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Montebello E-News

  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


In This Issue

1.  Are We Puppets on a String?

2.     Walks outside the Box, Part 6

3.     Announcements

4.     Fun Facts

5.     The Flashback Quarterback on Poor Customer Service

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


 Online Community Lesson

 Are 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. 

          Time out.  Oil companies had to diversify?  Does this worry you? 

          Have 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 market. 

          What 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 not in the public interest, not in the planet’s interest. 

          The “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? 

          The public should have a battle cry:  “Energy independence!”  And that would go 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 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 diversify

(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 consumption.

(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, Part 6

 Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.
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?  identity theft? 

·        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 conundrum.) 

·        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, sustainable 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 resistance.)  



FOR EVERYONE.  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.



Fun Facts

 Presidential inaugurations: 

·        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. 

From .



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 now.


I 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.


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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   HOME  | "E-News" | Life's Problems  | "Montebello Oil" | Open Suggestion | Public Documents | Setting an Example | Young Thinkers | Project Instructions
                        Issues           and Solutions             Activities                    Box