Claremont Insider: April 2008

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Alvarez Pleads Out

Three Valleys Municipal Water District board member Xavier Alvarez has decided to plead guilty to one federal misdemeanor count of falsely claiming to be a Medal of Honor recipient, according to an article by the Daily Bulletin's Will Bigham. The Bigham article, which we actually found on the San Bernardino Sun's website, said:

As part of his agreement with the federal government, Alvarez has agreed to plead guilty to one misdemeanor count of violating the Stolen Valor Act, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Craig Missakian.

Missakian said he received the plea agreement Tuesday. He said he would formally file it with the court today.

Alvarez has also agreed to sentencing guidelines that would include probation only, with no prison time, Missakian said.

The guilty plea and the terms of the agreement will not become final until Alvarez's court appearance Monday. Alvarez could still back out of the agreement before that date, Missakian said.

The judge may also decide to issue Alvarez a different sentence than the one outlined in the plea agreement, Missakian said.

As part of the agreement, Alvarez will still be able to appeal his case on First Amendment grounds to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Missakian said.

The article did not say how any of this affects Alvarez's position as Pomona's representative to the Three Valleys Board. Since the conviction is not a felony, Alvarez would not be disqualified from office. However, if he had to be incarcerated for an extended period, he could be removed by the other board members if he didn't show up to enough meetings.

And, the article does mention that there other possible charges regarding Alvarez's falsely enrolling his ex-wife on his Three Valleys health coverage as a spouse.

The article further stated that the Asst. U.S. Attorney Missakian expects Alvarez to appeal the case on First Amendment grounds.

PFF Bancorp Suspends Trading of Stock

Rancho Cucamonga-based PFF Bancorp suspended trading of its stock on the New York Stock Exchange this morning, the San Bernardino Sun reported.

PFF Bancorp (PFB: NYSE), which had a 52-week high of $30.37, closed yesterday at $3.74 per share. PFF had been hammered as part of the fallout from the mortgage crisis and had to sell off $100 million in problem loans to homebuilders and developers earlier month.

The Sun article said:

RANCHO CUCAMONGA - PFF Bancorp, a troubled Rancho Cucamonga-based banking institution stung by the real estate meltdown, halted trading in its stock today.

Sal Curasi, a PFF spokesman, declined to comment why.

"We have no information to share with you on that," Curasi said.

NYSE spokesman Scott Peterson said the stock was halted at 9:30 a.m. (EDT) for announcement of "pending news." As of mid-day, the stock still hadn't traded. "Unfortunately, any interaction between the NYSE and its listed companies is non-public information," Peterson said.

"That's unusual," said Joe Gladue, an analyst with B. Riley & Co. Inc. "Of course, someone could be buying them."

If you were lucky enough to get out of the stock when it was still up, you might have made out okay, as San Dimas Mayor Curt Morris did. Or the former director of Claremont McKenna College's Marian Miner Cook Athenaeum, Jil Stark. Both are on PFF Bancorp's Board of Directors.

For those lucky few there was an embarrassment of riches, to the tune of many hundreds of thousands of dollars. For the rest, not so much. Looking back on it, the collapse to under $7.00 a share at the beginning of the month doesn't look so bad now.

5-C's Students, Faculty to Attend LA Rally

The San Bernardino Sun reports that a group of Latino activists will travel together to Los Angeles Thursday for a May Day rally for immigration rights. The article, by Stephen Wall, said that the Claremont Colleges should be well represented there as well:

Students and faculty from the Claremont Colleges are planning to travel separately to Los Angeles.

Organizers of the May Day "Gran Marcha" expect to attract between 20,000 and 100,000 people, who will urge Congress and President Bush to enact comprehensive immigration reform.

Protesters are also demanding legalization of the estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States and other measures to ensure their fair and humane treatment.

"This march is meant to raise consciousness of how the immigration population is being targeted in this time of economic crisis," said Jose Zapata Calderon, a professor of sociology and Chicano Studies at Pitzer College in Claremont. "Hopefully, we'll be able to get some type of legislation passed that will allow the immigrants to work as human beings here and not just be exploited."

A coalition of students from Pomona, Scripps, Claremont McKenna, Harvey Mudd and Pitzer colleges are expected to go to the rallies.

This is the third straight year protesters have converged to press for immigration reform.

The article went on to note that last year's rally was marred by violence as police clashed with rally goers in MacArthur Park. You may recall that just a couple weeks ago KTTV-11 reporter Christina Gonzalez filed a lawsuit against the LAPD and the city of Los Angeles claiming that police used excessive force against her as she was covering the event. Gonzalez's camerawoman filed a similar suit last year.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Not for a Year But Ever and a Day

On Sunday we wrote about the Goddess of Pomona's finding a gem of a photo showing Pomona Mayor Norma Torres standing proudly in front of a weed-encrusted concrete median on a highway in Pomona.

The photo had been uploaded to Flickr by the Norma Torres' State Assembly campaign. Now we find it's been pretty quickly offloaded from Torres' online collection of campaign photos. As you can see from the image on the left, Goddess of Pomona's original April 24th post has a blank spot where the linked-in Torres image was, along with a message courtesy of Flickr that says, "This image is currently unavailable."

Torres must have been understandably embarrassed by the photo, which really isn't the best advertisement for Torres' accomplishments as Pomona's mayor. Looking at the photo, one might come to the conclusion that Torres' legacy to her city is one of neglect and that her outsized political ambition has completely blinded her to the reality of that neglect.

We thought the image, with Torres standing proudly in front of her weeds, was a perfect emblem of Torres' inanity. It's a shame her campaign had to banish it from the Internet because we found the truth in advertising remarkably refreshing. Fortunately, the ever-packratty Insider staff has preserved the photo for all eternity - or at least what passes for it on the Web.

If only Norma could erase her political legacy of Three Valleys Municipal Water District board member Xavier Alvarez as easily as deleting her photo, she might have our vote. Unfortunately, it's very clear, our lout is here to stay.

Foothill Cities = Community Service

John Clifford over at the M-M-M-My Pomona blog has a nice post that pays tribute to the stellar work the Foothill Cities writers have done covering the Sierra Madre fire.

Clifford says:

It must be remembered that bloggers are not being paid to do this. However, the contributors of the FCB have done an very admirable job in giving the community (and the wider community as well) a very good picture of what's going on. This coverage is so much better than any of the local media has given because it is being reported by those who are directly affected.

I salute the contributors at the Foothill Cities Blog. They show that blogging is more than just a bunch of complainers venting at their local governments. They ARE concerned citizens, who like most concerned citizens, rally together in times of trouble.

News aggregators is what most local bloggers are, and the Foothill Cities folks have shown that having all those eyes and ears out there in the community can be valuable during crises.


The Claremont OTR blog is defunct, so we have deleted that link. Apparently, the students who started the site lost interest. We noticed that no one had posted to the blog in a couple months, and the host site, College On the Record, finally pulled the plug.

Rest in peace, Claremont OTR.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Ho Hum

There is a reason that the Courier is a real newspaper, and the Insider is a bottom-feeding blog. The Courier actually checks out things before going to press; we don't.

This came over the transom this evening:

Hi there,
Generally love the site and am an avid follower......however, you are getting some bad information on the baseball issue. The meeting this evening was the normal Booster Club meeting and dealt with the routine issues. It was a small meeting and did not deal with issues related to the coach in any regard.

I am sure that some parents are probably not happy with the progress, or lack thereof, of the overall program....however, no uprising exists and no one is demanding Lee's head on the chopping block.

