Claremont Insider: 2007

Monday, December 31, 2007

Ringing Out the Old Year

The Daily Bulletin and the Claremont Courier both had lists of their noteworthy stories for 2007.

Surprisingly, Paystubgate made both lists.

The Bulletin and the San Bernardino Sun had their own run-ins with government employees when they posted salary information for San Bernardino County employees online.

The Courier had a list of Claremont City Council high- and lowlights. The article isn't online yet, but it did have a memorable quote from Dean McHenry regarding the city's handling of Paystubgate:

"I think that's the first time since this city was founded 100 years ago that you have gone to the extent of demanding the shutdown of a news source," said resident Dean McHenry at the October 9 council meeting, evoking raucous cheers from fellow citizens. "... It seems to me, this not a way to celebrate our centennial."

* * *

And, of course, it was our centennial, or rather our second one, as we observed. Former Claremont Mayor Judy Wright and the folks over at Claremont Heritage have made sure we have these centennial celebrations every 20 years or so.

Wright continued her Claremont mythology project in 2007, using the centennial as a focus for her efforts.

Of course, it's been a rough year for Judy, who got caught revising local history and who dug herself an even deeper hole by trying to explain herself.

* * *

2007 was the year of the Packing House and the Village Expansion, bringing lots of new businesses and maybe even a trolley to Claremont. Time will tell if the expansion's got legs or not.

And this was the year Forbes Magazine named Claremont the fifth best place to live in the U.S. (for towns with populations between 7,500 and 50,000).

* * *

2007 was also the year that Claremont's insurer, the California Joint Powers Insurnce Authority, settled a lawsuit by Palmer Canyon homeowners over the 2003 Padua Fire. The plaintiffs had alleged that the city was negligent in its failure to enforce and implement its Vegetation Management Plan for the Claremont Wilderness. As a result, the plaintiffs argued, brush on city land built up to dangerous levels and resulted in the destruction of homes in Palmer Canyon and Padua Hills.

In March, the CJPIA settled the suit for $17.5 million. The largest amount ever paid out by the insurer.

* * *

The assaults on the Insider ebbed considerably as the year wound down. We're still standing, still cranking out the posts - nearly 500 since February. We like to keep William Faulkner's 1950 Nobel Prize speech in mind (with apologies to our feminist readers):

It's easy enough to say that man is immortal simply because he will endure: that when the last ding-dong of doom has clanged and faded from the last worthless rock hanging tideless in the last red and dying evening, that even then there will be on more sound: that of his puny inexhaustible voice, still talking. I refuse to accept this. I believe that man will not merely endure, he will prevail. He is immortal, not because he alone among creatures has an inexhaustible voice, but because he has a soul, a spirt capable of compassion and sacrifice and endurance. The poet's, the writer's, duty is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet's voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one the props, the pillars to help him endure and prevail.

Let this much be said about 2007: We're all of us still standing and in many ways are stronger than ever. Keep on speaking out. Endure.

* * *

Finally, in other news, Claremont City Hall will be closed today and tomorrow for the New Year's holiday. City Attorney Sonia Carvalho, who drove the Paystubgate story with her demand that Google terminate this blog, reminds you to watch yourselves over the holiday. Too much drinking can lead to too much talking, and we just can't have vital government secrets leaking out.

A holiday is no excuse for laxness. The City Attorney takes these matters very seriously, and violators will be prosecuted - This Means You!:

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Our Post-Literate World

A while ago, around the same time the Claremont Unified School District Board of Education election was going on, we noticed some lawn signs going up for the Claremont Friends of the Library encouraging reading.

The signs seem to have come down around the same time the election ended and also seemed to coincide with signs for the two Claremont 400 candidates, Elizabeth Bingham and Hilary LaConte. Presumably, the sign posters were trying to send a subliminal message that their school board candidates were the real champions of literacy.

Unfortunately, all indications are that none of the candidates who ran for the CUSD board could possibly make a difference in the long-term reading levels of our kids. Quite the contrary, there seems to be a good deal of evidence that greater cultural forces are at work, forces that have been in play for decades.

Writer Caleb Crain had an article in the December 24th issue of The New Yorker titled "Twilight of the Books." The piece examined decline in reading and its potential effects on modern life.

Crain noted that the National Endowment for the Arts conducted a study that found that since 1982 the percentage of people polled who had read a work of creative literature in the previous 12 months had fallen steadily, from 56.9 percent in 1982, to 54 percent in 1992, to 46.7 percent in 2004.

And anyone in the newspaper industry will attest to the problems that papers are having attracting readers.

Educators have spent huge amounts of dollars and resources trying to raise reading scores, but scores don't tell the whole tale. Reading for pleasure is becoming less and less a part of our daily lives, as Crain writes:

More alarming are indications that Americans are losing not just the will to read but even the ability. According to the Department of Education, between 1992 and 2003 the average adult’s skill in reading prose slipped one point on a five-hundred-point scale, and the proportion who were proficient—capable of such tasks as “comparing viewpoints in two editorials”—declined from fifteen per cent to thirteen. The Department of Education found that reading skills have improved moderately among fourth and eighth graders in the past decade and a half, with the largest jump occurring just before the No Child Left Behind Act took effect, but twelfth graders seem to be taking after their elders. Their reading scores fell an average of six points between 1992 and 2005, and the share of proficient twelfth-grade readers dropped from forty per cent to thirty-five per cent. The steepest declines were in “reading for literary experience”—the kind that involves “exploring themes, events, characters, settings, and the language of literary works,” in the words of the department’s test-makers. In 1992, fifty-four per cent of twelfth graders told the Department of Education that they talked about their reading with friends at least once a week. By 2005, only thirty-seven per cent said they did.

Much of the decline in reading may be the result of the rise of television. Crain cites Dutch research that found that between 1955 and 1975, reading declined from five hours per week to 3.6, while television viewing rose from 10 minutes a week to over 10 hours.

Crain also believes that contrary to what we might expect, education matters less to active reading than age:

By 1995, a Dutch college graduate born after 1969 was likely to spend fewer hours reading each week than a little-educated person born before 1950. As far as reading habits were concerned, academic credentials mattered less than whether a person had been raised in the era of television. The N.E.A., in its twenty years of data, has found a similar pattern. Between 1982 and 2002, the percentage of Americans who read literature declined not only in every age group but in every generation—even in those moving from youth into middle age, which is often considered the most fertile time of life for reading. We are reading less as we age, and we are reading less than people who were our age ten or twenty years ago.

