Claremont Insider: August 2008

Friday, August 29, 2008

Leap of Faith - Updated

Janus has got to be the patron god of Claremont. We've long noted the incredible skill with which Claremonsters of all stripes are able to hold two contradictory ideas in their heads at the same time. It's a talent they constantly use to argue one way when it's convenient for their purposes and then adopt the opposite position when it's not.

A case in point: As we noted on Monday, the City of Claremont has applied for a grant of over $1.6 million from the San Gabriel and Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy (RMC) to help pay for Padua Park in Northeast Claremont.

The first of three phases of the park has gone out for bid, and the city has allocated approximately $2.4 million to the project, whose total cost is estimated by the city to be between $10-12 million. Because of the flaws with the park design, the city has already been turned down for three state park grants worth a total of $3.2 million.

The city's RMC grant is curious because the RMC is a conservancy. It's supposted to save the type of habitat that the city will have to bulldoze when they build the second and third phases of Padua Park. (From what we're hearing from a number of outraged readers, bulldozing seems to be Claremont's mitigation of choice when it comes to native habitats, and the city's stewardship of its open space in a number of areas seems to consist of ripping it out and putting up a plaque to commemorate that which they've destroyed - but that's a story for another post.)

Below we've posted an image of page four of the RMC's updated listed of Tier 1 grant applications. These are projects for which the RMC staff is recommending granting money. Padua Park, which had been a lower priority Tier 2 project, has gotten a bump up to Tier 1 as of the most recent listing:

Click to Enlarge

Notice the difference, though, between the city's intentions for Padua Park and what the RMC staff is recommending. Also note the omission of certain information inconvenient to Claremont's money-grab. Here is the present Padua Park description:
Padua Park is planned to be a 22 acre facility located in the northeastern portion of the City of Claremont. When fully developed the park will feature both active and low impact recreation spaces. This funding request is for Phase 1 which includes the entryway, parking, nature trail with fitness stations, native plantings, restroom and soccer field. Phase 1A and 2 are planned to include an extension of the networked walking trails with fitness core training stations, along with ball fields, tennis courts and play areas.

What the city of Claremont neglected to tell the RMC, however, was the fact that of that 22 acres they're speaking of, 8.9 acres is a certain kind of habitat known as Riversidean Alluvial Fan Sage Scrub - the same stuff the city was arguing needed to be saved from gravel mining by Vulcan Materials on the land adjacent to the Padua Ave. site. No wonder the city had to find a man who had a mail-order Ph.D in theology to be their biology expert for the park's Environmental Impact Report (EIR) - like all city of Claremont endeavors, rationality and reasoned argument went out the window. This one was a faith-based initiative from the beginning.

On top of the city's hypocrisy over the sage scrub, the city also ignores the fact that their own EIR for the park states that the park will drink 86,400 gallons of water every day or 31.5 million gallons a year and at peak times water usage would be up to 50% higher, hardly the portrait of a xeriscape paradise the city painted in their RMC grant application:

From the Padua Avenue Park DEIR, Page 3-10.3
Go to page 169 of the City's online document.

The RMC staff recommendation is to approve Claremont's application for about half the requested amount:
Partial funding recommended ($800,000) of the passive and natural elements. RMC funding for this project includes a portion of RMC funds for restoration of the habitat on site, and a feasibility study of the site should be completed. Also a recommend a commitment from the City to seek funding from appropriate sources to undertake restoration activities.

But if the city goes ahead with its plans for Padua Park, those plans will necessarily include the removal of all of the very on-site habitat the RMC is talking about. How do they make the two square? Right now, the city is going forward only with Phase 1. As soon as they start the next part, Phase 1A, the habitat in question will be removed and replaced almost entirely by an asphalt parking lot and active-use park space with sports field lighting.

So, again we have to wonder if the city is merely using a bait-and-switch tactic with the RMC, promising on the one hand to restore habitat in order to qualify for the grant, then on the other hand proceeding to do the opposite of what RMC suggests once the city receives its money. We have no idea if the RMC's grant conditions are binding, but they sure ought to be given Claremont's history of manipulating or misrepresenting facts to get what it wants.

This one appears to be heating up, and we'll try to keep you up-to-date on the double-speak as it flows out stereoscopically from the two faces of Claremont.

