Claremont Insider: Municipal Ordnance

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Municipal Ordnance

As Daily Bulletin columnist David Allen pointed out last month, there was more than the usual amount of Claremont irony in the town's Architectural Commission Excellence in Design awards.

That empty commercial building at 601 E. Foothill Blvd., the one that was the proposed site for a 7-Eleven convenience store, was one of the seven award recipients. The award no doubt represents a consolation prize to the building owners, who haven't had one tenant since the building was completed (last year? 2008?). Sorta says, "No hard feelings. See, we're not so bad."

Claremont can be an awfully difficult place to do business, mostly because of the interference of our dear Claremonsters, most of whom have never successfully made or sold anything. They are for the most part dilettantes like our town historian, former mayor Judy Wright, or they're in the service sector like former mayor, former school board member, and former Chamber of Commerce chair Paul Held, who has a Claremont-centric family law practice. And that all goes a long way towards explaining Official Claremont's poor understanding of the concerns of people running reality-centric businesses.

All this got us to thinking that the Architectural Commission might want to think seriously about giving their award a snappier title. Here is our humble offering (given to the the commission free of charge - our civic duty, you know): The Claremont Neutron Bomb Award, after the Cold War tactical WMD of choice.

The neutron bomb's main selling point, you'll recall, was that it eliminated people but left most structures standing, similar to what the Claremont 400's tried to do to citizens and businesses alike over the years. So, the neutron bomb was immensely attractive to the realty crowd (another important Claremont interest group). After all, human assets can be replaced much more easily than infrastructure. Think redevelopment, except with people.

Given the current economic climate, there very well could be many more empty buildings around in the future, and that would drive down the town's image. But winning an award goes a long way toward softening bad publicity, a fact with which Claremont is well-acquainted.

We remember that in 2001, when City Hall was still suffering in the press (there were still such things back then) over the shooting death of African American teen Irvin Landrum after a traffic stop by Claremont PD, Claremont's then-Human Services Director Dick Guthrie applied for and received a Helen Putnam Award for Excellence from the League of California Cities for its response to crisis. Needless to say, the award came several years before the issue was resolved. The City's main response up to that point had been a mostly notional heads-in-the-sand one: "You can't see me if I can't see you."

Some things change, others are ever constant. Claremont's mayor at the time the award was announced? The aforementioned Paul Held, Esq., who, along with wife Kay, just last week was honored as the Grand Marshal of our annual 4th of July parade. Held, who as mayor seemed at war with certain Claremonters, could tell you that when things look bleakest, trot out an award.

Knock 'em dead, Claremont.