Interestingly, according to Crain, the Internet doesn't seem to affect reading ability in the same way as television, and reading scores appear to rise with time spent online. (Whew! A big relief to those of us in the digital world.)

The consequences of these trends seem self-evident. Illiteracy or more accurately post-literacy (the ability to read coupled with the inability to comprehend), may take an inevitable toll on our civic lives. After all, if a person cannot step outside of themselves and reason through an argument, they are more susceptible to demagoguery. Or they may just not participate.

Ironically, the Claremont 400, those self-anointed protectors of our schools and our kids, seem to thrive in the post-literate world. For instance, many of their arguments on the Baseline Rd. affordable housing this past year or on the failed Parks and Pastures Assessment District in 2006 depended on voters not examining the premises of those arguments. The 400 say, "Listen to us," rather trying to make a fair assessment of all the pros and cons of a position.

Our democracy is based on reason and in our trust that voters will make the best decisions if they are given enough information. Post-literacy threatens us because it removes critical thinking from the equation. Non-readers are less likely to delve into an argument or to try to independently verify assertions. Good readers, by contrast, tend to question and to seek to educate themselves on issues.

Crain ends his article on this note:

Proficient readers are also more likely to vote. Perhaps readers venture so readily outside because what they experience in solitude gives them confidence. Perhaps reading is a prototype of independence. No matter how much one worships an author, Proust wrote, “all he can do is give us desires.” Reading somehow gives us the boldness to act on them. Such a habit might be quite dangerous for a democracy to lose.

Come, let us reason together in the New Year.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Saturday Crime Watch

The Daily Bulletin reported yesterday that an 18-year-old Claremont resident was arrested in Pasadena after a shooting during a drug transaction.

The suspect, Marcus Cole, is accused of shooting a 23-year-old Arcadia man on Colorado Blvd. in Old Town Pasadena around 7:30pm Wednesday evening.

* * *

The Claremont City Council may consider stricter rules to discourage door-to-door salesmen following the arrest of 19-year-old Corey Finley on December 19th for the alleged rape of a Claremont woman who let Finley into her home.

This is the second such incident in Claremont in the past year. In December, 2006, a magazine salesman named Rondie Lamont Walz raped a 20-year-old Claremont woman after she let Walz into her house. Walz was convicted of the rape in March and was sentenced to 18 years in state prison.

* * *

The Claremont Courier reported that on December 15th two employees of the Little Caesar Pizza at 336 S. Indian Hill Blvd. were robbed in the restaurant's parking lot while leaving to deliver a bank deposit. The suspect, who was wearing a ski mask, ran off and has not been apprehended.

The Courier also noted that Claremont police officers arrested two Fontana men on suspicion of burglary after they were seen at a home on the 500 block of Baughman Ave on December 19th. A neighbor, who saw some unusual activity, called the police. A search of the suspects' home turned up evidence of stolen items from other incidents.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Trolley Mail

We received a number of letters about the proposed Downtown Claremont trolley system. Recall that city staff and a citizen committee that included former Claremont Mayor Judy Wright studied the problem of linking the various commercial areas in town.

As we noted earlier this month, the trolley has been scaled back considerably from the original conception. The $887,000 three-year trial will consist of a circuit running every 15 minutes though the Claremont Village and Village Expansion [NOTE: The eventual cost of the trolley was about $1.29 million, not the $887,000 originally proposed. -ed.]. The Claremont Colleges and the Old School House at Foothill and Indian Hill Blvd. will not be included.

Using the figures tossed about by the city, the trips penciled out to over $10 per user by our estimate (15 riders per hour, 12-1/2 hours per day, three days per week, for three years equals 87,750 riders). Not much value for what amounts to a few minutes walk.

One reader wrote in to say:

I've never heard a more ridiculous idea in my life. You can walk from Three Forks to Walter's in seven minutes; who needs a trolley?

I'm a bit skeptical of the whole anti-obesity furor, but I'd bet the Claremont 400 swallows it hook, line, and sinker. And to them I say, "Is it any wonder that America is getting fat when municipalities spend nearly a million bucks to bus people six blocks?"

Another said this about City Hall in general:

I wonder if the City Council and Staff can find some money for purchasing "Seeing Eye dogs" for themselves. The blind leading the blind method just does not seem to work for them when it comes to managing the City.

The trolley's sounding like just another toy for staff to play with at your expense.

Pictured at right:
Housing and Redevelopment Manager Brian Desatnik studies a mock-up of the downtown Claremont trolley service as part of city staff's detailed proposal analysis. The trolley is a gift to Claremont from former Mayor Judy Wright as part of her legacy building project.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Looking for a Buyer?

Yesterday's Daily Bulletin had an article by Will Bigham that said Claremont had received five bids from groups that would like to occupy the Padua Theatre in the Padua Hills area of northeast Claremont.

The theater, which was built in 1928 by Herman Garner, was home to regular shows by a theatrical group called the Mexican Players. Shows at the theatre ended in 1974.

Now used for weddings and other events, the theater is owned by the city of Claremont. The site was placed on the National Registry of Historical Places in 1998. The building damaged in the 2003 Padua Fire and is need of some earthquake retrofitting.

According to the Bigham article, one of the bidders is Arteco Partners, the company that bought the College Heights Packing House from Claremont and redeveloped that building. Arteco is also involved in preservation and adaptive reuse development of old buildings in downtown Pomona, including the Fox Theatre.

Bigham reported that the Arteco proposal for the Padua Theatre includes purchasing the property - something Claremont Mayor Peter was open to:

One potential hitch to Arteco's bid may be its proposal to purchase the facility from the city, which in its request for proposals said it was seeking a tenant to lease the theater space, not to purchase it.

But Mayor Peter Yao and others involved in the process say a sale of the building may be a possibility - it just hasn't been thoroughly considered by the city.

"I think that's a possibility I would entertain," Yao said. "I think we had a very successful project with the Packing House, and I see the Padua (Hills) Theatre as having the same kind of issues and also the same kind of opportunity."

Jerry Tessier, president and owner of Arteco Partners, said an ownership model would allow his company to invest more money into the project.