Anyway, thought you might want the straight scoop.
Can we at least keep using the "Step forward and man up" phrase? We really like that one.

Courier Takes on the Insider

We noticed the above ad on the homepage of the Claremont Courier today. While it might seem innocuous, we are taking it personally. So we have this to say:

Dear know who I am.
Step forward and man up*.

This is the Claremont News Source Smackdown. May the better news source win.

"...More people in Claremont read our newspaper and website than any other news source." Indeed! What're we, chopped hamburger?

(*Thanks to the staff of Claremont High School for the language of our witty retort. We got it here. We would've been speechless otherwise.)

The Empire Strikes Back

Escalation at Claremont High School

It's looking more and more as if the best show in town tonight will be the Claremont High School Baseball Booster Club meeting, at the high school library, this evening, April 28, at 6:00 p.m. As a matter of fact, the temperature of this meeting seems to be going up with each passing hour. It threatens to go thermonuclear.

We would go, but as a 97-pound weakling hiding behind a veil of anonymity, we know we would not be welcome and would be easily identified. Heck, as in most domestic disputes, both sides might gang up on us.

How does this sound for the start of an email from what appears to be a CHS staff member to a parent (again, we stress, we can't confirm with certainty that the email is from a CHS staff member, but it seems authentic; in any case, we will omit the name except to say it is not attributed to Coach Lee):

Dear know who I am. Step forward and man up.

...It is a good thing you were not here when we made our run deep in the playoffs a few years would have been laughed out of the program for your comments and actions, not to mention that your son...would have a hard time adjusting, if he would have made the team at all.

...The difference, I guess, is the lack of backbone in how you raise your kids. That in itself is not wrong, don't mishear me...
It goes on. We can't say it gets worse. What we excerpt from just the first paragraph is pretty strong stuff when directed from a school employee to a parent. Is it our imagination, or did this staff member make a dig at the parent by bringing up the issue of the son's playing ability? Fortunately, the writer gets quickly back his main task, questioning this parent's ability to parent.

Stay tuned.

Developer Says, "Claremont Stiffed Me!"

As we wrote yesterday, the current problems with the economy and the state budget crisis are causing the City of Claremont to make across the board cutbacks in the face of a potential $4 million loss in sales tax revenue and state funding.

So, things are tight for city finances. We just didn't realize how tight. According to the Daily Bulletin, Mark Gelman, the CEO of Enhanced Affordable Housing, the company that had tried to work with the City to develop the Base Line Rd. affordable housing project, says that the city owes him for $7,000 in legal fees.

In the Bulletin article, Gelman claims that those legal fees should have been covered, and that after Gelman sent the City a letter in March requesting $37,000 for some of his costs for the failed project, Claremont responded by offering him $30,000 with the legal fees excluded.

Gelman maintains that the City had previously agreed that their contract with Enhanced covered legal fees. According to the article:

"We worked hard and spent a lot of time in a deal that ended up going nowhere for very political reasons," Gelman said, "and we never asked for anything except for what we called for in the agreement."

Gelman said the city originally said it would reimburse him for legal fees relating to project issues such as the environmental-impact report, title and easement issues, "and all these things that benefited the city."

"The city has been really difficult throughout this process," Gelman said.

"I'm really not happy with the staff."

Claremont Mayor Ellen Taylor, on the other hand, feels Claremont has done nothing wrong:
City officials said Claremont is not responsible for Gelman's legal fees because those costs weren't directly associated with Gelman's "pre-development plans" as spelled out in the negotiating agreement.

"We feel that we've been more than fair with Mr. Gelman," said Mayor Ellen Taylor.

Queen Ellen's tone doesn't really surprise us. If you're associated with the local Girl Scouts, you've probably experienced the same treatment. In that instance, Taylor's never once apologized for her rude, arrogant behavior, and her making light of the incident by joking about it publicly underscores that arrogance.

What's more stunning is that the Claremont 400 supported her enough to let her become mayor! But if you've lived in Claremont long enough, you've seen this act before - the arrogance, the broken promises - and you'll see plenty more in the future.

A word of warning if you're a developer thinking of working with the City of Claremont on an affordable housing project: Make sure they pay as they go, or you too may end up getting the shaft.

A Disturbance in the Force

Inside Baseball?
We are sensing ripples in the force and they appear to be emanating from a meeting scheduled tonight of the Claremont High School Baseball Booster Club. Booster Club President Nicole Troli may have her hands full dealing with team parents unhappy with coach Mike Lee. Lee came to Claremont last Fall amid some controversy, detailed here, here, and here.

There are rumblings of mental, emotional, and verbal abuse of the team's players. We don't know whether this has to do with the Pack's so-so season (the team is 4-7 in league play and under .500 overall), some kind of uber-drill-sergeant attitude on the part of Coach Lee, or whether it's over-protective Claremont parents. In our experience, winning makes tolerable a lot of things that in losing are blameworthy.

We do know that if we had failed to execute that easy double play, and had all 600 pounds of Coach Lee charging us from the dugout, we might expect more in the way of mental, emotional, and verbal abuse than an invitation to discuss the fundamentals of baseball over tea on Wednesday. (Don't believe the "600 pounds" part? See the Courier photo here.)

Though we know passions are running high on this matter, we have not heard a reprise of any of the more lurid charges (by Claremont standards) that were circulated last Fall from Mike Lee's previous employment, and certainly nothing going beyond those charges.

We will be watching and listening to see what comes of tonight's Booster Club meeting, now scheduled an hour early (to accommodate lengthy discussion?) for 6 p.m. Will there be a real foodfight? Or will it be a sleepy civil Claremont meeting with behavioral norms and everything?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

City Budget Woes Updated

We have an update to our post from yesterday about the potential financial problems facing the City of Claremont.

Yesterday's Claremont Courier had a blurb about Claremont City Manager Jeff Parker reporting on the budget hit the city could be facing. (The council coverage is not posted on the Courier's website.)

We had reported Saturday that in last week's City Manager report to the City Council Parker said that the city faced a loss of $1 million in state funding. California, which has its own $15 billion-plus budget deficit, could take away municipal funds for public safety, as well as Prop. 1A and Prop. 172 funds. According to the Courier, Parker also said that $1 million is only part of the shortfall the city is looking at. In addition to the state cutbacks, the current economic slowdown has resulted in a decrease of between $2 million and $2.5 million in city revenues.

Consequently, Claremont might have to replace that lost money by taking as much as 17.5% of its $20 million General Fund, or $3.5 million. Last we heard, the City reserves stood at about $4 million.

According to the Courier:

In reaction, Mr. Parker has called for a 2-percent cut on expenditures across the board from city department heads. Vacant positions in the city have been left unfilled, while excessive expenditures are more heavily scrutinized.

I am pretty confident by June when we present the budget to the Council that we are presenting a budget that is balanced, Mr. Parker said.

Mr. Parker said that services in the city will not be affected by the cutbacks.

At least Parker's putting these issues on the table rather than trying to paper them over. It seems not all that long ago that then-Mayor Peter Yao was confidently telling citizens at a council meeting that there was nothing to worry about and that when he visited Sacramento recently, he received assurances that the state's budget crisis wouldn't affect cities.

In the meantime, current Mayor Ellen Taylor is spending as if there there were no problems with the economy. Will somebody, puhleeeese cut up Taylor's city credit card?

Ellen, you know the first step in dealing with your addiction is admitting you have a problem.

