Claremont Insider: March 2007

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Tomorrow's News

The Claremont Doubletree has at last reached its highest and best use. Thanks to property owner Harry Wu, Claremont now has the opportunity and venue for the high cultural experience of an "Estate Auction...from the Krazy Horse Ranch...Very impressive life-like 'Bronze' animals...Versace style furniture...fine gold jewelry set with genuine diamonds, emeralds, rubies, etc., guarenteed!...Antique guns, new saddles, pads, bridals [sic], etc."

Get over there Sunday, April 1st, and don't forget your checkbook. Be warned, though, the Insider is going to be bidding up those life-like "bronze" animals.

The fine print says that "Security provided by local law enforcement agency." Is Paul Cooper learning a trade in the unlikely event he isn't selected as the new Chief?

They've Got the Munchies

Publius over at Foothill Cities was kind enough to pass a funny bit on to us.

We weren't sure whether to file it under food or crime. Of course, depending on the quality of the cookies, it could be both.

Ice Cream Dreams

Bert & Rocky's Cream Company in the Claremont village is one of our favorite hangouts. The ice cream is sinfully rich, and a scoop or two of their artery-hardening, butterfat-laden treats can be just the thing to complement the warmer days as the college year winds down. It's an old-fashioned ice cream parlor with its own brand of homemade ice cream. These places, like Fosselman's in Alhambra, seem to be getting rarer and rarer.

Call us hopeless romantics, but in these days of big box stores, we find something comforting in the little, individually-owned business. Wolfe's Marketplace, for instance, or Powell's Hardware on Yale Ave. when it was still around.

Kathy at A Passion for Food had a nice write-up for Bert & Rocky's on 3/27/2007, complete with mouth-watering photos.

From the Ombudsman

We here at the Insider never set out to be publishers. Yet, a reader yesterday pointed out that we are, at least sort of, in a non-commercial, outside-the-margins sense.

We've recently posted a several brief pieces from the Daily Bulletin in their entirety, which as the reader pointed out, might not constitute a fair use of material, as this information from the University of Texas System website outlines. We have adjusted them accordingly and have replaced the respective postings with links to the Bulletin's website.

We have also corrected a piece from we reprinted from the Claremont Courier, a commentary by editor Rebecca JamesCourie on the recent city council election. The JamesCourie piece is not available online, so we could not provide a link to that.

Finally, with regards to the recent Peyton Manning video we posted in its entirety, that was listed on YouTube directly by NBC Universal, Inc. with the understanding that it would likely be posted in the "blogosphere." NBC in 2006 signed a strategic agreement with YouTube and has been posting its content there.

Thanks to our reader for providing that helpful information.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Palmer Canyon Fire

We've received several emails regarding the city's $17.5 million Palmer Canyon fire settlement and are trying to run down the leads. We'll keep you posted.

Claremont in the News

Bits and pieces found in the Daily Bulletin:

Police stopped a trio of home young burglars, reports Melissa Pinion-Whitt.

The Claremont United Church of Christ has an anti-Iraq War art statement set up in front of it, according to a brief article by Will Bigham the Bulletin's "The Buzz" section.

[NOTE: This post originally contained the entire briefs from the Daily Bulletin's reporters Pinion-Whitt and Bigham. A reader has pointed out that these items are copyrighted and should not be reproduced in their entirety without the paper's permission. We have corrected accordingly.]

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Chickens Coming Home to Roost

I see your hair is burnin'
Hills are filled with fire.
--Jim Morrison, from L.A. Woman

Everyone in Claremont should be clear on the fact that the $17.5 million settlement for the foreseeable destruction by fire of the Palmer Canyon community puts the blame squarely on the doorstep of the City of Claremont. This is yet another example of the wisdom and skill of the Claremont 400 in running this community over the years. If one wishes to name names, one might name Glenn Southard (now with Indio), Sharon Z. Wood (now with Newport Beach), Betty Sheldon (now retired), and Mark Hodnick (now with Indio).

It would be too tedious to name all of the council members who failed in their planning and oversight duties over the past decade, but former City Councilmembers Diann Ring, Judy Wright, Paul Held, Al Leiga, Sue Smith, and Karen Rosenthal - all of them mayors - come immediately to mind. It's really all part of the game plan: make any promise and proceed to ignore it.

The fundamental fact in this matter is that the City failed in its ministerial duty to adhere to the vegetation management plan adopted when it took over the Wilderness Park property. The City promised in its process to do certain things to mitigate the fire hazard. It failed to do these things, always citing cost, manpower, or some other externality.

What a record! The City has owned the Wilderness Park for ten years and already it has cost an unbudgeted extra $1.7 million per year.

Of course, those in power are already clucking at their cleverness in offloading the lion's share of this expense onto the JPIA. Maybe the JPIA will figure out that the City of Claremont is not such a good risk. (An added advantage is that the JPIA involvement allows council members to say the City didn't really do anything wrong, this was merely a tactical decision recommend to us by our experts.)

The Insider isn't yet privy to any additional terms of the settlement. Our guess is that the City will try to seal most everything associated with this. It's surprising that the amount is public. The Insider would've expected something like this headline: "City settles for undisclosed amount; admits no wrongdoing; JPIA mum; Plaintiffs sworn to secrecy as condition of settlement."

We would love to see the transcripts of some of the depositions. We hear that Southard's and Hodnick's are especially juicy.

We doubt, though, that there is any truth to the rumor that Mark Hodnick channeled Jim Morrison in his deposition, paraphrasing the sequel to the verse above when answering a question about cutting back the chaparral before it burned,
If they say I never trimmed you,
You know they are all liars.

Breaking News

The Daily Bulletin reports that Claremont's insurer, the Joint Powers Insurance Authority (JPIA), has reached a $17.5 million settlement in the Palmer Canyon homeowners' lawsuit over the 2003 Grand Prix fire. The fire destroyed 43 homes in the canyon and more in Padua Hills and Clareboya.

The plaintiffs argued that the city failed to properly clear brush in Claremont Wilderness Park, which surrounds the canyon. Claremont Mayor Peter Yao is quoted in the Bulletin as saying the payout is one of the largest in JPIA history and that while the city admitted no fault, "'... based on the fact that we're paying something, that implies we do have a certain amount of responsibility.'"

We'll try to have more on this in the coming days. If you have any information, please forward it to

Wednesday, March 28, 2007


As much as we believe in AYSO, Little League, girls softball and Junior All-American Football, we do worry about the rare instances when adults forget the reasons we got involved in youth sports in the first place: to teach teamwork and fair play, to bond with our kids, to have fun.

Sometimes we, dads especially, get too caught up in treating our little ones too much like grownups and forget to keep it "Safe, Fair and Fun":


Yesterday's Event Calendar incorrectly listed the city's Centennial Kick-Off party as this coming Friday. It was actually earlier this month. Sorry, our bad.

Today's Quote

A reader forwarded a quote to us. We've seen it before and can't attest to its authenticity. Also, Corporate America seems to have adopted it because its also popped up in some management training courses at the risk of becoming a "Who Moved My Cheese?" kind of cliché. Still, there is truth at the heart of the matter:

There is nothing noble in being superior to some other person. The true nobility is in being superior to your previous self.

~Hindu Proverb

Kremlin Watching

Sometimes it seems as if watching the City Council is a lot like watching the Kremlin in the "bad old days." The parallels are actually numerous: secret meetings and accomodations, business conducted in closed session that shouldn't be, decisions announced at Council rather than developed there, even the much-loved unanimous votes.

But maybe the most visible manifestation power, and the biggest ongoing joy to Kremlin--sorry--Council-watchers, is this: who is sitting next to whom on the dais?

