Claremont Insider: November 2007

Friday, November 30, 2007

Traffic (and Other) Woes

A TIGHT SPOT

Parking in downtown Claremont is really tight, as anyone who has tried to find a parking spot at lunchtime can attest to. The addition of the new 477-slot parking structure in the Village Expansion hasn't helped much at all, and you can waste a good 10 minutes on a bad day trying to find a place to park.

The Daily Bulletin ran an article yesterday about the problem of "shuffling." That's where employees of downtown Claremont businesses take up the prime, two- and three-hour parking spots and then move their cars around during the day to keep from getting ticketed.

According to the article, city of Claremont officials say there are about 650 parking spots in the Claremont Village, but over half of them are taken up by vehicles belonging to some of the 450 employees working in Village shops.

Claremont's Traffic and Transportation Commission wrestled with this problem at their meeting last night. Some of the possible solutions included installing meters and instituting a law prohibiting parking within 500 feet of a prior spot.


SELECTIVE ENFORCEMENT

The Claremont Courier also an article in its November 24th edition on the same subject. The article mentioned one resident's annoyance with the city's habit of waiving rules and suggested that the lack of enforcement exacerbates parking and traffic problems.

For instance, the article cited the city's approval of a planned 9,900 square-foot retail building going in at the northwest corner of Mountain Ave. and Foothill Blvd. That building required 40 parking spaces, but was allowed to go in with only 12 spaces. The overflow parking will be shared with existing businesses.

You may also recall that the city requires new businesses or businesses that are expanding, to provide a certain amount of parking spaces based on a set formula the city has developed. However, Claremont also provides a loophole called an in-lieu fee which allows business to avoid the parking requirement by paying $9,000 for each required parking space.

In October, the city proposed raising the in-lieu fees to $20,000, but we found some defects in the city staff analysis, and the Claremont Chamber of Commerce, which hadn't been consulted on the matter, was apparently upset enough to get the item pulled from the City Council agenda.


IGNORING THE MASSES

Claremont's downtown traffic woes seemed to echo the problems over at Claremont High School and at El Roble Intermediate School, where the traffic at peak times - mornings, primarily - can be quite a headache for drivers and residents trying to navigate the nearby streets while avoiding stressed-out, rushed parents as well as kids walking to school.

Claremont City Councilmember Linda Elderkin was quoted on the subject in a November 7th Courier article:

“I think a lot of the problem that we run into—from the city’s point of view—is very discourteous parents who are in a
tremendous rush,” Ms. Elderkin said. “I think that parent education would be beneficial, which could be done by PFA. Or if not them, then the city should take it on because it’s a big part of the problem."

This seems an odd bit of thinking on Elderkin's part, but it does really epitomize her thinking, or non-thinking as the case may be. Elderkin, always one to intellectualize anything and then talk it to death just to show you she knows more about it then you, doesn't have a clue about how people behave in the real world.

True, parents picking up kids can be discourteous, but no amount of Linda's "parent education" will change that. You can't legislate behavior. People get rushed, they've got to drop off the kids, get to work, their cell phones start ringing - you've been there. Perhaps its not so much discourteousness as distraction.

Of course, none of that matters in the Elderkin schema. The fatal flaw in Elderkin's view of things is that she, like the rest of her Claremont 400 friends, take their fantasies of how people behave in an ideal world and project them onto city problems and planned projects. Then, when reality hits and things don't develop the way Elderkin, et. al., thought they should, they lash out at the public. Oh, you stupid people, they say, why can't you be more like us?.

Remember the 2006 Parks and Pasture Assessment District? The 400 pushed that as a way of sneaking a tax in under the guise of paying for open space. They were warned by many people that the assessment would fail, but they chose to ignore that advice, and the results of the city's own polling. In the end, the measure lost 44% to 56%.

Afterwards, then-Councilmember Sandy Baldonado lashed out at the voters, pretty much saying that they didn't deserve her (maybe the the most accurate take Baldonado ever had about the voting public).

Look in the future to see more of these silly Elderkinian interpretations of why things got so messed on this or that issue that we had mapped out in such meticulous, perfect detail.

One thing we do know from years of past experience: In their thinking and their actions, Elderkin and the rest will go to their graves inflexible and incapable of change.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Affordable Housing eMailbag

A reader notes that the Claremont 400 seems to have dueling talking points on the Base Line Rd. affordable housing project. On the one hand, they say the housing is for the poor. On the other, they argue that the project will allow much-needed middle-class workers like public safety workers or teachers to live there.

Our reader writes:

The Claremont 400 need to get their Karlrovian talking points in line. In today's Courier (Wednesday, November 28, 2007) Bob Gerecke writes in his letter the wonderfulness of having housing where "teachers, firemen and police" can be bear in case of disaster. So therefore the affordable and low cost housing is a boon. But meanwhile Mayor Pro Tem Taylor says the housing is for "poor people". Now my question is are teachers, firemen and police "poor people"? To be successful in the use of karlrovian speaking points they need a consistency in hammering home the relevant points of their argument. And bring a retired teacher I never new I was poor people, especially when at 31 I was able to purchase a home in Claremont for my family. (Nice home mind you in northern
Claremont).

And further in the debate, are these educated teachers, firemen, and police going to wave their rights and the rights of their children or even desire to move into a facility where an independent study and a governmental agency have both pointed out the health risks associated with the site.

Wow, the Claremont 400 talking points are confused and misguided. I would suggest they take on new ones that are more realistic if their plan for Claremont dominancy is to succeed.

Which is it? Poor? Middle-class? And what exactly makes the Claremont 400 think that the housing will be limited to any one class of workers? As usual, the claim is based on no evidence whatsoever. It's simply an emotional claim made to try to sway public opinion with no supporting facts to back it up.

The reader also cited a letter in the Claremont Courier by Claremont Democractic Club President Bob Gerecke, whom we last heard from when he inserted himself into last March's City Council election. Gerecke's wife, Katie Gerecke is a former Claremont League of Women Voters president, and the League, as much as any Claremont 400 organ, is pushing the Base Line Rd. project.

* * *

Another thing you'll see in this argument is the Claremont 400's refusal to discuss the fact that the project's draft environmental impact report (DEIR), which the city commissioned at a cost of $160,000, noted that there are serious problems with air quality on the site.

The DEIR specifically mentioned a 10-year USC Keck School of Medicine study released in January, 2007, that found that children who grow up within 500 feet of a major highway have a greatly increased risk of impaired lung development. The Base Line Project will be entirely within the 500-foot limit.

