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 Montebello on the Road to Independence

Most people inside and outside of Montebello will remember our November, 2007, election as the one which decided the fate of our city's fire department.  But not I.  I will remember the election for what one of the candidates said in two of his news releases.  What he said made me think that Montebello had embarked on the road to independence, albeit modestly and tentatively.

Below is what the candidate said in two October, 2007, news releases.


Montebello, California—“When I am a city councilman, I will ask the council to recognize eleven committees.  If they do not, I will recognize these committees myself and make it possible for people, including teenagers, who learn, labor or live in Montebello to help run our city,” said Giuseppe Veneziano, candidate for Montebello city council. 

According to Veneziano, government should follow the example of business with regard to delegation and feedback.  “In the business world, employers are giving employees more responsibility and encouraging employees to speak their minds about keeping their companies in the black.” 

Veneziano maintains that, if our city made it possible for people in Montebello to help run city hall, our city services would improve and the city treasury would be in the black.  It makes no sense that five city councilors ran the city when there were 3,000 residents in 1920, while only five councilors are doing so today when there are 65,000 residents, according to the candidate.  There is far too much for five people to do. 

“We do not have to wait until after the November election to do this,” Veneziano emphasized.  Anyone who has a stake in Montebello as a student, businessperson or resident may tell him of her or his interest in being on a committee.  Through random drawings, everyone who is interested will be chosen to be on one of the committees which interest him or her. 

The eleven committees are 

·        Billings by contractors to our city.     

·        City expenditures.

·        Improving city services, like parks and recreation and business licensing.

·        Improving contractor services, like rubbish hauling and the city attorney.

·        Making public documents public.

·        Graffiti and litter reduction.

·        Evaluating applicants, like companies, wanting contracts with our city.

·        Keeping youth busy after school and during evenings and weekends.

·        Green activities, like planting fruit trees and promoting hybrid cars.

·        Surveying and visiting residents, to learn what is on their minds.

·        Bringing businesses to our city, helping create jobs in our city.

More committees will be added if Montebelloans wish.  Those who are interested in being on a committee may call 323.633.2840 to leave name and call-back number.  


Montebello, California—In October, Val Zavala, who hosts “Life and Times” on KCET, the public-broadcast television station, did a report about the former treasurer of South Gate, who is now serving a jail term for his mismanagement.  Zavala attributed the problem in South Gate to an overwhelming influx of immigrants whose political culture was different than the American political culture. 

According to Giuseppe Veneziano, long-time Montebello resident, businessman, and candidate for Montebello City Council, the influx of a large number of immigrants into a community is not the cause of trouble for a community.  

“The question which is not being asked, but which must be asked, is ‘What opportunities are given the immigrants to learn about American democracy?’”   

In some communities in America, non-citizens do vote in local elections.  We are told that, during the first hundred fifty years of American history, immigrant voting was “widely practiced.”  But even if, today, a community chose not to let non-citizens vote, there would be other ways for the immigrants to learn American political culture.  

“Earlier this month, I invited those who labored, learned or lived in Montebello to apply for one or more of eleven committees to improve life in Montebello.  Each of those committees would do important work, and each of those committees would be open to citizens and non-citizens, youth and adults,” recollected Veneziano.  

Another way for non-citizens to learn about American democracy would be to participate in a community chest:  discuss, decide, disburse, and monitor the use of funds.  Veneziano observed, “Imagine if our city council set aside $100,000 for the community as a whole to vote for improvements.  We should note that the City of Los Angeles has  eighty-nine neighborhood councils, and each of these gets an annual budget of $50,000.”  

This should not be seen as something unusual or radical.  We are doing this in Montebello already, noted Veneziano, whenever a non-citizen immigrant joins the Rotary, Lions, Kiwanis, Optimist, Soroptimist or chamber of commerce.  “None of these organizations looks to citizenship as a criterion of membership.  Each looks to the individual’s ability and willingness to work for the common good.  We certainly would benefit Montebello if our city council applied this philosophy,” observed Veneziano.  

“And since the school curriculum does not include participation in local democracy, I want high-school students from Montebello, Schurr, Vail, Cantwell, and Don Bosco to take advantage of my invitation.  That there are high-school students who are not yet citizens is not at issue,” concluded Veneziano.  

People who live, learn or labor in Montebello may apply for one or more committees.  Each person will be chosen for one of his / her selected committees.  Those who are interested in committees may call 323.633.2840 to leave name and call-back number.  


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