Claremont Insider: July 2008

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Natural Disasters: The Lighter Side

A few final notes on Tuesday's Chino Hills earthquake.

Meg at M-M-M-My Pomona has a neighbor who was kind enough to share a part of his earthquake kit with her. The neighbor calls it a "Lincoln Park":

Lincoln Park
orange sherbet
Grand Marnier
a spritz of lemon juice
a few ice cubes.

Combine in the proportion that suits your level of bibulousness, whiz in the blender until frothy, and serve in an Old Fashioned glass. A toast to our fair city is mandatory, not optional.
* * *

Watching the some of the coverage on the local TV stations, we could not help but feel guilty at not having written sooner about all those cut backs at the LA Times, the Riverside Press-Enterprise, and the William Dean Singleton-owned LA News Group papers. One wonders how much the ongoing deaths of a thousand cuts in newsrooms affect the ability of print media to cover the local news well.

Gary Scott, who once worked for the Claremont Courier and who is now a producer at KCRW 89.9FM, has been covering print journalism's death-spiral at hands of dedicated citizen-tycoons such as Singleton with the Daily Bulletin, the San Bernardino Sun, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, or the Daily News, to name a few of his papers. Or Sam Zell at the LA Times and the Tribune Co., for that matter.

Then there's Ed Padgett's Los Angeles Times Pressmen's blog, which captures the pain of the industry's transition/transformation from within.

Professionalism seems increasingly out the window as journalists face the pressure to produce for upper management types who don't always have the background to understand what exactly it is they're managing.

Television news long ago gave up much of its ethical and professional pretensions. It's entertainment, after all, and disasters make for good pictures. For the discriminating news consumer, there's really not much you can do except chill out and toss back another Lincoln Park.

The scary thing is that the line between satire and reality has become awfully blurred:

Breaking News: Series Of Concentric Circles Emanating From Glowing Red Dot

Big George Unveiling Kicks Off Downtown Weekend Festivities

That anatomically correct mystery bronze by Claremont sculptor Barbara Beretich (right - the horse, not Beretich) has a name, as turns out. The horse, which has been stalking one of our readers, is known as Big George.

Big George's formal unveiling, according to yesterday's Claremont Courier, will be this Friday, August 1st, at 4pm in the little porkchop park at the southeast corner of Indian Hill Blvd. and Harrison Ave., across from Mallows Park.

In the same Courier, Tony Krickl reports that there's a whole menu of events scheduled for this coming Friday and Saturday, all part of the Claremont Village Expansion (née Village West) ribbon cutting ceremony:

The event kicks off on Friday, August 1 at 5:00 p.m. with a ribbon cutting ceremony at 5:30 p.m. in front of the Chamber of Commerce to be attended by city officials and project developers from the Tolkin Group.

“It’s just going to be a lot of fun and entertainment for all ages,” said Jonathon Tolkin, developer of the project. “I think we found a great mix of businesses to make the Claremont Village a really appealing place to be.”

Locals gather near the Laemmle Theater marquee on Indian Hill Boulevard. The official grand opening celebration for the Village Expansion project kicks off this Friday at 5:00 p.m., and runs through Saturday night.

The celebration will coincide with several other weekend activities taking place in the Village, including the Friday evening Art Walk, which includes free admission to the Museum of Art, and Friday Night Live, featuring live bands performing throughout the Village.

On Saturday, the Laemmle Theater will run a free showing of The Princess Bride at 10 a.m., followed by games, prizes, street performers, music and activities in the Village throughout the day and evening.

Many of the new businesses will also take part in the event. Wine Styles will host a “Wine Tasting Extravaganza” with over 25 wines to sample. Le Pain Quotidien will hold a drawing for a gift basket that includes a host of its gourmet foods. Many of the businesses will also offer discounts up to 15 percent.

Okay, so some of the businesses have been open a year or more already. Better late than never. There's a new website devoted to the Village Square, that area that includes the Hotel Casa 425, the Laemmle Theatre, Le Pain Quotidien, and the surrounding shops west of Indian Hill Blvd. and excluding the Claremont Packing House.

Here's a list of this weekend's events:

Ribbon Cutting, Dedication & Grand Opening Festivities
Friday, August 1st, 2008

- Claremont High School Theater Group Performing songs from their summer musical The Wizard of Oz
5:30pm - Ribbon Cutting and Dedication - Claremont City Council /Chamber of Commerce/Tolkin Group
5-7pm - Stilt Walker
6-8pm - Face Painter, Magician and Clown (Balloon Twister)
6-9 pm - Joel Ceballos Band, On Square (3 piece singer song writer)
- Project Open House, Promotions and Samplings
- Art Walk and Sidewalk Sale throughout Village

Saturday, August 2nd, 2008

10am - Free Children's Movie - The Princess Bride - at Laemmle Theatres
11am-9pm - Project Open House, Promotions and Samplings
- Sidewalk Sale throughout Village Square
2-5pm - Live Music - DAVID CHAPMAN
6-8pm - Face Painter, Magician and Clown (Balloon Twister)
6-6:45pm - Troupe Melange - Tribal Belly Dancing
7-8pm - The Moultrie Academy - Song and Dance Performance
8-9pm - Folklorico Dance Performance

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

The Day After

Claremont had a little shaking yesterday, but the city reports all is fine in the City of Trees and Ph.D's. Our neighbors to the south didn't fare quite as well:


We were glad to hear the news that Pomona City Hall and the Pomona Library were reporting no serious damage and both are schedule to resume their normal hours today, according to the city of Pomona's website.

Both Pomona City Hall and the Library were designed by the same person, Welton Becket, who was responsible for any number of Southern California icons: the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, the Mark Taper Forum, the LA Sports Arena, the Capitol Records building, the old Bullock's building (now Macy's) on South Lake Street in Pasadena, and many others.

All survived the Northridge and Sylmar quakes, so a little 5.4 shaker shouldn't do too much harm.

The Goddess of Pomona had some excellent coverage of the downtown Pomona scene yesterday, complete with exclusive photos. As the comment from Garrett Sawyer indicates, no word yet on how the Pomona Fox Theatre fared.

We thought it odd that with all the focus on Pomona City Hall on television and in the news we heard not a peep from Pomona Mayor Norma Torres, who in the midst of a campaign for the State Assembly's 61st District has been oddly silent since winning the district's Democratic primary.

We suspect that Torres' party handlers have instructed her to keep quiet to avoid any flubs that might lead to the sort of embarrassment that her endorsement of now-convicted water board member Xavier Alvarez caused. Thanks to gerrymandering, the seat is very safely Democratic, so Torres can keep her mouth shut and do the important things like add to the now-$400,000-plus in special interest money she has raised to date pandering her future assembly votes for her campaign war chest.