Policing Claremont

The Claremont Police Department will be hosting another DUI checkpoint tonight from 6pm to 2am Saturday morning at an undisclosed location somewhere in town.

The CPD website

The Claremont Police Department will be conducting a DUI/Drivers License checkpoint on Friday, August 29, 2008 from 6 pm until 2 am, at an undisclosed location within the city. In an effort to reduce the number of persons killed and injured in alcohol involved crashes, DUI checkpoints are conducted to identify offenders and get them off the street, as well as educate the public on the dangers of impaired driving. Funding for this operation is provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Claremont doesn't seem to have the sorts of problems with these things that Pomona has had, where there's been a real community debate over how the checkpoints are conducted. On Thursday, August 21st, a Pomona community forum to discuss traffic checkpoint policies turned ugly and resulted some heated words between off-duty police officers and some civilian participants. The Daily Bulletin reported:
POMONA - Hours after off-duty police officers engaged in a shouting match with participants at a community meeting, members of the Pomona Habla/Pomona Speaks coalition began taking steps Friday to file formal complaints against the officers.

Coalition representatives met Friday and decided to file complaints with Police Chief Joe Romero's office and the City Council in addition to seeking an independent investigation of Thursday night's incident, said coalition member Arturo Jimenez.

The coalition will also file complaints at the state level, he said.

"We are going to be filing a complaint with the state Attorney General's Office and calling for his involvement," Jimenez said, adding that various state agencies will also be contacted.

Thursday evening's actions on the part of the officers were out of line, Jimenez said.

"What happened (Thursday) was a horrible intimidation tactic," he said.

* * *

Policing of a different sort may be in order for Claremont parks after yesterday's meeting of the Claremont Community Services Commission Parks and Facilities Committee meeting. The committee yesterday discussed a proposed ordinance to ban smoking in city parks. Daily Bulletin reporter Wes Woods II, who seems to be the new Claremont beat reporter, had an article that laid out the party line on the issue:
Colin Tudor, senior management analyst in the City Manager's Office, said he composed the ordinance after council members and staff had heard concerns from people about second-hand smoke in parks.

"It was not a specific instance," Tudor said. "I think it was more a general concern that had come up."

If the ordinance is approved today, it would go before the Community Services then the City Council at the end of September or early October.

An agenda report from Community Services Director Scott Carroll and Assistant City Manager Tony Ramos said Mayor Ellen Taylor had presented the idea to the commission.

On Wednesday, Taylor said the idea came to her after she attended a spring conference and "I thought, 'Wow.' I thought it was a good idea. I asked our city if we could do it, and they said sure."

Taylor said she was concerned about the health of children from second-hand smoke and people who drop cigarettes that wash into storm drains.

As we've noted before about Mayor Taylor, whose image needs some burnishing, it's all about the kids.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Lost Dog

A Claremont family lost its dog on August 23rd. Deja, an older dog in need of medication was last seen near Indian Hill Blvd. and Mountain Ave.

Information on Deja was listed on Dog Detective and on Missing Pets Network:

Deja is a very sweet 13 yr old spayed Border Collie mix. She's black and white, has a thick coat (somewhat matted), with no tags She may have trouble walking as she suffers from arthritis and needs daily medicine!!!

If you see Deja, try to corral her and call (323) 661-1457.

PFF Shareholder Meeting Set for September

The Daily Bulletin's Matt Wrye reports that PFF Bancorp has set a date for its shareholder meeting to vote on the proposed merger of PFF and FBOC Corp., which also owns Cal National Bank.

Wrye's article, also posted on his blog The Bizz, had the info on the next month's meeting:

PFF Bancorp, the financial parent of PFF Bank & Trust, announced on Wednesday that its shareholder meeting will be held on Sept. 25 at 9:30 a.m. at the company's headquarters on 9337 Milliken Ave.

Votes will be tallied for the proposed merger between PFF and FBOP Corp., an Illinois-based company which owns several banks throughout the country.

If shareholders approve the acquisition, PFF banks will become Cal National Bank institutions.

With its common stock -- along with special series shares that PFF issued to FBOP through an agreement -- FBOP controls 28 percent voting power and will vote "yes" on the merger.

