Claremont Insider: February 2009

Saturday, February 28, 2009

CGU Update

But goodbye's too good a word, babe
So I'll just say fare thee well
I ain't sayin' you treated me unkind
You could have done better but I don't mind

Don't Think Twice, It's All Right

- Bob Dylan
A. Lorenzo Graphics
Last Monday, we mentioned the resignation of Claremont Graduate University President Robert Klitgaard. The news coverage indicated that Klitgaard resigned over differences between himself and CGU's Board of Trustees, but articles in the Daily Bulletin and the Los Angeles Times gave no details.

The Times did quote a CGU spokesperson as saying, "...Klitgaard decided to resign over differences with the university's trustees involving strategic plans for the future...."

Klitgaard sent out a farewell note following his resignation on February 20th, saying that after taking a one-year break he plans on returning to his tenured teaching position at CGU in 2010:
From: Robert Klitgaard
Subject: Thank you

Dear friends and colleagues,

This afternoon you received a message from the Board of Trustees of Claremont Graduate University. For the reasons outlined in their statement, I have decided the right thing to do is to step down as president.

I know this is a surprise. Please know that I have only the warmest feelings for you, our university, and our trustees. I feel blessed to have been your president. Also please be assured that CGU is progressing well (except of course that our endowment, like everyone's, has fallen). You have created a superb strategic plan for CGU and excellent plans for each of the nine Schools that make up our university. Enrollments are growing in quantity and quality, and research funding is increasing rapidly. There is still so much to accomplish, and I know that you will continue to do your best to move our university upward and outward.

The Board has kindly allotted me a sabbatical period, and I'm available to help in any way I can. My family and I will remain here till this July, and then we'll go on a year's leave away from Claremont. My current plan is to return to CGU in the summer of 2010 and take up my tenured position as University Professor.

Thank you so much for the opportunity to serve you and be your colleague. Go forth with your great work, with all your energy and idealism.

Go well,


Robert Klitgaard
Claremont Graduate University

Klitgaard was following up on a message the CGU Board sent out earlier on February 20th:

Subject: Important Message from the CGU Board of Trustees
FROM: The Board of Trustees

Today we face unprecedented challenges and uncertainties from the extraordinary economic events confronting us. These circumstances pose a real threat to CGU as well as other institutions. For that reason, at its retreat earlier this month, the Board of Trustees took up the task of preparing the University to deal with the current circumstances and the unforeseen events that are ahead while continuing to work diligently to advance our mission and strategy. To address the emerging economic challenges we are enacting a two-fold approach: to focus greater efforts on raising new revenues to help offset the severe decline in our endowment, and put heightened attention on the university's fiscal, academic and operating priorities, plans and performance.

As this effort unfolded, the Board's views as the course to be taken diverged from President Robert Klitgaard's. On matters such as these, there is no right or wrong answer, of course, but Bob and the Board both strongly believed that any way forward in such challenging times must be taken with complete unison of leadership. Accordingly, effective today, Bob has decided to step down as President of CGU. Bob will be assisting the Board and CGU for a short time with an orderly transition, for which the Board is most appreciative. Thereafter, Bob will be taking a sabbatical and will no doubt be in touch with all of us regarding his future plans. The Board wishes to express its appreciation and thanks to Bob for the effort he has given on behalf of CGU during his tenure as President, and the Board looks forward to having Bob return as an active member of the CGU faculty should that be his decision upon the completion of his sabbatical.

Provost Yi Feng will take over chief administrative duties on an interim basis while a full-time Interim President is identified and retained. Dr. Feng will report directly to the Board until the new officer is named. While a search for a new President is conducted, the Interim President will have the full responsibilities of the permanent position, and with particular emphasis in these areas:
  • Fiscal planning and management, including preparation of a budget for 2009-10 and the next three years, which is flexible enough to correspond to changing economic circumstances;

  • Improving CGU's underlying economics, including the enhancement of collaboration, pursuit of administrative and academic efficiencies and greater accountability and budget discipline so as to position CGU for continuing performance improvement;

  • Enabling and supporting CGU's continuing commitment to academic excellence and leadership consistent with our current mission, vision and priorities.
The Board of Trustees has great confidence in the future of CGU and our collective ability to address the challenges that lay ahead. We endorse the strategic mission of the University and we're confident that CGU will emerge from these extraordinary times as an even more distinctive institution.

Yi Feng didn't have much time to settle into his new title before CGU announced that Joseph Hough had been named CGU's interim president. CGU issued a press release about Hough that said, in part:
CGU Website Image
The Board of Trustees of Claremont Graduate University has announced that Dr. Joseph C. Hough, Jr. [right] will become the university’s interim president. Hough has agreed to lead CGU for the next 18 months while a formal search for a new president is conducted. His first day on campus is set for March 10.

He and his wife, Heidi, are returned residents of Claremont, where they lived for 25 years and raised their two sons. Hough served on the faculty of Claremont School of Theology and chair of the Religion Department of Claremont Graduate School. He also served as dean of the Claremont School of Theology from 1974 to 1987....

Most recently (1999-2008), Hough served as president of Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

Hough wasted no time sending out his own greeting, making clear the fact that CGU has not been spared the pain of the current economy. The original Daily Bulletin report on the Klitgaard resignation observed that CGU is much less dependent on its endowment than other private institutions and its budget is 76 percent tuition-driven. That, coupled with the recession, probably explains CGU's recent 4% tuition increase. These are Hough's remarks:
Subject: A Message to the CGU Community from Interim President Hough
From: Joseph C. Hough, Jr., Interim President

I have been asked by the Board of Trustees to assume the position of Interim President of Claremont Graduate University during the process of transition involved in the search for a new President. I am pleased and honored to accept this invitation, and I shall work diligently to address some of the immediate issues that have emerged in the life of the university community. I do not come as a total stranger to this community, since I have had the privilege and responsibility for teaching and administration in Claremont Graduate University in the past. My memories of that time are good ones, and I look forward to engaging you in dialogue about the possibilities and challenges facing us at this time. The University is, of course, a very different institution now. You have developed a broader and more compelling vision. You have made significant progress in implementing that vision by implementing creative new initiatives and developing patterns of transdisciplinary teaching and research that auger well for the future of graduate education.

All of us know, however, that our future and the future of higher education in general are now clouded by the most serious financial and political crises of our lifetimes. Most of the world's banking system is highly unstable and near collapse, and major industries are close to bankruptcy and seeking government bailouts. The human costs of this financial crisis to Americans and all of our world neighbors are already staggering. Unemployment is rising and projected to continue rising, while housing foreclosures have forced millions of Americans out of their homes. And as yet, none of our experts seem prepared to estimate the ultimate cost or the end time to this situation.

The collapse of the world economy has created a severe financial crisis for all of higher education. Most colleges and universities have seen the value of their endowments decline twenty five percent or more. These sharp declines in the value of institutional endowments are already undermining plans for expansion and improvements of services.

