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Janice Leal Bass: ‘This Is My Town.’

Ebony Bailey |
March 2, 2011 | 8:07 p.m. PST

Staff Reporter

Having lived in Bell her entire life, Janice Leal Bass wants to restore the city into the “jewel” she remembers, with thriving businesses and a stable reserve fund.

The 69-year-old retired teacher said the city has gone nearly bankrupt and several businesses have been hurt since it was revealed that the City Council was suspected of illegally collecting public funds. Bass is running for City Council in a special recall election to replace Luis Artiga for a two-year term.

“I have lived in Bell for my entire life and I have never been as sad and angry as I am now,” she said. “I am saddened by the number of families that are truly hurting, and unintended consequence of the greed that has overcome our city.”

A number of long-time businesses, including the Chevrolet dealership on Atlantic Avenue and Western Auto across the street, have shut down, she said.

However, she said there are streets filled with businesses that are still viable.

“They’re not necessarily big businesses,” she said “I didn’t realize that on Gage there’s a bicycle repair shop - it’s just nice.”

She is in the third generation of her family to live in the city and knows of the inner workings of Bell since her husband, George, served as a City Council member for 13 years from 1990 to 2003.

Up until recently, her campaign was put on hold because she has been caring for her husband who has been sick with cancer for six years.

Bass says everything about the city needs to be changed, but if elected she has three main priorities: maintain the Bell Police Department, review and reduce property taxes, and examine all expenses and employee contracts. She would like to see at least 10 percent cut from everything.

“That might be too high or it might be too low; I don’t know,” she said. “It’s going to be a huge job; it’s going to take years.”

When her husband left the council in 2003, Bass said the city was “set for life.” There was a $10 million reserve fund and she thought everything was under control.

“It’s all gone now, and then some,” she said. “Mr. Rizzo actually did well for the first 10 years and after a couple people left there was no oversight, and people got greedy.”

Although she is running for the two-year seat, she plans on staying on City Council until she sees the city restored to its previous state, if elected.

“I’m running for the two year seat because I want to see if my fellow council members are really interested in changing the city or if they are just interested in arguing,” she said. “If they are interested in arguing I can do other things.”

Her friend Bob Maklin, a longtime resident of Bell, thinks her long-lived experience with the city gives her an edge for her candidacy.

“She has a lot of good ideas for the city of how to bring it back,” he said. “She’s lived in Bell a long time and has a lot of knowledge on how to bring the city about.”

Before the salary scandals were revealed by the Los Angeles Times, Bass said there were a lot of rumors going on about the issue within the city.

“It’s not unusual for a city to have had a lot of money and a new council have it slaughtered,” she said. “The only difference is, not to this extent.”

Bass has previously been involved with a number of programs in the city as well as the Catholic community, having taught at all of the Catholic schools in the area.

She has been married for 45 years and has two children, one who lives in Long Beach and one who lives Orange County, and five grandchildren. She enjoys sewing in her spare time and works much with machine embroidery.

She loves the “small town feel” of Bell and how the people of the city are connected in some degree.

“I don’t know if there’s something about the community. I just live here and I just want to help,” she said. “This is my town.”

Reach reporter Ebony Bailey here.
Follow her on Twitter @ebonymarieb.



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