Claremont Insider: October 2011

Monday, October 31, 2011

Their Fair Share - UPDATED*

Last Tuesday, the Claremont City Council voted 3-2 to impose a new, one-year contract on the Claremont Police Officers Association and the Claremont Police Management Association.  The vote came after the City was unable to reach any agreements with the two police organizations in recent contract negotiations.
The CPOA, which represents Claremont's rank-and-file public safety workers, was extremely vocal in the days leading up to last week's vote.  As we previously noted, the CPOA's attorney, Dieter Dammeier, deployed his political action committeee, COPFIRE, to issue a threat to Claremont City Councilman Corey Calaycay, warning him that they would target him in future elections if he didn't vote the CPOA's way.

You can review the video of the council meeting here.  The Daily Bulletin's Wes Woods II also had a write up of the meeting.

The City had been asking for the police to start paying their own retirement contributions with a three-year, phased-in system.  The City also offered a 1.5% cost of living adjustment.  The police associations didn't want to accept the City's terms unless they got a 3% COLA, twice what the City was offering.  The council then proposed imposing the new contract with its requirement that the police start paying two-thirds of their 9% salary contribution to their CalPERS retirement accounts.  (Currently, the City is picking up the entire 9%.)

Of the many arguments made by the CPOA at last Tuesday's council meeting, the one that really caught our interest went like this:  If you don't pay us what we want, your community's safety will suffer.  Underlying this sentiment is the idea that Claremont would lose good police officers to surrounding communities that are willing to pay their police higher salaries and better benefits.  The CPOA's justification for police deserving better compensation than other municipal employees is that police have a more dangerous job.  They put their lives on the line every night.

To this line of thinking, we say our police are already paid higher salaries commensurate with their greater responsibilities.   While we appreciate their good work, we also think they are already adequately compensated.  Further, the danger they place themselves in is relative.  The CPD and their negotiator Dieter Dammeier make it sound as if they're patrolling the streets of Kabul every night.   Let's face it, in terms of threat levels, Claremont is pretty light duty.   The Claremont Courier's Saturday Police Blotter is invariably filled with stories about domestic disputes and drunk-and-disorderly arrests, not gang shootouts.

Let's be honest, folks, Watts we ain't.

The CPOA claims its members would leave for other Dammeier cities, like La Verne or Azusa, because the compensation is better there.  We thought about this and then realized that in his remarks to the City Council, Dieter Dammeier let slip a factor we hadn't thought about before.  Dammeier told the council that he represents all of the police associations within 20 miles of Claremont.  He then said that the contract the council was considering would make it difficult for Claremont to compete for qualified police officer applicants.   This struck us as an admission by Dammeier that he controls what amounts to a labor cartel.  He gets to set prices in the form of salaries and benefits, and there really is no competition as long as Dammeier and his clients get their way.

What Dammeier really fears is a city such as a Claremont going against the grain and breaking Dammeier's hold on the local public safety labor market. That monopoly, though, really could use some busting.   In his remarks to the Claremont City Council last week, Dammeier mentioned Pomona's police, another department Dammeier represents.  The Bulletin covered Pomona's budget problems in an article yesterday, noting that the single biggest annual expense was personnel costs, of which the Pomona PD accounted for the lion's share:

When it comes to expenditures by category the largest was personnel which took up 48 percent of the general fund, followed by the city's fire contract which took up another 28 percent.

If the expenses are broken up by department the highest cost is the Police Department which had about $38 million in expenses and fire costs totaled about $24 million.

It's the sort of financial problems Pomona is contending with that Claremont seeks to avoid.  You'd like to think that CPD officers would want to help with that effort, but getting people to give up something to which they think they're entitled, like having the City pay the employees' share of their retirement contributions, is never easy.  

The Bulletin, by the way, also had an editorial last week that said that the sort of strong-arm tactics Dammeier has used in Claremont are wrong and that Claremont is correct in seeking to get the police employees to fund their own retirements.  The Bulletin pointed out that by all rights, these payments are something our public safety workers should have been making in the first place:
It's called the "employee contribution" for a reason - it's the part each employee is supposed to contribute toward his or her own pension. But back in headier economic days, most government bodies in California started paying not only the employer's contribution but the employee's as well. In some cases it was a matter of courting union political support, in some it came in lieu of a raise or a bigger raise.

Trouble is, the economy has tanked and tax revenues along with it. Cities are finding their pension contributions unsustainable, diverting money that might have gone to employee salaries and services for residents. Hence, prudent city councils are looking for employees to kick in the employee's contribution once again. It doesn't reduce pensions in any way, it just means employees contribute to their own eventual retirement while they're working in good jobs and can afford it.
* * * * *

That 3-2 council vote on the police contract was a peculiar one.  The two fiscal conservatives, Corey Calaycay and Opanyi Nasiali, voted against imposing the contract on the public safety employees, which on the face of it would seem to be a vote in support of Dammeier and the CPOA. 

The other three council members, Mayor Sam Pedroza, Mayor Pro Tem Larry Schroeder, and Joe Lyons, are all left-leaning and are generally supporters of public employee unions but all voted in favor of the imposition of the contract. 

We suppose this could be seen as a validation of Dammeier's intimidation tactic, but Calaycay and Nasiali both said they couldn't support the contract because it included that 1.5% COLA, something they were against. 

*UPDATED, 11/1/11, 7:20PM:  As the Claremont Courier's Beth Hartnett reports in today's paper, Calaycay's and Nasiali's main objection to the one-year police contract was that they felt the 9% CalPERS contribution should have been instituted all at once, rather than phased in.   