Recent letters to their academic communities from the President of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and the President of Harvard University both detail immediate major university-wide cuts in expenditures. Included are salary freezes, significant cuts in administrative budgets, cancellation of major building expansions already underway, and lower than anticipated rises in tuition. Other major private universities are canceling anticipated faculty searches, declaring hiring freezes, and postponing planned construction projects. Some universities and colleges, whose major source of revenues is tuition, are resorting to significant increases in tuition. This is in contrast to the strategy of MIT where planned tuition increases were actually lowered. In addition, the president has informed the faculty and staff of the necessity of raising sharply the levels of funding for financial aid in order to enable current students to remain in their programs of study and to encourage new students to enroll.

After candid conversations with Board of Trustees members, Provost Feng, Professor Schneider, and Vice President Garcia, I am beginning to grasp the degree to which Claremont Graduate University has been and will be affected by the same conditions that have already prompted the strongest universities in America to introduce austerity measures. I am committed to work diligently to ensure that our budget for 2009-2010 is reasonable in light of our resources and that our projected budgets take account of the full impact of the serious decline in our endowment. This is a commitment that is fully shared by the Board of Trustees. They have already made important and critical decisions that will move us toward a sustainable financial plan. In all of this, their concern and mine will be to preserve the academic strength of the institution while ensuring its financial stability in the future.

I am aware that there are no easy answers to the questions posed by our current financial situation, and I shall need your support and your ideas as we move ahead. On my part, I make four pledges to you. First, I shall make every effort to hear your concerns and take them seriously. Second, I shall hew the line on transparency, the necessary foundation for mutual trust. Third, I shall work with a spirit of collaboration and seek consensus where it is possible. Fourth, when consensus escapes us, I shall move ahead on those recommendations to the Board for actions that I think are in the interest of our common good, all the while giving clear reasons why the recommendations are, in my judgment, vital for the future of the university.

I look forward to meeting you and working with you. If at any time you wish to share ideas or concerns, I shall make every effort to arrange a time and place for that to happen.

Sincerely yours,


AL Graphics
With the economy maybe, just maybe, nearing bottom, we might see an end to these sorts of goodbyes and fare-thee-wells. We might even see a return to job and career stability.

Until then, here's to happier days.

Nell Soto (1926-2008)

Former state senator and assemblymember Nell Soto passed away Thursday. She was 82.

Soto represented California's 32nd Senate District and stepped down last March because of declining health. Soto also served on the Pomona City Council from 1986 to 1998.

The Daily Bulletin has an article by Mediha Fejzagic DiMartino about Soto's life and political career. It quotes Soto's granddaughter, Danielle Soto, who herself was elected to Pomona's City Council this past November:

In 2007, Danielle spent her summer break working with her grandmother in Sacramento where she gained first hand insight to the legislative process.

"I was grandma's right hand woman," Soto said. "If you needed an appointment you had to go through me."

Some of the lawmakers would tell her "I remember you when you were just this high."

Danielle accompanied Soto to the state capitol every day and attended floor sessions with her.

"That was very good political education," Danielle said. "To see the way she was viewed at the state level, her professional manner, because she was just a grandma to me."

When Danielle was elected last year to the same seat on Pomona City Council, her grandma was happy and supportive.

"She told me `Just listen in the beginning, don't form your opinion, listen and learn'," Danielle said.

"I'll miss the benefit of her wisdom and knowledge ... But I'm just going to miss her more as a granddaughter."

Friday, February 27, 2009

Page One, Below the Fold

"Apparent Inconsistency Haunts Candidacy"

For those preferring paper-and-ink newspapers to the newfangled e-versions, we present the bottom half of page one of today's Daily Bulletin. We suggest you go to the newstand to get your own copy.

The article referred to in the previous post made the front page.

click on image to enlarge

You've got to think it's not your day when you are running for Claremont city council and you have to decline comment on an article until you can consult with your attorney. The article explains, " attorney was going over the statement and she [Bridget Healy] would make a comment after the attorney's review."

We are reserving a space here for her comment, and just as soon as we receive it, or read it, we will put it in.

We can't imagine what her mouthpiece will tell her to say. Perhaps it depends on what the definition of "is" is. Probably it will be something along the lines of, "there's no inconsistency at all here", or maybe she'll try to foist the whole thing off on her hapless Honorary Chairs, Georgeann Andrus, Jim Merrill, and Mary Jane Merrill.

And what about that campaign manager, Gary Riley? As they say, "With friends like that..." Any statement that puts your candidate's name, Bridget Healy in this case, in the same paragraph with "low-down, underhanded, lie, cheat, [and] steal" well, that's got to be one for future textbooks.

See our first post on the this issue here.

Losing My Religion image
The Daily Bulletin has an article today covering the campaign claims made by Claremont City Council candidate Bridget Healy's campaign in a recent flyer.

You might recall that the flyer asserted that Healy, in her job as former Claremont assistant city manager, had a big hand in the City's acquisition of the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park and the Padua Hills Theatre. Those claims were contradicted by Healy's testimony in a deposition three years ago in the Palmer Canyon fire lawsuit.

We posted the flyer and Healy's deposition transcript in a post a couple days ago. As we remarked in our post, the flyer and Healy's sworn testimony are mutually exclusive. The flyer says she accomplished certain things. Her testimony, under oath, says she did not.

Today's Bulletin article, by Wes Woods II and Will Bigham, indicated Healy was still trying to process the situation. She appeared to be in crisis management mode:
Healy declined to comment on the apparent inconsistent statements when reached at her home on Thursday afternoon.

She said an attorney was going over the statements, and she would make a comment after the attorney's review.

The article also quoted Healy's campaign manager Gary Riley, who doesn't seem to have known Healy very long:
"I honestly don't know," Riley said. "I need to know more about it before I can really take a stand one way or another. Everything that I've ever known about Bridget, she's above-board, honest. I've never known her to be lowdown, underhanded, lie, cheat, steal, about anything. That's why I think she would be the perfect person to be (on the City Council)."

The other two candidates in the race, Larry Schroeder and Corey Calaycay, did not comment for the article.

As we've noted before, none of this really matters because Healy is the Claremont 400's anointed one. If this election holds true to form, Healy's name simply has to be on the ballot, and she will get the 2,300 to 2,500 votes she needs to win one of the two council seats up for grabs in next Tuesday's city election.

If you saw Wednesday's Claremont Courier, you may have noticed that all three candidates had election advertisements. Schoeder had an insert in the paper, and Calaycay had a full page ad on the Courier's back page. Healy also had a full page ad. Her ad did not mention any accomplishments or qualifications. It consisted mostly of several columns of Healy supporter names. This is how a prototypical Claremont 400 campaign works. The argument, such as it is, does not ask you to vote for Healy because she is the best qualified based on any true, verifiable evidence. Healy's ad says it all: Vote for me because these people say to.

The people supporting Healy have permanently suspended disbelief. Their choice isn't made based upon any rational framework. They are willing to overlook not only false statements but also Healy's own work history while here in Claremont for 18 years under former Claremont City Manager Glenn Southard.

