Claremont Insider

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Donnelly Busted at Ontario Airport

45-Caliber Colt in Briefcase

Our Assemblyman, Tim Donnelly, the guy who has guns hanging on the wall of is Sacramento office, was busted today at Ontario Airport for trying to carry a loaded weapon onto a flight to Sacramento. What a way to start the new year.

We don't have anything against guns, and subscribe to the school of thought that we would have a lot more polite society if everyone were armed, but really? Where has this guy been the last--say--10 years and almost 4 months?

The LA Times reports there is a lot of chortling in Sacramento legislative circles, but it might be a lot less humorous for Tim when he is sentenced to a stretch in County Jail for this--er--transgression. It's OK to pack when you're tripping with the Minutemen; not OK to pack when your tripping in seat 11C.

Maybe it would be just smarter all the way around for him to hire a bodyguard like Supervisor Antonovich does. And drive to Sac't'o instead of taking Southwest.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Corn-pone Opinions

You tell me whar a man gits his corn pone, en I'll tell you what his 'pinions is.

More than 100 years ago Mark Twain recollected an incident from his youth along the river in Missouri. His point has quite a bit of relevance to Claremont (and elsewhere) today.

...I had a friend whose society was very dear to me... He was a gay and impudent and satirical and delightful young black man -a slave -who daily preached sermons from the top of his master's woodpile, with me for sole audience. He imitated the pulpit style of the several clergymen of the village, and did it well, and with fine passion and energy. To me he was a wonder. I believed he was the greatest orator in the United States and would some day be heard from. But it did not happen; in the distribution of rewards he was overlooked. It is the way, in this world. ...I listened to the sermons from the open window of a lumber room at the back of the house. One of his texts was this: "You tell me whar a man gits his corn pone, en I'll tell you what his 'pinions is." ...The black philosopher's idea was that a man is not independent, and cannot afford views which might interfere with his bread and butter. If he would prosper, he must train with the majority; in matters of large moment, like politics and religion, he must think and feel with the bulk of his neighbors, or suffer damage in his social standing and in his business prosperities. He must restrict himself to corn-pone opinions -- at least on the surface. He must get his opinions from other people; he must reason out none for himself; he must have no first-hand views.

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We can't tell you how many variations on this theme we've heard here in Claremont: from a local businesswoman quitting a local election campaign because she was given to understand that pursuing that course would harm her business prospects, to very smart people declining to speak up on--say--local school issues because they believed to do so would harm their kids' standing or prospects in Claremont schools.

The Claremont 400 has that kind of power and are not afraid to use opprobrium and more tangible means to enforce it.

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Original essay here.

Monday, December 26, 2011

New Sheriff in Town

Claremont City Manager Tony Ramos, Left, and Tinky Winky

By now, Tony Ramos will have taken the chair in the big office in City Hall. He was approved as a replacement for Jeff Parker by City Council late last month in one of the most ram-rodded railroaded maneuvers seen in this city, at least publicly, in years.

Ramos is a two-time bankrupt, most recently this summer where, on a salary north of $170K annually, he stiffed his creditors to the tune of 70 cents on the dollar. Perhaps now with his raise to $198K, car, and a bunch of other benefits, the bankruptcy trustee will take another look and bump up his repayment so he pays every cent he owes. He can afford it. (Remember, his domestic partner went BK earlier this ear with some $40K-$50K in debt in his own name. So the Ramos household is going into 2012 with a clean slate and a new cushy job. Nice to have friends in high places.)

In its most recent meeting, the Council lowered the signature authority of the City Manager from $75,000 to $25,000. This action was draped in the bureaucratic misdirection of providing "consistency" in the purchasing authority of the City Manager and department heads. Uh, why? The elephant in the room that no one would mention is that the lower authority is a tacit acknowledgement by Council (the only one) that Tony Ramos' management of finances might need--well--a little oversight.

It's not clear whether Ramos took the reins on Thursday, December 23, as indicated by the most recent City press release, or today, as the press release announcing Parker's resignation would imply. Whatever, you can be sure the decision was made with the best interests of Parker and Ramos in the fore.

* * * * * * *

The image leading this post was acquired from a public Facebook post by Tinky Winky himself.
It was not Photoshopped.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas-- Now STFU

Kathryn Dunn, the Managing Editor of the Claremont Courier, seldom makes news and tries to stay out of the limelight. We last heard about her when there was a photo circulating of her making Monica-eyes at Bill Clinton. We don't expect that Dunn has been the places Monica has been, nor done the things Monica has done.

She did, however, take pen in hand to scribe a Christmas missive in Wednesday's paper entitled, The Politics of Charity in Claremont. She was so proud of it that she--or the Publisher-- put it on the Courier homepage for December 24th. Because it has engendered so much talk in town, and since she and the paper obviously want it to get wide circulation, we do our meager part and reproduce it below, exactly as printed in the Courier, along with a discreet Photoshop commentary on the page image. We trust everyone will agree that this is fair use and won't get their panties in a wad about it.

click image to enlarge
click image to enlarge

We will let Ms. Dunn's words speak for themselves...but let's just say that this piece could be a bit more tightly-written and coherent. We do note, however, that she conflates the group Claremonters Against Outrageous Water Rates with another group Claremont Taxpayers for Common Sense. That is actually a pretty fair example of her factual bases and cogency of argument. She pretends to see nuance, but mis-apprehends what's in plain sight.