Additionally, Hartnett notes that the one of the things the CPD officers object to is having the 6% contribution instituted immediately as opposed to having the 9% phased in over three years, as was done with the City's other employee associations. (At 8%, the City's non-public safety employees' CalPERS contribution is slightly less than the police.)

The City's response is that because of timing of the imposed contract, splitting the 6% into two 3% increments would have meant that the next 3% increase would have been in nine months when the next fiscal year begins in July, 2012.  Hartnett reports that the City's negotiator, Richard Kreisler, argued that they accelerated the public safety employees' CalPERS phase-in because of the uncertainty the City faces with the CPD employee associations.  

* * * * *

Incidentally, we received an email from another reader who got one of those robocalls from the Claremont Police Officers Association made prior to last Tuesday night's council vote.  Our reader questioned whether or not the CPOA used CPD call data to get phone numbers for their robocalls:

DATE: Wednesday, October 26, 2011 4:47 PM
SUBJECT: Claremont Police Officers Association robocalls

Hello all,

Like another of your readers, I also got a robocall from the Claremont Police Officers Association. It was a voicemail message left on my cell phone on Monday, two days ago, urging me to show up at Tuesday's city council meeting to support the police department against further budget cuts.

Here's the odd thing: few people have my cell phone number. And it has a 541 area code. So I'm wondering how did the Claremont Police Officers Association get my number?

Could it be because on 14 October 2011, I used my cell phone to call the police department (to report a coyote citing)? And if so, who at the police department is passing on incoming telephone numbers to the Claremont Police Officers Association. And -- if that is what happened -- was it legal?


Claremont CA

Saturday, October 29, 2011

At the Ath

image description
M.M.C Athenaeum
385 E. 8th St.
Claremont, CA 91711-6420
(909) 621-8244
Fax: (909) 621-8579

If you're looking for something to do during the week, the Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum at Claremont McKenna College usually offers up interesting, thought-provoking speakers on a wide range of topics.

Here's what the Ath is offering up in the next two weeks:

Monday, October 31 John Bradley, author, Behind the Veil of Vice: The Business and Culture of Sex in the Middle East (2010) and Inside Egypt: The Land of the Pharaohs on the Brink of a Revolution (2008); "Debunking Five Myths About the Arab Spring"
Tuesday, November 1 Ananda Ganguly, Marcos Massoud Associate Professor of Accounting and George R. Roberts Fellow, CMC; co-author, Assurer Reputation for Competence in a Multi-Service Context (2007) and The Riskiness of Large Audit Firm Client Portfolios and Changes in Audit Liability Regimes: Evidence from the U.S. Audit Market (2004); "How an Accountant, Or Even You, Might Make Business Decisions: Some Evidence from the Laboratory"
Wednesday, November 2 Martha Wheelock, director, co-producer and writer of California Women Win the Vote (2011); teacher of American literature, ethics, and women's studies, Harvard Westlake School, Los Angeles;  Diana Selig, associate professor of history, CMC; author, Americans All: The Cultural Gifts Movement (2008);  Lily Geismer, assistant professor of history, CMC;  "California Women Win the Vote: Film Viewing and Discussion"
Thursday, November 3 Daniel Kahneham, Nobel laureate in economic sciences (2002); Eugene Higgins Professor Emeritus of Psychology, Princeton University;  and Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Public Affairs, Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs; auhor, Thinking, Fast and Slow (2011) and co-editor, Heuristics and Biases: The Psychology of Intuitive Judgment (2002); "Thinking, Fast and Slow"
Friday, November 4 Glenn Greenwald, author, With Liberty and Justice for Some: How the Law is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful (2011) and Great American Hypocrites: Topping the Big Myths of Republican Politics (2008); "With Liberty and Justice for Some" (12:00 p.m.)
Monday, November 7 Leslie Bonci, director of sports nutrition, University of Pittsburg; co-author, Run Your Butt Off: A Breakthrough Plan to Lose Weight and Start Running (No Experience Necessary!) (2011) and author, Sports Nutrition for Coaches (2009) (12:00 p.m.)
Tuesday, November 8 Richard Haass, president, Council on Foreign Relations; author, War of Necessity, War of Choice: A Memoir of Two Iraq Wars (2009) and The Opportunity: America's Moment to Alter History's Course (2006)
Wednesday, November 9 Hao Huang, associate professor of music, Scripps College; "Liszt Bicentennial Concert"
Thursday, November 10 Davis Campbell, senior research fellow, Center for Applied Policy in Education (CAP-Ed), U.C. Davis; Dean Vogel, president, California Teachers Association; Jed Wallace, president and CEO, California Charter Schools Association; Julia Brownley, State Assemblywoman (CA-41st District); Jeff Stark, vice president, Claremont Unified School District Board of Education; David Abel '68, chairman and managing director, VERDEXCHANGE Institute; "Is California K-12 Education in Crisis? If So, What Do We Do about It?"

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

CUSD, LaConte: Guilty as Charged

The other candidates in the school board election, Hilary LaConte and Sam Mowbray, do not play political games. They say what they mean, and mean what they say, based on actual facts. We may disagree with some of their positions, but we know they are responsible community leaders who don't resort to tricky campaign strategies driven by political expediency.

- Dave Nemer, letter to Claremont Courier, 9/19/11


CUSD Board Member
Steven Llanusa

Last Saturday's Claremont Courier had an article by Landus Rigsby, who covers the public schools beat.   The headline, "Board sidetracked by Brown Act violation allegation," implied that CUSD Board Member Steven Llanusa's complaints about open governance violations by the board have distracted the other board members and CUSD Interim Superintendent Gloria Johnston from the more important work of running the school district.

Rigsby's article focused on a complaint Llanusa had made to the Los Angeles County District Attorney's office about an alleged Brown Act violation by the CUSD Board and Johnston at their May 19, 2011, meeting.  The Brown Act is a California sunshine law that's supposed to guarantee transparency in government.

