Claremont Insider: July 2007

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Courier Mail

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 30, 2007

Church and State

Tonight at 5:30pm at the Alexander Hughes Center, the Claremont City Council will hold a special meeting on the adoption of it's Youth Master Plan Update. The Steering Committee for the update was chaired by Homer "Butch" Henderson (pictured at left), the retired senior pastor from the Claremont United Church of Christ. For those of you who are out-of-towners, the UCC is the church in Claremont.


LOOKING BACK ON BUTCH AND THE PRESERVE CLAREMONTERS

Back on July 20th, we wrote about Henderson's role as a spokesperson for the Preserve Claremont campaign during Claremont's 2005 City Council election.

We decided to take a trip in the Wayback Machine and looked up the 2/19/05 edition of the Claremont Courier. In that issue, reporter Melissa S. Mansfield had a long story about the Preserve Claremont effort and the uproar it was causing. The issue isn't available online, but you can try the Courier, as well as the Claremont or Pomona Public Libraries.

The Preserve Claremont campaign had two goals: 1) To publicly censor City Councilmember Jackie McHenry, who had been elected as reform candidate, and who had been critical of then-City Manager Glenn Southard; 2) prevent candidate Corey Calaycay from being elected.

The PC organizers raised thousands of dollars and ran a series of full-page ads in the Claremont Courier. A number of them, headed by Claremont Human Services Commissioner Valerie Martinez, also formed a second PAC called "Claremont Business PAC" and sent out two last-minute city-wide mailers to try to boost the support for Councilmember Llewellyn Miller, who was running for re-election.

The 2/19/05 Courier article quoted Butch Henderson in a telling couple paragraphs:


Mr. Henderson responded to a complaint he had heard that the [Preserve Claremont] ads were "manipulative."

"Of course they are," he said. "That's what politics is all about. Claremonters like things to be nice. They say, 'Let's do powerbrokering behind the scenes and be real nice.' But politics is about leaders. Mr. Calaycay is running for office, and we're trying to get out factual information about him."

The "factual information" Henderson spoke of included an ad containing false statements that alleged that Calaycay had left the employment of a California state legislator's office under a cloud. That legislator sent not only endorsed Calaycay but sent a letter refuting Henderson's "factual information." The legislator's letter ran as a full-page ad in the Courier.

Perhaps what is most disturbing is that here we have Butch Henderson, senior pastor at the main church in town, the Claremont United Church of Christ, basically acknowledging that his group was manipulating public opinion. It confirmed what we and others have complained about for years regarding the Claremont 400.


NO CONSEQUENCES

The Courier article also reported that "The PAC was formed under the name and address of Francine Baker, the art director in the Human Services Department, who is listed as the group's treasurer. So, in addition to the UCC's senior pastor, Preserve Claremont also had city employees working to influence the election of the people who would be their bosses.

What is striking about the article is how no one would take responsibility for the group's organization:


Ms. Baker declined to comment on how she became treasurer, saying, "I don't remember, it was a ways back." [The group got their first donations less than one month before the article came out.]

She referred all questions about the committee to Ms. Martinez, [former Councilmember Bill] McCready and Mr. Henderson. When asked who founded the group, none of the 3 indicated a specific ringleader or group of leaders.


And then there was this representative of one of the 2005 council candidates:


Ed Leavell, a 26-year resident of the city, said [former Claremont Mayor Paul] Held invited him to come as a representative for one of the council candidates. "He was vocal at the meeting but wasn't running it. It seemed like [former Claremont Councilmember Bill] McCready was running it."


As we've noted in the past, several of the candidates from the 2005 campaign benefited from the false claims made by the Preserve Claremont group. For instance, current City Councilmember Ellen Taylor won election and refused to speak out against the false campaign claims the Preserve Claremonters were making. Further, several of Taylor's supporters, including her treasurer Cindy Sullivan's family, were also Preserve Claremont financial supporters.

The Preserve Claremonters needed a lot of public image rehabilitation, especially their spokespersons. They and their Claremont 400 friends know that the public's memory is short, so given enough time and good works like the Youth Master Plan Update, people will forget how truly awful they were in the no-so-distant past.

It's up to you to remember. Thank them for their contributions to the community, but also hold them accountable for their other misdeeds as well.




Little League News

Congrats again to the Claremont Little League All-Stars for a great run in the Southern California Championship tournament.

After winning the first game of it's best-of-three series with Solana Beach 7-6 on Saturday, Claremont was swept yesterday 5-4 and 9-1.

Still, it was a great run--farther than any other team in league history.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Breaking News: Internet Crashes

You may have heard about the power failure in San Francisco that caused a data storage company called 365, Inc., to shut down last week. As a result, websites like Craigslist, RedEnvelope and Technorati were offline for several hours.

The LA Times had an article about the shutdown and posed the question, "What if the Internet crashed?" We shudder to think about the consequences. We'd have to abandon the Blogosphere's digital world and step out into analoguedom and get the lives a former Claremont mayor accused us of lacking.

The Onion gives us a window into the chaos that would ensue if the Internet ever failed:


Breaking News: All Online Data Lost After Internet Crash

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Wildlife

Bobcats below Palmer Canyon
(Click on photo to enlarge)

We decided to go on a hike last week and ended up driving to the Claremont Wilderness Park early in the morning before it got too hot. We ended up heading east towards Potato Mountain on the fire road at the water tank.

The vegetation seems to have recovered nicely from the fire in 2003, but was looking pretty dry. Coming down at Palmer Canyon, we were walking back to the Wilderness Park parking lot at Mills and Mt. Baldy Rd. and caught these two fellows cooling themselves in an olive tree near the Padua Hills Theater.

Nice to see there's still some wildlife around, even with all the new home construction in the area the past 20 years or so.

You can find some good San Gabriel Mountains hikes here if you're in the mood for a little local adventure.

Ghost of Hillary Past in Claremont

The New York Times on Sunday will have an article (page 1, below the fold) concerning a trove of letters written by former first lady and president-wannabee Hillary Rodham Clinton to Scripps College professor John Peavoy. The letters were apparently written over several years in the mid-sixties.

Our friends who know Professor Peavoy tell us the description of him in the article rings true: wild-haired academic, big silver glasses, bushy sideburns. They add that behind the hirsute camoflauge, there is a rather ruddy boyish countenance and a person who probably forgot more yesterday about films than any of the rest of us will ever know. The bit about the house "cluttered with movies, books and boxes"? Believe it.

This story puts us in mind of former Scripps president and erstwhile and still-continuing Clintonite Nancy Y. Bekavac who announced her resignation only last spring, effective last month. She is another bona fide friend of Hillary, though in more recent contact than Professor Peavoy, as we read.

If there is a moral here, it might be that your neighbors can harbor interesting secrets and pasts.