The 400 try to confuse the issue by saying, as Councilmember Ellen Taylor did a few days ago, that "we all live near freeways in Southern California." True, but we don't all live within 500 feet of freeways. Here, Taylor, is intentionally trying to manipulate public perception and ignores engaging on the facts.

Taylor and company try to muddy the waters further by arguing that Claremont has allowed other housing developments to be built along the 210 Freeway. This ignores the fact that the USC study wasn't released until early this year, so the projects Taylor refers to were built without this knowledge. In effect, Taylor is arguing that we should pretend that the USC study was never done and that we should proceed in ignorance of that information, as we did before.

Taylor and friends also try to ignore the fact that the South Coast Air Quality Management District has weighed in with a letter saying the projecd should not be built on the Base Line site. They want to pretend that if they don't talk about these things, they don't exist.

Do facts, logical argument, and critical thinking mean nothing to Taylor and the Claremont 400?

We would all agree that air quality is certainly central to the affordable housing discussion. It's a shame that people like Gerecke and Taylor have to degrade it further with the smoke they're blowing.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Change of Closed Session Start Time Explained

WARNING: NECESSARY BUT STILL-GRATUITOUS SEX IS CONTAINED IN THIS POST. YOU HAVE BEEN GIVEN NOTICE!

A reader gives us an explanation of why Mayor Peter Yao has delayed the start of the closed session council meeting where the performance evaluations of the City Attorney and City Manager will be discussed. (See our post below for comment on this issue)

Apparently the Council meeting is a direct conflict with a program by the Women's Union at Pomona College, upstairs, above Walker Lounge, that will take place on Thursday, November 29 at 5:30 p.m. The title of the program is "G-SPOT 101". (There is an explicit graphic in the link here, more information than you need, and a further description of the program.)

Guess Mayor Yao thought he'd swing by the Women's Union meeting, pick up a few pointers, and then go on to the performance review meeting only a half-hour late at six.

Is there anything--apart from illegal immigration--that those college students won't talk about?

City Attorney Performance Evaluation Thursday

As we noted here, the Claremont City Council will do a performance review of City Attorney Sonia Carvalho in a closed session meeting this Thursday, November 29, at 5:30 p.m. There will be a short public session promptly at 5:30 where public comment may be given before the council recesses into closed session. Since it is a special meeting, comment is limited to the subject of the meeting, City Attorney performance. (the City Manager performance evaluation is on the same agenda, and may also be addressed.)

The ever-precise Mayor Yao announced last night at council that the time for the closed session meeting on Thursday will be six p.m. We reviewed the tape to be sure, and that's what he said. We don't know if this is a change or not. Be ready, if you get there at 5:30, to wait until six due to "Brown Act notice confusion".

If we were to be in attendance, we would ask Council to consider the intemperate and inflammatory letter the City Attorney wrote to Google in response to our very restrained and completely legal posting of public employee compensation information. We might also ask why on earth the City Attorney did not advise the City that the language in the Johnson's Pasture deed might--just possibly--jeopardize the $1,000,000 State grant. Brilliant legal work

And of course, Sonia Carvalho was in the big leather chair all during the time when the City was fiddling and not executing its vegetation management plan in the Wilderness Park causing Palmer Canyon to burn. The bill for that: $17.5 millon, the largest settlement ever paid by the City's insurer. Also, brill. leg. wrk.

We are feeling a Disturbance in the Force in the City Attorney's office. It may not reach all the way to Carvalho--yet--but we are getting the vibes that people under her at BBK are heading for the exits.

It's always good to have your art to fall back on. Fortunately, Sonia Carvalho can keep putting groceries on the table by returning to her roots as a singer in a Kansas City bluegrass band, shown in this old photo from her photo album:

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Alvarez Update

Xavier Alvarez, is back in the news this morning.

According to the Daily Bulletin, Alvarez, Pomona's representative to the Three Valley's Municipal Water District, yesterday pleaded not guilty to a federal misdemeanor charge that Alvarez falsely claimed to be a Medal of Honor recipient.

Alvarez will be represented at trial by a public defender, and his trial is scheduled for January 22nd.

The Bulletin also has an audio clip of Alvarez making the infamous medal claim at a July Walnut Valley Water District meeting. You be the judge.

Alvarez, who won his Three Valleys seat with the help of Pomona Mayor Norma Torres' endorsement, may also face charges that he misappropriated public funds when he obtained spousal health benefits for his ex-wife. That matter has been referred by Three Valleys to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Public Integrity Division.

We hope the LADA's office will pursue felony charges against him for the misappropriation of funds. The fact that Alvarez has refused to resign his position despite the considerable evidence against him in the federal and local matters, shows a real disregard for the public he was elected to serve.

Alvarez is clearly not the sharpest pencil in the box, and a few months of jail time might do him some good.

City Wi-Fi Idea Kaput

The city of Claremont won't be getting into the Wi-Fi business any time soon, the Daily Bulletin reports.

Claremont had looked into providing city-wide wireless access, but has opted out of the Internet service provider biz after discovering that the costs would have been prohibitively high.

Several businesses in the Old Claremont Village offer wireless access, as does the L.A. County Library. In addition there is a wireless hotspot around City Hall.

The Bulletin reported that the city may still look into setting up wireless hotspots in high traffic areas, such as the new Village Expansion area and the Old School House area where the Trader Joe's is going in at Foothill and Indian Hill.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Something Foul in the Air

AGAINST ALL REASON



The City of Claremont and the Claremont 400 have been pushing hard to try to get the Base Line Rd. affordable housing project pushed through. It's really become an uphill fight against public sentiment on the other hand, and reason and scientific evidence on the other.

But, as anyone who has watched the 400 in action before could tell you, hammering square pegs into round holes is a Claremont 400 specialty.

The project has faced steady opposition from a group called Citizens for the American Dream, who have favored a lower density, owner-occupied project. Since the city's draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) came out, there's been greater pressure on the city to move the project to an alternate site.

Because the entire housing project would lie within 500 feet of the 210 Freeway, the DEIR notes that there would be unavoidable adverse health impacts, primarily on children. The DEIR cites a January, 2007, report by the USC Keck School of Medicine whose 10-year study showed that living within 500 feet of a major highway can have very significant consequences for lung development in children.


AQMD COMES OUT AGAINST PROJECT

Today, Will Bigham has an article in the Daily Bulletin reporting that the South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) has respond to the Base Line Project DEIR in a letter on November 16th. The AQMD formally opposes the project because of the health risks to children.