If there is a coherent theory to the seating arrangements at Council, it escapes the Insider. At least at the Supreme Court, Justices are seated by seniority. As they become more senior they move more to the center and closer to the Chief Justice of the United States. The most senior justice is on the immediate right of the Chief, the rookie is at the far left of the Chief. The Insider believes this seniority rule is also observed in Congressional Hearings.

So, what happened at Claremont City Council at its first full meeting last night?

Well, the lineup when the new Council was installed on March 15th was Calaycay, Taylor, Yao, Elderkin, Pedroza. This was in the Courier:

However, at the first full meeting on March 27th, the order was Pedroza, Taylor, Yao, Elderkin, Calaycay.

Why did Pedroza take Calaycay's seat? And why is Calaycay now relegated to the distant chair on the Mayor's left? Enquiring minds want to know. And who decides this stuff anyway?

Possible answers:

  • Taylor can control Pedroza better if he is right next to her. Suggestion of former council member.
  • Calaycay got too much face time with the City Attorney when he was next to her.
  • Napoleon Yao. It's his way of "running this city".
  • Baldonado's former chair, now Calaycay's, is designed for people of slighter build.
  • The Supreme Court rule is followed but it's based on age: Yao in the middle because he is Mayor, then the most esteemed (and aged) elder directly on his right, the next-oldest to his immediate left, then next-oldest further to his right, then the youngest on his far left. (The Insider doesn't want to post the members' ages. You've got to trust us on this one. It's amazing what you can find on the Internet.)
  • Boy-Girl-Boy-Girl-Boy doesn't entirely explain this choice.

One thing you can be certain of: this did not happen accidentally. Like the Kremlin, there are forces at work here that we can only perceive, dimly.

Maybe someone will ask for an explanation at the next council meeting.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Upcoming Events

The Daily Bulletin noted today that there will be a free health screening for people over 55 along with an informational faire at the city's Joslyn Senior Center this Friday.The center is located at 660 N. Mountain Ave. in Claremont. For more information, call the city at (909) 399-5488.


Bulletin reporter Sahra Susman also noted that the Claremont Unified School District (CUSD) is having a Principal for a Day event.

[NOTE: This post originally contained the entire brief from the Daily Bulletin's reporter Susman. A reader has pointed out that this item is copyrighted and should not be reproduced in its entirety without the paper's permission. We have corrected accordingly.]

Zimbardo Redux

One last note about last night's Scripps College speaker Phillip Zimbardo. We came across an article posted on the Association for Psychological Science (APS) website from August, 2006. Zimbardo argues that people, even the good people of Claremont, behave far less heroically or good than we would like to think, under certain conditions.

Zimbardo is quoted at the end of the article:

Zimbardo’s address exemplified how social psychology — even the most depressing studies of human weakness — can actually be inspiring. “There will come a time in your life,” he said, “when … you have the power within you, as an ordinary person, as a person who is willing to take a decision, to blow the whistle, to take action, to go the other direction and do the heroic thing.” That decision is set against the decisions to perpetrate evil or to do nothing, which is the evil of inaction. Zimbardo concluded with a thought from Alexandr Solzhenitsyn, the Russian poet imprisoned under Stalin: “The line between good and evil lies at the center of every human heart.” He added, “it is not an abstraction out there. It’s a decision you have to make every day in here.” With the last of Zimbardo’s 150 slides and three video clips, came an extended standing ovation — rare among psychology audiences.

How will you act when your time comes to take a stand, to go against the grain, to be a contrarian? How have you acted before?

Monday, March 26, 2007

Briefly Noted

In yesterday's post we wrote of a reader's suggestion that we look to social psychology for answers to the behavioral puzzle of the Claremont 400--people who are individually intelligent, but who as a group sometimes make foolish, irrational mistakes in judgment.

Coincidentally, Saturday's Claremont Courier noted that Stanford professor emeritus of psychology Philip Zimbardo will be speaking at 5:30 pm tonight at Garrison Theater at Scripps College.

Zimbardo is famous for his Stanford Prison Experiment in which 21 male subjects were divided randomly into two groups, guards and prisoners. A mock jail was set up and the participants quickly fell into their respective roles, with some guards becoming increasingly sadistic as it progressed.

This experiment was supposed to run two weeks but was terminated after only six days. One of the conclusions people have read into the experiment is that the guard behavior wasn't dependent on the guards' and priosoners' personalities but rather was an outgrowth of the situation the subjects were placed in.

Humans, according to this line of thinking, may be hard wired to behave certain ways under certain social and environmental conditions. The comparison between the Claremont 400 and a high school clique may not be that far off after all.

On the other hand, the Stanford Prison Experiment evidently has a fair number of critics, and the conclusions are still debated.

Philip Zimbardo's lecture is free. We also note that Professor Zimbardo has a new book out called The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Is There a Social Psychologist in the House?

A reader recently wrote to suggest that if we really want to understand what drives the culture of the Claremont 400, we should look to the fields of social psychology and behavioral economics. Both disciplines look at group dynamics and how those dynamics affect the rationality of individuals.

The reader recommended the works of two people in particular. The first is social psychologist Irving Janis. Janis is famous for coining the term "groupthink". His most well-known work was his study of the Kennedy Administration's decision to invade the Bay of Pigs in 1961. Janis came to believe that groups that are too homogeneous in their ideology ignore critical bits of information that contradict their worldview. As a result, no matter how intelligent the group is individually, collectively it can make wrong decisions. In the case of the Bay of Pigs, thinking that a force of 1,200 could successfully invade and control Cuba.

Decision-making bodies marked by "groupthink" tend to seek unanimity and consensus at all cost and discourage or even punish challenges to their preconceptions. (Sound familiar?)

According to the group Psychologists for Social Responsibility, Janis identified several hallmarks of groupthinkers:

  1. Illusion of invulnerability –Creates excessive optimism that encourages taking extreme risks.
  2. Collective rationalization – Members discount warnings and do not reconsider their assumptions.
  3. Belief in inherent morality – Members believe in the rightness of their cause and therefore ignore the ethical or moral consequences of their decisions.
  4. Stereotyped views of out-groups – Negative views of “enemy” make effective responses to conflict seem unnecessary.
  5. Direct pressure on dissenters – Members are under pressure not to express arguments against any of the group’s views.
  6. Self-censorship – Doubts and deviations from the perceived group consensus are not expressed.
  7. Illusion of unanimity – The majority view and judgments are assumed to be unanimous.
  8. Self-appointed ‘mindguards’ – Members protect the group and the leader from information that is problematic or contradictory to the group’s cohesiveness, view, and/or decisions.

And, as our reader pointed out, the Claremont 400, especially during the Southard days, exhibited all of these traits. That is likely the reason they hate people like Jackie McHenry so much. McHenry was constantly waving the 400's inconsistency and hypocrisy in their faces. A more skilled politician might have tried to build a coalition around those contrary voices, but McHenry was too much of a non-politician (as her campaign material pointed out) to cobble together a governing coalition. That doesn't necessarily make her reasoning wrong, and those contrary voices are still out there in the community.


The other person the reader suggested to us was James Surowiecki, who writes the Financial Page column for The New Yorker magazine.

The reader pointed us to 2004 Surowiecki's book The Wisdom of Crowds. Drawing on work by social psychologists, economists, and political scientists, Surowiecki argued that the larger and more ideologically diverse a group, the more they debate (even if they have heated, knockdown, dragout arguments), the better the group was at making complex decisions.

In the book's introduction, Surowiecki wrote:

Diversity and independence are important because the best collective decisions are the product of disagreement and contest, not consensus or compromise. An intelligent group, especially when confronted with cognition problems, does not ask its members to modify their positions in order to let the group reach a decision everyone can be happy with. Instead, it figures out how to use mechanisms--like market prices, or collective voting systems--to aggregate and produce collective judgments that represent not what any one person in the group thinks, but rather, in some sense, what they all think. Paradoxically, the best way for a group to be smart is for each person in it to act and think as independently as possible.