Other bidders include a ceramics museum, a catering business, and a theatre company.

The city's Human Services Commission will consider proposals and make its recommendations to the City Council, which will then make the final decision early next year, the article noted.

Padua Theatre, circa 1934
Photo Courtesy of Pomona Public Library
and Online Archives of California

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

State Budget Woes - Trickle Down

File this one under "Rolling Down Hill":

With California facing a $14 billion deficit, our elected representatives in the state capitol - Democrat and Republican - are doing what they do best: nothing. In the meantime, they're blaming each other for the lack of solution.

The choices are really very simple. Either spend less or earn more. Or do a mix of both. Democrats lean towards cutting some services while raising taxes or ending tax corporate and individual tax breaks, and Republicans want to cut spending without raising taxes. Any budget agreement will need 67-percent approval, so the Democrats, who control the State Assembly and Senate, will need some Republicans to go along with any proposal.

In the meantime, you'll see the problems trickling down to the local level. Governor Schwarzenegger, who is against tax increases, recently proposed an across-the-board 10-percent reduction in state spending. Most observers don't take this threat of Draconian spending cuts too seriously because programs like Medi-Cal that receive matching federal money will be imperiled.

The cuts would also mean our schools, police services, and other projects, from parks and recreation programs to funding for the Base Line Rd. affordable housing project, would be affected.

One would hope all of this talk would serve as a reminder to the Claremont 400 and our City Council that Claremont does not exist in a vacuum. As we've noted before, Padua Sports Park has been denied $3.2 million in park grants because the city foolishlessly refused to listen to the complaints and criticisms about the Padua Park design.

The state agency that doles out park grants denied at least three Clarmeont grant applications for Padua Park after those deficiencies were pointed out. Because such grants are competitive, it was easy for the state to find other projects in other cities that had much wider community acceptance. With Padua Park, the city's refusal to work with people opposed to the park design resulted in a loss of grant money. For a $12 million (and counting) project, the inability to qualify for grants is a killer.

Similarly, as we've seen with the affordable housing project, the Claremont 400, in particular the Claremont League of Women Voters, haven't learned a thing and continue to jam a controversial project down the throats of local residents while ignoring the objections of the Southern California Air Quality Management, L.A. Supervisor Mike Antonovich, area residents, and the scientific evidence of a 10-year long study by the USC Keck School of Medicine.

The city's refusal to adequately address the alternatives to the project will result in a loss of state and federal grants, as well as in lawsuits costing the city hundreds of thousands of dollars to defend. (Expect City Attorney Sonia Carvalho and/or her surrogate at the January 8th hearing to downplay the chance of a suit - Don't fling me in that briar patch Br'er Fox!)

Call it karma, or blowback or whatever, but there is a price to paid by the Claremont 400 and the League for their way of doing business.

The matter will come to a head on Tuesday, January 8th, when the Claremont City Council meets at 7pm in the Padua Room of the Alexander Hughes Community Center to vote on approval for the project's draft Environmental Impact Report (EIR).

* * *

A reader wrote in with a link to the January 8th affordable housing meeting notice:


First off, I read your blog DAILY !!! Keep up the great work.

I don't know if the distribution of the attached Public Hearing notice included you but I thought I would pass along a copy of mine (hopefully, I haven't violated any copyrights in doing so). I was hoping you could offer some in-sight as to why the public hearing is scheduled for the same date and time as the next City Council meeting?

P.S. You have been dead-on in your arguments regarding the ignorance of some of our elected officials regarding the affordable housing issue. The iron lung picture had me on the floor laughing.

Happy Holidays...

[NOTE: The reader later answered his own question:
Since my email yesterday, I found out that the Public Hearing at the Hughes Community Center IS the Council Meeting... ]

See the notice here:

Click Images to Enlarge

Village Implosion?

Vision of Claremont's Future?

Another reader opinion on the Claremont Village Expansion:

Would one might believe that the planner (s) of the Village West Expansion got their doctorate in Urban Planning from Rushmore University? I am so glad I am not the only person that sees the Village Expansion West as blight upon the beauty of Claremont. I will say by the end of 2008 the Village West will be a ghost town of failed businesses. The word is already out in the commercial real estate circles that Village West is a losing venture and are stirring their clients away from it as a consideration, parking being the biggest problem.

When will the electorate of Claremont ever realize that the City Council is inhabited by people that have no practical common sense when it comes to City Management. They need to go!
At least if the Village, old and new, sputters the blight will entitle us to a new round of eminent domain in 20 or so years.

Maybe redevelopment is really just another word for "Ponzi scheme."

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Holiday Greetings

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to our fellow Claremonters from the staff of the Insider.

Whether you've been naughty or nice this past year, may this holiday time find you among friends and loved ones, awash in the spirit of the season.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Andy Winnick: The Gift That Keeps On Giving

We noticed in the Courier of December 19, 2007, that there was a letter from a Marc Selznick in support of the proposed affordable housing project on Baseline [not currently linked on Courier website]. It made many of the same specious points as the December 1 letter by Andy Winnick, noted here earlier, but without the incisive analysis and eloquence and the uber-paternalistic 'tude.

That got us to wondering how a man of Andy Winnick's superb but nonetheless merely human ability could have written such an obviously divinely-inspired letter. Sure, we had found that it must have been in his DNA: that was made clear by the discovery of the 1939 letter from Andy Winnick's distant relative discussed in our previous post.

But if it was such a strong expression of nature, wouldn't it have appeared elsewhere in Winnick's genetic line?

Then we ran across a mini-scandal concerning the FEMA trailers used to house Katrina hurricane victims. Seems that they were loaded with poisonous formaldehyde and people in FEMA knew it and let the poor victims live in them anyway. (the government protocol was to blow the trailers out with forced air for a half hour before even entering them.) We thought, "there must be a Winnick involved in this."

And what do you know? A quick FOIA request to the Federal Goverment turned up this August 29, 2005 letter from Brownie Winnick, a mid-level bureaucrat at FEMA. Must be a cousin of Andy's at some remove or another.

Compare this language with the language of Andy Winnick's December 1 letter to the Courier [reproduced below]. You'll see why President Bush was really referring to Brownie Winnick when he famously said, "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job."

Andy, you're doing a heck of a job.

