May 24, 2007
Before I got married I had six theories about bringing up children;
now I have six children and no theories.
John Wilmot, Second Earl of Rochester,
whose libertine life probably led to his early demise, 1647 - 1680
1. Are We Puppets on a String?
Walks outside the Box, Part 6
The Flashback Quarterback on Poor Customer Service
E-News and “My Montebello”
We Puppets on a String?
“Puppets we are” is how Yoda of
“Star Wars" would say it.
Sunday morning, during a commercial break in “This Week with George
Stephanopoulos”, an oil company was running an advertisement, ostensibly
interviewing people on the street. An interviewee said that oil companies
had to diversify.
out. Oil companies had to diversify? Does this worry you?
you heard anybody say, “We need to break the bonds with which the oil
companies have tied us?” Oil companies controlled a large part of our
energy market in the second half of the twentieth century. They control a
large part now. They make very large profit. And now they want to
control—correction, they have begun to control—other parts of our energy
is wrong with this? Certainly, for them to control as much as they can is
in their and their shareholders’ interest. But their control is
in the public interest,
in the planet’s interest.
“bottom line” for oil companies and other traditional companies is profit.
There is something relatively new called the “triple bottom line”.
Community-oriented businesspeople define the triple bottom line as “people,
planet, and profit”, in descending order of priority. One might argue that
oil companies have a triple bottom line these days, but the order would be
different: profit first, nothing in second place, and people and planet
tied for third.
For us to accept that oil companies must diversify, as was said in the
advertisement last Sunday, is for us to resign ourselves to their control of
a larger share of the energy market. And with profit being the primary
consideration of oil companies, have we considered that their timetable for
alternative energy might be different from ours? That they might delay the
introduction of alternative energy until they took all the profit which they
could from oil, restrained only by a possible public revolt?
public should have a battle cry: “Energy independence!” And that
beyond the U.S. ending our dependence on foreign oil. Energy independence
means that each of us would do everything possible to break free of the
thrall in which the oil companies now hold us.
If you answer the multiple-choice questions
below and e-mail to
email@example.com 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. A statement that oil companies have to
(a) should be heeded by those companies.
(b) is subtle propaganda to keep us from
thinking about energy independence.
2. Energy independence can best be achieved
(a) by driving fuel-efficient vehicles.
(b) by supporting
U.S. policy for energy independence.
(c) by personally reducing energy
(d) by implementing community programs
independent of involvement or funding by oil companies.
(e) by urgently requesting that managers of
pension funds invested in oil companies put people and planet before profit.
Walks outside the Box,
is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot
George Bernard Shaw, Irish literary critic,
playwright and essayist,
1925 Nobel Prize for Literature, 1856-1950
“Walks outside the Box” is about finding
solutions when others shrug their shoulders, despair or offer palliatives.
In part 5, we explored the introduction of “community watchdogs”. In this
part, we look at how to implement a watchdog program.
Before we start, we need to address a
concern. “Community watchdog” sounds like a euphemism for “vigilante”,
which has a negative connotation in our society. If properly structured, a
watchdog program would not stray into the realm of vigilantes.
How would we set up the program?
The first step would be for
the community to identify its priorities: graffiti? traffic safety?
methamphetamines? litter? homelessness? code enforcement? global
warming? health? poverty? employment? fraud?
The second step would be to
determine who could become watchdogs: retirees? working adults?
teenagers? children? Each could play a role, although some roles would be
appropriate only for certain age groups.
The third step would be to
figure out how to collect information: cellular telephone? telephone? Web
site? auto-dialer? door to door?
The fourth step would be to
plan how to announce the program and communicate findings: cellular
telephone? telephone? Web site? auto-dialer? door to door?
The fifth step would be to
deliberate on who should know of the findings: a nongovernmental
organizations? government? neighbors? This can be tricky. To avoid
entering the realm of vigilantes, we would want government involved, but if
we involved government, others would raise a concern about government
intrusion and possible violations of the Bill of Rights. (You see how we
can box ourselves into a corner and be paralyzed with inaction? Revisit
“Walks outside the Box, Part 1”, April 19, 2007, for a way out of this
The sixth step—and this is
important in distinguishing our program from that of vigilantes—would be to
decide on what we would do about the violations and problems which we
found: an advisory letter to the violator? an alternative,
solution to that prescribed by
law, which might include an optional, nongovernmental process, chosen by the
violator in lieu of a judicial process? perhaps a menu of alternative
solutions? enforcement of the law?
