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All-novice Bell City Council takes oath

April 7, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
It was a big night for the troubled city of Bell.

Thursday evening the five newly elected members of its all-new city council were sworn in. Violeta Alvarez, Danny Harber, Ana Maria Quintana, Ali Saleh and Nestor Valencia will take the oath of office at the Bell Community Center.

The results of the March 8 election were approved earlier this week by the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

The five new council members know the job won't be easy as the city faces a nearly $5 million budget deficit, but they say they are ready to get Bell back on track.

"A lot of us have been waiting to take office and start to rebuild our city," Quintana said. "I'm very honored, I'm very proud."

"To me it means a brand new beginning for the city, it's like a phoenix rising out of the ashes ? and I think it will," Harber added.

Eight Bell city officials, including four sitting council members, were charged with a variety of corruption charges for allegedly bilking public funds through hefty salaries and loans of taxpayer dollars. The fifth former council member, who was not arrested, lost his bid for re-election.

Once installed, the new City Council will confront a number of significant challenges. They include a $3.5 million to $4.5 million budget deficit, the city's default on an outstanding $35 million bond issue, and whether to maintain a police force or let the sheriff's department take over local law enforcement.

The new council has a scheduled meeting Monday.

City News Service contributed to this story