[Click on image for an enlarged readable version. Compare the two letters side-by-side.]

Messiah Sing-Along

The Claremont Symphony Orchestra had its annual community sing of Handel's "Messiah" yesterday at Pomona College's Bridges Auditorium, as the Daily Bulletin noted.

The symphony was founded in 1953 and annually does eight or so free community performances. Besides the "Messiah" performance, the symphony also has a concert in Claremont's Memorial Park in July.

The Bulletin has photo gallery of the performance here. (There is also a video link, but that didn't seem to be working.)

The symphony's next performance is February 2nd. For a list of upcoming events, see the symphony's website or write for more information:

The Claremont Symphony Orchestra
P.O. Box 698
Claremont, CA 91711

Sunday, December 23, 2007

More Village Expansion Mail

A regular visitor to Claremont wrote in with some comments from an outsider's perspective (not unimportant to the city given the push to attact outside dollars to the Claremont Village and Village Expansion).

The reader makes note of the new fountain in the Village Expansion Plaza in front of the Laemmle Theatres (the Courier had an article on the fountain back on December 12th, but the article isn't posted online yet):

New Shiny Toy Art - Makes A Dangerous Fountain

I have visited the city of Claremont once a year since about 1978. My wife, children, and now grand children and I have enjoyed this gem in Southern California that has a very intelligent community and a beautiful environment at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains.

During our visit this year, we were pleased to see the expansion of your village taking promising shape. As I sat with a friend in the new outdoor plaza, however, I could not help notice the careless and dangerous design of the fountain. What is going on here?

The local newspaper then featured an article explaining your city's intent and what has gone into the project. Some interesting quotes in the article invited a public response, so I have taken the time to draw the community's attention to the obvious. Please read their quotes and contemplate what I have to share.

"Hopefully we can instigate some conversations between strangers and discussions on what people think it means to them," Mr. Otterness said. "These things are not just about what the artist's interpretation is. The public can always come to their own conclusions."

INSTIGATING SOME CONVERSATION: The art looks like shiny toys. The fountain is built in such a way that a small child can climb it like a play set and it is made out of hard concrete blocks with sharp corners. The water sits in pocket areas on the fountain that create a slippery surface and over time will grow a moss that will be extremely slippery. Now, as I am older, I would not, or rather could not, climb this thing but I did walk close to the fountain and almost fell in. In the hours I was in the plaza, I watched as more than a dozen children saw the shiny toy bait and rushed for their newly discovered playground. More than half of them fell in.

PUBLIC CONCLUSION: There are safety standards for a playground. If you are going to make an area to attract children, then make it safe by those standards. If you are going to make a fountain with a sculpture, then make something that represents the community in a way that is interesting to look at, rather than interesting to play with or climb on. Also, are there not several famous artists local to Claremont? What about a sculpture that has the look and feel of Mt. Baldy or the history of your town?

"The fountain will circulate its water and has very little splashing so that minimal water is wasted, said Senior Redevelopment Planner Chris Veirs. The construction of the fountain, including installation and design, cost the city $250,000."

INSTIGATING SOME CONVERSATION: Saying that this fountain has little water waste is like saying you are for helping the environment, while driving an SUV. How much water does it use monthly? How much electricity does it use monthly? The cost of construction and maintenance for this fountain is devastating. $250,000 could buy a small house, but Claremont got duped into a dangerous fountain with shiny toys. Is this Senior Redevelopment Planner responsible, or did the new City Council put together this ridicules waste of funds?

"It's very Claremont," Mr. Veirs said. "I think that it's a pretty good match contextually for our community."

INSTIGATING SOME CONVERSATION: I have never met this Mr. Veirs but I would questions anyone that would say this fountain is a pretty good match contextually for Claremont. I don't see how it represents anything about your community at all. The fountain does contextually represent a city that is not seriously in touch with the community it is supposed to be working for. I looked up Claremont California on the Internet and found the Wikipedia description. Contextually this is the town you live in:

"Claremont California is a city in eastern Los Angeles County, California, USA, about 30 miles (45 km) east of downtown Los Angeles at the base of the San Gabriel Mountains in the Pomona Valley. The population, as of 2000 is 33,999. Claremont is known for its seven higher-education institutions, its tree-lined streets, and its historic buildings.[1] In July 2007 it was rated by Money magazine as the fifth best place to live in the United States, and was the highest rated place in California on the list.[2] Due to its large number of trees and residents with doctorates, it is known as "The City of Trees and PhD's."[3]"

PUBLIC CONCLUSION: As I do not live in Claremont, there is probably little I can do but point out how your community is not being represented very well, if this is the quality of work you get. Please stand up and take action. Let your city know that you expect better. Mr. Veirs and others who are responsible for this nonsense should be encourage to get a planner job that is better suited for them - such as Disneyland or Toys R Us. Be proud and preserve the great town you live in.

Musical Happenings

The Ravelers have a holiday greeting up on their website. Take a look if you get a chance (you probably need a high-speed connection, also, the connection was down this morning, so you might have to check back in later).

The Ravelers will be playing at the DoubleTree Inn on Foothill Blvd. on January 12th at 7pm.

Here's the info:

Saturday, January 12- Hai's Birthday Bash!

---Doubletree Hotel Claremont
---555 W. Foothill Blvd
---Claremont, CA 91711

The Ravelers play from 7:00 pm - 10:00 pm. on the patio. If it's too wintery, it will be moved inside.

On Foothill Blvd between Indian Hill and Moutain Ave.
We've also had requests to post more info the local music scene. If you know of an upcoming event or want to submit a review of one you've seen, feel free to send it in.

Here are some links to local live music venues:

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Saturday Mail

We've got quite a backlog of email to get to, and we'll try to tackle that as time permits.

One frequent reader wrote in to comment on yesterday's post about some local Democrats and the Base Line Rd. affordable housing:

Now now Buzz, I am an ultra liberal tree hugging Democrat. And very against the proposed site for the low and affordable housing site only because of the environmental impact on longer term childhood residents. So lets not jump on Democrats. First of all you now know why I am no longer a member of the Claremont Democrat club, because I did find them to not be democratic but a front organization for the fascist Claremont 400. True Democrats would never condone the erection of such a facility that could be so harmful. The site in question should only be for use of a governmental or business nature. Please note to the Faux Claremont Democratic Club that even the Ontario Montclair School District in the face of school closures are consider those schools closest to the freeway as the ones to be closed first.

