Hogen-Esch, Tom

Tom Hogen-Esch is an Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science at Cal State Northridge.

Vernon Disincorporation Threatens Home Rule

By Tom Hogen-Esch

Can state government wipe a California city from the map? AB 46, headed to the Senate floor, proposes exactly that for the scandal-plagued city of Vernon. If it passes, the event would mark the first time in decades that state government abolished a city against its will.

Local officials are watching the case closely. Many are wondering what will be left of the California’s tradition of local autonomy if Vernon is stripped of cityhood.

Much like relations between the national government and the states, the relationship between state and city governments in California has a long and complicated history. At the core of the debate lies a conflict between two long-standing legal principles: Dillon’s rule and home rule.

Bell Corruption Scandal’s Lessons

By Tom Hogen-Esch

As the shock of the political corruption scandal in the City of Bell begins to fade, residents there face the task of rebuilding a viable local democracy.  Close examination of the Bell scandal reveals a number of important lessons and options for reform.

Ultimately, corruption in Bell and other California cities are symptoms of a systemic failure to integrate new immigrants into local political systems. Finding ways to engage communities to make politics work for residents is the key to establishing healthy local democracy.

The factors that allowed brazenly high salaries and other corrupt practices to take root in Bell are fairly well-understood.  During the late 1990s and 2000s ethnic change, deindustrialization, and the lack of community groups and a regular media watchdog allowed the city to devolve into the municipal equivalent of a failed state.  Without normal institutions of democratic accountability, Bell became ripe for the picking.