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February 1, 2007

“Forget injuries, never forget kindnesses.”

Confucius, Chinese philosopher & reformer (551 BC - 479 BC)


In This Issue

1.     Public Records:  How and Where to Get Them

2.     The Eleventh Commandment, Part 4

3.     Announcements

4.     Fun Fact

5.     About Montebello E-News and My Montebello 


Online Community Lesson

 Public Records:  How and Where to Get Them

Student-authored and teacher-edited

          The California Public Records Act allows public records to be viewed by anyone.  What are public records?  Public records are defined as “any writing containing information relating to the conduct of the public’s business prepared, owned, used or retained by any state or local agency regardless of physical form or characteristics.”  In other words public records are documents like birth and marriage certificates, court records, and minutes of public meetings.

            There are some public records which cannot be viewed by the public.  These include test questions, confidential records released to any agency, and data gathered for scientific research.

            Public records can be viewed online or by visiting city hall.  When visiting city hall, you have to fill out an application and wait ten days in order to view any document.  Access to documents is free.  You may not take a document with you, but you may get a copy of the document.  If you wish to obtain a copy, you have to pay a fee of six to twenty-five cents per page.

            A good public-records website would be  Be careful when searching for public records online, because there is always the risk of being deceived.  (See the essay entitled “The Eleventh Commandment”, in this newsletter.)  Other than that, enjoy your public-records search.

If you answer the multiple-choice questions below and e-mail to with “Lesson answers” in the subject field, you will be credited toward a “certificate of recognition in community affairs” to be awarded in 2007 by a local nonprofit organization. 

1. Public records can be obtained

(a) through the Internet.

(b) by visiting city hall.

(c) both (a) and (b).

2. What would be the best plan to save time and money with regard to public records?

(a) Make a list of desired documents and ask government officials to obtain and post documents at their websites.

(b) Ask neighbors what they consider important, obtain those documents, and post them at a community website.

(c) Ask neighbors what they consider important, obtain those documents, and give the documents to the public library for classification and display.  




Семь раз отме́рь, оди́н отре́жь.

Translation from Russian: Measure seven times, cut once. 

            We have stated the eleventh commandment, “We shall not pass judgment or take action without confirming the information which has incited or attracted us”, and we have suggested that the best means for most of us to follow this commandment would be if each of us joined a group which came together regularly, enjoyably, to put this commandment into practice.

             But is the eleventh commandment much ado about nothing?  Even if we formed our group of family or close friends and met once a week for coffee and conversation, would the benefit to be gained justify the expenditure of time and dime?

            Let us look to the November, 2006, elections in California, when a proposition on the ballot would have greatly increased the tax on cigarettes.  The proposition was defeated by well-crafted propaganda on television.  I recall two key arguments by opponents:  (1) only ten percent of the tax money would go toward reducing cigarette smoking and (2) there were special interests behind the proposition.  I wonder whether, if we had followed the eleventh commandment, the proposition would have prevailed at the polls, because we would have learned that (1) tax money not spent on reducing smoking would have gone into children’s program and keeping emergency rooms open [have we forgotten that the number of emergency rooms has decreased over the past decade?] and (2) the special interests—the supposed villains—were no other than the American Lung Association and the American Cancer Society, either of whom I would invite to dinner.

Another example is closer to home.  Months ago, a woman came to the paralegal office where I worked.  She needed help, because she owed money to a finance company.  Why could she not pay?  She had received a letter from some outfit in Canada saying that she had won substantially in a lottery.  She was to submit a processing fee before she cashed the check enclosed with the congratulatory letter.  She submitted the fee to the Canadian outfit and, with her “winning check”, financed the purchase of a car.  To her most unpleasant surprise, the check bounced.  And was the outfit in Canada anywhere to be found?  Of course not.  Was the finance company about to forgive her the failure to pay?    Nothing in the law of which I knew said that the company would have to forgive her failure to pay.

            There was a different kind of scam last week, when the municipal police department put out a crime alert by telephone, about people who allegedly needed help cashing lottery winnings, because they were undocumented immigrants.  They would steal money from the elderly through the scam.  Were the criminals caught?  Not if the police had to put out a crime alert.

            And there was the example from the Internet, mentioned in the online community lesson entitled “Who Is Playing Poker with Your Life?”, from the January 18 issue of E-News, available at 

So, the list of reasons for the eleventh commandment can be rather long.  Worrisome.  Frightening.  Enraging.

            An important point is that if we let ourselves be fooled, there is little, if any, recourse, to set things right.  Will our state hold a multi-million dollar election because the opponents to the proposition lied?  Of course not.  Will the police or some government agency devote scarce resources to chasing cunning criminals when bigger problems like murders and drugs demand their attention?  Of course not.  Would it not be the height of arrogance or the depth of naïveté for us to expect otherwise?  Would it not be wise for us to avoid unpleasant surprises, by following the eleventh commandment—religiously and immediately?  Imagine how much more happy and secure our personal lives and community would be if we did so. 



FOR EVERYONE.  Rummage sale starts February 2, 2007, and runs through February 4, 2007.  The sale is going to be at the Montebello United Methodist Church, located at 1220 West Whittier Boulevard, Montebello 90640.  For more information, you can contact the church at (323) 728-8179.   From E-News team 1, squad 2. 

FOR EVERYONE.  Montebello City Planning Commission meeting, Monday, February 5, 2007, 7 p.m., city-council chamber.  For a copy of the agenda before the meeting date, call the city planning department, (323) 887-1200. 

FOR EVERYONE.  Montebello City Traffic and Safety Commission meeting, Wednesday, February 7, 2007, 7 p.m., city-council chamber.  For a copy of the agenda before the meeting date, call the city engineering department, (323) 887-1200.


Fun Fact

Many years ago in Scotland, a new game was invented.
It was ruled "Gentlemen only, ladies forbidden", and
thus the word "golf" entered into the English language.


About Montebello E-News and My Montebello

To learn about this newsletter, Montebello E-News, and the accompanying, growing Web site, “My Montebello”, visit  Also, you will find instructions and contact information for submitting announcements for publication in this newsletter.




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