Bulletin to Alvarez: Don't Let the Door Hit You

The Daily Bulletin's editorial staff has Xavier Alvarez-sized burr under its saddle. Friday's Bulletin editorial called for the resignation of the Three Valleys Municipal Water District board member from Pomona.

This latest call for Alvarez to step down came after Alvarez recently claimed that the Pomona Police Officers' Association somehow altered or fabricated a tape of an interview the association had with Alvarez when he was running for office in 2005. Alvarez had tried to get the association's endorsement and falsely states on the tape that he was a Medal of Honor winner.

The Bulletin's editorial said:

Normally, it would be a blockbuster of a story if a police officer claimed that an elected official had lied. But Alvarez is no normal elected official, so observers were not rocked back on their heels by Bozoich's allegations.

At the July 23 meeting of the Walnut Valley Water District where Alvarez claimed he had won the Medal of Honor, he said he was wounded multiple times while serving as a Marine during the Vietnam War. He later admitted he had never served in the military.

At the same meeting he said he has an engineering degree from Cal Poly Pomona, which has no record of him.

He has been censured by his fellow Three Valleys board members for funneling spousal health benefits to his ex-wife, who divorced him four years before he was elected to the board. Federal prosecutors are considering filing felony charges for that misrepresentation, which cost Three Valleys about $4,800. (Alvarez said last week the district was not harmed by his actions because the agency's insurer reimbursed it; a fine justification that is.)

As we've pointed out, the last bit about the ex-wife amounts to theft and fraud and are felonies, unlike the current federal misdemeanor charges against Alvarez for lying about the Medal Honor.

Alvarez has made it clear that he plans on sticking things out and being around for the duration of his term (barring the intervention of the criminal justice system). It is ironic indeed that Alvarez, whose term runs through 2009, may be in his current office longer than than his patron, Pomona Mayor Norma Torres, is in hers.

Torres is running for the California State Assembly, and given the realities of Assembly District 61, which is considered a safe Democratic seat, Torres should win the seat, assuming she wins the June Democratic primary. Torres would succeed former Pomona Mayor Nell Soto, who has been missing in action (but not in per diem) for several months in the past year.

The Goddess of Pomona recently found a photo of a smiling Torres stuffed into a one-size-too-small, gray, pinstripe pantsuit standing on the concrete median of a Pomona road overgrown with weeds. The photo captures Torres and her accomplishments as mayor perfectly.

Incredibly, the photo (seen at left) was uploaded to Flickr by the Torres campaign. Pinstripes seem to be the fashion choice of the Torres political machine, and Torres protégé Xavier Alvarez may be getting fitted for his in the not too distant future.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

It's A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall

A reader sent this in concerning the dramatic drop in auto sales in California as a result of the twin fuel and housing market crunches:

Subject: storm heads for claremont....
Hammered by rising fuel prices and declining home prices, sales of new cars and trucks plummeted throughout California in the first quarter, according to data released yesterday.

About 400,000 new cars and trucks were registered between January and March - a 19 percent drop from the same period last year, the California New Car Dealers Association said.

That was the sharpest drop in decades, said Peter Welch, president of the association.

Claremont, which receives about 57% of its sales tax revenue from auto sales, has its income wagon firmly hitched to this falling star. Coupled with the state's budget crisis, the fall in car sales doesn't bode well for Claremont's future. In fact, at the last City Council meeting on April 22nd, Claremont City Manager Jeff Parker acknowledged that the city was looking at a potential $1 million budget shortfall if the state cuts back in some of the ways that are currently being discussed in Sacramento. Consequently, the City is having make contingency plans for a variety of departmental cost-cutting measures.

You can just file this one under "downhill rolling."

Odd that this financial storm wasn't one of Claremont Mayor Ellen Taylor's priorities when she was appointed mayor last month. As the City's website indicates, after being named mayor on March 25th, Taylor (seen at right) gave a shopping list of all the things she hopes to achieve:

Mayor Taylor has several goals that she would like to see the City Council accomplish during her tenure as mayor, including finding more locations for affordable housing complexes; an ordinance on "mansionization;" finding funding and a new location for the police station; adding more lighted sports fields; repairing and enlarging senior centers; acquiring more hillside land; solving the Village parking problem; continuing to work on economic development programs; redeveloping the Peppertree Square shopping center; and, attracting a food market for south Claremont.

Apparently, figuring out how to pay for her "want list" wasn't in Taylor's narrow little mind at all. Well, that job's just gotten a little harder now. Can you say, "Schadenfreude?"

Transit and Salon News

We received a comment on our post about the Gold Line, and the reader had an idea for utilizing the Metrolink for late-night visitors to the downtown Los Angeles scene:

Subject: comment on public transportation

I read your piece on the Gold Line. I wanted to write because I have Thought for awhile that it would be very good if the Metrolink would run very late on a Friday or Saturday night so that people out here can get into downtown LA for the nightlife. Like maybe a 2 or 3 o'clock train back into the IE. I think this would be very convenient for those of us who like the nightlife, especially with all the things that are going on in downtown LA right now. Not only would convenience factor on driving be one reason we should do it, but for those who drink it would be an alternative to driving after having a drink. Maybe they could do it just a few times a year. Anyways,that's my idea!

Also--did you ever have time to find out what the 25 salons in the village are? I still am curious whether there really are 25..... and what they are. Thanks.

We're not sure about the salons or how that number 25 was arrived at, but looking for salons, spas, nail and tanning businesses between Foothill Blvd. and Arrow Hwy. to the north and south, and Claremont Blvd. and Mountain Ave. to the east and west, here's what we could find using Google:
  1. Aromatique Skin Body Care‎
    319 W 1st St # A, Claremont, CA‎
  2. Bliss Salon
    121 Harvard Pl, Claremont, CA‎
  3. Cielo Mio Spa & Salon
    101 N Indian Hill Blvd #c2-200, Claremont, CA‎
  4. Claremont Hair Plus‎
    268 W 2nd St, Claremont, CA‎
  5. Claremont Tanning
    665 E Foothill Blvd Ste L, Claremont, CA
  6. Claremont Village Salon
    114 N Indian Hill Blvd # R, Claremont, CA
  7. Escape Salon
    250 W 1st St, Ste 146, Claremont, CA‎
  8. Forte Salon‎
    280 W 2nd St, Claremont, CA‎
  9. Hair After
    232 W Bonita Ave, Claremont, CA
  10. Hair By Gilbert Cisko Guerra
    250 W 1st St # 146, Claremont, CA
  11. Hair Cottage & Gift Shop‎
    262 W 4th St, Claremont, CA‎
  12. Hands Down
    115 Harvard Ave, Claremont, CA
  13. Krystyna Hair Tech
    321 Yale Ave, Claremont, CA‎
  14. Maax Salon
    206 W Bonita Ave, Claremont, CA
  15. Nail Today
    234 Yale Ave, Claremont, CA‎
  16. Paulos Coiffures
    143 Harvard Ave # D, Claremont, CA‎
  17. Piel Fina‎
    240 W 2nd St, Claremont, CA‎
  18. Pilgrim Place Beauty Salon
    721 Harrison Ave, Claremont, CA 91711
  19. Renaissance Salon‎
    339 E Arrow Hwy, Claremont, CA
  20. Robert Micheal's Salon
    120 Harvard Ave, Claremont, CA‎
  21. Skin Care by Betty‎
    319-A W. First Street, Claremont, CA‎
  22. Spa Boutique‎
    282 W 2nd St, Claremont, CA‎
  23. Tbmt Enterprises
    555 W Foothill Blvd, Claremont, CA
  24. Total Look‎
    1260 Harvard Ave, Claremont, CA‎
  25. Urban Renewal Salon
    123 Yale Ave, Claremont, CA

By the way, there seemed to be twice that number if you count Claremont's outlying areas. We don't know if the new salon ordinance will have its desired effect, but we did notice the "For Lease" signs seem to be staying up at the former cigar store on 2nd St. across from City Hall and in the Village Expansion. But, maybe given the current economic environment those would have stayed empty anyway.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Kruse Lawsuit - UPDATED

Citizen Michael John Keenan sent us an update on the lawsuit the city of Claremont filed against Darrell Kruse, the guy who opened the medical marijuana dispensary without a city business license:

Date: Thu, 24 Apr 2008, 19:56:39 - 0700 (PDT)
Subject: Darrel Kruse and City Settled in Court Today

No info just yet. So the next council agenda may include a decision on a merry jane med clinic/cooperative.Palm Springs is leaning towards a cooperative setup.