A key factor would be the affordability
and, consequently, sustainability of our watchdog program. It is important
that the program function effectively at little or no cost to taxpayers.
One way—not the only way—that this could happen would be for government
staff to become trainers and overseers, while residents voluntarily carried
out the program. The downside to that would be that government staff would
discourage outside-the-box thinking.
If compensation came to residents, which
might well be necessary for a successful program, it would be through
payments which violators had consented to pay. (Two footnotes here. First,
see the community lesson entitled “Is It Legal to Print Money? Yes.” for
one way to compensate volunteers. Second, consider that a payment by a
violator might be classified as a “contribution to a community improvement
fund”, instead of a “fine” or “penalty”, in order to overcome reluctance and
Entertainment. Mariachi Jalisco,
a popular music group, will be performing at the Montebello Regional
Library, 1550 West Beverly Boulevard, Montebello, on Tuesday, May 29, at
6:00 p.m. This free performance is open to the public. For more
information, please call 323.722.6551.
FOR EVERYONE. Health
and Safety. Mark your calendars.
Volunteers wanted. Exhibitor booths available. Second Annual Community
Health and Safety Exposition, the weekend of September 22 and 23, 2007, at
the Montebello Town Center. Featuring doctors and surgeons from Beverly
Hospital, health screening, kid fingerprinting, identity-theft
precautions. A community collaboration by the Montebello Town
Center, Beverly Hospital, Risher Mortuary, Rotary, Lions, Soroptimist, and
Kiwanis. Volunteers and exhibitors, call Denise Hagopian at 323.346.8575.
FOR EVERYONE. Home
Buying. Mark your calendars for
Saturday, June 23, 2007. Montebello Housing Development Corporation invites
you to our upcoming Montebello Homeownership Opportunities Fair, from 10:00
a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at the Montebello
Senior Center, 115 South Taylor Avenue, Montebello. To register as a
sponsor or exhibitor, contact Marie Lugo right away at 323.722.3955.
Seminar topics will include buying a house for the first time,
financial-literacy, the Cal Home Program, and refinancing existing loans.
Everything will be available at no cost to help first-time homebuyers
experience the American dream of home ownership.
Abraham Lincoln, March 4, 1865. First time that African-Americans
participated in the inaugural parade.
Theodore Roosevelt, September
4, 1901. The only President not sworn in on a Bible.
Mr. Ansley Wilcox, at whose home Roosevelt took the oath of office,
wrote in 1903, "According to my best recollection no Bible was used, but
President Roosevelt was sworn in with uplifted hand."
Dwight D. Eisenhower, January
20, 1953. Broke with custom by reciting his own
improvised prayer instead of kissing the Bible.
The Flashback Quarterback on
Poor Customer Service
In “The AOL Founder Stole a Montebello Idea?”, March 8, 2007, we
talked about an open suggestion box, through which we could spot trends
against the public interest and come together to fix what was wrong
without waiting for the gears of government to start turning
Earlier this month, we had two interesting events at the business where I
work, events which showed me that the open suggestion box would be useful
answered a call. A woman asked to do a customer-satisfaction survey for the
telephone company which provided our service. The survey took a long time.
Notably, I answered that the customer service by the company had been poor.
That same day, the owner of our business called the phone company for
service. She was on hold for over an hour and then hung up.
Would the open suggestion box have helped?
Yes. We would not have depended on a customer-satisfaction survey, the
results of which would not become public. (And who is to say that the phone
company would fix any problems revealed through the survey results?)
Rather, each of us who had been put on hold an unreasonable length of time
could have made a suggestion, via e-mail, into the box. The company, our
neighbors, and legislators would have been able to see the suggestions. A
consumer-action group would have been able to expedite an answer from the
company to the suggestions.
So, what is holding up the open suggestion box? To operate effectively, we
need a team. There is no team yet.
E-News and “My Montebello”
To learn about this
newsletter, Montebello E-News, and the accompanying, growing Web
site, “My Montebello”, visit www.mymontebello.com. Also, you will find
instructions and contact information for submitting announcements for
publication in this newsletter.