Of course, that hasn't stopped Claremont City Councilmember Ellen Taylor, the 400's go-to person on this project, from continuing to push for it along with Mayor Peter Yao. Ms. Taylor's arguments strike us as nothing more than willful ignorance:

"We all live near freeways in Southern California," Taylor said. "Our role,and the AQMD's role, should be to see that the air quality should improve, as it has over the last 30 years that I've lived here. I think there are larger policy decisions that we have to consider.

"We have already approved two housing complexes along that same freeway, and nobody came forward to say there was a problem. That would only lead me to suspect that the only reason they think it's a problem now is that we're talking about putting poor people up there."

Taylor really believes that you and we are stupid enough to forget that when those other two housing complexes she alludes to were built the USC study had not been published. She really thinks that that study is meaningless, that it still doesn't exist. (Right, Ellen, that's why they wasted 10 years on it.)

Taylor seems to be saying that new evidence will have no effect on her decision, that her mind was made up a long time before the DEIR came out. Question: Tell us again, Why did we spend $160,000 on the report?

Taylor is also playing up the blame game by making this into a class war: Oh, those people don't want this project because it means putting poor people in their neighborhood - this is a NIMBY issue.

Readers, this is nothing more than a crock of hooey, and Taylor knows it. She's just trying the ol' misdirection again, pitting neighborhood against neighborhood and hoping people ignore the AQMD, which doesn't give a tinker's damn about where the site goes as long as it's not within 500 feet of a freeway.


PARSING ELLEN

In this issue, Taylor exposes herself and the 400 for what they are: hateful, ignorant, willing to manipulate, willing to do anything to shove another of their poorly conceived projects down your throat because they are incapable of processing any information that contradicts their stupid preconceptions.

Watch in coming months as Taylor and company make use of logical fallacies to get their project finished. Right now, she's employing an argument from personal incredulity:

Argument from personal incredulity (from Wikipedia)


Two common versions of the argument from personal incredulity are:

- "I can't believe this is possible, so it can't be true." (The person is asserting that a proposition must be wrong because he or she is (or claims to be) unable or unwilling to fully consider that it might be true, or is unwilling to believe evidence which does not support her or his preferred view.)


- "That's not what people say about this; people instead agree with what I am saying." (Here the person is asserting that a proposition must be inaccurate because the opinion of "people in general" is claimed to agree with the speaker's opinion, without offering specific evidence in support of the alternative view.) This is also called
argumentum ad populum.


An argument from personal incredulity is the same as an argument from ignorance only if the person making the argument has solely their particular personal belief in the impossibility of the one scenario as "evidence" that the alternative scenario is true (i.e., the person lacks relevant evidence specifically for the alternative scenario).


Quite commonly, the argument from personal incredulity is used in combination with some evidence in an attempt to sway opinion towards a preferred conclusion. Here too, it is a logical fallacy to the degree that the personal incredulity is offered as further "evidence." In such an instance, the person making the argument has inserted a personal
bias in an attempt to strengthen the argument for acceptance of her or his preferred conclusion.

(Also see similar arguments: wisdom of repugnance and argument from emotion)

Watch and learn fellow Claremonters. The Claremont 400 and Ellen Taylor never let the facts get in the way of a decision they have already made.

Welcome Back

We here at the Insider hope all our fellow Claremonters enjoyed the Thanksgiving holiday and that those who had to travel didn't have too hard a time getting back.

According to the Auto Club of Southern California, more than 3 million Southern Californians travelled over the four-day weekend. 432,000 of those folks went by air. If you were one of those, you might empathize with this piece from the Onion News Network (ONN):


Americans Enjoying Thanksgiving Tradition Of Sitting Around At Airport

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Upcoming Closed Council Session

The Claremont City Council is holding a closed session meeting Thursday, November 29th, at 5:30pm at City Hall.

The two agenda items are the performance evaluations of Claremont City Manager Jeff Parker and City Attorney Sonia Carvalho. You can't participate in the discussion, though you might wonder, as the real employer of city staff, how do you get your input into these sorts of things.

The truth is, your opinion doesn't matter a whole lot. Just pay the bill and don't ask questions.

It being the holidays and all, we suspect the council will be very generous with their evaluations and the rewards they'll be handing out. Carvahlo and her firm, Best, Best & Krieger, are under contract to the city. Carvalho markets herself as an expert on the Ralph M. Brown Act, which in Claremont seems to mean she's an expert at figuring out ways to get as much city business as possible into closed session.

The council will report on the session after they have concluded the evaluations.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Mailbag

UNAFFORDABLE PROJECTS

Monday's post on Claremont's Base Line Rd. affordable housing project generated more than a few reader emails.

One reader wrote in to express concern that the project might face difficulties securing financing:

Another issue that might arise regarding the project on Baseline is financing. If I were a financing institution asked to loan money for the project and I knew of the environmental concerns, I would run, not walk away.
Of course, the financing woes would not be limited to private lenders. As with most of its large projects, the city is relying on public grant money to defray the costs. But those public grants are competitive, so Claremont's grant application for the Base Line Project must compete with other cities whose needs are equally great.

If a project generates controversy or if it has problems with it's environmental impact report (EIR), as the Base Line Project does, it's much less likely that a grant agency will award money to the grant applicant. Why should they give money to problem projects when there are plenty of non-problematic proposals floating around. That's why Claremont's Padua Sports Park was denied $3.2 million in state grants and why it remains underfunded.

Successful grant applications demonstrate complete community buy-in, something that is prevented by the hubris of the Claremont 400, whose arrogance precludes them from involving entire segments of the community. The 400 believe that only they have a right to decide how city projects should be shaped, and it has cost them plenty in much-needed grant money in the recent past.

Until the geniuses in the Claremont 400 learn to stop trying to manipulate events and allow all citizens to have a voice in projects that affect their neighborhoods, this same contentiousness will occur again and again. The trick they've not mastered is to allow anyone who expresses an interest to become an equal stakeholder.

Jamming unpopular and problematic projects down citizens' throats only gets you so far. At some point, you have to ask for outside funding, and you'll go begging if you haven't played it fairly and honestly, as Claremont has discovered, again and again.


MORE FEEDBACK

Another reader wrote in on the same subject:

Hi Insider,

Your article re: the possible lung damage to the children who'll live in the proposed affordable housing I think misses a far greater concern: the children of Claremont already living within 500 yards of the 210 and 10 freeways. If there is indeed lung damage from long-term exposure to the traffic fumes, I worry more about the families living within that corridor who are in long-term residence in homes, many bought long before the 210 freeway was built. Granted, it will not be beneficial for the children living in the affordable housing units, but the majority of these families will be (relatively) short-term renters and residents compared to the families who own homes worth several hundred thousand dollars, yet are subject to the same foul air you decry for the affordable housing residents...only their children may well live in this unhealthy environment for five, ten, 15 or 20 years. And if the air is unhealthy for children, I am sure it is also unhealthy for the elderly, some of whom bought homes 30 or 40 years ago that are now within 500 yards of the 210. As for suggestions, I don't have any.

