Some years ago, a friend of the Insider moved to New York to work in the publishing industry. This person settled into a small, six-square block village on Long Island and soon came to marvel at the local natives, who insisted on spending large amounts of money on things like maintaining a volunteer fire department, complete with a fully equipped fire engine. Fires in the area were rare, and the main purpose seemed to be to keep up with the neighboring villages, all of which had their own volunteer fire departments.
The locals also overpaid for their trash service, whose waste hauler wouldn't allow residents to move their garbage cans from their yards to the street for pick up. The trash contract specified that the trash workers moved all containers, even if they were in backyards. This seemed mainly designed to require extra workers on each waste disposal truck.
Our friend tried asking some of his neighbors about these peculiar arrangements and received nothing but odd looks, as if he were crazy for questioning how much money the village was spending on toys. This is how we've always done things, they'd say. Our friend eventually came to the conclusion that his fellow LI villagers were completely irrational. One night at a restaurant, the friend struck up a conversation with a waitress, who was herself a West Coast transplant. He asked the waitress why people in the area seemed to have such a hard time with reasoning skills. She leaned over and whispered, "Because they're STUPID."
Claremonters seem similarly committed to their own brand of craziness, which includes overpaying for services too, for everything from their schools to their city services. Witness last November's $95 million Measure CL school bond campaign. Or the recent editorials and letters in the Claremont Courier by former Claremont Mayor Sandy Baldonado and police commissioner Barbara Musselman, who is also a former Claremont League of Women Voters president. Readers will recall that Musselman, in keeping with her LWV ties, has a long history of interfering in Claremont elections.
The two yentas, Baldonado and Musselman, are upset that the City has had to cut back on services because of budget deficits. Both, along with their friend and failed City Council candidate Bridget Healy, have labored mightily to put a scare into residents, first when city staff looked into outsource Claremont's trash service and more recently after someone in City Hall leaked the news that Police Chief Paul Cooper is a finalist for the chief of Glendora's police. The B-M party line is that Claremont City Manager Jeff Parker is gutting city staff and services with the support of his city council.
Baldonado and Musselman have both claimed that Chief Cooper wants to leave because he doesn't feel that our City Council fully supports the police. What they conveniently overlook is that Chief Cooper, who will be eligible for a generous CalPERS retirement in a few years, needs to bump up his salary, since his pension will be based on final salary. Glendora, which is larger than Claremont, will always be able to pay more than our town.
Musselman, who is a former human resources director for San Bernardino County (and herself a public pensioner) certainly knows this, as does Baldonado, who through her council voting record is responsible for awarding lavish CalPERS plans to Claremont municipal retirees - the very city pension that Cooper seeks to maximize with his Glendora job application.
If Baldonado had been more fiscally responsible, she wouldn't have supported those super-sized pension plans, which included having the City paying for the employees' share of their pensions, and we would have more money now to dedicate towards staff and services. It's because of the foolish arrangements supported by Baldonado's votes that management-level employees are able to collect six-figure retirement incomes, an inflation-indexed $166,700 per year in Bridget Healy's case, a good chunk of which is paid for by the City of Claremont.
The simple fact of the matter is that the free-spending ways of Baldonado and her friends, not Parker, are responsible for City Hall's present belt-tightening. However, instead of owning up to their respective roles in all this, they want to take down Parker's administration and seek to take us back to the Glenn Southard era in City Hall. (The two, if they were capable of introspection, might consider where we'd be if Glenn were here now - after he retired from Indio, Southard left that city with a $9 million budget deficit.)
But, because they suffer the same malady that once afflicted certain Long Islanders, Baldonado and Musselman are bent on stirring things up in town, mostly because they think this will benefit the election prospects of their friend and current City Council candidate Robin Haulman, whom both Baldonado and Musselman have endorsed.
The Haulman campaign, or at least her endorsers, seek to scare voters by telling them city employees are leaving because they're being undermined by Parker and by the City Council. We've seen this scare game before with the 2005 Preserve Claremont campaign, so it's no coincidence Human Services Commissioner and former PC spokesman Butch Henderson is an honorary chair of Haulman's campaign. Also, PC's treasurer, Francine Baker (a city employee, by the way) is listed as a Haulman endorser, and her husband Bill is Haulman's treasurer.
We should expect more than a little campaign skulduggery from Haulman's backers. After all, Pastor Butch has told us this is how Claremont does campaigns.
A NEW VOICE SPEAKS FOR ROBIN
This past Saturday, thanks to the Baldondo-Musselman-Haulman communications team, the Claremont Courier carried a letter by Musselman, and another by a third Haulman endorser, Gregory Shearer. Shearer's letter took up the B-M message. Oddly, though, Shearer also included a passage that left us scratching our heads:
In speaking with the rank and file officers of the Claremont PD, I am sure they will be glad to see Cooper get the Glendora gig as more than one Claremont officer has mentioned his abusive management style, which may just be frustration over working with the current city council.
Hmmm. Tell us again why we want to keep the abusive Chief Cooper? It's the city council's fault for driving Cooper to abuse his employees? We had all wrong. We thought a good boss protected his employees and took the heat himself.
One thing's for sure, Shearer fits right in with Baldonado, Musselman, Haulman, Healy, Henderson, the Bakers and all the rest of their friends when it to wasting public dollars. In 2000, Greg Shearer was the subject of a money-makeover column by LA Times business section columnist Kathy Kristof:
In short, unless Shearer learns to restrain himself, he'll never attain the comfortable retirement that he wants, said Margaret Mullen, a fee-only financial advisor in Los Angeles.
But restraint is something that the Claremont adult-video salesman, who has filed for personal bankruptcy three times, finds exceptionally difficult.
Serial bankruptcy filer advising us on municipal policy? Makes as much sense as anything else here in this kooky town. Shearer probably has some ideas for next summer's movies in the park series, too.