Claremont Insider: Reader Mail

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Reader Mail

We received this reader note yesterday from one of the former members of the city's Citizen's Finance Advisory Committee (CFAC) in response to our posts from the past week regarding the city's Landscaping and Lighting District (LLD) and the debate preceding its enaction in 1990.

The letter is a window into the decision-making process in Claremont, which too often resembles a rugby scrum - from the outside, not much going on; from the inside, a lot of kicking and grabbing. You can see from the letter how dissenters are treated, and that it takes a great deal of backbone to stand up and voice alternate opinions.

The reader's letter also refers to the 7,000 petition signatures Claremont resident Les Boring gathered against the LLD. Claremont had a population of around 33,000 in 1990, so the 7,000 signatures is an impressive number. As we noted yesterday, the city acted as if those people did not exist. The city paid the price in 2006 when they tried to enact a second assessment district to pay for the purchase of Johnson's Pasture.

That 2006 assessment lost 56% to 44% and the stubborn foolishness of leaders like Diann Ring, Judy Wright, Ellen Taylor, Sandy Baldonado, Al Leiga (all current or former Councilmembers) and a host of others almost cost the city the open space the greater community wanted to save. The measure lost because it was another LLD to many people, because they rolled things unrelated to open space (city park maintenance costs) into the assessment and because their prior actions and misrepresentations about sunsetting the LLD completely discredited them when they promised sunsetting the 2006 assessment.

Our reader also notes how the Claremont 400 has traditionally loaded up important city committees and commissions with people who will tow the party line. As a result, these groups have rarely reflected the community at-large and have fell farther and farther out-of-step with many citizens.

When groups like the Claremont League of Women Voters (LWV) harp on the need for "consensus" and "civility," they're really saying you shouldn't disagree with the party line. They turn a blind eye to the incivility exercised by the Claremont 400 (as seen in their recent award to former Councilmember Sandy Baldonado--more on that later) and their credibility suffers as a result. So we should not be surprised that their numbers are falling and that they find it hard to attract younger new members.

Without further ado, we give you our reader:


A couple of observations on the early days of the LLD.

I was a member of the Citizen's committee, which had 16 members of the community, all selected by the Council Members*. ( I will get back to that)

The voting for the LLD was 14 in favor, 2 opposed. The sunset clause was requested by Dennis Smith, and a 5 year period was mentioned, as I recall. I was one of the 2 in opposition. At the last meeting held in Taylor Hall, I was asked to submit the "Minority Report". Dr Gerry Juergens was the other member of the minority, and assisted writing the report, which I was supposed to read.

In the opening sentence of my report, I mentioned the 7000 signatures of Mr Les Boring and his helpers. Upon saying his name, The gavel came down and I was told to stop. As I recall, the comment from Mr Smith
was to the effect, " we don't want to hear that stuff, it's not to be reported here." The rest of the minority report was cancelled immediately. Although I submitted a written report, I doubt if it was ever filed or

The final meeting of the Committee was held in conjunction with the Council at the Claremont School of Theology auditorium. It was well attended, for by this time, there was substantial opposition from the greater community. However, the people who wanted to pass the LLD were vocal, and since most were in the position of authority, they would put down any and all dissenters. They would demonize all who spoke in opposition.

I recall that at that last big meeting, I spoke to the audience, and having been put down at the previous meeting of the committee, I had my thoughts organized. I reviewed the process whereby we members of the "Citizens Committee" were "selected" by the members of the Council. Each and every one of us was discussed prior to selection, as to our probable position on the Assessment. I was known to Nick Presecan to be opposed, and so was Gerry Juergens, though I do not know which councilmember selected him. Another member, unnamed, was on the fence, and kept looking for which side was going to win. Another member did business in Claremont, and at first was strongly opposed, but near the end, suddenly decided to support. A couple of members were in real estate, or had business in Claremont, and could look forward to improvements relative to their interests. They had been "selected" for their support.

Only an idiot would say that these people were randomly found... There was a plan to succeed. The Council had selected people who would support the issue. One member of the Citizens Committee immediately stood up and shouted, "Nobody selected me!" in a loud voice and then went into a rage about my comments about selection. In his thick accent, it was apparent that he didn't catch why he was asked to participate. He went on for a couple of minutes shouting, (and no gavel?)

Later that evening, a member Nick Q. (not Presecan) called me at home and swore at me. calling me names, so I hung up. Hope he felt better.

Mr Smith, who ran the meetings of the committee, never varied from his position in favor. Probably that's why he was asked to be chairman. Hope he feels better too.

David Wishart