[Emphasis added]

As Surowiecki points out, no individual in a group holds 100% of the information needed to make a decision. Some hold 90%, some hold 1%, but even that one percent can be critical over time because errors by decision-making bodies compound. And everyone, even the uneducated, hold some critical bits of information.

When organizations exclude or filter the available information they base their decisions on, each future decision is affected, and the quality of the future decisions is diminished. Engineers would say that the level of noise in the system increases over time.

A group might start out at close to 100% meaningful information (signal, as the engineers say), and they might chose to ignore someone like the late Mike Noonan, a Claremont gadfly whom the Claremont 400 hated even more than Jackie McHenry, but even Noonan had some correct information buried in the noise of his ramblings. By refusing to take the time to sift through Noonan's and the like's noise to look for the signal, past city councils wound up ignoring important ideas and make weaker decisions.

Claremont's signal-to-noise ratio was close to zero by the end of the Southard administration, and the voting public responded.

Corporations are beginning to recognize the need for better decision-making processes, ones that are divorced from the usual yes-man hierarchy that characterizes many American companies. Some have experimented with decision markets, in which employees buy and sell futures contracts based on the likelihood of an event. Proponents of decision markets have argued that they can be more accurate than expert opinion in many cases, possibly because they a larger, more diverse group is participating rather than an elite few.

Even the Noonans of the world, it turns out, have something important to say. The question is: Are we listening?

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Blog News

The LA Times' business section today had an article about housing market blogs. It seems that several such blogs were ahead of the curve in noting the dangers of sub-prime lending and in predicting the bursting of the housing bubble.

The article mentioned a number of such blogs, including The Times noted that much of the coverage of the housing market had been driven by a kind of boosterism from the real estate industry and that contrarian information was not always reported:

[ publisher Brook] Hollan and other commentators are another example of how bloggers are providing alternative sources of information and analysis across a wide spectrum of topics, said Stuart Gabriel, professor of finance and business economics at USC.

The article seemed to underscore the need for such contrary views and the fact that there is market for the information, as we've argued here before. Boosterism, whether in the housing market or in local politics, leads to a kind of intellectual inbreeding.

Friday, March 23, 2007

March Madness

Claremont is mad for youth sports. The $10 million-plus Padua Sports Park is one example, but the community spends a lot of money on other sports-dedicated parks as well: College Park (Little League) and La Puerta Park (AYSO).

As we've previously noted, this spending may be a little short-sighted. Between the 1990 U.S. Census and the 2000 Census, the under-18 segment of Claremont's population grew by only 6. During the same period, the over-65 demographic grew by 23.3%, from 4,026 to 4,966--a trend that is likely to continue as babyboomers age and hang onto their Claremont homes and existing homes appreciate beyond the affordable range for many young families with children.

Yet, the current city council majority (Mayor Peter Yao and councilmembers Sam Pedroza, Ellen Taylor, and Linda Elderkin) are oddly wedded to the idea that we are facing some sort of baby boom--something the data belies.

Why do people cling to false information and failed ideas? Perhaps it's simply human nature. This current council, led now by Ellen Taylor (not Mayor Peter Yao), give a lot of lip service to "thinking outside of the box", but they're really not doing much besides building new boxes. They're not even making better boxes.

We suspect the percentage of people actually capable of stepping outside of their own preconceived notions and prejudices is quite small and is unrelated to factors such as level of education or income.


Since we're on the subject of sports and it is March Madness time, we thought it might be a good time to take a brief look at the career of someone who had an amazing capacity for stepping outside of himself. We speak, of course, of former UCLA baskeball coach John Wooden, the Wizard of Westwood, still going strong at 96.

Wooden is the antithesis of everything someone like Ellen Taylor stands for. For all of Wooden's success (the Bruins won 10 NCAA basketball titles in 12 years and seven in a row at one point) he was and is remarkably humble. In contrast, a person like Glenn Southard was a arrogant blowhard who used every opportunity to tell you how great a city manager he was and how indispensable his services were.

This week's issue of Sports Illustrated featured an article by Alexander Wolff that noted that Wooden coached for 15 years at UCLA before he won his first championship. As the Wolff article pointed out, those 15 years weren't wasted years. Wooden had to fail as a coach in order to grow, but doing that that meant having the ability to examine himself and discard the things that didn't work.

It's no coincidence that one of the signs posted in Wooden's office read: "It's what you learn after you know it all that counts." Sadly, in Claremont, we have an over-abundance of know-it-alls. Can you really imagine Linda Elderkin, for example, admitting she was wrong about something?

The other trait that Wooden possessed (and which has also been in short supply in Claremont) was that he learned to accept the necessity of having contrarians around to bring in fresh ideas. The Wolff article noted:

Shortly after he announced his retirement in 1975, in the aftermath of his final title run, Wooden confided to a young alumnus that he had blundered badly in his career by associating too much with yes-men. "Whatever you do, surround yourself with smart people who'll argue with you," he said.

The Wolff piece attributed Wooden's unprecedented title run partly to the coach's willingness to listen to a "smart, argumentative assistant coach" named Jerry Norman. (Norman, as the article notes, coached basketball for Wooden's brother, who was the principal at West Covina High School.) It was Norman who suggested installing the 2-2-1 zone-press defense that led to the turnovers that fueled the Bruins high-scoring offense.

That willingness to listen to what you might not want to hear is a rare commodity indeed. That is why no one else besides Wooden's teams have dominated college basketball for such an extended period.

And that rarity extends to other arenas as well. Southard was notorious for surrounding himself with yes-men (and women) like Jim Lewis or Bridget Healy. It is also why someone like Ellen Taylor or Linda Elderkin wants to see 5-0 votes and seek "consensus", why they use catchphrases like "teamwork". They're really closed to dissenting points of view and seek to discard anything they don't already know. As a result, their range of options on many issues is severely limited.

They really need, tattooed on their foreheads, the coach's advice: "It's what you learn after you know it all that counts."


Thanks to all our readers for your news tips and thoughtful emails. You are our eyes and ears in the community.

One reader wrote with a correction to yesterday's post. The reader noted that Tamara Gates was not Claremont's Assistant City Manager but was the Assistant to the City Manager. Two different jobs.

And a nod to reader Tom. We aim keep the news coming.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Where are They Now?

We thought we'd take the time to track down a few of the alumni of the Glenn Southard era in Claremont (1988-2005). Southardism was more than an attitude, it was a political philosophy, a way of being.

Southardism was marked by several characteristics:

  • The use of highly compensated consultants to justify a position already decided. Remember back in 2002 when the Padua Park Environmental Impact Report came out? The city used a botanist named Thomas Leslie who misled the public by signing his biology report for the project "Thomas Leslie, Ph.D/Biologist." As was reported in the Claremont Courier, Leslie in fact got his Ph.D (in theology not biology) from the Universal Life Church, an online degree mill that charged $100 for the degree.
  • The use of mass marketing and media to get messages out on an issue in order to shape public perception.
  • Disregard for public input and public participation.
  • Hardball tactics when dealing with council members and private individuals who disagree with the party line.
  • Refusal to admit any wrong.

A number of Southard's upper-level managers--Bridget Healy, Mark Hodnick, Mike Busch--followed him to Indio when he left Claremont. Others like Jim Lewis went to Atascadero. In leaving, they took Southard's philosophy with them and have instituted it in varying forms in the cities they now work for.

Tamara Gates, who was once Southard's Assistant City Manager, left quite a while ago to go to Sierra Madre as a city manager and is now the city manager for Yorba Linda. She now goes by the name Tammy Letourneau. It seems "our Tammy", as former councilmember Sandy Baldonado called her, has taken Southardism to new heights, at least according to an October 2006 opinion piece in the Yorba Linda Star.