People all over LA live with smog. Is it good? No. But is it reason to stop this development? There is housing (both apartments and single family homes) within 500 yards of every freeway in LA. I'm neither a supporter nor an attacker of the affordable housing units (I live well away from the area) but it seems to me that raising the spectre of air quality and lung damage to the children of residents as a main reason against the building is slightly disingenuous.

That aside, I do appreciate the various issues that the Insider covers which the Courier doesn't seem to anymore.

EDITOR'S NOTE: The 500 yards was a typo. The USC Medical School report cited a 500-foot distance. When we realized our error, we corrected this. The reader is correct that some (certainly not all or even most) children Claremont live within 500 feet of the 10 and 210 Freeways.

A couple points. The study, which took 10-years and hasn't really been disputed, noted that kids within that 500-ft area have a much higher risk of impaired lung development than kids in a wider, general area outside that margin. So we can't really say that all kids in Claremont face the same level of health risk as kids in the wider area.

And, consider the argument that since kids have lived within 500 feet of freeways in Claremont for a long time, we should continue to build those sorts of housing developments. Isn't that a bit like arguing that because people have been smoking cigarettes for years with only an occasional risk of cancer, we should encourage people to continue cigarette smoking?

Also, the existing homes within 500 feet of the freeways in town were built by private developers without the use of public funding. Doesn't a public entity have a greater moral duty than a private entity when new health information comes to light?

Remember, it's not like there aren't alternatives to the project. The site is still suitable for things like a police station, which Claremont needs (the employees who would work there would not be living in building and have lungs that are already developed). The city's EIR for the Base Line Project also mentioned two other smaller sites the city owns that could be used and which don't present the same problems as the current site.

Our argument in Monday's post was primarily about the possibility of future liability that the city could incur as result of ignoring their EIR. Remember, the document was commissioned by the city, and represents the work of a city contractor.

The EIR puts the city on legal notice of a problem. A waiver signed by a parent does not absolve the city of the responsibility it would bear for mitigation (which is not possible unless the city is going to enclose the project in glass). Nor can a parent sign away a child's right to seek compensation for damages from gross negligence. We can build it, but we cannot bar a child who grows up in the complex and who reaches the age of majority (18), from suing the city if the child discovers that he/she has chronic bronchitis or asthma or some other lung problem that could be attributed to being raised in close proximity to a freeway.

Again, the liability arises from the fact that the city knew beforehand that there was a risk of such problems but chose to ignore those risks despite the availability of alternatives to the project. And, if you think that 10 years is a long ways off and need not be a consideration, remember that the city's Vegetation Management Plan for the Claremont Wilderness Park was established in 1998, and nine years later the city paid $17.5 million to settle a suit that claimed that homes were lost in the Padua Fire because the city ignored its plan and its own expert recommendations for brush clearance.

Most of us want to see affordable housing built. The public interest is not in stopping the project but in having it built properly and in a way that does not cause problems, and the city, Mayor Peter Yao, and Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Taylor and some of their supports insist on ignoring these issues.

Happy Thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving Day wishes from all of us at the Insider to all of you out there in the real, analog world.

We hope the holiday finds all of you surrounded by family and friends, yes, even you Claremont 400 readers. Remember, we're all a community, from the highest of the town's elite to the lowliest blogger.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Get Well Soon

The Foothill Cities Blog first reported last Friday that Claremont City Manager Jeff Parker would be taking a medical leave soon for unknown reasons.

The Daily Bulletin confirmed that today:

City Manager Jeff Parker will be absent from City Hall for a few weeks over the holiday season while he recovers from a medical operation, Mayor Peter Yao said.

Assistant City Manager Tony Ramos will assume Parker's duties during the recovery period, Yao said.

"He's going to be facing an operation either late in November or the first part of December, and probably will be laid up for a couple of weeks," Yao said.
We wish Parker a speedy and uneventful recovery and hope he'll be back at work after the holidays with no ill-effects from his operation. If you want to pass on your own get-well wishes, give City Hall a call at (909) 399-5460 or email them at the citizen feedback line.

While we've certainly had our differences with Parker (Paystubgate, for instance), we also believe that both he and his assistant, Tony Ramos, are capable of doing good work and certainly represent an upgrade in competence over the previous administration.

We observed that in the numerous problem issues facing the city (affordable housing, the new police station, Padua Sports Park, the water company purchase), staff is not necessarily the root of the problem. Rather, it's our opinion that the current city administration has been handcuffed by the stubborn interference of the usual Claremont 400 suspects (Ellen Taylor, Helaine Goldwater, Diann Ring, Judy Wright, the League of Women Voters, Valerie Martinez, Paul Held, to name a few).

Left to their own devices, we suspect that Parker and Ramos would come up with better solutions to all of these issues. But the 400 knows what it knows and not much else, facts be damned. So, the range of possible solutions is significantly limited, and we are all the worse for it.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Hard Times?

CLAREMONT FORD CLOSING

The Daily Bulletin reports today that the Claremont Ford auto dealership will be closing at the end of the year.

Claremont Auto Center owner Roger Hogan plans on using the Ford dealership space for his own Claremont Toyota business. He indicated Claremont Toyota will expand into the space now occupied by Claremont Ford. Hogan was quoted in the article:

"We're very sorry that a fellow business operator is going to go away. That's concerning," Hogan said. "Knowing that, knowing we're going to get the property back, we're going to make the best of it."

Hogan said the Claremont Ford dealership is one of about five in Southern California that will be closed by the end of the year.

"The car market ... is having a very difficult time right now," Hogan said.

All of which should be troubling news for the City of Claremont, which thanks to former City Manager Glenn Southard, is very heavily dependent on sales tax revenue from the Auto Center.

According to the city's website, from 1986 through the end of June, 2004, Claremont invested over $2.6 million in the Auto Center and received over $16 million in revenue from car sales.

A downturn in car sales and a loss of a dealership could represent a big blow for the city coffers at a time when revenues from other sources may be headed down and during a period when the city is planning on a number of other large expenditures: $25 million for a police station, $10-12 million for Padua Sports Park, $100-150 million to buy the water company.

