Claremont Insider: The Mark* of Excellence

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Mark* of Excellence

We Must All Do Our Part

The above signature on any City document pretty much assures one that it will be a model of excellent legal writing, clarity, and good public policy.

We got our most recent dose of this just last week at the City Council meeting when council considered two revisions to the so-called "film ordinance". One of the changes was to update the fee schedule--fair enough--but what we didn't realize until it was pointed out that BOTH changes were revenue measures.

click to enlarge
The second change to the ordinance adds commercial still photography, and most notably commercial still photography for the print media.

The staff report makes explicit the intent to include print media: "Adding still photography to both the resolution and ordinance to explicitly identify that photo shoots for any commercial use, such as print media, requires a film permit. [sic as to grammar, but emphasis added] Still photography would be added to the list of activity subject to the resolution and ordinance."

The money paragraph in the ordinance reads,

"No person shall use any public or private property, facility, or residence for motion picture, television, or still photography without first obtaining a filming permit from and paying a permit issuance fee to the City..."

click image to enlarge

We noticed last week that the above crux paragraph in the ordinance seemed, maybe, a bit broad, but we hadn't carefully read the definitions. This gets a little lawyerly, but the relevant definition says, "Motion picture, television, and still photography" mean all activity attendants [sic; there's Sonia's fine drafting again] to the staging or filming of commercial motion pictures, television programs and advertisements." [emphasis added]

To us, and doubtless to the City, this means what it says: commercial advertisements.

And sure enough, after sorting out some grammatical agreement issues, grammatical parallelism and the like, and especially after hearing Assistant City Manager Ramos describe the intent during the council discussion on Tuesday, the ordinance very clearly applies to still photography for advertisements in the print media.

Again, we humbly admit to not seeing the brilliance of this right off.

We estimate that this will provide the City probably two to three thousand dollars twice a week, every issue of the Claremont Courier, for photographs of real estate and for illustrations in some some other ads. Each location requires a $300 permit.

And this is only half the page; click to enlarge

The whole discussion at Tuesday's council meeting on going after delinquent business licensees shows how serious the City is about wringing every dollar out. That discussion by Treasurer Adam Pirrie makes us more certain we are right in this. Plus, this is easier to enforce than Pirrie's current business license jihad: just clip the Courier ads every issue, compare the photos to permits on file, and send out bills.

We realize that a quarter million dollars annually ($5,000 per week times 52 weeks per year) is not much where the City of Claremont is concerned. Why, City staff can waste that much without breaking a sweat. Heck, the trolley and all the trolley stops probably wasted that much in its short and unlamented life. The City overpaid for Johnsons Pasture by four times that. And we realize the City claims that it doesn't make money with the film permit fees; it only recaptures costs. Ah, yes, but that much money probably allows City Manager Parker to keep a current staff member--or two--where RIF would be the alternative.

We can hardly wait to see the money come rolling in from the real estate agents. Surely it would be churlish of them to complain.

What's $300 on a $3 million house? Click to enlarge
$1500 from this ad alone

Here is the entire agenda report on the changes to the film ordinance.
* * * * *

*We know the difference between "marque" and "mark". Let's not go with that fancy-pantsy Euro stuff.