In the article, Johnston indicated that the entire complaint was a waste of the district's time and money.  She also claimed that the DA's response "indicated that there was no reason to pursue further action..."  Rigsby quoted Johnston:
"I feel it's very important for me to clear my reputation in terms of being in charge of or violating the Brown Act in closed session," Ms Johnston said.  "I have in front of me both letters that you have submitted to the district attorney's office, Mr. Llanusa, and neither of them indicate that a substantial violation took place."
Additionally, the article quoted Board President Beth Bingham:
[Bingham] agreed with Ms. Johnston's suggestion that the district attorney's response eliminated the need to pursue further action.

Board Vice President Jeff Stark went even further, stopping just short of calling Llanusa a liar:
Jeff Stark
...Jeff Stark described Mr. Llanusa's recollection of the May 19, 2011 meeting as "incorrect."

"You keep saying there was a Brown Act violation, but clearly the letter from the district attorney does not agree with that," Mr. Stark said.  "So again, Steven, maybe it's an misinterpretation of what the district attorney is saying.  Maybe it's a misinterpretation of what happened in closed session.  But my mmory of that session is dramatically different."

So if Rigsby's article is to be believed, Llanusa's Brown Act complaints are baseless, and his accusations about the CUSD board's disregard for open government laws are not much more than a meaningless distraction caused by a whiney incompetent, which is how the four other board members like to portray Llanusa.

The Rigsby article also helps buttress claims by CUSD board supporters like Dave Nemer that the board, other than Llanusa, have achieved a sort of organizational perfection unmarred by things like Brown Act violations.   This is no small matter since one of the issues that's arisen in the current CUSD board election is the board's lack of transparency, at least as it's perceived in some parts of the community.

Long and short, if Rigsby reporting is at all accurate, Llanusa's full of more crap than a Christmas goose as far as his allegations go.


Now, we've disagreed with Llanusa on many things and certainly haven't supported him in the past.  But in this case, we've found evidence that not only does Llanusa appear to be right about CUSD's contempt for open government law, but that the district attorney's office has in fact warned the CUSD board about their behavior.

A year ago, at the board's October 7, 2010, meeting, the board went into closed session to discuss what was listed on their agenda as a "Superintendent's Evaluation--Update" as well as a labor negotiation conference.  A complaint was filed with the Public Integrity Division of the district attorney's office alleging that the closed session was a ruse under which the board went beyond the claimed labor negotiation discussion and the evaluation of then-Superintendent Terry Nichols.  The complaint alleged that in closed session the board also discussed budgetary matters and district goals - things that by law are supposed to be considered in open, not closed, session.

CUSD Board Agenda for 10/7/10
(Click to Enlarge)

CUSD Board Member
Hilary LaConte
We should also note that the alleged Brown Act violation occurred under the watch of then-Board President Hilary LaConte, who is currently running for reelection to the board.  LaConte, like Jeff Stark, has publicly scoffed at the idea that the CUSD board is lacking in transparency and is completely open and above board.

We would normally be inclined to leave matters at that.  After all, what occurs in closed session stays in closed session.  Even if a violation occurred, who could ever prove it?

Well, now comes a public response from the LADA's Public Integrity Division to the complaint, presumably from Steve Llanusa (the complaintant is unnamed), regarding that 10/7/10 closed session meeting.  The DA's response, dated 9/29/11 and received by the school district on 10/7/11, belies the claims of openness by the board and its supporters and supports Llanusa's accusations completely.

Here is the DA's response (click on the small "S" at the lower left-hand corner of the image to see a larger view):
LADA ltr 9-29-11

Some key points from the letter:
If, as alleged, the discussions included budgetary considerations and prospective goals of the District, then such discussions in closed session violated the law....

[Evidence Supporting the Allegations
- .ed]
We obtained written documents that reportedly reflect matters that were considered in closed session. Copies of the documents are attached. They include what appears to be a presentation slide entitled "CUC Strategic Planning", dated October 6, 2010, and a typed memo with a caption of "Needed Support from the Board". These matters exceed the permissible boundaries of a closed session performance evaluation and do not have anything to do with labor negotiations.  The memo makes suggestions about communications between the Superintendent, the Board, and other groups. It addresses board goals, and public support for possible bond funding....

Unagendized, closed session discussion of such matters violates the Brown Act....

Even if the matters were only presented and not discussed, such consideration is still illegal.....

Similarly, closed session discussions regarding budget issues, proposed expenditures of stimulus money, the possibility of bond revenues, identification of programs or positions to cut, under the guise of Labor Negotiations or Performance Evaluations are simply impermissible.

[CUSD: Don't Use Closed Session to Duck the Public]

We recognize that the issues faced by legislative bodies like your board are difficult, especially in times of financial uncertainty. Such matters often generate controversy and disagreement that is minimized when the discussions are conducted outside the public's view. However, the Brown Act does not permit closed session consideration of matters simply because they are controversial or difficult; rather, permissible closed session topics are narrowly defined and limited to very specific matters for which the public's interest is best served by closed session consideration, such as the range of acceptable terms for a real estate transaction or labor negotiation that is in the works, or the candid communication between the legislative body and its attorney, or the forthright and frank evaluation of an employee who serves at the pleasure of the legislative body itself.

[Warning to Board:  Watch Yourselves in the Future]

In the absence of any objective evidence such as a recording of the closed session discussions, the scope of discussions that occurred in closed session cannot be conclusively proven. However, the impermissible expansion of closed session discussions to include matters that are not expressly authorized for closed session consideration is troubling. We therefore express to you our deep concern about such conduct, to the extent that it has occurred. We urge you to review the circumstances that are described herein, and demonstrate your commitment to compliance with both the letter and the spirit of the Brown Act, by limiting any closed session consideration to those matters properly agendized, and expressly permitted by law. By so doing, you encourage public confidence in the integrity of your agency, and the decision making process, which is vital.

