Claremont Insider: June 2007

Saturday, June 30, 2007

4th of July Note

In my post a couple days ago, I left off one of the annual highlights of the Memorial Park 4th of July Celebration. The Speaker's Corner gives anyone who wants a chance to step up on a soapbox and talk about whatever floats their boat.

The Speaker's Corner runs from 10:45am to 3:15 pm. Time is alloted on a first-come, first-serve basis. Contact Bill Seymour at wa6mod@arrl.net for more information.

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Also, tomorrow is the first Sunday of the month, which means it's time to Talk with the City Council at the downtown Farmers' Market. The market is located on 2nd St. between Indian Hill Blvd. and Yale Ave. in the Claremont Village. It runs from 8am to 1pm.

Sprouts Market Opening

The Claremont Courier reports today that the new Sprouts Market at Foothill Blvd. and Mountain Ave. will open on July 9th. The article quotes the owner of Wolfe's Market as being concerned about a possible glut of grocery stores once Sprouts and the new Trader Joe's at the corner of Indian Hill Blvd. and Foothill are open.

It's great to see new businesses come into town, but I don't think anyone wants to see established local businesses like Wolfe's, which has been in Claremont since 1917, go under because of the newcomers.

Friday, June 29, 2007

Blog Entry Sanitized by Claremont 400

[Editor's Note: We have received several emails complaining about the "lies and inaccuracies" contained in our post earlier today, "Seeing the Forest for the Trees". What with veiled threats of legal action, attorneys of every description regularly scrutinizing our site, and a flood of "corrections" and retractions, we thought it best to comply with the very reasonable request to redact all objectionable material. On the specific suggestion of a committee of the Claremont 400, here is the revised post: (the offensive post will be taken down just as soon as Buzz returns from visiting his relatives in Hell; thanks to JW, DR, HG, E(snorer)T and bunkmate SB, BMcC, LE, AL, and TWH :) ) ]



Seeing the F_____ for the T____



Claremont ___ _ well-deserved _________ __ ___ City of Trees ___ ________ ___ Claremont Village ______ __ _______ __ ___tree-lined ________ _____ ____ ___ _____ ___ New England ____ ___ ____ founders ______.

___ ____trees ____ ______ _____. _______ ___ __ __________ _________, watering, ____ management, _______ ___ ____ __ ___ ______ ____ __ trees __ ________ ___ __ ____ _____ _____. We ____ __ ______ ____ __ ________ ____ ___ students ____ ______ ____ _ eucalyptus tree ____ __ _____ ___ __ ___ ___ ___ College Ave. ___ families __ ___ ___ ________ _______ _ _______ _______ Pomona College ___ ____ _______ __ ____ _____ ____ _______ ____ ___ ______ ____ reported.

___ _______ ______ ___ ____ ____ ______ ___ tree ___ __ campus ________ ___ ___ _____ __ ______ College, _ ____ __ Claremont ____ ______ __ ___ quickly _______ ___ tree ___ ____ ball, _____ ___ families ________ ________ __ their ____. __ ___ _____ ___ ___ ______ ___ city __. ______ Town___ ____ cooperative _____.

_______ __ Claremont ___ ___ ___tree ________, __ ___ __ ____ _____ _________. ___ trees ____ __ ____ ____ __ __ past ___ _____ __________ _ great deal __ ______ __ _____ ___ _____ _____ _________ ___ _____. Claremont regularly ______ ______ ____ __ __________ _______ __ ____ __ _____ ________, ____ ______ ___ ____ ________ _________ __ ___________ _______ __ trim ____ trees ___ _____ _____. _____ _______ ___ _____ ___ _______ __ _________ insurance, __ ________ ___ _____ ____ ___ _____ __ _________ ___ ________ _____.

__ ____ ______ _____ ___ _____ Landscaping and Lighting _______ __________creates ___ _________ ____ ___ ____ ___ funds dedicated __ ______ ____ tree ___________. ___ _____ _________ ___ _____ ____ ___ ____ _____ ____ ______ ______ __ ___ _______ ______ __ city tree _____.

___ _____ _______ ______ costs are on the rise,_________ ___ ___ _______ __ ____ ______ ___________ _____ ________. ___ ______ ________ __ __ city _________ ____ ___ ________ ___ ____ __ pays to maintain trees ___ ____ ____ __ _______ __ __ ______ __ ___ ____ population ages. _____ ____ _____ ____ ____ ___ ____-_______ ______ ______ __ city, ___ ___ city _____ __ ____ ___ _______ _______ __ tree _______ __ ____ ___ ____.

___ _______ ____ _____ ____ _ city staff ______ ______ ____ __ ___ _____ ___ _______ ____ ________ ____ City decisions:



"___ city __ ___ ____________ ___ ______ __ ____ __________ planting ________," ___ city staff ______ ______. "__ ___ ____, trees ____ _______ ... __ 40-foot _________. "________ ____ ________ __ equally _________ ____ __________, __ thought was given __ ___ ______ ____ _ ______ ______ _____ ____ __ ___________ infrastructure. "___ city __ ___ ______ ___ financial implications __ _____ _________ __ ___ ______ __ tree-________ ______ _________," the report said.

___ _____ ___past _____-_______ _________ ____ _____ _________ _____ __ ___ present, ___ ___ ______ ___ ____ _____ _________ (like two-term Community Services Commission member Sam Pedroza) ____ _____ __ ___ ____ no responsibility ___ _____ _____.

___ new tree ______ _________ __ ____ _______ _______ City Council _______ __ __ _____ _ ____ _______ _______ __ ___ costs __ ______ ______ __ engaging __ ____________ action_. ____ __ ___ ______ ________ hiring full-time ________ __ ______ ___ ______ "urban forest" __ ______ _____. ________ __ __ ______ _____ __ trees ____ ____ _____ ___ ______ ____ ___ _____ ___ ______.

___ lesson __ ___ __ ____ _ ______ ___: pay now __ ___ _ ___ ____ _____. ____ well and good __ ____ _ _____ _ ___ __ _____, ___ __ ____ ____ _______ thinking ___ ___ __ ___ ___________, _______ ____ __ pay __ ___ ______. ____ _ ______ revisited ____ ___ _____ __ Claremont.

____ ___ __ ___ _______ staff. __ _____ ____ seem _______ __ ___ _ ________, ____ ________ ____.

Seeing the Forest for the Trees

Claremont has a well-deserved reputation as the "City of Trees and Ph.D's." The Claremont Village really is defined by its tree-lined streets, which give the town the New England feel the town founders sought.

But with trees come hidden costs. There's the cost of maintenance: trimming, watering, pest management; and then there's the cost of the damage done by trees to property, and in some cases lives. We tend to forget that in February, 1998, two students were killed when a eucalyptus tree fell on their SUV at 4th St. and College Ave. The families of the two students settled a lawsuit against Pomona College for $1.6 million, as this March, 2000, article from The Student Life reported.

The article points out that even though the tree was on campus property and was owned by Pomona College, a city of Claremont crew showed up and quickly removed the tree and root ball, which the families considered evidence in their suit. No one could say who called the city in. Another "Town and Gown" cooperative event.

The city of Claremont has its own tree problems, as the FC Blog noted yesterday. The types of trees we have planted in the past can cause homeowners a great deal of damage to sewer and water lines, driveways and walks. Claremont regularly denies claims made by homeowners against the city for those damages, even though the city severely restricts the homeowners' ability to trim city trees and their roots. These damages are often not covered by homeowner insurance, so citizens are stuck with the costs of repairing the damaged lines.

To make matters worse, the city's Landscaping and Lighting District assessment creates the impression that the city has funds dedicated to things like tree maintenance. So, folks naturally get upset when the city tells them they're liable for any damages caused by city tree roots.

And those property damage costs are on the rise, according to an article by Will Bigham in yesterday's Daily Bulletin. The article reported the city estimates that the $230,000 per year it pays to maintain trees now will rise to $625,000 in 10 years as our tree population ages. Since 2005 there have been 202 tree-related claims against the city, and the city ended up paying out $220,000 because of tree damage in 2005 and 2006.

