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 March 8, 2007

Educate your children to self-control, to the habit of holding passion and prejudice and evil tendencies subject to an upright and reasoning will, and you have done much to abolish misery from their future and crimes from society.
Benjamin Franklin
US author, diplomat, inventor, physicist, politician, and printer
(1706 - 1790)


In This Issue

1.      The AOL Founder Stole a Montebello Idea?

2.     Is Everyone “LOCO”?, Part 4

3.     Announcements

4.     Fun Fact

5.     About Montebello E-News and “My Montebello”


Online Community Lesson

The AOL Founder Stole a Montebello Idea?

          Steve Case, the founder of AOL, was on television in February, 2007, talking about a new project, “Revolution Health”,, meant to help people get health care.  It was said on the home page that we could compare and rate doctors and hospitals.  Has this billionaire stolen an idea from Montebello?

          No.  But it is satisfying to know that we are in the same league as he.  At the “My Montebello” Web site,, there is a menu in the left margin of the home page.  One menu item, not yet in use, is called “Open Suggestion Box”.  When it is in use, people who labor, learn or live in Montebello will be able to make suggestions to improve the quality of life in Montebello.  Without criticizing individuals, we will be able to use the open suggestion box to document experiences, find others who have had similar experiences, and share ideas, making it more likely that we could and would come together and improve life in Montebello.  Strength in numbers.

          Really that important?  Judge for yourself.  Had the suggestion box been common here and everywhere in the United States, at least three recent issues known to this writer could have been addressed:

·        first, in February, there was work done on the railroad tracks paralleling Olympic Boulevard;  the railroad company did not follow its announced schedule, and there was a time when all the Montebello railroad crossings except Bluff Road were blocked;  imagine the danger that represented—not to mention the adverse environmental impact (more pollution);

·        second, the recent congressional hearings about the poor quality of patient care at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the hospitals of the Veterans Administration might not have occurred;  members of Congress, the news media, and the public would have been aware of the problem earlier, because they could have read comments placed by veterans into a national open suggestion box;

·        third, the emerging problem with credit-card company policies is being aired at other congressional hearings;  it is saddening that certain policies have gone unchecked for so long and have put or kept people in debt;  had we had an open suggestion box, we would have known of the problem earlier.  

How many times do we face a danger, loss, obstacle or annoyance like one of the above without knowing how many other people have been affected?  Do we realize that, if we knew who else had been affected, we could use our strength in numbers to make a change for the better?  Does it become apparent how something as simple as a community open suggestion box could be good for the community, as a national open suggestion box could be for the country? 

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. What new idea has AOL founder Steve Case brought to us?

(a) AOL software enabling the home computer to converse with us.

(b) A Web site meant to help us get health care. 

2. What is similar about the “rate doctors and hospitals” feature at Case’s Web site and the “open suggestion box” feature at

(a) People may send information to the Web site which others may read and upon which they may act to help themselves.

(b) Each is the same as the service provided by the Better Business Bureau. 

3. What is the difference between Case’s feature and our open suggestion box?

(a) At Case’s Web site, but not ours, we can read criticisms about individuals.

(b) Our Web site displays suggestions, which means that submitters to the open suggestion box must give thought to how what has harmed or annoyed them might be improved.


Is Everyone “LOCO”?,

Part 4

Now that we have exceeded so many of our limits -- personal, emotional, relational, physical, financial -- we have no margin at all.  Yet because we don't even know what margin is, we don't realize it is gone. We know that something is not right, but we can't solve the puzzle beyond that.  Our pain is palpable, but our assailant remains unnamed."

-- Richard A. Swenson, M.D., American physician, author, educator

         In part 1 about “LOCO”, “Limits on Constructive Output”, it was said that our lives were too complex for us to make the right decisions all the time.  In part 3, we identified two culprits, population growth and idealism.  We left with the question, “If we did take LOCO into consideration, what would we be doing differently?” 

          As for population growth, it would be good if we decreased population density, but we are not going to lower the birth rate quickly or find unpopulated land to settle soon.  Yet, there is another solution:  let communities be more autonomous.  Give them greater latitude to customize solutions to their local needs.  Let them define community boundaries and enforce those boundaries. 

          Does it not seem strange that California, with well over thirty million people, has so many inflexible statutes with which communities must comply, especially in light of the diversity of cultures in California?  How many times does Montebello’s city council consult with the city attorney to learn whether an action would be in compliance with state statute? 

