Claremont Insider: December 2008

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

NYE Party at WineStyles

There's will be loads of parties all around town tonight, but if you don't have any place else to go, why not try WineStyles in the Claremont Village Expansion on Indian Hill Blvd.?

We're reliably informed WineStyles is having a New Year's Eve party beginning at 8pm tonight. The crowd's usually fun and non-winesnobby folk, and there's usually music and something to nosh on as well.

New Year's Eve Party - Starts at 8pm
Winestyles
201 N. Indian Hill Blvd., Suite A100
Claremont, CA 91711
(909) 447-4400

End of Year Lists

TOP STORIES

The year's end brings, as usual, the obligatory backward glances at the annum gone by. Top stories of 2008, best of lists - movies, books, music, recipes and more - have been popping up on websites all over the Interwebs in recent weeks.

The Daily Bulletin has had several "look back" articles this past week. One, by Wes Woods II, covered his top Claremont stories of 2008. Woods had among his top stories: the failed affordable housing project on Base Line Rd., the medical marijuana issue, the Padua Hills Theatre renovation, and the Thanksgiving Pilgrim incident at Condit School.

Woods also listed the passing a few notable Claremont residents, including the painter Milford Zornes, Bulletin writer Leo Greene, and novelist and Pomona College visiting professor David Foster Wallace.

Woods also had a forward-looking piece about what might be the top issues for the city in 2009. Among these is the economic environment, which continues to deteriorate, as Woods' piece pointed out:

It's gonna be a tough year," Mayor Ellen Taylor said. "I'm hoping we can balance that aspect with continued service to our residents."

Councilman Peter Yao said the most immediate issue will be the amount of revenue coming into the city.

"Our majority source is Claremont Toyota and they're having a hard time," Yao said.

"Around mid-January, we will figure out what adjustments we need to make to finish this year through June, and what changes we want to make to next year's budget."

And David Allen had his list of "2008's Strangest News" for the wider area, including things from Ontario and Pomona. We won't spoil the suspense and give away Allen's Number One, but here's one Claremont-centric item that weighed in at Number Three:
3. HEAD CASE: A crystal skull on loan to a New Age shop in Claremont was reported missing by its owner, who believed the skull originated hundreds or thousands of years ago and had healing powers. The reported theft in April coincided with publicity for the fourth Indiana Jones movie. To my knowledge, Claremont suffered no stolen fedoras.

OUR LIST

Not wanting to miss out on all the rearview mirror glancing, here are some of the issues we thought were hot Claremont topics in 2008:
  • Budgetary Problems - State and Local all thanks partly to a $42 billion state deficit, a recession, and a credit market freeze but mostly to:

  • The Housing Market Crash that saw housing prices fall nationwide by large percentages. Loan defaults and foreclosures soared as the real estate bubble deflated. The housing market failure led to a domino effect that killed the credit markets. That in turn led to things like:

  • The Failure of PFF Bancorp. - An Inland Empire institution for over 100 years, PFF survived the Great Depression but could not withstand the mismanagement of a not-too-smart board of directors who bet much too heavily on loans to developers and builders.

    The same sort of hubris expressed itself differently in the another local issue:

  • The Affordable Housing Crash fueled by the bubbly, and unrealistic magical thinking of the local chapter of the League of Women Voters, who at considerable expense pushed a project that had no real hope of getting approved. The LWV and their leaders, Helaine Goldwater, Barbara Musselman, Sharon Hightower, and especially Claremont Mayor Ellen Taylor were most responsible for this particular debacle.

    Fortunately for Taylor, she only had two feet to fit into her mouth. It might have been much worse if her bipedalism weren't a limiting factor in her political missteps. As it was, her other big boo-boo was:

  • Cookiegate - Ellen chased off a troop of Girl Scouts, first from the stoop of her Claremont Village office building, then from the street corner. We suspect this mini-scandal, which drew lots of local and national attention, might have factored into Taylor's decision not to seek re-election - though she'd never publicly admit it.

    Taylor's transgressions paled in comparison to:

  • Xavier Alvarez - the gift that keeps on giving, conviction-wise. The South Pomona representative to the Three Valleys Municipal Water District board pleaded guilty to a federal misdemeanor for lying about receiving a Medal of Honor and now faces felony insurance fraud charges in LA Superior Court.

    Not all things rose to Alvarezian heights, but Claremont McKenna College did have to do some PR damage control for:

  • Jonathan Petropoulos - the CMC history professor who stepped down from his position as director of CMC's Center for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights after news broke in CMC's student paper about an investigation into Petropoulos' role in the attempted restitution of a painting looted by Nazis during World War II to the work's rightful owner.

    Not all the news at the Claremont Colleges was such heavy stuff, though. There was, for instance:

  • The White Party - A Scripps College dean read the wrong things into a party flyer, leading to a PC faux-pas.

    And in a similar vein:

  • Pomona Alma Mater-gate - Pomona College's Alma Mater, "Hail! Pomona, Hail!" is slated to die a slow death, while Pomona's other traditional song, "Torchbearers," gets sent to rewrite.

    Not to be outdone, Claremont Unified School District had its own racially sensitive issue:

  • Indian-Pilgrim War - elementary school parents take umbrage at a long CUSD tradition of kids dressing up as Native Americans and Pilgrims and end up offending other parents who rather liked the tradition.

We've no doubt forgotten one thing or another - the Wilderness Park bulldozing, for instance (how often does a city make an easily avoidable $250,000 goof in the middle of a financial crisis?) - and we'll almost certainly hear from our dear readers about our omissions.


IN MEMORIAM

We do want to note, as the Bulletin's Wes Woods II did, the passings of a few notable Claremonters in 2008:
  • Milford Zornes - the long-time Claremont resident and renowned watercolorist died in February not long after his 100th birthday. Zornes' mural work can be seen in the lobby of the Claremont Post Office.

  • Leo Greene - the Daily Bulletin columnist and Claremonter also passed away in February. Greene wrote about his coping with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) in a Bulletin series called "Leo's Story."

  • David Foster Wallace - Writer and Pomona College professor David Foster Wallace committed suicide at his Claremont home in September. Wallace was very popular with his students, and his death shook the college community. We found a March, 1997, interview Wallace did with PBS' Charlie Rose for those who never had a chance to meet DFW.

  • Enid Douglass - A former Claremont mayor and councilmember, Douglass was a Claremont Graduate School alumna and helped develop an oral history program there. Following her death in mid-October, the Claremont Courier had a long obit on Douglass life and her many accomplishments.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Pomona Library News

We're going to need a special blog roll just for Pomona. Ms. Lois, a library specialist over at the Pomona Public Library Children's Room, reminded us that the PPL has a great blog of its own, full of photos, PPL news and other library-related tidbits, including a story of pumpkin pie. It bills itself as the children's library blog, but there are plenty of things written by and for grown ups.

