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 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. 

May 31, 2007


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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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