By Haddon Libby

Cleveland cop Michael Brelo jumps on the hood of Cleveland couple Timothy and Malissa Russell and fires fifteen shots at close distance at this unarmed couple.  The couple had led the police on a high speed chase that at one point had sixty police cars and 100 officers chasing them.  Clearly, the couple should have stopped but should the police have shown such over-the-top use of force?

Probably not but Cleveland is a mess.  Nearly two in five residents live in poverty; up from one in three 10 years ago yet the official unemployment rate is only 8.3%.  1.4% of all children born in Cleveland will die before the age of five because of largely preventable health matters – a level of infant mortality is on par with war-ravaged Syria!

Whether in Cleveland, Baltimore or Indio, the rising level of abuse of force cases with the police is a canary in a coal mine. If you are unfamiliar with the phrase, once upon a time coal miners would bring canaries into mine shafts to test for dangerous levels of carbon monoxide and methane.  If the bird died, they knew that they were at risk too.  These abuse of force cases are a warning sign, or result, of other inequities growing throughout society.

Large banks like Chase, Bank of America and Wells Fargo pay tens of BILLIONS in fines for illegal activities against customers like you and me yet not one person goes to jail.

The leading candidate for President of the United States, Hillary Clinton, has a non-profit foundation with her former President husband that receives hundreds of millions in donations.  Ample evidence suggests that some of those payments were made with the expectation of political favors.  Big surprise there!

We have our own example right now with Mayor Pougnet in Palm Springs.  Pougnet’s foibles started when he received a $150,000 a year job from the film festival while the city gave hundreds of thousands to the film festival.  We didn’t hear too much about that. Could it be because The Desert Sun representatives sit on the board of the film festival and the paper sells a lot of ads to the film festival and its board members?  What Pougnet did was no different than what Ginny Foat had done earlier in getting a job from the Mizell Senior Center after the city gave money to them.  Both were unrelated coincidences, right?  Nothing to look at here.

So next, Pougnet “friends” get money to start a restaurant and buy land at special prices and Pougnet gets paid.

Don’t stop at criticizing Pougnet only – where were the city’s checks and balances?  Where were the rest of the city council when he was enriching himself with taxpayer money?  Did the city attorney or city manager voice their concerns to the rest of the city council?  Maybe this is all just business as usual and not the type of behavior that concerns any of them.

Given that Pougnet ran for Congress, maybe he was taking his lead from them.

Sadly, we have become a society where those in power use their positions to enrich themselves in ways that at minimum are unethical and definitely not in the best interests of their electorate.

If you dislike where all of this is going – guess what – you can help fix things. Get involved and be heard in local politics.  When getting involved, do not do it alone.  By yourself, you may get steamrolled by those not wanting your involvement.  Their hope is that you will throw up your hands and walk away.  By teaming up with others who want to make difference, you will find that things will begin to change.

Things will not change if you sit at home watching television and/or playing video games.

There will be more Michael Brelo’s and Steve Pougnet’s unless you step up and get involved.

Haddon Libby is Managing Partner of Winslow Drake, an investment advisory practice and co-founder of ShareKitchen. He can be reached at hlibby@winslowdrake.com. 

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