Claremont News

Summertime is usually a slow time in Claremont, CA. But with the Village West Expansion opening up slowly, there's a lot going on. Will Bigham in the Daily Bulletin reported on the new Laemmle Claremont 5 theater opening up.

______________________

Congrats to the Claremont Little League All-Stars, who last night beat the Tustin Western All-Stars 11-4 in a game in La Mirada. Claremont will meet a Solana Beach team in a best-of-three series for the Southern California championship beginning today.

The winner of this weekend's championship series will advance to the West Coast Regional Finals in San Bernardino beginning next Friday, August 4th. Teams from Arizona, Hawaii, Nevada, and Utah have already qualified.

The action begins today at 1:00pm. The second game will be tomorrow at noon, with the third game, if needed, at 3:00pm tomorrow.

This weekend's games are at:

Auslam Statium
Behringer Park
16085 Alicante
La Mirada, CA

Friday, July 27, 2007

Assessment District Defeated One Year Ago Today


The Insider is not much for anniversaries; just ask Mrs. Insider. But we will do so in the spirit of NPR, which uses as news hooks first, fifth, tenth, twentieth, twenty-fifth, thirtieth, fortieth--oh, they love fortieths, those unreconstructed hippies: we've had the fortieth of every Beatle album, it seems, through Sergeant Pepper (June 2, 1967 in the U.S.).

Claremont, the 5th best place to live between 7,500 and 50,000 with lotsa good ethnic restaurants nearby celebrates its own modest anniversary today.

It was just a year ago, on July 27th, 2006, that it was announced that the "Parks and Pasture" Assessment district failed 56% to 44%. This represented the end of Claremont as we know it. The Courier website early on had the unambigous sub-head: Measure Bombs by 12-Point Margin (it was later softened), followed by the somewhat ambiguous, Johnson's Pasture Future Uncertain.

It was just a year ago today,
Sergeant Parker tried to make you pay.
He tried to make your tax bill higher
And it's guaranteed to raise your ire.
So let me introduce to you
The act you've known for just two years:
Sergeant Parker's Parcel Tax Club Band.
Where are we now? Councilmember McHenry had made sure that the City was ready to go with a G.O. Bond in the event of the failure of the AD. In early August, Council put forward the G.O. Bond to the voters; in November 2006, the voters approved the purchase by a super-majority of 71% to 29%. Six months were wasted while co-owner Deborah Robinson held out for more money, but eventually last month she caved and the deal was closed. Suzanne Thompson was feted in the July 4th Parade. Advertisements for a bond prospectus have appeared in the Courier, and bonds will go on sale on August 7. Escrow is set to close sometime in September--about the time Councilmember Elderkin reported at the July 10th Council meeting that the 210 Freeway would open to San Bernardino.

The coalition to pass the G.O. Bond included--strange as it may seem--several vocal opponents of the assessment district who worked on the bond's campaign steering committee. It also included an unsuccessful candidate for city council in 2007 (black, fifth of five serious candidates) who approached the Colleges and got the initial agreement for them to make a payment in lieu of taxes on at least a part of their otherwise-exempt property. We heard even Corey Calaycay met with one college president. Meanwhile two later-successful candidates were missing in action on the G.O. Bond. They made sure their names were on the steering committee, but attended few meetings and did no work.

All of that effort was made in good faith reduce the cost to Claremont taxpayers: getting the Colleges on-board, re-visiting the flawed appraisal (at State urging) and holding firm on price to garner a state grant, a quarter-million dollars of private money by the Claremont Wildlands Conservancy, a half-million dollars from the County arranged by Supervisor Antonovich--these are major reasons why the bond issuance is for only $10 million instead of $12.5 million or even $13 million.

It is a measure of the machine-like power of the Claremont 400 with hundreds of very reliable voters in the Village that McHenry (incumbent, fourth of five) and Nasiali (black, fifth of five) were defeated, Pedroza and Elderkin (strongly for the assessment district, missing in action on the G.O. Bond) were elected.

This is the State of the City in Claremont on this first anniversary of the defeat of the Assessment District: Reward the Guilty. Punish the Innocent. Promote the Uninvolved.
I get by with a little help from my friends,
With a little help from my friends.

Cinema Notes

"The past is never dead. It's not even past."

--William Faulkner


The mailbag yesterday contained this nice email recalling the bygone days of the Claremont Cinema:

Dear Claremont Insider---

Thanks for the link to the article about the Village Theater and Claremont Cinema. I remember both well. I wasn't allowed to go to the Claremont Cinema, where I desperately wanted to see "Blow Up", but my mother thought I was too young (I was fourteen at the time).

A year later I somehow conned her into taking me to a double bill of "Elvira Madigan" and "Women In Love" at the Village, telling her they were literary and would be good for my English grade.

Your blog helps me keep in touch with the place I consider my home town. I lived there from 1963 through 1975 and Claremont was a great
place to be at the time----more than one used bookstore, free plays, movies and classical concerts at the colleges, art galleries, Dennison Library at Scripps...wonderful stuff.

I also appreciated your less recent link to an article on Marty Weinberger; sorry to hear about his medical troubles. I worked at the Courier from 1977-79 in the graphics side of the building. It was better than going to art school. And they paid me too (not much but one could live on it at the time).

Regards,

D.L. MacLaughlan-Dumes

Reader Poetry

We've received a lot of mail lately, and we've been wading through it all. The letter referred to realtor and Claremont 400er Nick Q, whom you may recall reportedly phoned one former member of Claremont's Citizens Finance Advisory Committee to cuss him out for not voting to recommend adopting the Landscaping and Lighting District assessment back in 1990.

The letter caught our eye because of the creative aspect involved:

I am reminded of a letter to the editor in the Claremont Courier written by Nick Q that expressed what many of the Claremont 400 feel about people who disagree with them and speak out about it---if you don't like what we do in Claremont, leave town.

It was written about Dean McHenry [husband of local watchdog and former City Councilmember Jackie McHenry], who I presume had spoken out on some issue, probably the Landrum shooting or some other touchy issue for the 400, and basically told McHenry that if he didn't like what Claremont does he should leave town. I remember seeing this letter and wanting to submit a letter of my own, but I did not. Instead, I wrote a little ditty that amused me but never shared it. I will share it with you and your readers today. I think it speaks , in a humorous way, for many of the 400.

"There once was a realtor named Q
Who didn't like what Dean would do,
So he fussed and he frowned
Said get out of town
And by the way, take your wife, too."

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Marijuana Hits


Claremont's making news, regionally speaking.

The Foothill Cities Blog picked up on our post from Wednesday and ran with it. They found a YouTube performance Arlo Guthrie's "Coming into Los Angeles." Check it out, and feel free to weigh in.