The PPL blog's header gives us some institutional history:

Ms. Clara Webber was the first children's librarian of Pomona Public Library. A long time correspondent with Mrs. Laura Ingalls Wilder, she was instrumental in having the Children's Room named in honor of Mrs. Wilder on May 25, 1950. Today, we house the original hand written manuscript for the novel Little Town on the Prairie. Every February, we host the Laura Ingalls Wilder Sociable in honor of Mrs. Wilder's February 7th birthday.

Lois' pumpkin pie travails reminded me of a throwaway line from Garrison Keillor a couple weeks ago about how the best pumpkin pie you ever tasted isn't much different from the worst.

Keillor, by the way, performed his show live at Bridges Auditorium on the Pomona College campus 23 years ago, before he started doing his Prairie Home Companion road performances in larger venues like the Greek Theatre. Willie Nelson was a special guest performer that long-ago night at Bridges.

We saw PHC live at the Pasadena Civic Auditorium about 8-1/2 years ago. The then-red-hot newgrass band Nickel Creek, headed up by three young people who grew up together in San Diego, performed and sang, among other things, the old timey song "The Fox."

The band's no longer together, but mandolinist Chris Thile struck it really big and pops up on all sorts of records now.

Nickel Creek - The Fox

Piano Piano

If you're looking for something different to do, you might want to check out Claremont's new piano lounge, Piano Piano, at Foothill and Indian Hill Blvds. next to the DoubleTree Hotel Claremont.

We haven't been yet, but we hear the place is drawing big crowds. Piano Piano is open Wednesdays through Saturdays and features dueling electronic pianos. The Claremont Courier had a write-up for Piano Piano last month:

The professional musicians know hundreds of songs dating back to the 1950s. “We play everything from Elvis to LL Cool J,” [entertainment director Ryan Bueter] said.

The performers encourage audience involvement through clapping, dancing, singing and dueling over songs. “We do more than just play music,” he said. “We put on a show.”

“It will be great entertainment for hotel guests and the community,” said Owner Harry Wu, speaking at a private opening Thursday night.

Despite the slowing economy, Mr. Wu is confident that the Double Tree Hotel and new bar will be successful. “We are holding up fairly well compared to our competitors,” Mr. Wu said.

Piano Piano
555 W. Foothill Blvd.
Claremont, CA 91711
(909) 626-2411, ext. 1847

Showtimes:
Wednesdays through Saturdays, 8pm to 12:45am
Happy Hour: 6-8pm

Monday, December 29, 2008

Monday Mail

Some end-of-the-year mail, beginning with an announcement about a new yoga class for kids. The class will be held on Yale Ave. in the Claremont Village:

DATE: Sunday, December 28, 2008 5:57 PM
SUBJECT: Info about a kids yoga class coming to Claremont
TO: Claremont Buzz

Hi Claremont Insider,

Beginning January 8, 2009, there will a weekly kids yoga class at Om Sweet Om (204 N. Yale, Claremont). The class, which will meet Thursdays from 4:30 – 5:30 PM, will be open to kiddos age 6 and older. The cost per session per child is $10 ($6 per class additional for parent participants). Classes will incorporate games, song, and make-believe to develop healthy bodies, creative minds, and peaceful spirits.Dress comfortably; no mat or experience necessary.

Contact kidsyogainfoatgmaildotcom for answers to any questions.

* * *

Then there was this end-of-the-year note from another reader:
DATE: Friday, December 26, 2008 11:38 AM
SUBJECT: Thank You Insider
TO: Claremont Buzz

Dear Claremont Buzz,

As 2008 comes to a close, I want to thank the Insider staff (Buzz, root2, Joslyn Jane and ?) for informing us, through out the year, about the goings-on in our "fair" city of Claremont. Who knows how our city will be faring on in the next year and beyond, given the current economic turmoil, but I hope to count on the Insider to keep us informed as events unfold. Keep up the good work, Insider!

Thanks, Dear Reader, for the vote of confidence. We'll try to keep at in the coming year. There'll certainly be no lack of things to cover, from the economy to the upcoming city election to the day-to-day happenings in our fair city, as you say.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

CMA Alive and Well


We received word from a reliable source that the Claremont Museum of Art's website problems were just due to some technical problems that had nothing at all to do with the restaurant fire in the Packing House.

Even better, the museum's Permanent Collection, current exhibits, museum store, and offices are all okay, just a little smoked out. (Hey, who hasn't been?)

We've been more than a little lax on our coverage of CMA events lately, and we'll try to fix that.

_________________________________


CMA's free Family Art Day series continues on January 18th:

Sunday, January 18, 2009, 12 – 4 p.m.
(rescheduled from September, 2009)
Family Art Day: Kaleidoscopes

Free and open to the public.

Ever wonder how a kaleidoscope makes all those beautiful images when you look into it? Join us for Family Art Day and learn the secret as artist Mike Lardi teaches children and parents how to make their very own kaleidoscope. This is an activity you really don’t want to miss!


The CMA two ongoing exhibits, Multiverse and Passerby Museum have been extended to February 1, 2009, so you can still get over there to see them if you haven't had a chance. Here's some information from the CMA website:
Multiverse
Through February 1, 2009


Multiverse refers to the hypothesis that all of physical reality actually exists within a set of multiple, parallel universes, of which our universe is merely one part. The possibility of many universes raises a myriad of scientific, philosophical and theological questions that have been explored in various branches of theoretical
science, disciplines of thought and fiction. Multiverse will explore these issues artistically in a dynamic exhibition featuring photographic installations, mixed media sculptures, video projections, a light box installation, and sculpture from paper, among other media.

Artists continually create a visual vocabulary for themselves that parallels and portrays an idealized, imagined or fantasized reality. Nature and its mysteries provide endless departure points for fictitious imagery that is recognizable enough to have relevance, yet abstract enough to interrupt familiarity and probe deeper into our psyches. From chimera to corporeality, Multiverse delves into alternative outcomes for the universe we believe exists in singularity. “This exhibition represents the Museum’s interest in ideas that connect the arts and artists to
contemporary thinking and points-of-view,” said CMA Director William Moreno. “Exploring these provocative ideas creates an opportunity for interdisciplinary discourse.”

