Too often we give our children answers to remember,
rather than problems to solve.
Roger Amos Lewin, anthropologist and science writer
1. Montebello in an “Alternate Universe”
Walks outside the Box, Part 7
The Flashback Quarterback on “Is Anyone Listening?”
E-News and “My Montebello”
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.
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
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
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.
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
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. 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
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 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.
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
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
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
Thus, our watchdog program accomplishes
traffic and pedestrian safety;
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.
“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 firstname.lastname@example.org .
Volunteer coaches wanted. The
Montebello summer co-ed basketball league is looking for coaches. For more
information, 323.887.1373 or email@example.com .
More about Presidential
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.
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
Combine this information with the community
lesson in this issue. What do you conclude?
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.