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Montebello E-News

  May 31, 2007

Too often we give our children answers to remember,
rather than problems to solve.
Roger Amos Lewin, anthropologist and science writer


In This Issue

1.  Montebello in an “Alternate Universe”

2.     Walks outside the Box, Part 7

3.     Announcements

4.     Fun Facts

5.     The Flashback Quarterback on “Is Anyone Listening?”

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


 Online Community Lesson

Montebello in an “Alternate Universe”

If you are a “Star Trek” or “Stargate” fan, you might raise a brow of interest in seeing this title.  For those of us who are not fans, an alternate universe, based on unproven theoretical physics, is one which is like ours in many ways, but different in others.  This lesson compares our Montebello with an imagined Montebello in an alternate universe. 

In our Montebello, according to two recent articles, our police department is aggressively pursuing vandals, as the incidence of graffiti has increased dramatically in the last five years.  Wireless surveillance cameras are to play an important role, thanks to funding from our city council.  An officer hired for his experience in vandal prosecution is taking the lead in representing us in court.  Our city has been awarded about $40,000 in restitution from vandals.  (Note:  “awarded” is not the same as “received”.) 

In the alternate universe, we have the same city councilors and the same police department.  But, in tackling graffiti, there are remarkable differences.  The city council has provided no funding for wireless surveillance cameras.   And none for officer time to watch the monitors receiving transmissions from the cameras.  Rather, the cameras are to be installed by residents, not the police department, and residents are to monitor on their own time.  The residents are going to do this because the city has said that it will give rewards to residents who help in the apprehension of vandals.  The rewards will come from money collected from vandals.  To increase the chance that there be awards, residents have been authorized by the city to pursue vandals and their families in court until restitution be made.  Thus, in the alternate Montebello, our city has created a vandalism-abatement program based on residents creating micro-businesses, not based on funding from the city.  The residents, not the city, bear the costs of cameras and personnel time.   

In each universe, the police department still becomes involved with regard to arresting vandals.  With regard to prosecution, the alternate Montebello introduces an option to vandals and their families:  have an informal hearing and agree to a contract with the city or go to court.  The apparent advantage here is that the alternate Montebello can fashion a solution without the constraints of ineffective state statutes and without the possibility that a lenient judge would hear the case, assuming, of course, that the vandal and his or her family agree to the informal hearing. 

The basic difference between the two Montebellos is that, in ours, we use a twentieth-century model of governance by professionals which does not give the governed a large role, while in the alternate universe, they have substituted a sustainable model, that is, a model which is not dependent on available city funds.         

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. In tackling an issue in its community, a city government can

(a) fund and a program and have city staff carry it out.

(b) organize and oversee residents as the residents paid for, carried out, and were rewarded from the program. 

2.  Involving residents in governance

(a) democratizes American democracy and creates a “new millennium” model for the world.

(b) creates chaos because residents do not have the discipline and training to participate.

(c) provides a city with a way to sustain a needed program, as future funding of the program will not become an issue.

(d) dilutes the influence of outside special-interest groups. 



Walks outside the Box, Part 7

 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 6, we looked at how we might implement a watchdog program so as to improve the quality of life without increasing the city budget. Let us sketch a possible watchdog program, using the steps listed in part 6. 

First, we the residents come together, perhaps at a meeting hosted by the city council, the senior center or one of our service organizations.  Somebody explains that there is a state law against using cellular telephones while driving, but we note, also, that it is difficult for the police to be everywhere to enforce the law.  Somebody notes that, in front of Washington Elementary, there are signs posted saying “Traffic laws will be enforced”.  This must be indicative of a problem.  Somebody else mentions statistics about the greater incidence of accidents caused by distracted motorists.  We choose to create a program to discourage the use of cellular telephones while driving. 

Second, we decide who could become monitors for our program.  (“Monitor” is not ferocious-sounding like “watchdog”.)  We decide that everyone—retirees, working adults, teenagers, and children—could do so.  We note that rules would have to be created and obeyed so that participating children be safe while participating.  Those who volunteer to help in our program become monitors. 

Third, we decide that we can use digital cameras or cell phones which take photographs of license plates and of motorists using cell phones while driving. 

          Fourth, we create signs like the Neighborhood Watch signs for posting wherever we will be implementing our program.  If expense is a concern—since we do not ask the city for funds—we create signs like those now used by Washington Elementary. 

