Claremont Insider: City Council Meets Tonight

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

City Council Meets Tonight

The Claremont City Council meets tonight at 6:30pm (no special closed session this week). You can watch the meeting online here, or you can go on down to the council chambers at 225 Second St. in the Claremont Village.

This is the last meeting before the council and the town's various commissions take the month of August off. Here's tonight's agenda.

We noticed a few things that grabbed our interest:

  • Item 7 on the consent calendar is a recommendation by staff that the council adopt a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Claremont Police Management Association. If approved, it would cover the fiscal year that runs from July 1, 2010, to June 30, 2011.

    The MOU includes the union's concession of a 1.9% cost of living increase for this fiscal year. It also includes the implementation of a two-tiered CalPERS retirement system as a nod to the unsustainability of the present 3% at 55 pension plan for police officers. The MOU gives no specifics on the proposed two-tiered pension, and it only says that the details are subject to negotiation with the CPMA for the MOU for the 2011-2012 fiscal year.

    The MOU also continues the City's payment of the each employee's 9% contribution to CalPERS. It also continues the City's annual adjustment of it's portion of each employee's health insurance premiums.

    It certainly looks as if the council has done nothing more than push dealing with the employee pension problem out another year, and they've left it open to the CPMA to dictate what new employees would receive for their pensions.

    The refusal on the part of the council to make the tough decisions needed to fix the coming pension storm shouldn't be surprising. Three of the council members, Peter Yao, Sam Pedroza, and Linda Elderkin, are up for re-election next March. Pedroza and Elderkin are of the belief that they need to placate city employees, no matter what long-term damage their lack of action causes the City's finances. Neither, after all, are the brightest when it comes to financial issues (see Padua Park, which Pedroza and Elderkin pushed).

    You'd think that council member Larry Schroeder, being a retired municipal finance officer, would be able to tell the extent of the pension problems are out there on the city's financial horizon. On the other hand, he does receive a CalPERS pension himself as a former city of Lakewood employee, so perhaps he's willing to let the City take a hit out of some misplaced sense of solidarity..

    Pension reform has long been one of Council Member Yao's pet issues, so it will be interesting what, if anything, he has to say on the issue tonight.

  • Staff is also asking the council to approve having liens totaling $83,624 placed against 16 abandoned, bank-owned properties. The properties all have delinquent fines that were levied by the City because of the owners' failure to properly maintain the properties.

    Among the deadbeat institutions are Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and US Bank (which took over PFF Bancorp).

  • Items 12 and 13 on the administrative items portion of the agenda have to do with requests by staff for the council to approve Community Development Block Grants to two Claremont Packing House businesses - the Packing House Wine Merchants and Hip Kitty Jazz & Fondue Lounge. The grants are $50,000 each.

    The Hip Kitty grant would be used to pay for expansion into the space formerly occupied by the EMW Limited Gallery. Staff justifies the grant by saying it would create two full-time employee jobs.

    Jerry Tessier, whose company Arteco Partners restored the Packing House, has told staff that getting the grant would allow Tessier's Linus Partners LLC to obtain $45,000 more in financing to complete the Hip Kitty expansion.

    The Wine Merchants grant would be used to expand the business into the space that had formerly housed the Claremont Forum's book store. As with the Hip Kitty money, Jerry Tessier and Linus Partners LLC would use the $50,000 to qualify for $50,000 in additional financing and would use the total to complete the Wine Merchant's expansion.

    The funding for Claremont's CDBG program comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. These two grants follow a $150,000 CDBG last December to the new Casa Moreno Grill in the Village Expansion. Since the CDBG money comes from the federal government for job creation, it doesn't cost the City anything. Still, you have to wonder what factors City Hall uses to determine who gets the grants and who does not.

    Also, is there any favoritism involved? Because Tessier's fortunes and the City's are so completely intertwined in the Packing House and the Padua Hills Theatre, would they favor him over another equally deserving business?

    In the past, the City seemed to favor the Candlelight Pavilion when the council loaned them $175,000 in 2000 and again in 2006 when they had to renegotiate the loan terms after the Pavilion's owners had trouble making their promised payment.

  • Administrative item 14 on tonight's agenda is proposal from staff to allow City Manager Jeff Parker enter into a lease agreement with Three French Hens and its owner Brenda Monahan. The lease is for the space in the Village Expansion parking structure that had been occupied by Bedol What's Next. The City would charge Monahan $1.50 per square-foot, or $1,800 a month for the 1,200 sq.-ft. space.

    Staff is also giving Monahan a $300 break on rent in exchange for her functioning as a "City Concierge," a duty that the staff report explains:
    Prior to opening staff will work with the tenant on creating the concierge space, which will provide an opportunity for guests to receive and view information on the City's businesses and the services and products they offer. They will also have a calendar with all of the things to do in Claremont on a monthly basis. They will provide in store space for other businesses to advertise its products especially in the food drink and entertainment arenas.

    Here we have to wonder why we're paying the Claremont Chamber of Commerce $40,000 a year to do much of what the City is asking Monahan to do at $3,600 a year? Do we really need that Chamber visitor's center on Yale Ave? Perhaps the City ought to be thinking about pulling the plug on that Chamber contract.

    Three French Hens should certainly benefit from the extra foot traffic generated from being a City Concierge, but, as with the Packing House grants, we wonder how the City decides when they get into the business of choosing economic winners and losers.

  • The council will also consider recommendations from their Ad Hoc Commission Selection Committee, composed of council members Larry Schroeder and Corey Calaycay. These are the appointments suggested by the committee:
    Architectural Commission
    Mark Schoeman - reappoint to a four-year term
    James Sink - reappoint to a four-year term
    Henry Perera - appoint to a four-year term

    Community Services
    Pauline Bourne - appoint to a four-year term
    Antonia Castro - appoint to a three-year term

    Human Services Commission
    Robin Gottuso - reappoint to a four-year term
    Robert Miletich reappoint to a four-year term

    Planning Commission
    Jeff Hammill - reappoint to a four-year term
    Tom Lamb - reappoint to a four-year term

    Police Commission
    Barbara Musselman - reappoint to a four-year term
    Sayeed Shaikh - reappoint to a four-year term
    Laura Fragoso - appoint to a two-year term

    Traffic Transportation Commission
    Rob Poy - reappoint to a one-year term