|Copyright Renegade Tribune|
Fighting the machine
I came to this realization, as I was reading the local articles on soon-to-be former Mayor of South El Monte, Luis Aguinaga's guilty plea for taking at least $45,000 in bribe money in exchange for votes. You can read more on the LA Times here: LA Times South El Monte Mayor Story (And in case you didn't know, South El Monte is a neighboring City, in which their public officials know Baldwin Park public officials and do business with the same contractors.)
His scam was pretty simple. In exchange to vote for a useless construction project for the City, the owner of the construction company would give a cash bribe to the politicians. The City would use the funds (which is incidentally our money - which is meant to be used for the public) to give to the contractor. Contractor makes a few hundred thousand, if not millions. Politicians gets a small cut. The citizens (and employees of the City, actually), usually end up being responsible for this money sometime in the future, especially when a loan was taken to pay for the useless project.
I guess I can refer to this scam as "Vote-for-Pay" in the future. The San Gabriel Tribune reported that this is the thirteenth time, in which a politicians in California, recently, got caught in a Vote-for-Pay bribe.
Here are the emerging trends regarding prosecuting local public officials. The majority of convictions of public officials are successful when handled by the FBI and U.S. Attorney. Very few cases are prosecuted by local district attorney's offices. In fact, a number of these kind of cases are rarely charged by the DA, and when they are, the last few cases have been bungled by the Los Angeles District Attorney. Take a look at how Irwindale Mayor Breceda got off the hook. The LA Times reported today how the DA also bungled the prosecution of crooked Los Angeles administrators of the Coliseum. The legal expert on the case, actually stated, "The feds just do a better job."
Another trend is to note that cities with poor, ethnically dominated populations are rife with corruption. (The LA Times calls them working class cities.) Take a look at Bell, Maywood, El Monte, South El Monte, West Covina, Southgate, and Baldwin Park.
And one can see why it's easier for politicians to take advantage of the poor. They offer housing vouchers to those who are willing to trade in their absentee votes. They retaliate and harm those who speak out (such as filing meritless temporary restraining orders against their own citizens.) Those who are undocumented also are afraid to speak out. And on top of all that, the poor have to worry more about paying the rent and putting food on the table then worrying about their civic duty.
And although all those factors are understandable, it stresses an important point in California and our nation today: What's the accountability mechanism to be put into place for these corrupt politicians in these poorer cities?
In a functioning democratic system, voters who have had enough can vote these people out. But in a place in Baldwin Park, that doesn't happen, especially when the public officials are using their family members and employees to defraud the mail-in votes. So, essentially, the residents are stuck with a dictatorship.
I mean, one solution is always a revolt or revolution, but that's not very likely to happen with a working class population, until they can't afford food or rent. The local police force are under the control of the local politicians. And it appears that the local prosecutors haven't been all that successful in their prosecutions.
I used to believe that the state courts were the solution. And although I've had marginal success with state courts, my view is that the courts have not gone far enough to enforce justice against crooked public officials.
Since it's only the federal agencies that appear to be interested in prosecuting and convicting these public officials who abuse their position for pay, I'm all for expanding resources in those federal agencies that prosecute local corruption. Perhaps then, our cities can be restored in serving and maintaining trust with the public.