Claremont Insider: Budget and Other News

Monday, January 21, 2008

Budget and Other News

While the LA Times has its various crises to deal with, our local paper, the Claremont Courier chugs along nicely and had a couple interesting stories this past Saturday.

One story concerned the City Council-City Commissions budget workshop last Thursday. With the state facing a $14 billion shortfall and city sales tax revenues possibly declining in the coming year. As we commented previously, Claremont may have some belt tightening to do.

It was at least encouraging to read in Tony Krickl's Courier's article Saturday that City Manager Jeff Parker is at least taking the situation seriously and that the city is working on contingency plans:

“That’s my biggest worry,” Mr. Parker said. “If the economy gets real bad, people just stop buying and the sales tax goes down. That could be a problem with auto sales and the success of the Village Expansion.”

The housing market is also a big concern for Claremont. Several major housing developments are on hold until developers feel comfortable that demand will once again increase for the type of housing they are offering. Until the projects move forward again, income from property sales tax can not be relied upon in the current budget cycle.

Another factor was the loss of a $1 million state grant for the purchase of Johnson’s Pasture, which forced the city to tap into the general reserve fund. That money could have been used to fund other activities in the city, such as the construction of Padua Park.

“That’s where the impact came in,” Mr. Parker said. “Not getting the extra million probably impacted us in our ability to have a dialogue on other projects.”


“We are going to have to look at the overall picture, do some prioritizing and have some contingencies in case we do have some problems,” councilmember Corey Calaycay said.

With some potential big ticket projects on the horizon - a $25 million-plus police station, a $100 million-plus water company take over, a $12 million-plus sports park, and an affordable housing project that will not be able to qualify for county, state, or federal grants - the timing of the economic downturn and housing market decline could not be worse.

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Saturday's Courier also had an after-action report on the recent joint City and Chamber of Commerce print and cable TV advertising campaign, which has drawn mixed reviews from town merchants.

The article isn't online yet, but it featured quotes from Chamber of Commerce CEO Maureen Aldridge, adman Chas Seward, and a variety of business people. Here at the Insider we talked about the print ads, which were the things that bothered some local merchants and residents the most.

Courier editor Rebecca JamesCourie also had a "My Side of the Line" commentary on the ads, which she seemed to like overall. JamesCourie's opinion piece included these hopeful comments:

We need to take the blinders off and look at Claremont with new eyes – from the point of view that a visitors and convention bureau would have. Now with such fine amenities as the DoubleTree Hotel, Casa 425 and others, folks can make Claremont their destination for business trips. Folks can fly into the Ontario Airport, shuttle over to Claremont, take the Metrolink to Los Angeles (for their business meeting) and leave their spouse and kids to enjoy the Gardens, the museums, the Village and the Village Expansion. Then, have a nice evening having dinner, catching a show or going to the movies. If they have an extended stay, there are plenty of specialty markets that can fill their refrigerators with epicurean delights.

I encourage folks to step up to the plate and be a part of this campaign to collectively market Claremont as a destination location. We all play an integral role in making Claremont successful and your voice is important. As a cohesive unit, Claremont can continue to ride the waves of success brought on by Huell Howser, the San Francisco Chronicle and being No. 5 on the “Best Place to Live” list. Now is the time to act. Be a player.

The Huell Howser pieces and the Chronicle travel article on Claremont were part of a public relations campaign, as we discovered last week.