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Steve Lopez: Was I too hard on Robert Rizzo? No way

Robert Rizzo

To critics who say I was too harsh or unfair for attempting to interview Robert Rizzo, the reviled former Bell city official who is now guarding a parking lot in Huntington Beach, I've carefully considered the criticism and have two things to say.

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/.a/6a00d8341c630a53ef0133f4150cbe970b-piFirst, I have no regrets. Second, I'm not sorry. I thought it was worth asking Rizzo if he had any regrets or would like to apologize for the fiasco in Bell.

He has been essentially unresponsive and unavailable since the story broke, and I thought it was worth trying to get him to talk when I had a rare chance.

He is charged with more than 50 felonies and is accused, along with cohorts, of misappropriating millions of dollars in a poor community, while concealing the fact that his annual compensation was in the $1.5-million neighborhood.

Citizens paid astronomical taxes during this period, and among the money allegedly raided was a low-income housing fund. In the grand tradition of bellying up to the public trough, Rizzo stands charged as a champion, a high achiever and a Hall of Famer, make no mistake.

As he awaits trial, the city of Bell suffers the devastating effects of years of deception and mismanagement, and it may take many more years for fiscal order to be restored. If you'd like to read a columnist who would pass on the opportunity to ask the man about his alleged deeds, and yes, to put his feet to the fire, you should immediately find another columnist.

I'd also like to say that despite one reader's claim that Latinos like me should be kicked out of the country, I'm actually thinking of staying, at least until I see what happens at Rizzo's trial.

-- Steve Lopez

Photo: Former Bell City Administrator Robert Rizzo has a new gig as a parking lot attendant in Huntington Beach. Credit: Don Bartletti / Los Angeles Times

 
Comments () | Archives (127)

Steve Lopez your the MAN! Of course some would like to get rid of Educated Latinos in this country but... It's not gonna happen!

the only thing you are guilty of Steve is being an incendiary gumshoe. hat's off, we need more like you. can you write for sports and tell plaschke and simers to go to hell?

You are not sorry, but you are sorry. So was your column.

You have really let me down, Steve. I am the commentor on the original column who said that you were one of my role models growing up... into an eventual professional (and successful) writer.

And in terms of you playing the race card... it is not unexpected that you would pick the most virulent comment of all to denigrate all the other reasonable and rational feedback you received with respect to this article. I am a Latino as well and I feel that you playing the race card is BS, for lack of a better term. You are just as aware as I am that race has little or nothing to do with this issue. I won't be as vicious as you have been, as I elect to take the moral high ground... but it's not like you are someone who has their finger on the pulse of the Mexican-American community in Los Angeles.

MyNameJoseJimenez : I prefer Hispanic rather than Latino based on the below definition.

The difference between Latino and Hispanic:

•Latino generally refers to countries (or cultures) that were once under Roman rule. This includes Italy, France, Spain, etc. Brazilians are considered to be Latino, but are not considered to be Hispanic.

•Hispanic describes cultures or countries that were once under Spanish rule (Mexico, Central America, and most South America where Spanish is the primary language).


Thank you Mr.Lopez job well done. what do your critics want you to do. take him out to lunch and converse in a nice friendly manner and hope he may volunteer information to the public.absolutly no APOLOGY NEEDED by the way nice picture look's like two surfers out whale hunting.

Rizzo can serve out his time in another way. Annoying for him for sure, but he has no grievance with anyone. Steve Lopez isn't the reason why Rizzo is considered infamous.

On one hand, it’s understandable that you conducted your interview in the manner you chose. Part of me was cheering you on. I live in Huntington Beach, and part of me wants to go and stick my tongue out at him. Part of me is disgusted at his appearance, not because I want to laugh at overweight people (I’m a former 300+ pounder and remember the insults), but because his wrongdoings concern piggery, gluttony and greed--and it's disgusting--especially since he has harmed so many. His being overweight highlights the obvious: this man has out-of-control appetites. What is worth considering is the notion of high road vs. low. The child in me wants to stick my tongue out at him, poke my finger in his belly and shame him. The child in me wants him (and people like him) to be sent away to a “Midnight Express prison”, a “Papillion island”, or be put on some awful manure-pick-up duty for the rest of his life. The grown-up in me is trying to take the high road. We have a court system, designed within our democracy, which dictates the way to deal with wrongdoing and lawbreaking. Egging him on, taunting him about his weight and encouraging others to do the same isn’t useful. It does, though, encourage the angry, undisciplined, hotheaded child within all of us. I would have been glad to see you take on this man, his appetites (and the bigger picture of political and corporate greed) with a sharp wit and skilled use of language. You are in a position of power with an important forum. Elucidate, educate via the high road. Pot shots? Anyone can do that.