Incidentally, did anyone actually see the City Council meeting where the medical marijuana dispensaries were approved? We hear Sam Pedroza was looking a little shaky and tongue-tied in talking about the isssue.

Maybe it was the late hour. As always happens with the most controversial Claremont council agenda items, it got placed last on the list, so that it was after midnight when the matter was finally voted on. That way, people give and go home before the item comes up for discussion.

You can see the action yourself on the local public access channel (29) on Time Warner cable next Monday beginning at 8:00pm. You may have to tape it though, it will run at least 5-1/2 hours.

Water Company News

Active Claremont last week hosted a discussion panel on the topic, "Should Claremont Buy Its Water System?"

The Claremont Courier's Tony Krickl had a summary of the meeting. Will Bigham at the Bulletin also reported on the discussion.

Bigham's article noted that proponents from the Claremont League of Women voters claimed that the city could end up paying lower rates within 20 years:

Two speakers at Thursday night's panel - the authors of a well-received 2005 League of Women Voters water study - argued that if the city were to purchase the water company, an initial rate increase to pay off bonds will be offset in as soon as 20 years by lower rates and by local control of service and infrastructure.


The problem is, the city already has a credibility gap when it comes to promises in connection with rates. One issue is the fact that the city back in 1998 signed off on the current water pricing structure in exchange for leasing its water rights to Golden State Water (then called Southern California Water). Now it would have to buy back those leased rights in addition to taking on the burden of refurbishing an aging water infrastructure - a cost that has not been established yet, but possibly in the tens of millions.

Tony Krickl's Courier article noted that one suggestion being tossed around is to put the matter to the voters in a simple yes or no referendum.

_______________________


The letters section of yesterday's Courier contained a couple letters about former Mayor Judy Wright's dissembling regarding the city's Landscaping and Lighting District (LLD) assessment.

One of the letters, by a former member of the city's Citizens Finance Advisory Committee, described what it was like back in 1989 when the city was considering implementing the LLD. The letter underscored what we've been arguing all along about the behind-the-scenes manipulations that go on over big issues in town. We thought this comment from the letter was particularly insightful:

It was a very nasty time in Claremont’s history, pitting neighbor against neighbor. During all of this, our committee chairs were reporting back to our City Manager Glenn Southard. This man was always in the shadows and was keeping a pulse on our committee. I remember over hearing “Do whatever you have to do to make this happen.” What haunting words now—little did I know we were being used to justify some creative financing that would never go away.


Words that don't bode well for a citizen vote on the water company purchase or for lower future water rates under a city-managed water company.

Laemmle Opens Tomorrow

The new Laemmle Theater officially opens in the Claremont Village Expansion tomorrow.

Daily Bulletin columnist David Allen remembered the last theater in town, the Claremont Cinema, and the man who operated it, Gene Harvey. Allen guessed that the new Laemmle will bump us up from #5 to #4 in the best towns list. Maybe the new marijuana dispensary will get us a little higher (sorry).

Tony Krickl in the Claremont Courier also had an article on the Laemmle's opening. Krickl reported that tonight the Laemmle is teaming up with the recently opened Claremont Art Museum for a fundraiser featuring a screening of Molière, a 2007 French film. By the way, check out the redesigned Courier site while you're reading the Krickl article.

Tisza at the Route66 Living blog had some good info on the fundraiser.


Laemmle's Claremont 5

450 W. 2nd St.
Claremont, CA 91711
Recording/Info Line: (909) 621-5500
Direct Line: (909) 621-5566

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Widget News

Readers might notice our "Most Popular Page" list in the lefthand column now has little ads at the bottom. This is not our ad, and the Insider receives no revenue from it.

The "Most Popular Pages" list is generated by a "widget", a free little programming tool that we got from a site called AffiliatedBrand.com. The person who created the popular page widget, Gene Kavner, apparently wants to generate income of his own from his invention.

Widgets are handy things. The weather box at the upper left, for instance, or the Diann Fact Watch counter, are both free items bloggers can customize and paste into their sites. We like the "Popular Pages," and think it's a helpful tool. We apologize for the advertisements. If they bother you, let us know. We can always remove the widget in question. As we said, we like the tool, but not if it becomes and irritant.

The Editors

Affordable Housing?

More from CNNMoney on the #5 Best Place to Live. Money had photos of houses for sale in the top 10 Best Places, including this one from Claremont:



At a modest $2,675,000, the perfect starter home for your typical Los Angeles County family with a median yearly income of $43,518 (2004).

This was the most expensive, by several hundred thousand dollars, of all the example houses in the top 10. The asking price, by the way, was more than the combined prices for the houses shown from the top 3 Best Places.

Money, ironically, had listed "relative affordability" as one reasons for ranking Claremont #5. The magazine also overlooked air quality, in which they ranked Claremont low, and traffic, which apparently will get much worse now that the 210 Fwy. extension to San Bernardino is open.

According to a 7/23/07 LA Times article, since 2001 when segment through Claremont opened, the average daily vehicle count in both directions of the 210 at San Dimas Ave. went from 67,000 to 177,000. As a result of the added cars, the San Gabriel Valley sections of the 210 have filled with frustrated rush-hour drivers who spill over onto the surface streets of cities like Arcadia, causing headaches all around.

The Times article observed:

Some San Gabriel Valley officials are surprised at how much the 210's eastward march is congesting their cities.

John Mayberry, a former San Marino traffic commissioner, said that if he was told five years ago that the opening of the 210 east of Claremont would hit San Marino, "I'd say you're crazy. But it did. I think we took our hit, and I'd suspect somebody, whether it's in La Verne or Claremont or Upland, they're going to get nailed too."

Bulletin Dispensary Article

The Daily Bulletin has a Will Bigham article on the medical marijuana dispensary issue.

It'll be interesting to see what happens with this in the future. Given the apparent federal crackdown on dispensaries in California, Claremont may be in for a visit from the feds in the future. Or maybe not.

It reminds us a little of strikes by some of the smaller worker unions in France. Those small groups of strikers are often insulted when the police don't show up in riot gear as they do for the larger strikes. They lack cachet if the police don't come.

...Bringing in a Couple of Keys


Arlo Guthrie said it so well:

Coming into Los Angeles
Bringing in a couple of keys
Don't touch my bags if you please
Mister Customs Man



This city council majority, Ellen Taylor, Linda Elderkin, and Sam Pedroza voted late Tuesday night to go forward with a marijuana dispensary in Claremont. To hear them on the live video was to be treated to an orchestra of sophistry, arrogance, and naivete. Nothing we can say here can approach it, so we won't even try.

It was amusing though that following this item, in the Council reports, someone emphasized the need to have "meaningful jobs" for kids in the community. Yeah, like runners and lookouts.







Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Corrections II

Regarding our earlier "Reefer Madness" post, an astute reader noted:

...in your post today on medical pot you say there was a supreme court ruling in June -- that was in June 2005, not last month. Hire a copy editor already!
Thanks for pointing that out. We've got a fix up.

Goings on in the Blogosphere

If you're a Claremonter burnt out on reefer and other madnesses, check out The Foothill Cities Blog's discussion on anonymous blogging. You can even weigh in over there!

Or take a look at the FC's jousting with Kevin Roderick, a longtime Los Angeles-based journalist and publisher of LAObserved.com.

City News

REEFER MADNESS

More news on the medical marijuana dispensary front. Will Bigham in yesterday's Daily Bulletin reported that the Claremont City Council appears close to approving said dispensaries within the city limits.

Bigham tells us in his article that two Councilpersons, Linda Elderkin and Ellen Taylor, are for allowing the dispensaries, and a third, Sam Pedroza, appears to be the swing vote.

The matter will be discussed at tonight's city council meeting, which begins at 6:30 p.m. at the City Council chambers, located at 225 W. 2nd St. You can also watch the proceeding live on the city's website, where they stream the meetings.

We've commented previously that Claremont considers itself a nation unto itself, subject to its own interpretations of the U.S. Constitution. So, it's not surprising that Claremont would want to seek to regulate medications in the manner of the FDA.

Say, didn't we hash out this whole states' rights business back in 1861-65? Odd, though, that it's a Democratic threesome now pushing back on federalism. But, then, these are the times we live in. As Bigham noted, a number cities, including Berkeley, Oakland, San Francisco and West Hollywood, have regulations in place allowing marijuana dispensaries in accordance with Proposition 215, which California voters passed in 1996.

Bigham also touched on the fact that federal authorities have recently cracked down on medical marijuana dispensaries in California, including one in Corona last week. The move by federal officials against the dispensaries follows a June, 2005, ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court.

_______________________


HOUSING MADNESS

The city has also been gripped by madness over the controversial affordable housing project on Base Line Rd. near Towne Ave. in northwest Claremont. Will Bigham says in today's Bulletin that the City Council will likely renew its exclusive negotiating agreement with developer Marc Gelman's company Enhanced Affordable Housing.

Residents in the project's area, primarily a group known as the Citizens for the American Dream, had originally been opposed to the project and had wanted to see owner-occupied units on the site. The Claremont League of Women Voters (LWV), pushed by Helaine Goldwater and others, wanted to see a higher-density rental development.

(We still don't understand why the League never demanded that there be an affordable housing component in the Claremont Village Expansion. After all, that is the area central to the bus lines and train station in town. But, then there has always been a certain attitude of wanting to keep "those" people - the ones who would be living in affordable housing - out of the Village and as far from the town center as possible.)

Developer Gelman had been awarded the agreement by the city to put in a 45-unit rental project on Base Line with a rent-to-own component. However, Gelman's contract with city expired in April, and there was some talk that staff was going to switch developers and go with Gary Braverman's Foundation for Quality Housing Opportunities, Inc., the company that the LWV favored.

As Claremont Courier reporter Tony Krickl explained back in June, the suspicion that a switch of developers was in the works was fueled by a city staff faux pas at the June 26th council meeting. The council agenda included a closed session item that listed "Braverman" rather than "Gelman" as the negotiating party for the Base Line Rd. project. Staff reported that this was a typo, and the matter was pulled from the agenda.

Correction

We received another email from the erstwhile Citizens Finance Advisory Committee member who was critical of the city's decision-making process for Claremont's Landscaping and Lighting District assessment (a yearly assessment on Claremont property owners that is supposed to pay for maintaining things like city parkways and streetlights).

The former committee member wrote in to correct some information from his earlier note:

Buzz,

I do not know how you handle a correction, but in my letter of a couple of weeks ago, in the second to last paragraph, I mentioned a fellow committee member named Nick P who called and swore at me.

My memory now says that the person was Nick Q. I am proud that you provide accuracy in your blog, I submit my apology, and correction, for the error.

Dave Wishart


We have gone back and made the correction.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Claremont Fastpitch Erases History

Within a day or two of our notice of the Claremont Fastpitch recruiting sign in UPLAND, someone took it down. We don't think this will rise to the level of scandal of theft of political signs in Glendora or even in Claremont.

Cui bono? We think Fastpitch did it themselves.

Bloggers: Watchdogs or Windbags?

So asks today's print edition of the Los Angeles Times. (We vote "Windbags.")

The article, by Jonathan Abrams, appears in the Times' California section and is also available online. Several local blogs received mention, and Publius at The Foothill Cities Blog was quoted at length.

The Insider even got a brief mention, and Claremont Mayor Peter Yao was quoted:

Claremont Mayor Peter S. Yao said the blog provided a bit of insight but had to be taken with a grain of salt.

"It certainly is one additional input for the City Council on how some of the population feels on certain issues," he said. "Occasionally, it sheds a little light on a situation, but most of the time it is a rumor mill."

True or not true? Judge for yourself.

Judy Redux

As we observed on Saturday, former Claremont Mayor Judy Wright, who doubles as our self-annointed town historian, seems to be spinning out of control.

Saturday's Claremont Courier featured a letter to the editor from Wright that had a number of obvious errors, omissions, and misrepresentations regarding Claremont's Landscaping and Lighting District assessment.

So far, Judy's two-for-two and is leading the league (of Women Voters?) in the foot-in-mouth category.

One last point needs to be mentioned regarding the letter.

Wright and the Claremont 400, including current Councilmember Linda Elderkin love to talk about "process." The criticism in Claremont has been that too often process amounts to not much more than dog-and-pony shows consisting of endless strings of council, commission, committee and sub-committee public meetings featuring beautiful Powerpoint presentations by staff that are filled with carefully massaged statistics that will support the predetermined decision the Claremont 400 has already decided upon at one of their private Friday night dinners.

As a result, the public becomes disillusioned and disaffected because every important decision is a "done deal." The public input has no effect, unless that input belongs to the parade of Claremonsters that the 400 have lined up to get their talking points across. Stand out in the council chamber's foyer during a public hearing over any controversial issue, and you'll see a Diann Ring or a Valerie Martinez coordinating the speakers they want to get out there.

The 400 deny that this sort of manipulation goes on, but take a look at this comment from Wright's Saturday Courier letter:

The early decision-making was done in 1989 before the finance committee met....

Wright is talking about the LLD, which was sent to the city's Citizens Finance Advisory Committee for consideration before it was voted on by the City Council. That council vote occurred in 1990. Yet, here Wright claims that the decision was already made before the Finance Committee ever met and before the Council voted on the LLD.

