Claremont Insider: May 2008

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Pomona College

As promised (and see this link for some explanatory material) here is a look at Pomona College as of June 30, 2005 (the latest date for which information is readily available).

Tuition and Fees: $44,422,000 (added to post on 6/4/08 by request)

Room and Board: $14,415,000
(added to post on 6/4/08 by request)

Total Revenue: $191,927,000

Total Expenses: $109,616,000

Excess for the year: $82,311,000

Net assets on July 1, 2004: $1,441,080,000

Net assets on June 30, 2005 (includes $54M in unrealized gains): $1,577,641,000

Corporate Officers

David W. Oxtoby, President
Compensation: $322,891
Benefits and deferred compensation: $92,036
Expense account: $30,000

Carlene C. Miller, VP and Treasurer
Compensation: $230,648
Benefits and deferred compensation: $43,757

Christopher Ponce, VP and Secretary (Advancement or Development)
Compensation: $218,080
Benefits and deferred compensation: $45,091

Gary R. Kates, VP and Dean of the Faculty
Compensation: $181,628
Benefits and deferred compensation: $54,315
Expense account: $23,000

Five Highest Paid Employees other than Officers, Directors, and Trustees

Gary N. Smith, Professor
Compensation: $197,700
Benefits and deferred compensation: $43,473

Laura L. Mays Hoopes, Professor
Compensation, $190,890
Benefits and deferred compensation: $52,569

Deborah M. Burke, Professor
Compensation, $189,583
Benefits and deferred compensation: $49,059

Richard A. Fass, VP for Planning
Compensation, $176,998
Benefits and deferred compensation: $38,986

Hans Palmer, Professor
Compensation: $170,500
Benefits and deferred compensation: $31,824

Compensation of the Five Highest Paid Independent Contractors

Cummings LLC, Mission Viejo, Architect, $1,321,594

Cambridge Associates
, Boston, MA, Investment Management, $1,204,898

Mayo Investment Advisors LLC, Boston, MA, Investment Management, $484,867

Wellington Trust Company NA, Newark, NJ, Investment Management, $459,429

Jennison Associates
, New York, NY, Investment Management, $373,975

Public Policy or Prurience?

Some years ago an enterprising reporter at the Courier wrote an article detailing the salaries of the college presidents in town. Since we here figure that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, we thought we'd provide an update to that excellent article. As usual, with no realistic sense of limits or boundaries here at the Insider, we decided we'd provide a snapshot of each institution in town through its numbers.

So we went to our friends at where copies of each institution's IRS Form 990 is kept for public view. Now before anybody gets their trenchers in a knot, we remind everyone that this is public information provided so that taxpayers, citizens, and other interested parties can square their perception of how the institution is fulfilling its tax-subsidized mission with the amount of money it has in play and with the salaries it is paying its highest-priced help (corporate officers, highest-paid employees, and contractors or consultants).

Of course, if one of these corporate officers, highly-paid employees, or consultants happens to be your neighbor, in your stretching class, or your tennis partner, we can't help it if there is a prurient aspect to the whole affair.

Over the coming weeks, we will provide this information for each of the academic institutions in town which will allow you to compare and contrast. It always takes awhile for this information to be posted by GuideStar. We will present information from each institution's fiscal year July 1, 2004, through June 30, 2005. If more recent numbers should be readily available, we will present them and note that fact. Realize that salaries will certainly have increased since 2005, but these are the latest numbers we have.

If anyone has a burning urge to see these or the most current documents in the flesh, the schools are required by the Internal Revenue Code to make them available for inspection very promptly upon request. Simply present yourself at the business office during business hours and ask to see the most recent Form 990.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Brush Fire Drill Concludes Today

If you noticed helicopters whizzing around the local foothills, don't be alarmed. A multi-agency brush fire drill has been going on in the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park since Tuesday and concludes at noon today.

The drill participants include fire fighters from the following fire departments: Los Angeles County, San Bernardino County, the U.S. Forest Service, La Verne, Upland, and Chino Valley.

Even with last week's cool, rainy weather, the fire season has gotten off to a quick start, and figures to pick up as the summer wears on. The Daily Bulletin had a brief article about the fire season's early arrival:

At a press conference Wednesday in Diamond Bar, Ventura County Fire Department Chief Bob Roper said the grassland and chaparral on the slopes of Southern California hills and mountains are already in midsummer form.

With the rain arriving earlier and the grasses having matured, "it is ready to take a fire and carry it with heavy fuels," Roper said.

"The severity of the fire season will be determined by the number of days of wind, humidity and the fuel conditions we have with us."

More than 87,000 acres of brushland were burned during the 2007 season, compared with about 85,000 acres for the previous three years combined. Fire damage, estimated at $274 million, was up nearly $150 million from the previous year.

The article also reported that the total number of fires actually dropped last year, but the damage costs rose because the homes that were burned were in pricey areas.

It's reassuring to see the fire departments going through there paces. During the last big fire in 2003, there seemed to be a good deal of confusion and miscommunication that added to the problems residents reported in after-action reviews. As we've since learned, a little investment now goes a long way towards avoiding big costs down the line.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Money Makes the World Go Around

The race for the State Assembly's 61st District seat will almost certainly be decided by next Tuesday's Democratic primary. The 61st is safely gerrymandered to have a Democratic majority, so barring some major scandal on the winner's part, there shouldn't be much of a race in November.

The Daily Bulletin's Monica Rodriguez profiled the four Democratic candidates (in alphabetical order): Paul Vincent Avila, Maurice Ayala, Norma Torres, and Ken White.

Based on campaign donations, Pomona Mayor Norma Torres appears to be the frontrunner, a May 10th Bulletin article reported. At that time, Torres had reported raising $200,000, compared to $20,000 for Ayala and $5000-$6,000 for White. Torres total, however, has increased significantly in the latest reporting period, which ended on May 17th.

From 1/1/08 to 5/17/08, Torres' campaign reported raising a total of $335,746.58. The Torres campaign also reported spending $246,161.25 during that same period. Including money raised before 2008, Torres had $207,006.05 remaining in her campaign war chest.