As the article by Jim Drummond indicates, in late 2005 and early 2006 a Yorba Linda citizens group circulated petitions seeking a public vote on zoning ordinances for Old Town Yorba Linda. The residents were low-density housing advocates who opposed certain housing and commercial buildings in the city's Old Town area.

A group called Old Town Yorba Linda Partners (OTYLP) had an exclusive negotiating agreement with the city for the projects. The Drummond piece claimed that a man named Greg Brown who was a principal in OTYLP, came forward and said that Yorba Linda officials made it clear to him that any extension of OTYLP's negotiating agreement would depend on their funding an information and petition suppression campaign against the citizen's group.

The Drummond article also claimed that Brown stated that City Manager Letourneau asked Brown directly if OTYLP "had sufficient monies to wage the campaign and what our projected budget was to be." (According to Brown, OTYLP was told by a consultant that they should be prepared to spend up to $150,000.)

The anti-referendum campaign also included the use of hired "blockers"--people paid to interfere with signature gatherings.

Letourneau, according to Drummond, denied Brown's claims. Brown, incidentally, apologized to the citizens of Yorba Linda after the fact.

Strictly speaking, the picture painted by Drummond seems straight out of the Southard playbook.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Gold Line News

Thanks to Citizen Michael John Keenan for providing this news:

The Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR) for the Metro Gold Line is complete. You can review the entire document at the Gold Line website. The Claremont Public Library also has a copy of the FEIR.

The Metro Gold Line Extension Construction Authority Board of Directors will be meeting at 7pm on Wednesday, March 28th to consider certifying the FEIR. The board will be meeting at the Arcadia City Council chambers at 240 W. Huntington Dr.

The board will still have to secure full funding to complete the extension.

The Gold Line website includes a map of the proposed line showing stops that have been determined so far. Claremont seems to be one of the few cities along the extension that has a stop located where people would want to visit. In Monrovia, for instance, the stop is located south of the 210 Freeway and west of Myrtle. That's probably too far to expect people to walk to Monrovia's Old Town area on Myrtle where their most interesting shopping and restaurants, as well as their Friday farmers market, are located.

The LA Times website maintains a blog about traffic and transportation called the Bottleneck Blog. As several of the readers note, one of the problems with light rail systems is that their capacity is too low to have much of an impact on car traffic. With the Gold Line, for instance, it would have made more sense to put in a heavy rail system like the Metro Link. Light rail, according to several of the Bottleneck bloggers, isn't really effective over the distances the Gold Line will have to cover.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

City Manager's Update

Claremont City Manager Jeff Parker's weekly updates are posted each Friday on the city's website. The handy notices give an idea of what's in the works at City Hall.

Parker's most recent update welcomed the newly elected Councilmembers Linda Elderkin and Sam Pedroza, and also congratulated Peter Yao on his re-election.

Parker also noted that the Old School House renovation at Foothill Blvd. and Indian Hill Blvd. is continuing and that on Wednesday, March 28th, at 7pm, the city's Architectural Commission will be considering, among other things, a three-story, 242-space parking structure along Colby Circle, which runs parallel to Foothill.

The first level will be a below-grade basement. The second is at ground level, and the third is the roof top. According to Parker's update, when viewed from Colby Circle, the structure will appear to be a one-story building. Of course, as Village West is showing, you don't always get what the drawings seem to show.

The Architectural Commission meets in the council chambers at City Hall.

Monday, March 19, 2007

The Disappearing Demographic

What happened to our kids?

To hear Claremont Councilmembers Ellen Taylor, Sam Pedroza, Linda Elderkin and Peter Yao tell it, we have a youth population boom, one that we have to spend heavily on.

But an odd and overlooked thing occurred during the recent city council campaign. The Claremont Unified School District (CUSD) acknowledged that something on the order of 13.9% of the enrollment in CUSD schools comes from outside of the city. The school district props up its numbers by using inter-district transfers. In the 2005-2006 school year, 953 out of 6,868 CUSD students came from outside of Claremont.

(A special thanks to our readers for forwarding this information.)

And CSUD actually counts some Pomona residents in their Claremont numbers. There really isn't a Claremont kid population boom. That is one reason why the new elementary school that was supposed to go next to La Puerta Park has never been built. Remember that 2000 Measure Y bond money ($48.9 million worth)? All gone and no La Puerta school.

According to then-superintendent Douglas Keeler's 2000 open letter to the community, La Puerta Elementary was one of the eight priorities identified by a task force headed by Claremont 400 and Preserve Claremonter (a $500 donor) Jeanne Hamilton. Jeanne is on the current school board, which is entirely a Claremont 400 entity. Keeler's letter estimated $4.5 million of the bond money would be used for building La Puerta school.

We here at CI supported Measure Y. So we ask: What happened to that $48.9 million? One thing that occurred was that of the over $80,000 raised by proponents of Measure Y in 2000, the majority came from contractors who do work for school districts. Something almost guaranteed to lead to misappropriations. CUSD ended up spending all of that Measure Y money without completing all of the projects it promised to. A small oversight, but it just goes to show the 400 can mismanage the schools as much as they can the city government.

If you have any questions regarding your Measure Y money, write to the CSUD Board of Education or to current superintendent David Cash. Their contact information is here.

So, why does CUSD need its enrollment propped up anyway?

Because the number of kids relative to the population is declining. The U.S. Census Bureau shows that Claremont's population only increased by 2.9% between 1990 and 2000. At the same time, California's population increased 13.9%.

But Claremont's kid population increased right? Well, sort of. The U.S. Census figures show that in 1990, there were 7,025 kids under 18 years old. By 2000, that number had increased by six to 7,031. The number of kids under five years old actually declined by 81.

In 10 years, Claremont's total kid population increased a whopping .00085%. Huge.

In contrast, the same Census tables show between 1990 and 2000 Claremont's over 65 population increased from 4,026 to 4,966, an increase of 23.3%. And household size has declined from 2.68 people per household in 1990 to 2.56 in 2000. Households have gotten older and smaller.

What's going on? It's all tied to affordable housing. Look at your home values. They've skyrocketed in the past 17 years. As a result, families with young kids can't afford to buy a house in Claremont. Most of the new housing built in the past 10 years or so hasn't been of the starter home variety. It's been pricey, larger homes purchased by older people with older or grown kids. And older houses, even in South Claremont, have become unaffordable to many young families.

So, we should think twice when the Claremont 400 and Ellen Taylor, Linda Elderkin, Sam Pedroza, Jeanne Hamilton or Steve Llanusa tell us that we need to spend more on our kids. We need to look realistically at the population trends and allocate our resources accordingly. Instead, we've acted emotionally, foolishly, and projected trends from other parts of California onto an aging, graying Claremont.

Foolish indeed, maybe even stupid.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Vulcan and Other News

For what it's worth, Foothill Cities has noted that Vulcan Materials Co., the Alabama-based aggregate mining company that wants to mine on 500-plus acres in Northeast Claremont, has been named one of the most admired building materials companies in America by Fortune.

Fortune gave Vulcan a top score for "social responsibility." So, it's possible that in court arguments and in arguments before the state's Mining and Geology Board, Vulcan might have some ready-made answers to Claremont's charges that the Vulcan proposal is environmentally irresponsible.

Claremonters Against Strip Mining (CASM) may be sweating a bit.


A nod to our friends at Eye Level Pasadena, who've linked to us, and who write of interesting places and events in the City of Roses.


The Los Angeles Times today had a Column One article on blogging. Power to the people!