If Wright's comments are to be believed, all the public meetings of the Finance Committee and the City Council were a waste of the public's time - the votes had already been cast, so to speak. In other words, public participation is a bunch of hooey in the minds of the 400.

No wonder they were able to ignore the 7,000 signatures resident Les Boring and others gathered on a petition against the LLD. Or city staff's observation that of the mail the city received on whether to implement the LLD, 60 supported the assessment and 475 were against it.

Thank you, Judy, for making our point.

Incidentally, a member of that Finance Committee emailed us with his take on the whole sub-committee experience a month ago, and it unsurprisingly confirmed what Wright's letter stated.


_______________________



Wright, according to the Courier, sent along 126 pages of documents in support of her claim that she never made a motion to sunset the LLD and also claimed that the council never voted on that non-motion. Yet, the Courier also noted that Wright was careful to omit the minutes of the 1/23/90 Council meeting where Wright in fact made the motion she denies, and where the council, including Diann Ring, approved the motion.

Wright is really telling us, all of us, to abandon all hope of a rational argument ye who enter Claremont. Wright has the great advantage of being able to erase history, including her own, and to be unaccountable for her words and actions. But, then, this is really why this blog is here in the first place - to present those hypocrisies in all their glory.

Thank you once again, Judy.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Claremont Outsources Fastpitch To India

[Editor's Note: This space has already reported on the outsourcing by Claremont Fastpitch where they are advertsing in UPLAND, trolling for participants from that community. The sign in question has since been removed. In the meantime, it turns out, this outsourcing is even more widespread than we had imagined. Our correspondent in Bangalore, Anand Gupta, reports:]


Hellos and hosannas from Bangalore. Your servant Anand writes you to inform you that one of the greatest dailies on the subcontinent has contained the advertisement noted below for FastPitch in Claremont, CA. One of my stringers has provided to me a clipping from said daily with the pertinent information which I attach for you.



With due respect, it might be more successful in India to search for outsourced football (soccer in America) players. Football is a much more popular pastime over here. Bend it like Beckham!

It will be an exciting Saturday when the Bangalore Torpedoes take on the until-now-undefeated Black Pearl in the FastPitch 14-and-under league. That will be a game to remember.

Until later, Anand

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Corrections: Judy Loses It

The Courier today has an odd letter to the editor from former Claremont Mayor Judy Wright, who just may be losing it.

The letter is in reaction to an exchange that began back in early June over Claremont's Landscaping and Lighting District assessment, a controversial municipal revenue source.

Wright's letter in the Courier today is the second one she has submitted recently. On June 12th, she, former Mayor Diann Ring and former Councilmember Bill McCready submitted a letter to the City Council and to the Courier at a time when the Council was voting on how much they should increase the LLD.

That earlier letter by the three former Councilmembers had a number of factual errors, which we pointed out. You can read the text of the Wright-Ring-McCready letter here.

To recap, in our view, the Wright-Ring-McCready letter contained the following inaccuracies and misstatements:


  • The letter failed 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 attacked 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 were 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 claimed 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 ignored 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 didn't just ignore public speakers, they ignored 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 rewrote the actual history of events. The writers claimed 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 sunsetting the LLD.

    The letter writers claimed no such statements ever occurred. One suspects they would 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.
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Now, in her current letter (she apparently lost her two co-signers from the first missive), Wright digs herself a deeper hole.

Wright begins with the worst sort of propagandist's trick: by purposely misrepresenting her opponents' arguments. Wright claims that "Only once, not repeatedly, (see 11/28, p. 446) did I suggest a sunset [for the LLD] and it was never a motion nor picked up by my colleagues."

In fact, the claim was not about Wright "repeatedly"making a motion for a sunset clause. The actual claim was that Wright repeatedly mentioned sunsetting of the LLD beginning in 1989 and as late as 1993.

The second part of the sentence claiming that Wright's one suggestion for an LLD sunset was never a motion and was never picked up by her colleagues, is untrue, pure and simple, and Wright has apparently been selective in the supporting documentation she sent to the Courier with today's letter. The editor's note to the letter indicates that Wright submitted 126 pages of documentation but omitted the one set of city council minutes from 1/23/90 which noted on page 15:


"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.'"
As Courier noted today, the motion was passed by Ms. Wright and her colleagues, including Diann Ring.

_______________________

The last two paragraphs in the Wright letter today make us wonder if Judy has really crossed over into non compos mentis territory. One involved a remark that:

No the LLD did not kill Dick Newton, it probably aggravated Alex Hughes’ heart condition and killed him.


As we noted above, in the Wright-Ring-McCready letter from June 12th, the writers claimed that of the five councilmembers who voted to institute the LLD, only three (the letter signers) were still alive. In fact, a fourth, Dick Newton, is very much alive and kicking. So, the Courier noted this, and we made a joke of it, saying they "killed Dick Newton." Judy obviously missed the joke and at the same time admitted Alexander Hughes, who was on the council when the LLD was being studied and debated, was done in by the her precious LLD.

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The last paragraph of Wright's letter today was particularly odd because it had nothing to do with the Courier. It appeared to addressed to us here at the Insider. Wright says:

By the way, I was not present at The El Barrio Park dedication. I was present at the Rosa Torrez Park dedication. That was a wonderful day! Where were you?
Wright seems to be referring to a June 8th Insider post where we incorrectly placed her at the El Barrio Park dedication in May. We apologize to Ms. Wright and have corrected that point. We obviously confused that with the Rosa Torrez park dedication. We stand by the rest of the post.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Where Are They Now?

Claremont, being a just and righteous city, has no tolerance for people who get involved in smear campaigns. People who spread lies and misrepresentations during campaigns end up deservedly shunned. Or do they?

Homer "Butch" Henderson was a spokesperson for the Preserve Claremont campaign in 2005. That group was a political action committee with two goals: censor then-Councilmember Jackie McHenry, and defeat council candidate Corey Calaycay. They failed in both, but many of them were around again in this year's city election engaging in a below-the-radar campaign in support of Mayor Peter Yao and candidates Linda Elderkin and Sam Pedroza, both of whom won election. They also succeeded in their other goal of defeating Councilmember Jackie McHenry's bid for re-election.

Back in 2005, Henderson was still the head pastor at the Claremont United Church of Christ (UCC). He must not have believed in the separation of church and state because he seemed to use his position in the community to try to garner support for the Preserve Claremont effort. Also involved as spokespersons were Claremont Human Services Chair Valerie Martinez and Councilmember Paul Held, who similarly seemed to think they could parlay their official positions into support for their smear campaign.

Even when the backlash against Preserve Claremont began, Henderson never renounced the Preserve group or their tactics. Never once did he speak publicly about the false information his group published in a full-page Courier ad.