Participating artists include Sebastiaan Bremer (New York), Jedediah Caesar (Los Angeles), Emilie Halpern (Los Angeles), Violet Hopkins (Los Angeles), Emre Hüner (Istanbul, Turkey), Miler Lagos (Bogotá, Colombia), Nancy Macko (Claremont), Carter Mull (Los Angeles), Diana Thater (Los Angeles), Fred Tomaselli (New York),and Kerry Tribe (Los Angeles). Multiverse artists will engage in an email exchange with local scholars, discussing particular areas of science, psychology or the discipline of his/her choice, which will then be incorporated into the exhibition. Multiverse is curated by Pilar Tompkins.


Passerby Museum
Through February 1, 2009


The Passerby Museum makes its Southern California debut in Claremont! Created in 2002 by María Alós and Nicolás Dumit Estévez in New York City, the Passerby Museum is an itinerant institution dedicated to presenting temporary exhibitions in different cities. The museum draws its collection from donations from people who visit,work or live where it is in operation at any given time, including about 400 objects recently collected at two locations in Claremont.


The Passerby Museum has been presented in Madrid, Spain, Puebla, México, Kitchener, Canada, New York, New York and twice in México City, Mexico and Havana, Cuba. At each location, visitors were asked to donate any random object from their life to the Passerby Museum’s “collection.” The only requirement is that the object fit into a sandwich bag. Its collection – which currently holds about 3,000 objects – has been exhibited to the public in two occasions, last time in 2006, bringing more than 32,000 visitors to the Galería del Ayuntamiento (Puebla) in less than a month and a half. The installation will include each of the approximately 3,000 items collected at all of the locations so far, including the approximately 400 items collected in Claremont.

Claremont Museum of Art
536 W. 1st St.
Claremont, CA 91711
(909) 621-3200

Local Projects on Hold for Now

As we wrote last week, the state's budget problems have effectively halted many infrastructure projects throughout California. For example, Padua Ave. Park in Claremont has apparently been denied $850,000 the City was counting on for construction because the state agency that provided the City grant money can't come through on its pledge due to the state's freeze on the sale of new infrastructure bonds.

Simply put, investors' lack of faith in California's credit-worthiness is causing the state to have to pay high interest rates on the bonds it sells. That's the cost of having to pay to attract skittish bond buyers. With a $42 billion deficit looming over the next 18 months, the state just cannot afford to pay what the bond market is demanding.

The Daily Bulletin has an article today about some of our area's freeway projects that are on hold through at least June, 2009, because of the state's financial problems, and the article notes that even if Sacramento passes a stop-gap measure to close the deficit for this fiscal year, that doesn't guarantee California's bond problems automatically will go away:

Ty Schuiling, who is San Bernardino Associated Governments' planning director, said the agency's plans are contingent upon the state's ability to issue bonds.

"It's not a sure thing that the projects will be delayed or not," he said.

California's ability to use bond revenues for construction projects is hampered by the state budget crisis.

And even if the Legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger agree on a budget plan to resolve a multibillion-dollar shortfall, Schuiling noted that there could still be future difficulties if the financially troubled state cannot sell bonds.

"It's not as if bond funds will be available just by pushing a button," he said.

For investors to begin to believe in California again they're going to have to see some signs that the Legislature and the Governor's office are making some structural changes on the way budgets are done in Sacramento rather than using deficit financing and accounting sleight-of-hand to defer those tough decisions until some vague, far off future.

For Democrats, this means less spending; for Republicans, more taxes. There's just no way of getting around that, people.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Literary Ramblings

Daily Bulletin columnist David Allen, who spent the first quarter of 2008 reading Moby Dick, last week wrote in his blog about another of his literary journeys.

This time, Allen talks about reading novelist Larry McMurtry's memoir Books, in which the author describes his time as a bookstore owner. Allen related one bit that tied things back to Allen's earlier Melville reading:

As McMurtry tells it, the British edition of "Moby-Dick" had always been published in three volumes, and a certain editor, one Charles Reade, had been tasked with reducing the novel by two-thirds to fit into one book. The copy McMurtry viewed was Reade's working copy, the book he had marked up with passages for deletion.

Such deletions began on the first page.

"Charles Reade was not a man to be intimidated by a mere American classic," McMurtry wrote.

"He began his editorial work by drawing a bold line through 'Call me Ishmael.' "

McMurtry's usually a good read. Watching how the social and local government scene unfolds here in Claremont, we find ourselves thinking often of The Last Picture Show. Though we're about as far as you could get from McMurtry's Thalia*, Texas - culturally if not quite physically - sometimes it seems as if a flock of Jacy Farrows (that's the Cybill Shepherd character in the Peter Bogdanovich-directed film) swooped in here from West Texas and never left, becoming now-stodgy, clucking 60-year-old duennas, guardians of a self-created town mythology.

We've always felt more kinship with the Ruth Poppers of the world (Cloris Leachman to you movie fans). There's much to be said for enduring, even if you occasionally want to chuck that china cup and coffee pot against the wall out of frustration, anger, disappointment, or fill-in-the-blank. You get past it, whatever "it" may be, the way an oyster gets past an irritating grain of sand by enveloping, enclosing, walling it off.

"Never you mind, honey. Never you mind...."

As an Amercian novelist of another era once wrote, "The lowly and invincible of the earth - to endure and endure and then endure, tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow."


*[In the 1971 movie version Anarene for some unknown reason. ]

Friday, December 26, 2008

5Cs Walking Tour - Jan. 24th

The Daily Bulletin's Inland Empire and Inland Valley news blog has a blurb about a Claremont Heritage walking tour of the Claremont Colleges on Saturday, January 24th, beginning at 9:30am. The post says:

The 2 1/2 -hour tour starts at 9:30 a.m. at Seaver House, 305 N. College Ave. It tours Pomona, Scripps, Claremont McKenna, Pitzer and Harvey Mudd colleges and the Claremont Graduate University.

The tour costs $8. You can find out more by calling Claremont Heritage at (909) 621-0848 or by checking out their website.

City News

CPD CHECKPOINT TONIGHT

If you're planning on going out to celebrate the holidays tonight, makes sure to take a designated driver. The Claremont Police Department will be conducting a DUI checkpoint tonight. The city's website says:

The Claremont Police Department will join law enforcement across the state as part of California's Holiday DUI Crackdown Campaign, as well as encouraging the public to call 911 to report suspected drunk drivers.

On Friday, December 26, 2008, the Claremont Police Department will conduct a DUI / Drivers License Checkpoint from 6:00 pm until 2:00 am at an undisclosed location in the city.

DISTRACTION BURGLARY

The CPD is also reporting a possible attempt at a distraction burglary. With the economy down, we may see an increase in this and other types of property crimes:
On Saturday November 29th at about 2 pm, a resident in the area of Padua Ave. and Pomello Dr. (north of Baseline Rd.) was in his garage when he was approached by two subjects. The subjects asked if his car was for sale, and the resident appropriately told the subjects to leave and then immediately called the Police Department. The subjects were described as two males driving an older 1970's red Ford pickup.

This is a common "distraction" technique used by burglars. Typically, the subjects will engage in conversation with the resident and one of the subjects will ask to use the restroom or telephone. Once inside the house, one subject will distract the resident with conversation while the other will go through the house and steal money, credit cards, or small jewelry.

We ask that you immediately report this type of activity to the Claremont Police Department by calling (909) 626-1296.

HOLIDAY TREE RECYCLING

The City's waste disposal service will be hauling away holiday trees next week:
The City of Claremont will be collecting holiday trees for recycling between Monday, December 29, 2008 and Friday, January 9, 2009.

Be sure to remove everything from the tree including the stand. Place the bare tree at the curb by 6 a.m. on your regular collection day. Do not bag the tree. Trees over 6 feet tall must be cut in half.

For more information, please contact the Community Services Department at (909) 399-5431.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Reading the Skies

Click to Enlarge
We knew an old fisherman once upon a time who plied the local seas back when there was still a living to be had out of these waters. The fellow used to say you could tell a storm was coming when the clouds looked like the side of mackerel - all striated and wavy with steel blue woven between the silver-whites of the clouds.

And sure enough, that's exactly what we saw last night in advance of the storm that's supposed to hit today - those mackerel-sided clouds the old guy talked about long before Doppler radar was even a gleam in Fritz Coleman's eye.

The old fisherman knew: Signs abound, it's merely a matter of being attuned to them.

Stay dry and safe out there, and have a Happy Holiday.

Santa to Sacto: Here's Your Coal

Click to Enlarge
Sacramento's problems, some of which we discussed yesterday, aren't going away easily, and this is leaving us with the impression that our Governator and our state legislators have been decidedly naughty with our state's finances this past year. Elected officials beware: Santa's got a good memory.

The state's inability to fund its short- and long-term debt because of the Great Credit Freeze of 2008 made the New York Times yesterday. The NYT carried an article about states (not just California) having to suspend a variety of highway and infrastructure projects, and the article explained some of California's unique problems:

Last month, when the state tried to restructure existing debt with an additional $523 million offering, it had to reduce the offering by two-thirds, said Tom Dresslar, the spokesman for Bill Lockyer, the California treasurer.

“The institutional investor interest was nil,” Mr. Dresslar said.

Further, the State Legislature’s inability, with the governor, to figure out a way to deal with the state’s $15 billion budget gap has weakened the market’s confidence in California, something other states could face if the fiscal situation deteriorates.

This month, Standard & Poor’s downgraded the $5 billion in revenue bonds issued by California last month and put more than $50 billion of debt on watch for a downgrade.

“The bottom line is we are not viewed as a quality investment,” Mr. Dresslar said, adding that California is not in position to offer the sort of fat interest rates needed to get offerings off the ground.

It turns out that the financial crisis is rippling through all parts of the state. On Sunday, we wrote about the potential problems facing the city of Claremont in its quest for grant money to fund the Sycamore Canyon Park restoration.

And back on December 18th, the San Gabriel Valley Tribune had an article about the San Gabriel and Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy (RMC) having to suspend all its projects (including ones for which funding had been approved) because the state has stopped selling the bonds that generate the RMC's grant monies.

The SGV Tribune article explained the RMC's dilemma:
The area's biggest habitat restoration agency has asked all of its partner cities to halt all new construction. "These projects literally had shovels in the ground, or at least they used to be in the ground until we told them to stop today," said Belinda Faustinos, executive director of the San Gabriel & Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy (RMC).

A project to beautify and clean up 26 acres of land near the Canyon Inn in the San Gabriel Mountains was put on hold after a planning agency lost $20,000, said Jane Beesley, also of the RMC.

Below we've posted an image of the letter the RMC sent out to its grantee cities advising them of the cutoff of funds for projects that had been previously approved. (Thanks to the reader who forwarded this to us.)
Click to Enlarge













Item #2 in the letter should be of some concern to the City of Claremont with regards to Padua Ave. Park, which is dependent on an $850,000 grant from the RMC to complete its combined Phases 1 and 1A. Item #2 states that effective 12/18/08 all state entities having expenditure control and oversight of General Obligation bond and lease revenue bond programs shall "Suspend all projects, excluding those for which the Department of Finance (DOF) authorizes an exemption based on criteria described unless the contracting entity can continue with non-state funding sources (private, local, or federal funds)."

In other words, Claremont may be on the hook for the RMC's $850,000 share of the Padua Park construction costs unless the City has an out written into their contract with the company building the park. As the latest sign at the Padua Ave. Park site explains, a good chunk of the project is supposed to be built with RMC dollars:

A funding well runs dry....

The RMC's and the state's money problems may be the reason that the other new sign at the park site incorrectly states that construction began on November 4, 2008. In fact, no construction (other than a ceremonial ground breaking in October) seems to have occurred. Here's that other sign:

City at work?

What all this means is that the city of Claremont may have to retouch that photo of the City Council taken on October 14th showing the Council receiving a ceremonial banner-sized check from Belinda Faustinos, the RMC's executive officer. It's a shame the city didn't cash that big check before the state closed the account.

If the RMC and the City of Claremont want to practice truth in advertising, they might want to use the following photo:

October 14, 2008, Claremont City Council
proudly receives $850,000 rubber check from RMC


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Sacramento's Finances in Tatters

California's money woes continue to dominate the local news. California Controller John Chiang has issued dire warnings that the state may run out of money in two months and would then have to issue IOU's to vendors, and the the state legislature and governor's office continue their deadlock over any sort of budget fix.

California is currently facing a $14 billion deficit in the current fiscal year and a $42 billion deficit through the end of FY 2009-2010. And the state's Standard and Poor's credit rating is now tied with Louisiana's for the lowest of any of the 50 states. As a result, the state last week had to suspend the sale of bonds, placing infrastructure projects up and down California on hold.

Who's to blame? It depends on whom you ask. Democrats blame Republicans for refusing to consider any tax increases, while Republicans say Democrats are refusing to cut any spending. The Daily Bulletin today had an article quoting Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's spokeperson as fixing blame on Democrats and Republicans both:

By the afternoon, Schwarzenegger Communications Director Matt David lashed back on behalf of the governor. He said neither side has been willing to transcend party politics and special interests to make concessions.

"The Democrats want to block cuts to state government spending, and the Republicans want to block revenue increases because they have signed pledges to protect special interests," David said in a statement. "Legislators were sent to Sacramento to fix problems, but now what they're doing is making the situation worse because every day they don't act our problem gets $40 million worse."