The article also noted that a city staff report placed part of the blame for current tree problems on past City decisions:

"The city is now experiencing the effects of past aggressive planting programs," the city staff report states. "In the past, trees were planted ... at 40-foot intervals. "Although this provided an equally dispersed tree population, no thought was given to the impact that a tree's growth would have on surrounding infrastructure. "The city is now seeing the financial implications of these decisions in the number of tree-related claims submitted," the report said.

Once again, our past, short-sighted decisions have large financial costs in the present, and the people who made those decisions (like two-term Community Services Commission member Sam Pedroza) have moved on and take no responsibility for those costs.

The new tree policy discussed at last Tuesday night's City Council meeting is at least a step towards reining in the costs of damage claims by engaging in preventative actions. Part of the policy includes hiring full-time arborist to manage the city's "urban forest" of 23,000 trees. Another is to plant types of trees that don't cause the damage that the we're now seeing.

The lesson of all of this is a simple one: pay now or pay a lot more later. It's well and good to have a plant a lot of trees, but if it's done without thinking out all of the consequences, there's hell to pay in the future. It's a lesson revisited time and again on Claremont.

Hats off to our current staff. At least they seem willing to try a different, more sensible path.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

New Pomona Blog

Welcome to M-M-M-M-M-My Pomona, a new blog about Pomona by two bloggers, K and meg. Alberto's on Garey does make a good, cheap burrito. It's a chain, so you'll see many of them as you drive around Southern California.

Taqueria De Anda is also good for little street tacos. They're also on Garey, south of Mission on the east side of the street.

And Tropical Mex at 1371 S. East End is generally a safe bet.

Reader Mail - CUSD

[This entry was posted this morning. Since then, we've been contacted and asked to take down the reader comments. We have honored this but are concerned at the the ability of the Claremont 400 to chill free discussions.]

There's much news to talk about this week, and we'll try to squeeze all of it today and tomorrow. From the hidden costs of keeping the nickname "City of Trees" to affordable housing, Claremont's plate is pretty full.

We wanted to start off, however, with a bit of mail we received. A reader wrote in to comment on the Claremont Unified School District's (CUSD) discussions about tearing down their building on Base Line Rd. and allowing an RV park to go in there. Apparently, School Boardmember Mary Caenepeel thinks this is a smart move. According to the reader, though, CUSD spent a lot of the 2001 Measure Y bond money to upgrade the building while other promised Measure Y projects went unfinished.

Now the Measure Y money's running out, and CUSD may have to come back to the voters for more in another school bond vote, perhaps in the not-so-distant future. The Claremont Board of Education is a wholly Claremont 400 institution--all five seats are controlled by the 400. So it's not surprise that they'd misspend the money they claimed we so needed or that they're breaking promises. Recall that in order to help get the bond passed, they promised residents near Claremont High School that the new "temporary"football stadium would not be lighted. Now, there's been talk that it may end up with lights after all. They got the votes they wanted, now they're free to break their promises - an old pattern (see our LLD discussion).

In any case, here's our reader:


[Since posting this, our reader has contacted us and, concerned about negative reactions, asked that the comments be removed. So the comments have been removed at the reader's request.]


The reader added some clarification in a second note:

[Comments removed at reader's request.]

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Calendar

The Daily Bulletin's "Buzz" section listed a jazz concert series at the Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden. The concert series runs every Thursday at 7pm beginning July 5th through August 9th.

Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden
1500 N. College Ave.
Claremont, CA
(909) 625-8767
www.rsabg.org

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Claremont's 4th of July celebrations kickoff this Saturday, June 30th, with a free concert in Memorial Park. The event runs from 7 to 8:30pm, and the local Kiwanis Club will provide the food concessions.

This year's 4th of July theme is "Saluting Claremont's Centennial[s]."

The actual 4th of July events begin at 7am in Memorial Park next Wednesday with the Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast. Tickets are $3, and you can check the city's website for ticket locations and detailed information.

The annual Claremont Freedom 5000 1k and 5k walk/run begins at Memorial Park at 7:30am. For a course map and registration forms, click here.

The Memorial Park celebration proper begins at 10am with a flag raising.

From 10:30am to 4pm there'll be food, crafts, and informational booths open. There will also be live entertainment at the park's band shell and throughout the park, as well as activities and games for all ages.

The annual 4th of July parade begins at 4pm at 10th St. and Indian Hill, goes south on Indian Hill to Harrison, then west on Harrison to Larkin Park at Mountain Ave. Claremont Heritage's Ginger Elliot is this year's Grand Marshall, and Suzanne Thompson from the Claremont Wildlands Conservancy is the Honored Citizen for her successful and tireless efforts at saving the Johnson's Pasture open space.

Wrapping up the festivities is the City's Fireworks Spectacular at Pomona College's Strebel Track. For parking and ticket information, click here. The gates open at 6:30pm, and you'll want to get there early to enjoy the live music and maybe a picnic dinner. Fireworks begin at 9pm.

Memorial Park
840 N. Indian Hill
Claremont, CA

Information:
Claremont Human Services Department
(909) 399-5490

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Goings On

The Daily Bulletin had a blurb about a senior voucher program for the Claremont Sunday Farmers' Market. The $20 vouchers come courtesy of Los Angeles County. There are 190 available and low-income seniors over 60 can pick them up at the Joslyn Senior Center and the Blaisdell Senior Center.

Joslyn Senior Center
660 Mountain Ave.
Claremont, CA
(909) 399-5488



Blaisdell Senior Center
440 S. College Ave.
Claremont, CA

(909) 399-5367

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Pomona College Magazine lists the Farmers' Market on its list of "47 Things Every Sagehen Should Do Before Leaving Pomona." Why 47 things to do? It's a number with a great deal of mystery and significance, according to the college's website.

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The Bulletin also reported that Claremont Heritage is holding their annual fundraiser at the Santa Fe Depot on First St. between Indian Hill Blvd. and College Ave. The depot was built in 1926, and Heritage's Judy Wright recently had a piece in the Courier suggesting a Centennial celebration for the Depot in 2026. So maybe Buzz's posting wasn't so far off-base!

The event is being hosted by Roger Hogan and Claremont Toyota.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Claremont League of Women Voters Awards Baldonado

Carrying on its long-standing tradition of honoring and building up its own, the Claremont 400 (Secular Arm), through the Claremont League of Women Voters, honored former mayor, councilmember, and loose cannon Sandra N. Baldonado with its Ruth Ordway Award. When you understand that a few of the former recipients include Judy Wright, Mary Jane Merrill, and Michael Fay, you begin to see what this is all about.

The eloquence was overpowering when the Claremont Courier asked Claremont League of Women Voters (LWV) president Betsey Coffman about Sandra Baldonado's service:

"She just deserves it. We look to choose someone that is outstanding in their service to the community and someone who has served Claremont. Sandy has done that and she is full of public service. She has a lot of unsung service that she has done outside of what she is notably recognized for."

(Future Ciceros of the world take note; Coffman's remarks are worth your careful study.)

Baldonado is known to many in Claremont for her endearing comments, such as the time she told the members of the public at a council meeting that they ought to "get a life." (This comment is regularly resurrected by the estimable Courier columnist John Pixley)

To know Sandy Baldonado is to know how mean and biting she is. Here is an audio clip of her speaking when she was mayor of Claremont where she simultaneously insults the residents of Victorville (sales-weighted median home price $298K in May 2007 compared with Claremont's median home price of $563K), the residents of West Virginia, and, by implication, anyone not of her social stratum. Why else would she and the Claremont 400 want to put the City's affordable housing in a ghetto on Baseline well away from their precious Village?



