Claremont Insider: Courier Mail

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Courier Mail

Saturday's Claremont Courier had another letter from a former member of the city's 1989 Citizens Finance Advisory Committee responding to former Claremont Mayor Judy Wright's letters defending the city's Landscaping and Lighting District (LLD) assessment, which Claremont instituted in 1990.

Wright's latest missive, in the July 21st edition of the Courier, had again denied any serious discussion of sunsetting the LLD, something that is contradicted by the official record of city minutes from 1989-90.

Wright not only denied most of the sunset talk, in the packet of supporting documents she sent to the Courier, she omitted the minutes of the 1/23/90 meeting where she made the motion to amend the LLD resolution to say: "It is the council's intention not to continue this assessment district beyond June 30, 1995, without first holding a protest hearing." Ms. Wright's motion was approved.

The long and short of it is that in 1989 the city was facing a financial crisis and needed to come up with a revenue source to help make up for the shortfall. The LLD was pushed by then-City Manager Glenn Southard and by Wright and the rest of the Claremont 400. There was considerable opposition to the assessment, including a 7,000-signature petition, and 475 letters to the city against the LLD as opposed to only 60 for it.

The public did not get to vote on the LLD implementation, the City Council simply decided 5-0, after a series of dog-and-pony show public meetings, to implement the LLD. During the discussion, contrary to what Wright had claimed, the idea of sunsetting the LLD came up several times, including a motion by Wright at a January, 1990, council meeting to consider sunset the LLD at a later date.

The LLD, of course, was never sunsetted, and it continues to go up every year. Some of the Claremont 400, like current Councilmember Sam Pedroza, have supported raising the LLD yearly assessment well above the local inflation rate, and it's no coincidence that Wright was a key advisor to Pedroza in his failed 2005 election bid.

Most troubling in this backward look at the LLD is the manipulation used to sell the assessment and the abuse of power it represented. The lack of trust in the public's ability to understand and deal with complex issues is a common theme in the as yet unwritten history of the Claremont 400 - one that continues to this day.