Don't defame us "good" Democrats.
Our apologizes to our reader. We were just pointing out what seemed like obvious contradictions between actions of a number of prominent local Democrats, several of whom are on the board of the local Democratic Club, and the party's traditional position on environmental issues.

Human Services Commissioner Andrew Winnick, who pushed the Human Services Commission to issue a resolution in support of the Base Line Rd. project (to give the City Council cover, as Winnick will tell anyone who will listen), continually makes a false argument that the Base Line Rd. site is the only possibility for affordable housing.

Winnick gives the public a false choice between Base Line Rd. or no project and tosses aside the environmental plank of the Democratic Party's platform. What's this doing here? Plunk.

Rather than turn to finding and achieving viable alternatives, Winnick and his friends move farther and farther out of step with their party and with rationality in their pronouncements on the project. In the face of contrary evidence, they're unable to veer from their pre-detemined course and are unwilling to listen to reason. Must...stay...the...course, stay the course.

In any case, sorry if you felt tarred by our critical brush yesterday. Winnick's hypocrisy obviously does not extend to our reader or all the Democrats the reader represents.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Friday's Environmental Report


A Claremonter was in the news recently for Claremont's favorite pastime: A lawsuit involving an Environmental Impact Report.

James Walters, a professor of bioethics at Loma Linda University, likes to build houses on the side. Developer Walters owns a prime piece of real estate outside of Lone Pine, CA, on the road to Whitney Portal, where a trailhead to Mt. Whitney is located. The area, in the foothills of the eastern Sierras, is described as pristine.

Walters made the news in the Los Angeles Times in 2005 when he was trying to build a 27-home luxury development called Whitney Portal Preserve on the property.

(We've figured out how to develop anything - just add the word "Preserve" to the project. Remember Centex Homes' Stone Canyon Preserve at Mt. Baldy Rd. and Padua Ave. in northeast Claremont?)

An organization called the Save Round Valley Alliance (SRVA) argued that the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for the project was inadequate. SRVA sued Inyo County, which approved the EIR, and has been trying to get them to consider an alternative to the project, namely working a land-swap deal whereby the developer could get a parcel of land in a less environmentally significant area in return for not building on the proposed site.

According to an article posted on the Sierra Fund website, the Whitney Portal Preserve EIR was improperly passed by Inyo County officials. A three-judge panel in Riverside ruled that the EIR did not fully consider alternatives to the project:

SRVA Advocates for Smart Growth, the plaintiffs in the case, have long advocated for a better blueprint for development in the region. They argued that Inyo County decision-makers should have considered the possibility of a land swap, whereby the threatened landscape could be protected and growth could be focused closer to existing development.

The panel of judges agreed. “We agree with SRVA that the analysis of the land exchange alternative is legally insufficient and reverse on that ground. The failure…effectively preclude[d] informed decision-making and informed public participation, thereby thwarting the statutory goals of the EIR process.”


State law requires that environmental review provide decision-makers with adequate information to assess the impacts of a proposed project, including alternatives to the proposal. But, according to the final ruling, environmental review for this project "…includes only the barest of facts…, vague and unsupported conclusions about aesthetics, views, and economic objectives, and no independent analysis whatsoever of relevant considerations.”

The decision is another important example of citizen action to stop illegal approvals of Sierra development. “We are delighted with this decision," said Tamara Galanter of Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger LLP, counsel for SRVA. "The 47 page ruling reflects a careful analysis of the applicable law and recognizes the importance of considering alternatives as part of the environmental review process."
Walters isn't giving up without a fight, as the LA Times reported today.


Another sign of the Apocalypse:

Given the nature and location of the development, you might rightly figure that Professor Walters is a card-carrying, property-rights, small government Republican. Guess again. His political donations have been to Democratic candidates: $1,250 to John Kerry in 2004 and $1,000 Barack Obama in 2007.

Perhaps we should expect this. After all, in Claremont's own current EIR battle over the Base Line Rd. affordable housing project, we have such staunch Democrats as Human Services Commissioner Andrew Winnick, HS Commissioner Valerie Martinez, local Democratic Club president Bob Gerecke, Claremont Graduate University professor Dean McHenry, City Councilmember Ellen Taylor, and the entire cast and crew of the Claremont League of Women Voters, arguing that the project go forward.

In this upside-down world, the local Democrats have essentially adopted the logic used by tobacco companies to sell cigarettes, choosing to ignore a 10-year-long study by the USC Keck School of Medicine cited in the EIR that found that building a project so close to a major highway will likely lead to impaired lung development in children living there.

Winnick and the city believe, wrongly, that making the adults who move into the proposed units sign a notice that they are aware of the potential health hazards will waive any city liability in the future should kids living in the project develop lung problems. (Parents cannot sign away the rights of their minor children to sue.)

Our Democrats are also ignoring the recommendation by the South Coast Air Quality Management District and LA County Supervisor Mike Antonovich's office that the project be built elsewhere because of the pollution concerns.

Strangely, Winnick, Martinez, McHenry, and the rest have made their main talking point the argument that people have long lived near freeways, so we should allow the city to continue to build this project next to the 210 Freeway. In doing so, they reject the scientific evidence - evidence not on hand, not presented, when those older homes were built. (People have been smoking for years without harm, they need to be allowed to continue to use our safe, time-tested product.)

And, just as in the Whitney Portal Preserve case, the City Council, Winnick, Martinez, McHenry, et. al. (sound like defendants in a lawsuit?) are ignoring the alternatives. In fact, Winnick and others, have failed to mention the very realistic alternatives to the Base Line Rd. site. They act as if the alternatives don't exist. (Maybe if we don't talk about it, no one will remember there are other possibilities.)

Incidentally, does anyone know where Winnick, Martinez, and the rest were when Claremont's Village Expansion was being developed. Maybe they can explain why, with all the housing units that went in, there was no affordable housing component there or in any of the other housing developments that have been put into Claremont in the last 15 years. Apparently, it wasn't important to them.