If lawmakers fail to pass an updated budget plan, state Controller John Chiang said his office will be forced to defer billions of dollars in payments or issue IOUs to state contractors. He says the instability of the banking industry has made borrowing money to bridge the gap an uncertain possibility.

The state would not be able to pay vendors who provide everything from food for prisoners to nursing care for seniors.

"The state's dire cash position not only jeopardizes and places at risk our ability to meet our financial obligations in a timely manner, it threatens our ability to respond to natural disasters and protect our communities from crime," Chiang wrote.

The Los Angeles Times had an editorial today that argues it's high time to do away with the requirement of a two-thirds majority to pass a budget. The Times piece noted that California is one of only two states (Arkansas and Rhode Island being the others) that has such a stricture. The super-majority budget vote has been in place since 1933. At that time, the two-thirds majority was only needed if the budget was going to increase by more than 5%. In 1962, the law was extended to cover all proposed state budgets.

Some Republicans apparently see the hazards of the super-majority requirement and are arguing for change as well. The Times described two proposals for fixing the problem, one from Democratic State Assembly Speaker Karen Bass and one from Republican State Senator Mimi Walters:
Going back to majority votes for budgets, as was the case before 1933, would put California in the company of most other states, and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) introduced a constitutional amendment to that effect at the beginning of the current session. It adds a twist: The simple-majority requirement evaporates, and once again becomes two-thirds, for any budget bill not adopted by June 15. That's similar to Illinois, Maine and Nebraska, where, the argument goes, there's an added incentive for the majority to get its work done on time.

But California Republicans, too, recognize the problem caused by the runaway supermajority rule. Sen. Mimi Walters (R-Laguna Niguel) also has introduced a constitutional amendment. Hers would be a pre-1962, but not pre-1933, simple-majority measure. It's actually quite shrewd: Democrats, or whoever is in the majority, would be able to adopt a budget on a majority vote, but only if it represents growth of 5% or less over the previous year. The Republicans would have their spending cap, but it could be breached. That's similar to Connecticut and Hawaii, but it's worth noting that it has been years since California produced a budget with growth smaller than 5%.

However we get it done, we need some grown-up leadership in Sacramento. On the local level we're every bit as bad, spending far beyond our means without setting aside any sort of serious rainy day fund and counting on grant money to rain down from state and federal agencies to subsidize our municipal projects and services. Now that the flow's been shut off, we'll get to see how grown-up our own leaders in City Hall are.

Former Theology School Head Comments on New York Senate Seat

Former Claremont School of Theology president Robert W. Edgar (pictured, left) made the International Herald Tribune today. Edgar, who is now president and CEO of the public interest group Common Cause, was quoted in an IHT piece about Caroline Kennedy declining to disclose financial and other information to the New York Times following her decision to seek the US Senate seat currently held by US Secretary of State nominee Hillary Clinton.

The IHT sought a number of opinions about Kennedy's reluctance to disclose information to the NYT that she will eventually have to provide if she is appointed to the New York Senate seat:

Others wonder if Kennedy's unwillingness to disclose personal information suggests she lacks the stomach for the kind of intrusive questions that could come her way as a candidate in 2010.

"If this were an open primary, and all the people seeking that position had to run, she'd have to make all those disclosures, so why not in the appointment process?" said Bob Edgar, president of Common Cause, a watchdog group that lobbies for tighter ethics rules. "She can't simply ride in on her name recognition or place in history. The voters and people of New York deserve that full disclosure."

Edgar was president of the Claremont School of Theology from 1990 to 2000. His Wikipedia entry also notes that Edgar represented the 7th District of Pennsylvania in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1975 to 1987.

Raveler Holiday Greetings

The holidays are happening in Claremont, and the local band The Ravelers has gotten in the spirit with an e-holiday card:

Raveler Holiday Spam

Hey Now, Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays !!!

The Ravelers wish to thank you all for a wonderful 2008 that was filled with musical fun!

Here is a little ditty Hai composed "backstage", and we joined in to extend a holiday greeting...just click here...

We look forward to continuing more musical fun in 2009, and we hope the fun includes you, your families, and friends!

See you soon, and enjoy this holiday time with everyone...

Hai, Pat, Martie, Rob
The Ravelers


Monday, December 22, 2008

News of the News

Newspapers have been taking it on the chin for some time now, not just from the Insider and not just about their proofreading.

The Tribune Company's recent bankruptcy filing is merely the latest example of the extreme set of troubles currently hitting the print journalism industry: online competition for classified ads (think Craigslist); a dead real estate market leading to fewer real estate ads; a global recession; rising labor, energy and material costs; and a steady, general decline in subscribers.

James Surowiecki, who writes the New Yorker's Financial Page column, had an essay in the magazine last week about the paradoxical decline in newspaper readership at a time when more people than ever are getting their information from newspaper websites:

....The peculiar fact about the current crisis is that even as big papers have become less profitable they’ve arguably become more popular. The blogosphere, much of which piggybacks on traditional journalism’s content, has magnified the reach of newspapers, and although papers now face far more scrutiny, this is a kind of backhanded compliment to their continued relevance. Usually, when an industry runs into the kind of trouble that [marketing scholar Theodore] Levitt was talking about, it’s because people are abandoning its products. But people don’t use the Times less than they did a decade ago. They use it more. The difference is that today they don’t have to pay for it. The real problem for newspapers, in other words, isn’t the Internet; it’s us. We want access to everything, we want it now, and we want it for free. That’s a consumer’s dream, but eventually it’s going to collide with reality: if newspapers’ profits vanish, so will their product.

Does that mean newspapers are doomed? Not necessarily. There are many possible futures one can imagine for them, from becoming foundation-run nonprofits to relying on reader donations to that old standby the deep-pocketed patron. It’s even possible that a few papers will be able to earn enough money online to make the traditional ad-supported strategy work. But it would not be shocking if, sometime soon, there were big American cities that had no local newspaper; more important, we’re almost sure to see a sharp decline in the volume and variety of content that newspapers collectively produce. For a while now, readers have had the best of both worlds: all the benefits of the old, high-profit regime—intensive reporting, experienced editors, and so on—and the low costs of the new one. But that situation can’t last. Soon enough, we’re going to start getting what we pay for, and we may find out just how little that is.

As Surowiecki points out, newspapers have been slow to come to the realization that they are not in the newspaper business but are in the information biz. This short-sightedness, along with considerable pride, has prevented newspapers from doing what other online information services do best: link to a wide variety of outside news sources, including sites belonging to rivals. It's what Surowiecki calls the "not invented here" or walled garden mentality.