The 400's stubborn refusal to acknowledge the truth has been the foundation of our town's dysfunction for 30 years or more, and there is no reason to expect that to change any time soon. For many of her supporters, the belief in Healy's candidacy approaches a religious intensity and is wrapped up in the mythology they've created for Claremont. To acknowledge the truth of their very flawed candidate would require them to surrender a large portion of those beliefs, not simply in Healy, but in their entire image of our town town.

It would be asking too much of any human being to abandon their religion. So Healy as councilperson will probably be the price we pay for our very human weaknesses.

Volunteer Readers Needed

Are you a Horton Hears a Who! fan, or are you more partial to Green Eggs and Ham?

Monday March 2nd is Dr. Suess' birthday. The National Endowment for the Arts is observing the occasion by sponsoring a nationwide Read Across America event. The NEA is wants children all across the country to be reading Dr. Suess.

Claremont's Mountain View Elementary School will take part Monday and seeks volunteers to help out by reading their favorite Dr. Suess books to children from 8:30am to 11am Monday morning. If you've got the spare time, it's a great opportunity share your love of reading and to give back to the community. If you're interested, contact the school at (909) 398-0308.

The school also has a website with contact information.

Mountain View Elementary
851 Santa Clara Ave.
Claremont, CA 91711
(909) 398-0308

Click here for a map.

More Cohen News

Singer, poet and artist Leonard Cohen continues to be in the news, possibly because of his upcoming concert tour. Claremont McKenna College has an ongoing show of Cohen's artwork at the Marion Miner Cook Athenaeum, and CMC is also sponsoring the West Coast premiere of composer Philip Glass' song cycle Book of Longing, which is based on Cohen's poetry.

Cohen performed at New York's Beacon Theater last week, and the New York Times had a glowing review of the show.

The NYT also interviewed Cohen and made audio excerpts of the interview available on their website.

NPR has the Beacon Theater concert posted online, and they also have a podcast available from All Songs Considered.

And, this week's New Yorker has a Cohen poem titled "A Street":

You put on a uniform
To fight the Civil War
I tried to join but no one liked
The side I’m fighting for

So let’s drink to when it’s over
And let’s drink to when we meet
I’ll be standing on this corner
Where there used to be a street

From "A Street"
- Leonard Cohen

Lastly, the Claremont Courier had a long write up of the CMC Cohen events, complete with comments from Philip Glass, who is performing Book of Longing through Sunday at the Garrison Theatre on the Scripps College campus. The Courier article, by Sandy and Tom Fasano quoted Glass as he explained some the how he went about translating Cohen's poetry into a musical work:
“This was hard for me,” Mr. Glass explained, “because there were over a hundred poems. So I finally narrowed down the poems I would use to 26 or 28 poems that I would work with. I was able to get the performance to one hour and 45 minutes, and Leonard was happy with that.”

The process of composing the song cycle was truly collaborative. As Mr. Glass explains it, “When I was working on putting the poems to music, Leonard sent me a recording of him reading all of the poems in the book. I thought this is a professional recording and I wanted to put his voice within the performance.”

The overall effect Mr. Glass was searching for was the one many of us have when reading poetry. “I wanted the experience to be as if a reader were flipping through a book of poetry,” Mr. Glass said.

The performance itself can be compared, according to Mr. Glass, “to the staging of a piece of music in modern theatre.” It incorporates music, recorded voice, utilizing Mr. Cohen’s art as a backdrop.

Mr. Glass will perform on one of two keyboards with an ensemble of 8 musicians and 4 singers. “The same ensemble has been performing together since the premiere in June of 2007,” Mr. Glass said. “We perform for two or three weeks and then take two or three months off. Everyone is very committed to the piece.”

Tickets can be purchased at the Garrison Theater, located on the Scripps College Campus, 231 E. Tenth Street. Box-office hours are 6 to 8:30 p.m. before each of the 4 scheduled performances: February 25, 27, 28, March 1. Books and CDs will be available at the performance. Leonard Cohen limited-edition prints are available by e-mail inquiries only:

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Volunteers Needed for Park Duty

Claremont is looking for a few good men or women to serve as volunteer park rangers. You may have seen these folks in the Wilderness Park driving their white pickups. It's not exactly Ranger Bill or campfire sing-a-longs, but it does get you out into the local parks.

This is from the City website:

City Seeks Volunteer Reserve Park Rangers

The City's Community Services Department is looking for individuals interested in becoming a Volunteer Reserve Park Ranger. The position consists of a variety of duties, including providing information and monitoring the activities of park users, and assisting the Claremont Police Department with the enforcement of City policies and codes in the various City parks. This position requires primarily weekend work.

Individuals must be at least 21 years of age, be a high school graduate or have a GED Certificate. Related experience in flora/fauna is highly desirable. Proof of a valid Class C California Driver's License, auto insurance, and a good driving record are required. A current certificate in First Aid and CPR is also required. Successful completion of PC 832 may be required within 12 months of appointment.

Applications are available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m., at the Community Services Department, located at 1616 Monte Vista Avenue. Click on the link below for application materials. For more information, call the Community Services Department at (909) 399-5431.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

New Blog in Claremont

A Day in the Life of...

Just rippling through the blogosphere since yesterday evening, a new offering by Claremont's own Rosemary Henderson. Today's post features the Claremont Community Foundation's Party Parade. We're all for enthusiasm, but we had an English teacher once who told us that you only get two exclamation marks to use in your whole life. We always thought that pretty sound counsel. In her CCF Party Parade post, Rosemary uses six!!!!!!

Welcome to the ranks of the pajamahedin, Rosemary.

We've added A Day in the Life of... to our "Community Links" in the sidebar!

Lies, Damn Lies, and Depositions

Our post on Sunday commented on a letter to the Claremont Courier that noted some factual errors in a Courier insert that city council candidate Bridget Healy distributed with the paper a couple weeks ago.

The letter in question referred to a statement in Healy's flyer which listed her supposed accomplishments as Claremont's Assistant City Manager. The letter, quoting the flyer, incorrectly stated that the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park cost the City nothing. In fact, as we pointed out, Claremont paid $1.25 million, or about $1,000 an acre, for the land.

Here's the flyer, both sides, for your review:

Click on Images to Enlarge

As you can see, Healy's campaign very clearly states that it is presenting us with a mere "partial list of accomplishments to which Bridget made significant contributions during her years of public service to Claremont's citizens [emphasis added]." The first item on the list is the acquisition of "1,600 acres of Wilderness Park as well as the Padua Theater [sic] at no cost to the tax payers [sic] of Claremont [emphasis added]."

We've already shown from city documents that it cost the city a million two to pay for the Wilderness Park. But, we wondered, did Healy really have all that much to do with the park or the Padua Hills Theatre at all?