The DA's letter certainly gives Board Member Llanusa new credibility when it comes to Brown Act complaints against the CUSD board. It also detracts enormously from the credibility of the four non-Llanusan CUSD board members and their supporters with respect to their claims of perfection when it comes to transparency, openness, and integrity. The DA's response of 9/29/11 belies the board members' quotes in Saturday's Courier and is especially troubling considering that the school district received the DA's letter weeks before Landus Rigsby's article.

One would expect the school board, having been caught and reprimanded so recently, would display at least a little contrition. Instead, they go on the attack and act as if they, not Llanusa, were the victims. If the school board were as honorable as they claim, they would admit their errors and work publicly to correct them. But they seem incapable of admitting any wrong, even when confronted with the evidence of their misdeeds. Hilary LaConte, the presiding board member at the time of the 10/7/10 incident takes no responsibility and simply seeks to glide through her reelection campaign as if nothing happened.

And perhaps she's right. If no one says anything and the truth is buried, then nothing really did happened, even if it did. As we've said before, Jeff Stark had it right all along: That's the way things have always been done in Claremont.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


One of our readers wrote us to say that they received an automated "robocall" saying that they should talk to their councilmembers and tell them a crime wave was going to sweep over Claremont if the City Council doesn't accede to the contract demands of the Claremont Police Officers Association.

Apparently, the CPOA's attorney/negotiator Dieter Dammeier and his political action committee COPFIRE are still playing their games ahead of tonight's City Council meeting in which the council is going to consider imposing a one-year contract on the CPOA.

DATE: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 9:32 AM
TO: Claremont Buzz
SUBJECT: Automated Phone Call


Don't know if you received one, but I got an automated phone message yesterday telling me that I needed to attend the next neighborhood meeting with council members and tell them that Claremont will be over-run with crime if we don't give police officers everything they're asking for. I didn't have the patience to listen to the whole message, but it was basically repeating the same dribble found in the COPFIRE letter.

The council meeting starts at 6:30pm in the council chambers at 225 Second St. and is also available via a video feed.

CGU Exhibit Opening in November

The King James Bible was published in 1611, and to mark that quartercentenary Claremont Graduate University will host a three-month exhibition beginning in November at Honnald/Mudd Library. Here's what CGU has to say:

Claremont Graduate University to host exhibition celebrating 400th anniversary of the King James Bible

Claremont Graduate University (CGU) and the Claremont Colleges’ Honnold/Mudd Library will celebrate the 400th anniversary of the first printing of the King James Bible by hosting a traveling exhibition examining the immeasurable impact the book has had on secular and religious culture.

Manifold Greatness: The Creation and Afterlife of the King James Bible opens on Nov. 10 and runs through Jan. 6.

The traveling exhibit was organized by the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C., and the American Library Association Public Programs Office. It is based on an exhibition of the same name developed by the Folger Shakespeare Library and the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford, with assistance from the Harry Ransom Center of the University of Texas. The traveling exhibition was made possible by a major grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Highlighting the exhibit will be a first edition of the King James Bible from 1611.

The story behind the King James Bible remains surprisingly little known, despite the book’s enormous fame. Translated over several years by six committees of England’s top scholars, and first printed in 1611, the King James Bible became the most influential English translation of the Bible and one of the most widely read books in the world.

For many years, it was the predominant English-language Bible in the United States, where it is still widely read today. Even many of those whose lives have been affected by the King James Bible may not realize that less than a century before it was produced, the very idea of the Bible translated into English was considered dangerous and even criminal.

Equally compelling is the story of the book’s afterlife—its reception in the years, decades, and centuries that followed its first printing, and how it came to be so ubiquitous. Essential to this story is the profound influence that it has had on personal lives and local communities.

The King James Bible has influenced everything from literature (Moby Dick, Shakespeare, comic books) to music (early American psalters, Handel's Messiah; contemporary reggae) to media culture (the recitation of Genesis 1:1 by the crew of the Apollo 13 spacecraft; the ending of "A Charlie Brown Christmas").

The traveling exhibition consists of high-quality reproductions of rare and historic books, manuscripts, and works of art from the Folger and Bodleian collections, combined with interpretive text and related images. The Claremont Colleges' Honnold/Mudd Library will supplement the traveling exhibit with rare artifacts and treasures from its Special Collections.

"Claremont Graduate University is delighted to have been selected to host this exhibition," said Lori Anne Ferrell, professor of early modern literature and history in CGU’s School of Arts and Humanities. "The King James Bible – both in Britain, its country of origin, and in America, where it has exerted greatest influence – is a work of historic importance, enduring inspiration, and ongoing fascination. This exhibition will document its remarkable religious, educational, literary, political, and cultural impact over four centuries."

The exhibition is free and open to the public. CGU and the Honnold/Mudd Library are sponsoring free programs and other events for the public in connection with the exhibition.

About Claremont Graduate University

Founded in 1925, Claremont Graduate University, the graduate institution of the Claremont Colleges Consortium, is one of the top graduate schools in the United States. Our nine academic schools conduct leading-edge research and award masters and doctoral degrees in 22 disciplines. Because the world’s problems are not simple nor easily defined, diverse faculty and students research and study across the traditional discipline boundaries to create new and practical solutions for the major problems plaguing our world. A Southern California based graduate school devoted entirely to graduate research and study, CGU boasts a low student-to-faculty ratio.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

It Takes a Thief

These are the exactly questions I've been trying to answer.
Well you can try, but you never will.
Why?...You don't think like a criminal.  You don't have a criminal mind.
- Homicide: Life on the Streets,
Season 1, Episode 2 (1993)

The best detectives have, in their heart of hearts, at least a touch of larceny.  It's something they have to possess in order to be able to inhabit the criminal mind.  The difference is that they also have an ethical code that's absent in the criminals they hunt.