There is at least one letter in the Saturday December 24 number of the paper touching on her piece. However, the email servers in Claremont have been melting down the past few days with tentative replies, draft replies, replies, comments, outrage and the like. We've received a boatload, but one will give you the flavor:
"Not that you had any doubts about it anyway, but today the Courier spells out in unusually plain language the utter contempt that their editorial staff holds for anyone in town who dares to question the liberal orthodoxy of Claremont's self-anointed ruling elite. According to the Managing Editor of the Courier, when a handful of narcissists set up a faux refugee camp on the steps of city hall, they are making a positive contribution to our community, as is our city council when it patiently resolves to address the issue of political encampments sometime in the distant future; but if a substantial number of law-abiding citizens respectfully ask that the anti-camping ordinance be enforced, or question the wisdom of our bankrupt state giving free tuition to illegal aliens, or exercise their right to publicly comment on water rates, or decline to rubber-stamp a blank-check $100 million school bond, they are divisive obstructionists who are negatively affecting Claremont's reputation. Got that? Good. Now STFU* and do what you are told. Dissent is no longer patriotic within the city limits. And bring your checkbook."

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*STFU? Look it up on the Internet. And Merry Christmas. And buy the Courier

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Cause and Effect

At the Library

A killer wind struck Claremont last night following the appointment of Tony Ramos as next City Manager. Many were left without power through the night and into the following day. In almost every neighborhood, along 'most every street: limbs, trees, and trash littered the gutters, shoulders, and sidewalks.

All of this in retribution visited by Providence on the City for council's abominable action in chambers last night. Too bad our neighbors had to suffer also. A Shakespeare might've described described it thus:

The night has been unruly. Where we lay,
Our chimneys were blown down and, as they say,
Lamentings heard i' th' air, strange screams of death,
And prophesying with accents terrible
Of dire combustion and confused events
New hatched to the woeful time. The obscure bird
Clamored the livelong night. Some say the Earth
Was feverous and did shake.

Wellesley Street Light Wires Taken Down

Another Block on Wellesley

On College

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Ho-Hum; No News Today

10:30 p.m. The end of just another quiet day in Claremont. The city council approved Tony Ramos as new City Manager on a 5-0 vote. But then we had that two days ago.

King of Claremont

Preparations are moving apace for the coronation of King Tony I tonight at City Hall, 6:30 p.m.

See here, here, and here for background.

Some City Process Wonks are whining to us that, "Hey Insider, you goofball: it's not a done deal. Council didn't 'hire' Tony Ramos on Monday. It only approved a recommendation of the ad hoc committee." Well, yeah.

Make no mistake. The special meeting tonight to rubber-stamp the action in closed session will be one of the most useless, forgone-conclusion, scripted, eye-candy meetings that even Claremont has put on. And Claremont is the acknowledged world leader in U,F-C,S,E-CM.

We understand Tony is already measuring the drapes in that big corner office, and for Tony Ramos that is a task he can really get into.

If it doesn't go down as we say in our last post, we'll eat our bearskin hat.

By the way, a reader points out to us that the city of Riverside is just concluding a search for a new City Manager. That city's search attracted 42 candidates and 10 finalists. What a waste of time and effort on their part...

Monday, November 28, 2011

Ramos Hired

Drudge Siren Pictures, Images and Photos
8:56 p.m. Monday, November 28. Word from the report-out from council's nearly 3-hour closed session is that Tony Ramos is hired as the next city manager. City will post details by Tuesday, 6 p.m.

The Fix Is In

Fast Track for Tony Ramos.
Eyewash and Window Dressing for the Public
Another BK in Tony Ramos' Past...

By now it's common knowledge that the plan hatched last Monday (Nov 21) by at least 3 members of the city council is to "fast track" the appointment of Assistant City Manager Tony Ramos to the soon-vacant position of City Manager. A "Done Deal" the Courier calls it.

Why is this man smiling? Courier Photo.

Here's what passes for public participation and transparency in Claremont:

November 21: Closed session council meeting to discuss "vacancy"in CM position. Parker and Ramos orchestrate Amen-Chorus of reliable business-types touting Tony Ramos for CM in brief public comment prior to meeting. Those not in the know wondered, "Gee, here we just had a vacancy announced and already we are discussing a specific candidate. That's weird." "Surely this is just a process meeting of some sort."

November 22: Jeff Parker announces The Plan (during city manager's report at regularly scheduled Tuesday meeting):

Over Thanksgiving Holiday: Sam Pedroza and Larry Schroeder are to negotiate a contract with the sole and only candidate for the position: Tony Ramos.