In recent years the city has recognized the danger of placing too many of its fiscal eggs in the Auto Center basket. The city's been consciously trying to diversify its revenue stream. Back in a July, 2005, City Council retreat, Councilmember Peter Yao indicated he wanted to "reduce potential liability in the event [the] auto center goes 'sour'...."

Click on Image to Enlarge


At that time, in 2005, the city had indicated that over 50-percent of it's sales tax revenue came from the Auto Center, and it's still by far the largest source of sales tax money for the city.

So, if auto sales really are headed down, that could represent fiscal storm clouds on Claremont's horizon.

Monday, November 19, 2007

What Price Affordable Housing?

PROJECT EIR RAISES QUESTIONS

As we first wrote back in October, Claremont's proposed Base Line Rd. affordable housing project hit a snag when the environmental impact report (EIR) for the project came about. The primary concern raised was the potential adverse effects of pollution from the 210 Freeway on the lung development of the children who would live in the units that would be built.

Tony Krickl had an article in the November 3rd edition of the Claremont Courier that mentioned the problems with the project, including a recent USC School of Medicine 10-year study that found that the vehicle pollution significantly impaired the development of lungs in children who lived within 500 feet of a highway.

The entire Base Line Project, parking lot and all, would be within that 500 foot distance.


COUNCIL UNWILLING TO ACCEPT EIR FINDINGS

Despite the problems evident with the project, it remains on track for development, pushed primarily by the League of Women Voters, City Councilmember Ellen Taylor and Mayor Peter Yao, and Claremont 400 power broker and former city commissioner Helaine Goldwater.

Mayor Yao's unwillingness to deal with the reality of the EIR's findings is particularly stubborn. The Krickl piece noted:

It is yet unclear where the city council stands on the project, with some council members declining to take positions. Only two council members thus far, Mayor Peter Yao and Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Taylor, have spoken in favor of the project, despite the health concerns cited in the EIR.

“As far as I’m concerned, we will do what we can to mitigate the pollution problem but now’s the time to move forward with this as planned,” Mayor Yao said.

“In terms of abandoning this project, that’s not an option,” he added.

One of the remedies the city is proposing for the project is the requirement that prospective tenants sign waivers that note that they have been informed of the problems with the site. This sounds something like the liability waivers parents sign for kids involved in sports or for school children going on field trips.

Our ambulance chasing readers, however, inform us that there are some potential problems with the city's and Yao's thinking that these proposed waivers would absolve the city of any future liability or protect it from lawsuits by children who grow up in the project and later find they have lung ailments.

According to our litigious readers, in California people who sign such waivers do not automatically forfeit all future liability claims.
There apparently are certain types of liabilities, such as those created by gross negligence, that cannot be waived. That's why a kid who breaks an ankle in the course of a AYSO game and whose parents have signed a waiver or a hold-harmless agreement cannot make a claim, but a kid who breaks an ankle on an improperly maintained field (one with holes or obtrusive sprinkler heads) can sue. In the first instance, there was a certain assumption of the risk of injury during the course of a game; in the second, the party responsible for maintaining the facility did not execute its duties fully.


FUTURE COSTS

The question would be what sort of responsibility does the city bear to future tenants and their children after having been put on notice by the EIR, and does ignoring those problems constitute a non-waiveable sort of negligence?

As pointed out by our more knowledgeable readers, parents cannot necessarily sign away a child's right to sue. So, an adult tenant living in the Base Line Rd. project might not be able to sue the city for lung damage suffered by their children, but they could sue on behalf of their children. Or, the children could make claims to the city when they become adults.

Mayor Yao, in making some of his assumptions, may just be setting up the city for future claims on its general liability policy. Of course, as
the 2003 Padua Fire showed, the city has no problems deferring dealing with liability issues. In the case of the fire, it was a $17.5 million goof. Oops! But isn't that what insurance is for?

Of course, Yao has more pressing problems than worrying about the long term good of the city. He's feeling the pressure Helaine Goldwater, Ellen Taylor, and their League of Women Voters friends are putting on him to get this project built with gross disregard to the impacts it will present.

Yao and Taylor, by pushing a problematic project without any willingness to compromise in the face of new information are simply demonstrating the old, inflexible Claremont 400 way of doing business. They're taking the easy way out in the short term, and possibly putting the the city and its insurer in position for a big fall down the road.

But, by that time, Yao, Taylor, and whomever they get for their third vote will be long gone, and some future council will have to deal with the mess they've created.

And you will get to pay the bill.

Ravelers Video

The Ravelers have a video up on YouTube for their recent 20th Anniversary concert at the Candlelight Pavilion. If you missed the show and are a Ravelers friend or fan, you can see some highlights. This is courtesy of the Ravelers listserve:


As we mentioned before, The Ravelers are taking the month of November off. However, we still want to keep you up-to-date with what went on at our 20th Anniversary Show at the Candlelight Pavilion.

Our pal, David Jeremiah, performed magic tricks at people's tables before the show and we want to thank him for providing that entertainment...we think a few of you may still be missing a $20 bill that he made disappear? You are hearing David on all of the commercials for the furniture store, "Living Spaces", and others as he gets his voice all over the place.

[EDITOR'S NOTE: There were several links here. However, all but one of the videos had been removed.]


You yelled "Hey" in the right spot...nice job!


Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Green Monster

click image to enlarge
It was first seen by Bill Rook who wrote a letter about it a few weeks ago in the Courier. He feared everything in Claremont would soon be green or plastic or both. Few believed him.

Then David Allen saw it and talked about it in the Bulletin. Someone reading a newspaper on a public bench saw it: "It doesn't look like a miniature golf course. It's at least one step ahead of that."

It was created by City Manager Jeff Parker. It's the

Astroturf Monster
of Harvard Avenue...


...And it will take over your city.

No water required, so it's more sustainable. Throw away your mower. You can use your household vacuum cleaner or a damp cloth. Astroturf: better living through chemistry.

Think of the possibilities. Think outside the planter. The trees on College Avenue can be replaced with fake plastic "trees" designed for structural stability. No more dropped branches.

And street trees: no more liability for cracked sidewalks or driveways and sewer damage. They will always be green.

All those pesky leaf-blowers will be a thing of the past. And there will be no need for the now-unenforced but still-on-the-books City gas leaf-blower ban.

A few possible downsides, however. Though it may be kinda sustainable, it's not too renewable. And it is Expen$ive. They've got a park full of the stuff in Fontana, and they've got rules rules rules. Dogs are so obviously prohibited--by implication--that the rules don't even address them.