On January 13, 2006, Bridget Healy, who by then had left Claremont for Indio, was deposed as a witness in the Palmer Canyon lawsuit. That suit was brought by homeowners whose houses burned down in October, 2003, due to alleged negligence by the city of Claremont in failing to properly implement its brush management for the Wilderness Park. The suit settled for $17.5 million - the largest settlement ever paid out by the city's insurer.

Ever since the lawsuit settled last year, Healy's deposition transcript has been making the rounds among curious town insiders. We read it. The questioner that day was plaintiff counsel Mark S. Grotefeld. On pages 20-22, Healy very clearly stated--and repeated--that she had nothing whatsoever to do with either the Wilderness Park or the Padua Hills Theatre:
In the matter of
Bassett v. City of Claremont
L.A. County Superior Court
Civil Case No. KC 045147

Deposition of Bridget Healy

Claremont, California,
Friday, January 13, 2006

having been administered an oath, was examined and testified as follows:

[Pages 20-22]

Grotefeld: ....give me an example of what you mean by special projects.

Healy: The Orange County bankruptcy, release of a serial rapist in the community, securing a paramedic squad in the city, working with the school district on policies and procedures for high school student safety and campus security.

Grotefeld: As you sit here today do you recall being involved with any special projects that related to the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park?

Healy: No.

. . . . .

Grotefeld: As you sit here today do you recall any special projects that you worked on that dealt with the Padua Theatre?

Healy: No.

. . . . .

Grotefeld: Would it be a fair statement to say that the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park was not something that you, in terms of your work as the assistant city manager performed any job function with respect to?

Healy: Correct.

. . . . .

Grotefeld: All right, the wilderness park came into -- at some point during the time that you were city manager [sic; he means assistant city manager, but Healy doesn't correct him] the city acquired the wilderness park, do you recall that happening?

Healy: Correct.

Grotefeld: Did you have any involvement with the acquisition of that land?

Healy: No.

Healy cannot have it both ways. If her most recent campaign flyer statements are accurate, then Healy testified falsely under oath three years ago. If her deposition testimony is truthful, then her campaign's statements are false.

Which is it? Is Healy's campaign misrepresenting facts, making them up out of whole cloth with respect to her so-called accomplishments (they actually called them "gifts" from Healy to Claremont). Or could Healy have committed perjury in her sworn deposition testimony on January 13, 2006?

You tell us.

Here's the entire transcript (click on the little box in the upper right-hand corner to enlarge to full screen):

A letter in today's Courier [not online as this was written, but added by the Courier midday Wednesday] points out Healy's contradictory statement from another angle. Dean McHenry, who frequently comments on the local scene quite apart from his wife, former city councilmember Jackie McHenry, cites the following statement by the City's insurance defense attorney, Edwin Richards: "Healy testified she had no involvement whatsoever with regard to the park acquisition."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

CGU's Klitgaard Resigns

Sorry we didn't get around to posting this sooner. There have been rumors of this floating around for a week or two, but we had no confirmation until now....

CGU President Robert Klitgaard resigned last Friday. The reasons are not clear at this point. Here's what the Los Angeles Times reported:
An expert in government reform and international studies, Klitgaard decided to resign over differences with the university's trustees involving strategic plans for the future, according to a school spokesperson. Klitgaard and trustee officials could not be reached for comment Monday.

The Daily Bulletin's Wes Woods II reports in today's paper that CGU has named provost and vice-chair for academic affairs Yi Feng as interim president. CGU will have to form a search committee to find a new president, and Woods' piece indicated the process could take a year.

Woods' article said:
Robert Klitgaard last week decided to step down as president. He had served as president since summer 2005.

Klitgaard's opinion on CGU's strategic planning differed from the Board of Trustees, [CGU spokesperson Esther] Wiley said.

She did not provides specifics on the disagreements.

. . . . .

Despite the poor economy, Wiley said the college is holding up financially, because its finances are more based off of enrollment than endowments.

The percentage of CGU's budget that is tuition driven is 76 percent, Wiley said.

Enrollment at CGU has increased by more than 12 percent in the past two years and research grants have significantly increased.

The search for a new college president can certainly take a long time. Fritz Weis over at Scripps College has been interim president since July 1, 2007, and that search is continuing. Weis, you may recall, was appointed as a temporary replacement for former president Nancy Bekavac, who left Scripps after a 17-year tenure.

Council Meeting Tonight

The Claremont City Council meets tonight for its last meeting before the March 3rd municipal election. The council meets in its chambers at 225 W. 2nd St. in the Claremont Village.

The city streams its council meetings live. You can watch here.

The agendas for tonight are fairly light. There's the obligatory closed session meeting at 5:15pm, where the council will here a report on labor negotiations from City Manager Jeff Parker, Assistant City Manager Tony Ramos, and Shawna Urban, the City's Personnel Manager.

The council's regular session begins at 6:30pm with a brief report on the closed session. Among the items being discussed tonight are:

  • The second reading and adoption of a council resolution reinstating the city's leaf blower ordinance. This is a messy item, one that we plan on delving into in greater detail in the future. The short version is that the council last year changed its existing leaf blower ordinance without the required environmental review. The city and City Attorney Sonia Carvalho were put on notice at the time by a resident who told the council that an environmental review was required by law to change such an ordinance.

    Carvalho and the council ignored the resident's warning. As a result, a neighborhood group filed a legal action. The city, which had no legal leg to stand on, had to reverse its decision and now has to reinstate the leaf blower ordinance. The city is also on the hook for the legal fees to the aggrieved parties.

  • Authorization for staff to solicit bids for sidewalk construction on the south side of Foothill Blvd. between Mountain and Berkeley Aves. This is an item that originally came before the council on January 13th. The original plan was for the remval of tall trees on the south side of Foothill in the area in question. Staff wanted to replace those trees with a sidewalk (there is none now).

    The council, however, got an earful from resident whose backyards are on the other side of the trees and wall along that section of Foothill. Those residents complained that they need the trees to shield their homes from the lights of the commercial areas on the north side of Foothill. They also said that no one walks along the south side of the street anyway, so who needs a sidewalk there? There really isn't anything to walk to, the residents said.

    Staff, however, has got its money courtesy of a state Cal Trans grant, and they want to spend it. So, now, they're asking the council to either approve the original plan or give the okay to one of two alternate sidewalk plans that would preserve some of the existing trees but would narrow Foothill by extending the parkway out either three to four feet under one alternate plan or seven feet under the other.

  • Authorization from the council for staff to hire NBS Corporation to prepare the City's annual Landscaping and Lighting District (LLD) report. The LLD has long been a sore point in town, and it comes back for its annual review. It will be interesting to see how much of an increase staff tries to justify. The LLD is not supposed to increase faster than the local inflation rate, and with prices flat, or falling in the case of energy, what rationale will the cash-strapped city and its consultant come up the LLD. What's your guess? Three percent? Four?

  • Approval of a resolution allowing for a weekly Claremont Family Festival on First St., Second St., and Oberlin Ave. in the Claremont Village Expansion. Portions of those streets would be closed every Wednesday between 4pm and 9pm from March through October.

    The council is also being asked to approve a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the City and the non-profit Volunteer Network International allowing VNI to run the event with an exclusive special event permit. VNI is willing to invest $40,000 to $50,000 up front to help get the event going.

    Staff also wants to the council to waive the special event permit application fee because the event qualifies as a public benefit.

    Although they include the disclaimer "Pending City Approval" for the Wednesday night festivals, the folks at VNI do seem to assume that, like most things in town, this is a done deal. The VNI site says: "Plan to be in Claremont, California, area sometime soon? Stop in to experience "Claremont Wednesdays."

    It also says that the event will kick off April 29th and tells us that VNI is proudly sponsoring the event in partnership with the Claremont Chamber of Commerce and the City of Claremont. All great stuff, but shouldn't they, the Chamber, and the City show the good graces to wait until this is all discussed publicly before making such official soundig pronouncements?

    Much as with the Claremont Trolley, this premature announcement is designed to pressure the council into approving this issue at the risk of looking like Scrooges if they question anything. It may very well be a good deal for everyone involved, but please respect the process rather than paying lip service to it.
Click to Enlarge

CUSD Faces Hard Times

Saturday's Claremont Courier reported on the tough budget choices facing the Claremont Unified School District Board. (The article is not posted on the Courier's website.)

According to the Courier article, the board is eliminating 12 district staff postions in a move that will reportedly save CUSD over $1 million in the next fiscal year's budget.

The article, by Tony Krickl, said:

Among the positions that were let go are the Director of the Adult School Steve Boyd, Director of Child Development Alan Gutman and Director of Secondary Education Carrie Allen, the former principal of Claremont High School.

Mr. Boyd will remain on as principal of San Antonio High School.

In addition, a custodial supervisor, staff accountant, IMC Assistant, education resource specialist, community liaison, instructional assistant, health assistant and 2 campus monitors were cut.

The article also Hilary LaConte:
"Looking at the list makes me feel very sick to my stomach," School Board Member Hilary LaConte said. "I know that there's not a lot we can do about it and I know that our staff is already working full out and will have to put in a lot of extra hours [because of the staff cuts]. To realize that we are helpless in this situation is really awful. So I'm sorry about this."
It is unfortunate, as LaConte said, but CUSD wasn't entirely helpless. CUSD's situation is not unlike home buyers caught up in the speculative housing market bubble. If the board had spent more judiciously in good times, if they had not spent beyond their means, they would have been better positioned to ride out the hard times, and they would not have made false promises, in the form of jobs, to the employees are now being let go. Instead, they just thought the good fiscal times would go on indefinitely. As a result, in a process that was years in the making, CUSD, like virtually every other school district in California, positioned themselves for a big fall.

And, the hard times may just be beginning. The recently approved state budget deal contains $5 billion in cuts to K-12 education, though federal bailout money may offset some of those cuts. Krickl's article went on to say that CUSD Superintendent David Cash said that there may be more job cuts in the future and that the district might have to cut the budget by "several million dollars."

Monday, February 23, 2009

Duelling Narratives

The Claremont 400, that group that has more or less run the city for the past 30 years, seems to be losing its long monopoly on defining the terms of city elections. For the first time in recent memory, the 400's chosen candidate wasn't among the city council candidates endorsed by the two local newspapers, the Claremont Courier and the Daily Bulletin.

We're also getting the impression that the 400's candidate, former Claremont Assistant City Manager Bridget Healy, either doesn't have her heart in the campaign or she figures she's such a shoe-in that she doesn't have to work as hard as the other two candidates, incumbent Corey Calaycay and Larry Schroeder.

Healy, who ought to have plenty of money raised for the campaign, hasn't spent large amounts on the traditional things like full-page newspaper ads or mailers. Nor has she been doing things like walking neighborhoods with the same sense of urgency or energy as the other two candidates.

Healy did get a letter of support in Saturday's Claremont Courier, though the letter, which only ran one two paragraphs [on the Courier's website it was run as a one-paragraph note], spoke only in the broadest generalities and failed to give any specifics, other than that Healy knows our values and is (in the letter signers' eyes) a proven leader:

We support Bridget because we need council members who know our community and its values, have the experience and demonstrated leadership Claremont needs, understand how to balance a city budget in difficult economic times, and possess the vision and skills to lead Claremont into the future.

The letter was signed by some of the usual 400 names, several of whom were Preserve Claremont supporters and donors in 2005. Though to be fair, a number of them are listed as Corey Calaycay supporters this time around, perhaps a sign of a willingness to make amends for the last go 'round when they absolutely dragged Calaycay through the mud and muck of their own imaginations.

In any case, it's clear that Healy is their candidate, and when they write of values, it's their values, not necessarily the community's values, that they write of. The 400's most notable trait has always been the insistent projection of its wants and wishes onto the city at large followed by the packaging of those as universal values for Greater Claremont.

The 400's letter Saturday had the misfortune of appearing with another letter by a person named Carolyn Gonzales, who questioned a recent Courier insert by the Healy campaign. The insert had included a bulleted list of things the city accomplished while Healy was assistant city manager. The insert described these accomplishments as gifts from Healy to our citizens, but the campaign advertisement failed to mention that Healy was a city employee and that she was very highly compensated for those so-called gifts. Healy's campaign seems to have forgotten that gifts are traditionally presented without billing the recipients.

The Gonzales letter was quite detailed in its particulars. First, she reminded readers of the Healy's very strong ties to former Claremont City Manager Glenn Southard, whose management style many in town consider the casus belli of the near-civil war that split the community, especially from January, 1999, when the Irvin Landrum shooting occurred, to April, 2005, when Southard (and Healy) left Claremont together for jobs in Indio.

Gonzales went on to say:
Twenty years working for Mr. Southard, even following him to Indio when he “left” Claremont, this is some kind of loyalty, but alas, it was not loyalty to Claremont. It was loyalty to oneself. Or perhaps it was that the Southard/Healy political climate of that time was jaded with the debacle of the Landrum shooting episode. While serious errors were made, perhaps they thought there were merely ‘hiccups”.

Of course, while her “team saved the day” by acquiring 1,600 acres of hillside property that became the Wilderness Park, at no cost to the tax payers [n.b. Even this statement by Healy is wrong. Healy's campaign strategy is for people to be hypnotized or to have short memories. See note at end of post] of Claremont, she should “rue” the day when her “teams” failure to properly manage brush clearance in the Wilderness Park cost the city a judgment of $17.5 million for more than 40 homes lost in the Palmer Canyon fire. What a team!!

Now on a more serious note, the fact that Ms. Healy drafted a policy that would have required mental health professionals to “assess” citizens expressing their views at City Council Meetings, lends me to wonder what her ideological mindset would be if elected. Could it be that Claremont citizens could not speak at future Council meetings without a “note from one’s doctor”. (Kudos to the City Council at that time for not implementing this “are you fit to ask a question” requirement.)

Gonzales' letter points up the paradox in the argument Healy's campaign makes for her election. On the one hand, they want Healy recognized as a generous volunteer for certain things that happened while she was an employee doing what she was amply paid to do; on the other, they want the public to overlook the many bad things that occurred during Healy's working career here, things that ended in her fleeing our city for Indio with her mentor when the City Council election of 2005 didn't go the way she and Southard wanted.

Healy may very well win one of the two seats in the election. In fact, unless an unexpected bout of sentience suddenly afflicts the residents of Pilgrim Place and environs, she most certainly will awake a Claremont councilperson come March 4th. But it is greatly encouraging that other voices are gaining traction in the debate and that the local papers have been able to weigh all of the evidence before them without too much distraction from people wishing to take the city backwards.

We'll see how it all turns out in eight more days.


Note: We don't believe that the Wilderness Park was acquired "at no cost to taxpayers." Our recollection is that it cost the City some $1.2M. It seems to us that Glenn Southard--and, let's be fair to her, Bridget Healy--had engineered some complicated land transaction with Pomona College involving option payments of $35,000 per month. The City continued these option payments for some some time, approximately 3 years, until it became clear the City was going to be unable to hold up it's end of the bargain. The City stopped making option payments along about 1992 and ultimately gave Pomona College a specific plan (a specific plan is an exception to the otherwise-controlling zoning ordinance) that allowed it to sell the entitlements and land north of Baldy Road to Centex, which built the big-box houses now blighting the landscape there. Pomona College also kept all option payments made. This is where the $1.2M comes in. In return, the City received 1220 acres, more or less, of undevelopable land for the Wilderness Park.

See the City Council agenda report for July 26, 1994. Note especially the paragraph on page four, clipped here:

Let's have a little truth in advertising here, Healy Campaign.

Tonight at The Press

The Press Restaurant is hosting an event for the debut of a new beer, Shameless McDale, from the Dale Bros. Brewery.

Dale Bros. beer is brewed locally in Upland and is featured at many area restaurants and wine shops, including The Press, Winestyles, and the Packing House Wine Merchant in the Claremont Village, and dba256 Gallery Wine Bar in the Pomona Arts Colony.

For more information about tonight's beer debut, see The Press' website.
The event begins at 8pm. The Press' site has this to say about the new beer and the evening's entertainment:

The Dale Brothers have created what may be the world's first green Irish Red beer - Irish Red in style, and green due to their using 100% organic grains. Come to The Press and be among the first to sample the new Dale Bros. Shameless McDale green Irish Red beer! We'll have coupons for $2 off your pint, while supplies last, and live entertainment will be provided by The Kurt Ross Band.

Dale Bros. Brewery Spring Beer Launch Party

Tonight - 8:00 PM

The Press Restaurant
129 Harvard Ave.
Claremont, CA 91711
(909) 625-4808

Sunday, February 22, 2009

City Election Winds Down

"Le cœur a ses raisons que la raison ne connaît point; on le sait en mille choses."
-- Blaise Pascal

With just over one week to go, Claremont's municipal election season is winding down. The Daily Bulletin gave their endorsements last week, and the Claremont Courier weighed in with their picks yesterday (the Courier's endorsement article isn't posted on their website).

Surprisingly, both newspapers picked the same two candidates: incumbent Corey Calaycay and Community Services commissioner Larry Schroeder. The Bulletin liked Schroeder's background as a director of finance for the cities of Lakewood and Glendora. They also thought Calaycay has done a good job since he was elected four years ago, despite a some ugly mudslinging by the Preserve Claremont group.

The Bulletin thought the third candidate, Bridget Healy, was qualified, but Healy's insiderness (small 'i") was a turnoff. The Bulletin's editorial board also noted that Healy draws the majority of her CalPERS pension from her 18 years in Claremont. The Bulletin didn't come out and say it, but there does seem to be an implied conflict there; and, besides, it's just not good policy to have former senior staffers running for office in the same city they worked in. There is supposed to be a separation between the council and the staff, and having Healy on the council would seem a breach.

The Courier devoted a full page to its endorsements, with long, very thoughtful explanations for their choices. The Courier remarked about how quiet this election has been compared the last several, and that has indeed been a welcome relief.

Like the Bulletin, the Courier noted Calaycay's concerns about fiscal responsibility, and they also noted his willingness to listen to the problems and concerns of individual citizens, as well as the emphasis he has placed on transparency in city government. The Courier said about Calaycay:
He is always prepared at council meetings and has a clear position on the issues. At the same time, he is open to hearing the thoughts of the public. On a couple different occasions, he has changed his vote due to compelling input from the public. This is something you rarely see from council members, who usually have their minds set on the issues before the meeting, regardless of what is brought up during public comment.

With Schroeder, again like the Bulletin, the Courier liked his finance background, especially in the current economic climate. They also liked an example Schroeder gave of how the transportation funds the city received and used for the Claremont Trolley could have been traded to another city whose transportation needs are greater than ours. The swap would have allowed Claremont to put a good portion of the money into its General Fund to help balance the current budget.

The Courier said about Schroeder and his idea:
Was this option ever presented to the city council by our city staff? If it was, would we have a mostly empty trolley trucking around the Village today?

This type of innovative thinking is what our city will need over the next few years as we ride out the economic crisis.

Being relatively new in town [Schroeder has been in Claremont seven years] does not have to be a drawback. An outsider, particularly with with Mr. Schroeder's background, can bring in fresh ideas on how to promote economic development and deal with other issues facing our city....

And regarding Healy, the Courier thought that some of her ideas, like forming a committee of citizens to examine economic issues, "seems a bit recycled." They thought that compared with the other two candidates, Healy's ideas weren't fresh. The Courier also felt that Healy didn't offere up the sort of long-term ideas for the city that the other two candidates did.

The biggest criticism the Courier had regarding Candidate Healy, though, was her long history as Assistant City Manager here - the very thing her supporters praise. The Courier said:
Like many in the community, we have a hard time distancing her from her longtime colleague, former City Manager Glenn Southard. His management style rubbed many people the wrong way. Although "he got things done," [i.e., made the trains run on time - ed.] as Ms. Healy noted, we believe our current city staff is very capable of getting things done without creating tensions among the community.

We can't shake the feeling that she skipped town [to follow Southard to Indio] when things got contentious between the council and staff after Jackie McHenry was elected. Is packing your bags the best way to deal with challenges?

So there you have it. Both local papers are in agreement on Schroeder and Calaycay. How does this play out on election day? Your guess is as good as ours. The points the two papers made were all good, reasonable ones. But those don't necessarily matter in Claremont.

Healy has one enormous thing going for her. She doesn't need the papers' endorsements. She has the Claremont 400 backing her, and that means that Healy can count on winning the most important precinct in town, the one encompassing the Pilgrim Place retirement community in the heart of the Claremont Village. The Pilgrims, many of whom were outraged (or at least as outraged as those folks get) over the 1999 Irvin Landrum shooting and City Hall's handling of that crisis - something in which Healy was deeply involved. All seems to be oddly forgiven (or forgotten), however.