For news consumers, it's all a good deal. If you're looking for news, you can get it for free from the New York Times' or the Daily Bulletin's websites, or any number of other news and information sites. However, the free news party can't continue forever, and something's gotta give at some point. Some of that reckoning may take the form of more layoffs at places like the Dean Singleton-owned Los Angeles News Group's papers (of which the Daily Bulletin is one) and at the Tribune-owned Los Angeles Times. And all those layoffs eventually will eventually result in a decline in the quality and quantity of that free information we are all getting.

Singleton, who runs MediaNews Group, certainly has made no secret of his desire to downsize and to consolidate his operations - What's so important about having writers with local knowledge about the communities we're reporting on? says Singleton. Last October, former Claremont Courier reporter Gary Scott wrote about Singleton's outsourcing ideas:
Dean Singleton, speaking Monday to the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association, urged his belt-tightening brethren to consider "consolidating and outsourcing news operations" in these tough economic times. From USA Today:
MediaNews Group CEO Dean Singleton, who also serves as chairman of the board of The Associated Press, told the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association that papers should explore outsourcing in nearly every aspect of their operations.

-snip-

Singleton said sending copyediting and design jobs overseas may even be called for.

"One thing we're exploring is having one news desk for all of our newspapers in MediaNews ... maybe even offshore," he said during the speech.
Singleton added after the speech, "In today's world, whether your desk is down the hall or around the world, from a computer standpoint, it doesn't matter."

And, earlier this month Singleton consolidated his Inland Empire copy desks for the Daily Bulletin, the San Bernardino Sun, and the Redlands Daily Facts into one office in West Covina with LA News Group's San Gabriel Valley operations. Gary Scott reported on that as well.

If this talk of outsourcing by local news organizations sounds familiar, you might be recalling James McPherson, the man behind the online Pasadena Now. In May, 2007, McPherson made the national news when he hired some workers in India to cover the local Pasadena scene, including city council meetings, via the Internet. Other less well-known online news sources quickly followed suit.

The McPherson news, even in the Internet Age, apparently didn't get around all that fast. New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd jumped right on the story on this past November 29th, 18 months after the story first broke.

The mainstream media's going to have to move a bit faster if they hope to compete with a person typing away in Bangalore, India, for a penny a word, as Dowd noted:
[McPherson] said he got the idea to outsource about a year ago, sitting in his Pasadena home, where he puts out Pasadena Now with his wife, Candice Merrill. Macpherson had worked in the ’90s for designers like Richard Tyler and Alan Flusser, and had outsourced some of his clothing manufacturing to Vietnam.

So, he thought, “Where can I get people who can write the word for less?” In a move that sounded so preposterous it became a Stephen Colbert skit, he put an ad on Craigslist for Indian reporters and got a flood of responses.

He fired his seven Pasadena staffers — including five reporters — who were making $600 to $800 a week, and now he and his wife direct six employees all over India on how to write news and features, using telephones, e-mail, press releases, Web harvesting and live video streaming from a cellphone at City Hall.

“I pay per piece, just the way it was in the garment business,” he says. “A thousand words pays $7.50.”

A penny for your thoughts? Now I knew my days were numbered.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

I can haz Clairmont curry, er?

Claremont Courier Online's Police Blotter page describes a December 10 car accident in which a 68-year-old woman mistook the gas pedal "with" the brake and crashed into a traffic light on Indian Hill, destroying a "steal" bench.

Was it a cost-efficient bench that the city got for a great deal? Can one steal a bench like one steals second base? Or is the bench simply irresistable to those of the five fingered discount persuasion?

Like the thief who held a gun at his "waste," the "steal" bench in the Courier remains a Claremont oddity.

Mayor Ellen Taylor is quoted in the Courier piece using the incident as Exhibit X in her ongoing Cookiegate defense. But really...do Girl Scouts want to steal benches? It's all so confusing.

Editors at the Courier, please read this website: Common Errors in English. Unlike a $50,000 slogan for the city, proofreading using a website is free! (although, maybe that's the point... a newspaper in the "City of Trees and Ph.D.s" really shouldn't have this many spelling errors)





Sycamore Canyon Project Goes Looking for Money

Daily Bulletin writer Wendy Rubick had an article about Claremont's Sycamore Canyon Park, which Rubick indicated has been closed since 2002 due to fire damage, presumably as a result of the Williams Fire.

Last Thursday, Claremont officials had a public meeting to gather input on the park's restoration. According to Rubick's piece, Mark von Wodtke at the Claremont Environmental Design Group is working with the city on putting a prospective restoration budget together for the Claremont Community Services Commission's next meeting on January 8th. Ironically, Community Services was responsible for plowing under von Wodtke's ACORN Project's oak seedlings in the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park earlier this year.

Rubick also wrote that there will be some significant state permitting costs, and that the City cannot afford to fund the restoration out of the city's budget. All of which means the the City will have to go begging once again for grant funds. However, Rubick also indicated that the state's budget issues may make it difficult to secure grants tied to the sale of state bonds:

State regulatory agencies, such as the Department of Fish and Game and Regional Water Quality Control Board, will need to process paperwork and issue permits before the park reopens.

The DFG permit is estimated to cost from $100,000 to $150,000.

"We're aggressively pursuing grants," Carroll said.

The City Council will otherwise not be able to fund the project, he said.

Tim Worley, 47, director of water policy for Rivers and Mountains Conservancy, said the state on Thursday announced a freeze on expenditures of all bond funds.

Grants provided through the conservancy were already allocated for other projects.

Worley, incidentally, is an alumnus of the Claremont Graduate University and studied political science (not hydrology, oddly enough). In any case, Claremont is fortunate to have received that money from the Rivers and Mountains Conservancy for Padua Park ($850,000) and a separate, much smaller grant for Marilee Scaff's Memorial Marsh project last October, before all this hit.

Here's an image from the city's website:

10/14/08, Funding Mission Accomplished:
Rivers and Mountains Conservancy Executive Officer Belinda Faustinos
presented the City with a check for $850,000
for the Urban Park grant award.



This all makes us wonder how many projects in other cities throughout the Inland Empire and the San Gabriel Valley (some worthy, some not) are going to go unfunded because of the state finances are screwed up.

Spelling Bee Set for March 28th

The Friends of the Claremont Library will be holding their 4th Annual Spelling Bee on March 29th, 2009, in Claremont's Taylor Hall. According to the Friends, any three adults can put a team together and enter. The spelling is done as a team.