Perfect for Claremont, though. All twee and precious and "one step ahead of a miniature golf course..."

* * *

On the subject of nature, we note the big Wilderness Park event today, Sunday, November 18, 2007 (no, it's not another trail ride by Supervisor Antonovich).
Come and help the City and the Claremont Wildlands Conservancy celebrate and commemorate the addition of Johnson's Pasture to the Wilderness Park, as well as the collaborative efforts of the Claremont community.

This event is cosponsored by the City of Claremont and the Claremont Wildlands Conservancy, and will include fun-filled activities for the whole family.

Date: Sunday, November 18, 2007
Time: 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Location: Wilderness Park entrance, at the top of Mills Avenue
Ceremony: Begins at 11:30 a.m.

*The date noted in the city letter (11/17/07) was in error [how could they have gotten it so wrong?].
Our mole in the Community Services Department gave us a preview of the plan for the Wilderness Park. It will be covered with Astroturf and renamed the Claremont Astroturf Park.


(we hate to lord our natural Claremont superiority over the po' folks at the Foothill Cities Blog, but Publius, Centinel, and TheRealZajac, ought to clean up their yards, their cities, and their website. A fine stretch of Turf indeed. Please.)

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Bond for New Police Station?

The Daily Bulletin yesterday reported that the cities of Claremont, La Verne, and Pomona were in preliminary discussions for sharing such things as jail facilities, communication systems, gun ranges, and other police resources.

We here at the Insider have pitched the idea of joint projects before. For smaller cities like Claremont or La Verne, they can reduce costs by spreading the costs of large-scale projects. Of course, if they're mismanaged they can also self-destruct (see Tri-City Mental Health).

Some sticking points come to mind. For example, how would the costs and resources be shared? Pomona has a 2006 estimated population of over 154,000, while Claremont has around 35,000 and La Verne about 33,000. Would construction and maintenance costs be weighted by the cities' respective population and crime rates?

The Bulletin article noted that both La Verne and Claremont may have some problems figuring out the financing of any joint project:

[La Verne] City Hall commissioned a poll that gauged public support for a bond measure at about 60 percent, short of the two-thirds vote needed for approval.

City officials haven't decided whether to place a bond measure on the ballot. It would go to a vote in 2009 at the earliest.

Claremont also seeks to build a new police station, though an appropriate site has not been found.

Money for the project would come from a bond or a similar measure because city reserves aren't large enough to fund construction of a new station.


Financing concerns aside, it's good to see the three cities working together instead of against each other. Public financing in the form of grants and bond money figures to be hard to get in the near term, given the effects of a tightening credit market and the impact on taxpayers' pocket books and on tax revenues.

Let's hope they keep trying to think outside the box.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Claremont: Town of Rumors and Gossip

There seems to be something vaguely inappropriate about elected officials getting involved in what our distinguished mayor has referred to as the "rumor mill". So when we heard a few days ago that School Board Member Elect Elizabeth Bingham had been asking around about the Editor of the Claremont Courier, Rebecca JamesCourie, we had to admit to a few pangs of discomfort. Now, however, we are hearing reliably--and from a surprising and therefore very credible source--that sitting City Council member Sam Pedroza (above) has actually phoned Ms. JamesCourie (below, right, in black and white) to get it, as it were, from the horse's mouth.

Our concern is that this smacks of official intimidation of the press by a City official. Of course, the day Pedroza made that phone call was the day our phone tap at City Hall had a dead battery (Joke. No need to call Homeland Security.) and we are not privy to the conversation, but no conversation we can imagine casts Pedroza in a good light. Either he is ham-handedly applying pressure for better or different coverage ("Here's what I know about you; I can use this; just watch your step."), which is despicable. Or he is engaging in juvenile playground clique behavior. And what does that say about a councilmember and his judgment? Can any among us imagine a serious intelligent person doing this?

So here it is; we are probably the last to know: Rebecca JamesCourie is related by marriage to unsuccessful city council candidate Opanyi Nasiali (right).

Well, as they say, you can pick your friends but you can't pick your relatives.

We are not inclined to visit Nasiali's sins on JamesCourie, nor are we inclined to visit JamesCourie's sins on Nasiali.

JamesCourie's position with the Courier didn't seem to help Nasiali in the last election: he came in fifth of five serious candidates. We don't blame Nasiali for some of the recent ups and downs of the Courier.

The question we have is this: Why are our elected officials involving themselves in this petty stuff? Doesn't Bingham (left) have her hands full trying to learn something--anything--about the school district? And shouldn't Pedroza be studying up on the effects of marijuana dispensaries in communities so that his next vote on the issue is informed not only by his heart but his head? We are afraid we see nothing to this episode other than the same old, tired MO of Claremont's ruling clique: government by whisper.

* * *

Speaking of petty, juvenile behavior.

Maybe Sam Pedroza could call up Hilary LaConte (recent top vote-getter in the school board race) to confirm that she just canceled her subscription to the Courier. It's all over town. Not only that--didja hear?--she wants a full refund. We guess the next time the Courier makes an endorsement in the school board race (it endorsed Bingham and Miller, and not LaConte) it should consider the economic impact of that endorsement on the paper's numbers.

We've thought for a long time that LaConte is innocent of any wisdom. She showed in the campaign that she is bereft of knowledge. Now it appears that she is jettisoning information as well.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Wetlands in Claremont


Will Bigham in the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reports that City Council supports the concept of the Claremont League of Women Voters (LWV) asking the San Gabriel Rivers and Mountains Conservancy for grant money to develop part of the Pomona Valley Protective Association land near Thompson Creek Dam. The land, near the corner of Mills Avenue and Pomello Drive, would be developed as wetlands.

Above, we show an aerial shot of the approximate area of the land. The parcel to be developed is approximately 120 acres within the 160-acre square outline.

The City staff report is shown below on the left. It comprises only the single page shown. The letter to the City Council is shown below on the right. You may click on the images to enlarge.




Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Claremont on the Web

In the past few days, we have run across web presences for two members of the Claremont community.

John Seery, a professor at Pomona College, was mentioned here two weeks ago as having weighed in on the 2005 Claremont school board election. If memory serves, he was also a signer of a 2003 letter from "Residents United for Claremont", supporting, if only by implication, the re-election of Karen Rosenthal and Al Leiga to City Council. This letter was the stalking horse for the 2005 Preserve Claremont campaign.

We see that he posts frequently on the Huffington Post. His posts lean rather decidedly to the left, and may not be everyone's cup of tea. But amid the barely-contained academic anger is the occasional entertaining gem. This post on Al Gore is one that almost everyone can appreciate and enjoy.

