Politics, government and public life for Southern California

Legacy of Bell's corruption case: high tax rates, new civic engagement

Charlie's Chop Shop

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Charlie Ortiz, owner of Charlie's Chop Shop in Bell, gives Joshua Bolin a haircut under the watchful eye of his father, Red Bolin, and a mural of Bruce Lee

Bell Mayor Ali Saleh

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Bell Mayor Ali Saleh speaks to local business people at a ribbon-cutting ceremony Jan. 16, 2013.

Opening Hearing For Bell City Administrators

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File: From left Bell Mayor Oscar Hernandez, former council members Luis Artiga, former Assistant City Administrator Angela Spaccia and former Bell City Administrator Robert Rizzo appear during a preliminary hearing at Los Angeles Superior Court February 22, 2011 in Los Angeles.

Several former city council members from the city of Bell go on trial next week on charges of public corruption. They are accused of taking large city salaries for no work, attending phantom meetings, and receiving illegal loans from the city.

Since their arrests, and that of former City Manager Robert Rizzo and his assistant, new leaders have been trying to restructure the city. Residents and business owners say they are noticing a difference, although the pace of change has been slow.

RELATED: Jury selection begins in Bell corruption trial in Los Angeles Superior Court

Charlie Ortiz opened Charlie's Chop Shop in Bell a dozen years ago when the Rizzo regime was in full swing. Ortiz swiftly made professional and personal friends with members of the local police department, but suspected something might be wrong.

"I used to think your voice wasn't heard as loud, before," he says.