entire police and now contracts for all municipal services. If that’s not a sign it should be integrated (heh) back into Los Angeles, what is?
Speaking of outsourcing, Calitics notes in another piece that Bell’s corruption doesn’t stop at the salaries of city employees:
Take this contract for consultant services with engineering behemoth CH2MHill, Inc. Consultants working on the project bill as much as $260 an hour. That’s more than $540,000 a year–about double what Mayor Villaraigosa makes and $70,000 more than Bell’s police chief was pulling in.
By contrast, a top-earning Senior Systems Analyst II employed by the City, whose job description includes the work called for in the contract, makes about $60 an hour, plus benefits, information that’s easily found here. Because CH2MHill is a private company, we don’t know exactly how much it pays its employees–only what it bills on their behalf.
That’s right: in a state with 12% official unemployment, these corrupt shitheads were outsourcing to consultants at rates with which they could have hired four city employees.
But the most important thing to take away from Bell is the hypocrisy of the reaction to it. Conservatives are going to use this as a springboard to discuss how government employees are overpaid and “smaller government” is the answer, but that’s ridiculous bullshit. The average city manager’s salary in Los Angeles county is about $209,000. The average CEO makes 262 times what the average worker does, but you don’t see right-wingers sharpening their pitchforks–and the worst part is that CEOs are paid those gigantic salaries even if they completely fuck up. Noted stupid asshole Carly Fiorina pulled down a $42 million dollar severance package in spite of the fact that HP lost half its value during her tenure. Think about that next time a government official’s six-figure salary makes the news.