Since that Pilgrim Place precinct generates a very high turnout loyal to the 400, Healy can bank a lot of votes, an advantage that past Claremonster candidates have used to the fullest. It matters little that Healy's record as a senior city staffer embodied the worst of the Southard years. The Pilgrims will reliably punch the chad corresponding to whomever the Claremonsters say.

As we've said before, Official Claremont has its reasons that Reason knows not. You've seen it in a thousand things.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Downtown Pomona Happenings

David Allen had a column in Wednesday's Daily Bulletin about the ongoing restoration at the Fox Theater. Allen took a tour of the restoration work and reported back, saying that the original Art Deco look is being lovingly resurrected, down to the carpets and chandeliers, the original color schemes, architectural flourishes, old murals, and even the exit signs. We love it that the old revolving neon sign at top the Fox's tower will actually turn again.

Allen likened the work to an archeological dig and gave some insight into the people behind the project:

Credit for the Fox's rescue goes to the band of brothers: developers Ed and Jerry Tessier and concert promoters Paul and Perry Tollett. They bought the Fox in 2007 and are spending more than $10 million to ready the theater for the 21st century, while keeping many 20th century details.

Preservationists watching the Fox's revival say they couldn't be happier. They're happy not only because of the theater's impending return but because of the amount of restoration.

At first, the Tessiers, who are handling the renovation, had planned to put off most of the historic touches for a later time, when they would be paid for by community fundraising events.

The Tessiers mostly concerned themselves with restoring the Fox to operation after three decades of disuse and misuse.

Instead, rather than doing 20 percent of the restoration as planned, the Tessiers ended up doing more like 80 percent, digging deeper to recreate the murals and most of the chandeliers ahead of schedule.

The Pomona Fox Theater is scheduled to have its first event, a fundraiser called Fox First Night, on April 18th. It's not cheap. Tickets for the event are $135 or $1,080 for a table of eight. You can get more info here on the Friends of the Pomona Fox Theater site.

The Fox Theater itself has a separate site with photo albums of the restoration work, along with historical photos of the theater. You can find the photos here.

The Tessiers, incidentally, have pretty strong Claremont connections. Their company Arteco Partners restored the Claremont Packing House and is in the process of doing the same for the Padua Hills Theatre. Ed Tessier is a Pomona alum, Jerry graduated from CMC, and Jerry's wife Nancy owns the Hip Kitty Jazz Club in the Packing House, one of the few new downtown businesses that seems to be doing well.

* * *

The blog for Claremont Colleges radio station, KSPC 88.7fm (who knew they had a blog?), has a post announcing a free hip-hop concert tonight in downtown Pomona's dA Center for the Arts. LA act Bambu is appearing, along with two from Pitzer: Pepe and Jerms.

The dA Center is located at 282 S. Main St. in Pomona. Doors open at 7pm, and the bands start at 9.

The KSPC blog says there's free transportation to the event for 5C students, but you have to reserve a seat in advance:
If you are a 5C student in need of transportation, The Sagecoach bus will leave from the intersection of 6th St. & College Way (between the Rains Center and Smith Campus Center) at 8:30 PM. Be prepared to leave when the show finishes, around 12 AM. To guarantee yourself a spot on The Sagecoach, please e-mail ASAP.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The Quest

With the March 3rd city election fast approaching, the Claremont Courier posed several questions to each of the three candidates for Claremont City Council - Bridget Healy, Larry Schroeder, and Corey Calaycay:

  • Why are you interested in serving on Claremont's City Council?

  • What can the city council do to make sure the city's finances will be safe in these troubling economic times?

  • Village West is struggling to find tenants as more businesses are closing up shop. What kind of economic development tools can the city implement to attract more customers and secure more businesses in the area?

  • What makes you different and unique from the other candidates running and who are currently on the City Council?

  • What are your favorite TV show, favorite book and favorite movie?

You can read the candidates' respective responses on the Courier's website, minus the Village West question, which was omitted on the website, along with the corresponding answers. Also, Courier reporter Tony Krickl had a bonus question about the candidates' views on building a new police station. That last question, and the candidates' answers, are posted on the Courier City Beat blog.

The big surprise on that police station question is candidate Healy's response. She is now pushing the former affordable housing site on Base Line Rd. and Towne Ave. Apparently, she's been hearing one of her opponents, Corey Calaycay, talk about that location and thought it was a good enough position to borrow. It may also mean that Healy's League of Women Voter supporters have finally given up on that location for affordable housing.

These sorts of candidate forum/interview questions are always a kick, especially ones like the "What's your favorite...? One senses that the questioner, whether it's the Courier's Krickl or Barbara Musselman at the League of Women Voters, serves as a kind of public gatekeeper of taste as well as policy.

These sorts of gatekeepers have been around a very long time, and those fill-in-the-blank questions can occasionally surprise, sometimes with deadly consequences for our brave, aspiring leaders:

LA Times Reviews Cohen Exhibit

Photo Uploaded to
Wikipedia by Rama

Last week we wrote about the Leonard Cohen-A-Polooza going on over at the Claremont McKenna College.

CMC's Gould Center is hosting Southern California premiere of composer Philip Glass' piece Book of Longing, based on a book of Cohen poems by the same name. Glass himself is at the keyboard as part of the performances. Additionally, CMC's Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum is hosting a very rare exhibit of Cohen's art work.

We did not appreciate just how rare the exhibit, titled "Drawings from the Heart," was until a reader emailed us to note that this is just the third significant exhibit of Cohen's work as a visual artist. The reader also pointed out that last Sunday's Los Angeles Times had a write up of the Cohen-related events.

Times writer David Ng had this to say about the Cohen art exhibit:

With more than 50 prints of Cohen’s paintings and drawings, the show is a broad survey of his work during the last 40 years. Recurring motifs include the female nude and self-portraits of the artist’s wizened face. But there are also cryptic, slyly comic references to his time on Mt. Baldy.

In one work, “Dear Roshi,” Cohen depicts a nude goddess alongside a brief letter to his elderly monastery instructor. In the letter, Cohen calls himself “a useless monk” and asks Roshi’s forgiveness for meeting (and presumably falling in love with) a woman.

“Leonard has a wry sense of humor. There’s a clarity and tremendous cutting humor in his work, even amidst the brokenness,” said Bob Faggen, the organizer of the show and a friend of Cohen.

Philip Glass - Book of Longing
February 25 - March 1, 2009

Garrison Theatre
Scripps Performing Arts Center, Scripps College
231 E. Tenth Street
Claremont, CA 91711
Tickets on Sale Now

"Drawings from the Heart"
Mondays through Fridays, 8:30am to 4pm

Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum
385 E. Eighth Street
Claremont, CA 91711
For information, call (909) 621-8244

Free Mulch Tomorrow

If you're a gardener in need of mulch, you can get all you want for free, courtesy of the city of Claremont.

The city's having another of its mulch giveaways all day tomorrow at June Vail Park. No start time is given, but you can call City Hall for more info at (909) 399-5460.