And where did that money for Torres' campaign come from? Several donations (appropriately) came from garbage companies (waste management in politically correct circles):

  • Mission Recycling - $3,000, $3,261, and $361
  • Valley Vista Services - $3,600
  • Grand Central Recycling and Transfer Station - $3,600 and $3,600
  • West Coast Recycling, dba Mission Recycling (?) - $249
  • E & S Recycling Resources -$1,000
  • Athens Services - $1,000, $1,000, and $1,000

Some came from the insurance industry:
  • Zenith Insurance Company -$3,600
  • Mercury General Corporation - $3,500
  • Micra CA PAC of Norcal Insurance Company - $3,600
  • Blue Shield of CA - $3,600
  • Personal Insurance Federation of CA PAC - $1,500
  • Employers Direct Insurance Company - $1,000

A little came from groups connected to the gambling industry:
  • The Bicycle Casino - $3,600
  • CA Thoroughbred Breeders Association - $1,000

More came from the builders, developers, real estate investors, and realtors:
  • Auburn Management Holding Co. - $1,000
  • Green Century Development, LLC - $300
  • State Bldg. & Construction Trades Council of CA PAC - $2,500
  • CA Apartment Assn. PAC - $1,000
  • Majestic Realty Co. - $2,600 and $3,600
  • David R. Lewis - $3,600
  • Lewis Investment Company, LLC - $3,600 and $3,600
  • Arteco Partners - $3,600 and $3,600
  • Jeved Management, Inc. - $1,691 and $1,691
  • Steven R. Ross - $1,000
  • Bryan Industrial Properties - $500
  • Wetherly Capital Group, LLC - $1,000
  • Western Manufactured Housing Communities PAC - $1,000
  • CA Building Industry Association PAC - $2,500
  • CA Real Estate PAC -$3,600
  • Linus Investments, LLC - $3,600 and $3,600

Public and private sector workers associations and unions also gave a lot of money to Torres:
  • All City Employees Association Local 3090 AFSCME PAC (Los Angeles) - $2,500 and $1,000
  • AFSCME, AFL-CIO Local 36 (Los Angeles) -$3,600
  • AFSCME Local 3634 PAC (Los Angeles) $500
  • AFSCME CA People (Sacramento) - $6,000
  • CA Federation of Teachers COPE - $3,600
  • CA Teachers Association /Association for Better Citizenship - $7,200
  • CA Statewide Law Enforcement Association PAC - $3,600
  • CA State Council of Service Employees - $7,200
  • CA Professional Firefighters PAC - $1,000
  • United Nurses Association of CA - $1,000
  • Teamsters Joint Council 42 - $1,500
  • So Cal Painters and Allied Trades Dist. - $500
  • Service Employees Int'l Union Local 1000 - $7,200
  • SEIU Uhw PAC - $7,200
  • SEIU Local 721 Ctw, Clc State & Local - $3,600
  • SEIU Local 121 Rn PAC - $3,600
  • Pace of CA School Employees Association - $2,000 and $2,000
  • Los Angeles Police Protective League PAC - $3,600
  • Local 770 Ufcw PAC - $1,000
  • Laborers Local 300 Small Contributors - $3,600
  • International Union of Operating Engineers - $3,600

Pomona City Attorney Arnold M. Alvarez-Glasman's law firm also gave Torres' campaign a total of $10,800 in three contributions of $3,600 in March this year.

And you, Joe and Jane Average Voter, where do you fit in the Norma Torres Grand Scheme?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Tonight's City Council Meeting

The Claremont City Council meets tonight at its usual time, 6:30pm, in the City Council chambers at 225 W. 2nd St. in the heart of the Claremont Village. You can review the meeting agenda here.

Among the items on tonight's council agenda is "wayfinding signage," the proposed signs around town that would direct visitors to the Claremont Village and Village Expansion areas.

Additionally, now that Caltrans has relinquished Base Line Rd. to the City of Claremont, the refurbishing project is finally getting under way, with a request from staff to award a contract for the job to All-American Asphalt of Corona. The contract would be for $1.34 million to resurface Base Line between Monte Vista and Villa Maria, and would also allow for $225,000 for raised medians.

Also on tap is the annual Landscaping and Lighting District (LLD) engineer's report. The LLD is a kind of tax assessed on property owners at a current rate of $142.42 per $100,000 of assessed value per parcel. Each year, Claremont reviews the assessment and then hikes it, supposedly to reflect the local inflation rate.

This year, city staff is recommending raising the LLD 3.3% to $147.12 per $100,000.

The LLD has an interesting history
, one that perfectly illustrates the way important decisions have been made in Claremont over the years.

Pay Now, Pay More Later

Look out, Claremont. Your city staff just may cost you a trip to the poorhouse. A reader wrote in to tell us that the city of Vallejo voted earlier this month to file for bankruptcy.

According to an Associated Press article about the bankruptcy:

VALLEJO — With hundreds of concerned residents looking on, the Vallejo City Council voted unanimously late Tuesday to file for bankruptcy, making the city the first of its size to seek protection due to unaffordable labor contracts.

The dramatic vote came despite a last-minute appeal by state Sen. Pat Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa, and an aide for Assemblywoman Noreen Evans for the city to avoid bankruptcy....

....Vallejo has been slammed by increasing costs of its public safety contracts, the housing crisis, lower property values and state raids on local coffers.

The city faces a $16 million deficit in the 2008-09 fiscal year which starts July 1. Tuesday night's dramatic vote came after months of fruitless talks between city and labor representatives.

After those talks, which continued through the weekend and failed to produce a long-range fiscal plan, Vallejo's top administrators recommended bankruptcy as the only option remaining.

Chapter 9 bankruptcy will allow the city to gain temporary protection from creditors and enable the city to continue to offer citizens necessary services.

Another AP story explained the reasons why employee costs are dragging down city budgets and talked about the downside to a municipal bankruptcy:
Like Vallejo, many U.S. cities are saddled with labor contracts that offer salaries, overtime pay, pensions and health benefits they say they can't afford. Those expenses are expected to balloon as health care costs soar and employees retire earlier and live longer.

Vallejo officials hope the bankruptcy judge will allow the city to rewrite its labor contracts and bring compensation down. If they're successful, other cities may follow their lead, experts say.

"The solution that will come out of Vallejo may very well be a model for other cities facing similarfiscal challenges," said Marcia Fritz, vice president of the California Foundation for Fiscal Responsibility. "If Vallejo turns out better after declaring bankruptcy ... that will be an avenue (other cities) look at to break contracts."

But bankruptcy is not without risks. It will cost the city millions of dollars in legal fees and damage its credit rating. As a result, borrowing money to build roads, schools and other projects will become much harder - and more expensive.

Claremont has some experience with ballooning employee costs. Before he left for Indio, former Claremont City Manager Glenn Southard got the Claremont City Council to raise city employee pension benefit to 2.5% at 55, meaning that once employees reach 50 years of age, they are qualify for a pension equal to 2.5% of their annual salary at retirement for every year of employment. So an employee who started working for Claremont at, say, 25, and who retired at 55, would qualify for a pension benefit of 75% of their salary - 30 years of service, times 2.5%.

Claremont police officers qualify for an even higher pension. CPD gives out 3% at 50.

To those of you working in private industry, do you receive such generous pension benefits? If you are a worker in one of the 87% of private businesses not offering a defined benefit pension, you're pretty much on your own to fund your own retirement through a 401(k) plan or an IRA. But public employees are in a different class from you.

Prior to the current pension benefit going into effect in July, 2004, Claremont's non-public safety pension benefit was 2% at 55. What Southard didn't tell you, what he didn't care about, was that the .5 % increase was retroactive back to each employee's date of hire. Consequently, Claremont's non-public safety pension account with the California Public Employee Retirement System (CalPERS) became instantly underfunded by as much as $10 million - a fact that Councilmember Peter Yao tried without much success to get Southard's staff to face.