I think Claremont will land somewhere in between Palm Springs on regs and Corona's outright land use ban. I do believe these are the two other ordinance's Sonia claimed to be working on before Active Claremont.

Happy Trails, Michael Keenan

We haven't been able to confirm the settlement. The last bit of Keenan's email is in reference to last week's Active Claremont meeting, where Claremont City Attorney Sonia Carvalho spoke about the draft medical marijuana dispensary ordinance she has been working.

UPDATED, 7:35PM: Claremont City Manager Jeff Parker reported on the Kruse case in his City Manager's report earlier today. Parker said that the judge in the case sided with the city and issued a tentative ruling in the city's favor:

The Court found that Mr. Kruse's operation of CANNABIS [Kruse's dispensary] without a license created a nuisance and rejected Mr. Kruse's arguments that the Compassionate Use Act preempts the City's zoning laws. The Court also found that the moratorium is correct under Gov. Code 65858 and that the [dismissal] of Mr. Kruse's administrative appeal was proper. The court issued a permanent injunction against Mr. Kruse operating CANNABIS, pending the end of the moratorium, and unless and until the City actually grants Kruse a license at some future date. The City is also awarded its costs. The tentative decision becomes final in 10 days, unless a party "specifies controverted issues or makes proposals not covered in the tentative decision" or appeals.

Coincidentally (or not) Parker also reported that the city's draft marijuana dispensary ordinance is also ready and will be released for public review on April 30th. The ordinance will be posted on the city website and will also be available for review at City Hall or at the Claremont Public Library. Parker's weekly update said:

In crafting the ordinance, staff along with the City Attorney's office, reviewed ordinances from many other cities and incorporated provisions that suit Claremont's needs. The provisions are designed, and necessary, to protect the public health, safety and welfare of the residents, children, and businesses from harmful secondary effects that could result from a dispensary. The ordinance, as drafted, regulates many aspects of the potential businesses, and contains provisions regarding review process, security, operation methods, enforcement, and prohibitions.

Museum Notes

The Claremont Museum of Art will unveil a "community-based abstract art installation project" on Saturday, May 3rd, in the east courtyard of the Claremont Packing House. No times for the event were listed.

The museum press release for the event describes it:

The installation will be comprised of more than 80 painted panels created by children and adults, who were led by artist Janna Geary at the Museum’s April 12th Family Art Day. Geary has taken these panels and pieced them together using brass inserts and capscrews to create a one-of-a-kind Abstract Expressionist composition, which she will mount on the eight-foot-long wall in the Packing House courtyard. The community is invited to view this unique community project, on view through mid-June.

“This project is part of our ongoing ‘community engagement’ imitative,” said the CMA’s Executive Director William Moreno. “It is the second such installation – following the popular PhotoBooth – and we have many more planned in the future. I believe it’s important for museums to be centers of activity, and think this mural project, created by a variety of community members, fits that objective.

Los Angeles-based Abstract Expressionist artist Janna Geary is a Fine Arts/Illustration graduate of the Kendall College of Art and Design in Grand Rapids, MI, and has exhibited in many solo and group exhibitions, including Rockin’ for Peace at the House of Blues in L.A. in 2007, and the Los Angeles Open at Barnsdall Park in Hollywood in 2004. She has conducted several artmaking workshops for children of all ages. Geary said of her work; “The purpose of my art is to be a kind of ‘social therapy’ that functions through acknowledging experiences, emotions, or subject matter that is uncomfortable, and then re-presenting it to my audience in a matter in which they are forced to observe...sometimes through a different perspective, and sometimes through their own.”

In addition, the museum's First Generation exhibit closes this Sunday. Tomorrow the museum hosts a lecture by E. Gene Crain, who will talk about his friendships with several of the show's artists:
Saturday, April 26, 3 p.m.
REMINISCENCES: E. Gene Crain discusses several First Generation artists
Free for Museum Members, $5 for non-members (includes gallery admission)
E. Gene Crain, collector and friend to many of the First Generation artists, shares stories of his friendship with Millard Sheets, Phil Dike, and others, and discusses the history of his collection, widely acknowledged as one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of work by artists from the “California School.” First Generation Guest Curator Steve Comba hosts.

Sunday, April 27, 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Join us for the final day of the remarkable exhibition First Generation: Art in Claremont, 1907-1957, which traces the art history of the region in the first 50 years after the city’s incorporation in 1907.

Claremont Museum of Art
536 W. First St.
Claremont, CA 91711
(909) 621-3200

Students Show Support for Gold Line

Fred Ortega, a writer for the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, reported on yesterday's Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority board meeting. (The Daily Bulletin carried Ortega's article.)

College students from showed up for the meeting in support of the Gold Line Foothill Extension from Pasadena to the Ontario Airport. About half the audience was there in support of the Gold Line, according to Ortega's article. In addition to the college students, there were a number of other area VIP's who support the extension, including La Verne Mayor Jon Blickenstaff. The article said:

"Improving the environment was the driving force behind Emily Romo's support for the Gold Line extension.

I feel the extension will help people maintain sustainable environment because as the San Gabriel Valley continues to increase in population, traffic and pollution will only get worse," said Romo, a 21-year-old English major at the University of La Verne who is also part of the school's Green Institute for Village Empowerment.

Officials estimate that once completed, the extension will eliminate 126 tons of carbon monoxide from the air and save about 1.5 million gallons of gasoline each year.

Joining the students Thursday were local elected officials and business leaders from throughout the region, including La Verne Mayor John Blickenstaff.

"These students are one more example of the broad base of support for this project," said Blickenstaff, who also chairs the Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority board. "Education is a major factor with the many education institutions along the line, all in support of this project."

The meeting was important because the MTA board was considering the MTA's draft Long Range Tranportation Plan, which currently does not include funding for the Gold Line extension. Without the $80 million inclusion in the plan would bring, construction on the project would be delayed beyond the end of 2009.

Ortega's article indicated that yesterday's show of support for the extension at least caught the MTA board's attention:

The show of support for the Gold Line - nearly half of those in attendance at Thursday's meeting were there in favor of the project - was acknowledged by Metro board Chairwoman Pam O'Connor.

"I'd like to ask staff for a report on the Gold Line, its status and readiness, because of the support shown today," O'Connor said.

The article did not indicate if any Claremont officials showed up to speak. The City of Claremont is busy with its own transit project, the Downtown Trolley covering a six square block area, so Mayor Taylor and company may be understandably preoccupied with more important things than the Gold Line.