Friday, March 16, 2007

A Tale of Two Letters

A number of readers have forwarded an email that was sent to former councilmember Jackie McHenry the day after the election. The note purports to be from Gale Southard, the wife of former Claremont City Manager Glenn Southard (we have been unable to confirm the identity of the writer) and the Southards have not responded to inquiries by the press and public as to whether or not the email was sent from their email account. We do note that the account,, includes Southard's middle initial.

Here is the email:

----- Original Message -----
Glenn Southard
Sent: Wednesday, March 07, 2007 10:39 PM
Subject: loser

Jackie - so many people are soooo happy that your rein [sic] of terror is over. I'm glad you only get $500 for a party which you really should forego. Now the city can move forward. Hooray for the Claremont 400! Bye bye.

Gale Southard
EarthLink Revolves Around You.

The EarthLink ad seemed particularly appropriate for the note.

Several readers who forwarded this note have commented that they didn't believe Southard or his wife could have written such nastiness. Anyone whose been on the receiving end of a Southard fit could tell them otherwise. We located a legitimate Southard comment to a columnist named Cindy Uken who writes for the Desert Sun newspaper and who has written about goings on in the City of Indio, where Southard is now City Manager.

Uken has apparently written several columns about various problems Southard has had with Indio Councilmember Mike Wilson, who last year sued Indio and Southard in federal court and who believes he has been singled out by Southard because he does not automatically support Southard's policies (sound familiar?).

Uken has also written about a dispute between Southard and developer Richard Weintraub, who owns a large mall in Indio. Southard apparently didn't like Uken's coverage, because he posted the following comment on her website:

Contributed by Glenn Southard
Wednesday, 13 December 2006


You should let your readers know that you work for Kiner Communications and (Richard) Weintraub is a Kiner Communications client. No wonder the bias fluff piece. You should also come to Indio some time and see first hand all the improvements that are happening to roads, parks, buildings, water system, retail etc. Facts speak louder than opinions.

Glenn Southard
City Manager Indio

Editor's note: I am not privy to Kiner Communications' clients. is a separate corporation from Kiner Communications.

Typical Southard (and, we might add, typical Claremont 400): attack and discredit the person, don't address the issue. Funny how these things seem to follow Southard around.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Reason vs. Emotion

"The heart has its reasons that reason knows not of."

The Claremont Courier isn't quite dead, as this editorial from Wednesday's edition shows:

(Published in the Claremont Courier, 3/14/2007)

My Side of the Line

By Rebecca JamesCourie

[NOTE: We have removed the body of the text because, as a reader has pointed out, the material is copyrighted, and we would need the Courier's and JamesCourie's permission to post it in its entirety. Unfortunately, the Courier does not post its editorial material, so readers will have to find a hard copy of the 3/14/07 Courier to read the piece.

The editorial did cite three campaign issues that winning candidates Linda Elderkin, Sam Pedroza and Peter Yao focused on: affordable housing, the Vulcan gravel mining proposal and the Padua Sports Park project. JamesCourie pointed out that in all three of these issues, the winning candidates made promises to emotionally-driven voters--promises that the editor thought might be hard to keep.]


The Claremont 400, with its blood up, will be calling a pecking party for Ms. JamesCourie after this piece.

New Council Installation

The new city council will be installed tonight at 6:30 p.m. at City Hall. In honor of the event, we dug up some file footage from the installation celebration of 1988 for newly hired City Manager Glenn Southard. We thought this was appropriate since this new council, led by Ellen Taylor, with Sam Pedroza, Linda Elderkin, and Peter Yao in tow, wants to go back to those bygone days.

As you can see from the clip, there was music and mirth, beginning with Southard serenading then-Mayor Judy Wright as he discusses his plans for the city-state:

Duck Soup (1933) © Paramount Pictures

Just kidding. That was really Groucho Marx and Judy Wright. You can see Judy tonight at the council chambers.


Maybe part of the problem for so long was the Claremont 400 is mostly filled with Margaret Dumonts. It's all self-serious, unaware straight men with no Groucho to balance them.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Mailbag: Hyperlocality

As our post yesterday indicated, the public does seem to have an appetite for a certain type of very local news and information that traditional media don't do a good job of serving up. Call it hyperlocalism or church newsletter gossip or whatever.

Community isn't defined from the top down, as the Claremont 400 would like you to believe, with a small group dictating who belongs and who doesn't. Real communities form spontaneously from neighbors talking to each other, shopping, walking, picking their kids up from school. Councilmember-elect Sam Pedroza, who has a background in urban planning, ought to go back and re-read Jane Jacob's The Death and Life of Great American Cities.

The disconnect in Claremont during the Southard regime (ca. 1988-2005) came about because the city administration and the 400 failed to listen to communities and did just what Robert Moses did in New York City. Councilmember-elect Linda Elderkin talks a lot about "civility" and "consensus" but the real incivility came from her friends who controlled the city for so long. Elderkin wants to take the city back to that time, and official incivility and insensitivity will inevitably follow. And the Daily Bulletin and Claremont Courier (if it exists) will be late to report it.

It's a different time, though. There are other ways for communities to communicate and share information. The ways of Claremont, good and bad, can be made known to the world now.

New sites like are connecting communities like ours with the rest of the country and the world. Placeblogger started shortly after New Year's Day this year, and it opened with links to 700 community blogs around the country. We were listed on Placeblogger today and received a cool note from Placeblogger founder Lisa Williams in Watertown, MA. Thanks for the info Lisa:

Date: Tue, 13 Mar 2007 19:39:22 -0400
From: "Lisa Williams"
Subject: Is your local paper dying?

They can do better -- particularly when they combine the resources of residents and bloggers and the newsroom.

Check out what the Fort Myers News-Press has done with its story on Cape Coral water and sewer rates. Combining input from hundreds of readers, online forums, and liveblogging meetings, they triggered a DOJ investigation into waste, fraud and abuse that was fleecing local residents. Link: They can do better -- particularly when they combine the resources of residents and bloggers and the newsroom.

Link: ID=/20060821/CAPEWATER/60821027

Blogs and journalism isn't either/or: it's both+and.

Lisa W. and

Keep those cards and letters coming! More mailbag notes to come.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Media Matters

Question: Is the Claremont Courier a dying institution?

There's a lot of talk going on now about the role of newspapers in the digital age. The PBS show Frontline recently did a four-part series called "News War" that looked at the future of the news profession. The series included a look at blogs and their contribution to two events: the downfall of former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott and the retirement of Dan Rather from CBS.

One person skeptical about the power of blogging is Columbia School of Journalism dean and New Yorker writer Nicholas Lemann. Frontline interviewed Lemann for their report, and he has some pointed observations regarding the relationship of journalism to blogging.

The third episode of the series spent a good portion of the segment looking at the Los Angeles Times and the struggle between the editor and publisher and the Tribune Co., which owns the Times. There does seem to be a real struggle between the media conglomerates that own most of the news outlets in the U.S. and the idea of journalism as a kind of public service. Like most service industries, the news business is undergoing an efficiency craze--make fewer people do the same job or more.

But where does that leave a paper like the Courier? Is there a niche market for extremely localized news? Or do papers like the Courier end up being not much more than Lemann's description of blogs: the equivalent of church newsletters?

For a time, the Courier did a pretty good job reporting local issues. Reporters like Gary Scott or Chris Bray were independent enough thinkers to look beneath the surface of an issue and report the news in context. But the revolving door of reporters at the Courier hasn't allowed the new ones to develop a deep enough understanding of the community's dynamics before they move on.

And, if the Courier seems bad, the Daily Bulletin in many ways is worse. The Bulletin has greater resources than the Courier, but it doesn't allow reporters like Will Bigham or Jason Newell to do much more than sketch out an issue. As a result, things are presented in black-and-white, without much of the nuance a complicated subject like the water company buyout requires. Even when the Bulletin ran a special last Sunday on the water issue, it still missed many points and accepted official statements without really looking at the facts.