          Step five will take some thought.  Do we give our photographs to our police department?  This is a challenge for the reason mentioned last week.  A possible solution is that our resident group and police officers meet to look at the photographic evidence.  We show the evidence, but do not turn it over. 

Finally, for step six, we plan what our response to a violation will be.  If the officers believe that the evidence would be strong, they run the license numbers and give us addresses to which to write.  We write an advisory letter for the first violation.  In the advisory letter we say that a second violation will lead to a citation under law or will result in an informal process.  In either case, the purpose will be to stop further use of cell phones while driving.  For those with a second violation, a fine will be imposed.  Money from the fine will be used to publicize our program and apprehension rate, as well as to reward monitors. 

Thus, our watchdog program accomplishes three goals: 

·        traffic and pedestrian safety;

·        resident involvement, including, importantly, youth involvement, in government;

·        institution and operation of a sustainable program, that is, one which does not take of city funds. 



FOR EVERYONE.  Crime alert.  People who ask for a donation or payment for painting your street address on the curb might not have a business license to do so.  The Montebello Police Department advises that, if asked for a donation or payment, you call the police department at 323.887.1313, at which number somebody will answer seven days a week.

FOR EVERYONE.  “Senior Farewell and Sing into Spring ’07 Concert”.  Montebello High School auditorium, June 1, 7 p.m.  Admission $7 in advance, $8 at the door.  Presented by the Montebello High School choir.  For more information, 323.728.0121.

FOR FAMILIES AND YOUTH.  Summer Co-ed Basketball League.  For girls and boys ages 5 through 12.  Registration forms available at City Park and Recreation Office, 1700 West Victoria Avenue, and Senior Citizen Center, 115 South Taylor Avenue.  Registration is Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays, between 8:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. at the Senior Citizen Center.  $20 cash for registration per child, which includes jersey, pictures, and award.  A parent must fill and sign form.  Limited number of spaces.  For more information, 323.887.1373 or .

FOR ADULTS.  Volunteer coaches wanted.  The Montebello summer co-ed basketball league is looking for coaches.  For more information, 323.887.1373 or .



Fun Facts

More about Presidential inaugurations.

·        John F. Kennedy, January 20, 1961.  First time a poet, Robert Frost, participated in the official ceremonies at the Capitol.  First time that both parents of the president-elect attended their son's inauguration. As the first Catholic elected president, Kennedy was the first to use a Catholic (Douay) version of the Bible for his oath.  First inaugural parade for which Army flame throwers were used to clear snow from  Pennsylvania Avenue. 

·        Lyndon B. Johnson, November 22, 1963.  First time that the oath was administered in an airplane, namely, Air Force One, a  Boeing 707, at Love Field in Dallas, Texas.  (Do you know why this happened?)  First time that the oath was administered by a woman, Sarah T. Hughes, U. S. District Judge of the Northern District of Texas. 

·        Jimmy Carter, January 20, 1977.  First president to walk all the way from the Capitol to the White House with his family after ceremony. Solar heat was used in the reviewing stand.  Provisions were made for the handicapped to watch the parade. 

From .



The Flashback Quarterback on “Is Anyone Listening?”


This relates to the essay of last week about “community watchdogs” and to the community lessons of December 21, 2006, January 11, 2007, March 22, 2007, and May 3, 2007


In a three-ring binder, in a sheet protector, there is a copy of a letter to a Montebello city staffer, this letter dated September 27, 2004.


In the letter the following is said:


…Crime prevention, recreation services, and street maintenance could be delegated, to the extent feasible and appropriate, to the public, with city staff acting as trainers and supervisors.  This would be a paradigm shift in local government, but there would be nothing illegal or illogical with experimenting with this shift.  An example of this would be the attempt by residents to raise money to maintain the Barnyard zoo. …


That letter has yet to be answered.  In fact, it probably would never be answered, as our city council not long ago removed the staffer from her office.


Apart from the 2004 unanswered letter to the city, there is, in the same binder, a 2004 unanswered letter to the Montebello postmaster, a 2004 unanswered letter to the Congresswoman’s office, and a 2006 unanswered letter to U.S. Senator Barack Obama. 


Three of the letters suggested that the public become involved in some aspect of governance.  (Involving the public does not mean that elected officials would appoint their friends and supporters.)  One letter suggested that a nongovernmental organization become involved.


Combine this information with the community lesson in this issue.  What do you conclude?


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
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