Baldonado also led the failed Parks and Pasture Assessment District battle. Her comments when this election failed, as reported in a Claremont Courier online article, are vintage Sandy:

"I think it's a very sad day for Claremont. Apparently it's not the city that I know and love; it wouldn't have done that, so something's different."

And with a bit of fear for "the Other" that so characterizes Baldonado--and the Claremont 400--she continued, "There are more people in Claremont who don't really care about the environment and open space than people who do, and that's the opposite of old Claremont. This is the demise of old Claremont, in my opinion--the Claremont we knew."

But don't cry for Claremont, it's really all about Sandy, as reported in the Courier on July 29, 2006:

"With her council term ending in March, Ms. Baldonado said the defeat of the assessment district would 'definitely' affect her decision to run for re-election, adding that it leads her to question 'whether or not I'm the kind of person who Claremont wants to represent them.'"

Again, don't cry for Claremont. The General Obligation bond for Johnson's Pasture, supported only very grudgingly and late by Sandra Baldonado (a reader reminds us that she was dragged kicking and screaming), prevailed in November with a 71% to 29% margin.

Don't take too seriously Sandy's comment that "the League is where I cut my teeth on politics." That is the kind of comment you make to people giving you an award. Shortly after her graduation from Smith College in the late 1950s, Baldonado began her career in Democratic Party politics that defines her. She worked as a special assistant to Lyndon Johnson's vice-presidential campaign. She was vice-chair of the California Democratic Party from 1977-1981, and along the way campaigned unsuccessfully twice for California Assembly as a Democrat.

The picture below shows her (left) in 1976 with Democratic icon Jerry Voorhis, Louise Voorhis, and California Senator Alan Cranston (right).

Sandy Baldonado: What a Claremont 400 politician is all about, and with an award to prove it.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

More Mailbag

We received this letter in response to our coverage of Claremont's Landscaping and Lighting District (LLD) assessment debate:

The Claremont City Council minutes of June 12th are now available on the city's website as Item #4. On the first page of the minutes, after Peter Yao announces that the owners of Johnson's Pasture have agreed to the 11.5 million price, Ellen Taylor congratulates and thanks Sandy Baldonado for her efforts in securing the Pasture. Huh? Wasn't this the person who did not want the bond and when the assessment failed made uncivil and disparaging remarks about Claremont residents who defeated it? Pray tell ,how did she help acquire the land? More backslapping among the Claremont 400 following in the wake of the other backslapping done by the League of Women (read Democrat) Voters in their award to her. No wonder this local League is losing members. They have lost their credibility even more with this award and I have talked to a few people who are not renewing their membership because of it.

Also ,check out the minutes of the same meeting when the LLD is being discussed and see how Pedroza and Elderkin deny that there was ever any mention of sunsetting the LLD. I guess these two new councilmembers need to attend the Claremont After School Program and let some of the volunteers help them with their homework , as they seem to be deficient in the area of research.

As you at the Buzz have so clearly and FACTUALLY presented your readers with the exact minutes of the meeting where this was discussed, it was clearly the intent of both the Citizens committee and some of the council that it be sunsetted. I think Elderkin and Pedroza need to stop opening their mouths like geese being forced fed and stop swallowing the crapola that they are being fed and do their own research. One wonders what other delicacies of misinformation they will be fed in dealing with more weighty issues like the water company acquisition?

Thank God that you at the Buzz, whoever you people (or person) are, have at least done the research that the local papers should be doing and are another source of information for people other than the misinformation or misremembering by some of the more senior doyens of Claremont who feed this stuff to the newspapers.

I, like you, are still waiting for Diann Ring and her cohorts to come up with some incidences of lies by you that she says you spread in your blog. I have not found any yet, and opinion is just that, your opinion. If you have access to some of the newspapers articles from past Couriers or Bulletins (Couriers are available on microfiche in the Public Library) you should see the outrageous opinions she and her buddies have spewed out over the years. Check it out.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Courier Bites Back

The Claremont 400 have a long history of bullying anyone in town who dares to speak out publicly against them. So, naturally when Claremont Courier Editor Rebecca JamesCourie ran an editorial critical of the city's Landscape and Lighting District assessment, those same folk had to put the screws to the Courier in the form of an error-filled letter by former Claremont Mayors Judy Wright and Diann Ring to the paper--a letter made public at the last City Council meeting on 6/12/2007.

The Courier ran the letter in today's issue, along with its response standing by its original comments and pointing out some of the false information Wright and Ring cited in their letter. We noted some of the same problems a couple days ago, and it's greatly refreshing to see them finally get called publicly on such things. Right is right, and Wright and Ring are wrong - AGAIN.

At the least, this is a long-overdue discrediting of the two busybodies, who really ought to remember that they're no longer elected officials and need to let a new generation run things without their constant interference. They had their day, now they should move on. (Current councilmembers Sam Pedroza and Linda Elderkin ought to take note: As one of our readers has noted, at the 6/12/07 meeting, they echoed the some of the same false information about the LLD that Wright and Ring wrote in their letter.)

We hope this emboldens others to point out any such misstatements in the future. Maybe we need a Claremont 400 Fact Watch. Email us whenever you catch them twisting statistics, quotes, the historical record, etc. As long as it can be confirmed independently, preferably with backup in the city's official records, we'll print it.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Human Costs

The Daily Bulletin today carried a letter by Claremont resident Carolyn Gonzalez, who criticized the federal government for failing to enforce immigration laws. Gonzalez argues that the U.S. is in danger of losing its identity by making too many accomodations to illegal aliens. She writes:

When persons who are here illegally demand the United States change its laws to accommodate them, demand that the citizens of the United States accept them as equal citizens and refuse to assimilate, they are not here to contribute to the United States. They are here to exploit the United States.

And Gonzalez doesn't even touch on the issue of illegals taking away jobs from legal citizens. The Onion offers a examination of that growing problem:


Immigration: The Human Cost

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:


Buzz,

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
kept.

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


Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Wright, Ring & the LLD

One of the frustrations that comes with trying to participate in Claremont politics is the inevitable absurdity that infuses any issue. People want rational systems. If you've coached Little League, you know the best umpire is the consistent umpire. As long as you know that ump's strike zone, you can work with it, but when it's constantly and randomly shifting, there will always be uncertainty and chaos built into the game.

The letter former Claremont Mayors Judy Wright and Diann Ring, along with former Councilmember Bill McCready, submitted to the current City Council and to the Claremont Courier last week in support of the City's Landscaping and Lighting District (LLD) assessment, was a perfect exercise in dissecting the inanity and irrationality that they and their Claremont 400 friends have imposed on our town.

The letter, which we ran on 6/15, purported to lay out the history of the LLD, which was enacted in 1990. The letter, addressing an editorial by Courier editor Rebecca JamesCourie that was critical of the LLD, began: "We write to correct erroneous information in your editorial of June 6." Unfortunately, as our explication of the letter has showed in the past few days, the letter was rife with errors, false statistics and outright lies.

To recap, here is an outline of the errors (lies?) we noted:

  • The letter fails on its second sentence: "As three members of the city council (the other two are deceased) who passed the Benefit Assessment District in 1990...."

    In fact, only one of the other two Councilmembers who voted on the LLD in 1990, Nick Presecan, is dead. The other, Dick Newton, is alive and well and still resides in Claremont. Wright, the historian, surely knows this.

    The letter attacks Courier Editor JamesCourie for not researching the background on the LLD. In fact, Wright, Ring and McCready need to take a good long look in the mirror. People in glass houses, you know.

  • The letter writers are selective in the numbers they cite to support their claims of vast community support for both the 1990 LLD and the later Utility Users Tax (UUT). For example, they claim that 32 0f 35 speakers asked for a utility tax at a town meeting at Bridges Auditorium in December, 1992, on the campus of Pomona College.

    In fact, the minutes for that 12/12/92 meeting showed only 16 people getting up to speak at public comment. Of those, only three gave clear support for the UUT.