Collectively, PFF's board members and certain executive officers hold almost 3 percent voting power and will also vote "yes" on the merger.

Odds are that the merger will be approved, putting an end 116-year-old PFF as an independent institution. A shareholder class-action suit was settled recently, but PFF still faces a suit by employees who participated in the company's 401(k) and stock-option program and who are claiming to have lost millions of dollars it when the stock went belly-up.

Claremont Resident Tabbed to be Pasadena City Manager

Claremonter Michael Beck has been hired as Pasadena's next City Manager and will begin his new duties on October 1st. The Claremont Courier yesterday had a profile of Beck that noted that Beck has been the Assistant City Manager for Riverside for the past seven years and worked for the University of California, Riverside, before that.

The Courier article explained some some of the similarities and differences between the two cities:

Pasadena and Riverside are both regional job centers with high levels of drive-through traffic and drivers heading into the city for work. Both cities have a strong emphasis on education, arts and historical preservation, he said. And both have 7 council members representing their jurisdictional territories.

But Pasadena is significantly smaller than Riverside, both in size and population. Pasadena is roughly 26 square miles and has a population of about 145,000. Riverside is roughly 86 square miles with a population of 305,000.

Among the perks of being a city manager, Mr. Beck will be driving a city-owned hybrid vehicle. His salary has not yet been determined by the city council; however the previous city manager in Pasadena earned nearly $236,000, according to the city website.

$236,000. It's not Indio money, but it's not bad either.

Downtown Wine Events

Political junkies who love wines can come out tonight to Winestyles on Indian Hill Blvd. in the as-yet-to-be-named new Claremont Village section to watch the Democratic National Convention and to sample of a glass of Winestyles' finest.

A reader forwarded us an announcement for Winestyles Labor Day activities:

Thursday August 28th — “WATCH PARTY” Come enjoy the Democratic National Convention on 55 inches of pure High Definition magic. $5.00 glasses of wine, $5.00 flights , and 15% off all wines and accessories as we kick off our ...


Friday August 29th – Christina Petrie from West Coast Wines will be on hand to sample us on some new offerings. From the RICH Niner Sauvignon Blanc to the BOLD Broadside Cab, this tasting will surely be a hit.

Saturday August 30th – Come enjoy the last of some great SUMMER wines. These wines can be enjoyed year round, but they are extra special during those HOT SUMMER months. From those thirst quenching Sauv Blanc to those mouth watering Rose’s..
201 N. Indian Hill Boulevard
Suite A-100
Claremont, CA 91711
(909) 447-4400

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Gold Line Still in Limbo

The Daily Bulletin interviewed Congressman David Dreier and the discussion turned to the Gold Line Foothill Extension, whose future now depends on the Los Angeles County voters approving a half-cent sales tax increase in November for money to fund transportation projects in the county.

As the article explained the Gold Line Extension lost out on $320 million in federal funds because the LA County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) decided not to provide the funds needed to qualify for the feds' money:

Dreier spoke to the Daily Bulletin editorial board Monday on a variety of issues including the economic slowdown, foreclosure crisis and the fate of the Gold Line extension.

He recently worked with Congress members Hilda Solis, Adam Schiff and Grace Napolitano on a 30-minute Web segment to inform residents how to put pressure on the MTA board regarding the Gold Line issue.

The light rail project, which would connect Pasadena to Montclair and perhaps eventually to the L.A./Ontario International Airport, had the opportunity to receive $320million in federal funding if MTA contributed $80million. But the board decided to wait to see if voters will approve a half-cent sales tax measure this November for transit projects, thereby missing the deadline for federal money.

"We can't give up," Dreier said. "Think of all the relief (the Gold Line extension) can provide. The excitement I hear from people...they say, `My God, if I can park my car and get to downtown L.A. and all these places so easily, that would be wonderful.'"

The Gold Line prospects seem very uncertain at this point, and the MTA refused to guarantee all of the money allocated to extension out of the November sale tax measure. As sometimes happens with these things, other priorities could arise after November that might cause the money to be redirected elsewhere - the Subway to the Sea, for instance.

