Claremont Insider: Send in the Clowns - UPDATED

Monday, February 18, 2008

Send in the Clowns - UPDATED

"This really is not a circus."

- Claremont Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Taylor, speaking at last week's City Council meeting during a discussion on the Base Line Rd. affordable housing project.

WRONG. Queen Ellen had it exactly backwards. This and every contentious issue that's come before the Claremont City Council since at least 1988 is a full-on three-ring circus.

Call it Cirque du Claremonsters.

We've called this thing a train wreck before. We just didn't know it was a circus train.

Saturday's Claremont Courier had an article by reporter Tony Krickl about last Tuesday's City Council meeting. As the article noted, the Claremonsters are not content to let the matter die and move on. [UPDATE: The Courier article is online now.]

Led by Ellen Taylor, Claremont League of Women Voters president and Claremont Police Commissioner Barbara Musselman (aka, Miss Personality), and Claremont Human Services Commissioner Andy Winnick, the increasingly small faction of Claremont 400 members backing the Base Line Rd. project were arguing that the city should question the legality of the L.A. County decision to not allow county funding of affordable housing projects within 500 feet of a major highway - a move that effectively killed the Base Line Rd. site as a viable affordable housing location.

During the meeting, Queen Ellen ordered her loyal retainer, city attorney Sonia Carvalho, to see if the L.A. County Community Development Commission (CDC) violated California's Brown Act sunshine law in making that decision. Taylor and company also hinted a dark conspiracy of county representatives who wanted to thwart the Claremonsters' affordable housing plans.

Such is the Claremont 400's outsized self-image of their town that they imagine that a county of over 10 million people would choose to scheme and skulk around in backrooms in order to single out one very small town of 35,000 people on the county's far eastern fringe.

The same group headed by Taylor has made similar arguments regarding the USC School of Medicine study that was published in the Lancet medical journal last year. That study formed the basis of the county funding policy change. Using Taylor's twisted reasoning, the USC researchers, using their evil prescience, knew 11 years ago that they would have to conduct their study in order to put a halt to the Base Line Rd. project.

Taylor, Musselman, and Winnick would have us believe that the researchers then falsely obtained grant money and 11,000 test subjects in order to justify their spurious findings, which they then handed over to the L.A. County CDC to cut off the funding for the Base Line project.

All of this kooky thinking really explains many of the Claremonsters' past actions. They actually believe that Claremont is the center of the universe. No wonder Claremont Heritage's map of the town (pictured at left) seems to lack a proper sense of scale.

We've preached the need for humility before, and the affordable housing issue certainly illustrates how the absence of that quality causes us no end of trouble.

So, now, instead of focusing on finding a viable alternative for the project they say is vital to Claremont, Queen Ellen and her court want to spend staff time and resources proving their odd, conspiratorial theories, mostly because they cannot admit they were wrong.

Citizen Michael John Keenan had the best commentary on this red herring. Keenan and remarked on the Brown Act question. He brought up the City Council's closed session decision last year to spend $1 million from the city's General Fund reserve to make up for the $1 million state of California grant that was denied Claremont for the purchase of Johnson's Pasture.

Keenan was basically saying, "Claremonsters who live in glass houses...." You go, Michael!

Look for more silly council behavior in April, when Queen Ellen succeeds current Mayor Peter Yao.

* * *

There were more than a few notable absences at last Tuesday's meeting. Claremont 400 candidate-to-be, Planning Commissioner Bob Tener, has apparently gotten off the Base Line project train. No dummy he, Tener knows a dog when he sees one, and he no doubt doesn't want to be too closely associated with a loser. Wouldn't want to imperil your run at a council seat, would you, Bob?

The League of Women Voters point person on the Base Line project, Karen Vance, was also not at the meeting.

* * *

Saturday's Courier also carried a "My Side of the Line" op-ed piece by Courier editor Rebecca JamesCourie, who didn't mince words on the Base Line Rd. issue:

Let’s take the blinders off and direct staff to look for other viable locations. The old COURIER site certainly has our vote. Although we were loath to give it up, we consider the location to be ideal for affordable housing. Youngsters could walk to school, parents could walk to markets and the need for transportation would be minimal. Not to mention they would be right by the Metrolink to take them to other locations.

As far as the Baseline Road site is concerned, write the check! Please write the check, give it to the redevelopment agency and get on with it! Let the police department have their much-needed and larger facility. We have truly given this project too much of our time. It has become a political volleyball that has been tossed around for so long that it has become ridiculous. The idea of affordable housing is certainly relevant. Let’s make it workable.

Hear, hear! We would also add that if the city does go forward with a citizen's committee to look at alternatives to the Base Line Rd. project, they must take care to select a committee that includes people who were opposed to the Base Line Rd. project.

The Claremonsters have falsely claimed that the project opponents were NIMBYs (shorthand for Not In My Backyard). The 400 loves to pin the NIMBY label on anyone who questions one of their project. Now that the 400 have lost, though, they should forfeit the right to have exclusive control over the choice of an alternative. They screwed up the last one, what would lead us to believe they can be trusted to do any differently this time around?

Moreover, the equation the Claremonsters posit, opposition to the Base Line site = opposition to ANY affordable housing, is a lie. A number of Base Line opponents have expressed a desire to participate in the alternatives committee, and they should be welcomed into the process.

Let's see the 400 put their money where their mouths are. If the "process" is really fair and open, anyone who wants should be allowed to participate. Maybe then we can forestall the faulty decision-making that has plagued us for far too long.