    And in their arguments in favor of the LLD, the letter writers ignore the 3/6/1990 mail count report submitted to the City Council. As of that date, the city had received 60 letters supporting the LLD, 475 opposing, and 14 withdrawing opposition.

    Additionally, a citizens group headed by a man named Les Boring, collected 7,000 signatures opposing the LLD. No mention of that in the letter.

    Wright, Ring, and Claremont 400 die-hards like former Police Commission Chair Helaine Goldwater (who spoke at last Tuesday's Council meeting in favor of increasing the LLD assessment) constantly ramble on about responding to citizens. They cite the number of public meetings held on one issue or another, they manipulate the events to try to steer the discussion towards what they want, then, if the debate doesn't go their way, they ignore the record of those meetings.

  • The letter writers don't just ignore public speakers, they ignore the recommendations of city committees and commissions. Wright, Ring and McCready ignored the fact that the city's Citizen Finance Advisory Committee (CFAC) on 11/28/89 strongly recommended sunseting the LLD, which was imposed because of a budget crisis in the early 1990's.

  • The letter rewrites the actual history of events. The writers claim that there was never any discussion of sunseting the LLD and assert that "We repeatedly and specifically said that we believed that this assessment would be permanent."

    Yet, an examination of Claremont City Council minutes from 1989 and 1990 when the LLD debate was going on, showed no such statements. As our analysis on 6/17 showed, the record of those meetings showed statements by both CFAC Chair Dennis Smith and repeatedly by Judy Wright in favor of sunseting the LLD.

    Now the letter writers claim no such statements ever occurred. One suspects they will say anything to justify an action, relying on the short memories and apathy of a disaffected, disillusioned electorate to allow their false promises to go unfulfilled.
The factual underpinnings cited in the letter are important, not only because they distort the truth beyond all recognition, but because the writers claim an authority that the actual record of events belies. This false claim to authority by Wright, Ring and McCready is all the more troublesome because Judy Wright is also our town historian, the creator of our great mythology.

If this one letter is at all representative of her greater body of work, she has no credibility whatsoever, and by extension, the Claremont 400 house rests on a crumbling foundation, rooted in falsehoods, misstatements, exaggerations and fabrications. Failure is built into the system's structure. This is the "vision" they constantly speak of sharing and maintaining.

The argument here is to hold people accountable for their statements. Go back and compare their words then and now. And don't believe us. Look for yourself. We've provided the links to minutes of city meetings in our posts from the past week. If we are wrong in our analysis, show us.

The larger argument here is that this is simply one more example of a problem that has occurred in Claremont time and again. Whether it's the LLD, the handling of the Landrum shooting, the city's investment of over $5 million in the bankrupt Orange County Investment Pool or the $17 million-plus paid out for the 2003 fire in Palmer Canyon and Padua Hills, the record is one of consistent ineptness fueled by hubris and an intolerance for opposing views.

The record, contrary to what the letter writers would like you the believe, is really an argument for rationality and change.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Coming Attractions

Well, now that we've pretty well beaten the LLD horse into the ground, we'll wrap up our latest coverage for former Claremont Mayors Judy Wright and Diann Ring tomorrow. For us, the letter the two mayors (plus one tortilla flipper) submitted to the current City Council and to the Claremont Courier neatly illustrates the problems that have plagued our local governance since the mid-1980's--coincidentally the same time the letter signers were first elected. Again, we'll have a recap tomorrow.

In the meantime, check out the Foothill Cities blog commentary on Claremont's purchase of Johnson's Pasture. Centinel at FC points to the Daily Bulletin's Sunday editorial commending the city for getting the open space purchase done at the right price.

For those of you aching to post comments, the FC blog allows you to do that. Hey, we might even give it a shot.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Did I Say That?

Judy and Diann Employ The Big Lie

Judy Wright and Diann Ring wrote last week that as "members of the city council who passed the Benefit Assessment District [Landscaping and Lighting District, or LLD] in 1990, we specifically did not include a sunset clause. We repeatedly and specifically said that we believed that this assessment would be permanent." [emphasis added]

We challenge Wright and Ring to show us even one example of their alleged "repeated and specific" statement. They won't find any in the Claremont city council minutes 0f 1989-1990. A detailed review of the minutes of 5 months of city council meetings preceding the adoption of the LLD in March 1990 finds NO statement even approaching the one they allege they made.

Instead, we find Judy Wright bringing up the "sunset clause" idea repeatedly.

At the November 28, 1989 meeting, the first where Council met with the Citizens Finance Advisory Committee (CFAC), that committee recommended a "sunset clause" for the LLD. CFAC Chairman Dennis Smith stated that "a long-term extension of the assessment district was not considered appropriate." He went on to say, "a sunset recommendation was included to meet the need to restudy the budget without having the burden of additional expenses."

The minutes then go on to describe Judy Wright's position: "Mrs. Wright said if the decision were to proceed, she would favor a sunset clause."

Two months later, at the council meeting of Jan 23, 1990, where the resolution declaring the intention to order formation of the assessment district was adopted, Judy Wright made the following amendment,
"Mrs. Wright requested the resolution be amended to include, 'It is the city council's intention not to continue this assessment district beyond June 30, 1995, without first holding a protest hearing.'"

Even Dick Newton (now perhaps deceased, depending on the veracity of Wright and Ring) implied strongly that the Council on March 9, 1990 intended the LLD to end:
Mr. Newton agreed with Mr. McCready and suggested staff prepare a memo adopting the intentions for the assessment so that as long as it existed..." [emphasis added]

And nearly three years later, on December 12, 1992, when looking for a carrot to entice the community into the utility tax, Judy Wright said that she "thought a utility tax was fair and should replace the lighting and landscaping district."

On February 9, 1993, Judy Wright said that "she agreed the LLD assessment should be folded into the utility tax." Further down the page, the minutes of that meeting state, "Mrs. Wright would support sunset of the LLD with the implementation of a utility tax because she considered the tax more equitable."

Now Judy Wright and Diann Ring are not stupid people. But they must think the current council and citizens of Claremont are. Why would they lie about this history? Or is it a case of selective memory?

Normally the Insider would applaud this discussion of sunseting an assessment district, but with Wright and Ring, the truth seems to be an adaptable tool, to be shaped by the circumstances at hand, used for tactical advantage, and then discarded for another more convenient truth.

In second grade, there is a phrase for it:

Liar, Liar,
Pants on Fire!

Fun with Numbers

Judy and Diann caught in a Big Fib


Judy Wright and Diann Ring were working late last Monday night trying to get their letter to the editor and city council in shape. Maybe Bill McCready was in the corner flipping tortillas, but he didn’t say much. Dick Newton was deceased that night.

When they got to the third to the last paragraph, they were stumped. They needed a statistic to really bring the point home. They had already used the idea that “the city council held 10-15 well attended neighborhood meetings.” It was way too much work to look up whether it was 10 meetings, or 15, or somewhere in between. Anyway, it was a lot.

They remembered that the City had held a Big Meeting at Bridges Auditorium in December of 1992, and a lot of people spoke. Maybe if they told the mean editor and dumb ol' members of city council that there had been a huge groundswell for the Utility Tax, it would show ‘em just how right Wright and Wring are, and how Wrong everyone else is.

But it would have to be a really big number.

Boy said Judy, I don’t know how many people were there, and I’m too tired looking up history for my book and stuff…I’ll bet there were thirty or forty people who spoke and I’ll bet that nine out of ten of them were on our side.

I know said Diann, let’s tell them that 32 out of 35 speakers requested a utilities user tax be instituted.

And that’s what they did.

[Note: The minutes for the December 12, 1992 public hearing at Bridges Auditorium are here. 16 members of the public spoke. Only 3 of the 16 clearly supported the utility user tax. Most were making comments on tangential issues such as tax fairness, service cuts, alternative financing such as fees, etc. A couple seemed to be leaning pro-utility tax, a couple seemed to be leaning anti-utility tax without being clear about it. There is no meeting or combination of meetings in the late 92-early 93 period, when the Utility User Tax was being considered and adopted, that make the 32 out of 35 statistic citied by Wright and Ring. It is simply incorrect.