Still, in a situation like this with City Hall closed and TV news crews running around downtown Pomona, you'd think an appearance or even a formal statement from the mayor, never one to miss a photo op, would be in order. Torres' silence in the past couple months is one sign that her party's higher ups recognize the candidate's flaws.

Hmmmm....City Hall closed, windows shattered, mayor nowhere in sight...there must be a metaphor in there someplace: Pomona, scene of disasters, natural and otherwise.


The Daily Bulletin had coverage today
of the quake's effects outside of Pomona. The Bulletin article reports that the epicenter was under the Sleepy Hollow area of Carbon Canyon Rd.

Only a few injuries that were described as minor and some power outages, along with scattered property damage. The LA Times also had coverage today.

Click to Enlarge

The U.S. Geological Survey has a site where you can fill out a questionnaire if you felt yesterday's quake. It only takes a few minutes, and the more data points the USGS can collect from as many diverse locations as possible, the more accurately they can describe the earth movement yesterday. This all helps engineers come up with better structural designs to help buildings and infrastructure survive future earthquakes. The Chino quake is USGS Event 14383980, and you can complete the questionnaire by following the link that says "Did You Feel It?"

PFF Bancorp Now Traded OTC

As of last Friday's close of the New York Stock Exchange, PFF Bancorp is no longer traded on the NYSE.

Shares of PFF, formerly listed as PFB on the NYSE, is now traded on the Over the Counter Bulletin Board, as the Riverside Press-Enterprise reported. PFF will now trade on the OTCBB under the symbol PFFB.

According to the PE article, the move to the OTCBB has no effect on PFF's sale to FBOC Corp., the Illinois-based banking company that is attempting to take over the troubled local bank. FBOC also owns Cal National Bank, whose operations will merge with PFF's.

PFF Bancorp has a redesigned website
trumpeting the sale to FBOC with the slogan, "the Best is yet to come..." We can only hope.

PFF's stock price has tumbled precipitously in the couple years, from a high near $40 a share to $1.05 as of Friday's NYSE close. So, just in case, apparently to inspire depositor confidence, the new PFF site also has a link to "A Comprehensive Guide to FDIC Insurance."

At least a lucky few were fortunate enough to escape the wreckage with their own, special insurance.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Earth Moved

[8:30 p.m. Last update of the day. Metrolink says that all track has been inspected, there is no damage, and all trains will run on time on Wednesday, July 30.

See the Foothill Cities Blog here for a picture of the broken glass at Pomona City Hall, and here for some interesting surveillance camera video at a San Dimas bicycle shop.]

[7:05 p.m.
Metrolink is showing a 30 to 45 minute delay on the San Bernardino train.]

[Update 6:00 p.m. Sometime in the past hour, KNBC went back to its regular programming. See the Daily Bulletin website for the latest on the earthquake. ]

[Update 4:47 p.m. KNBC still flogging this wall to wall. They are now showing a helicopter view from Newschopper 4 of the building shown in the image above. Richard Nunez was there first.]

[Update 3:35 p.m. See the
Goddess of Pomona for some exclusive pictures of damage to buildings in Pomona. Pics taken by Richard E. Nunez. Great work, Richard, and great work, Goddess!

Also, from a reader,

Channel 7 reported a dough mixer falling off a truck on its journey into the 42nd Street Bagelry...ABC news in Claremont for another story this AM and captured earthquake news from the Village...Pomona City Hall sustained damage with large glass exteriors shattering... Closed...]

[Update 3:09 p.m. Earthquake has been re-graded to magnitude 5.4 (from 5.8). Biggest casualty so far seems to be the Metrolink website, which has not responded in more than two hours. Reports have it that the trains that are running are only doing so at "restricted speeds". Expect a mess here and a late dinner if you are counting on the train.]

[Update 1:13 p.m. We hear that the Metrolink line is closed for inspection until further notice. Check the Metrolink site (site is being hammered right now) for further information. There have been
apparently erroneous reports of roof damage at the terminal at Ontario Airport. Some of the cell phone providers experienced a "mass calling event" and had connection problems immediately after the earthquake. Those seem to have cleared up.]

[12:06 p.m. Tuesday] If you were in Claremont at 11:42 Tuesday morning, you already know about the 5.8 magnitude (preliminary) centered near Carbon Canyon in the Chino Hills.

Early reports do not talk of damage, although it's hard to believe there is not broken glass somewhere.

We will update if there is any serious Claremont news to report. Listen up for a "Code Red" Robo-call from Police Chief Cooper or Mayor Taylor.

KNBC has live coverage as of noon.

Readers Comment on CGU and Free Speech

Our post on the incident at the Claremont Graduate University involving the Turkish consul general and a Glendale videographer prompted several readers to come to CGU's defense.

One reader thought the videographer, Peter Musurlian, wasn't playing fair with CGU when he came into the lecture and videotaped the consul's remarks. The reader complains that the consul general's remarks were taken out of context and that Musurlian was wrong to label CGU "Claremont Genocide University."

Hi insider,

I wasn't at the lecture, but I've heard all about it from faculty members. Musurlian apparently snuck into the meeting without revealing who he was, illegally recorded it for publication on the web without the consent of the people in the room, spliced bits of it out of context, added commentary that hadn't been said in the room, and added inflammatory bits such as "Claremont Genocide University."

It was a huge security mistake by CGU - the CGU side thought he was the consulate's cameraman, and the consulate thought he was CGU's. He never would have been allowed to film if they knew who he actually was,since his whole agenda was to stir up anger against Turkey at any cost.

This sure is a free speech issue - but not Musurlian's. It's a free speech issue for CGU - the university has to have the freedom to bring in speakers who reflect all kinds of views and not necessarily the views of the college. That means having a speaker from Turkey come without automatically being labeled a "genocide" university!

Musurlian's video should have included a bit about how the consulate's views do not represent the views of CGU. That's standard. Calling the university a "genocide" university is just ridiculous.

Mursurlian posed as a cameraman and asked a question during the Q+A directed towards the genocide, intended to stir up heat - without ever identifying who he was. The students in the room were there to talk about Turkey...they were not told that an angry group was filming them and going to use their faces on YouTube.

So while I agree that censorship is an issue at the colleges (helloooo, "white party"), I think this particular issue is more complicated than it first appears. The college has first amendment rights too - and so does the speaker it invited,and the students who got caught in the crossfire.

If Mursurlian really wanted sympathy for his cause (and his cause is very important!), he should have been above-the-table with who he was, what his concerns were, etc. There was no reason to be covert about it and act as if CGU was the mafia.