Coincidentally, the Washington Post recently had a list of top 10 potential government ethics scandals. Number 10 has special significance for Claremont:

10. FEMA knowingly let Katrina victims live in hazardous trailers: Records indicate that the Federal Emergency Management Agency had cautioned its workers about trailers contaminated with formaldehyde. But the agency has been accused of delaying testing for the substance in trailers occupied by people left homeless by the hurricane.

A Republican adminisration's faux-pas serving as a template for Claremont's future foibles. Left is right, right is left. Strange times indeed.


Of course, not everyone loses if there is an EIR challenge because of Winnick & Co.'s muleheaded intransigence. At least City Attorney Sonia Carvalho's firm, Best, Best & Krieger, will likely get to defend the challenge, and litigation will mean hundreds of billable hours of defense work for the firm or whomever gets the case.

It may not be the best public policy, or the best process for developing that policy, but it's what we allow it to be.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Claremont Colleges Computers Hacked

The Claremont Colleges announced last week that its servers were hacked and the personal information of 28,000 individuals was potentially compromised.

We didn't do it.

It is curious, though, that the City of Claremont uses the Colleges' T1 line, and now the business of the Colleges is out on the street. Maybe Steve Senkle is helping them.

The Nice Faces of Claremont

We were looking at our earlier post on Sue Keith and got to admiring her photo. How, we wondered, can someone who looks like anyone's favorite grandmother be bad?

With the Claremont 400, we think it all gets back to studying the actual words and deeds and seeing past the smiling faces. We must look beneath the surface.

EXHIBIT 1: Homer "Butch" Henderson is the retired senior pastor from Claremont's United Church of Christ. The UCC goes back to Claremont's earliest days, and Henderson, like Keith, has done many good works. This year he was chair of the city's steering committee for the Youth and Family Master Plan Update.

Yet, he was also a spokesperson for Preserve Claremont, the organization of city staffers, former councilmembers, commissioners and other Claremont 400 people that in 2005 attacked current Councilmember Corey Calaycay and then-Councilmember Jackie McHenry.

The Preserve people ran ads containing false information and also organized two citywide bulk mailings the weekend before the election - mailings that were funded primarily by a $2,000 donation from Claremont Toyota, owned by Roger Hogan whose auto center property is responsible for 57-percent of the city's sales tax revenue (big fish, little pond).

All nice faces, not so nice words and deeds.

EXHIBIT 2: We've run this a couple times before, but it's worth revisiting. Former Claremont Mayor Sandy Baldonado can be charming and winsome. Just like Keith, Baldonado is a Claremont League of Women Voters member. A photo of her doesn't betray any hint of pettiness or a mean spirit. Yet, at a city council meeting in 2005 she let her guard down and took some potshots at the city of Victorville and the state of West Virginia.

Again, let the words speak for themselves:

Take a Seat, Sue

Sue Keith, Claremont's representative to the Citrus College Board of Trustees, in November won the Claremont 400's favorite kind of election: unopposed.

Pity the poor citizen foolish enough to challenge Keith, whose friendly, matronly photo belies a hardened meanness just one notch below that of current Claremont Councilmember Ellen Taylor.

After a hard fought non-battle, Keith, who has been one of the more virulent of the 400, is serving her third term. The Daily Bulletin ran what must of been a self-promotional press release for Keith in today's "Buzz" column.

The Bulletin noted that Keith is a past director of the Claremont League of Women Voters (no surprise there). She also helped found Claremont's Meals on Wheels. Balanced against her good works are her meddling in and manipulation of local affairs in the best Judy Wright tradition.

Have a seat, Sue, you've earned it.

The Claremont Student Goes Online

The Claremont Colleges have a semi-new media outlet. The Claremont Student, published for the past five years a "infotainment print magazine" has moved online.

Editor-in-chief Sarah Young had this to say in an October 15th letter to readers:

The Claremont Student was established to report on the controversial and the bizarre at the 5Cs, ruffling as many feathers as it could in the process. From Naughty Revolutions to 5C drug use, we have covered the issues, events and trends affecting the Claremont Colleges. Unlike voice, The Student Life or The Claremont Independent our publication was, is and will always be unaffiliated with a specific school, allowing for greater journalistic integrity and freedom of expression.

For the past five years we have published as the consortium’s infotainment print newsmagazine par excellence, dedicated to investigating the underbelly of the 5Cs. Last semester the editorial staff made the momentous decision to publish online—only online. After many headaches, late nights and gallons of coffee we are now a fully functioning online publication.

Why did we do this? Because we know it’s the future. Print publications have, since the advent of Internet, been on the decline. Any magazine or newspaper who does not acknowledge the importance of web journalism will fail to gain a handle on the tools of the 21st century. Journalists in all fields, from photography to publishing, need to adapt to this changing environment. We offer something no other 5C publication can: an opportunity to participate in the dynamic medium of web journalism as readers, writers and artists. This website is meant to be interactive—you have the power to respond and affect what you read through your comments and suggestions. New content will be uploaded almost every week so there will always be something salacious to read and write about.
Check out the regular features, like the sex column "Hey, Nympho!" or "Straight from Uranus," the horoscope feature. Good taste is timeless.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Thoughts for the Season

A few holiday thoughts:

David Allen's blog had some nice observations on the Christopher Irion PhotoBooth mural on display in the Plaza between the Packing House and the new parking structure on 1st St. just west of Indian Hill Blvd.

Allen's December 9th post said:

Spend a few minutes taking in the photos and you can’t help but be fascinated, and moved, by the humanity on display. I'm not sure I can explain why, but I get misty-eyed when I saw the portraits, and whenever I think of them too. There's just a vulnerability, a playfulness, a serenity to the people in these candid photos, and seeing so many of them in one place has a powerful, humbling impact.

I think the photos are worthwhile even if you don't live in Claremont, but living there does add a new element. These are our friends and neighbors, and you’re bound to see someone you know represented, even if it’s just someone you’ve seen around the Village but can’t place.

Whatever it is that divides us, there is also a tie that binds. It has been our contention and operating principle here at the Insider that real community, here as elsewhere, springs up spontaneously out of networks of friendships and neighborhoods. And all the energy we've seen expended on political intervention, machinations, scheming or elitism, cannot prevent those networks from forming.