A very interesting--some might say compelling--statistic Wright and Ring omit is one associated with the contentious LLD process. Reporting the March 6, 1990 count of mail to council on the LLD. "The city clerk reported receipt of written correspondence received to date on this issue to be: 60 letters of support, 475 opposing, and 14 withdrawing opposition."

That sounds to us like 7 or 8 to 1 against the LLD. But for Wright and Ring, it is an inconvenient truth.]

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Kickoff of National Advertising Campaign


The ad shown above was developed at great expense by a giant national media company to promote Claremont Insider. Each element was focus-grouped for maximum effectiveness. It will be appearing in all large national media markets in the upcoming two weeks. Look for it. (In Claremont, your media outlet is the Claremont Courier.)

Upcoming Features...look for them Monday

Recent News on the Judy and Diann Front
Claremont Insider
Home of the "Diann Fact Watch"

Chat with City Council


The notice reproduced above harkens all and sundry for a private audience with two members of the Claremont City Council. Tuesday, June 19, 7 p.m. at the Padua Hills Theatre, 4467 Via Padova, Claremont.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Courier Fails to Print Wright-Ring-McCready Letter


We stopped by the newsstand this morning to pick up a copy of the Claremont Courier, expecting to see that Judy Wright's and Diann Ring's letter had been printed. We were a bit surprised to find that it wasn't in Saturday's issue. Our sources tell us that it had been hand-carried to the paper last week by the lead author, well in time for publication.

What's going on?

Several possibilities present themselves:

  1. Maybe the editor decided that it wasn't newsworthy and wasn't worth what we now know is called "free ink". If so, we believe that judgment is in error. Still, the Courier has been a bit anodyne in recent months. Maybe it's the editor's predilection or maybe it's on instructions from the publisher to keep controversy out of the paper.
  2. Maybe there was no space. Sometimes production issues preclude inclusion of a piece. This idea seems far-fetched to us, because the letter was available Tuesday, just as the Wednesday issue was put to bed and as work would begin on Saturday's issue.
  3. Maybe the editor was doing the authors a favor by declining to publish an intemperate piece that so clearly puts the authors in a bad light. Hoist on their own petard, as it were.
  4. Maybe some of the more egregious defects were recognized by authors and they spiked their own letter pending "more attention to researching and understanding the facts about the issues..."

Meanwhile, be sure to check back often to this space for continuing coverage of this story. All Judy and Diann, all the time.

(What about Bill? We are not forgetting Bill McCready in all of this. Sure, his name was on the letter. But we don't believe he had much to do with it. He has been a sycophant of Diann's at least since he was seen flipping tortillas in the corner of the dining room of the Padua Hills Theatre at one of her fund-raising events in the 90s.)

More on Dis(re)membering History

We have received several reader comments on the Wright-Ring-McCready letter to the editor of the Courier (copies to City Council) which we will post as time permits:

Nothing better captures the pretentious arrogance of Claremont's rulers than the letter on your blog, Dis(re)membering History. It is especially funny that it starts out with an obvious and verifiable factual error while hectoring the Editor of the Courier to do her homework.

By the way, I checked my copy of the newspaper and Rebecca JamesCourie's title is given as "Editor", not "Acting Editor" as Wright, Ring, and McCready state it. Didn't they do their research on this either?

Or is this just their little way of pressing an ad hominem attack, mean-spiritedly telling Ms. JamesCourie that she is not an authentic editor; they know that.

I suspect that all of the other so-called "facts" in the letter are also spin, half-truths, untruths, and self-justifications.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Judy Wright and Diann Ring Kill Dick Newton

Claremont, June 12, 2007. Former Claremont council member and mayor Richard Newton's death was announced today by former colleagues Judy Wright, Diann Ring, and Bill McCready. Since they are the only ones with knowledge of this unfortunate event, they are of course suspected.

In a letter to the managing editor of the Claremont Courier, berating her for not doing her research on local issues, Wright and Ring declared that Dick Newton was among the two deceased members of the "gang of five" council members who approved Claremont's Landscaping and Lighting District (LLD) on March 9, 1990. They said, "As three members of the city council (the other two are deceased) who passed the Benefit Assessment District in 1990, we specifically did not include a sunset clause..."

The letter was provided to City Council at its June 12, 2007 meeting.

The minutes of the March 9, 1990 Claremont council meeting, where the LLD was adopted, show that it was approved unanimously by Judy Wright, Diann Ring, Bill McCready, Dick Newton, and Nick Presecan. Mr. Presecan died in 2005 and has a monument in the Claremont Wilderness Park. That leaves Mr. Newton as the other deceased member, since Wright, Ring, and McCready signed the letter. Process of elimination.

Mr. Newton's death comes as a shock to members of the community who have seen him around town and in various public venues in recent weeks. "He didn't look that sick," commented one member of the University Club.

It is unknown whether the Claremont PD is investigating this death, or if foul play is suspected. Actually, foul play is always a good bet when the Claremont 400 get their collective backs up. We can only be guided by their advice to the editor of the Courier closing the letter mentioned above: "We would hope that...you will give more attention to researching and understanding the facts about the issues..." Right.

Mr. Newton was not available for comment, and the Insider is not a "real" journalist anyway, so made no particular effort to contact him. If he had been reached, whether in Claremont or at his summer place in Wisconsin, we are sure he would be recalling Mark Twain's famous comment about death and exaggeration.

Dis(re)membering History

The Claremont 400 comes to the rescue of the city's tax base.

At Tuesday night's City Council meeting, former Claremont mayors Diann Ring and Judy Wright and former Councilmember Bill McCready submitted a letter to the council and also appear to have sent the same letter to the Claremont Courier. The letter defended the 1990 implementation of the city's Landscaping and Lighting District (LLD) assessment.

It also pointed out that the city's Utility Tax and the LLD were put to a public vote in 1997 (see our post from Monday for a deconstruction of the manipulation behind that vote).

The letter the former council people submitted is too long and too error-filled to allow much commentary here, so we'll just post it and let you decide. We'll offer our analysis in the coming days. It does show the self-importance the Claremonsters still like to indulge in--Here we are, you must listen to us. We will note that they might well follow their own advice and do a little better job of remembering and researching. More of the Claremont 400 history project going on here.

As we indicated, it was submitted as a public document to the City Clerk prior to Tuesday's council meeting:


Dear Editor,

We write to correct erroneous information in your editorial of June 6.

As three members of the city council (the other two are deceased) who passed the Benefit Assessment District in 1990, we specifically did not include a sunset clause. We repeatedly and specifically said that we believed that this assessment would be permanent. Because California assessment district law states requires [sic] an annual budget justification and protest hearing for the continuation of the district, a sunset clause was unneeded and unnecessary.

Many of you may recall that this action was taken 12 years after Proposition 13 passed, the result of which was that Claremont went from a comfortable property tax city to a low local revenue city. Streets were not being repaved. Trees were not adequately trimmed. The parks were not being maintained like they are today.

Even with the assessment district and a growing sales tax, we again were forced to look for more revenue sources or drastically cut services when the State grabbed more and more of the property tax in the early 1990’s. Every year when the State went into recession or could not balance its budget, state legislators told us point blank that were [sic] taking our money and essentially told us to raise taxes. Perhaps, few people are aware that the City of Claremont receives only 11 cents of every property tax dollar paid by residents.

Following the property tax grab by the state [sic, should be State], the city council held 10-15 well attended neighborhood meetings. The situation was presented to those gathered who wrestled with the issues at round tables of ten. All ideas were written down and considered. A final city meeting was held at Bridges Auditorium in December of 1992 and 32 of the 35 speakers requested a utilities user tax be instituted, and the council voted 5-0 to implement the tax in March of 1993.

A new state law required voters to affirm these assessments and taxes, which the Claremont voters did in March of 1997.