Then there was this from a reader who felt while that the videographer may have gone out-of-bounds, CGU inflamed the situation with its institutional reaction:
Dear Insider,

Maybe I'm missing something here, but when I watch this YouTube video I see a mild mannered mid-level diplomat, not a Joseph Goebbels. There is something exquisitely absurd about seeing the CGU logo superimposed against a swastika or dripping with photoshopped blood on Mr. Mursulian's website. Maybe he should have talked to this guy:

Rather than a conspiracy against the Armenian-American community, I think what we have here is a simple case of bureaucratic incompetence. By overreacting to this bit of amateur agitprop, CGU's administrators (and lawyers) have only given legs to this non-story. It's like a casestudy in Public Relations 101. Congratulations guys, you got schooled by some dude with a camcorder from Glendale.

Claremont Museum of Art News

We've fallen down on the job keeping folks in touch with the goings on at the Claremont Museum of Art, so here's a brief update:


Museum Director William Moreno has announced the the Claremont Museum of Art recently receive a $10 million gift from an anonymous Southern California donor. Mr. Moreno's note to museum supporters said:

To our valued Members and Friends,

On behalf of the Board of Directors and staff, I'm extremely pleased to announce that the Claremont Museum of Art has received a donation of $10 million. It is the largest single gift from an individual to date, coming only 15 months after the Museum's grand opening in April, 2007. The donor, who has requested anonymity, is a long-time resident of Southern California. It is extraordinarily rare for a young museum to secure such a large gift so early in its history, and we are truly grateful to our donor’s vision and support of our efforts.

We view this significant gift as a major vote of confidence for the work of the Board of Directors and Museum staff, and for our exhibitions and programs. Over time, this gift assures the financial security of the Museum and will help provide for ongoing operations and, most importantly, long-range planning.

We also know that this contribution will instill confidence and inspire others to support our ongoing exhibitions and public programs. Although this donation provides a platform for our continued growth, we continue to rely on your support to help us achieve our long-term goals.

Our thanks, also, to our Founders Circle, Museum Builders, members and supporters for their continued support and good will.

William Moreno
Executive Director
Congrats to the museum on receiving such a strong vote of confidence!


The Claremont Museum of Art is also sponsoring a downtown Los Angeles art tour on Saturday, August 2nd. Tickets are $200 per guest or $150 for museum members. Call (909) 621-3200, ext. 103 for information or email the museum director of development Evonne Gallardo here.

Here's the full itinerary:
2008 Downtown Los Angeles Art Tour
Saturday, August 2, 2008


10:00 AM Guests arrive at the Claremont Museum of Art
10:15 AM Guests depart on air conditioned mini coach
11:00 AM First artist studio tour
12:00 PM Lunch at award-winning and historic Pete’s Café
2:30 PM Second artist studio tour
3:30 PM Third artist studio tour
5:00 PM Day ends back at the Claremont Museum of Art


Richard Duardo has been both an artist and an advocate of the arts in Los Angeles for over 25 years. Since graduating from UCLA with a degree in graphic design, he has been a prolific producer of serigraphs. He has had museum shows in Tokyo and Gifu, Japan, New York and Los Angeles. His work was selected for a National Endowment for the Arts travelling exhibition where he was represented both as a printer and an artist. In 1988, Duardo received The California Arts Commission for The Artist of the Year Award. His work is represented in many notable collections including The Los Angeles County Museum of Art. His artistic contributions to music label Fatima Recordz are currently featured in the Claremont Museum of Art’s exhibition Vexing: Female Voices from East L.A. Punk.

Roland Reiss is a painter and sculptor who has exhibited extensively in the United States and abroad. He studied at the American Academy of Art and UCLA. His work has been seen at the Whitney Museum of American Art, Documenta in Kassel, Germany, and at museums in Brazil, Mexico, China, Canada, Italy, Germany, Japan and Taiwan. He is the recipient of four National Endowment for the Arts grants and of more than forty prizes and awards. Reiss served as Chair of the Art Department at Claremont Graduate University for 29 years. Before coming to Claremont, he taught painting and drawing at UCLA. Since 1992, Reiss has concentrated exclusively on abstract painting. Currently, he is Director of “Paintings Edge”, an advanced program in painting for Idyllwild Arts. His work was featured in the 2007 Claremont Museum of Art’s exhibition Locus I: Art and Craft of Claremont and the Region.

An MFA graduate of Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Won Ju Lim lives and works in Los Angeles as a sculptor and installation artist. Taschen’s Art Now: 137 Artists at the Rise of the New Millennium finds that Lim’s work “focuses on the tensions between perception, space, and subjectivity in the post-modern age. In order to reflect on and represent the shifting relationship between these three elements, she usually takes architectural reconstructions whose ‘realism’ she questions, critically and poetically, through the judicious use of light, slide projection and video installation.” Lim is represented by Patrick Painter, Inc. in Los Angeles and has had solo exhibitions in Madrid, Salamanca, London, Berlin, Siegen, Basel and Vancouver. Her work was featured in the 2007 Claremont Museum of Art’s exhibition EPHEMERAL: Explorations in Light.


The museum's current show, "Vexing: Female Voices from East L.A. Punk" continues through August 31st.

The museum also has exhibits featuring the work of artist Maya Schindler and photographer Zoe Crosher. Both of those exhibits run through August 31st as well.

The museum also has two other events on tap for the month of August:
Sunday, August 17, 12 – 4 p.m.
Family Art Day: “Turn artwork into a pin”

Free and open to the public
Vexing artist and photographer Dawn Wirth will show you how to transform a piece of art into a an original pin. Bring your own photos or drawings!

Saturday, August 30, 8 p.m.
Live Performances: “The Sirens” and “Go Betty Go”
Free for Museum Members, $5 for non-members
Two all-girl L.A. bands come together for a lively performance! The spunky and aggressive pop-punk band Go Betty Go and all-girl rock/punk/Spanish fusion quartet The Sirens perform for this final weekend of Vexing.
Now in the galleries through August 31

So, come on out to the museum, located in the Claremont Packing House and take a look at what's going on.

Claremont Museum of Art

536 West First Street
Claremont, CA 91711

Hours: Tuesdays through Sundays, 11am to 5pm, Open until 8:30pm the first Friday of each month.

Admission: $3.00 for adults, under 18 free. Free admission 5:30pm-8:30pm the first Friday of each month.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Gold Line's Future Tied to Sales Tax Approval

Friday's Los Angeles Times carried a front-page story about the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority's (MTA) decision to pursue passage of a half-cent sales tax increase for LA County. Money from the proposed measure would go to fund transportation projects throughout the county, including the Gold Line Foothill Extension from Pasadena to Claremont. The measure will be placed on the November ballot, assuming it is approved by the state legislature.