Communities cross those artificial political and social divisions that have been imposed on us. The strength and resilience of our community comes from the sum of all of those faces David Allen spoke of, not just a select few. It is the central structure Robert Frost spoke of in "Silken Tent":

And its supporting central cedar pole,
That is its pinnacle to heavenward
And signifies the sureness of the soul,
Seems to owe naught to any single cord,
But strictly held by none, is loosely bound
By countless silken ties of love and thought
To every thing on earth the compass round...,

Robert Frost, The Silken Tent

We are all of us a part of that, and excluding anyone from the conversation weakens us all. It is odd and ironic indeed that in a town with such a Capraesque sense of community a few Mr. Potters should want to control everything. Are we Bedford Falls, or are we Pottersville?

Communities are not structures like the Village Expansion or City Hall - bronze plaqued monuments to a few egos - communities are people.

As Jimmy Stewart's George Bailey says at one point to Lionel Barrymore's Mr. Potter in "It's a Wonderful Life":

Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you're talking about... they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this town.

We are that rabble, and we've observed in the past few years that whatever self-organizing human spirit and energy it is that forms communities cannot be denied. In fact, the harder someone tries to quash it, the harder it springs back.

We hope our friends in the Claremont 400, who hold so much local power, recognize this fundamental law of nature and that they dedicate the New Year to the right of every person to have an equal voice in shaping our town, to real inclusivity, and to real community.

Chaparral Park Input Sought

The City of Claremont is looking for the public's input into a proposed playground design for Chaparral Park. The designs were approved by the Community Services Commission and will be on the City Council's agenda for February 12th.

The City's website says:

The deadline to submit public comment is February 6, 2008. Comments can be mailed to the Community Services Department at 1616 Monte Vista Avenue or emailed to
Here's the proposed design (are primary colors a design requirement?):

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Our Tin-Eared Mayor

The Claremont Courier's City Council news briefs last Saturday had a mention of Claremont Mayor Peter Yao's intent to seek the governing board seat for the South Coast Air Quality Management District's Los Angeles County Eastern Region.

The SCAQMD's LA Eastern Region is comprised of 61 cities from Calabasas (which seems more west than east) to Claremont and on down to Long Beach. Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich is also on the SCAQMD board. The board seats are assigned by the League of California Cities' City Selection Committee, which will meet next on Thursday, January 3rd, at 7:30pm in Los Angeles. The open SCAQMD seat is on the agenda.

Interested parties can attend the meeting on January 3rd, and the public can address the City Selection Committee. The meeting is located at the Metropolitan Water District building at 700 N. Alameda St., Los Angeles, CA 90012.

Mayor Yao seems to be tilting at windmills again. There's more than a little irony in the mayor's SQAQMD aspirations. After all, the SCAQMD has sent the city a letter in response to draft environmental impact report for Claremont's Base Line Rd. affordable housing project. The SCAQMD urged the city not to build the project at the Base Line site because of the adverse effects of pollution from the 210 Freeway on lung development for children living there.

Supervisor Antonovich's office also wrote in a response to the Base Line Project's draft EIR saying that the project should not be built on the site at Base Line and Towne Ave. because of the EIR's findings regarding air pollution concerns.

Mayor Yao (and City Councilmember Ellen Taylor) are insisting on ignoring the EIR's findings, the letters from the SCAQMD and Antonovich's office and the opposition of individual citizens. They are doing so because the project is being pushed by the Claremont 400, through its unofficial organs like the Claremont League of Women Voters and the Claremont Democratic Club.

Mayor Yao, who will fail to get the SCAQMD seat, is about to find out the reason why Claremont politicians never succeed in winning any county, state, or federal offices. They can't get very far outside the city boundaries because politics beyond the city limits involves building coalitions and not trying to stick it to every group of voters that disagrees with you. Politics is all addition, not subtraction; compromise, not punishment - something the 400 will never figure out.

Claremont 400 candidates have been able to run the city like their own private fiefdom, but their sort of strong arm, power politics doesn't translate well to higher offices, where the candidates can't count on the Claremont Village voters alone to elect them.

If you think Mayor Yao's run for the SCAQMD board seat is hypocritical, you can call, write, fax or email any or all of the SCAQMD LA County Eastern Region cities and ask that their representatives not support Yao at the January 3rd League of California Cities City Selection Committee meeting. You can also speak at public comment at the meeting at the Metropolitan Water District building in January.

After all, how can the interests of the SCAQMD and its member cities be served by a person who's demonstrated a willingness to ignore a 10-year long study by the USC Keck School of Medicine on freeway pollution effects on children's lung development, the findings of his city's own EIR on the Base Line Rd. Project and letters from the SCAQMD and SCAQMD board member Antonovich arguing against the project?

How in the world can Yao be trusted to respect the SCAQMD's air quality mission when he shows such little respect for its recommendations?

You can click on the links to the following Eastern Region cities if you want to contact them to tell their representatives to the League of California Cities Selection Committee to not support Claremont Mayor Peter Yao for the SCAQMD's L.A. County Eastern Region seat - there are more worthy candidates from other member cites:

Residents of unincorporated areas around Claremont should contact LA County Supervisor Antonovich's office since he is their elected representative. Antonovich's local district office is located at 615 E. Foothill Blvd., San Dimas, CA 91773, and the phone number is (909) 394-2264.

Charity Begins at Shell

Will Bigham in today's Daily Bulletin reports that the Shell gas station at the corner of Towne Ave. and Foothill Blvd. is holding a fundraiser today for the city of Claremont's Family and Senior Emergency Funds Program.

For every gallon of gas sold today, the station will give the city 10 cents. Bigham writes:

Today's fundraiser marks the 14th consecutive year that the Shell station at the northeast corner of Foothill Boulevard and Towne Avenue has donated funds to the city.

The city's Family and Senior Emergency Funds program distributes money to families and seniors who are unable to pay rent or bills, or who cannot afford groceries.

Blogger Down Yesterday

For those of you who weren't able to connect to the Insider yesterday, Blogger was down in the evening for a number of hours beginning around 6:30pm.

The Blogger tech folks were apparently correcting a problem that we've noticed played hell with our header graphic for the past month.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Q & A

A reader wrote in with a number of questions and observations regarding ongoing issues and events in Claremont:

Hi Buzz -

Can Buzz be a nickname for ombudsman (ombuzzman)?

1) What's behind the frequent 'chlorine' smell in our tap water the past few days? Is it just at our house? We haven't had any recent plumbing changes. What's the water company up to?

