It’s time to consolidate southeast Los Angeles
Today’s Los Angeles Times has an article focusing on the political corruption cases that mark southeast Los Angeles’ recent political history. What caught my attention as I read this article was the idea of merging the different cities of southeast Los Angeles county into one large city government. This is something I have thought about for years as a way to improve local government. For the record, the cities I include in this are Vernon, Maywood, Huntington Park, (unincorporated) Walnut Park, Bell, Cudahy, Bell Gardens, South Gate, and Lynwood.
From the article:
For nearly three decades, corruption has been endemic in the area. A South Gate treasurer looted $20 million from the city. A former Lynwood mayor collected $6 million in a contracting scheme. Other Lynwood council members used city credit cards at strip clubs. And, of course, Bell City Administrator Robert Rizzo and seven others there treated themselves to hefty compensation packages in a case that Dist. Atty. Steve Cooley called “corruption on steroids.
Southeast L.A. County has long been a place where political engagement is often low and temptation is high. The dozen or so cities that make up the region are small and poor. Most of the residents are Latino immigrants who work hard and have little involvement in traditional civic life.
Only a small fraction of the residents actually vote — turnouts of less than 10% are not uncommon — making it easy for political blocs to gain power by collecting just a few hundred votes. There are relatively few newspapers or community associations that monitor city halls or the network of school districts and special districts.
Some believe the only way to stem the tide of corruption is to merge the various cities into one much-larger government that can be better policed.
“Instead of 40 council members, you [should] have seven. Instead of six city managers, you have one. Instead of six police chiefs you have one — and there are more voters to pay attention,” said Rick Cole, an urban planner and the city manager of Ventura . “One person … isn’t going to be able to seize control of a city of that size, complexity and sophistication.”
Someone agrees with me that the cities of southeast Los Angeles county should consolidate to form one large city. Many of the cities in this part of Los Angeles county are too small for their own sake and are not economically viable anymore. As Cole points out, consolidation would also reduce the number of bureaucrats, which may stem corruption y focusing more eyes on each official.
More importantly, consolidation would facilitate projects that would benefit all these cities (and unincorporated neighborhoods) but do not take place because the region is fragmented into numerous cities.
I hope to one day see this happen.