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Our Assumptions About Government

Monday, Nov. 29, 2010

While at dinner with a friend the subject of accountability in government came up. He had just one question: how could the people of Bell, California not know what was happening in their city?

The greed and unethical behavior of the city manager, mayor, and all but one councilmember became headline news across the nation. Drawing a salary of some $800,000 in a small, lower-income city sparked new rules for transparency and a Web posting of government salaries.

While the investigation is not complete, it is apparent the people of Bell believed in their government. Like many others, they probably did not have the time or the ability to carefully track the council actions. Budgets, even in a small city, can be difficult to understand. With the downsizing of newspapers, few cover local council meetings where hints of these problems might have been seen.So while it outraged me to learn of this situation, it did not necessarily surprise me.

Elected and appointed officials are supposed to work for the public. They are supposed to be honest, trustworthy, and transparent. If we assume their  campaign promises will come true, why should anyone question what happens at city hall?

This cautionary tale still has people talking. I am hoping it also has them paying more attention to their local government.



Tags: City of Bell, public trust, transparency

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