2) At the City's tree lighting ceremony, why was the host so intent on catering to and recognizing the out-of-towners? "Who's visiting from out of town?!?!?!? Raise your hands!!!!" I didn't hear much appreciation for those who live here in Claremont. The whole evening, however, was a fun one - both at the tree lighting and throughout the Village. I know the city hopes that the Village expansion brings in visitors (and their sales taxes), but tout Claremont and its citizens first and foremost at public events, and then give a brief welcome to any visitors.

3) Regarding the trolley news, wasn't the original route supposed to include the Old School House, with north/south runs up Indian Hill and down College? Why not include that Foothill/Indian Hill corner if so much development is going on there. The smaller route through the Village, the Expansion and the Metrolink parking lot is far too limited and short-sighted.

4) Regardless of the parking spots, what exactly is the store (or stores) going in right on the corner at the Sprouts Center on Mountain and Foothill?

5) Is that a temporary test road closure on the west end of Santa Barbara where it joins Mountain (across from the future store spot mentioned above)? Unlike the roundabout, I think this is a good idea. Santa Barbara is too close to Foothill, and there is too high a chance for accidents.
Our responses:
  1. We don't know what the chlorine smell is from. If anyone has any information on this, please pass it on. The Golden State Water Company's Region 3 office phone number is (909) 394-3600. Give them a call with any questions.

  2. We suspect the focus on out-of-town visitors at the tree-lighting ceremony probably has some connection with the city and the Chamber of Commerce's ongoing print and cable TV ad campaign.

  3. Yes, when the trolley idea was first floated, there was some talk of a longer route incorporating the colleges and the Old School House. However, the Traffic and Transportation Commission's Citizen's Committee for Off Track Trolley System Subcommittee studied the matter and issued a report on December 10th that found it would be best to start small and focus on two groups: visitors and people using the parking structures on First St. because they are supposed to be more likely to spend in Claremont (this takes us back to question #1).

    Incidentally, the Citizen's Committee included the ubiquitous former Mayor Judy Wright, who is listed a "citizen."

  4. The retail developmont at the northwest corner of Mountain Ave. and Foothill Blvd. is a 9,900 square-foot, single-story retail space proposed by James Harris and Foohill Mountain LLC. You can read more about it in the 10/24/07 Architectural Commission agenda report on the matter.

    The site, at 805 W. Foothill, used to have a Chevron gas station.

    Here is a description of the project taken from the staff report for the Architectural Commission:

    (Click on Image to Enlarge)

  5. Yes, the city had received requests from a majority of residents on Santa Barbara Dr. to have the street closed off at Mountain Ave. in order to discourage through traffic from people trying to get past traffic at Mountain and Foothill Blvd.

    According to the 10/25/07 Traffic and Transportation Commission agenda report for the matter, city staff, under City Engineer Craig Bradshaw, had originally recommended the closure be placed at Colby Circle rather than Mountain. Staff later opted to keep the temporary closure at Mountain. The 10/25/07 staff recommendation was to keep the temporary closure in place and to study the effects with a possible permanent closure in the future.

    The resident complaints didn't seem to include the proposed development at Mountain and Foothill.

    This contrasts a similar matter that came before the Traffic and Transportation Commission several years ago when some residents, notably then-City Economic Development Director Scott Miller, had requested a permanent closure at Kemper Ave. and Padua. No formal traffic study was done and the permanent closure was put in place - a typical waiving of rules by the Claremont 400 for one of their friends.
Here's a map of the Mountain-Foothill area showing the Santa Barbara Dr. closure and the proposed retail development at the old Chevron station site:

(Click to Enlarge)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Tri-City Mental Health Board Opening

The City of Claremont is looking for applicants to fill its seat on the Tri-City Mental Health Center's governing board.

The City's website has a job description:

The Board meets on a monthly basis. It is desirable that the Community Member appointed to the Board

- have a willingness to invest the time and energy required to ensure the health and viability of the system of care;
- be committed to participate in ongoing education and training;
- be committed to providing leadership and oversight to the Agency and the mental health system in the three member cities;
- be committed to being an advocate for the patients served by the Agency and the larger system of care;
- live or work in the City;
- have knowledge of mental illness, recovery and self help;
- have knowledge of cultural competency modes and program analysis
as it relates to mental health service delivery

If this sounds like something you'd be qualified for, call the City Clerk's office at (909) 399-5460 for more information. You can download an application from Claremont's website.

Applications must be received by the City Clerk no later than 5pm, January 4, 2008, and should be sent to the Claremont City Hall at 207 Harvard Ave., P.O. Box 880, Claremont, CA 91711.

Changing Times

Dave Allen weighed in with his take on the Claremont Village Expansion and the ad campaign that has accompanied the new businesses and buildings west of Indian Hill Blvd.

Allen noted the ongoing debate in town on whether the attempt to update downtown Claremont into a mini-Pasadena is all good:

I like the Expansion myself, with reservations. The theater is a terrific addition, the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf is becoming a hangout, the plaza has a neat fountain and there are now more restaurant choices and more to do at night.

Some of the chains are annoying, but as John Pixley has observed in the Claremont Courier, San Luis Obispo has many of the same chains, and more, yet manages to keep a healthy mix of local merchants.

Architecturally, the Expansion looks a little canned but it isn't bad. If its two-story frontage seems a bit pushy, maybe that points to how dull and empty the east side of Indian Hill looks: parking lots, the rear end of buildings and that godawful ziggurat at First Street.

Why does all this matter? Because the existing Village is the valley's most successful downtown. The streets are walkable, the shops are eclectic and there is a sense of place, even of magic.

But now that the Village has essentially expanded by one-third, this feels like a turning point for Claremont. Will the Village absorb the Expansion, or - gulp - vice versa?
One wonders if all the changes will be intended ones. We suspect that something of the town's character will change - perhaps for the better, perhaps not. We will undoubtedly be altered in some subtle ways, and the mom-and-pop feel of the Old Village may in time fade.

Other cities in the area, Monrovia for example, are experiencing this already as renovations and chain stores and restaurants drive up rents, shuttering older businesses.

We're reminded of some lines from the Richard Wilbur poem "The Beautiful Changes":

The beautiful changes as a forest is changed
By a chameleon's tuning his skin to it.....