You can read more about the Gold Line Foothill Extension here.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Local News Briefs

tThe Daily Bulletin had a couple pieces on local Claremont news:


The Peppertree Square shopping center at Indian Hill Blvd. and Arrow Hwy. is getting a facelift, according to the Daily Bulletin:

The center, at the southeast corner of Indian Hill Boulevard and Arrow Highway, has been a source of consternation in recent years because its owner, who lives overseas, hasn't performed basic upkeep, city officials say.

"Fifteen years ago it was a pretty nice neighborhood center, and it's really just deteriorated," said Brian Desatnik, housing and redevelopment manager.

Four of its retail spaces sit vacant, including two of its largest - a space that used to house a small market, and another that used to be a music store.

Nick Quackenbos, a commercial real estate agent who is responsible for leasing in the center, said renovation plans could be presented for city approval by the end of the summer.

You may recall that Quackenbos is also the realtor trying to broker the sale of the land adjacent to the Claremont Auto Center on the south side of the 10 Freeway. A portion of the land is the former site of a Chili's Restaurant, and the City sunk several hundred thousand dollars into infrastructure improvement as part a deal to help Auto Center owner Roger Hogan acquire that land back in 2005.

That deal was sold to the City Council by then-City Manager Glenn Southard and his staff with the promise that Hogan would expand the Auto Center onto the Chili's property, which would lead to increased auto sales tax revenue that would give the city a great return on their investment.

Tony Krickl in the Claremont Courier reported on the possible sale of the land earlier this month. Krickl's article said:

The right decision?

In 2005, the city mediated the sale between the Chili’s property owner and Mr. Hogan, who had plans to expand his dealership there. A financial review of the agreement shows that the city may have gotten the short end of the stick, while Mr. Hogan appears to be the bigger beneficiary of the deal.

As part of the agreement between the 3 parties, the city’s Redevelopment Agency was required to invest $200,000 in street and signage improvements. It also purchased an operating agreement for $100,000 “that requires the new land area be used for the Toyota dealership for at least 7 years,” a September 2005 city staff report reads.

The report indicates that the return on the city’s investment could be between $600,000 and $700,000 annually for the first 5 years as a result of Toyota auto sales taxes, with millions more to follow in years after. But it remains unclear if the city made back its hoped return on its initial investment.

When Claremont Ford shut down in January, Claremont Toyota’s expansion plans shifted from the Chili’s property to the Claremont Ford property, which already had some infrastructure and equipment on site. The Chili’s land today remains unused by Claremont Toyota, except for the display of some used cars at the site.

In addition, doubts remain that any future use of the property will generate the level of sales tax revenue for the city that a successful auto dealership is capable of.

As with most of these sorts of things, the city staff report painted a wonderful picture of the revenue stream that would issue from the deal. The land was never developed for additional auto sales, and now Hogan is selling a large chunk of the land with the prospect of making several million dollars off the deal.

At the time the Chili's land purchase was debated, Councilmembers Corey Calaycay and Jackie McHenry expresed reservations about the deal and questioned whether it would pay for itself. Calaycay and McHenry were criticized for their dissent and were labeled as being negative. A number of Claremont luminaries, including former Mayor Judy Wright, stepped up to the council podium urging the city to make the deal. And Sam Pedroza, who was not on the council at the time, had a letter published in the Courier in support of Hogan and all he's done for Claremont. The letter was clearly written to add pressure on Calaycay and McHenry.

Well, time has proved the negativists right. And Wright, Pedroza, and the rest were just your typical Claremont 400 dupes, throwing your money away needlessly, foolishly.

At least Quackenbos can make a buck off helping sell Hogan's land, a good portion of which the city helped him buy. Incidentally, Quackenbos is a former city commissioner and was a contributor to the "Claremont Business PAC" mailer that was part of the Preserve Claremont smear campaign in 2005.

Quackenbos is also pretty well connected to City Hall, having endorsed Mayor Ellen Taylor and Councilmember Sam Pedroza. Maybe he can land a gig as the city's leasing agent for any future city affordable housing since Taylor and Pedroza were the ones who selected the new Affordable Housing Task Force.


Tuesday night the Claremont City Council approved a new municipal ordinance governing door-to-door salespeople, who will now be required to obtain permit and ID from the city.

The ordinance is the city's second attempt at regulating the such visitors. According to another Daily Bulletin article by Will Bigham, a previous law was too restrictive and applied to religious and political solicitors as well as commercial ones. Bigham tells us that in 2002, the Supreme Court ruled that such laws were unconstitutional.

Bigham explained the new ordinance:

The law, characterized by city officials as one of the toughest of its kind in the nation, was in response to two rapes committed by door-to-door magazine salesmen in the last year and a half, officials said.

For commercial solicitors - those going door to door selling goods - each salesman must undergo a background check and be issued an ID card from the city.

All solicitors - both commercial and noncommercial - must obtain a permit from the city before going door to door.

The new law also establishes a "do not knock" registry that allows residents to sign up requesting that solicitors stop visiting their homes.

The latest solicitation ordinance also carves out an exception for people with religious and political purposes.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Wonky Ellen Taylor Picks Herself for Affordable Housing Task Force

No, she didn't literally pick herself. But she couldn't have done better if she had taken her genetic material and injected it into the cells of partially-formed automata. Shades of the Pod People.

At the meeting of April 22, 2008, the Claremont City Council ratified the recommendations of the ad hoc committee composed of Mayor Ellen Taylor and her trusty sidekick, Sam Pedroza. We don't blame Sam; as usual, he was without a clue.

We introduced this issue a couple days ago, here.

The people composing the task force are, Sharon Hightower, Jim Keith, Bruce Mayclin, Barbara Musselman, Kirk Pelser, John Tullius, and Andrew Winnick.

Claremont always makes a lot of its diversity. What about diversity in this group?

Age diversity? Nope. The median age is 62 years compared with the median age in Claremont of just under 36 years, according to the census. There is only one member of the committee born since 1950.

This committee is nothing if not geriatric. Does this look like the appointing authority? Mayor Ellen's age is within two or three years of the median age of the committee.

What about geographic diversity? Another failing grade, we're afraid. six of the seven members of the committee live north of Foothill. Only one lives in South Claremont, just south of Arrow. And that member is culturally and socially not really South Claremont, being the husband of a certified member of the 400 who was on the CUSD School Board and is currently on the Citrus College Board. (See the adjacent map for an idea of where the task force members make their homes. Click on image to enlarge) Northeast Claremont is, as usual, excluded.

Economic Diversity? Not so good there. The median home value of the members is some $600,000. (Much higher, by nearly $100,000 recently, but the economy is tanking. The Claremont Chamber gives the 2006 median home price as just under $506,000, whatever that means now.) The committee is diverse with respect to swimming pools: four of the members have them; three do not.

Political Diversity? Here, again, the committee does not reflect Claremont. The membership breaks 6 Democrats to 1 Republican, while Claremont as a whole splits roughly 6 to 5, Democrats over Republicans. A member of the public spoke up at Council meeting last night to note that four of the seven members of the committee were members of the Claremont Area League of Women Voters. Barbara Musselman serves as the LWV president. Thus, the League, which counts as its members far fewer than 1% of Claremont's residents--far fewer--has a voting and veto-proof majority on the task force.

We don't see too many "people of color" on the task force, though some did apply. The members are vastly white, old, well-off, and wonky. If not the fact of Claremont, then the stereotype of it. This committee is disconnected from the community and is as homogeneous a group as you could find. In fact, it looks like Ellen Taylor.

