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Bell residents question city's grass-roots organization

September 18, 2010 |  4:09 pm

The Bell Assn. to Stop the Abuse, a group formed in the wake of the city's salary scandal, is being second-guessed by residents who believe the grass-roots coalition has slowly been taken over by aspiring politicians and professional insiders.

The organization is being financed in part by the city's police union; two well-traveled political consultants have been brought in for guidance; several former council candidates have become vocal leaders; and a group that was forged on a belief in financial transparency has been less than forthcoming about its own finances.

BASTA, which means "enough" in Spanish, is trying to recall all but one of the city's five council members, an effort that, if successful, would result in a new election. There's suspicion that some group members are already in campaign mode and, for the first time, there are signs of division.

"They brought the insiders in," said Annette Robles, 51, who has lived in Bell for three decades and is wary of BASTA's motives. "I don't feel like they're doing anything for the people."

Among the group's founding members are Ali Saleh, who lost in last year's Bell City Council election, and Cristina Garcia, a resident of nearby Bell Gardens, where she ran unsuccessfully for council. Both have said they want to help the city move past the turmoil and emerge as a model of democracy and fiscal restraint.

"This is a big opportunity for the whole Southeast side," said Garcia, who taught statistics at USC and is a consultant for an ethnic marketing research firm.

Read the full story here.

-- Corina Knoll