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Is City of Bell to big to govern?

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POSTED July 25, 2014 12:27 a.m.

The City of Bell consists of 2.64 square miles.

It has 36,664 residents.

By Tim Draper’s standards, it would be governable.

Bell is the Southern California city where elected leaders conspired with top bureaucratic brass to rip off taxpayers to the tune of $6.7 million to line their pockets while committing voter fraud and imposing some of the highest property taxes in the nation.

Draper is the Silicon Valley venture capitalist who apparently has collected enough signatures to qualify a plan for the November 2016 ballot that he says will make California more governable by doing a Lizzie Borden and hacking the state up into six parts.

After his appearance on the Stephen Colbert Report it is clear this is all about Draper and feeding is ego. 

Not since the 2003 recall election when 135 candidates including notables Gary Coleman, Larry Flynt and Arianna Huffington crowded the ballot to in a bid to replace Jerry Brown’s former chief of staff Gray Davis has there been such a mockery of the election process.

Draper is free to do what he wants under the confines of the law. But it is becoming clear that there is no grand scheme nor noble cause unless it is to shield Silicon Valley millionaires and billionaires from taxes at the expense of impoverished Central Valley farm workers.

In defense of Draper, this is what he does for a living. He looks at an idea, gets intrigued by the concept and then decides – without demanding much detail save perhaps a business plan – throws millions of dollars at it. That’s how venture capitalists work. They throw a lot of money at stuff gambling that some of it will stick and make them rich.

No worries since they can deduct their losses against the boatloads of money they make when one of their investments strikes pay dirt.

The real problem is people like Draper, you and me.

We are usually too busy involved in trying to get rich, supporting a family or making it through the day that we spend little real time keeping tabs on government. Sure we read something that incenses us and then we run to the nearest electronic device and tap out how mad we are, calling elected officials and bureaucrats cretins among other choice words, and engage in fairly anonymous dogfights from the comfort of our homes.

There are few that actively participate. And that doesn’t mean only voicing their opinions at public meetings but actually getting involved in the process.

We don’t take the time to understand background, rules and law, or a multitude of other intricacies  that have been put in place – for better or worse – to govern America, our states, our counties, our cities, and our schools. We’d rather dismiss explanations we’re given as nonsense than do any heavy intellectual lifting.

And heaven forbid if we make an effort to try and understand a divergent viewpoint and perhaps even change our positions slightly so a compromise can be struck and progress made.

We stub our toe wearing a shoe and we demand the government increase regulations on shoe manufacturers. There are weeds growing in a crack in the street in front of our house and we demand the city spray it with weedkiller instead of doing it ourselves.

We take a risk in a bid to seek a thrill or rake in more money and if things go wrong we want government to make us whole.

We want government to provide more and more beyond basic services and we don’t want to pay more for it.

As Pogo of comic strip fame noted in 1970, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”

Split California six ways. Chop it up into a dozen states. Pulverize it into oblivion and come up with a hundred government fiefdoms, it won’t matter.

Government can’t govern effectively unless we are part of that effort. It’s supposed to be government for the people and by the people not I’m too busy watching YouTube videos, catching up on the latest mutation of “Survivor” or having a good time to worry about government.

Only a few of the 36,000 plus people in Bell governed by that council and non-elected department heads bothered to question how their city was run or try to become involved.

California, in a sense, is the City of Bell on steroids. While politicians and high-level bureaucrats don’t directly line their pockets they come up with all sorts of regulations, tax credits and such to benefit those who support them and keep them in power as well as causes they are enamored with by taking government involvement beyond what was legislated.

The good people of Bell when they were rudely awakened from their civic slumber didn’t try to fix their dysfunctional city government by emulating the Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Instead they got involved, threw the bums out, and have set about to improve things.

There is nothing inherently wrong with the government.

You can trust our government framework. What you can’t trust necessarily are the people running it.

That is where the real problem lies. Outside of bellyaching many of us don’t even bother to vote, we don’t invest much energy or effort into keeping abreast or get involved with government even on the local level where we can have the biggest impact.

It is a lot easier to whine or direct our frustration and anger into a ballot measure that will serve no purpose.

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