So maybe that same mentality is what makes an effective negotiator of Dieter Dammeier, the attorney representing the Claremont Police Officers Association (CPOA) in their ongoing contract talks with the City of Claremont. 

Of course, we have no idea what sort of officer Dammeier was before he started his law practice, back when he was employed by the Cypress Police Department.  We can only judge his public behavior now, behavior that of late strikes us as close to thuggery.

Wes Woods II reports in today's Daily Bulletin that an organization called the Committee of Police and Fire Associations Inspiring Responsible Elections (COPFIRE) recently sent Claremont City Councilmember Corey Calaycay a letter accusing him of failing make public safety (i.e., police salaries) a top priority.

The letter, a copy of which the Insider has obtained, stated:
You have been brought to our attention as someone we should actively oppose in future elections as a result of your failure to prioritize public safety in your position as a Claremont City Councilman. Specifically, we have been informed that under your watch, the number of sworn police officers working the streets of Claremont has been cut by 15%. Traffic Enforcement has been cut, the School Resource position has been reduced, the Investigations Division has been reduced to a point where there is no more active gang, graffiti or narcotics enforcement.

Judging from the tenor of the letter, Calaycay has really PO'd someone at COPFIRE. And who, exactly, are they? Apparently, they're a political action committee and are made up of representatives from various local police unions. COPFIRE's letterhead has a list of its board members, the first of whom is one Dieter Dammeier, who is listed as the PAC's "Fund Administrator."

Click to Enlarge

It's not too hard to figure out what's going on here. The CPOA and the City of Claremont have been deadlocked in contracted negotiations. For years, the city has paid the police officers' share of their CalPERS retirement contributions, 9% of the public safety employees' annual salary. As part of its ongoing efforts at ensuring fiscal responsibility, the City is now asking CPOA members to start paying that 9% themselves, as they should have been doing in the first place.

The City originally offered to have that change phased in over the next three years (3%, 3% and 3%). The other employee unions have already agreed to contracts with phased-in CalPERS payments. In the case of non-public safety employees it's 8% over three years.

The CPOA, led by Dammeier, have stated they will only accept the phased-in CalPERS payments if the City gives the police officers a 3% cost-of-living increase in their salaries, which would pretty much offset their CalPERS contributions. The City is offering 1.5% for cost of living adjustments (COLAs) for each of the next three years, something the city's other employee associations have already agreed to.

Because the two sides have been unable to reach an agreement, the City Council has announced that it will impose a one-year contract with 6% CalPERS contribution for the police. That matter is on the council's agenda for their Tuesday night meeting. Dammeier clearly thinks he can strong-arm the council by trying to intimidate Calaycay, though Dammeier denied that in the Bulletin article today, saying that the letter and its timing were unrelated to the upcoming meeting.

COPFIRE, incidentally, has no Claremont PD members. The letter in question was signed by Arcadia Police Detective Mike Hale, who is a COPFIRE board member. Dammeier and COPFIRE clearly don't have a very good understanding of Claremont, or at least of the people who vote in our municipal elections. In this town it's very bad form for an outsider to tell us what to do, especially when it comes to COPFIRE's sort of bullying.

Interestingly, none of the other four councilmembers received a COPFIRE letter.  Only Calaycay did. In today's Bulletin article, Dieter Dammeier responded to Woods' question about COPFIRE singling out Councilmember Calaycay:
Dammeier said Calaycay was targeted because he has run in the past for the Assembly.
But, that doesn't really account for Councilmember Joe Lyons, who himself sought a seat in the state legislature when he ran for the California State Senate in 2008. If the justification for an outside PAC like COPFIRE going after a councilmember is the concern about what they might do at state level, then Lyons should have received a COPFIRE threat. Yet he did not.

Here's the actual letter in question (it's public record, so you can get your own copy at City Hall, if you're interested):

Click to Enlarge


Boss Dammeier, with
  an offer you can't refuse

Dammeier's tactics should come as no surprise. In February, we predicted Dammeier and the CPOA would pull something like this.  And Dammeier's website lays out Dieter's philosophy:
The association should be like a quiet giant in the position of, "do as I ask and don't piss me off." Depending on the circumstances surrounding the negotiations impasse, there are various tools available to an association to put political pressure on the decision makers.

In other works, walk tall and carry a big baton.

One of the arguments CPOA's members have made is that their work is different from that of other city employees, so they should receive different, better compensation.

Mayor Pro Tem Larry Schroeder, who says he wants to treat all employees fairly, took issue with the CPOA's reasoning and was quoted Claremont Courier on 10/8/11, saying:
"Employees are all paid according to their amount of responsibility, and certainly policemen are compensated for working holidays and different shifts," Mr. Schroeder said. "Being a former city employee myself, I understand that people get paid different wages, and I think policemen are fairly compensated for that."

The police have been been doing their best to refute Schroeder and have followed Dammeier's lead with scare tactics, claiming that they are overworked and underpaid. They claim, among other things, that the ranks of the CPD's street cops have been reduced 15%, implying that crime is on the rise and we are in perilous state. However, the police fail to mention that, in the long term, crime has generally been on the decline in most areas, not just Claremont. They also don't want the public to consider the possibility that the number of police was bloated in the first place, at least for a community of 35,000.