His turnoffs: Bill Kristol. Or see another post on Kristol here. Don't mention Bill Kristol to him or Professor Seery might go completely mental.

* * *

Guy Whitney, as we hear it a fairly recent arrival and refugee from Katrina, is offering his services around Claremont as a masseur, computer consultant, and purveyor of Wiccan goods. His alter-ego is the Witch Poet. Click on the links for:
Massage
Computers
Wiccan Goods
(Gotta love those "adult humor" witch goods; it gets pretty zany in the coven)
Poetry

We realize that these pursuits, as well, may not be everyone's cup of tea. Everything in this post is presented with the goal of better understanding the rich diversity of our community blah blah.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Comments on the Insider?

Every time we think we might open up the blog to unmoderated comments, we are reminded why that is a Very Bad Idea. Here is a comment verbatim et litteratum from a neighboring blog. It goes on much more, but this ought to convey the flavor:

"...Plus what’s up with the cop’s its not like they care about public safety. Why not work and check on the city then just hanging out at the club. Plus who would really make complaints about the club. It just doesn’t make sense everyone and there mama’s drink not neccissary it’s at that club..."
To be fair to our many correspondents, the e-mails we have received have been nearly uniformly intelligent and thoughtful, but there are already enough Loose Screws and Wingnuts around here doing the posting without leaving the honeypot out.



Better Late Than Never Department: Free Speech at Pomona College


The Pomona Students Union attempted to sponsor a debate last Thursday (November 8) between representatives of the Pro-and Anti-Immigration factions. A group of protesting students apparently shut down the event before listeners could engage the speakers with questions. We have been looking for a concerned letter to The Community from Pomona College president David Oxtoby, but must have missed it.

This fracas was covered by the Daily Bulletin (the link might go down soon), the College OTR blog (crude language alert: be warned), and KCAL 9 with a video.

By the way, we might have posted this earlier but we have been caught in an endless mind loop trying to parse this quote, which appeared in the Bulletin article:

"I think the debaters could have used this opportunity to express their ideas instead of using the platform as a soap box," said Kelly Natoli, a Pomona College [student]. "I don't think learning should be threatening."Maybe Kelly knows what that means; we don't.

CPD to the Rescue

A reader wrote to point us to a quote from City of Claremont Information Systems Manager Steve Senkle on the website of a company called Laserfiche. Laserfiche is the company that provides the city´s online archive service - you know, the one where the employee pay stubs were publicly posted a while back.

Turns out that Laserfiche asked Senkle, the one in charge of Claremont´s stellar IT department, to give them an endorsement. Here's what he wrote (see page 4):

“Our Laserfiche document management system was working so well for City Hall we decided to try it in the Police Department. It took half an hour to get Laserfiche working with the law enforcement CAD/RMS system.”

—Steve Senkle,Information Systems Manager, City of Claremont,
California


Odd, no mention of the city having to shut down their archive access or City Attorney Sonia Carvalho ending up with egg on her face trying to quash the posting of the information Senkle made available with the help of Laserfiche´s system.

Knowing Claremont´s record of placing competent people in key positions, you´d think that Senkle had his Ph.D in electrical engineering and a long history in the tech industry or some such equivalent level of education and expertise. Guess again. Senkle came to us courtesy of the Claremont Police Department.

All of which prompted our reader to comment:

The real question is was the guy ever qualified to get a $126k+salaried IT job being his only background appears to be working as apolice officer in the City of Claremont. I doubt he has any degree in the field, nepotism being his only qualification. Moreover, he is making more money that most people I know who work for tech leaders Yahoo! and Google in their Los Angeles offices.
All of which makes us wonder where the real crime is in town. At least it´s good to know we´ve got Barney Fife watching over our sensitive tech issues.

Claremont Bits and Pieces

As we write this over the weekend, there is no Weekly Update by City Manager Jeff Parker posted on the City website. Guess there are no new businesses to pimp. We suppose he could note, as Saturday's Courier did, that at least one new merchant has broken its lease in the Packing House and left due to lack of customers.

Seems as if the building owner and the Chamber of Commerce ought to get together in an emergency effort to deal with the issues. The City and Redevelopment Agency will have a role to play but don't have the competencies to lead the charge.

The merchants must have a realistic view of things. As someone pointed out talking when talking about restaurants, it's not enough to have a business license in Claremont. You have to put out good food consistently, and with good service. Everyone has to take a look at the fundamentals.

* * *

La Puerta Sports Park and Antenna Farm

A curious agenda item for tomorrow's council meeting, Tuesday, November 13: A group of neighbors are appealing a split planning commission decision to allow cell phone antennas in La Puerta park. We don't know all of the issues, but suspect there are plenty of reasons to hear the appeal. For one thing, the staff report is woefully inadequate: the "Financial Review" section deals only with the chump change of the appeal procedure, and not with the real money on the table from the cell phone operator. Buried deep in the report are allusions to money, and $2,000 per month is mentioned, but no real indication of where it goes.

We'd also like to see one of the appellants, Helaine Goldwater, orchestrate the appeal. It's always a pleasure seeing her work.

* * *

Praise God from whom all blessings flow

The Congregational Church scored in Claremont last week: Beth Bingham, Congregational minister in Pomona, elected to the School Board. Butch Henderson, retired Congressional minister from UCC in Claremont appointed Chair of the Committee on Youth and Families Policies and Procedures.

This seems to be in line with the Congregational doctrine of "advancement of His Kingdom in the world."

We've seen this before, when former-councilmember Lew Miller's campaign was run out of the Louise Roberts room at the Claremont Congregational Church, and when Butch Henderson chaired Peter Yao's campaign Q&A events in 2003.

* * *

Revisiting the Packing House, a reader writes,
"Low foot traffic and poor signage are among the concerns of several business owners in The Packing House who are struggling to stayafloat."

Big raises for the planning and development staff!


Saturday, November 10, 2007

More on Three Forks Chop House

We received a note from Drew at Three Forks Chop House relaying a mini-review from a satisfied customer. The customer's business is in Norco, so you know she is telling the truth when she says she knows good food.