We would hope that, as acting editor of the well respected local institution, you will give more attention to researching and understanding the facts about the issues you are given free ink to write about.

Judy Wright (1984-97)
Diann Ring (1986-99)
Bill McCready (1984-92)

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Johnson's Pasture Redux

The Claremont Courier yesterday carried an article by Tony Krickl on the Johnson's Pasture open space purchase. The article noted that the deal was made "During a meeting organized by [Claremont Councilmember Ellen] Taylor...."

Sources familiar with the parties involved tell us that the meeting was actually suggested by a third party acquainted with the person holding up the sale. It was not due to some great piece of statespersonship on the part of Ms. Taylor. Perhaps someone could talk to that third party and get his account. Not that that would stop Ms Taylor from taking more credit for the purchase than she deserves.

The article also quoted Ms. Taylor as say of the holdout seller "[The meeting] was all very easy-going and informal....She was very gracious." We hear the meeting was actually a more than a little tense, with the city's deputation of Ms. Taylor and Councilmember Linda Elderkin needing to allow the seller to vent a lot of anger towards the city over the way the long, drawnout buyout was handled.

At any rate, the open space is purchased. We just want to make sure the record is set straight. Ms. Taylor, and Ms. Elderkin as well, deserves credit for having the patience to sit down with the seller on a Sunday and allow her to air her complaints, and we do thank them for that.

We do hope that Ms. Taylor, who at times can be hard on those she works with at City Hall, learns the value of patient listening. A little empathy and humility might be good skills for her to acquire. Who knows, she might just end up a better councilmember for it.

_______________________

The Daily Bulletin apparently has a new beat writer for Claremont. Andrea Bennett had an article in today's Bulletin about the Johnson's Pasture purchase.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Johnson's Pasture Deal Finalized

Good news to those who worked on getting the public funding for the purchase of Johnson's Pasture. The Claremont City Council last night announced that the owners of Johnson's Pasture had at long last agreed to the lower price of $11.5 million. As we reported three days ago, the owners had been stuck on the old price of $12 million, which was based on a faulty appraisal.

The purchase allows the city to add 180 acres to the 1,589-acre Claremont Wilderness Park. As the city's press release states, the lower price now makes the city eligible for a $1 million dollar grant from the State of California. The city also received a $500,000 grant from Los Angeles County and $250,000 from the Claremont Wildlands Conservancy. The grant money lowers the cost to Claremonters to $10.2 million, including the costs of issuing the bonds.

The Claremont Colleges, which as nonprofit entities were not subject to being taxed under the Johnson's Pasture bond measure, voluntarily pledged to pay what they would have had they been subject to taxing for the bond. This extra money will be used to further lower the costs to the public by paying down the bonds earlier.

Congratulations to all who worked on this. Recall that the Johnson's Pasture preservation has a long history, with the Claremont Wildlands Conservancy working years to try secure funding for the purchase. It also required turning around a 56% to 44% loss in the July, 2006, Parks and Pasture Assessment District election to a 72% to 28% win on the November, 2006, Measure S bond.

The turnabout happened because people who had been opposed to the assessment district came together with people who had supported the assessment, and both groups worked jointly for passage of Measure S. It just shows that the walls the Claremont 400 have erected to keep us apart are artificial constructs. It's simply up to us to see them for what they are and to tear those walls down.

The community really pulled together for Measure S in ways rarely seen in Claremont. Unfortunately, what should have been a model for cooperation was discarded by the Claremont 400, who were more concerned with remaining in power than in building community. As soon as the March, 2007, City Council election rolled around, the 400 were back to their old whispering campaign game. More of that selective memory erasing history.

Still, that model is there if anyone ever chooses to use it.

Packing House Grand Opening

The Daily Bulletin's David Allen writes in his column that the Claremont Packing House will be holding a grand opening this Saturday, June 16th, 11am to 8pm. You may want to use the parking structure or the street parking rather than using the underground parking--it has a very tricky u-turn you have to negotiate to get out. They're working to change that.

Allen notes that the Packing House provides some late-night venues that had been missing from Claremont, which tended to shut down early most nights. For more information about the Packing House, see their website, which also has information about the developer responsible for saving it, Arteco Partners. Arteco is also involved in working to restore Pomona's Fox Theater.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Missing in Monrovia

Some people go missing (i.e., Assemblymember Nell Soto), and some things go missing.

The FC blog also noted yesterday that another downtown Monrovia business, Mystic Sisters, is closing.

We previously posted a link to Amanda Wray at the Living in Monrovia blog, which had a pretty sad set of photos (go to the May 26th post) showing a number of mom-and-pop stores that had closed or relocated because of the higher rents that have resulted from Monrovia's downtown makeover. The future for Claremont's old Village?

Missing in Action

The Foothill Cities blog apparently broke the story that Assemblymember Nell Soto (D-Pomona), has been absent for the past two months due to pneumonia. As Publius at the FC blog noted, it's difficult to believe no one noticed an assemblymember gone from her duties for that long.

Sunday's Daily Bulletin ran an editorial criticizing Soto's office for keeping the public in the dark. The Bulletin commented:

Look at it this way: When you get sick and need to miss work, one of the first people you tell is your boss. You don't just stop showing up at the office. But that's essentially what Soto did, and while she and her staff can try to explain it away with "we thought she was getting better and would be back any time," it just doesn't wash. Not after two months have gone by.

(Speaking of her staff: What exactly were they doing during that two-month stretch? They couldn't cast votes for her, they certainly weren't issuing press releases, they weren't coordinating appearances for her or, we trust, crafting legislation without her input. So ... what?)

Soto represents Pomona, Chino, Montclair and Ontario.

Good News for Claremont via India

Editor's Note: We received this dispatch from correspondent Anand Gupta in Bangalore--

Hello from your faithful servant and correspondent Anand in Bangalore. Felicitous greetings. We are hearing oh yes we are of very very good news from Claremont. Very good news indeed. Congratulations to all in the community. Your fondest wishes are coming true. Happiness all around. Cheers.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Point of Clarification

Yesterday's post on the City of Claremont's Landscaping and Lighting District (LLD) was incorrect on a couple points. The issue is a complex one, but we thought we'd try to wade in again. As we noted, the city enacted the LLD in 1990. In November, 1996, California voters passed Proposition 218, which required such local assessments as the LLD be put before voters for approval if they had not already been subject to a vote. The LLD was originally enacted by the City Council without going before the voters.

After the passage of Prop. 218 in 1996, Claremont had until July 1, 1997, to either put the LLD to a vote during the next municipal election, or to restructure it and have it voted on by property owners only, as happened with last year's failed Parks and Pasture assessment district. If the city did neither, it would have had to drop the LLD. As long as the LLD vote was held before the July 1st date, it was only subject to a straight majority of registered voters.

What we consider disingenuous on the part of Claremont's former City Manager Glenn Southard and the City Council at that time was the combining of the LLD and Utility Tax votes into one referendum, Measure A, which appeared on the March, 1997, city ballot. In fact, Southard's analysis of the problem for a 11/25/96 study session concluded that the Utility Tax did not require a vote at all.

So why have a vote involving the Utility Tax? Southard, as always, had a strategy. Combining the LLD and Utility Tax in one referendum made the potential hit to the city's budget appear much bigger than the LLD alone. In the discussions preceding the Measure A vote, Southard presented only the totals of the tax and the assessment, saying that they added up to $4.5 million out of the $12.6 million General Fund at the time.

At no time does Southard split the amounts and state what the LLD alone was responsible for. He was very careful to repeatedly use the $4.5 million figure and to subtly raise the spectre of what cuts in services the city might have to consider. And in his reports to council on the matter at in November and December, 1997, he was clearly steering the matter to what he wanted--a single vote on the LLD and the Utility Tax, which is what he eventually got in Measure A.

