Is the ‘Good Life’ Masking Government Dysfunction and Corruption in Commerce?

In July, CityNews reported that the Fair Political Practices Commission had proposed the largest ever fine for a sitting local official upon Commerce Councilwoman Tina Baca Del Rio. The councilwoman, who is accused of numerous political ethics violations, ultimately agreed to $50,000, a record breaker in and of itself.

Baca Del Rio’s problems may just be the tip of the iceberg. Mayor Ivan Altamirano has agreed to a $15,500 fine for campaign finance disclosure violations and conflicts of interest. Councilwoman Lilia Leon is also the subject of an FPPC investigation.

But how much do these indiscretions bother Commerce residents? You might be surprised.

Baca Del Rio was recalled in 2008, only to be reelected a year later. Another councilman who was forced to resign in 2010 for a misdemeanor obstruction of justice conviction was also reelected last year.

A recent article in the L.A. Times delves into the reasons behind Commerce residents’ forgiving nature and reaches an intriguing conclusion: substantial tax revenues and generous city services have largely masked the corruption and dysfunction plaguing the city.

Thanks to a steady flow of income from the Commerce Casino and other lucrative businesses, Commerce residents are able to enjoy a stream of benefits that residents in similarly plagued, surrounding cities are not. These include sports and reading programs for children, generous housing subsidies and even city vacation cabins in the San Bernardino Mountains. The perks have kept many people distracted, one resident told The Times, which may explain the lack of city government watchdog groups among other things. 

Read more about the problems plaguging Commerce and the response from residents here.