Raveler Spam

Do these guys ever take a vacation? We got some more Raveler news in our Inbox a couple days ago. Sorry about the late notice if you're a Raveler fan. The band is playing in Chino Hills tonight at 6:30pm. They're also due back at the Claremont Doubletree on September 5th. Here's the whole spam and all the spam:

Hey Now...

Lots of kids, teachers, and school staff are heading back to school this week. The Ravelers want to make sure that your summer just doens't come to a sudden stop, so come out to a great park in Chino Hills this Wednesday.

The Richter scale got some exercise there a couple of weeks ago...let's give it another bump, shall we...

Wednesday, August 27- Chino Hills Concert in the Park!
---Crossroads Park
---Chino Hills Prkwy & Eucalyptus
---Chino Hills, CA
The Ravelers play 6:30 to 8:30pm. Bring your picnic dinner, blanket, family and friends for The Ravelers' last summer park concert of this season.

The Ravelers will be returning to the Doubletree Claremont on Friday, Sept 5 and the LA County Fair on Friday, Sept 19. Both of those events are always a blast, so we hope to see you soon! See The Ravelers' web site for details.

Have fun!

Hai, Pat, Martie, Rob
The Ravelers

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

It's All About the Benjamins

Pomona Mayor Norma Torres (right, in all her weedy splendor), has been awfully quiet since winning the June Democratic primary for the State Assembly's 61st District. Running in a safe Democratic district means that once Torres beat out the other Democrats in the race, she essentially won the November general election as well, so she probably doesn't need to spend much on her November campaign.

And it's a good thing Torres doesn't have to invest much money in beating out her Republican opponent, Wendy Maier. Torres raised $402,673.12 for her campaign between 1/1/2008 and 6/30/2008. But she also spent $393,602.10 winning her primary election. None of the other Democratic candidates who ran against Torres spent more than $20,000.

In contrast to Torres, Anthony Adams, the Republican incumbent in the 59th Assembly District (Claremont's district) raised and spent about $122,000 in the first six months of 2008. Adams, like Torres, is in seat that's safely gerrymandered in favor of Adams' party.

So why so much money for Torres, who hasn't done much other than to be anointed by the 61st District's soon-to-be-retired incumbent, Nell Soto? Well, Torres has worked her way up the local Democratic party chain and is a Democratic super-delegate pledged to Barack Obama. So, Torres' party ties must account for much of the money raised.

And where did that money come from? Well, as we noted previously, some came from the insurance industry, and some came from the waste management and recycling industries. The California Secretary of State's website also listed an interesting $1,000 contribution to the Torres campaign from the Corrections Corporation of America (CCA):

(Click to Enlarge)

CCA is a for-profit prison business based in Nashville, TN, and has come under a lot of criticism for the way it runs its prisons. CCA has been accused of cutting corners excessively to the possible detriment of its employees and prisoners alike. CCA disputes those accusations, but in 2004 a major riot at CCA's Crowley Correctional Facility in Colorado had to be quelled by outside law enforcement officers after CCA's guards were overwhelmed. The PBS show NOW ran a story about the business of private prisons and CCA, which you can see here.

The NOW piece noted that the for-profit prison industry lobbies state governments for harsher prison sentencing and parole guidelines in order to ensure a steady supply of bodies for its prisons. Not necessarily good public policy, that. And, irony of ironies, considering Torres' party affiliation and her (legal) immigrant background, the for-profit prison industry has apparently targeted illegal immigrants as its next great business opportunity.

But, really, $1,000 is probably chump change in the scheme of things in the California State Assembly. Where did the real money flowing into the Torres campaign come from? The largest group of donors were unions, which is hardly surprising since organized labor has long been a major force behind Democratic candidates. Here are the nearly $115,000 in union and union political action committee donations received by the Torres campaign from January through June this year:
  • SEIU UHW PAC - $7,200
  • SEIU UHW PAC - $7,200
  • SEIU LOCAL 721, CTW, CLC STATE & LOCAL - $3,600
  • SEIU LOCAL 721, CTW, CLC STATE & LOCAL - $3,600
  • SEIU LOCAL 121 RN PAC - $3,600
  • SEIU LOCAL 121 RN PAC - $3,600
  • LOCAL 770 UFCW PAC - $1,000

Did you happen to catch that fifth one down, a $3,600 donation from the Service Employees International Union Local 6434? That SEIU local has been on the front page of the Los Angeles Times recently for some highly questionable activities involving money spent by the local and its president, Tyrone Freeman:

The head of California's largest union local has stepped aside in the wake of Times reports that the organization and a related charity paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to firms owned by his wife and mother-in-law.
Tyrone Freeman, president of a Service Employees International Union chapter in Los Angeles, said in a written statement late Wednesday that he was taking a leave of absence and that the local would be placed in a temporary trusteeship.