Those of you who recall the meeting where Claremont's City Council voted on the pension increase may remember the unseemly spectacle of senior city employees lined up in the front row and cheering when the council approved the pension.

This all raises the a second problem - that of the blurring of the line between employee and friend. While it's great that the elected and appointed people who run the city love their staff, it's terribly irresponsible for them to abandon their duties to safeguard the public coffers by allowing themselves to become too close to their employees.

Claremont Human Services Deputy Director Mercedes Santoro, for instance, is no doubt a very nice person. She and her family live in Claremont, and they are involved in the community. However, is she really worth $130,000 in salary and benefits (as of the end of 2006)? Is anybody? And she is relatively young. What will her pension be when she retires?

No wonder cities - not just Claremont - seek to hide their employee compensation and are willing to take any step, no matter how questionable to cut off access to that public information. But just look to Vallejo or San Diego to see what happens when elected officials ignore their financial responsibilities.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Village Business News

We wrote yesterday about Warren Buffett saying the economy is in recession and that the downturn would be longer and deeper than most people have been thinking, and those problems certainly extend to local businesses.

We've written about the challenges confronting places like Wolfe's Market and PFF Bancorp, and Tony Krickl had an article in Saturday's Claremont Courier about the the pressure local business owners are putting on the city of Claremont to help draw more foot traffic to the Claremont Village and to the Village Expansion area.

(The Krickl article isn't online yet, so we can't link to it.)

According to Krickl, the city is taking steps that include a "way finding" signage program directing motorists to the downtown areas. The sign program, Krickl wrote, was hung up at the last City Council meeting because the council couldn't agree on the style of the signs.

The article also said:

The council recently approved $21,500 for a professional polling survey of Claremont businesses. The survey would cover how businesses are faring in today's economic climate, what role businesses believe the city should play in a marketing program and whether businesses are willing to financially support a citywide marketing campaign.....

"All that's going to be a huge help," said Joan Bunte, owner of Stamp Your Heart Out and Chairman of the Village Marketing Group. "[The survey] will be a big asset to have that info available to us as we try to move forward on different projects.

In addition, the city has earmarked $50,000 in the next budget cycle for a branding study that would clearly define "who is Claremont and what message we want to go out to the rest of the world," [Assistant City Manager Tony] Ramos said.

The article noted that Claremont merchants have complaints about the lack of clear planning for the Village Expansion:
"To date, Village West has not even had a grand opening," [Chas] Seward said. "...Key locations are standing vacant, businesses have already moved, and/or closed and professional signage has been virtually non-existent.

City Manager Jeff Parker said a grand opening could still be in the works once some of the key locations in the expansion are occupied. That could happen over the summer.

Some city officials admit that the Expansion thus far has not been as successful as they had hope but argue it is hard to compare it to projects like Victoria Gardens [in Rancho Cucamonga] or The Shoppes in Chino Hills.

Adding to their structural problems - finding downtown Claremont, poor planning with the Village Expansion, competition with larger outdoor malls, attracting out-of-area customers - the dragging economy and rising fuel prices have consumers watching their pennies more carefully and driving less.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Memorial Day Service

The Oak Park Cemetery will host a service tomorrow in observance of Memorial Day. The service begin at 11:00am and is open to the public. There will be speakers and light refreshments.

Memorial Day Service
Monday, 5/26/08, 11am
Oak Park Cemetery
410 Sycamore Ave.
(909) 399-5487

Economy in Recession, Buffett Says

San Bernardino business writer Matt Wrye has a blog called The Bizz where he writes about Inland Empire business issues.

Wrye had a post yesterday about billionaire investor Warren Buffet comments that the U.S. economy is in recession. Buffett also said that the recession is going to be longer and deeper than people are expecting right now.

So, with California already facing a projected budget deficit of over $15 billion, and cities across the state, including Claremont, having similar budget problems, elected officials are having to deal with a sea of red with no prospect for relief in the immediate future.

At the state level, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is proposing to borrow against California Lottery revenues while simultaneously cutting back on health and social services. Here in Claremont, the Claremont City Council and its various commissions and committees continues to spend like drunken sailors as City Manager Jeff Parker wrestles with a possible loss of $3.5 million or more in sales tax and state money. Claremont receives approximately 57% of its sales tax revenue from the Claremont Auto Center, whose sales are down because of the rise in gas prices and the downturn in the economy.

And other local businesses are suffering as well. PFF Bancorp (NYSE: PFB) has continued to plummet in value, going from a peak market capitalization of over $900 million to $30.31 million as of Friday's market close. PFF's fall has been tied to the housing market's problems and to loans made to home builders.

If Warren Buffett is correct, then we all have some more belt-tightening to do before things improve.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Support Your Local Grocer

Wolfe's Market owner Tom Wolfe was interviewed by The Business Press as part of an article on how the slumping economy has hurt grocery industry. The article, by Joseph Ascenzi, said that sales at Wolfe's are down 20% in the past two months.

The article reported:

Certainly the slumping economy - particularly the high price of fuel - is having an impact on sales, but the 90-year-old grocery store and delicatessen at 160 W. Foothill Blvd. also faces new competition from Trader Joe's and Sprouts Farmers Market, both of which opened within blocks of Wolfe's Market since last summer.

"My grandfather made it through the Great Depression, and I don't think this will be as bad," Wolfe said. "We'll be OK, we aren't going anywhere, but right now it's hard to pin down why this is happening. There have been stories about people cutting back on food purchases because of the price of gas, but I haven't seen it. At least I can't prove that's what's happening now."

"That bothers me because with our customers, if they want something, they buy it," Wolfe said. "But they will also drive an extra mile if they think they can get a better price on something. If it turns out our sales are down because of competition, then we have to fight to get them back. That's the way it is in this business. If it's more than competition, then I won't even try to predict when we'll come out of it. Economists can't do that."

The Claremont Courier's Tony Krickl also had an article back in March about the adjustments Wolfe's is having to make with the opening of Sprouts Farmers Market last year and the new Trader Joe's, which just opened last month:
Amid heavy competition in Claremont’s specialty food store market, family-owned and operated Wolfe’s Market is set for a major overhaul. With plans to cut back on groceries and display space to make way for their growing lunch and dinner operations, Wolfe’s management hopes the changes will help weather the threat from competition and launch the store into the future.

Wolfe’s has been a fixture of the Claremont community for as long as anyone can remember. When John Wolfe first opened the store in 1917, it mostly catered to travelers along Route 66, with a full service gas pump station and a deli cafe. Over the years, the store has tinkered with its services and identity, reacting to market forces and the desires of its regular customer base.

Wolfe's Market
160 W. Foothill Blvd.
Claremont, CA 9i711
(909) 626-8508

Wild Weather Continues

LA County Fire Station 62 Weather Data
Click to Enlarge

Just when we thought summer was here, what feels like a winter storm comes along and dumps over 1.5" of rain on Claremont yesterday. It's a rare Memorial Day Weekend when we see snow on Ontario Peak on the east side of San Antonio Canyon, but there it was. One week we have 100-degree days, and the next we've got steady rain and high temperature readings in the low-50's.