With the connections these people share (with each other), you don't have to worry about the views of Helaine Goldwater going unrepresented on the task force. Helaine Goldwater and Sharon Hightower were seldom seen apart at public meetings on affordable housing, and some even say they believed Helaine and Sharon thought with one mind.

The governing elite of Claremont like to pay lip service to the idea that it is a representative democracy. Paul Held--his absence in the public City precincts is unlamented--used to justify his actions that way. But given the composition of this task force, it's much more representative of the ruling clique headed today by Ellen Taylor.

Was the selection of this committee hard for Ellen? Let her explain it in this 40-second clip:

Pomona's Xavier Alvarez: Third Time's a Charm

Disgraced Three Valleys Municipal Water District board member Xavier Alvarez, Pomona Mayor Norma Torres' gift to local politics, is back in the news.

Just when you thought Alvarez couldn't stoop any lower, down he goes. Alvarez, who is facing a federal criminal charges of falsely claiming to be a Medal of Honor recipient, had tried to get the charges tossed by the court on the grounds that he had a constitutional right to lie.

Alvarez's First Amendment argument failed, and he's scheduled to face trial in May. In the meantime, Alvarez's forked tongue hasn't been idle. At a Three Valley's board meeting last Friday, Alvarez tried to get the board to rescind Alvarez's censure for lying about still being married to his ex-wife so that she could qualify for water board medical benefits. Alvarez's reason for lying about his ex-wife was that his religion - Alvarez is Catholic - mandates that he provide for the ex-wife. Yet another First Amendment defense, this time using the religion clauses!

Now for the latest episode: Will Bigham writes in the Daily Bulletin that Alvarez is accusing the Pomona Police Officers' Association of splicing together an audio tape in which Alvarez is heard bragging about his non-existent Medal of Honor. Back in 2005, Alvarez was trying to get the association to endorse him for the Three Valleys board. After the initial charge of lying about the medal came out, the police association contacted the federal prosecutor's office and turned over their tape of the interview, Bigham explained:

One of the charges is based on his taped medal claim in an interview seeking the endorsement of the association in November 2005, when Alvarez was running for mayor.

Officer Phil Bozoich, the police association's president, said Tuesday that Alvarez's statements are outright lies.

Bozoich said he read Alvarez's statements in the Daily Bulletin and "didn't want the citizens of the city to feel an officer fabricated a tape and was wrongfully trying to discredit him."

Bozoich said he and one other association member interviewed Alvarez and taped the session with his permission.

When he introduced himself at the start of the interview, Alvarez said he won the Medal of Honor, Bozoich said. It was the only mention of the award in the 40-minute interview, Bozoich said.

You really have to hand it to Alvarez. He must not watch any of those CSI shows. Doesn't he know that there are audio experts who could testify as to whether or not there had been any tampering with the tape and that if anyone would be aware of that it would be a police association?

This guy just doesn't want to take responsibility for anything that comes out of his mouth. The fruit sure doesn't fall far from the political tree. Norma Torres has yet to apologize for her endorsing Alvarez back in 2005 in what was not much more than Torres' attempt at expanding her network of Pomona politicians loyal her. It's highly doubtful that Alvarez would have won his election without the Torres endorsement.

Torres, having done her damage in Pomona, is moving on up the chain and is currently running for state assembly.

Thanks again, Norma!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Gold Line News

We received an email yesterday from the Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Authority calling on people who support extending the Gold Line east from Pasadena to show up at Thursday's Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors meeting.

If you want to try to help get the Gold Line Extension put into the MTA's Long-Range Transportation Plan, you'll want to show up at the MTA Board meeting Thursday at 9:30am. Here's the email with info on what to do:

Dear Claremont Insider,

Thank you for taking the time to blog about the Gold Line Foothill Extension. As you know, the Foothill Extension is not in Metro’s Draft Long Range Transportation Plan, meaning the extension will not be funded if the board doesn’t add it to the list when it considers finalizing the list in June 2008. In the meantime, we would like to let all of our supporters know about the board meeting on April 24th so they can show their support for extending the rail line to Ontario International Airport. This is a very important meeting as it comes one day before the end of the public comment period for Metro’s Draft Long-Range Transportation Plan. The more people who voice their support, the better.

We encourage supporters of the Gold Line Foothill Extension to attend the April 24th Metro board meeting at MTA Headquarters, 1 Gateway Plaza, adjacent to Union Station in downtown Los Angeles. To join us on the train from Sierra Madre Villa Station in Pasadena on April 24th please call us at 626-305-7026 or RSVP at For information on how to write a letter in support of our effort, click here.


Metro Gold Line Foothill Extension Construction Authority

Meeting information:

THURSDAY, APRIL 24, 2008, 9:30AM

Los Angeles County
Metropolitan Transportation Authority
Board of Directors Meeting

One Gateway Plaza, 3rd Floor Board Room
Los Angeles, CA

Pomona Song Police

The Claremont Conservative had a post last Friday about Pomona College's decision to not sing Pomona's Alma Mater at this year's commencement. The post included an image and the text of an email from Pomona College President David Oxtoby explaining the decision. The song, "Hail, Pomona, Hail," has is origins as part of a 1910 student minstrel show.

The Daily Bulletin's Will Bigham also wrote an article about the Alma Mater issue, and the Bulletin's website includes an excerpt of the song. Bigham's article said:

CLAREMONT - Responding to concerns about the potentially racist origins of its alma mater, Pomona College has suspended performance of the song for next month's graduation ceremony.

Information surfaced in February that "Hail, Pomona, Hail," was originally written nearly 100 years ago to be performed at the conclusion of a blackface minstrel show.

For some on campus, that revelation "generated great distress that the alma mater would be sung" at graduation, said Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum.

"(Administrators) had a choice between causing distress and performing a song that, certainly, gives great joy," Feldblum said. "They did not want to be in a position to cause distress."

We originally covered the issue in February after an email from Pomona Dean of Students Miriam Feldblum was circulated. Now comes another email from the Pomona College administration. As with so many things academic, Oxtoby's email concludes with the news that a committee is needed to study (or over-study) the "issue of college songs." (Is there such a thing?)

Oxtoby may need another committee to study the origins of neuroses in acadamia. We saw one familiar name on the committee list: Pomona alum and current Director of Alumni Relations Nancy Treser-Osgood who occasionally runs letters in the Claremont Courier.

Treser-Osgood certainly has no problems having her opinions imposed on the larger community as public policy, so she seems to have found a place on campus. Offensive Song Committee - is "song" a noun or an modifier here? - is a fitting assignment for Treser-Osgood and makes a lot of sense: Over-educated, under-thoughtful Caucasian woman deciding what is or isn't offensive to people of color.

It's tempting to poke fun at these sorts of things, and the best comedy has been done by the professionals.

From Song Nazis to Thought Police isn't too large a step. Is it really any wonder that the First Amendment is out the window at the 5-C's? Here's the Alma Mater:

Hail! Pomona, hail!
We, thy sons and daughters, sing
Praises of thy name,
Praises of thy fame.
Til the heav'ns above shall ring:
To the name of Pomona
Alma Mater hail to thee!
To the spirit true of the White and Blue.
All hail! Pomona hail!

We here at the Insider are always thinking ahead and have already made our proposal for a replacement Alma Mater.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Affordable Housing Task Farce

Affordable housing is back on our radar. Item #12 on tomorrow night's Claremont City Council agenda is the City's Affordable Housing Task Force. An ad hoc committee comprised of Mayor Ellen Taylor and Councilmember Sam Pedroza interviewed 28 applicants and has recommended seven people for the task force.