The police have also brought up things like the reductions in graffiti enforcement and gang unit staff, but they don't acknowledge such that gang activity in Claremont is extremely low. Similarly, they claim the auto theft task force has suffered because of the city's cutbacks, which is a lot of hogwash. Claremont doesn't have a separate auto theft task force. The LA County Sheriff's Office is in charge of coordinating the Taskforce for Regional Autotheft Prevention (TRAP), a multi-jurisdictional entity funded by vehicle license fees, and TRAP hasn't gone away at all.

Virtually every claim the CPOA and Dammeier have made has only one goal, a political one designed to get citizens to put pressure on the Claremont City Council to cave into CPOA's demands. Our bet is that they've greatly misjudged Claremonters and that they've overreached.

We'll find out Tuesday night how well Dammeier has read the political terrain. The City Council's regular session begins at 6:30 pm in the council chambers at 225 W. 2nd St. in the Claremont Village.  You can also watch it here.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Venturing Out

The Claremont Chamber of Commerce, currently presided over by former our Assistant City Manager Bridget Healy, will hold its 30th Annual Village Venture Arts & Crafts Faire tomorrow from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm.   Claremont's environmental mindfulness will take an eight-hour break to allow vendors to flood the Claremont Village with tchochkes of every ilk.  Get there early before the best ones are gone.

Here's what the Chamber's website tells us:

Directions to Village Venture

Claremont Chamber of Commerce ( Village Venture HQ)
205 Yale Ave., Claremont CA 91711

Click here to go to Google Maps and get directions from your location to Village Venture

Village Venture

has become THE annual event where family, friends & neighbors meet to wander The Claremont Village, which is filled with over 450 arts & crafts booths including photography, pottery, jewelry, clothing, and garden knick – knacks. Don’t forget to stop by the village businesses on both sides of Indian Hill that will be open all day. This is the place to kick off your one stop holiday shopping, you’ll find something unique for everyone on your list! Sit and relax at one of our sidewalk cafes, or enjoy the international cuisine located on First Street. Well over 20, 000 visitors attended Village Venture 2010 to enjoy not only this one-day event, but also the wonderful shops and restaurants that are located in our city.  

The following streets are closed:

Bonita, Second and First between Indian Hill and College
Yale and Harvard from Fourth ( Fourth is not closed)

This is the place to be every year on the fourth Saturday in October - mark your calendar - Saturday October 22nd, 2011.  

Click to Enlarge

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Around Town


The city of Claremont is holding a neighborhood meeting tonight from 6:30 to 8:30 in the Blaisdell Center. Two members of the city council will be there to talk to the community. The City's website has the information on the forum:
City Council Neighborhood Forum - Blaisdell Community Center

6:30 - 8:30 PM
440 S. College Ave.
(909) 399-5460

Council Members are also hosting a series of Neighborhood Forums. Neighborhood Forums give residents from different neighborhoods the opportunity to talk with City Council Members in a relaxed and informal setting. Neighborhoods can discuss issues that are important to them, air concerns, share ideas, ask questions and get the latest information about topics and projects that are specific to each neighborhood. Although forums are scheduled for specific neighborhoods, you do not have to live in that immediate area to attend.


Also, don't forget Claremont's annual Halloween Spooktacular.  Bring the kids on down to the Claremont Village on Halloween for a safe, fun trick-or-treating environment:
Halloween Spooktacular October 31 (Oct 13, 2011) 

Everyone is invited to Claremont's Annual Halloween Spooktacular in the Claremont Village on Monday, October 31. The annual event is co-sponsored by the City of Claremont, Claremont Chamber Village Marketing Group,& local businesses. Children will enjoy trick-or-treating as well as free games and entertainment in a safe environment.

Over 40 Village businesses, marked with balloons and a special poster, will be handing out free goodies to trick-or-treaters from 3-5 p.m. Maps listing all participating locations will be available at the Claremont Depot (200 W First St) and City Hall (207 Harvard Ave).

The Claremont Depot will have free games and entertainment from 4-7 p.m. Festivities at the Depot include a dog costume contest sponsored by the Zoom Room at 5pm, a wildlife presentation at 5:30 p.m. and a children's costume contest at 6:30 p.m


Lastly, if you're interested in moving into one of the Courier Place affordable housing units, the builder, Jamboree Housing, is taking applications. We don't know how many of the 74 units are still available.  If you're interested, there is this from City Hall:

Courier Place Affordable Housing Now Leasing (Sep 7, 2011)

Construction is moving rapidly on the Courier Place Affordable Housing Project on College Avenue. Completion is scheduled for November, 2011 with residents moving in shortly thereafter. Jamboree Housing and The John Stewart Company have begun sending out applications to interested renters and will continue to accept applications until all the units are occupied. Courier Place is open to low income households that earn $17,940 to $52,950. Rents will range from $480 to $1,110 depending on income, household size, and the size of the apartment selected.

Courier Place, located at 111 South College Avenue, is conveniently located in downtown Claremont with easy access to the Metrolink. Courier Place is an intergenerational community with one senior building housing 38 one bedroom apartments and two family buildings, with 36 two and three bedroom units. Seniors must be 62 years of age or older. Children in the family units will attend Oakmont Elementary School. The site will feature a community swimming pool, covered parking, laundry facilities, tot-lot, barbeque area, community building with computer lab, as well as on-site resident services.

Jamboree Housing has set up a leasing office at:

Temporary Leasing Office
219 N Indian Hill Suite 100
Claremont, CA 91711
(909) 624-8589 

To receive an application please contact the Temporary Leasing Office or call (909)624-8589

Alvarez, Again

Javier Alvarez
If you thought Xavier Alvarez's 15 minutes of fame ended long ago, guess again.  The former Three Valleys Municipal Water District board member was back in the news yesterday.  The Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case of U.S. v. Alvarez.