For instance, Claremont Councilmember Ellen Taylor in a recent Bulletin article attributed the lack of movement on the the city's prospective water company purchase to "micro-management" (meaning Councilmember Jackie McHenry). Yet, neither Taylor, Sandy Baldonado or Peter Yao (who claims to be for the purchase) moved forward with a proposal in the last year for an eminent domain proceeding. Taylor claims that McHenry and Councimember Corey Calaycay were opposed to using eminent domain, but no proposal was ever considered. Taylor was in the majority on the issue. Why didn't she do something? And what about last year's eminent domain initiative, Prop. 90, putting the kibosh on such proceedings until after the November election?

These are the sorts of questions the Bulletin should have asked but failed to. Blogs for local news exist because traditional news outlets often overlook the nuances of events.

So, where does that leave the Courier? One day in the not-so-distant future, the Courier may come up for sale. If someone like former Mayor Diann Ring decides to buy it (as was rumored a few years back), then the paper becomes something worse than a church newsletter. It becomes a uncritical propaganda sheet, and that isn't really journalism either.


Upcoming City Events:

Thursday, 3/15, 6:30pm--See the new council installed at City Hall. Reception to follow.

Tuesday, 3/20, 7pm--City Council Neighborhood Forum. Scrooby Lounge, 699 Scrooby Lane in Pilgrim Place. Neighborhood forum for Pilgrim Place and West Village area.

For more information, see the City Calendar.


Mailbag: We've received some interesting emails over the past few days and hope to share them with you provided we can verify some information.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Water Woes

Yesterday's Daily Bulletin featured an in-depth look at water issues in our area. In one of several articles, the reporter Will Bigham wrote that Claremont is considering using eminent domain proceedings to take control of the water company from Golden State Water Co.

Bigham's article had a few errors and omissions. Bigham quoted Councilmember Ellen Taylor:

"'We didn't move forward with very much in the last couple years; we dealt with micro-managing issues,' Councilwoman Ellen Taylor said. "

Of course, Taylor was doing her usual posturing (and dissembling). The fact is, the council didn't look further into eminent domain last year in large part because of last November's Proposition 90--a referendum that would have limited cities' ability to exercise eminent domain. Prop. 90 failed, but its supporters have vowed to take another crack at it. So, Claremont could go forward with eminent domain on the water company, get partway through the proceedings, then be barred from the takeover by any new restrictions after having spent hundreds of thousands of dollars or more. This Taylor knows well.

If you have any questions, Councilmember Taylor can be reached at

So, why would Taylor lie? She wanted to get a dig in on outgoing Councilmember Jackie McHenry, of course. The "micro-management" tag is part of the Claremont 400 script. They keep repeating a charge (or a lie), and it becomes the truth because reporters like Bigham are too busy and too limited in space to report the reality of the situation.

Another factor complicating the purchase is the issue of the Pomona Valley Protective Association (PVPA) land in Northeast Claremont. Recall that's the land that Vulcan Material Co. wants to mine for gravel. It is also the same land PVPA has talked about selling to a developer.

Golden State Water owns a 47% stake in PVPA, so that holding might have to be part of any water company purchase. The land, at current market rate values, could be worth in excess of $100 million, which would inflate the cost of the city's purchase quite a bit.

On the other hand, if the city did take control of the water company, along with the PVPA stake, that might help settle the mining issue.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Election Reflections

Looking back on the 2007 Claremont Municipal election, we can't help but wonder if party politics isn't hurting our local governance. It may be that what is good for the Democratic Party or the Republican Party on the state or federal levels does not translate to sound policy on the local level.

Party politics, particularly on the national level, have become so polarized that voters are too often left with only two positions, and a range of other choices in between are automatically eliminated. This may be one reason why the number of Californians declining to state a party affiliation has been on the rise. According to an NPR story in January, 2007, the percentage of declined to state voters in California is now about 20% and growing.

Both parties risk becoming caricatures, the Democrats stuck in the 1960's and the Republicans stuck in the 1980's. While the Claremont electorate has traditionally been weighted slightly in favor of the Democrats, there are plenty of fiscally conservative social liberals who've objected to such things as the city's Landscaping and Lighting District. And, there a moderate Claremont Republicans who were bothered by the city's handling of the Landrum shooting.

One risk the incoming council has is to assume it has a mandate to spend freely without considering methods of payment. Last year's assessment district vote showed that there are still strong feelings about that sort of spending, and those feelings cut across party lines. The city has also turned its back on things like the vehicle stop study by the Police Department, and socially liberal Democrats and moderate Republicans alike may have concerns about that, especially if another racially-charged incident comes along.


As we've noted in the past week, the newly-elected councilmembers and re-elected Peter Yao owe their election to the village vote, which accounted for the difference between third-place Linda Elderkin and fourth-place Jackie McHenry. The danger is that the council will fall back into its old patterns of conflating the good of the village for the good of greater Claremont.

Sam Pedroza ran as a candidate for South Claremont. Yet, what has he really done for them? What ideas does he bring to the council that will invigorate South Claremont and direct more city revenue towards the south, other than to line the pockets of his benefactor Roger Hogan at Claremont Toyota? We have yet to hear.

If areas like South Claremont, Northeast Claremont, and Piedmont Mesa become disaffected again, and if there is another polarizing event like the Landrum shooting, the city will be forced to confront its shortcomings, and some other Jackie McHenry will step forward as a vehicle of change.

The mistake the Claremont 400 makes is to deny their part in this dance of anger.


We will say that there was one little-noticed comment by Pedroza at the Pitzer College candidate forum the week before the election. Pedroza, in answering a question concerning the police commission, seemed to answer sincerely and from the heart. It was a question that had not come up before in the campaign, so his Claremont 400 handlers had not had a chance to tell him what to say. Pedroza, who growing up must have seen some instances of police abuse, seemed to understand the concern some Claremonters have for the need for civilian oversight of the police. His keepers will rein him in, of course, but the lesson was that Pedroza on his own can speak intelligently. It's when he has the 400 telling him what to say that he puts his foot in his mouth.

(The 400, lead by people like former Police Commission Chair Helaine Goldwater, have watered down the Police Commission to where it's a non-entity. Hence, current Police Commission Chair Kevin Arnold's tantrum at the council meeting immediately preceding the election. Arnold has nothing better or more important to do with his time.)


The Student Life, Pomona College's newspaper, had good article on the election. Keep it up, TSL!

Saturday, March 10, 2007


The Claremont City Council is having a Chat with Council night 7:00 pm on Tuesday, March 13th, at City Hall. Come if you can.

Old Ties

A few posts back, a reader asked how can one tell if a candidate for Claremont City Council is backed by the Claremont 400. As we said, it's not too difficult once one checks back to things like old endorser lists for past candidates and the organizations listed on the candidate's resume.

In this election, we asserted that Sam Pedroza and Linda Elderkin were tools of the Claremont 400. In Pedroza's case, he seems more a fool who will do or say anything to get elected. In Elderkin's case, she's an actual member.

We previously mentioned that the 400 had its roots back in the Claremont Board of Education recall. We thought that was around 1977, and in checking through some old city council records for that year, we found the minutes of a 10/24/1977 joint meeting of the Claremont City Council and the Claremont Board of Education.

Listed as "Visitors Present" are Judy Wright and Linda Elderkin. Judy, of course, is an old friend who is the town's historian, at least for white Claremont. She is also a former councilmember and worked on the Board of Education recall. Judy is very active in the League of Women Voters as well. A Claremont 400er through and through. Judy worked on Elderkin's campaign in this election and was Pedroza's campaign manager for Pedroza's failed 2005 run.

