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Video Panel Discussion: Broken Cities or Civic Renewal?

In 2011, the citizens of Bell, California, discovered from an exposé in the Los Angeles Times that their city officials were among the highest paid in the nation, in spite of the city's underperforming economy and high unemployment rate. After some officials were arrested, the city was left with no functioning government and empty coffers. This might seem like the least favorable environment for encouraging civic engagement in public affairs, but that is not how Pepperdine University’s Davenport Institute for Public Engagement and Civic Leadership saw it. Davenport’s Pete Peterson helped the new civic leadership design a process to bring everyday citizens directly into the redesign of government and its budget. According to one account, “Since his involvement with the city began, Peterson’s partnership with Bell’s new and interim management has served as a living, breathing case study of public engagement and civic renewal, one that he hopes will inspire other cities to adopt further dialogue between local government and residents. [As Peterson said,] ‘I’ve been tremendously encouraged thus far by both the citizens of Bell and the new city leaders, who have been at the forefront of trying to change the identity of a city now known as a symbol of corruption.’” This interview was recorded on October 26th 2013 to discuss what happened in Bell, California, and how the city was trying to move forward at that time. Speakers include Pete Peterson, Executive Director of the Davenport Institute; Christopher Gates from Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement; City of Bell Council Member Ana Maria Quintana; and former interim Chief Administrative Officer for the City of Bell Kenneth Hampian. Hudson Institute Senior Fellow William Schambra moderated the discussion.