Claremont Insider: Chickens Coming Home to Roost

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Chickens Coming Home to Roost

I see your hair is burnin'
Hills are filled with fire.
--Jim Morrison, from L.A. Woman

Everyone in Claremont should be clear on the fact that the $17.5 million settlement for the foreseeable destruction by fire of the Palmer Canyon community puts the blame squarely on the doorstep of the City of Claremont. This is yet another example of the wisdom and skill of the Claremont 400 in running this community over the years. If one wishes to name names, one might name Glenn Southard (now with Indio), Sharon Z. Wood (now with Newport Beach), Betty Sheldon (now retired), and Mark Hodnick (now with Indio).

It would be too tedious to name all of the council members who failed in their planning and oversight duties over the past decade, but former City Councilmembers Diann Ring, Judy Wright, Paul Held, Al Leiga, Sue Smith, and Karen Rosenthal - all of them mayors - come immediately to mind. It's really all part of the game plan: make any promise and proceed to ignore it.

The fundamental fact in this matter is that the City failed in its ministerial duty to adhere to the vegetation management plan adopted when it took over the Wilderness Park property. The City promised in its process to do certain things to mitigate the fire hazard. It failed to do these things, always citing cost, manpower, or some other externality.

What a record! The City has owned the Wilderness Park for ten years and already it has cost an unbudgeted extra $1.7 million per year.

Of course, those in power are already clucking at their cleverness in offloading the lion's share of this expense onto the JPIA. Maybe the JPIA will figure out that the City of Claremont is not such a good risk. (An added advantage is that the JPIA involvement allows council members to say the City didn't really do anything wrong, this was merely a tactical decision recommend to us by our experts.)

The Insider isn't yet privy to any additional terms of the settlement. Our guess is that the City will try to seal most everything associated with this. It's surprising that the amount is public. The Insider would've expected something like this headline: "City settles for undisclosed amount; admits no wrongdoing; JPIA mum; Plaintiffs sworn to secrecy as condition of settlement."

We would love to see the transcripts of some of the depositions. We hear that Southard's and Hodnick's are especially juicy.

We doubt, though, that there is any truth to the rumor that Mark Hodnick channeled Jim Morrison in his deposition, paraphrasing the sequel to the verse above when answering a question about cutting back the chaparral before it burned,
If they say I never trimmed you,
You know they are all liars.