Also present at that 1977 meeting was a Board of Education member named Maralyn Tipping. Seen that name before? She was on the endorser lists for both Pedroza and Elderkin. Tipping also has an acting career. She had a small role with the Claremont 400 Players in a five-minute short called "Sam for City Council". In that, she played a random woman on the street being interviewed. Also appearing in that short was Glenn Miya, another Pedroza/Elderkin endorser and the life partner of Claremont School Board member Steven Llanusa. Miya played the interviewer.

Here's the video:

Incidentally, the Pedroza campaign infomercial ran on the public access channel on Comcast cable, so Pedroza got free airtime for a five-minute campaign ad. Comcast was under the impression the ad was an interview, not a campaign spot that would have had to have been paid for.

And if you liked that, we've got a great Nigerian 419 scam for you. Buyer beware!

Friday, March 9, 2007

Daily Bulletin

Yesterday's Daily Bulletin reported quoted Peter Yao as saying he saw the top priorities as building Padua Sports Park and purchasing the water utility from Golden State Water Company.

The quote from Ellen Taylor also indicated that the water company purchase was now a priority.

We generally like the idea of a municipal water utility. Of course, Claremont citizens should understand that water prices in the short run (meaning the 30 years it will take to pay off the $100-plus million purchase price) will be higher than they are now. On the other hand, with water becoming a scarcer comodity, it makes sense for it to be controlled by a public entity.

The sports park is more problematic. While we like the idea of more lighted sports fields, we think the city's being short-sighted in thinking Padua Park will satisfy the needs of groups like AYSO or girls softball. The city has indicated that it needs something on the order of eight more lighted soccer fields and six more baseball/softball fields.

Padua Park only adds two soccer fields (one lighted) and one baseball/softball diamond. So, the city will spend over $10 million to build Padua Park, and will have barely made a dent in the sports field needs. The city could light fields in other parks, such as Lewis Park, but neighbors in those other areas are opposed to lights.

So, after Padua Park is built, the city will still be short seven lighted soccer fields and five lighted baseball/softball fields. The city will then have to either impose lights on other neighborhood parks in areas opposed to lighted fields (as they are imposing them now on the Northeast Claremont area) or they will have to resurrect Opanyi Nasiali's idea about a sports complex in the gravel pit as Baseline Rd. and Monte Vista Ave. And, they will have to come back to Claremont taxpayers to ask for the additional tens of millions to build their sports complex.

If, after Padua Sports Park is built, the youth sports groups still have over-crowded fields, they should point to this council and to Mayor Yao for their failure to address the root problem with a real solution. They will have no one else to blame.


Question: In the priorities listed in the Bulletin article, what happened to mining? The anti-mining group Claremonters Against Strip Mining made such a big deal out of it during the election. Did mining go away? Isn't the city still in litigation with Vulcan Materials Co.? Isn't the landowner, Pomona Valley Protective Association, still trying to sell the land to a developer?

And what about Johnson's Pasture? Where was that in the Mayor's and Sam Pedroza's and Linda Elderkin's list of post-election priorities? They sure made a lot of noise during the election about both the pasture and the mining. What happened?


The Claremont 400 apparently feels it has a mandate of some sort--as seen in the Mayor's comment about a "super-majority". A word of caution to the mayor: a 29% turnout for the city election hardly constitutes a mandate. Compared to the 2006 assessment district election when 54% of the ballots were returned and the Johnson's Pasture Measure S Bond, which had a 55 % turnout (higher than surrounding areas for the November 2006 election), 29% is indicative of low interest in the city election. People were generally happy with how things were going.

The 400 really is going back to the future in its thinking if they believe they represent the majority of Claremont citizens. The disconnect is already building. As we pointed out yesterday, the councilmembers elected on Tuesday won election in two precincts, Joslyn Center and Sycamore School. Areas like South Claremont, Northeast Claremont, Piedmont Mesa didn't turn out in huge numbers. And, it is likely that those areas will be under-represented in future city decisions as a result--something that has occurred regularly in the past.


Inside baseball: It also seems that the 400 has decided on the mayorship. Pedroza's comments in the Bulletin article made it clear that he will support Yao for another term as mayor. Ellen Taylor will be mayor pro tem. This means Taylor will be positioned as mayor in the year leading up to her re-election campaign in 2009. Yao gets to be mayor for the Claremont Centennial, something he covets, in exchange for supporting the 400's agenda.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Election Analysis

As we noted yesterday, turnout at the Sycamore precinct (the Village including Pilgrim Place) was high--48% compared to 29% for the rest of the city. Linda Elderkin and Sam Pedroza won big there, 635 and 605 votes, respectively, compared to 490 for Peter Yao, 208 for Jackie McHenry, and 201 for Opani Nasiali.

The Joslyn Center polling place also went strong for Elderkin, Pedroza and Yao, and together with Sycamore provided the 605 vote cushion for Elderkin over McHenry for third place.

The Village Strategy--playing to their base, running the whispering campaign against McHenry for four years (she's negative, abrasive, disruptive, failing to credit her for any accomplishments) and then tying Nasiali to McHenry--worked. Turnout wasn't high enough at other precincts for the other candidates to offset the Village vote.

Also, we can infer that the vote-for-only-two thinking (Elderkin and Pedroza) was strong in Village. The under vote--the number of total possible votes (3 per ballot) minus the number of votes actually cast, was 232 on 817 ballots. As noted, Elderkin got 635 at Sycamore, Pedroza got 605, and Yao was way behind at 490. And then the numbers really dropped off for the others.

Turnout at the two college precincts was lower than the city average--13.5% for Oakmont (Pomona College voted here) and 18.5% for Granite Creek Church(the northern colleges and also Mike Maglio's home base). So, the College Strategy--for candidates counting on college students to vote--was pretty much a flop.

This is actually how elections have traditionally gone in Claremont, so we interpret this as reversion to pre-2001 trends with the Village essentially electing the council.


Now that the election's over, we can get back to our diversification project here on CI.

Claremont's got a number of good eateries downtown. We've already noted the Press. Aruffo's is another of our favorites. The Bellinis are very nice, okay, maybe not Harry's Bar quality, but still refreshing on a hot, dusty August day.

We found a blog that had a decent write up for Aruffo's. It's by a CMC student who seems to be a budding foodie. The coverage of San Gabriel Valley locations is good, and she's reviewed a number of Asian restaurants in the area.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

A New Day

A new day dawns for Claremont. Evil McHenry banished to the hinterlands, upstart Nasiali put in his place, councilmember-elect Pedroza vows to move forward on key projects. And councilmember-elect Elderkin will insist on a say too. Mayor-to-Be Taylor waits in the wings.

A new in day indeed, moving forward into a future full of consensus and vision....wait! Doesn't this day seem oddly familiar?

Groundhog Day (1993) © Columbia Pictures

A cautionary tale. Absent any soul-searching among our high-and-mighty, history in Claremont will always repeat itself.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Unofficial Results

Well, the unofficial 2007 Election results are in (the top three win council seats):

  1. Sam Pedroza: 3,389 votes, 21.3% of the total
  2. Peter Yao: 3,259 votes, 20.5%
  3. Linda Elderkin: 3,165 votes, 19.9%
  4. Jackie McHenry: 2,560 votes, 16.1%
  5. Opanyi Nasiali: 2,451 votes, 15.4%
  6. Mike Maglio: 759 votes, 4.8%
  7. Michael Keenan: 338 votes, 2.1%

A total of 6,129 ballots were cast out of 20,932 total Claremont registered voters, for a turnout of 29%. As we said earlier, low turnout translates into wins for the Claremont 400 candidates. It would have taken a turnout of 34% or better for McHenry and Nasiali to win.