Back in June, the MTA board decided to put off until the November election the decision on whether to include the Gold Line Foothill Extension in the agency's Long Range Transportation Plan. That decision not only cost the Gold Line $80 million in LA County money, but also may have cost the Foothill Extension $320 million in federal grants that were dependent on the county funds as a match.

The sales tax increase is being pushed by Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is the MTA board's chair. The increase would raise the county sales tax from the current 8.25% to 8.75%, which would tie LA County for the highest sales tax rate in the state along with Alameda County. Estimates are that the half-cent increase would generate up to $40 billion over 30 years.

The MTA board approved going forward with the sales tax measure on a 9-2 vote, with the only "NO's" being the two San Gabriel Valley representatives, LA County Supervisor Michael Antonovich and Duarte Councilmember John Fasana.

Antonovich and Fasana objected to the fact that the MTA board would not commit to making a solid pledge of $735 million to the Gold Line. The sales tax measure allocates that amount, but there are no guarantees that the money could not be moved to other projects, such as the Expo Line Extension to Santa Monica, which has been competing with the Gold Line for MTA funds. The measure only promises a minimum of $325 million to the Gold Line and indicates that an additional $400 is available.

LA County Supervisor Gloria Molina abstained from voting, citing her concerns with the haste with which the allocation of the money was decided.

Supervisor Antonovich has raised his own concerns with the sales tax measure, saying that the way the MTA has allocated money has been too LA-centric and that areas like the San Gabriel Valley have not received their fair share of transportation funds. Antonovich's reservations played into his refusal to support the sales tax measure, and the MTA board's reluctance to commit the total $735 million to the Gold Line Foothill Extension make us wonder if there isn't a Villaraigosa sponsored bait-and-switch going on here.

Villarairgosa's sale tax needs a two-thirds majority to pass, so he needs every San Gabriel Valley vote he can get. We vote to support this tax increase with the carrot of $735 million dangling in front of us, then once the measure is passed, they pull that $400 million and give it to the Expo Line Extension or some other LA project. At least that seems to be the sort of scenario that troubles Antonovich.

Saturday's LA Times had yet another front-page article
on the proposed sales tax increase. The article reported that passage of the measure is no sure thing with voters having to approve a number of other state and local tax increases on the same November ballot. The article also reported that four members of California's congressional delegation - David Drier (R-26), Gary Miller (R-42), Grace Napolitano (D-38), and Hilda Solis (D-32) - have issued a joint statement that supports giving more of the sales tax money to the San Gabriel Valley.

The text of the statement is available on the LA Times' Bottleneck Blog, and seems to echo Supervisor Antonovich's concerns about the equity with which the MTA transportation funds are being dispersed. According to Times blogger Steve Hymon, Congresswoman Solis has indicated she may actively campaign against the sales tax measure. Judging from the statement's language, Solis and the other three representatives who signed the statement certainly feel strongly that the MTA is sticking it once again to our area:

If inequity and insult aren’t enough, Metro Board Members said no to a commitment of less than one half of one percent of its capital budget for the only project ready to be built in LA County – the Gold Line Foothill Extension. This project could save our residents money – households that use public transit save an average of $6,251 every year. It could create jobs - every $1 spent on infrastructure results in a gain of $6 in jobs. Construction alone could create at least 2,000 new jobs. It could deliver needed economic development – more than $40 billion by 2030.

The Federal government has stood up and done its part to demonstrate support – our local Congressional delegation has already delivered $27.19 million. If Metro would commit its share, we could fight for an additional $320 million in Federal funds. Rather than join us, Metro said no to the San Gabriel Valley.

“Residents of the San Gabriel Valley deserve better than what Metro delivered yesterday. It’s time to say no to inequity, no to insult, and yes to economic development in the San Gabriel Valley. It’s time to say no to Metro.

CGU Orders YouTube to Yank Video

Contempt for the First Amendment is a long tradition within the Claremont city limits. In keeping with that stifling tradition, the Claremont Graduate University (CGU) recently hired an attorney to have a YouTube video by a person named Peter Musurlian removed from YouTube's website.

In June, Musurlian came to CGU to attend and videotape a lecture by a Turkish consul general. Musurlian, who is of Armenian-descent, then posted a film he made of the lecture. Musurlian's film depicts some of the concerns the Armenian-American community has with Turkey's denial of the World War I-era genocide of up to 1.5 million Armenians by Turks in the Ottoman Empire.

The film must have ruffled some feathers because a short time after he posted his YouTube video, an attorney representing CGU contacted Musurlian. The attorney informed Musurlian that he no authority to post a film containing the faces of students who attended the lecture. The attorney demanded that the students' faces be blurred, or CGU would have YouTube pull the film from its website.

Musurlian says his video was pulled from YouTube on June 25th but was restored on July 10th after Musurlian responded to YouTube's concerns.

Charles Johnson's post
on the Claremont Conservative first alerted us to this matter:

The very fact that CGU's first reaction to seeing a video on YouTube was to call in an attorney who gets a high fee should really bother us. What does it say about a college that their first act was to call the lawyers?

What indeed?

The Daily Bulletin also picked up on the story and carried an article yesterday on the issue:
Musurlian said he had a campus lawyer, identified as Paul S. Berra, tell him to blur student faces or the university would have the video pulled. "He initially said some of the students were being harassed," Musurlian said. But the video doesn't focus in on students and he said he wasn't given a specific reason about the kind of harassment. In a letter claimed to be from Berra posted on Musurlian's Web site, the lawyer wrote " ... I asked you to voluntarily remove your video from YouTube because you had no authority to publish it. I explained that you needed to obtain, for starters, the students' consent before doing so."

Here at the Insider, we've had our own run-in with Claremont censorship, so we can sympathize with Musurlian and his problems with YouTube, which is owned by Google. CGU still hasn't justified its actions, by the way, which happens to be another Claremont strong suit: When in institutional trouble, deny, deny, deny.

It's certainly been a tough year for the First Amendment at the Claremont Colleges. Heck, an entire issue of the Pomona College newspaper The Student Life was pulled from newsstands, something that we might more properly associate with the Stalin-era Soviet Union.

In any case, here is Musurlian's video, in case you're interested. Musurlian also has started a website called "Claremont Genocide University." The Musurlian film runs about six minutes:

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Comment of the Day: Cut Up that Credit Card

As we wrote yesterday, the state's threat to use $2.5 billion in Prop. 1A transportation funds to help balance California's $15.5 billion or so budget deficit is causing a lot of hand-wringing on the local level.

