Claremont Insider: Taylor Bombs at Taylor Hall

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Taylor Bombs at Taylor Hall

The reviews are in, and Claremont Mayor Pro Tem Ellen Taylor was a bust in her audition for the mayor's job last night at Claremont's Taylor Hall.

Because current Mayor Peter Yao was not feeling well, Mayor Pro Tem Taylor ran last night's city council meeting in Yao's stead. The meeting's hot topic was the Base Line Rd. affordable housing project, which had appeared dead in the water after a change in Los Angeles County rules that barred the county from giving grant money to projects within 500 feet of a major highway.

The Base Line Rd. project is within that 500-foot limit and so is automatically disqualified from county funds - funds which the city had counted on to build the project. Now, the city is on the hook for $2.5 million or more if they want to go forward on Base Line Rd.

There were a number of speakers last night, though there seemed to be fewer than the last meeting last month when the council certified the project's environmental impact report (EIR).

It was particularly interesting to watch Taylor run the meeting, which she seemed to do with the efficiency and fairness of a banana republic dictator. For instance, Taylor continually enforced a 4-minute rule for people wanting to address the council on the issue. Claremont had relaxed that rule in recent years, opening the council meetings up to better and fuller public discussions of issues.

But it was clear last night that Taylor would seek to cut people off at the 4-minute mark, though she did allow last night's speakers to finish their comments after she interrupted them to make her point that their time was up and that she was through with them.

Queen Ellen doesn't seem to get that members of the public are equal to her, or if she does, she sure doesn't much like it.

Taylor also told the audience up front that their remarks were to be limited to discussion of the funding of the project. So, when opponents of the Base Line Rd. housing seemed to bring in other points, such as the problems raised by the EIR, Taylor repeated interrupted those speakers. In contrast, when people in support of the project, of which Taylor has been a champion, rambled or strayed, Taylor didn't interrupt those people because they were in favor of Taylor's position.

The meeting was streamed last night, so we should be able to get video up of some of Taylor's choicest moments, the worst of them being when she more than once told the audience that if they continued to clap or boo to express their feelings for a speaker's remarks, she would have the room cleared. Amazing.

As to the meeting itself, the council did not instruct the city staff to seek alternate financing means. Instead, they opted to create a task force to consider different sites. Let's hope the task force consists of a mix of people from throughout the community rather than being a reprise of the League of Women Voter's group that has given us this fiasco.

We'll try to have a more complete discussion of some of the nuances of last night's meeting as time permits. It was clear last night that a majority of the council - Councilmembers Corey Calaycay, Sam Pedroza, and Linda Elderkin - are for seeking alternatives, though Elderkin's comments focused more on the funding and her concern against using additional city money on the project.