And, after the election, after then-City Manager Glenn Southard had resigned and left for a position with the city of Indio, Henderson gave a long sermon on Good Shepherd Sunday, 2005, on the subject of leaders who were good shepherds. In his sermon Henderson mentioned such good shepherds as Moses, David, Jesus, and...Glenn Southard! What select company!

Since that time, Henderson has retired from the pastorizing business. Now he's occupying himself by being the chair of Claremont's Youth Master Plan Steering Committee. In addition, the recently updated Youth Master Plan also had the input of such Claremont 400 luminaries as former Mayor Suzan Smith, current Councilmember Ellen Taylor, Claremont Board of Education President Joan Presecan, Board of Education member Steve Llanusa J. Michael Fay, Helaine Goldwater, and Teddie Warner.

The powers-that-be in town apparently have forgiven Butch for his non-transgression (in their eyes), at least enough to put him in charge of the Youth Master Plan Update.

Do they extend the same charity of spirit towards the victims of their Preserve Claremont campaign of 2005 and their whispering campaigns this year? How about it Butch? The quality of mercy is not strained....

_______________________


Ironically, page 6 of the Youth Master Plan Scorecard indicates that as far as decreasing "incidents of intolerance of differences," the community needs to improve. Ya think? Or as another Homer would say, "D'oh!"

How about we start by acknowledging the intolerance on the parts of our own community leaders? This group self-righteously lays claim to an almost saintly level of tolerance, but is itself guilty of the worst sort of clannish, small-town pettiness. We think we all can do better.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Brown Act

The Ralph M. Brown Act is a so-called sunshine law created by the state of California in 1953. The law governs public access to records and the public's right to speak at meetings of certain local level deliberative bodies. It is also supposed to limit governmental secrecy.

However, enforcement of the law has always been a problem, as this Wikipedia entry explains. So, it wasn't surprising to see that not much happened when writer Will Bigham at the Daily Bulletin recently observed that the Claremont City Council may violated the Brown Act in a June meeting.

Claremont had no worries, right? Who the heck cares about the Brown Act? No one enforces it. There's no Brown Act Police, other than the gadflies buzzing around City Hall, and the Claremont 400 is there to swat those pests

But wait! In today's San Gabriel Valley Tribune comes news involving the Los Angeles District Attorney's Public Integrity Unit. Yes, Claremonsters, there is such a thing; and, no it's not an oxymoron. The DA's office has sued the City of Covina over a possible Brown Act violation.

Thanks to the reader who forwarded this story.

Water Company Meeting 7PM Tonight

We wanted to remind our readers that there is a panel discussion on the water company buyout issue tonight at the Active Claremont July meeting. For several years Claremont has been considering purchasing the water company from Golden State Water. The discussion begins at 7pm at the Claremont Public Library.

Claremont Public Library
208 Harvard Ave.
Claremont, CA 91711
(909) 621-4902

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Claremont Youth Sports Outsources


A reader alerted us to the above sign posted by Claremont Fastpitch in UPLAND on a fence by the pump house at the corner of Baseline and Benson. Did we mention this is in UPLAND?

Apparently this Claremont girls softball league can't fill its slots with the young girls in Claremont, and has to outsource out of town in UPLAND. Our guess is that the league is trying for the housing tracts to the northeast of that interesection which must be rich with kids, unlike Claremont which, as Money magazine has so well pointed out, is aging in place.

It is said that a picture is worth a thousand words, and this image, contradicting as it does the City mantra of how the sports facilities in Claremont are for Claremont residents, speaks volumes.

If you are looking for the sign, it is in UPLAND, at the southeast corner of Baseline and Benson, facing Benson. It's in UPLAND.

(The sign was up as of today, 7/18/07. We make no warranty as to how long it will remain in its current location in UPLAND.)

More on Claremont as the Fifth Best Place to Live

We don't really understand Money magazine's methodology. If any reader can fathom it, an explanation would be very much appreciated. In all, it seems to be a list of towns you never heard of.

The Insider can read the Money FAQ as well as the next guy. Here is Money's explanation with our comments:

First, "start with places that have populations above 7,500 and under 50,000."

[OK, that may give us the "best places" with populations between these somewhat arbitrary and capricious limits. You now have 2,876 towns]

Next, "screen out retirement-oriented communities, places where income is less than 90% or more than 180% of the state median and towns that are more than 95% white."

[How did Claremont make this cut with Pilgrim Place, the Gardens, the Manor, Sunrise, and the Village? The Insider isn't going to touch the racial bit. Now we have 974 towns.]

Third, "eliminate towns with low education scores, high crime rates, declines or sharp increases in population, projected job losses or lack of access to airports or teaching hospitals."

[OK, now we have a more or less mainline stable population of smart working non-criminals at least 6% of color who either take airplane trips or frequent nearby teaching hospitals...that must be us alright. Well, there are 678 total towns now.]

From these towns, "rank remaining places based on job, income and cost-of-living data; housing affordability; school quality; arts and leisure opportunities; ease of living; health-care access; and racial diversity."

[These all sound good. It would be interesting to compare Claremont's housing affordability with that of others on the list. "Ease of Living"? Sounds like Peter Yao's first campaign with the "good life"--notably absent from his second. And the Insider is beginning to think this "racial diversity" thing is a surrogate for "lots of nearby ethnic restaurants." Now we have 466 towns; must've lost a few in the ranking.]

From here, the researchers "gather more data on job markets, housing prices, schools and ambience. Interview community leaders and residents by phone."

[Here's where the "Kentucky windage" is put in. We wonder what data are available on "ambience". Did you get a phone interview? The Insider regrets to report he is "out of the loop." Now they have 70 towns.]

Next, the protocol demanded that they "visit and do more interviews. Assess the sense of community, vibrancy of town center, natural surroundings, amenities, real estate and congestion."

[More subjectivity. All we can say is that they must not have visited during rush hour on the 10 or 210. And let's have a look at the "sense of community data". They are down to 25 towns now...]

Finally, "give [Potemkin Village] the nod, based on data and qualitative findings."

[More of those pesky subjective slippery squirmy qualitative findings. And now the towns are one...]

In all, we find the methodology pretty useless, but then we have never been accused of being the sharpest tool in the shed. Probably its as accurate as the apparently-spiked Forbes article on crime at Pomona College would have been. For your information and a little context, herewith the top 10 "Best Places to Live":

1. Potemkin Village
2. Stepford
6. Pleasantville
7. Oz
8. Greensburg, Kansas
9. Jonestown
10. Port Moresby

Monday, July 16, 2007

Home

Yesterday's post about Money magazine ranking Claremont #5 on the list of top 100 places to live in the U.S. got us thinking about what defines home and who exactly defines it.