In the end, voters weren't as motivated to come out as they were in 2003 and 2005. Perhaps some of that might be attributed to the lack of the Southard factor. The old fellow certainly was a lighting rod and could always be counted on to create some crisis or another. Things like the mining issue didn't turn people out in droves. In precinct 37, home to Clarmonters Against Strip Mining (CASM), turnout wasn't any better (29.1%) than it was in the city as a whole, and CASM endorsee Maglio got fewer than 800 votes (4.8%).

Precinct 8, the village including the retirement homes, had the highest turnout (48.2%), and Elderkin and Pedroza won that precinct handily. This precinct is usually the 400's stronghold, and it proved to be in this election. Pedroza really worked the endorsements from the Democratic and Sierra Clubs, and these no doubt helped him.

What can we expect in the future? The new council will probably push the affordable housing project on Baseline Rd. The Environmental Impact Report still needs to be done, and there are likely to be some problems regarding the air quality portion of the EIR. But the council will most likely vote to override the EIR should it be unfavorable to to the project. The League of Women Voters and the Helaine Goldwater/Diann Ring group wants this put in at all costs.

The gravel mining issue is still alive, and Elderkin and Pedroza will find their hands tied considerably now that they are one the council. For one thing, as councilmembers they won't be able to just say "NO" to mining. There may still be an application from Vulcan Materials Co. to mine the land under the city's 2006 mining ordinance. And, there's the small matter of the proposed sale of the land by the owner, Pomona Valley Protective Association, to a developer. Elderkin, despite her claims to the contrary, may still have a conflict of interest, and that will be played out in the not-so-distant future.

Johnson's Pasture still needs to be bought. The city has the voters' approval for financing the land purchase through bonds, but will it be for $12 million or $11.5 million? During the election, Elderkin made comments that seemed to indicate she would push for paying the $12 million and getting the deal done, but that may imperil the chance of the city getting future state grants for other open space purchases. So, Elderkin's hands may be tied there too.

The new council will also go forward with spending $900,000 for the Padua Park site. Pedroza ran as a youth sports candidate, and will no doubt attribute his election to the "youth sports vote", even though that a pretty sketchy demographic (as we indicated, the turnout actually reverted to the lower levels of 2001). The city is still lacking the $10 million-plus need to construct Padua Park, but they will likely borrow the money since state funds have not been forthcoming.

A new police station? Perhaps. But that is a $25 million project and the city may have to go to voters for financing on that. Oh, and Paul Cooper will be the next police chief--Goldwater, et. al., will see to that.

Peter Yao wants to be mayor again, and he is beholden to the 400 for throwing their support behind him in the last few weeks of the campaign. He'll likely try to work out a deal with Ellen Taylor, Pedroza, and Elderkin to get one more year out of the mayorship. But he'll have to vie with Taylor for the position, and Pedroza and Elderkin are just as likely to thrown in with Taylor.

So, the 400 is back in command, this time minus Glenn Southard. How will they run things? We'll keep reporting, keep digging to bring you that information. The one thing that has changed from the Southard days is that it is possible to shine a light on issues, and that at least acts as a brake to the runaway train that is the Claremont 400.

We'll know in coming years if the 400 has learned anything. If we see crises like the Landrum shooting popping up again, then things will have regressed and we will see that turnout number tick back up. If things stay quiet, then turnout will tick downward.

Either way, we aim to keep the news coming.

Election Results

The City of Claremont and City Clerk Lynne Pahner maintain a really top-notch website. Unofficial election results will be posted here as they come in.

For those of you who are diehards, the City Council Chambers are open and the ballots are being counted there as they come in from the polls. We understand that about 4,000 absentee ballots were taken out, and at least 2,200 have been returned, so those are already at City Hall, meaning over 10 percent of the approximately 20,000 registered voters have already voted.

Election Day

Election day has arrived. The polls will tell all. If turnout is high (above 34 percent), that likely favors the non-Claremont 400 candidates. Low turnout favors the Claremont 400. It's a sad comment on the 400 that they need to discourage participation to win, but there you have it. Turnout in recent city elections has trended upward. It was around 29 percent in 2001 and has been above 33 percent in 2003 and 2005. We shall see what today brings.

As crazy as Claremont can be, at least it's not Glendora, as the Los Angeles Times and Foothill Cities blog have pointed out. The latest incident, as Kid Keenan points out to us, is the great Glendora Sign Scandal.

Now that the election is winding down, time for us to begin our Social Calendar:

Mark your calendars for a Claremont 400 special event--the 50's Fondue Fete, a fundraiser for the Claremont Community Foundation. The Fete is on Friday, March 16th, at 6pm at 2627 San Andres Way in Claremont. The Fete is part of the Foundation's Party Parade 2007.

It's hosted by Steve Llanusa and Glenn Miya. Llanusa is a Claremont 400 representative to the Claremont School Board. Miya is a pediatrician and is the host of Sam Pedroza's YouTube campaign video.

Both Llanusa and Miya are on Linda Elderkin and Sam Pedroza's supporter lists. So the Fete is a great opportunity to observe the 400 in their native habitat. Kind of like a nature documentary. Tickets are $75 per person with only 10 seats available. Reserve online at the Community Foundation's website. See you there!

Monday, March 5, 2007


A reader writes:

I am just curious who are these people in the Claremont 400. And what makes them think, only they know what is good for our city. If you have some time down the road, I would appreciate some comments about this. Thanks.

Dear Reader, we believe "Claremont 400" is a reference to the term "The Four Hundred," coined in 1892 by New York socialite Ward McAllister, who said that that was about the total number of people in New York who really mattered.

There aren't really 400 in Claremont. Who knows what the exact number is? There's no precise way of defining if one fits in this social club or not. One has to simply follow events and piece things together.

Origins: Former mayor Judy Wright has said in the past that one of the seminal events in the Claremont 400's history was the Claremont school board recall (around 1977--we will have to check to get more exact information). The recall was prompted by the community's negative reaction to a proposed school closure. It represented a sort of flexing of local political muscle, and the mailing and supporter lists from the recall formed the core of the 400's support in later city council and school board campaigns.

As this group came to control the city council, it also controlled the make-up of city commissions and stocked them with people loyal to the 400. Once Glenn Southard was hired as city manager in 1987, everything was in place for the political machine that would control all of the city's processes--a machine that was both judge and jury, stamping official decisions as fair and clean.

At the same time they controlled the official elected and appointed bodies, they also came to dominate groups like the League of Women Voters, the Claremont Community Foundation, the Claremont Chamber of Commerce, the Claremont Rotary, and the Claremont Kiwanis, Claremont Heritage and the Claremont Friends of the Library, to name a few.

Now, all of these groups accomplish many good things, and there are many good people affiliated with them who are not part of the 400 and who are simply trying to donate their time and money to good causes.

However, if you look at past council candidates and their resumes, you will invariably find they will have served on city commissions and will have belonged to several of the groups mentioned above.

So, let's take a look at 2005 candidate Ellen Taylor. Taylor's campaign resume listed the following:

  • League of Women Voters: past President
  • Chamber of Commerce: past president
  • Claremont Heritage, board member and past Vice President
  • City of Claremont Traffic and Transportation Commission: Chair for four years
  • Citizen's Committee for the General Plan
  • City of Claremont's Committee on Aging: Chair: Legal and Protective Services Sub-Committee
And there you have the prototypical Claremont 400 candidate.

You can also tell by looking at supporter lists who the 400 candidates are. (See our post from 2/28/07: "Today's Courier" for a similar analysis of supporter lists.) Going back through old Couriers, it's possible to see the supporter chain go from Ellen Taylor in 2005 to Linda Elderkin and Sam Pedroza in this election.

The Claremont 400, like the original New York Four Hundred, is all about status and hierarchy. It is the Great Chain of Being that organizes a social class that began as a force for good and slowly devolved over time until it became responsible for the city's dysfunction on all levels.

The time for accountability approaches. If not now, then tomorrow; if not tomorrow, then the day after.