With Queen Ellen running the show, we predicted that she would load up the committee with her Claremont League of Women Voter (LWV) friends, and we're pleased to say that Ellen did not disappoint. Ellen is nothing if not consistent in her spite.

The following people received the okay from Taylor and Pedroza:

  • Sharon Hightower (LWV, former City Planning Commissioner)
  • Jim Keith (Husband of Citrus College Trustee and LWV member Sue Keith)
  • Bruce Mayclin
  • Barbara Musselman (LWV President, City Police Commissioner)
  • Kirk Pelser
  • John Tullius
  • Andrew Winnick (City Human Services Commissioner)

As you may know if you followed the contentious debate over the failed Base Line Rd. affordable housing project, the LWV pushed a poorly conceived project and refused to listen to anyone but people like Helaine Goldwater, Sharon Hightower, and League stalwarts. The project died when it could not qualify for county funding because of concerns about pollution from the 210 Freeway, something project opponents had cited as a problem from the first public meetings on the subject.

So what did Ellen do? Rather than reach out to the opponents of the Base Line Rd. project, she and Pedroza recommended three people most responsible for that debacle: Hightower, Musselman, and Winnick. And they only appointed one person, Mayclin, who had been a critic of the housing on Base Line. Mayclin was appointed as a token gesture so that Taylor could claim she was being fair in her recommendations.

If you go back and look at the minutes of the public meetings on the Base Line site, the crowds were pretty evenly split between proponents and opponents. Taylor, et. al., tried to tar the opponents with the NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) brush, which is their favorite tactic.

Rather than engage on the issue, Taylor & Friends seek to discredit the opposition with false labels and whispering campaigns among themselves: You don't like our pet project therefore you hate ALL affordable housing and ALL poor people. Instead of sitting down to try to work with all stakeholders, they try to steamroll ideas by gaming the committee and commission system so that their ideas are unequally weighted to guarantee the outcome they desire.

After the Base Line project failed, those opponents tried to prove good on their word that they wanted to help find a solution to the affordable housing problem in Claremont. But, thanks to Taylor and Pedroza, most of those Base Line opponents were denied positions on the committee, and the result is a group that is hardly representative of the people who debated the Base Line Project.

This, of course, is Taylor and the LWV's modus operandi. Make a colossal goof at an enormous expense in city funds and staff time, get the city riled up and unnecessarily divided, then not only deny responsibility for the mess, but fail to acknowledge that their opponents were right all along. And, to add insult to injury, the Taylor folk shut out anyone who thinks differently and stubbornly refuse to allow those people to contribute to finding solutions to the problem Taylor and the rest created in the first place.

We saw this with the failed 2006 Parks and Pastures Assessment District (pushed by most of the same people as the Base Line Rd. project). In the assessment case, not only did the opponents prevail 56% to 44% when the matter was voted on, but those same opponents kept their word and turned around to help get the Measure S bond measure passed with 72% of the vote four months later. Johnson's Pasture was purchased with those Measure S funds. Taylor and the rest act as if none of that ever occurred. They have tried to erase history.

For all their talk about inclusiveness, this is as exclusive a group of people as you will find anywhere. Not one of us? Then get the hell out of here.

So, you can expect either Hightower, Musselman, or Winnick to be named chair of the task force. Also, expect more contentiousness to emerge from the task force. If the LWV and Taylor have proved anything in the past few years, it's that a bunch of individually intelligent people can be stunningly stupid as a group, mostly as a result of only listening to themselves. It's the Groupthink phenomena again, and more bad ideas along the lines of the Parks and Pasture Assessment and the Base Line Rd. project are sure to be in the offing.

Just to remind you how charming and winning these personalities are, we give you Andy Winnick in his own words, not only arguing for the Base Line Rd. project, but also condemning those who think differently from him (keep in mind this voice of authority was completely and utterly WRONG in the foundations of his arguments and his characterizations of the opposition):

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Readers Respond to Marijuana Dispensaries

We received some feedback to our last update on Claremont's medical marijuana dispensary ordinance.

One reader sent in a link to some legislation proposed by Congressman Barney Frank (D-MA). The bill seeks to legalize personal use as well as medical marijuana applications. Frank's press release for the bill (HR 5842) quotes Frank as he explains his reasoning:

"When doctors recommend the use of marijuana for their patients and states are willing to permit it, I think it’s wrong for the federal government to subject either the doctors or the patients to criminal prosecution. More broadly speaking, the norm in America is for the states to decide whether particular behaviors should be made criminal. To make the smoking of marijuana, whether for medical purposes or not, one of those extremely rare instances of federal crime – literally, to make a ‘federal case’ out of it – is wholly disproportionate to the activity involved. We do not have federal criminal prohibitions against drinking alcoholic beverages, and there are generally no criminal penalties for the use of tobacco at the state and federal levels for adults. There is no rational argument for treating marijuana so differently from these other substances.”

“To those who say that the government should not be encouraging the smoking of marijuana, my response is that I completely agree. But it is a great mistake to divide all human activity into two categories: those that are criminally prohibited, and those that are encouraged. In a free society, there must be a very considerable zone of activity between those two poles in which people are allowed to make their own choices as long as they are not impinging on the rights, freedom, or property of others. I believe it is important with regard to tobacco, marijuana and alcohol, among other things, that we strictly regulate the age at which people may use these substances. And, enforcement of age restrictions should be firm. But, criminalizing choices that adults make because we think they are unwise ones, when the choices involved have no negative effect on the rights of others, is not appropriate in a free society."

* * *

Another reader wrote in to criticize the letter the Claremont Chamber of Commerce sent in to the Claremont Courier regarding the ordinance. The Chamber is opposed to allowing the dispensaries. The reader said:
Subject: insane in the membrane

That's one extra-bizarre letter from the directors of the Claremont Chamber of Commerce. Point by point:

1.) "Other dispensaries in the state have been targets of burglaries and robberies, not just in the facility, but also 'follow home' crimes where the patrons of such dispensaries have been the victims."

So have banks and supermarkets and liquor stores. The Von's on Baseline has near-daily shoplifters; a few years ago, the manager on duty confronted a shoplifter in the liquor section, and ended up with a gun in his face. The CPD answers frequent calls for service from the local banks, from tellers accidentally triggering robbery alarms and people trying to cash fraudulent checks and whatever else. Should we close the supermarkets and the banks? What kind of reasoning is this?

Every business with cash or valuable products on the premises is a potential target for criminals, and no one ever argues for closing any other kind of business on that basis. Five minutes with the police blotter devastates this argument. Criminals target retail businesses. The bad actor in that sentence are the criminals, not the businesses. The chamber's argument in a nutshell: We don't want you to open a business in our community, because you might get robbed. And here I thought the Chamber of Commerce was pro-business.

"We are concerned about the impact this potential crime would have on industrial, commercial and residential areas as well as the impact on the time commitment of our police department."

Well, we wouldn't want the police department to have to investigate crime, now, would we?

2.) Employment. "Businesses have a right to protect themselves and their customers by drug testing their employees to help maintain the quality and safety of their work environment."

Huh? If there are marijuana dispensaries in Claremont, employers can't test their employees for drugs or regulate the safety of their places of work? Just like the way that employers can't forbid their employees to be drunk on the job, because Claremont permits the presence of liquor stores. Dumb, dumb, dumb.