As hard as it may be for some of the Claremont 400 (Helaine Goldwater, Paul Held, Valerie Martinez, Diann Ring, Ellen Taylor, Judy Wright, to name a few) to believe, this for us is home. One sets down roots, builds a home, raises a family, makes friendships, lives and loves, celebrates successes and overcomes failures, and without even realizing the place grabs hold.

All of us have a stake in the community, and it represents the sum of each and every one, not just a few or 400. We've each of us added our voices to the chorus (or cacophony) and what emerges is a music unique to the place. Measure by measure the place weaves it's way into something fundamental to our being.

With such an investment of time, energy and love, why would we ever want leave? Why would you? It's our home, and yours, too. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.

Thinking those thoughts reminded us of the Anna Ahkmatova poem "Lot's Wife," which is a kind of feminist poem to be sure, but which is also a poem about home and roots.


But a wild grief in his wife’s bosom cried,
Look back, it is not too late for a last sight

Of the red towers of your native Sodom, the square
Where once you sang, the gardens you shall mourn,
And the tall house with empty windows where
You loved your husband and your babes were born
.


From Lot's Wife
by Anna Akhmatova
Translated by Richard Wilbur

Claremont #5 Best Place to Live

Money magazine has named Claremont #5 on its list of top 100 U.S. cities to live in.

Money editor Jean Chatzky was interviewed on NBC's Today Show this morning and explained the criteria used. Money focused on towns with populations between 7,500 and 50,000, which eliminated cities like New York, Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, Portland, and a host of others.

California had 9 cities in the top 100 with Claremont being the highest ranked in the state.

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So, how does this all square with a website like ours, where we've been very critical of the people in charge of running Claremont?

Oddly, it fits perfectly with what we've been saying. First, like most of our neighbors, we've chosen this place because it's a nice place to live. The weather's unbeatable, the Village shops and restaurants are great, and the colleges offer many cultural and educational opportunities.

We just don't happen to think that the Claremont 400, the group that runs the Claremont City Council, it's city commissions, and the local schools, deserve credit for all of that. Do they make the weather? And many of the good things would exist here without the 400. We also think that as long as they're taking credit for good things, they ought to take responsibility for the many and costly bad things that have happened. Instead, they run from those issues and refuse to even address them.

Take the trees here, for instance. Claremont's got 23,000 of them, most of them planted and maintained by the city. The trees are a great amenity. They create the shady walks that give Claremont a real college-town feel. Yet, homeowners have to foot the bills for damages caused by city-owned trees, the City Council routinely denies claims against them for those costly damages, and the city bars citizens from doing preventative maintenance on those same damage-causing trees.

People like Claremont 400 representative and current Councilperson Linda Elderkin apparently believe that if you can't afford to pay for the damages the city trees cause, you shouldn't be living here. We think that there could be better, more mature, more reasonable ways of working with citizens who have legitimate complaints. Instead, Claremonters like Councilmember Elderkin want them to take a hike if they don't like it.

So, Claremont's a great place to live as long as you don't have a run-in with the city and the Claremont 400, as Irvin Landrum and his family did in 1999.

Or as the residents of Palmer Canyon did in 2003.

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We expect there'll be a lot of gloating on the part of the 400 and their supporters over the Money ranking. We should be happy that our town ranks so high on the Money list. But we also ought to look more carefully at the information. If we don't we're likely to misinterpret the information, as the 400 will inevitably do when they use it as an endorsement of their ill-conceived actions.

The rankings really seemed geared towards retiring baby boomers. Money editor Chatzky noted, "The big trend is that people really want to stay...." People, she said, are "aging in place." That is, they're not retiring to Scottsdale, AZ; they're staying put in these top 100 places. That means that people are looking to places like Claremont for retirement opportunities, and one of the things the Money survey looked at was the availability of elder care facilities.

Of course, we've argued this before. The demographics show that Claremont is aging, and housing here is not really affordable for young families looking for starter homes. Don't believe us? Check out Money's data. The median price of a Claremont home is $643,549 - 179% higher than the average median home price for the Money top 100 list.

People are staying here longer, and new people moving in tend to be folks looking primarily for retirement advantages. But we don't seem to be realistically facing up to that reality.

Park News

The children's wading pool at El Barrio Park has been refurbished and is now open from 11:30am to 1:30pm. For more information, see the the city of Claremont's website.

El Barrio Park
Northwest corner of Claremont Blvd. & 1st St.
Claremont, CA 91711


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The nine-week Monday Night Summer Concert Series continues tonight in Claremont's Memorial Park with the Claremont Winds, a symphonic wind ensemble. The summer concerts run from 7:30pm to 9pm with concessions provided by the local Kiwanis Club.

For a concert schedule and other information, click here or call the Claremont Human Services Department at (909) 399-5490.

Memorial Park
840 S. Indian Hill Blvd.

Claremont, CA 91711

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Police Blotter

A man suspected of starting a fire at the Claremont DoubleTree Hotel was arrested by the Claremont Police Department, the Daily Bulletin reports today. According to the article, the suspect was the boyfriend of someone who was at the hotel as part of the 1987 Claremont High School class reunion.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

The Gift That Keeps On Giving

We missed another eminent domain story yesterday, but thanks to a regular reader who passed it on to us.

______________________

Former City Manager Glenn Southard, as we've written in the past, is indeed an ongoing gift. You almost have to wonder if Southard took some sort of perverse pleasure in leaving behind landmines to explode years later.

There was the $17.5 million settlement for the October, 2003, fire that destroyed homes in Palmer Canyon, Padua Hills, and Claraboya. The fire burned through the City of Claremont's Wilderness Park, which homeowners claimed had not been properly cleared of brush. The city had a Vegetation Management Plan for the park to address the areas bordering homes, but failed to implement the plan fully, according to the plaintiffs in the suit.

Then, there was the $675,000 paid out this year to the developer of the Village West expansion project, The Tolkin Group, because Southard and his staff had put the utility connections in place long before anyone decided on the actual details and locations of the buildings going in. So the developer had to pay to have the hookups moved around.

And let's not forget that instant $10 million pension deficit Southard created by pushing a city employee pension upgrade in the year before he left. (The pension increase, based on years of service, was retroactive back to each employee's date of hire.)

There are other problems that have come up since Southard left. Just yesterday Will Bigham had an article about Harry Wu, the developer of the DoubleTree Hotel and the Old Schoolhouse project on Foothill Blvd.

According to the Bigham article, Wu is unhappy because he would rather own the DoubleTree property than lease it. He has not been able to negotiate a purchase, and in the article yesterday he complained that in early 2005, before leaving Claremont for Indio, Southard had given Wu private assurances that the city would use eminent domain if needed to help Wu obtain the property.

Wu told Bigham that he would not have sunk $10 million into the DoubleTree without Southard's assurances.