And that doesn't even include the twin tornados that knocked over 32-ton railroad cars in Moreno Valley Thursday or the flash flooding in Redlands, San Bernardino, and other parts of the Inland Empire. The Daily Bulletin had coverage by Wes Woods II on the unseasonal storm system.

There were no reports of mudslides up in the Big Horn Fire burn area above Mt. Baldy Village, though the fire areas in Sierra Madre had some debris flows.

The Bulletin article said Mt. Baldy got about three inches of snow, and the stormy weather is supposed to continue today:
"This is pretty unusual to have a such a cold low-pressure (system)," said National Weather Service meteorologist Ted Mackechnie in San Diego. "Its flow is bringing moist air off (the) ocean and bringing rain showers west of the mountains and thunderstorms over the desert."

Mackechnie said there was a 40 percent chance of showers continuing today.

A dense fog advisory was predicted until 11 a.m. today in the San Bernardino Mountains, Mackechnie said.

Today's and Sunday's temperatures are expected to be in mid-50 degree range in the morning and increase to the 60s with double-digit winds, according to

At Mt. Baldy Ski Resort on Friday, president Pete Olson said he had been up since 7 a.m. and saw about two to three inches of snow on the parking lot.

"But the ground is so warm, it's melting," Olson said Friday morning. "I was surprised when I woke up this morning. It was all white as far as the eye can see.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Three Valleys Director Calls on Alvarez to Resign

Three Valleys Municipal Water District director Brian Bowcock, who represents La Verne and Claremont on the district's board, let loose with both barrels at fellow director Xavier Alvarez during a district meeting Wednesday. Then Bowcock reloaded and fired away some more.

According to the Daily Bulletin's Will Bigham, Bowcock said that Alvarez was a disgrace and called for him to resign because of Alvarez's lies about receiving a Medal of Honor, for which Alvarez pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge in federal court, as well as Alvarez's misrepresentations on a number of other matters:

"You are a disgrace to the district, a disgrace to south Pomona and a disgrace to the Latino people of the community," said Bowcock, who represents La Verne and Claremont. "But most of all, you have disgraced and embarrassed the servicemen and women of our country."

Alvarez, who never served in the military, declined to respond to Bowcock's resignation demand. Later in the meeting, Alvarez accused Bowcock of displaying "bias and bigotry" in his statement.

Bowcock also asked his colleagues to approve a symbolic, nonbinding resolution calling on Alvarez to resign. The district's attorney was directed to draft the resolution, which will be considered by the full board at its June 17 meeting.

Bowcock also urged the district to follow up on a letter sent to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office last year about Alvarez's potentially unlawful decision to register his ex-wife for district health benefits. No charges have been filed in connection with Alvarez's act.

Bowcock also said he wanted the district to pursue having Alvarez punished for falsely claiming on the November 2006 ballot that he worked as an engineer.

Don't sugarcoat it Mr. Bowcock. What do you really think?

Besides his proposed board resolution calling on Alvarez to resign, Bowcock called on voters of South Pomona, who elected Alvarez to the board, to start a recall campaign. Bowcock also wanted to the board to follow up on a couple other of Alvarez's lies, including a possible felonious one involving Alvarez getting his ex-wife health benefits through the water district.

For his part, Alvarez played the race card, accusing Bowcock of racial bigotry - a claim that seemed to ignore the inconvenient fact that Alvarez has admitted to the lies he was being confronted with. Alvarez also claimed that he was being attacked by his colleagues because in 2006 he won election to the board by defeating incumbent Luis Juarez, whom Alvarez called "corrupt."

As we've noted on numerous occasions, Alvarez won only because he received the endorsement of Pomona Mayor Norma Torres, who herself is now running for the State Assembly.

* * *

The Daily Bulletin also ran an editorial titled "A Great Day to Resign," saying that it would be appropriate for Alvarez to step down before Memorial Day given the nature of his lies.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Marijuana Q & A

The Daily Bulletin's Will Bigham interviewed Darrell Kruse, the owner of the now-closed Claremont medical marijuana dispensary C.A.N.N.A.B.I.S. The city of Claremont won its lawsuit against Kruse last month and the judge in the case granted a permanent injunction barring Kruse from reopening his dispensary.

Since then, on May 13th, the Claremont City Council voted 3-1 to reject a municipal ordinance that would have allowed a single dispensary in town. Instead, the council directed city staff to craft an ordinance banning all dispensaries.

Although we didn't support the dispensary ordinance, we also think that the city didn't really act in good faith in the entire, drawn-out ordinance process. Apparently, Darrell Kruse feels the same way, as he told Will Bigham in the Bulletin interview:

Q: What do you think about the city's recent decision to ban dispensaries? As you know, the City Council had previously voted, in concept, to allow one dispensary.

A: The city has been disingenuous throughout the process. If I ever believed they would allow a dispensary, I would have settled. If they had intended to have one, they could have done it a lot sooner. They delayed until the court decided the issue and then allowed their discompassionate attitude to prevail and ignored the needs of sick people and the will of the voters.

Kruse also indicated that he might fight the court's decision and felt that the state appellate court might be more open to his arguments.

In researching some of the information for this post, we came across an interesting campaign donation in January, 2007, from Kruse to an unexpected recipient. We're still trying to figure out Kruse's reasoning for the $500 contribution. It doesn't seem to make much sense, but, as they say, politics makes strange bedfellows:

Click to Enlarge

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Ring Day

As the Diann Ring Watch in the left-hand margin reminds us,tomorrow will mark the one-year anniversary since former Claremont Mayor Diann Ring accused this blog of publishing lies and made a thinly veiled threat of lawsuits against the Insider. Well, a year's gone by, and we're still standing.

City Attorney Sonia Carvalho took her best, laughable shot at shutting us down last year and failed. So, here we are, quite happily chugging along here on the digital highway.

In observation of anniversary, the shadowy cabal that runs the Insider has issued the following:


WHEREAS, May 22nd marks the one-year anniversary of Diann Ring's ill-considered attempt at prior restraint,

WHEREAS, the city of Claremont has failed in numerous attempts in the past at quelling free speech,

WHEREAS, Diann Ring has been in the past a foremost defender of the City's actions, no matter how wrongheaded,

WHEREAS, the public welfare and community-building are always advanced by remembering the errors of the past,

NOW THEREFORE the Insider Governing Board hereby proclaims May 21st to henceforth be known as


Celebrate Ring Day by speaking your mind. Don't be silenced or intimidated by those in power, and let them know what you think.

It is your government, after all.

Hey, Xavier, Come Back When You Can't Stay So Long

According to an article in the Daily Bulletin, the Three Valleys Municipal Water District board is putting pressure on Three Valleys District I board member Xavier Alvarez to resign. Alvarez recently pleaded guilty to a federal misdemeanor charge of lying about having been awarded a Medal of Honor.