This place was amazing! After reading the write up in "Westway" magazine, my "foodie friends" and I headed out to give this place a try. We were not disappointed. My son cooks at Craft, (3 Forks menu intrigued me, and is in line with the type of food served at Craft) and I know good food! After sampling a great deal on the menu, our favorites were the agreed the duck sausage was outstanding, and the wild boar was wonderful. We were also delighted to taste the Ahi appetizer brought out "on the house", but not currently offered on the menu. (BOO) The service was warm, friendly and impeccable, we were also visited by the Maitre D to ensure we were happy with our meal and service. We went there expecting "sticker shock" but were surprised when we got the bill and it was lower than expected. By the way, they pour a great vodka tonic! I am in fact headed out again to sample the Sunday brunch a week later. I plan on impressing my brother, coming in from SFO who thinks we live in a cultural wasteland, maybe So Cal may move up a notch on the ol' totem pole! Please give this place a try, and support them, we need more great places to dine south of LA!! By the way the Three Forks Chop House website is live, threeforkschops.com, though not ready for prime time. It is still under construction from the look of "Insert Tag Line Here" message on the home page and the numerous typos.

(Jane would've written this post, but she is in intensive care after tucking into the 32 oz. Porterhouse at Three Forks. (See earlier post here) While many can relish, nay, thrive on that much red meat, Jane's vegan constitution was not up to the challenge. (Oh. That steak is for two. Who knew?) Jane is on life support but expected to recover nicely by tomorrow. Next time we will send root2 who can eat anything.)

Friday, November 9, 2007

Machine Candidates

1. Elected November 6, 2007, Claremont Unified School District Governing Board

hard-edged


2. Elected, November 6, 2007, Claremont Unified School District Governing Board
flat


3. Elected, November 7, 2006, Three Valleys Municipal Water District Governing Board
cracked

CPD Weekend Checkpoint

The Daily Bulletin reports that Claremont Police Department will be running a DUI checkpoint at an undisclosed location in the city this weekend from 6pm Friday to 2am Saturday.

Be forewarned!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Three Forks Chop House Reviewed

S. Irene Virbila reviewed Three Forks Chop House in Wednesday's L.A. Times. It is one of the new restaurants in the Packing House in Village West.

Virbila had good things to say about the food and wine selections, but she didn't seem to focus much on price, which for Claremont seems a bit high, as some comments on the M-M-M-My Pomona blog touched on. (you really do have to bore down into the comments; the main post is on another restaurant.) We are especially interesting in tying in to that 32-ounce Porterhouse, even if it is a little gamy. Look for the frail white-haired lady on the floor in red-meat shock.

The restaurant is getting some buzz, even if some of it is a little idiosyncratic. For example, the Chowhound website weighed in with this:

Read today's review in LAT...sounds pretty good, however don't think I'll be driving 50 miles to spend $40 on an entree and sit next to a dude in a TANK TOP!!! [referring to a photo accompanying the print version of the Virbila review.]
And, the OC Register correspondent opined:
They lost me early on, when I asked to have the lettuce wedge salad served without pancetta; the waitress responded that the chef won't prepare ANYTHING differently from the description on the menu.So much for the idea that the customer is always right.

Virbila seems to have that visitor mentality without seeing what changes the Village expansion represents and without considering if Three Forks may have priced itself out of the local market.

Still, for the definitive review, see Chef Jeff.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

CUSD Election Results

The results from yesterday's Claremont Unified School District election are in. As we indicated,turnout was fairly low, and the two winning candidates, Hilary LaConte and Elizabeth Bingham finished one and two, respectively. LaConte and Bingham were separated by only 230 votes, and Barbara Miller was a distant third by 959 votes.

Here are the final figures from the L.A. County Registrar of Voters:

  1. Hilary LaConte - 2,549 votes, 40.93%
  2. Elizabeth Bingham - 2,319 votes, 37.24%
  3. Barbara Miller - 1,360 votes, 21.84%
The final numbers will change a bit after the provisional ballots are counted. The turnout figures aren't on the county website, but the Daily Bulletin has an election blog with the turnout figures for Claremont, Diamond Bar, and Pomona posted by Will Bigham.

Claremont's turnout stood at 15.8% with 3,695 ballots cast out of a total of 23,409 registered voters, according to Bigham's post.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Election Update

Well, our prediction seems to holding up, at least through the absentee ballot count. As of 8:05 PM, the L.A. County Registrar of Voters website reports:

1. Hilary LaConte - 1,084 votes, 40.4%
2. Elizabeth Bingham - 927 votes, 34.55%
3. Barbara Miller -672 votes, 25.05%

Election Night

QUIZ ANSWERS

  • Candidate A =
    Elizabeth Bingham
  • Candidate B =
    Barbara Miller
  • Candidate C =
    Hilary LaConte

OBSERVATIONS

Now that the polls are closed and the counting has begun for the 2007 Claremont Unified School District Board of Education election, we wanted to make a few notes.

As you may recall, the election was originally supposed to be a coronation. The current and outgoing CUSD board members had picked two people, Hilary LaConte and Elizabeth Bingham, to replace the two retiring members, Joan Presecan and Jack Mills.

Until the third candidate, Barbara Miller, filed her papers with the L.A. County Registrar of Voters office just before the August deadline, no election was in the offing. Once it became clear that the two anointed ones would have to actually run for office, one had the impression that the Claremont 400 really resented having to earn their spots.

In any event, there seemed to be good deal of overlap between the LaConte and Bingham campaigns, which we pointed out last week. That overlap consisted of people who had been very active in the Preserve Claremont smear campaign from the 2005 Claremont City Council election - a fact that none of the LaConte or Bingham supporters want to acknowledge.

During the various campaign forums, you could see the members of the LaConte and Bingham campaigns huddling together afterwards, plotting strategy. This collusion between the two seemed to confirm suspicions that they really had only one common campaign, one designed to have LaConte, who was the stronger candidate (among the 400), pull the lesser-known candidate, Bingham along.


PREDICTIONS

Barring some unforeseen, sudden jump in voter participation, we fully expect today's turnout to be less than 25%, which we believe favors the Claremont 400 candidates.

We expect the strongest turnout to be the Village precincts, and we expect that those will carry Hilary LaConte and Elizabeth Bingham to victory. This has nothing to do with the candidates' merits so much as it confirms the idea that the 400 control the Village and in particular the retirement communities where turnout is always the city's highest.

Because very few people really pay attention to or even care about the CUSD election, the 400 will be able to use word of mouth among their various cliques and social circles to generate more than enough votes for their candidates to win.

Assuming the election goes the way past CUSD elections have gone, we predict the order of finish to be LaConte first, Bingham second, and Miller 3rd by a good distance. You can follow the results here.

We also predict that once in office, Bingham will prove to be the more substantive of the two 400 candidates, though she will soon discover that she doesn't have quite independence or room to maneuver that she may now think she has.

Let's not forget Robert Redford's closing line from "The Candidate":

"Marvin...what do we do now?"