The problem with combining the two, as we see it, is that it gave voters a false choice. The LLD and the Utility Tax are two very different funding mechanisms and rightly should have been voted on separately. Combining the two allowed the city to play the "poor, poor, pitiful me" card and say that if Measure A lost, Claremont would have to drastically cut services because it would have lost both of funding sources.

One can easily see a scenario where the Utility Tax might have passed, and the LLD, which remains very unpopular to this day, lost. But Southard never allowed the option of having them voted on separately to receive any serious consideration. He decided early on what his strategy was going to be, then he set about shaping the debate to get the desired outcome.

The combining of the two was wrong then, and, as we said yesterday, with the city continuing to play games with LLD, voters may yet take matters into their own hands.

Claremont: Poster-Child for High Speed Internet

In Claremont, on Tuesday, we see that Verizon will begin filming an ad for its new ultra-high speed Internet service described, in the City literature warning residents of the filming, as FIOS. FIOS apparently means FIberOptic Service and promises "mind-bending speeds of 100 Mbits per second or more!"

Only problem: You can't get it in Claremont.

The Insider checked the phone numbers of several friends (Yes, the Insider has friends, numbering well into the single digits) and Verizon informs us that FIOS is not available, and is not available anywhere in Claremont so far as we can determine. You can check it yourself.

It's kind of like filming an ad for Viagra in a monastery, an ad for a thresher-harvester combine in New York City, or an ad for good government--well--in Claremont.

There is information--we can't vouch for the authenticity--that only a few forward-looking cities in California currently have FIOS citywide, including Beaumont, Lake Elsinore, Sun City, and Westminster.

So be sure to stop by the filming Tuesday or Wednesday, and see the happy connected people on Yale between 2nd and 4th street, on 4th between Yale and College, and at the Grille, Hair Plus, the Press, and City Hall. Remember, they are actors, and although they may be happy, they won't really be connected.

LLD Blues

The City Council tomorrow night will consider how much they will raise the City's Landscaping and Lighting District (LLD) assessment fees. Last month, we posted a commentary on the LLD increase.

The Claremont Courier has also published a couple opinion pieces in the past week on the LLD. (Neither piece is posted on the Courier website.) Last Wednesday, editor Rebecca JamesCourie had an editorial that pointed out that higher local taxes may be discouraging people from buying homes in Claremont.

Saturday's Courier carried an opinion piece by Opanyi Nasiali that noted that the LLD began in 1990 as a $93.00 assessment on properties in Claremont but now has a base rate of $137.16. Claremont property owners also pay a host of other assessments, including the Claremont Unified School District's Recreational Assessment District (RAD). All those local taxes can add up to over a third of property owner's bill, according to Nasiali.

Nasiali's essay also pointed out that LLD and other local taxes undermine efforts to create affordable housing and that a Habitat for Humanities report stated that buyers of Habitat homes can end up paying more in taxes than they do for their mortgages.

Nasiali added that although the LLD is supposed to pay for landscaping maintenance, residents whose driveways and sewer and water lines are damaged by city-owned trees end up having their claims for damages denied by the city and have to foot the bill for repairs themselves. So tell us again, why are we paying the LLD?

As we pointed out yesterday, the LLD was created in 1990 as a stopgap measure at a time when city finances were hurting. Yet, the economy long ago recovered, and the LLD has continued on and gone steadily up with no end in sight. In 1996, when Californians approved Proposition 218, the city was required to put the LLD to a vote. Assessment district votes now require a two-thirds majority (recall last year's failed Parks and Pasture Assessment District), but as long as the city held a vote on the LLD before July, 1997, it could do ratify the LLD with a simple majority.

In large part, Claremont tricked the voters. Former City Manager Glenn Southard and the City Council at the time rolled the LLD vote in with the city's Utility Tax, forcing voters to choose an all or nothing approach. They might not have liked the LLD, but they weren't allowed to vote only on the LLD, and the total cuts in revenue with the Utility Tax included would have been Draconian.

So, in March, 1997, the city ran a referendum called Measure A on both the assessment and the Utility Tax, even though they are very different funding mechanisms. The LLD won under that vote, but did not receive anything close to the 67 percent it would have required on it's own under the new Prop. 218 rules.

One other problem with the LLD is that it creates a kind of fiscal shell game. Tomorrow night, one of the recommendations the council will consider will be to increase the LLD by 5.63 percent - above and beyond the rate of inflation. The city staff report also indicates that if the council approves that increase, the city will be able to reduce its own General Fund payments to the LLD from $728,696.00 to $702,670.00.

The resulting tax cut to the city will free up $26,000.00 to be spent on other unspecified city projects. The reasons the City Council and city staff like the LLD seem clear. Other tax rate hikes must be approved by voters. The LLD has no such oversight. The council can raise the burden on taxpayers and then transfer money around to projects that have nothing to do with landscaping or lighting maintenance.

If the city continues such duplicitious tactics, sooner or later voters will take matters into their own hands.

Zoning Changes

Tomorrow night, the Claremont City Council will be voting on approval of the zoning changes proposed as part of the city's new General Plan. The council will be meeting it its chambers at City Hall at 225 W. 2nd St. at 6:30 p.m.

The city's website offers a link to information on the General Plan, which was approved by the City Council in November, 2006. The city also offers a zoning map showing the proposed changes (patience, it's a large PDF file).

The Claremont Courier's Saturday edition ran an article by Tony Krickl about some residents in two neighborhoods close by the Village West expansion area who are unhappy with their neighborhoods receiving new mixed-use zoning designations. The new zoning for those areas in question will allow for condos and apartments in the future. Unfortunately, the Courier's website doesn't carry the article, so you'll have to pick up a copy if you're interested.

According to the article, some of the residents in the areas affected by the changes were upset with the city and City Planner Lisa Prasse. The article said the residents "felt they were being marginalized by the city after hearing Ms. Prasse describe the zoning changes as a 'housekeeping matter' that would affect only about 6 percent of the city's properties."

Prasse, a holdover from the days of former Claremont City Manager Glenn Southard, may be falling into her old imperious habits. Her modus operandi under Southard was to push projects through, holding public Planning Commission meetings that ran more like slick dog-and-pony shows. Expect more of the same tomorrow night.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Where Are They Now?

A reader wrote in to say that another refugee from the administration of former Claremont City Manager Glenn Southard is in the news. Oliver Chi, former Assistant to the City Manager in Claremont was last week tabbed as the city of Rosemead's acting City Manager. This move came after Rosemead's manager, Andy Lazzaretto, was placed on administrative leave for undisclosed reasons, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune reported.

Chi, you may recall, was one of the Claremont city staffers responsible for the failed 2006 Parks and Pasture Assessment District, which was supposed to pay for the purchase of Johnson's Pasture. The Parks and Pasture measure, which was pushed by the Claremont 400 and the local League of Women Voters, lost 56% to 44% in a vote by Claremont property owners.

The assessment lost primarily because the city tried to use the assessment to pay for city park maintenance on top of the open space purchase. It also lost because many commercial and residential property owners are still mad over the city's other assessment, the Landscaping and Lighting District, which was enacted in the early 1990's as a stopgap measure to help the city balance its then-large budget deficit. That "stopgap" is still in force after all these years (more on that tomorrow).

The city and the Claremont 400 pursued the parks assessment even though they were warned that the property owners would not support it, and Oliver Chi was in many ways the 400's pointman on the issue. Like many of Southard administration's actions (the $675,000 paid to Village West developers this year and the $17.5 million Palmer Canyon Fire lawsuit settlement), Chi's work on the assessment left some lasting impacts.

In gearing up to buy Johnson's Pasture, the city commissioned an appraisal for the property that set its value at $12 million. After the assessment loss, a coalition of groups that had worked on the assessment campaign came together with people who had opposed the assessment and successfully passed Measure S, a bond measure dedicated strictly to the Johnson's Pasture purchase. Measure S passed in November, 2006, with 72 percent of the vote.