Alvarez, who represents South Pomona on the water district board, was also censured by his fellow boardmembers last year after an investigation showed that Alvarez had falsely claimed that he was still married to his ex-wife so that she could qualify for health benefits through Three Valleys.

The Bulletin article indicates that at least some of the Three Valleys boardmembers are tired of being questioned about Alvarez's antics and are ready to be rid of him. The article quotes Three Valleys boardmember Brian Bowcock, who represents La Verne and Claremont, as well as board president Bob Kuhn:

Bowcock said he will urge Alvarez to resign after reading a three-page list of what he says are Alvarez's lies at this morning's board meeting.

If Alvarez refuses to resign, Bowcock said he will urge his fellow board members to approve a symbolic, nonbinding resolution calling for Alvarez's resignation.

Alvarez could not be reached for comment.

Bowcock, who represents La Verne and Claremont, said he has received "continued questions about why the board has not followed through and asked for his resignation publicly. And that is why I'm doing it."

Bob Kuhn, board president, said, "I think there's a strong feeling on the board that we're spending way, way, way too much time on this guy's misgivings."

In addition to calling for Alvarez's resignation, Bowcock said he intends to formally lodge a complaint with the California Fair Political Practices Commission over Alvarez's false claim on the November 2006 ballot that he is an engineer.

He also said he will follow up with the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office to inquire about its progress in investigating Alvarez's registration of his ex-wife for district health benefits.

The article goes on to say that Bowcock will call on South Pomona voters to recall Alvarez. The FC Blog also picked up on the story and is open to comments on their post, including this one from Miss Havisham:

He’ll just wear his mustache bigger.

Has the Mayor of Pomona made any kind of statement or demand to atone for her misguided endorsement of him?

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Claremont: Land of Unintended Consequences

Claremont has always prided itself on being a visionary city, a community unafraid of finding a new way of getting something done, a pioneering city.

So it's fitting that the town finds itself having to cut a new path to Johnson's Pasture in the north part of town. The current trailhead, situated as it is in a small cul-de-sac on Via Santa Catarina in the Claremont's Claraboya neighborhood, has always been problem. Because there's no parking lot, cars fill up the small street, making for trouble with the neighbors there.

Now that the city has purchased the pasture and has added the land to its Wilderness Park, the homes next to the trailhead have felt a heavy impact from increased traffic and crime.

It's just another unintended consequence in a city full of unanticipated problems that were easily foreseeable had the blinders not been on. Remember the Claremont 400's first scheme to buy Johnson's Pasture - one that failed miserably in 2006? Or that extra $1 million we had to pay to purchase the land after the state grant the 400 had promised us fell through because of the way the deed language was miswritten?

The problem will come before the city's Traffic and Transportation Commission this Thursday, and the city is considering a number of actions, including establishing a new trailhead and parking area at the north end of Mountain Ave. Will Bigham wrote about the problem in the Daily Bulletin:

The Traffic and Transportation Commission is scheduled to consider the proposal at its 7 p.m. meeting Thursday at City Hall.

At a commission meeting in February, one resident of Via Santa Catarina spoke at length about the new problems in his once-quiet neighborhood.

David Jacks said that four of the residents' cars had been broken into, couples had been seen having sex in public, beer bottles were left in yards and statues were stolen out of front yards. The litany of complaints continued for six minutes.

"It's creepy," Jacks said. "It's gotten to the point where something that was once really nice has gotten really out of hand."

Because the solution proposed by the city would not cut off public access, conservationists who were the driving force behind the purchase of Johnson's Pasture say they approve of the idea.

"If they wait and put in a trailhead and have adequate parking, then that's fine," said Suzanne Thompson, head of the Claremont Wildlands Conservancy.

"There's a huge other constituency in Claremont that uses Johnson's Pasture," Thompson added. "The solution needs to work for them as well."

Councilman Peter Yao also said he was supportive of the idea.

He said that if the area at the northern end of Mountain Avenue is not large enough to accommodate visitors' needs - there is space for about 15 cars - a parking lot may be considered.

Leave it to Councilmember Yao to float the parking lot idea. Yao seems to have no problem fitting inappropriate uses into residential neighborhoods. The Padua Theater renovation proposal by Arteco Partners, for instance, anticipates 50,000 visitors a year into an area surrounded by the Wilderness Park and single-family homes. Yao is all for those 50,000 and more if we can jam it in there.

What is it exactly that Yao doesn't like about Claremont residents?

Besides the new parking arrangement and trailhead, the Traffic and Transportation Commission will consider approving a preferential permit policy requiring people parking on Via Santa Catarina to display a special resident placard. You can read the city's staff report on the issue here.

Something will be needed if the current trailhead is closed. As we wrote in February, the ascent to Johnson's Pasture will become much more difficult without the access from Via Santa Catarina.

And we have no idea if there's any truth to the rumor that the city's Off Track Trolley Citizen's Committee has come up its own solution to the problem: a funicular. That might, however, explain the prison work crews and loads of railroad ties and steel rails being trucked up Mountain Ave.

Photo Right:
City Engineer Craig Bradshaw oversees the installation of railway to Johnson's Pasture. Train will cut travel time and speed mail delivery, city staff report says.

Thursday, May 22, 2008, 7:00PM
Traffic and Transportation Commission Meeting
225 West Second Street - City Council Chamber
(909) 399-5460

Monday, May 19, 2008

Meetings, Meetings

The City of Claremont has two task force meetings coming up this week.

Tonight, the city's Sustainable City Task Force meets at 7pm in the Citrus Room of Claremont City Hall. The Citrus Room is on the second floor right above the City Council chambers. Enter through the doors on 2nd Street.

Monday, May 19th, 7:00pm
Sustainable City Task Force
City Hall, Citrus Room
207 Harvard
(909) 399-5460

The city's Affordable Housing Task Force meets on Wednesday, May 21st, at 5pm, also in the Citrus Room. The topic on the agenda is "Financing of Affordable Housing." Given some of the personalities involved, this should be interesting.

Wednesday, May 21st, 5:00pm
Affordable Housing Task Force
City Hall, Citrus Room
207 Harvard
(909) 399-5460

The Claremonsters want to make sure both task forces get a good deal of work in before the city commissions and committees take their customary August break. In the best Ellen Taylor tradition, they'll want to have plenty of accomplishments to point to in the municipal election next March, and they'll want to use the task forces to position: 1) Queen Ellen; and 2) a possible candidate to come out of the task forces to unseat Councilmember Corey Calaycay.

The seats held by Taylor and Calaycay will be contested next year, and the Claremonsters, whose scheming never ceases, will be busy bees the next few months. They generally like to get the things they value done as summer approaches because that's when the fewest people are around to attend the public meetings where decisions get made - that "public process" they love to trumpet.

So, most of the two task forces' heavy-lifting will be done before August and by September or October at the latest - November gets a little too close to city election time to risk having contentious issues come up.

But try to watch now. This is where the Claremonsters really set things up for much later on. It's impossible to fully appreciate their conniving without knowing the setup.

