Friday, April 21, 2006

Potemkin Village

From a standpoint, I've covered the websites of several oligarchical states with corrupt governments: Turkmenistan and Kyrgystan, Belarus, and North Korea. Most of these are former Soviet satellites, but you actually don't have to go so far for secret police and doctored election results.

Travel no further than the City of Vernon official website, a local municipality that had not held an election for over twenty-five years! Actually, they were finally forced to by outsiders, but the agitators were eventually hounded to outside the city limits by the city fathers who had been in power for generations, often via blatant nepotism. Those election results are still sealed, while legal challenges continue. However, the ballots shouldn't be hard to count. There are only thirty-one homes in this "exclusively industrial" urban area, all of them owned by the City of Vernon.

As astonishing as it might seem, on the city's official website there is no information about the recent election or about public hearings or open meetings of any kind. However, the mayor does brag about over a century of cronyism and having a family "associated with this City since my grandfather co-founded it in 1905."

Indignant city bosses have alleged that the interloping candidates were part of a take-over attempt by the disgraced treasurer of the nearby city of South Gate, Albert Robles. (The website of this struggling scandal-plagued metropolis at least has information for citizens about public business.) Now the police department of South Pasadena has gotten into the act, by charging private investigators hired by Vernon locals with harrassing the would-be freshman politicians who had been forced to retreat to other communities.

Despite these political highjinks and the growing number of cities involved, there has been remarkably little muttering in the blogosphere about this case of a cancelled election. The only dedicated Vernon blog was abandoned after its first entry last year. How interesting to see how much more political resistance from open source activists Atlantic Yards in Brooklyn has generated!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem with your viewpoint lies in the fact that all of the residents are city employees. So in effect the consitutents of the City of Vernon have no reason to overturn the status quo. The 1700 business in the City love being there (as evidenced by 0% vacancy rate) and the only people crying foul are outsiders who have no inherent interest in the City. I highly doubt the challengers, who include a disbarred attorney an ex-con and a 20 year old printing salesman, will muster many votes.

8:46 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The main problem with your point is that the voting constituents of the City of Vernon are all employees of the City. The city owns the housing in order to provide local housing for 24 hour on call employees (i.e. utility or emergency workers). These people have no interest in changing the status quo, so the challengers (which include an ex con, a disbarred attorney and a 20 year old drifter) have almiost zero shot. this is why the challengers asked the judge to toss the registration of 80% of the voters. The challengers said they were beholden to city interests so they could not vote without bias.

There is no precedent for this kind of judgment, so I highly doubt that the judge would disqualify these registered voters. The only people screaming corruption and change are outsiders- not the business (0% vacancy rate) nor the residents. I don't understand who you think is being hurt by the current structure ofthe city.

2:42 PM  

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