In the past teams have come from groups like the Claremont Sunrise Rotary Club, the Claremont Kiwanis Club, the CUSD Board of Education, the Claremont Community Foundation, the Claremont Chamber of Commerce, the Claremont College presidents, the Claremont City Council, Claremont Heritage, the Claremont League of Women Voters, the Claremont Courier, and many other organizations.

Registration opens January 16th, and entry forms will be available on the Friends website at www.claremontlibrary.org. The registration fee is $300.

City Holiday Schedule

Claremont City Hall and the rest of the City's offices will be following the following holiday schedule, according to the City's website:

City offices will be closed the following holidays:

Christmas - December 25 & 26
New Years - January 1 & 2

Sanitation, public safety and critical operations will continue as normal on December 26 and January 2.

Also, the regularly scheduled City Council meeting for Tuesday, December 23rd, is canceled, as is Wednesday's Architectural Commission meeting.

The Claremont Trolley, for those of you (S. C.) who ride it, will not run on Christmas Day, but will resume its regular 11am to 11pm schedule on Friday, December 26th.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

FMC Turns 50


The Claremont Now blog over on the Daily Bulletin's website had a notice about the Claremont Folk Music Center's 50th Anniversary party on Sunday, December 28th, from 5pm to 8pm.

There wasn't much information on the FMC's website. You can always call to find out more: (909) 624-2928.

Claremont Folk Music Center
50th Anniversary Party - Sunday, December 28th, 5-8pm
220 Yale Ave.
Claremont, CA 91711

Also, don't forget to check out Tremoloco with Rick Shea at the FMC on Saturday, January 3rd. Tickets are $10, and doors open at 7pm and the show starts a half-hour later. The FMC info has a blurb describing Tremoloco:
The eclectic cross-pollination whipped up by Tony Zamora's expanding and contracting all-star group Tremoloco has been called Mexican-Americana. Which is an apt a tag as any for the Angelinos' mix of conjunto, country, Cajun, blues, Latin, jazz, and roadhouse rock and roll.

[Tremeloco's new album] Dulcinea was recorded primarily in Los Angeles and Austin, taking advantage of stellar roots musicians from both locales - like drummer/pianist/co-producer Cougar Estrada and his Los Lobos bandmate David Hidalgo, steel guitarist Greg Leisz and guitarists Bob Robles and Johnny Lee Schell (who also engineered) from the former and twang guru Redd Volkaert, lap steeler Cindy Cashdollar, accordionist Joel Guzman, Faces pianist Ian Mclagan and Stephen Bruton from the latter.

Other guest include Cougar's dad, vibes great Ruben Estrada, Hidalgo's son Vincent (on jarana), War harpist Lee Oskar, Thee Midnighters vocalist Willie G. fiddler Brantley Kearns and Max Baca on drums and bajo sexto.
...
If you appreciate Los Lobos' open-minded approach to roots music, you should dig this. Then again, if your cup of tea is George Jones (or, for that matter, Tito Puente), there's probably something for you here, too.

-DF Hit List Vintage Guitar Magazine October 2008 Issue

And here's a video:

High Praise from Son to Father

Wednesday's Claremont Courier had a "My Side of the Line" column by Courier publisher Peter Weinberger. The column was about Weinberger's trip to San Francisco to collect an award for his father, Martin Weinberger, who was honored for his work in his profession and his community.

Peter Weinberger had a number of observations about the world of journalism, and he certainly is right that small newspapers might be doing better than larger ones in navigating changing readership in the Internet Age. The humble Courier has at least not had to file for bankruptcy like the LA Times' parent Tribune Co.

Weinberger the Younger wrote of his father:

I saw this as a lifetime achievement award, or Hall of Fame induction from his colleagues in The California Press Association. In a fast paced world, where it’s only harder to connect with people, Martin Weinberger made a difference. What’s incredible is how the COURIER has not only survived, but flourished during his tenure at the helm.

Sure there have been tough times, but somehow the newspaper continued to be an important part of Claremont. While I was growing up, Martin would talk about how the dailies, whatever size, would compete for readers’ attention in our city. At one point even cable TV was going to take over news. They had more resources and a confident attitude, but didn’t last the test of time.

It's great to see the business staying in the family. We wish Peter, his father, and his mother Janis all the best and hope the niche they've carved out for the Courier will last long into the future.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Huge Surprise: Xavier Alvarez Pleads "Not Guilty"

click on image to enlarge

Yesterday, Thursday, Xavier Alvarez was finally arraigned in Superior Court. Wes Woods at the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin reported the proceeding. It seems the cat's got Xavier's tongue, as Woods reports that Alvarez "wouldn't answer and just kept looking to the left, right, or downward."

The Court set February 24, 2009, for the preliminary hearing.

It seems to us here at the Insider that ol' Xavier is trying to run the clock, knowing that until more happens with this felony charge that he retains his seat on the Three Valleys Municipal Water District board.

Or maybe Norma Torres is trying to get him a position on a state board somewhere. You know how these things work: Multi-level marketing meets the Peter Principle.

Or maybe Hilda Solis will take him to Washington with her--if she doesn't take Sam Pedroza with her.

By the way, look what happens when you google "Xavier Alvarez..." Google shows that there are 1,500,000 references to him on the web. Truly a man smiled upon by fame if not by fortune.

Hilda Solis of El Monte Tabbed to be US Labor Secretary

Hilda Solis, Congresswoman from the 32nd District in the San Gabriel Valley, has been named nominee by President-elect Barack Obama to be the next Secretary of Labor.

There's a local angle to this story. Claremont City Councilmember Sam Pedroza owes his political career to Solis. Pedroza, who worked for Solis, rose within the ranks of the San Gabriel Valley Democratic Party partly as a result of Solis' patronage.

That relationship with Solis is what landed Pedroza in the hot seat as the person spearheading the effort by the San Gabriel and Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy (RMC) to build the controversial $30 million Discovery Center on the San Gabriel River in Whittier. While she was still in the State Senate, Solis sponsored the legislation that created the RMC.

The irony of the Discovery Center project is that opponents say construction of the proposed interpretive nature center will end up destroying much of what it is supposed it pay homage to. And, as we've noted previously, we suspect that Pedroza's ties to the RMC are what led the agency to funnel $850,000 in grant money that was supposed to go to park projects in underserved urban areas to Claremont's Padua Park, another habitat-destroying project sponsored by the conservancy.

Just another example of the power of patronage.

Labor Secretary-select Solis graduated from Cal Poly Pomona, worked in the Carter White House, and has been elected to the Rio Hondo Community College District, the State Assembly and Senate, and is serving her fourth term in Congress. Whew. Makes you wonder what you have been doing with your life.