Sound familiar? At the same time Wu says Southard was promising the use of eminent domain, Southard's staff also worked with Roger Hogan, the owner of Claremont Toyota, to assist Hogan in obtaining the old Chili's site in South Claremont. The threat of eminent domain against the property owner was raised during those negotiations because of the tax advantages to the seller if eminent domain was threatened. Southard left, and the eminent domain talk died down.

And last year the Johnson's Pasture owners complained that they, too, had been promised a threat of eminent domain by the city during early 2005 to give them a tax advantage.

Southard, naturally, denied making any eminent domain promises to Harry Wu. Bigham quoted Southard's response:

"I couldn't do that as city manager anyway," said Southard, who is now the city manager of Indio. "The only people who can issue a notice of condemnation are the City Council at a public meeting and with public notice."
Notice Southard didn't said, "I didn't do that." There is no flat denial. He only says, "I couldn't do that...." Yet, there does seem to be a pattern of eminent domain talk floating around in early 2005 as Southard was exiting Claremont.

Back in March this year, we received an email from Mike Vasilove, one of the Johnson's Pasture owners. Vasilove said in his note:

We have in our possession, a letter from the City signed by the City Manager dated April, 2005 telling the owners of JP the City is interested in purchasing the Pasture and will recommend to the City Council the
use of eminent domain against us if we don't agree to sell the Pasture under the price and terms set forth by the first appraisal and agreement. We agreed to sell under those terms and price. The City backed out of the contract due to the adjustment made by the State regarding the appraisal.
We asked Vasilove for a copy of that note, but he never provided it to us. However, it seems odd that both Wu and Vasilove would complain of the same promises from Southard in different transactions.

Bigham also interviewed former city employee Scott Miller for yesterday's piece. Miller, unlike Southard, did acknowledge the fact that eminent domain had come up during the discussions with Wu in 2005, but Miller claimed that though the subject did get mentioned, it was not promised. Miller was the city's assistant executive director (to Southard) of the Claremont Redevelopment Agency.

In the Bigham article, the city acknowledged having sent a letter to the owners of the DoubleTree property saying that Wu had promised to pay the costs of any eminent domain proceeding--so it had indeed come up, and in the form of a letter, just as the Johnson's Pasture owner had claimed.

Of course, the city, and Southard and Miller, would argue that a mention is not a promise.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Government Secrets

Will Bigham today had an article in the Bulletin about a Claremont City Council meeting in June that may have violated a California open meeting law, the Brown Act.

The Brown Act allows for local governmental agencies to meet in closed session only for very specific reasons, such as discussing ongoing real estate acquisitions or personnel matters.

Last month, the Claremont City Council went into closed session to hear an informational report on the Doubletree property on Foothill Blvd. There were no specific negotiations to discuss. A Brown Act expert was quoted in the article:


"The statute is very specific. It only applies to the terms and conditions of a specific transaction," said Peter Scheer, executive director of the California First Amendment Coalition. "What they are talking about is conceptual planning and strategy.

"If they were discussing instead the specific price to acquire the property, so that it could then perhaps turn around and sell that property to another private party, then they could do that in closed session. But they can't have exploratory discussions about possible approaches or strategies."


The Claremont 400 has never had much respect for the Brown Act, and would generally prefer less or no interaction with the general public--it just gets too messy and inefficient. And, the public are amateurs at this local government game, unlike the 400. Besides, it's not as if Claremont is part of California or part of the United States. It's not as if things like the Brown Act apply to us.

The 400 is a nation unto itself. Those who were around in 2001 will recall Measure A, the anti-conflict of interest law sponsored by a group called the Oaks Project. Claremont voters passed Measure A by a margin of 55% to 45%.

Yet, the Claremont City Council and City Attorney Sonia Carvalho, acting as the U.S. Supreme Court, said the measure was unconstitutional and refused to implement it. The measure, versions of which also passed in the cities of Pasadena, San Francisco and Santa Monica, was subsequently upheld in court, and all the hysteria raised by the Claremont 400 dissipated.

Incidentally, the 400 have had other run-ins with the California First Amendment Coalition (CFAC). See the CFAC's press release on Claremont's 2000 Black Hole Award.

Councilmembers Sam Pedroza and Peter Yao were okay with the closed session and saw no violation in their views. City Attorney Carvahlo, of course, will come up with a legal rationale to backup whatever the council majority wants, even if she is wrong, as she was regarding Measure A. Carvahlo seems to see herself serving the council majority (the Claremont 400) rather than the people of Claremont.

The article also quoted former Claremont City Councilmember Jackie McHenry:


Former Councilwoman Jackie McHenry, said that during her time on the council, members often held closed sessions on topics she felt should have been discussed openly.

"If the people heard what went on in closed session they'd be amazed," McHenry said. "I wish we did not have closed session - closed session is supposed to be for the protection of the public."

McHenry said that during closed sessions, council members would often discuss off-topic things, such as their opinions of specific journalists, and would make off-the-cuff remarks about members of the public.

But, the 400 are okay with that, after all membership should have it's privileges, laws or no laws. The question is, is this just a philosophy or a pathology? Read up on Solipsism Syndrome for more insight into the 400.

Crime Watch

The Daily Bulletin reported yesterday that Claremont City Hall has been the victim of an ongoing crime spree. This matter came up at the City Council meeting last Tuesday night.

The note by Will Bigham stated that the City Council approved spending $6,000 to install a "waist-high" security door in the lobby of city hall to prevent the public from wandering back into the staff work areas. Bigham's article said:


Approval was granted for a waist-high security door that will separate the City Hall lobby from staff workspaces. The installation will cost about $6,000. The door was requested by staff in response to several instances of criminal activity in office areas of City Hall.

Hmmmm.... Maybe they were referring to a prior city administration.

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The article also reported that council also put off consideration of the city's proposed marijuana dispensary ordinance. They will take up the matter at their July 24th meeting, which will be the last until September due to the council's August vacation time.

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The Claremont Police Department will be conducting a sobriety checkpoint from 4:00 p.m. Friday to 2:00 p.m. Saturday, according to the Bulletin.

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And, the Bulletin had an article today on the theft of a Jeep Cherokee from the local chapter of the American Red Cross. The Jeep was stolen some time Tuesday evening or early Wednesday morning.

If you have any information on the theft, contact the Claremont Police Department at (909) 399-5411 or call the WeTip folks at (800) 78-Crime.

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And, the Claremont Courier Wednesday reported on the capture of a chandelier thief in downtown Claremont. Seems the Three French Hens store on Yale experienced the theft of a $1,500 chandelier. Over the next couple weeks, store owner Brenda Monahan lost a couple more decoy chandeliers and managed to capture an image of the thief on one of her security monitors.

Claremont police laid in wait and apprehended a Eugene Gosa as he turned up once more around noon on Friday, July 6th.