          Yes, there are possible disadvantages to greater autonomy for communities.  A community might decide to ban a certain ethnic group from ownership in its neighborhoods (however, a news item from “World News Tonight with Charles Gibson”, March 7, 2007:  a subdivision of Lubbock, Texas, will not permit sex offenders to buy homes) or there might be conflict with the state or federal constitution with regard to permissible zoning, pollution controls, business regulations.  An interesting “compromise” would be to give communities more legislative autonomy, in exchange for greater federal judicial oversight.  Also, it should be noted that advocacy for local autonomy is not the domain of  conservatives only.  This writer found it interesting, but not surprising, that one of the “Ten Key Values” of the U.S. Green Party was decentralization: 

...Decision-making should, as much as possible, remain at the individual and local level, while assuring that civil rights are protected for all citizens. 

          As for the bind in which we put ourselves through our idealism, why do we have “No Child Left Behind”?  Is it to assure every child that he or she have gainful employment upon graduation, or that he or she have the opportunity to own a Mercedes and a house in Beverly Hills?  If the former, then we could take the pressure off of  teachers bound by “No Child Left Behind”, by redirecting funds into gainful employment upon graduation.  How?  Imagine if a billion dollars in greenbacks were used as a reserve for ten billion dollars in local currency.  ("Local currency"?  See the community lesson entitled “Is It Legal to Print Money?  Yes.” at  A local currency could be used to ensure gainful employment.  To get more bang for the buck, we could use a local currency to pay for jobs which would assure a better quality of life in a community, like more coaches for youth sports, more tutors for youth, more crossing guards, more exercise leaders and food gardeners. 

           Different matter.  How did LOCO result in this writer being excused from jury duty?  Before a jury was impaneled, voir dire was taking place, that is, jurors were being selected, for a trial in Los Angeles Superior Court, Norwalk, in November, 2006.  One of the attorneys asked a question, and this writer explained that the length and complexity of jury instructions were proof that error could creep into a trial, that we could not assure justice.  (How often have you heard of a mistrial?  Recently, in the case of “Scooter” Libby, who worked for Vice President Cheney, a juror was dismissed for having been exposed to news about the trial.  The jury deliberated for ten days before reaching a verdict.)  This writer said that he did not believe in jury trial; he was excused from jury service.  Another example.  The fallibility of our system of justice was underscored when the potential juror sitting next to this writer said that her English was good enough to bring her to a voir dire but not good enough to understand everything which the judge said. 

          What, then, can be done to assure a less fallible system of justice?  That will be explored in part five of this essay. 



FOR EVERYONE. The next regular meeting of the Montebello city council will take place on Wednesday, March 14, 2007, at 7:30 p.m., in the council chambers, 1600 West Beverly Boulevard. Those who wish to speak must fill a form and give it to the city clerk by 7:30 p.m.  It is suggested that those  who have much to say prepare a written document, make copies, pass those out by 7:30 p.m., and then orally summarize the contents of the document when called to speak.

FOR EVERYONE. The Save Montebello Hills Sierra Club Task Force holds regular, general meetings on the first and third Wednesday of each month at 6:00 p.m. We meet at the Carrow's Restaurant, 2501 Via Campo, Montebello, CA 90640 in the CVC / 99 Cent Store / MAX Food shopping center next to the 60 (Pomona) Freeway. Everyone who is interested in helping preserve the last remaining open space from the Los Angeles River east to the Rio Hondo as a Natural Park is welcome to come. For more information call or email Margot Eiser, Co-Founder, 323.728.7066,, or Linda Strong, Co-Chair, 323.727.7189.

FOR BUSINESSPEOPLE, TEACHERS, AND COMMUNITY LEADERS. Judges wanted to serve on a panel with other business, civic and education leaders who will evaluate the multimedia presentations made by California high-school student teams at the annual California SAGE Tournament, where teams will compete based on their entrepreneurship and social ventures. The tournament will be held at the Sheraton Gateway Hotel, Los Angeles, 6101 West Century Boulevard, on Saturday, April 28. For more information about the tournament, e-mail the founder and executive director, Dr. Curt DeBerg, California State University, Chico, For more information on SAGE, go to or contact (Note: Santa Monica High School won the 2006 SAGE World Cup. The finals were held in Shanghai, China. This year’s finals will be in Odessa, the Ukraine.)



Fun Fact

 “Want to talk about voter apathy?  In 1997, Mike Soleto ran unopposed for school board in Westmoreland, Kansas.  The problem was that nobody—not even Soleto—showed up at the polls to vote.  Since nobody won, the board appointed a new member, but it wasn’t that loser Mike Soleto.”  From the Daily Breeze, Torrance, California.


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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