Still, we did note that with all that star quality, Solis lives, according to her official biography, in humble El Monte. Here's a little description of our neighbor town to the west:

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mailbag

We received this email yesterday in response to our post about contracting police services out to the LA County Sheriff's Department:

DATE: Wednesday, December 17, 2008 11:37 AM
SUBJECT: "Contract Policing"
TO: Claremont Buzz

I live in West Hollywood, which is policed by the LASD, and I've lived in Altadena, which is also policed by the LASD. They're great -- highly professional, quick to respond, well-trained, all that stuff. Pomona is badly underpoliced -- the Sheriff's Department would make a lot of sense there. Claremont is maybe a different question, but the LASD is a *really* high-quality agency.

* * *

Another reader sent in a link to a Desert Sun article about Indio Assistant Manager and Claremont City Council candidate Bridget Healy's retirement from Indio. The Sun article noted Healy's candidacy and also noted how close she is to Indio City Manager Glenn Southard, who in his capacity as Claremont's City Manager was the source of endless strife and crises.

The Sun also noted that Healy spent most of her time these past three years in Indio, coming back to her Claremont home on weekends:
Her reason for leaving: “I need to get home. My family, my friends ... are all in the Claremont area,” Healy, 56, said.

She rented in Indio while maintaining her Claremont home and would travel there on the weekends.

Prior to Indio, Healy worked with City Manager Glenn Southard as assistant city manager for 17 years in Claremont.

Southard hired Healy as his second in command when he started in Indio as city manager in April 2005.

“We finish each other's sentences. We have an exceptional relationship,” he said.

All the more to look forward to when Healy assumes her seat at the dais in our Council Chambers.

New Upland Blog

There's a relatively new Upland blog - the first we've heard of for our neighboring city. The site is called All Things Upland. The blogger, Uplander, described his reasons for starting his blog in a December 2nd post:

I wish there was a good daily blog about Upland, CA. I'm creating one in hopes of finding an audience and hopefully someone to do a better, more complete job so I can just read about Upland happenings rather than poorly report on them.

Why am I interested? Well, my wife and I are from here and we have a lot of good memories here. I've seen Blogs from other cities that I've lived in and Upland deserves at least as much.

We're looking forward to hearing more from Uplander about our neighbor to east, and we've updated our local blog roll with All Things Upland.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Claremont Packing House Fire-UPDATED

Told Fire Started in Forks Kitchen
Estimate a Quarter Million in Damage


See below for Wednesday evening update

An early morning fire damaged the Packing House early Wednesday morning. A brief story was posted on the Daily Bulletin website. No injuries were reported.

Our later information is that the fire started in the Forks Restaurant kitchen, and may have caused some $250,000 in damage. The restaurant will apparently be closed for at least a few weeks--the height of the holiday season.

No word on damage to the Claremont Art Museum [click on the preceding link for an entertaining error message that the Art Museum has evaporated from cyberspace. All we can say is, it was here this morning] or about water damage in the Packing House due to its sprinkler system. Since the Packing house is constructed primarily out of 100-year old wood, and the floor at least is impregnated with polyurethane resin, comparison to a tinder-box is not inapt.

We understand that once the fire-safety sprinkler system goes off, it can dump a whole lot of water in a hurry. Don't know how the system is plumbed, or whether it goes off in zones or all at once.

We'll update as information becomes available. Nothing on the City website as this is written.

UPDATE: The Daily Bulletin has a more detailed article with a photo gallery. It seems that the fire started in a wall and gutted the kitchen. We are not trying to minimize the damage, but truth be told we've seen many kitchens in everyday use that looked in worse shape than the one in the pictures in the photo gallery. Smoke damage--again from the pictures--appears minimal; but then you smell it when you don't see it. See the pictures in the photo gallery at the Bulletin.

Arson was on everyone's lips today, so it was somewhat comforting to see in the article that "arson was ruled out", at least according to owner Mark Bollinger.

The fire started about 3:30 a.m., and was out by 4:30 a.m. Casa 425, across the street, was evacuated.

Kitchen Fires Can Get Out of Hand Quickly

Contract Policing

CPD Chief Paul Cooper
The Goddess of Pomona blog has a discussion today that considers the pros and cons of contracting out Pomona's police services to the LA County Sheriff's Department.

This is a discussion that has come up from time to time here in Claremont, but it usually doesn't get very far because, despite the much greater costs of having it dedicated municipal police department (costs that include things like salaries, pensions, training, equipment, insurance, the cost of old jail facilities, the future costs of a jail facility - easily the largest single city budget item), Claremonters for the most part prefer its CPD to a less personalized Sheriff's Department.

Goddess of Pomona's take is that all-in-all, she'd just as soon keep Pomona's PD for many of the same reasons the majority of Claremonters want to keep the CPD and its Chief Paul Cooper (pictured, above right):
Of all the pros and cons, the one that resonates with me most is the threat to Pomona's small town feel. When people wonder aloud why I live in Pomona, it's not just that I live in a great old house, but what keeps me here is the sense of community. I strongly believe that disbanding the Pomona P.D. would directly affect the quality of my life here in Pomona. I don't want to be another anonymous L.A. County town whose been stripped of most of it's personality. But then again, I don't like to shop at Walmart either.

One big factor that precludes a rational discussion of the issue here in Claremont is the emotional attachment people feel toward their police department. But, if it were possible to remove the emotion and simply look at the costs and benefits, it's possible to conclude that we're far better off contracting out.

One big advantage is that we'd get a more professionalized service. Deputies would have served time in the LA County jails and would have more experience dealing with a wider range of people and crimes than our CPD officers. Also, as Goddess noted, the LASD would be able to provide specialized investigative personnel such as gang intervention or narcotics officers.

It's also possible, for instance, that we could forgo building a new $25 million-plus police station by sharing jail services with other area towns that use LASD - San Dimas, Walnut, potentially Pomona. More importantly, the huge costs of police salaries, pensions, and benefits would be shared with the county, reducing a big chunk of our budget.

And to people worried about Claremont losing its identity by contracting out the police service, the LASD has made an effort to provide individualized local service. The LASD website explains some of the cost benefits of their contract system:
The intergovernmental contract system offers a wide range of services at a reduced cost, allowing each contract city to choose a level of service that best meets the needs of its community. Duplicate costs are avoided because contract cities draw upon the full potential of the Sheriffs Department, sharing support resources and paying only their proportionate "user costs." As a result of this "cost sharing" concept, contract cities can obtain an optimum level of police service for a lesser cost than would be required for them to maintain their own police department. In addition, the contract cities can draw upon the full resources of the largest Sheriffs Department in the world.

The question is, with the economy deteriorating and the City's budget veering more and more sharply toward the red, can we afford not to consider contracting out the single largest municipal expense?