Claremont Mayor Ellen Taylor had a letter published in Saturday's Claremont Courier urging voters to write to Governor Schwarzenegger and to state legislators to tell to keep their mitts off OUR money.

The problem is that Claremont, like many other cities across the state, have so thoroughly mismanaged their finances that when a rainy day comes, they can't deal with the state shutting off the money spigot temporarily.

Now, this is not to excuse the state-level dysfunction, to which both major political parties have contributed, but if it had watched how it spent our money, Claremont would be much better positioned to deal with the current economic environment.

In her comments, also published in today's Daily Bulletin, Queen Ellen makes the "Poor, Poor, Pitiful Me" ploy. Claremont will suffer needlessly if the state takes that money, Ellen says. Taylor claims that Claremont "lives within its means" but will face a $500,000 deficit if the Prop. 1A money is taken away.

Yesterday, in commenting on Taylor's false claims about our living within our means, we found $135,000 in money that we feel was just thrown away to the Friends of Taylor. A reader wrote in with this response:

If Ellen Taylor is so incensed at the State of California for potentially raiding the City of Claremont’s coffers, let her take the proverbial mote out of her own eye and look at how Claremont City government is borrowing and spending Claremont taxpayer money here.

Didn’t the city (or redevelopment agency- same people, different legal entity) just borrow a million dollars from its own sewer fund to help with Harry Wu’s purchase of the land beneath the Doubletree Hotel? When are they going to pay that back and will it be with interest?

I watch the council meetings when they play on the local cable station and I always hear about the conferences that they attend. There seem to be so many of them that these council members go to and how much does that cost? How many staff members also go to these conferences and how much does that cost every year? How about the benefits that the Courier reported at least two council members (Taylor and Yao) are taking, that has a price also.

That is not even mentioning the extra $ 1 million to purchase Johnson’s pasture, $800,000 for the trolley around the block, $60,000 for the centennial that did not have enough sponsors.

No, I think the Claremont City Council needs to get its own house in order before it starts asking citizens to harass the state for money, our taxpayer money remember, just so it can misspend more of it.

Should the state take away the those transportation bond funds, which voters approved in 2004 with the understanding that they would be used for traffic and transportation projects? No. But should Claremont and other cities in California figure their budgets based on worst case scenarios that include the possibility that those funds might not be available for a time? Of course!

Instead of spending prudently, we count on state and federal grants to fund projects like the Claremont Trolley. Then, rather then saving our local revenue in a rainy day fund to be used in emergencies like the present one, we take the money saved through the use of grants and stupidly give it away. So, when the state unexpectedly stops the money flow, we're stuck with commitments to projects that have to now be covered by our own revenue.

Where have we spent our money? Well, besides the $135,000 we've already cited, the reader mentioned the nearly $11,000 we give Queen Ellen for her deferred compensation, a 401(k)-like retirement account and the similar amount we pay for Councilmember Peter Yao's health benefits. (Hey, another $20,000-plus a year to save!)

And, as the reader also noted, that extra $1 million we had to pay to purchase Johnson's Pasture because of a misphrased deed sure would have come in handy right now.

Of course, the spending hasn't slowed down. Queen Ellen is pushing forward with spending $1.5 million on Phase 1 a highly questionable Padua Sports Park this fall. When completed, the Sports Park will cost taxpayers an estimated $10-12 million.

We hear a lot of talk right now about moral hazard and the need to not bail out homeowners and credit card holders because people need the threat of financial failure in order to properly understand risk. Bailing people and institutions out, the argument goes, may encourage them to take foolish, stupid risks.

Cities are no different. Until Claremont and the people in power in town (the League of Women Voters, Claremont Heritage, the Chamber of Commerce, to name a few) understand that the risks behind their policy decisions and how those risks fit into the bigger financial picture, they will keep on with their foolish spending ways.

The bill is coming due, and, rather than blaming the state (which has its own blame to bear), it's high time they faced that uncomfortable situation that their cumulative decisions have created.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Giving Away the Farm

The state's proposal to borrow from Prop. 1A transportation funds to help balance the state budget is raising hackles at the local level all across the state.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger last week indicated that the state might have to borrow $2.5 billion from the state's Prop. 1A transportation funds, a sum that would have to be repaid within three years at a high interest rate.

The LA Times reported on July 18th:

SACRAMENTO -- Legislative leaders are drafting a complicated scheme to help close the state's massive deficit by raiding funds voters have set aside for transportation and local government services, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said Thursday, adding that it probably would force a state sales tax hike.

"It is not a good idea," the governor said in an interview with The Times. But Schwarzenegger, anxious to get a budget passed before the state experiences a cash crisis, did not rule out signing off on such a plan.

During the half-hour interview in his office, the governor offered a broad outline of the proposal being discussed in closed-door budget negotiations. Schwarzenegger, who seemed exasperated by his inability to fix California's fiscal dysfunction five years into his governorship, cited the borrowing plans to bolster his point that the state's budget system was in need of reform.

The proposal is being considered as part of a possible compromise between Democrats seeking to close the deficit with $5.6 billion in income tax hikes on the rich and Republicans vowing to block any new taxes.

The legislative plan would balance the state budget with the help of $1.1 billion voters set aside for transportation projects and at least $1.4 billion earmarked for local governments under Proposition 1A, which was approved in 2004, Schwarzenegger said. State law requires that the money be paid back -- at a steep interest rate -- in three years.

In order to ensure that the money is repaid, "I literally would have to guarantee that with a sales tax or something," Schwarzenegger said. "Where [else] do we get the revenues that someone can be saying so freely we can pay back this $2.5 billion we are borrowing?"

Officials involved in the confidential budget negotiations, who agreed to speak on condition of anonymity, said lawmakers also were looking to borrow $200 million voters set aside for early childhood education programs through 1998's Proposition 10.

Local officials and advocates for the programs expressed alarm at the proposal to raid their funds. They accused legislative leaders of ignoring the will of voters, who approved the measures to prevent the state from touching the money in question.

All of this trickles on down to the municipal level. The city's website has an announcement from Claremont Mayor Ellen Taylor calling the state's threats to take local redevelopment and/or transportation funds "irresponsible":
If the state borrows or takes a portion of property taxes or transportation funds, it would force the City to reevaluate the entire City budget that was adopted last month. If the legislature enacts the provisions of Prop 1A, Claremont would lose more than $500,000 and force the City Council to take dramatic action, such as reducing services or tapping into reserves to bring our budget back in line. Like the state, Claremont faces similar challenges, including higher energy, labor and increased costs in supplies and services that are all vital to running a city. In the face of these challenges in our own revenues, Claremont still manages to live within its means and balance the City budget.