Alvarez, you'll recall, was convicted under the federal Stolen Valor Act for lying about having been awarded the Medal of Honor.  In August, 2010, that conviction was overturned by the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on the grounds that the conviction violated Alvarez's First Amendment rights.

Then, this past March, the full Ninth Circuit Court passed on rehearing the case.  The prosecution appealed to the Supreme Court, which will now determine whether the sort of lying Alvarez did was a criminal act or a protected form of speech.

The New York Times has an article summarizing the case to date:
The full Ninth Circuit declined to rehear the case. Chief Judge Alex Kozinski concurred, saying that a ruling against Mr. Alvarez would be “terrifying,” as it would allow “the truth police” to censor “the white lies, exaggerations and deceptions that are an integral part of human intercourse.”

In a dissent, Judge Ronald M. Gould said the “lack of any societal utility in tolerating false statements of military valor” justified the law. He rejected the slippery slope argument, saying that “making false statements about receiving military honors is a carefully defined subset of false factual statement not meriting constitutional protection.”

In urging the justices to hear the case, United States v. Alvarez, No. 11-210, Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. argued that Congress was entitled “to guard against dilution of the reputation and meaning of the medals.”

Whatever the outcome of the federal case, Alvarez was also convicted in 2009 in LA County Superior Court in a felony insurance fraud case for lying about being still married to an ex-wife. Alvarez lied about that to get the woman covered under his Three Valleys health insurance plan after he was elected. He was removed from office after the conviction.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Debate Tonight

This evening the League of Women Voters of the Claremont Area (mostly just Claremont, not so much Area) will hold a forum for candidates running for the Claremont Unified School District Board of Education and Citrus College Board of Governors.

The LWV will hold the forum in the Padua Room of the Alexander Hughes Community Center at 1700 N. Danbury Rd. The forum starts at 7pm.

If you can't make the LWV forum, you can download and watch video of Active Claremont's September 22 CUSD candidate forum.  You'll find the file here.  To start the download, just click on the time or file size columns. It'll take a while, even with a fast Internet connection.

Sunday, October 16, 2011


[Stracci] had a fleet of freight hauling trucks that made him a fortune primarily because his trucks could travel with a heavy overload and not be stopped and fined by highway weight inspectors. These trucks helped ruin the highways and then his roadbuilding firm, with lucrative state contracts, repaired the damage wrought. It was the kind of operation that would warm any man’s heart, business of itself creating more business.
- Mario Puzo, The Godfather


Watching the Claremont Unified School District in action, one can't help but marvel at the kooky logic employed by the CUSD Board of Education. For instance, when the school board needed help with its last superintendent search, they turned to Pivot Learning Partners, the consulting firm that identified Terry Nichols, the district's last superintendent.

You'll also recall that Nichols cut out on us 18 months into his $196,650-a-year contract and left CUSD in bind, in answer to which the school board turned to....Pivot Learning Partners!  Board member Jeff Stark explained the deep thinking behind this move, saying that this is the way we've always done things.  Like Charlie Brown trying to kick Lucy's football, we keep going back for more.

To make matters worse, for its interim superintendent the CUSD board hired PLP consultant Gloria Johnston (photo, left), paying her the same amount the district paid Nichols.  We wonder how hard it was for Johnston to tell the board that the results of PLP's exhaustive search was, for the time being, herself.

As we've seen time and again, the CUSD board of education prefers to overpay for work that could easily be done in-house.  For a fraction of the money they paid PLP and Johnston, the board could have had their assistant superintendent fill in for Nichols while they conducted their search.  They could have simply asked PLP or some other firm for a list of names and then interviewed the candidates themselves rather than counting on PLP to winnow the list down to a couple choices.   But, as Jeff Stark likes to say, that's not how we do things in Claremont.

Incidentally, these education consultant gigs must be pretty lucrative.  We've discovered that Interim Superintendent Johnston doesn't limit her consultative work to PLP.   A Fairfield-based company called Total School Solutions lists Johnston as a member of their team. According to the TSS website, Johnston is a TSS Senior Consultant. Here's her bio:

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We don't know much about TSS or what exactly Johnston has done there, but we did find a mention of TSS in a 3/2/08 Modesto Bee article about a brouhaha in the Waterford School District: continuing coverage: School budget crisis

Report rips Waterford spending
Schools chief defends his 'triage, expedient' actions


WATERFORD -- While the Waterford Unified School District stares at an upcoming 10 percent budget cut, the board of trustees heard a legal report critical of relaxed financial practices.

The report at a recent meeting covered three main areas of unauthorized or unexpected payments:

Stipends totaling $25,000 paid to two principals over two years, Jose Aldoca and Don Davis

Administrative pay raises of 5.2 percent, including a raise for Superintendent Howard Cohen, that were paid five months before the board approved them

A contract with a Bay Area consulting firm, Total School Solutions, was ratified as a $33,000 agreement to polish the district's master plan but turned out to be an open-ended contract that cost the district $124,000 before it was canceled with the work unfinished.

Maybe, contrary to Jeff Stark's philosophy, this is the way things are done everywhere.  Another pillar of Claremont exceptionalism bites the dust.


If you hadn't noticed, the district (and now Johnston) doesn't limit its use of consultants to headhunting duties.  When the matter of inter-district transfers (IDT's) started becoming a hot-button issue in the current school board election, the school district, needing to help prop up incumbent Hilary LaConte ahead of the November vote, commissioned Bob Blattner and his firm Blattner & Associates to write a report on the impact of IDTs on CUSD. 