Nothing like politicizing the public welfare - a skill Taylor, et. al., have mastered.

Money Pits

Troubles in the credit markets have hit local banks hard, leaving several in need of money to cover loan losses. The Daily Bulletin's Matt Wrye writes that loan losses by area banks have eaten up large amounts cash:

In the last two quarters, local banks collectively shoveled a whopping $230 million into their loan loss reserves to cover tens of millions of dollars in loan write-offs, and they may have to set aside even more cash for future losses.

Is the environment ripe for bank buyouts?

The answer is no, according to one financial guru on Wall Street steeped in years of industry knowledge.

"Bankers become very cautious in markets like this," said John Eggemeyer, chairman of San Diego-based PacWest Bancorp and CEO of Castle Creek Capital private equity firm. "It's a mistake to jump into a troubled market too early. Banks are reluctant to expose their own balance sheets to other banks."

The next choices in line: private equity or institutional capital.

"There's plenty of private equity flying around, looking for banks like these," said Eggemeyer, who has cobbled together PacWest through several acquisitions in recent years.

The most glaring examples of possible buyouts or capital infusions are Rancho Cucamonga-based PFF Bancorp and Corona-based Vineyard National Bancorp, but smaller banks' financial statements are also raising eyebrows.

We've written about PFF's troubles recently, and we suspect that the worst is not over.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Doin' Time

Not that this would have happened here in Claremont had Claremont's medical marijuana dispensary ordinance passed last week, but the San Francisco Chronicle reports that two medical marijuana dispensary operators in Modesto have been convicted of running a criminal enterprise:

Luke Anthony Scarmazzo, 28, and Ricardo Ruiz Montes, 28, were convicted by a federal jury Fresno on Thursday of conducting a continuing criminal enterprise, growing marijuana and possessing marijuana with the intent to distribute.

The conviction for running a criminal enterprise carries a mandatory sentence of at least 20 years. U.S. District Judge Oliver Wanger is to sentence both men Aug. 4.

Federal officials said the case sends a message to marijuana growers and dealers who believe they are shielded from prosecution under the California law legalizing medical marijuana use.

"Scarmazzo and Montes made millions by exploiting and hiding behind California's medical marijuana law," said McGregor Scott, U.S. attorney in Sacramento. "In this case, there was no conflict between state and federal law, as their conduct was illegal under both.

"California's medical marijuana law clearly sets out that making a profit selling marijuana is illegal," Scott said. "These two set out to make as much money as they could as drug dealers, plain and simple."

Scarmazzo and Montes obtained a business license from the city of Modesto by falsely representing that their California Healthcare Collective would engage in "retail sales of natural health-care products," authorities said. In reality, they limited their business to marijuana sales, authorities said.

The collective filed papers with Modesto stating that it earned more than $4.5 million while operating in the Central Valley city from 2004 to 2006, investigators said. But the evidence at trial showed that the defendants actually generated more than $9 million in sales.

Nice work if you can get it.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Fire Threat Fades

The U.S. Forest Service has been busy this past week managing the fire response personnel fighting the Big Horn Fire. The fire was listed as 72% contained yesterday, and is expected to be fully contained by 6pm Sunday, barring an unforeseen flare-up. The fire has burned 461 acres as of yesterday's incident report.

Demobilization of the firefighting crews has begun, and the number of personnel attached to the incident was down to 388 yesterday from a high of 755. Mt. Baldy Rd. remained closed at Shinn Rd. to non-residents, but the Mt. Baldy Village school reopened yesterday.

Today's Claremont Courier has a story by Tony Krickl on the fire. Krickl's article notes that Claremont's CodeRed system was used to notify about 21,000 residents of the fire's status. (Long-time readers may recall that CodeRed was implemented during the City Attorney-induced turmoil of Paystubgate last September.)

Krickl's article also reports that fire investigators believe the fire was caused by people, though it is unknown at this point if it was intentional.

The Daily Bulletin had an article of a different sort about the Forest Service. According to a piece by Rod Leveque, Rancho Cucamonga resident and former Forest Service accountant Kathy Stamps was arrested yesterday and stands accused of embezzling over $1.4 million from the Forest Service:

Prosecutors allege Stamps, who worked as an accountant for the Forest Service office in Arcadia, transferred the money from government coffers into the bank account of her family's corporation, DKLD, between January 2002 and October 2004.

They say the money had been allocated to the Forest Service by private companies for public-works projects in the Angeles National Forest.

The lost money was discovered by other employees after Stamps left her job.

According to public records and the corporation's Web site, Stamps and her husband used money from DKLD to open several franchise businesses in the Inland Empire, including a Wing Stop restaurant at 7212 Archibald Ave. in Rancho Cucamonga.

The restaurant, which opened in 2004, specializes in chicken wings.

Talk about the federal government pumping money into the local economy!

Dept. of Corrections

Our post yesterday on the race for the State Assembly's 61st District seat contained one error, as a reader pointed out. Nell Soto was a councilmember for Pomona, but she was not mayor:

Just a bit of info regarding Nell Soto, she was never Mayor of Pomona. Good coverage on Torres.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Fire News

InciWeb updated its information for the Big Horn Fire yesterday. As of 6:00am Thursday, the fire had burned 420 acres. InciWeb's map (right) shows the fire location pretty clearly with Mt. Baldy Village south of the fire and Ice House Canyon to the east.

The fire was listed as 60% contained, and InciWeb lists the probability of movement as minimal. 755 personnel from different agencies are now assigned to the fire.

Following the 61st Assembly District Race

The race for the State Assembly's 61st District has been getting some local coverage. As we've observed, the seat is pretty safely Democratic, so it'll be the June primary that decides the eventual winner.

The Daily Bulletin has noted that Pomona Mayor Norma Torres has raised the most money of any of the Democrats and has also garnered the endorsement of the incumbent Nell Soto, who is retiring due to poor health. Soto, missed a good chunk of the last year's worth of legislative sessions because of her health problems.

The Bulletin reported that Torres had raised $200,000 as of May 10th, which dwarfed the $20,000 reported by fellow Democratic candidate Maurice Ayala. Cal Poly Pomona professor Ken White had raised between $5,000 and $6,000, according to the article.

The Bulletin piece also noted that Torres had spent some of her money on polling, which is usually pretty expensive and is another sign that Torres has money to burn. Torres is the state Democratic Party's anointed one in this particular campaign, due solely to her work within the party. Her party associations helped get her a PR piece in the Los Angeles Times, for instance, and has enabled Torres to raise money from deep pocket donors - the type that usually end up wanting a favor from a bought assembly person somewhere down the road: Say, Norma, how about some help killing that bill in your Assembly committee, or Hey, Norma, can you vote for this [fill in the blank] bill?

As the Bulletin piece also noted, the 61st Assembly District is drawn in such a way that it's become a Democratic monopoly:

The Democrat who wins the June 3 primary is expected to easily defeat the Republican nominee in the November election.