Like any statement by Taylor, that last sentence needs to be examined closely. Does Claremont really live within its means? Well, yes and no. If by "means" you include money not generated by Claremont but by grant applications to county, state, federal and private agencies, then yes. But if you include planning for economic downturns such as the one we're currently facing, the answer is a resounding no.

We suspect that $500,000 and more is lurking there in the present budget, irresponsibly tossed away to friends of the City Council and city commissions in a buddy system of financial commitments.

Let's face it, Claremonters, this city and the people running it spend your money (and money they don't even have) like drunken sailors. For instance, in October, 2007, the Claremont City Council voted to set aside $60,000 from the city's transient occupancy tax (TOT) that it collects from hotels and motels in town for each guest. That $60,000 was supposed to go towards homeless programs. Sounds like a worthy cause, but one problem was there were no agencies or programs asking for the money. The city had not identified any place to spend the money, but dedicated that tax revenue because some of the council's friends said the city should do that.

Or, consider the $50,000 the City Council voted to give to the Friends of the Claremont Library to establish a collection of works by Claremont authors. That $50,000 was a giveaway pushed by the Friends of the Claremont City Council, namely people like Claremont author and former mayor Judy Wright. It bought no additional hours of operation or staff to the library, only a special collection that should more properly be funded by private donations.

And, how about the $25,000 the city council voted to give to Marilee's Marsh, another boondoggle in the making. The marsh is the brainchild of the League of Women Voters of the Claremont Area and league member Marilee Scaff.

Between the TOT deal, library collection money, and marsh giveaways, there's $135,000, or 27% of the $500,000 Taylor cited. These are hardly things we could call needed services. And there's more, much more, trickling out from the city treasury to Taylor's friends.

And, getting back to Judy Wright for a second, what about Claremont Heritage, that non-profit local historical and preservation society for which Wright serves as president? In 2001 Claremont Heritage moved into the city-owned Garner House, which sits at 840 N. Indian Hill Blvd. in Claremont's Memorial Park. The city charges no rent to Claremont Heritage, which is allowed to act as the building's landlord, renting out space on the city's behalf to such organizations as (surprise!) the League of Women Voters of the Claremont Area, of which Ellen Taylor is a former president.

Why not start charging a market rental rate to both organizations and get back some of the revenue they've selfishly stolen away from city coffers? In a private organization or business, this sort of cronyism would be criminal. In Claremont it's business as usual.

Taylor's message was also published as a letter in today's Claremont Courier under the title, "Cut the Government Credit Card." We heartily concur, beginning at home.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Market Accident

The Claremont Courier had an article about a motorist who lost control of her car at Sunday's Farmers' Market while trying to park in the Wells Fargo parking lot at Indian Hill Blvd. and Second Street.

The vehicle jumped over a low brick wall and struck a fruit vendor's stand, taking out a couple cases of cherries. The driver, a 77-year-old woman, lost control of the car when she stepped on the accelerator instead of the brake. The circumstances echoed the Santa Monica Farmers' Market incident from 2003 but without any injuries or fatalities.

The article, by Tony Krickl, indicated that the market organizers were trying to prevent anything like this from happening again:

Organizers of the Farmers’ Market in Claremont said they learned a lesson from the Santa Monica tragedy. After the incident, a decision was made to better secure the street for pedestrians by parking a large truck and a Jeep at either end of Second Street during the market’s operating hours from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

[Farmers' Market manager Rick] Moore said that he had already spoken with police and city staff to come up with more safeguards for pedestrians at the Farmers’ Market. He also planned to meet with Wells Fargo management to discuss how a similar incident could be avoided in the future.

The article also said there had been some similar incidents in the last few years, including one just the night before Sunday's accident when a 75-year-old woman ran a stop sign at Indian Hill Blvd. and Harrison Ave. and drove her Lexus through a fence and bushes and into the side of a chapel. Krickl reported that the Saturday damaged a gas meter and forced the evacuation of some neighboring residents.

Protecting the Queen

Wednesday's Claremont Courier had a letter from reader Carlynne McDonnell, who cc'd the Courier on a letter the submitted to the Los Angeles Times regarding the Times article about Claremont Mayor Ellen Taylor and her fight with some local cookie-selling Girl Scouts.

McDonnell seems to feel that Times' job should be to cover Claremont the way McDonnell wants it portrayed:

Imagine my excitement when I saw that the LA Times actually covered something in Claremont, California. Given that sometimes it seems as if the LA Times forgets that we are part of the greater LA Area. Imagine my disappointment when I read that you wasted space on covering Mayor Taylor's Girl Scout episode—and on the front page. YAWN! And the Blog—Double YAWN! What about covering Claremont’s efforts on sustainability and affordable housing (both areas that Mayor Taylor has promoted and worked hard for). To minimize Taylor’s contribution to the community to the Girl Scouts and the Blog is one-sided journalism at its best. Like her or not, her contributions to Claremont have made this a better place to live.

Carlynne McDonnell
[Is it our imagination or is that second-to-last sentence missing a couple commas? We do certainly acknowledge Taylor's contributions to our humble blog. Without her, life here in the far digital reaches would be boring indeed. -Ed.]

McDonnell, who is the development director for the local chapter of the League of Women Voters, might be forgiven for reflexively jumping to the Mayor Taylor's defense. Taylor, after all, is a former president of the LWV and sees that group as her base.

What McDonnell in her defense of Taylor misses is the fact that the incident is of a piece with Taylor's contempt for the electorate and the citizens of Claremont in general. Let's take affordable housing, for instance. Taylor and the local LWV pushed a project at Base Line Rd. and Towne Ave. and refused to compromise or accommodate concerns from the project's neighborhood as well as the wider community.

Rather than get a project built at an better alternate location like the old Courier building site, Taylor and the LWV stubbornly, irrationally shoved the Base Line Rd. project down our collective throats for over two years. And now that the Base Line project failed to qualify for LA County affordable housing grant money, Taylor and the LWV, after forming a special task force to study the matter, have come to the surprising conclusion that the Courier site is the best location.

So, thanks in large part to Ellen Taylor, we spent over two years getting nothing done on affordable housing, basically chasing our tails and bleeding city staff time and money in the process. This, more than Girl Scouts cookies, is Taylor's and the LWV's legacy to our humble town.

And therein lies the real story. What the Times writer missed is the fact that the Girl Scout incident is merely a hook that illustrates a public and private behavior pattern that those of us who have live here have endured for far too long. Proper context was the missing factor, not the sort of blind boosterism McDonnell and her LWV friends have come to expect from the echo chamber that is the Claremont social scene.