Unfortunately, the city is stuck was stuck with the old appraisal, done while Oliver Chi was working on the issue. The state of California, whose grant money the city needs for the purchase of other open space, audited the appraisal and determined it overvalued the land by $500,000. The state was going to withhold additional money the city is counting on to use for the Johnson's Pasture purchase if the city used the old apprasial. The state's rationale is that they can participate in the purchase only if it is for a fair market value.

Consequently, the purchase is being held up in limbo because the original agreement with the landowners was for $12 million, and now the city is using the state's lower figure of $11.5 million for the Johnson's Pasture land. The owners have refused to budge from the original, erroneous appraisal. The city, on the other hand, is obligated to use the lower figure in order to qualify for state grants, not only for this purchase, but for any future open space purchases.

As we've said before, Southard, and we suppose now Chi, are gifts that keep on giving.

Architectural Awards

The City of Claremont's Architectual Commission has announced its 26th Annual awards for Excellence in Design.

The four categories for the awards are:

  • New Construction
  • Sustainability
  • Renovations/Additions
  • Landscaping and Signs

The winners will be recognized at the next scheduled Architectual Commission meeting at the City Council chambers on Wednesday, June 13th, at 7pm. For more info, call (909) 399-5470.

City Council Chambers
Claremont City Hall
225 W. 2nd St.
Claremont, CA

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Village Parking

For more information on the Claremont Village parking areas affected by the Verizon commerical shoot next Tuesday and Wednesday, see the City of Claremont's website at www.ci.claremont.ca.us.

The city has posted a map that shows the areas that will be closed to parking.

Odds and Ends

If you've been down to see what's going on with Village West recently, you may have seen the new glass tile mosaic taking shape near the new parking structure building. The Courier has an article about the work in today's edition.

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Village West isn't the only place undergoing major work. Work has begun on the Old School House building at Indian Hill Blvd. and Foothill Blvd. A Trader Joe's store will eventually go in there, and a parking structure and a housing element are in the works. Also, the Candlelight Pavillion will is due for a remodel. Tony Krickl reported on the Old School House in Wednesday's Courier.

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At Claremont's current high school Prinicipal Carrie Allen will be moving on to another position with Claremont Unified School District, or so notes Will Bigham in today's Daily Bulletin. The article said that Ms. Allen will be District Director of Secondary Education. The article also noted the community concerns from two years ago when Ms. Allen allowed Jeremy Iversen to go undercover at the school. Mr. Iversen wrote a book called "High School Confidential" about his experiences there.

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Will Bigham also reported that Verizon will be shooting a commerical in the Claremont Village next Tuesday and Wednesday. The shoot will affect parking on Harvard and 2nd St.

Friday, June 8, 2007

Our Town

Standing in El Barrio Park last month listening to the speakers at the City of Claremont's Centennial park plaque dedication, one couldn't help but think of the German movie "The Nasty Girl" (Das Schreckliche M├Ądchen).

The film tells the story of one Sonja Rosenberg, who as a young woman won trip to Paris in an essay contest. A few years later, she decides to write another piece titled "My Hometown During the Third Reich." Sonja's Bavarian hometown has spun its own myth about how it was relatively untouched by Nazism during the war. When she first sets about to research her paper, there's only one person that anyone can point to as a former Nazi.

The town, as it happens, has buried a good deal of its collective complicity. Sonja's digging upsets a lot of people and turns the town against her. The town would rather go on living a fiction than face the truth of their families' actions. "Nasty Girl" was based on the real experiences of Anja Elisabeth Rosmus, a German historian who delved into the wartime history of her own hometown of Passau. Rosmus' resume states she now lives on the Chesepeake Bay, which is a good indication of the seriousness of the threats she received because of her work.

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At the El Barrio Park ceremony in May, there was the usual parade of city officials. All the city councilmembers were there, as were and representatives of such city groups as Claremont Heritage and the League of Women Voters (LWV).

El Barrio Park was built in the Arbol Verde neighborhood, which was for many years an enclave in which the Mexican-Americans of Claremont were segregated. The event's keynote speaker, Matt Garcia, grew up in the area and got his Ph.D in history from the Claremont Graduate University. Garcia currently teaches at Brown University. In 2001 he published a book called A World of Its Own: Race, Labor, and Citrus in the Making of Greater Los Angeles.

Garcia began his comments by quoting the historian Richard White: "History is the enemy of memory." History seeks out the truth, encompasses all of it, good as well as bad. Memory, on the other hand, is fallible and often confounds, erases, cleanses, elides, polishes until fact becomes finely honed myth.

Claremont's history, as told by former Mayor Judy Wright, our town historian, is in fact mostly this sort of mythologizing. Wright's Claremont: A Pictorial History reads like a hagiography, and the author clearly belongs to the Great Man (and Woman) school of history. It's really a book out of its time, written in a newsreel style and filled with misplaced, wide-eyed reverence. It focuses on the great figures of Claremont: Henry Austin Palmer, Charles Burt Sumner, Frank P. Brackett, James Blaisdell, Eleanor Condit, Herman and Bess Garner, Chuck Hungerford, Judy Wright, Diann Ring, and on and on, elevating them all to a sort of local sainthood.

Contemporary historians, unlike Wright, do not neglect to include the sociological and ethnographic forces that shape the histories they examine. In contrast, Wright's tome seems to do little more than gloss over entire swaths of significant local history; for instance, the history of Mexican-Americans, who provided most of the labor force for the local citrus industry and who entertained people at the Garners' Padua Hills Theatre. A glance at the index to the second edition of Wright's book shows a scant five pages under the heading "Mexican-American" out of a total of 518 pages. In contrast, Claremont's Memorial Park warrants 11 pages.

So councilmembers Ellen Taylor and Linda Elderkin, both LWV members, could almost be forgiven for shifting uncomfortably as Garcia continued. He spoke about reading too much into the efforts well-intentioned charity groups composed of the local establishment. He reminded the audience that such groups have always been present doing their good works. In Claremont, one such organization assisted the Mexican-American population for a time, but when the Depression hit and Mexican-Americans were blamed for much of the local unemployment, those same Claremont do-gooders stood silently by as those of Mexican descent, even those born here, were singled out and targeted for repatriation to Mexico. In times of such crises, that sort of conditional charity reveals itself as little more than self-serving, ego-boosting hokum.

Garcia also told of his great-grandfather, who worked for James Blaisdell and the Claremont Colleges as a gardener. Garcia's great-grandfather was working on a ladder one day when a car went by and knocked the ladder over. He was gravely injured and bedridden. The colleges' response? They contacted him and notified him that he would lose his job if he did not return to work soon.

Garcia went on to say that his grandfather, in order to save the job, took the gardening job himself. The great-grandfather died from his injuries, however. So Garcia's grandfather continued on at the college. One day, Garcia's grandfather was operating a machine the colleges hadn't trained him to operate properly when the machine caught him and he lost his hand.

One suspects the stories of a multitude of families have gone untold in the Judy Wright version of Claremont history. The problem with the Great Man approach is that it dehumanizes all those folks like Garcia's grandfather and great-grandfather. It reduces them to childlike stick figures dependent on the wisdom, beneficence, charity and sound judgment of the James Blaisdells, Herman Garners, Eleanor Condits and Judy Wrights whose shared vision guides the town serenely through the ages.

Garcia went on to say that when the Claremont do-gooders abandoned them during the Depression, 75 percent of the Mexican-American population was able to resist deportation because they stood up for themselves and argued for their own rights. One thinks of these things, thinks of Anja Rosmus, the real-life nasty girl, when one sees how attempts at setting the Claremont record straight constantly meet with hostility and prejudgment (it's the last prejudice left for the Claremont 400 to indulge in).

As the El Barrio Park event broke up, most of the council council couldn't leave fast enough. Where, we wonder, is Latino councilmember Sam Pedroza's leadership at moments like these? We wonder if the great and powerful of Claremont will ever acknowledge the history Matt Garcia spoke of, or will they bury it under the smothering weight of selective memory?