The 61st District, like most districts in the state, has been gerrymandered by the Legislature to protect the incumbent party. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 46 percent to 33.6 percent.

The problem here is that as with any monopoly, competition has been quelled - competition for ideas from within the party as well as from the outside. So, with this gerrymandering repeated across the state and the country, can there be any end result other than gridlock?

It's no surprise that Soto endorsed Torres. Torres is, after all, Soto's protégé, just as Three Valleys Municipal Water District boardmember Xavier Alvarez was Torres' after a fashion. Alvarez, who used to call himself a Medal of Honor winner, also used to represent Pomona, before KABC TV News reassigned him to Claremont.

Nell Soto, herself a former Pomona councilmember, preceded Torres within the party, then picked Norma as a successor. Torres in turn backfills the lower-tier political positions with folks like Xavier Alvarez in order to build a layer of politicians on the local level loyal to her. As a result, Torres' right to represent her district owes nothing to her performance as Mayor of Pomona and everything to her social and political network.

So, the fact that Torres instigated a silly feud with Pomona's police chief or that her city's budget is in the red a projected $3.6 million, have no bearing on her qualifications for office. The very inevitability of the ascension of a relatively mediocre mayor to state assembly embodies the corruption at the heart of the system.

And, lest you think we're trying to favor one party over another, keep in mind that the Republican party has had its own troubles and is equally culpable for the gridlock at the state and national level. Both parties need to step back and realize that competition makes them better. If they really cared about the public welfare, they'd scrap the current system of drawing districts and create one that results in as many balanced districts as possible.

Let's see them have to work to get elected. The very act of having to earn one's vote tends to make one more sensitive to one's constituency. Here in Claremont, we've seen in the recent past, a ruling group dependent on its social network and firmly ensconced in power move farther and farther out of step with the community, creating unnecessary crisis and community turmoil.

It's really been nothing more than a microcosm of what's happening at higher levels of government. Both parties have for too long been more interested in preserving their own power than in serving the public, and they have run from competition rather than embracing it. In doing so, they've encouraged the rise of mediocrities like Norma Torres, much to the detriment of voters everywhere.

Upland Pet Fair Saturday

The City of Upland is sponsoring a Pet Adoption Fair this Saturday, May 17th, from 9am to 3pm in Upland's Memorial Park. The Ravelers will be there all day providing musical entertainment. So if you don't want to head west to La Verne for an art event, go east.

There will also be a low-cost pet vaccination clinic, microchipping, disc dogs, and a flyball race team. The Upland Fire Department will be cooking up hamburgers and hot dogs, too.

Saturday, May 17 - Upland Pet Adoption Fair
Upland Memorial Park
Foothill Blvd between Campus and Grove
Upland, CA
For info, click here:

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Big Horn Fire Update

The InciWeb wildfire information site reported that as of 7:30am this morning, the Big Horn Fire in the Angeles National Forest near Mt. Baldy Village was 25% contained. 668 personnel from various agencies have been committed to the firefighting efforts. The U.S. Forest Service is in charge of incident management.

The fire is listed as having burned 340 acres. It could reach 100 degrees today, and higher temperatures means lower relative humidity, making for drier fuel sitting on the mountain slopes. Also, north and northeast winds are expected to pick up slightly, gusting up to 30 mph at times, and that could push the fire to the southwest. The fire's growth potential is still listed at medium.

Mt. Baldy Road is closed to non-residents at Shinn Rd. just past the San Antonio Dam, and Mt. Baldy Village is under a voluntary evacuation.

The Daily Bulletin reported on the potential of the weather conditions to hamper the firefighters' efforts. The Bulletin also has an article updating readers on yesterday's developments with the fire and the effect the fire is having on Mt. Baldy area residents.

La Verne Art Event

If you're looking to get away from the Claremont Colleges' commencement activity this weekend, head west to La Verne, where you will find the Celebration of the Arts at the La Verne Church of the Brethren this Saturday and Sunday.

The event will feature music as well as a non-juried show with the work of local artists. Who knows, you may even catch the artistry of a Claremonter or two.

La Verne Celebration of the Arts
Church of the Brethren
2425 E St.
La Verne, CA 91750

Sat. May 17:
2 - 5 PM Gallery Open
Performing Artists and Docent Tours on the hour
6:30 - 8 PM Community Concert
8 - 9 PM Artists Reception

Sun. May 18:
11:30 - 3 PM Gallery Open
Performing Artists and Docent Tours on the hour

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Medical Marijuana Ordinance Voted Down

The Claremont City Council last night voted 3-1 against implementing a proposed medical marijuana dispensary ordinance. Mayor Ellen Taylor was the only person to vote for the measure. Councilmember Peter Yao was absent.

The Daily Bulletin covered the council meeting and has an article on the vote. The Bulletin article indicates that the council referred the matter back to city staff to draft an ordinance banning dispensaries.

The new marching orders to staff represent a complete about-face by the council, which had voted 3-2 last July to direct city staff draft a ordinance that would have legalized dispensaries (or at least one) in Claremont. In that July vote, councilmembers Peter Yao and Corey Calaycay voted against going forward with the draft ordinance that was voted down last night.

Councilmembers Linda Elderkin and Sam Pedroza reversed their positions from being for an ordinance to voting against it.

A temporary moratorium against dispensaries remains in place and will expire in September.

So, again we ask, was this trip really necessary?

Big Horn Fire Burns 310 Acres

The wildfire season continued its early start when a wildfire broke out near Bear Flat north of the Mt. Baldy Village yesterday at around 4:30am. The cause of the blaze, known as the Big Horn Fire, is unknown, according the Daily Bulletin's fire coverage.

The Daily Bulletin's website also has a photo gallery and video of the fire.

An interagency website called InciWeb
posts updates on fire news and listed the Big Horn Fire as 10% contained. According to InciWeb, 396 firefighters have been committed to the incident and are being supported by helicopters and fixed wing aircraft.

The winds are low, and the temperatures haven't fully heated up yet, so the fire isn't as bad as it could be. Consequently, the growth potential is listed as medium. The steep terrain makes firefighting efforts difficult, but the fire seems to have moved relatively slowly, more like the 2002 Williams Fire than the 2003 Grand Prix-Padua Fire that burned through Palmer Canyon. Under low wind conditions, the Williams Fire hung around the local foothills for days after burning east from Azusa Canyon.

InciWeb lists the projected movement for the Big Horn Fire as southwesterly if predicted weather patterns hold up.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Affordable Housing Meeting Update

A reader sent in a note regarding tomorrow's 5pm meeting of the city of Claremont's Affordable Housing Task Force. The meeting had originally been scheduled for a small conference room in City Hall, and attendees were asked to enter through a side entrance on the north side of City Hall.

Apparently, the attempts at burying the meeting by not notifying all of the interested parties and by putting the meeting into a small room in City Hall didn't work because a reader writes with the following all-cap news:


So, the meeting information is changed:

Affordable Housing Task Force
May 14, 5:00 PM

Claremont City Hall, Citrus Room
225 W. 2nd St.

For information, call (909) 399-5460

Was This Trip Really Necessary?

Circular motion is a Claremont specialty, as we've seen with any number of Claremont issues that have come forth from the braintrust that runs so much of the town: the roundabout at Indian Hill Blvd. and Bonita Ave. (put in, then taken out after accident and complaints piled up); their support for hugely unpopular ex-City Manager Glenn Southard; their insistence on shoehorning in the Padua Sports Park into a residential neighborhood serviced by one two-lane road; the failed 2006 Parks and Pastures assessment district; their similar insistence on pushing the Base Line Rd. affordable housing project; and now, their medical marijuana law.

For those of you who are interested, the Claremont City Council will consider its medical marijuana dispensary ordinance tonight at the council's regular meeting, which begins at 6:30pm in the City Council Chambers at 225 W. 2nd St.

Will Bigham has an article in the Daily Bulletin
confirming what was reported Saturday in the Claremont Courier about an apparent council majority against the proposed ordinance. Councilmembers Linda Elderkin and Sam Pedroza, who had initially voted with Mayor Ellen Taylor to support going forward with an ordinance, are now indicating they are against the law, though for different reasons.

Elderkin says she is bothered by a January California Supreme Court ruling that employees can be fired for testing positive for marijuana even if the employee has a prescription. The Bigham article quoted Elderkin:

"What this effectively does, this decision, is says the state cannot decide to get behind its own law," Elderkin said.

She said the "legal ambiguity" of the state's medical- marijuana program "makes it awfully difficult" for a small city such as Claremont to tackle the issue with confidence.

"I really believe the state has an obligation to really support the law, and that means support the cities, support the dispensaries - I think they have a legal obligation to do so, and it's clear the legal system is not doing so," Elderkin said.

Pedroza, on the other hand, told Bigham that he was having second thoughts about the issue after hearing from people opposed to the dispensaries:

Sam Pedroza was supportive of the idea last year, but he said Monday that he now has misgivings about the idea, partially because of the vocal opposition that has materialized in recent months from the Chamber of Commerce and other city institutions.

Before voting in July, there was very little community input, Pedroza said, "and a ton of input afterwards."

"To say that I've been educated is an understatement," Pedroza added. "I need to be responsive as a member of a representative government."

Councilmembers Corey Calaycay and Peter Yao originally voted against going forward with the ordinance last year, so presumably, that would make a 4-1 vote against the dispensary law. Queen Ellen remains supportive of the law. According to the Bulletin article, she said:
"I think it's the right thing to do," she said. "And if any city can do it, Claremont can do it."

Translation: "I ain't gonna change, no way, no how." She's a rock[head] that Ellen, our decider.

More reasonable minds are asking, as they always do when we end up back where we started on these things, why did we waste all this time and energy? If public opinion was needed, why not get it beforehand and spare everyone this stupid exercise?

* * *

Speaking of running in circles, the City of Claremont's Affordable Housing Task Force has its first meeting tomorrow evening at 5pm in City Hall.

The Task Force, hand-picked by Ellen Taylor and Sam Pedroza, was stocked with plenty of people loyal to Taylor's "vision" of how the affordable housing project should go: Police Commissioner and League of Women Voters President Barbara Musselman, Human Services Commissioner and general misanthrope Andy Winnick, former Planning Commission Chair and League of Women Voters member Sharon Hightower, and several other usual suspects.

If you want to see an exercise in manipulation, turn out tomorrow to watch the Task Force at work. We suspect the Base Line Rd. project isn't dead yet, at least in the small minds of Taylor, Musselman & Winnick. The city's Police Commission, with Musselman on board, has quietly removed the Base Line Rd. site from consideration as a possible location for a new Claremont police station. The Police Commission gave no explanation for the removal, but one suspects Musselman had other plans for the site and that she worked behind the scenes with the Police Department to nix the Base Line site from the department's plans.

As always when Taylor and the Claremont Area League of Women Voters are concerned, it's not the words but what lies below the surface that holds meaning. Watch what they do at tomorrow's Affordable Housing Task Force meeting comes into play a few years down the road. (We'll link back to this post when Musselman's play becomes evident.)

Affordable Housing Task Force
May 14, 5:00 PM
City Hall, First Floor Conference Room
207 Harvard (enter @ north side of building)
For information, call (909) 399-5460

City Yard Sale Saturday

The City of Claremont gives you a chance to clear out your junk this Saturday at the annual Citywide Yard Sale at Cahuilla Park from 8am to 11am.

The fee for a space is $15. Set up begins at 6am. Check the city's website for registration forms and for a fact sheet. Or call (909) 399-5490 for more information about this year's event.

Saturday, May 17, 8am - 11am
Citywide Yard Sale
Cahuilla Park
Corner of Indian Hill Blvd. and Scripps Rd.
North of Claremont High School
(909) 399-5490

Monday, May 12, 2008


Our apologies to readers using Firefox. The formatting on some of the posts using italics is messed up if you try viewing with Firefox. Internet Explorer does not seem to have this problem. We've contacted Blogger and hope to get the issue addressed.

42nd Street Bagel Incident Sparks Letters to Local Paper

Race is a touchy subject, more so in Claremont than in many places. Just ask Scripps College Dean of Students Debra Wood. Or former Claremont McKenna College visiting professor of psychology Kerri Dunn. And then there was the matter of Pomona College's decision to not have the school's Alma Mater sung at this year's commencement.

And then, too, Claremont has had some real incidents of people being the targets of violence because of their race.

So, we intentionally held off commenting immediately on the the recent incident at the 42nd Street Bagel restaurant on Yale Ave. in the Claremont Village until we had more information.

We first learned of it when a letter appeared in the Claremont Courier from a person who said that the were in shock after "witnessing a blatant racist attack" there on an elderly "woman of color" by a "large, older man wearing a 'David Duke for President' T-shirt. The letter writer felt that the restaurant's employees seemed to favor the man rather than the woman.

After that first letter, the elderly woman involved in the incident wrote in to the Courier asking for a public apology from the store's manager. In response, the management of the 42nd Street Bagel wrote in to apologize.

There were also a number of letters in support of the woman, as well as calls to have the matter referred to the city's Committee on Human Relations, and other calls to boycott the bagel place for its coddling of the alleged racist and its insensitivity to the elderly woman.

Now other letters have appeared in the Courier saying that there was more to the story than was originally reported. The letters included one from the co-founder of 42nd Street Bagel and another from the David Duke-shirt wearing man at the center of the controversy. There were also some from a witness or two who supported the man's account of the matter.

If we can dig up some video, we'll try an delve more deeply into this bagel business later. For now, a word to the wise: in matters of race, use some commonsense. Claremont is usually better off counting to ten and then looking into things. We don't need another witch-hunt in Claremont. The obvious racially-motivated crimes, such as the stabbing of the African-American man by four men on their way to a White Power rally in Los Angeles are a completely different category than the hyped up melodrama of these other incidents, and they deserve to be treated differently.