Claremont Insider: Friday in Claremont

Friday, July 23, 2010

Friday in Claremont

Now that the pro forma approval of the bond measure resolution by CUSD's board is done, we can get back to little city news:


The Claremont Police Department is having another DUI checkpoint tonight at an undisclosed city location from 6pm tonight to 1am Saturday morning. The checkpoint is funded by grant money from the California Office of Traffic Safety.

So, even if watching the Claremont 400 run the City's and the school district's finances into the ground has you reaching for another Manhattan, take it easy in and around Claremont.


The Claremont Courier reported in Wednesday's edition that City Hall is having to reorganize as part of its cost-cutting measures. The Courier article noted that the City's staff is down 20% from its peak numbers.

Community Services, which has been without a permanent director since Scott Carroll left, has been rechristened the Community/Public Works Department and will be under City Engineer Craig Bradshaw. Community Services currently runs Claremont's trash service, and that may end up being outsourced (more on that subject in a moment).

If trash service is contracted out to a private company, one wonders what will happen to that Community Services building at 1616 Monte Vista Ave.. The City dedicated the building with much fanfare in 2005. When you think about it, it has turned into boondoggle of the highest order. The construction was beset by cost overruns that were only vaguely explained by then-City Facilities Manager and champion blowhard Mark Hodnick, and the structure ended up costing well over $10 million. The building also leaked when it first opened because the City failed to account for groundwater movement around the building.

It also turned out that the City, with its usual competence, figured the property lines incorrectly, so that a corner of the building jutted into Upland. Additionally, the entire second floor of office space has never been used. That's right. A whole floor has essentially sat empty for the building's short life. So, now the City may use the building as a police station, or it may lease out the space.

Good use of that ten-plus million, eh?


Raise the subject of outsourcing our town's police or garbage services, and you'll be greeted by plaintive howls and a chorus of boos. Claremont city services hold roughly the same devotional status as the the Virgin of Guadalupe does in Mexico, and the threat of the loss of those services inevitably elicits keening and self-flagellation from Claremont's true believers.

When folks here talked tentatively about maybe looking into contracting for trash service, we heard endless variations on the same story: "So-and-so's great-aunt Tilde lives in Laguna, and they outsource there. Anytime someone goes on vacation, they get robbed because those lowdown contract waste haulers tell their criminal drug-fiend friends about the empty houses."

Well, to rebut some of those more outlandish claims, we point to a New York Times article about the city of Maywood outsourcing most of its municipal services. The article appeared in the NYT earlier this week and was titled "A City Outsources Everthing, Sky Does Not Fall."

Keep in mind, though, that this experiment is only a few weeks old, and Maywood outsourced its police services to Bell, which has been on the front page of the Los Angeles Times for its scandalously huge municipal salaries - $787,000 a year to City Manager Robert Rizzo (more than twice what US President Barack Obama earns), $457,000 to Police Chief Randy Adams (about half again as much as LAPD Chief Charlie Beck), and around $100,000 to all but one city council member.

Bell now replaces Pomona as the community Claremonsters will point to whenever someone wants to try to change anything here - as in "Do you want us to be like (fill in the blank)?"


Finally, one of our more astute readers saw a Claremont-centric post on a blog called Mish's Global Economic Trend Analysis. The post had a note from a Mish reader who is from Claremont. The reader, Gregory Levine, gave his analysis of the sidewalk renovation in the Claremont Village.

The sidewalk work was pushed by city staff, who got some federal stimulus money for the project. It was not popular with a lot of the Village merchants, whose businesses suffered from the construction. Levine concluded:

My second point regards the cost of the project. I conducted informal interviews of eight business. All but one suffered major revenue losses. Most reported being closed for 2-4 days with some suffering losses for five or more days.

Business owners estimated revenue losses from $2,000 to $3,700. The average loss was $2,850. Total revenue losses to businesses comes to $2,850 X 96 = $273,600.

How much did the project cost? $1,497,232.

And guess what? The contract was awarded to an out of town construction company. So in the short run, Claremont businesses suffered $273,600 in losses for prettier sidewalks. Most say it was not worth it, especially in this economy.

City Hall strikes again.