November 28: Closed session council meeting scheduled to review and approve contract negotiated with Tony Ramos

November 29: Draft contract--already approved in closed session by city council--made available for public review with agenda for--

November 30: Special open meeting to publicly approve contract with Tony Ramos. Coronation to follow immediately.

Mayor Pro Tem Larry Schroeder has been known to remark, in the frustratingly interminable Claremont processes that unerringly ensue when dealing with problems of regular citizens that, "Heh, heh, Claremont is not 'slow', it's 'deliberate' Heh, heh." Oh, he just loves that line. Well, deliberation has nothing to do with this procedure.

From what we hear, probably all five council members pre-judged Ramos based on their personal assessment that he is a good guy and a go-fer for Jeff Parker of the first magnitude, and decided that all such extraneous process matters such as a search, candidates, vetting, background check, public participation, etc., could be dispensed with. Sam Pedroza seems to be the head cheerleader for this idea if you read the black letter of the Courier and Bulletin. And then they decided to negotiate with him from the enviable position of strength [sarcasm alert for you Democratic-club types] that he's their sole candidate.

Parker--the man behind the curtain--foresaw the problems that Ramos' BK would pose and helpfully hypnotized the council members that they were prohibited from considering it. Make no mistake; Parker has been working this one hard.

We have always thought that this is less about the fact of personal bankruptcy on Ramos' part, and more about the light that the bankruptcy shines on his judgment. What do we have on that score?

According to today's Daily Bulletin, Ramos' bankruptcy petition in March 2011 was dismissed (that is, he was given no relief from his creditors) because he failed to make certain post petition payments. See the article, here (but it may go behind a paywall soon). We are unclear whether this conclusion is the result of reporting by Wes Woods II, or simply an interpretation of the BK documents posted here or available after registration on But the fact remains that it was dismissed and it appears that Ramos took the mere filing of the BK as a get-out-of-jail-free card with respect to those mortgage payments. His probable thought process: "If I'm going to go bankrupt anyways, it might as well be for a large amount as a small amount."

The Courier--in an excellent pair of articles last Wednesday--actually interviewed someone in the office of the BK Trustee in Orange County. It is clear from the Courier article that we mis-interpreted the wet-stamp on the court order posted last week.

From the above document (click to enlarge, and see in the box, middle of page, right), it appears that Ramos' BK was approved on July 21, 2011, and he actually was scheduled to pay $2125 on Aug 9, Sep 9, and Oct 9. Thus, by the time he had missed THREE monthly payments, on October 12, the Trustee threw in the towel and filed for a dismissal of the current BK. Said motion was later withdrawn, where it stands as this is written.

The Courier notes in it's article that last week, four months after the final court action on Tony Ramos' BK, he was behind more than half the amount due. He had paid $3592 of the $8500 now due the BK trustee, with the balance due by November 30.

We will post the Courier page here until the Courier objects. You should go out and buy the paper, or better yet subscribe to it. If the page is pulled, you should look in the Courier archives on its website. Look for the November 23, 2011 issue. Click image, right, to enlarge.

Pattern and Practice:
Not His First Rodeo

One of the advantages of crowd-sourcing is that there are a lot of minds working on the problem. We got a tip that the current matter is not Tony Ramos' first recourse to bankruptcy. Sure enough, in May of 1986, there was a Tony Ramos in West Covina with the same last four digits of our Tony's SSAN who was discharged under Chapter 7. We are reticent to get cross-wise with the bankruptcy court, so we will redact the SSANs and addresses. However, follow our instructions at the bottom of the prior post, search the LA BK court records for "Ramos", scan the list for "Anthony" and pull up the one-page record. Note the last four of the SSAN there match the last four of the SSAN when you search for the current case in the Central District BK court. That's our Tony.

One curious feature of this 1986 case is that Tony's attorney was Victor Tessier. Who is Victor Tessier? He was at the time a Pomona attorney doing quite well, thank you, and buying up troubled properties. His sons Jerry and Ed are the owners/operators of the Claremont Packing House and Lessees of the Padua Hills Theatre. Both venues are heavily entwined with City of Claremont finances and business perks. Jerry and Ed are involved, through family partnerships, corporations, or interlocking directorships, with the Hip Kitty, for example, which received--surprise--a Community Development Block Grant from the City of Claremont last year. And Tony--this will shock you--is the go-to guy for City economic development.

It's just like one big happy family. None dare call it cronyism. But the whole process involving Tony Ramos carries the odor of cronyism over due process and best practice.

It's our considered opinion that Ramos' is eminently unqualified to manage any city. This has nothing to do with the bankruptcies per se. But the insight the record gives to his breathtaking lack of judgment, as evidenced by his continually getting into the financial quicksand and more notably by his very recent, contemporaneous, and relevant actions in not strictly following the orders of the court--these traits make us think that Tony Ramos is a time-bomb waiting to explode.

We are watching very carefully how our councilmembers carry themselves on this one.