So, McDonnell is right in a sense. The Times writer did minimize the incident by not putting in context. Taylor's real contributions to the community have been to ignore a large segment of the population, to listen only to people who think exactly like her, and to use her official power arrogantly and with little respect for the Joe Taxpayer and Jane Voter.

It is fitting, though, that the LWV representative who jumped to the defense of the narcissistic Taylor was McDonnell, who runs a jewelry business called "Its All About ME!"

* * *

We also received an email in support of Taylor:

I recently read the story in the L.A. Times about the "Claremont Cookie Monster". I believe a couple of key points were overlooked. The first is the the quote "We were just yelling 'Girl Scout cookies!' and the lady ...." I can see if the half dozen girls were quietly soliciting their cookies this probably would not be an issue. When you get 8- to 10-year-old girls together, they can make quite a bit of noise. I question the troop leader allowing the girls to try to solicit sales from passing motorists on a busy intersection. The other issue the troop leader doesn't live in Claremont but outside of Claremont for 9 years. Is this Girl Scout troop from Claremont? I certainly don't condone the Mayor's actions and then trying to cover it up saying, "I reacted like a mother hen...." I believe she reacted to the fact there were half a dozen girls yelling outside a place of business. As with opinion, everyone has one and if you weren't there to witness what actually occurred, it becomes a "he said, she said, can you believe that" type scenario.

The reader's point about the Girl Scout's residency issue is an interesting one. We're not sure, but we believe the particular troop has a mix of Claremont residents and kids from surrounding areas. This would be because the Girl Scouts' troops are organized into "Neighborhoods" defined by school districts, and some Neighborhoods contain more than one district. Claremont Unified School District, for instance, encompasses a very small part of Pomona.

The larger point is does it matter if the Girl Scouts were from Claremont or from Timbuktu? Doesn't our mayor have an obligation to treat everyone with the same courtesy?

As to the "he said, she said," aspect, yes, there is that. However, when seen in the context of Taylor's history in Claremont - Carlynne McDonnell request - one sees that this is merely one more instance of Taylor's contempt for people she sees as less powerful than herself, hence the term "The Queen."

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cookie Monster Ellen Taylor on the Air

Mad props to reader BD (you know who you are) for putting us onto coverage of the Ellen Taylor Cookie Monster incident on local radio station KFI, AM 640.

The incident was covered with some thought, knowledge, and nuance, but also with a little rough language by Wayne Resnick, filling in for Brian Suits on Sunday Afternoon in the 3 p.m. time slot. Then, on Monday afternoon, the two drive-time guys, John and Ken, discussed it at the beginning of the 4 o'clock hour. Since they were taking the story from Saturday's LA Times article, they had a few facts off kilter, but rather unerringly got to the heart of the incident, the really outrageous part.

John and Ken added to the public discussion by bringing in, on the phone, a daughter of the girl scout leader involved in the incident.

To get to the original shows, follow this link; then find the 7/20 Brian Suits show on Sunday (see image left) and play or download the podcast. For John and Ken, look in their column on the link and find the 7/21 4:00 p.m. show titled "Cookie Monster" (see image top). Then play or download as desired. The Resnick comments begin about 32 minutes into the podcast; the John and Ken comments are near the beginning of the 4 o'clock hour--about 5 minutes in.

For your convenience, we have extracted the relevant portions and linked them below, along with some illustrations.

Wayne Resnick, 6 minutes 20 seconds, analyzing the incident.

John and Ken, part 1, 6 minutes, 47 seconds, with interview with scout leader's daughter

John and Ken, part 2, 4 minutes, 59 seconds, John Kobelt's rant

By the way, another reader sent us a link to the San Francisco Chronicle article on Mayor Taylor which appeared in yesterday's (Wednesday, July 23, 2008) paper, page B-6.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Claremont Public Art Meets Traffic News

We received this in from a reader who has been haunted by some artwork by Claremont sculptor Barbara Beretich. The reader was kind enough to send along some photos, which we incorporated into the post. The tale reminds us a bit of the traveling gnome from the 2001 movie Amélie:

Hello Insider,

For some time now, I've been tracking the movements of Barbara Beretich's mysterious bronze horse, which seems to have been following me around town. Apparently, I'm not the only person haunted by this critter:

First I saw it at Beretich's house, then it appeared at the Klitgaard house (CGU President), then in the front yard of the house on College and 10th (the, er, posterior and hanging bits 'n pieces facing the front door...a strange choice, I always thought)

A few nights ago, a SECOND horse appeared in that yard - a gold one. The next morning, I saw men trucking away with the clearly inferior bronze (surely a silver exists?) and lo and appeared on the weird park-island on Indian Hill, where the angel statue used to be (poor angel got moved up to the Drug Dealer Park).

Clearly, this is the Thoroughbred of Sin (who rules Claremont with an iron hoof. For more info, see

Here are some pics!


P.S. Thanks for posting the info about the tunnel by Claremont High. I *love* that Claremont had pedestrian tunnels! Screw the trolley, bring back the tunnels!!!!

We'd seen the change at Indian Hill Blvd. and Harrison Ave. that the reader mentioned. People referred to the island as the "Porkchop" because of its shape. If you haven't seen it, the city has closed off the old, separate northbound right turn lane from Indian Hill to Harrison and turned the Porkchop into into a small greenspace with a display platform for public art; people have begun to call it Porkchop Park. They've also managed to make the right turn onto Harrison into an odd, acute angled affair (see below).

Click to Enlarge

We don't know much about the reasons for altering the street, other than that somebody else's money was available. Maybe Claremont Mayor Ellen Taylor was using it as a southbound shortcut onto Indian Hill.

Claremont City Manager Jeff Parker explained the project in his weekly City Manager's Report on July 18th:

The Indian Hill/Harrison and Bonita project is near completion. The City has received a number of positive comments from the public regarding the improvements. [this was before installation of the horse with the pendant parts.--ed.]

The reconfiguration of the southeast corner of the Indian Hill/Harrison intersection consisted of the removal of the separate, northbound dedicated right turn lane. The former design diverted pedestrians away from the most direct route to the signalized intersection at Indian Hill and Harrison, by having them continue along the edge of the right turn lane to Harrison. The new design eliminates the separate right turn lane and provides a direct and safe route to the signalized intersection. The removed section of the roadway is now covered with new landscaping, benches, pedestrian walkways and bicycle racks.

Additional Indian Hill improvements included the extension of the existing center median south to Fourth Street, construction of handicapped ramps, and installation of traffic signal features to assist the visually impaired. The installation of a concrete pedestal was also included in this project, with the purpose to display different sculptures loaned by local artists as part of a program sponsored by the Community Foundation.

The Bonita portion of this project added the pedestrian sidewalk and streetlights to the north side of the roadway between Grinnell and Berkeley Avenues.

The project was funded with $420,000 of federal grant funding through the Hazard Elimination and Safety program. [The prospect of facing down Mayor Taylor as she hurtles willy-nilly the wrong way on a one-way street would be a hazard, we guess, worth $420,000 to eliminate.]

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Tonight's City Council Business

Tonight marks the final meeting of the Claremont City Council prior to their annual August recess. The council will have another busy night ahead of them, beginning with a special session at 5:15pm to discuss Capital Improvement Program budget priorities.

At 6:30pm, the council moves on to its regular meeting.

Issues on tap at tonight's City Council meeting include:

  • Budget Talk: As indicated, the Capital Improvement Program (CIP) budget is a big topic, especially in light of the city having to implement an across-the-board cutback in spending in order to balance its books. With the state facing a $15.5 billion or more budget deficit and with Governor Schwartzenegger floating the idea of withholding Prop. 1A transportation bond money from municipalities, Claremont could be hurting if it doesn't manage its finances prudently.

    The city has $4,189,396 in capital improvements budgeted for Fiscal Year 2008-09. For FY 2009-10 they've allocated $3,491,000.

    One thing we noticed in the staff report for the CIP budget review is the amount of money the city has set aside from their gas tax fund: $216,351 in FY 2008-09 and a whopping $1,217,000 in FY 2009-10, or more than a third of the CIP budget for that period.

    If you read yesterday's LA Times, you might have seen the front-page article about how federally-funded highway and infrastructure projects are endanger because the feds are collecting less gasoline tax money as result of people driving less. According to the Times, gas consumption is projected to decline this year, which means less tax revenue on the state level as well.

    The less money the city gets from gas tax revenues, the more it has to come up with from other sources for things like road resurfacing, sidewalk in-fill, and street light projects. With gas prices expected to rise in the long-term get ready for less gas tax money, Claremont.

  • Affordable Housing: Yes, this one has come back, mostly because Claremont Mayor Ellen Taylor wants this as an accomplishment to point to for her re-election campaign next March.

    There are two agenda items for this issue. The first is the purchase of a new affordable housing parcel. Will Bigham at the Daily Bulletin reported yesterday that the Claremont City Council is going to consider purchasing the old Claremont Courier site at 111 S. College Ave. [NOTE: This item was no longer available last time we checked, a victim of the vagaries of the Bulletin's breaking news policy.]

    Bigham said the purchase price for the 3.3-acre parcel is $3.5 million. 2.4 acres are owned by G. E. McKay & Co. The remaining .9 acres (listed as a "9-acre property" in the staff report, but what's an order of magnitude between friends?) is owned by Golden State Water Co. The city says it can buy the 2.4 acres for $2,750,000 and the .9 acres (or 9 acres) for $800,000, which adds up to $3,550,000.

    Bigham wrote that the City will use one million dollars from an affordable housing reserve fund and wants to finance the remainder through a bond taken out by the Claremont Revelopment Agency, otherwise known as the Claremont City Council.

    The second affordable housing item is the report from the city's Affordable Housing Task Force. The city will review the task force's recommendations.

  • Appeal of Architectural Commission Decision: The council will hear an appeal by of the Architectural Commission's decision to grant a Mitigated Negative Declaration for Claremont McKenna College's planned 162,000 square-foot Kravis Center. The center will house administrative and academic offices. The appeal has been made by resident Alfonso Villanueva.

  • Criminal Background Checks: The door-to-door solicitation ordinance that got the Girl Scouts all riled up okayed the use of criminal background checks for commercial solicitors (you Girl Scouts and your parents don't have to worry about that one - your secrets are safe!).

    The city now wants the City Council to allow Assistant City Manager Tony Ramos to conduct criminal background checks to screen potential employees and volunteers. Here's the staff report, by none other than Claremont Police Chief Paul Cooper.

  • City Investment Accounts Report: The staff report for the City's investment accounts show a relatively conservative portfolio, a legacy of Claremont's investment in the Orange County Investment Pool (OCIP) back in the early 1990's. Recall that when the OCIP went bankrupt, over $5 million in Claremont funds were tied up for years while the City litigated the matter. We eventually recovered our investment but lost out on the interest that $5 million would have accrued had it been more carefully invested.

    The staff report shows that 95% of the City's investment funds are with the state-managed Local Agency Investment Fund, which is highly liquid. The other 5% is invested in CD's. Of course, as of April, 2008, about $1,000,000 of that CD money was with the teetering PFF Bank & Trust, which might have meant that Claremont's golden touch remains intact.

    However, it appears that $781,000 of that CD money with PFF matured and was not reinvested with PFF. According to the staff report there's $209,000 left at PFF.

  • Mansionization: Staff is also presenting the City Council with a report on elements the city might incorporate into its future mansionization ordinance that would govern housing design throughout the city.

  • Human Service Program User Fees: The city is raising fees for a number of Human Service Department recreation programs. The staff report for this item indicates youth and adult sports groups will be asked to pay hourly sports lighting fees. Also, adult sports groups and some youth sports groups will be asked to pay hourly field-use fees.

  • Public Utilities Commission Protest: City staff is requesting the council appropriate $30,000 to protest a rate increase proposal by Golden State Water Co. to the California Public Utilities Commission. Golden State Water is seeking a 27.24% rate increase over a three-year period.

    This is a dance Golden State and municipalities go through every three years or so. Golden State asks for the moon, cities protest to the PUC, and the water company eventually gets a smaller-than-asked-for rate increase, most likely for the amount they were aiming for in the first place. And we get to spend $30,000 getting to that same place.

  • Sanitation Fee Increase: Irony of ironies, on the same agenda the City is seeking an increase in its municipal sanitation fees (no PUC approval needed here, though the city does have to notify property owners of the proposed increases). The rate increase under Option A would apply to commercial refuse service and to temporary bin rentals. Commercial rates for weekly service would rise from $88.91 to $114.10.

    Option B includes a proposed increase for multi-family residences from a current rate of $13.98 to $18.10 per unit, according to the staff report.

    According to the staff report, a 2005 court decision ruled that things like municipal sanitation fees are subject to Proposition 218 rules, which means that the city must allow a 45-day notice period for such fee increases. If at the close of a public hearing at the end of that period the city were to receive protests from a majority of property owners in the affected service area, the proposed fee increases would be defeated. Imagine that.

Claremont City Council Meeting
5:15pm - Special CIP Budget Review Session
6:30pm - Regular meeting
225 W. 2nd St.
Claremont, CA 91711