The so-called Blattner Report is posted on the CUSD website.  It's presented as a sort of cost-benefit analysis and concludes not only that the overall impact of IDT's is positive, but that discontinuing the acceptance of IDT's into the district would be detrimental to CUSD's budget because whatever savings might be achieved by eliminating unneeded teaching positions would be eaten up by the loss of state money the district receives for each student.

Here's the report:
Blattner Report 9-15-11

It's too bad Blattner didn't bother to provide any of the actual data he used in his report.  For all we know, he could be making this stuff up out of whole cloth.   He is, after all, a former Sacramento Bee education writer who is known as much for being a Sacramento lobbyist as he is for his other work with school districts.  Let's face it, the school district had to commission a political document to prove its premise - that we need IDT's. To that end, they didn't need a detailed, rigorous study. They had to get someone whom the district could count on to shape the narrative.

You'll note that CUSD doesn't bother to produce the back-up data either.  For all their talk about being transparent and involving the community in their decision-making, they're still stuck in their top-heavy hierarchy issuing edicts from on high.  If we know one thing about Claremont, it's that you can get a report to say just about anything you want as long as you don't provide the data to back up your claims.  Just say it strongly enough with plenty of authority, and pretty soon the education beat writers will be citing it as if it were fact rather than interpretive art.

This no doubt explains why CUSD slow rolls requests for what should be public information.  Rather than just posting all the raw figures on their website so that the community could assess them and have a rational debate, CUSD had to get Bob Blattner to explain it all to us.  And if you ask for the data, they don't just delay, they change the subject by having their surrogates call you a racist - "You don't want those kids here."

Compare the district's website to the city of Claremont's, where one can watch videos of old City Council meetings or peruse the agenda materials and staff reports at one's leisure.  For all the complaints we have had about City Hall, access to public information is no longer one of them, and that didn't improve until the City Council turned over and the upper management changed.  Before that, the stonewalling public information requests received was every bit as heavy-handed as what one experiences with CUSD today.


So, to recap: Consultants salivate at the thought of dipping into the CUSD money stream.  Remember Jared Boigon, the consultant the district hired at a cost of $25,000 to conduct the polling the school board used to buttress its arguments for the $95 million Measure CL bond?  Boigon leveraged that contract into a campaign consultant job working for the front men the district roped into running the Yes on CL campaign last year.  For campaign funding, at Boigon's suggestion, the Yes on CL folks then hit up the very consultants and contractors who stood to benefit from the bond and would have undoubtedly sought to recoup their campaign donations by working those costs into their future billing.

Of course, the district assured us that there was no conflict of interest involved in the $150,000-plus the Yes on CL campaign raised from those consultants and contractors.  No problem at all.  If the school board says it, it must be true.

So we weren't terribly surprised when we learned that Gloria Johnston's Total School Solutions employers are partners with Bob Blattner's company. In fact, TSS issued a press release trumpeting the synergy that was about to be loosed on the world when the two consulting firms teamed up:

Click to Enlarge

They promise to deliver their prospective school district clients to efficiency levels undreamt of outside the Jersey road construction business.  We have no problem with that.  It's just that it would have been nice if Gloria Johnston and the school board would have told us before contracting with Bob Blattner for his expert opinion on IDT's. 

As we said, no surprise.  It's Claremont, after all.  It's how we do here.

Film Talk

Claremont Community College, the folk(s) who gave us the 5 Second Film Festival, kick off their speaker series this afternoon at 2pm:

DATE: Friday, October 14, 2011 2:53 PM
SUBJECT: Directions to Film Lecture Sunday 2 pm
FROM: Vincent Turner

We are so happy to be presenting Nathan Wang film composer as our first speaker in this year's film lecture series.

The event will be held this Sunday at 2 pm. Please join us at the Claremont University Consortium Administrative Center, 101 N. Mills Avenue, Claremont

Directions to the Claremont University Consortium Administrative Center

Google Maps Link:

The CUC Administrative Center is located at 101 N. Mills Avenue in Claremont. Google Maps will correctly locate this address.

From the 10 Freeway

Exit at Indian Hill Blvd. Proceed north on Indian Hill. Continue for about a mile. Turn right on to First Street. Continue east on First Street for about 7/10 of a mile. You will pass the Metrolink Parking Lot on the right. The Administrative Center is just east of the lot.

From the 210 Freeway

Exit at Towne Avenue. Proceed south on Towne for about a mile. Turn left onto Foothill Blvd and continue for about a mile. Turn right onto Indian Hill Blvd and continue for about a mile. Turn left onto First Street. Continue east on First Street for about 7/10 of a mile. You will pass the Metrolink Parking Lot on the right. The Administrative Center is just east of the lot.

Friday, October 7, 2011

This Weekend in Claremont


If you thought Claremont would spend the weekend drying out from Wednesday's downpour, think again.  The Claremont Beer Fest returns to town for its second go-round tomorrow, October 8, from 12:30pm to 5:00pm in the Claremont Village. The CBF website has all the details:

Claremont, CA - October 8, 2011

The California Beer Festival (CBF) is coming back to the city of Claremont! With over 60 craft brews on tap, four live bands, and mouth watering food. CBF will be the event of the year for any beer enthusiast! CBF's main goal is to shine a light on the craft beer movement and celebrate great beer!

Proceeds will benefit
, a non-profit organization that provides financial support to student athletes to assist in their pursuit of both scholastic and athletic success in the city Claremont.

Tickets are $40 for general admission or $25 for designated drivers.

As you can see, the money goes to a good cause.   And nothing says "athletics" like an ice cold brew.  Apropos of which, where are the donuts?  We're missing out on the chance to have the first beer and donut fest, a Beer-athlon.

In the meantime, you can get your tickets for this year's beer fest at: