Claremont Insider: Wright, Ring & the LLD

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Wright, Ring & the LLD

One of the frustrations that comes with trying to participate in Claremont politics is the inevitable absurdity that infuses any issue. People want rational systems. If you've coached Little League, you know the best umpire is the consistent umpire. As long as you know that ump's strike zone, you can work with it, but when it's constantly and randomly shifting, there will always be uncertainty and chaos built into the game.

The letter former Claremont Mayors Judy Wright and Diann Ring, along with former Councilmember Bill McCready, submitted to the current City Council and to the Claremont Courier last week in support of the City's Landscaping and Lighting District (LLD) assessment, was a perfect exercise in dissecting the inanity and irrationality that they and their Claremont 400 friends have imposed on our town.

The letter, which we ran on 6/15, purported to lay out the history of the LLD, which was enacted in 1990. The letter, addressing an editorial by Courier editor Rebecca JamesCourie that was critical of the LLD, began: "We write to correct erroneous information in your editorial of June 6." Unfortunately, as our explication of the letter has showed in the past few days, the letter was rife with errors, false statistics and outright lies.

To recap, here is an outline of the errors (lies?) we noted:

  • The letter fails on its second sentence: "As three members of the city council (the other two are deceased) who passed the Benefit Assessment District in 1990...."

    In fact, only one of the other two Councilmembers who voted on the LLD in 1990, Nick Presecan, is dead. The other, Dick Newton, is alive and well and still resides in Claremont. Wright, the historian, surely knows this.

    The letter attacks Courier Editor JamesCourie for not researching the background on the LLD. In fact, Wright, Ring and McCready need to take a good long look in the mirror. People in glass houses, you know.

  • The letter writers are selective in the numbers they cite to support their claims of vast community support for both the 1990 LLD and the later Utility Users Tax (UUT). For example, they claim that 32 0f 35 speakers asked for a utility tax at a town meeting at Bridges Auditorium in December, 1992, on the campus of Pomona College.

    In fact, the minutes for that 12/12/92 meeting showed only 16 people getting up to speak at public comment. Of those, only three gave clear support for the UUT.

    And in their arguments in favor of the LLD, the letter writers ignore the 3/6/1990 mail count report submitted to the City Council. As of that date, the city had received 60 letters supporting the LLD, 475 opposing, and 14 withdrawing opposition.

    Additionally, a citizens group headed by a man named Les Boring, collected 7,000 signatures opposing the LLD. No mention of that in the letter.

    Wright, Ring, and Claremont 400 die-hards like former Police Commission Chair Helaine Goldwater (who spoke at last Tuesday's Council meeting in favor of increasing the LLD assessment) constantly ramble on about responding to citizens. They cite the number of public meetings held on one issue or another, they manipulate the events to try to steer the discussion towards what they want, then, if the debate doesn't go their way, they ignore the record of those meetings.

  • The letter writers don't just ignore public speakers, they ignore the recommendations of city committees and commissions. Wright, Ring and McCready ignored the fact that the city's Citizen Finance Advisory Committee (CFAC) on 11/28/89 strongly recommended sunseting the LLD, which was imposed because of a budget crisis in the early 1990's.

  • The letter rewrites the actual history of events. The writers claim that there was never any discussion of sunseting the LLD and assert that "We repeatedly and specifically said that we believed that this assessment would be permanent."

    Yet, an examination of Claremont City Council minutes from 1989 and 1990 when the LLD debate was going on, showed no such statements. As our analysis on 6/17 showed, the record of those meetings showed statements by both CFAC Chair Dennis Smith and repeatedly by Judy Wright in favor of sunseting the LLD.

    Now the letter writers claim no such statements ever occurred. One suspects they will say anything to justify an action, relying on the short memories and apathy of a disaffected, disillusioned electorate to allow their false promises to go unfulfilled.
The factual underpinnings cited in the letter are important, not only because they distort the truth beyond all recognition, but because the writers claim an authority that the actual record of events belies. This false claim to authority by Wright, Ring and McCready is all the more troublesome because Judy Wright is also our town historian, the creator of our great mythology.

If this one letter is at all representative of her greater body of work, she has no credibility whatsoever, and by extension, the Claremont 400 house rests on a crumbling foundation, rooted in falsehoods, misstatements, exaggerations and fabrications. Failure is built into the system's structure. This is the "vision" they constantly speak of sharing and maintaining.

The argument here is to hold people accountable for their statements. Go back and compare their words then and now. And don't believe us. Look for yourself. We've provided the links to minutes of city meetings in our posts from the past week. If we are wrong in our analysis, show us.

The larger argument here is that this is simply one more example of a problem that has occurred in Claremont time and again. Whether it's the LLD, the handling of the Landrum shooting, the city's investment of over $5 million in the bankrupt Orange County Investment Pool or the $17 million-plus paid out for the 2003 fire in Palmer Canyon and Padua Hills, the record is one of consistent ineptness fueled by hubris and an intolerance for opposing views.

The record, contrary to what the letter writers would like you the believe, is really an argument for rationality and change.