Maybe you should change your name to "JK Lopez" so as to be more like your apparent idols, John and Ken.

Steve - You're nothing but a punk. The guy is going to jail, so what if hey does some community service at the surf museum. If you think you're macho, let's have you go down to the hood and hassle gangsters who are out on bail or perhaps come over to scare straight a couple of buddies of mine who are in outlaw motorcycle clubs,and have physically destroyed people. C'mon Steve.

Steve, when you have to explain, you are guilty. Accept and acknowledge that you published your article out of spite and personal animus. Your article had the sole purpose of damaging Rizzo and the museum he served. You like hurting people; it makes you feel powerful. Such laudable goals are why the LA Times is dieing. You won't post this comment because it insults your sensibilities.

post post post post post. The LA Times = Censorship. Post post post

Robert Fellmeth called. He said to post MBC Voice comments. Post, post, waiting for a post, no post, never a post, postless, LA Times censors all post, LAT creates postal, blame postal in AZ on LAT.

Nothing is too harsh for piece of trash Rizzo. People quit crying over how "bad" he got treated by Lopez. While you're out there counting your pennies, Rizzo is trying to figure out how to best spend those millions he stashed away.

Hi Steve,

Your column is absolutely delightful - thank you for the many years of insight and enjoyment! Been meaning to thank you for a long time anyway. And no, you weren't too harsh on Ratzo and his cushy community service gig. Don't let the rodents (or the gophers) slow you down.

I have been a fan of Mr. Lopez's column for some time but he made a bad mistake here, with the "Talk Back" column only making it worse. Mr. Lopez intent was not to ask Mr. Rizzo questions about Bell. I read the column this morning and then heard Mr. Lopex being interviewed on KNX 1070 this morning. He made fun of Rizzo for the entire radio interview. This was the equivalent to throwing tomatoes at a man that can't defend himself. To have this second column make arguments on his intent contradicts the original column and especially the 1070 interview. In fact this morning Mr. Lopez said he was most proud of the "Jabba photo" on the 1st pasge of the paper. Bottom line, I think Rizzo is guilty but can we wait for him to be convicted before throwing tomatoes at him and eliminating his ability to provide the community service he was mandated to do.

Steve Lopez - you may feel like you society justice, but Robert Rizzo is an easy target. Why don't you let the courts deal with justice instead of intruding on a guy trying to pay his debt to society through volunteer service and kicking him when he is down. Steve Lopez you're actually doing more harm than good in my opinion. I dare you to go continue interview other harden criminals out there and get them kick off their volunteer duties and see what happens. I guarantee you would get your ass kick! I look forward to your next TMZ column. The LA times is now trash with writers like you.

Thank you Steve Lopez for bringing back the concept of shame... it's something we need in a country where too many folks think they're entitled to everything at the expense of the weak, the poor, the elderly and the very young. If we had a public stockade, I'd vote Rizzo to be first in line for it.

Bravo to you, dude, for having the guts to actually do your job.

Steve Lopez was right on questioning tactics
that cuts services to others...but which benefits
his pay greatly now and pads retirement...
u know...like what is happening in a grand scale
with some state workers...
only lookin out for themselves and NOT what they
could do for this state economy...
public service needs to get back into focus...public
service to help others ...NOT themselves.

I don't understand.
You're writing to justify your column?
Who made you write a justification?
Is this paper so "politically correct" and backwards?
This is a joke, right?

This is very embarrassing to see Steve Lopez coming close to apologizing for a lukewarm hit on a true villain.

No wonder the LA Times is... etc. etc

The fact that so many people here can't tell the difference between a journalist/reporter (someone who is supposed to write a story based on just the facts) and a columnist (someone who writes a story based on personal opinion) reveals much about the lack of critical thinking skills among Americans today. I blame it partially on our failing education system and mostly on the fact that most people aren't really that intelligent in the first place.

Right on, Steve. I wondered how Rizzo was whiling away his idle hours until his felony trial starts. Excellent story and the accompanying photo is a classic. Surfing museum, eh. I can just picture Ratso on a surfboard. Mike Botula.

Let him pick up papers on the freeway!

Well, congratulations on "asking the tough questions." The part that amazes me is that you would go and sic some random Starbucks customers on him. That serves neither journalism nor the public good.

I enjoyed the previous article. What a rotten crook Rizzo is; he deserved every bit of it!

Old Rizzo had a chance to respond to Steve Lopez and chose not to do so. He had his chance. Steve...you are right on the money with this lard-butt crook!

 
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