Free Mulch
Saturday, February 21st - All Day
June Vail Park
2454 Grand Ave.
Claremont, CA

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sustainability Talk Tonight

Sustainability is all the rage right now among government policy wonks (apparently fiscal sustainability is just beginning to enter into the discussion). If you are interested in the subject, you can hear Michael Shea, chair of Claremont's Sustainability Task Force, speak at 7pm tonight at the Active Claremont meeting in the Claremont Public Library.

The library is located at 208 Harvard Ave., directly across from Claremont's City Hall.

Active Claremont has a new website, by the way. It gives a little information about the organization:

About Us

Active Claremont attempts to define issues which are of major interest to the citizens of our town. Some of the issues of concern involve local taxation, city revenues, city policies, regional issues that may impact Claremont, controversial projects, and proposals and policies of the city government.

To bring specific local issues and information before the public, the organization holds nine programs annually featuring speakers who have working, in-depth knowledge of issues affecting the daily lives of all our citizens. As part of our efforts to keep the voters informed, we also sponsor candidate forums for local elections including city council, school board, water board, and community college board of trustees.

State Budget Report - UPDATED

UPDATED, 6:35AM: The Sacramento Bee reports that the California State Senate approved the state budget agreement early this morning, winning over State Senator Abel Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, who got the three proposed constitutional amendments he wanted, minus a provision for withholding legislators' pay when they cannot approve a budget. The issue now goes to the State Assembly, where it expected to pass before being sent to Governor Schwarzenegger to sign.

California's budget standoff continues. The holdup remains the State Senate, which is one Republican vote shy of approving the budget patch to fix the state's projected $42 billion deficit through June, 2010.

The State Senate has been locked down, with senators having to bring sleeping bags into their chambers. A couple nights ago, it looked like there might be an agreement in the works, but that all fell apart as the Republican caucus sacked it's leader, Sen. Dave Codgill, and replaced him with a harder-line Sen. Dennis Hollingsworth.

The Sacramento Bee had the story
on the leadership change:

Sen. Tony Strickland, R-Moorpark, who was named as the caucus' elections chair, said he hoped the change in leadership would "let California know where we stand on this $14.3 billion tax increase. We believe that tax increases are harmful to the people, the hardworking California families."

But [Sen. Abel] Maldonado said he disagreed with the change in the midst of budget negotiations.

"I just can't believe that in the middle of the night we would oust our leader," he said. "I didn't support Dave Cogdill for leader, but I didn't vote to vote him out today. It's the wrong time to make a change in this process."

Cogdill faced criticism throughout the weekend after negotiating a budget deal with other legislative leaders and Schwarzenegger but failing to secure enough votes in his caucus. Some members, including Maldonado, criticized his leadership skills, but others acknowledged that few members could control such a splintered caucus.

"I certainly wish the new leader all the best," Cogdill said before Hollingsworth was chosen. "It's an extremely difficult job."

Maldonado may prove to hold the single game-changing vote. The Bee reported early yesterday evening that State Senate Democrats were drafting three proposed constitutional amendments that Maldonado sought. The measures would go to the voters as ballot propositions. According to the Bee:
Maldonado, R-Santa Maria, could provide the crucial 27th vote necessary to pass a budget package that has been stalled since Saturday. In a lunch meeting at Spataro with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, Maldonado asked for ballot measures to create an open primary system, prohibit legislative pay raises in deficit years and stop legislators from receiving salaries if they do not pass a budget on time.

Measures containing those three constitutional amendments are being drafted today. Maldonado spokeswoman Brooke Armour said constitutional lawyers are reviewing the three measures.

The sticking point for the Republicans is taxes. The Republican State Senators took pledges to not raise taxes, and going back on those pledges might be a killer for the political careers of a good many of them. They're really caught between a rock and hard place on this one. As L.A. Times columnist George Skelton pointed out on Monday, when you look at the budget math, no matter how much you hate the idea of raising taxes, there's really no way of balancing the budget without some form of tax hikes.

To begin with, there's all those payments on various bonds California voters have approved over the years to finance all sorts of education, healthcare, transportation, law enforcement, and environmental projects. Claremont's own Padua Ave. Park was slated to be partially funded to the tune of $850,000 by money from just those sorts of state bonds, and Claremont feeds regularly at the state bond trough.

All that those bond payments get paid out first because California's credit rating would take a huge hit if the state started missing payments to its bond holders. So, right away you have about a 5% chunk of California's annual revenues that can't be touched. (That ratio is likely higher now that sales tax and capital gains tax revenues have cratered.) The state's Legislative Analyst's Office had a breakdown of the state's bond debt prior to last November's election:

The LAO estimated California's bond payments to be about $4.4 billion in fiscal year 2007-08 on a total bonded indebtedness of about $53 billion. The state also has approximately $68 billion in unsold bonds that have been approved by voters.

So, if you're totally against raising taxes, where do you find the $42 billion in savings? The Times' Skelton wrote:
Well, you could fire every state worker under the governor's control and the savings wouldn't come close to balancing the budget.

According to the state budget document, there is the equivalent of 205,000 full-time jobs controlled by the governor. There actually are more workers than that because some are part-time. Do the math based on 16 months, since that's now the time frame of the projected deficit, assuming a balanced-budget package could be implemented by March 1.

You could lay off all those state workers -- rid yourself of their pay and benefits -- and save only $24.4 billion.

Meanwhile, you would have dumped 160,000 convicted felons onto the streets because all the prisons were closed after the guards and wardens were fired. There'd be no Highway Patrol because all the officers were canned. State parks would be closed because there were no fee-collectors or rangers.

Truth is the savings wouldn't even add up to $24.4 billion because some of those employees are paid out of small special funds that are self-sustaining. It's the big general fund that suffers the deficit. But let's say the books could be shuffled mysteriously and all that savings realized. You'd still need a lot more.

OK, lose the Legislature, you say. It's good for nothing. But it's also not worth much when you're trying to fill that size deficit hole. The Legislature's 16-month cost is roughly $400 million.

So now one branch of government is critically wounded, and another is dead. And we're still $16 billion short of enough savings.

What many people don't realize is that around three-fourths of the state's general fund flows out to schools and local governments, much of it because of voter-passed laws.

But there is another place to look for savings: You could cut off all state money to higher education -- the two university systems and the community colleges. That would save the remaining $16 billion.

Don't like any of the above -- all those firings and slamming college doors on kids?

Instead, you could eliminate virtually all state money for healthcare and social services -- grants for the aged, blind and disabled, assistance for the homebound, medical care for the poor, mental health treatment, welfare. . . . No exceptions.

Of course, you'd then be turning away tons of money from Washington, which shares the costs. And you would be violating some federal laws. But there, it's done. You've avoided a tax increase. What a state!

And those are the choices. Voters, it's time to take responsibility for your past decisions on your representatives and on the debt you've approved. You decide. And those of you who don't vote? You get no say.