"We are concerned with the issues that have surfaced in regards to the use of 'medicinal marijuana' and protecting employers rights in terms of testing and workplace use of marijuana."

This is pure Claremont reasoning: "We are concerned with the issues that have surfaced..." What issues? That have surfaced where? What statute, case law, or public policy are they referring to? Can they reference a news article, a piece of legislation, anything? What the f*** are these people babbling on about?

3). Health. "Due to the fact that these facilities are not regulated pharmacies, it is unclear who would be in charge of enforcement of any health issues of such a facility including amounts, quality, cleanliness, etc. The Chamber is concerned that either these issues would be the responsibility of city staff, or even worse, go completely unmonitored."

This is AWESOME -- the letter begins with a warning that the presence of marijuana dispensaries will "open up our city, landowners and business districts to potential federal raids and prosecution," then closes with a somber bit of handwringing over the dire fact that marijuana dispensaries are completely unmonitored by government. Four paragraphs to complete self-negation -- that's rhetorical skill, baby. Although I do appreciate their concern that the quality of the marijuana will not be thoroughly regulated, cough cough.

Add to this the fact that the chamber is arguing against the city government permitting dispensaries because it's unclear how they'll be regulated. If only local governments had some sort of mechanism in place for creating and enforcing regulations.

Transparently bad reasoning from start to finish. What a shock to see that Paul Held serves on the board.

Cashing In on PFF Bancorp

On Friday, a reader responded to our last post about PFF Bancorp and the money earned by San Dimas Mayor Curt Morris (about $515,000) in August 2006 when the mayor cashed in his stock options, which he used to buy 17,852 shares of PFF stock for $7.38 in two transactions. Morris turned around and sold the shares the same days that he bought them for the going share price of around $36.00.

Morris had earned the options as a member of the PFF Board of Directors. As some loans to homebuilders and developers went south with the housing market, the stock (NYSE: PFB) fell on hard times recently and closed Friday with a stock price of $4.23 per share.

The reader wrote that Claremont's local connection on the PFF board, Jil Stark, also made out pretty well with her stock options. Stark was formerly the director of Claremont McKenna College's Marian Cook Miner Athenaeum. Stark's husband Jack served as CMC's third president from 1970 to 1999. Jack Stark is currently on the CMC Board of Trustees.

Our reader says:

Subject: Honi soit qui mal y pense??

Dear Buzz,

As one who has lost a few dollars by investing in Pomona First Federal, I found your article on April 6 about Curt Morris, Mayor of San Dimas and PFF board member and his good luck and timing of stock sales quite interesting. Your article also mentions one of our local leading citizens Jil Stark, contributor to local charitable as well as political causes, as a member of that governing board. She did quite well, too. Personally, that is. In her position as presiding director of PFF's audit committee she did not do as well for the company.

When you published your article the closing stock price was $6.19. Today, it closed at $4.23, another 68% down. What does that have to do with Jill, you ask? Well, she is the only director who totally sold out all her stock during the period from February 12 to February 28, 2007, at prices ranging from $33 to $31.

According to published records in, she has zero stock in the company. These same records show that she cleared about $417,000. One must be impressed by her skill and timing.

You wrote ... "one can do pretty well sitting on local boards...". I would change what follows to "even if the company does not perform well."


As seen in the chart below, in February 2007 Stark made a series of five stock option transactions that netted her the approximately $417,000 our reader alluded to. The transactions were:
  • 2/12/07
    Option exercised: 2,000 shares at $7.38 per share; approximate cost: $15,000
    Sold 2,000 shares at $11.37 per share; approximate proceeds: $23,000
  • 2/14/07
    Option exercised: 2,400 shares at $7.38 per share; approximate cost: $18,000
    Sold 2,000 shares at $33.50 - $33.69 per share; approximate proceeds: $81,000
  • 2/20/07
    Option exercised: 6,300 shares at $7.38 per share; approximate cost: $46,000
    Sold 6,300 shares at $33.63 per share; approximate proceeds: $212,000
  • 2/22/07
    Option exercised: 2,500 shares at $7.38 per share; approximate cost: $18,000
    Sold 2,500 shares at $33.50 per share; approximate proceeds: $84,000
  • 2/28/07
    Option exercised: 4,652 shares at $7.38 per share; approximate cost: $34,000
    Sold 4,652 shares at $31.84 per share; approximate proceeds: $148,000

And the preceding years were also good to Stark as PFF stock appreciated during the housing boom. Stark's investment strategy seems to be sound one: Get while the getting is good.

As the reader points out, at PFF Bancorp, as well as at any number of American companies, there seems to be a disconnect between risk, borne by shareholders (and taxpayers who have to bail out failing financial institutions) and rewards given to management.

Click to Enlarge

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Water Board Maintains Censure for Alvarez

The Three Valleys Municipal Water District voted yesterday to keep board member Xavier Alvarez's censure in place, according to an article by Will Bigham in the Daily Bulletin.

The censure was imposed last year by the water board because Alvarez had falsely claimed he was still married to his ex-wife, which allowed the woman to receive about $4,800 in medical benefits through Three Valleys.

The Bigham piece indicated that Alvarez argued that he was compelled because of his religion to provide for his ex-wife:

At Friday morning's board meeting, Alvarez said he was obligated for religious reasons to care for his former spouse.

"What I did was not intentional," Alvarez said. "I did it because of my religion. I'm still married (according) to the Catholic Church, and we are told to still provide.

"You can laugh at it," he added. "It's all right. It shows that you have no respect for religion, but that's your prerogative."

Alvarez also said the district was not harmed by his actions because the agency's insurer reimbursed it for the $4,800 spent.

So, Alvarez has another rationale for lying: it's a religious right. You may recall that Alvarez's defense for the federal criminal charges against him for lying about being a Medal of Honor recipient was that he had a First Amendment right to lie. You can hear audio of Alvarez's religion defense here.

The court didn't buy Alvarez's free speech argument any more than the Three Valleys board accepted Alvarez's religion arguments. Alvarez's trial is set for May 6th in the Federal Court in Los Angeles.

Bigham also reported that "A group of about a dozen veterans attended the meeting," with three of them addressing the board to urge them not to rescind the censure. The Bulletin's page for Bigham's article also includes audio of ABC News reporter Brian Rooney trying to interview Alvarez. Rooney, who reports for ABC's "World News Tonight," gives Alvarez a pretty good grilling. (No ABC video for this yet.)

Alvarez's claim that the district suffered no loss from his lie about the $4,800 spent on his ex-wife's medical benefits should not bar the Los Angeles District Attorney's office from pursuing felony charges against Alvarez. Just because the district was reimbursed the money from their health insurer, does not mean there was no attempt at theft or fraud by Alvarez.

After all, Claremont McKenna College visiting psychology professor Kerri Dunn was convicted of felony attempted insurance fraud after falsely claiming that her car had been vandalized in a hate crime in March, 2004. It turned out that the incident was a hoax staged by Dunn, who also called her auto insurance company to see if there was coverage for the damage to the car.

Dunn went no farther with her claim. All she did was make a phone inquiry. She received no money from the insurer, yet she was charged and convicted of the attempted insurance fraud and a misdemeanor charge of filing a false police report. Dunn was sentenced to one year in prison and had to pay a $20,000 fine.

Surely if Dunn's mere inquiry constitutes an attempted fraudulent claim, then Alvarez's actual false health insurance application for his ex-wife should constitute fraud and/or theft. What are the Los Angeles District Attorney and the California Department of Insurance doing about this besides sitting on their thumbs?