"In order to ensure that any investigation of the allegations is fair and free from any question of interference or influence, I am taking a leave of absence effective immediately for the duration of the investigation," the statement said. "I believe these steps will allow our union to continue to serve the best interests of our membership during this time."

The statement was released by the Washington, D.C., office of SEIU President Andy Stern, who nurtured Freeman's career as the 160,000-member local grew dramatically in recent years, largely through consolidations.

"These allegations are of serious concern to all of us and we support Mr. Freeman's decision to put the best interests of the members first," Stern spokeswoman Michelle Ringuette said in an e-mail.

In addition to the payments to his relatives' firms, Freeman's local, the United Long-Term Care Workers, spent nearly $300,000 last year on a Four Seasons Resort golf tournament, restaurants such as a Morton's steakhouse, a Beverly Hills cigar club and the William Morris Agency, the Hollywood talent firm, The Times reported earlier this month.

Altogether, the payments to Freeman and the home-based companies operated by his relatives, and to a former union employee totaled more than $1 million in 2006 and 2007, records and interviews show. That includes Freeman's salary and other union compensation. The workers whose dues fill the union's coffers make about $9 an hour caring for the infirm and disabled.

So, SEIU locals (not just Freeman's) representing janitors, healthcare workers, city-level employees, county and state employees, corrections employees, school employees, donated $43,800 to Norma Torres' campaign. Why? Could it have anything to do with maintaining the lifestyles of the rich and famous? A State Assembly vote, especially one from someone who is seen as controllable, might come in pretty handy. Someone's got to pay for those $10,000 bills at the Grand Havana Room in Beverly Hills. Those Cohibas don't come cheap, you know.

And, although we know this is an accepted practice, isn't there something wrong with public employee unions contributing to the campaigns of the very elected officials who appropriate money for those same employees? You can see how a state can get itself into a $15 billion hole pretty quickly that way.

Of course, the Republicans and their donors have the same thing going on. That's why the party of fiscal conservatism has overseen the largest federal budget deficits in our nation's history. That awful sound you hear is the machinery of governance grinding slowly to a halt through the accumulation of all that sand being thrown into the works by the patrons of both major parties.

We suspect that a lot of you might be reaching the same conclusion right about now: A pox on both their houses.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Separated at Birth

Apparently, when one gets elected mayor, one is allowed to use the ceremonial gavel to clobber pushy kids - it's all about the kids, you know.

A reader wrote in with a link to a bit of news about the mayor of Clayton, CA, in Contra Costa County. Clayton Mayor Gregg Manning ran into a couple young girls whom he thought were out of line. That public safety issue raised its ugly head again as Manning tried to straighten out the miscreants. Manning may want to call Claremont Mayor Ellen Taylor for advice on public relations and crisis management.

Small-town Southern California meet small-town Northern Cal:

Saturday, August 23, 2008 7:55 PM
Subject: ellen taylor has a twin
To: Claremont Buzz

A family in Clayton, California grew more zucchini and tomatoes than they could use, so their two little girls -- ages 11 and 3 -- set up a stand on the sidewalk to sell the extras from their backyard vegetable garden. The mayor found out, and sent in the police to bust them for running a "commercial enterprise" in a neighborhood zoned for residential use. Best part: When the family called to talk to the mayor about it, he wouldn't take their call. As he said to the TV station that reported on the whole thing, there's no need to talk to the family, because they chose to "ignore the rules" and got what was coming to them.

Small town mayors are very protective of their sidewalks.

Link: < >

Public Works News

We received this bit of park and trolley news from one of our Insider spotters:

Friday, August 22, 2008 9:32 AM
Subject: Padua Sports Park Friday am
To: Claremont Buzz

Just practicing driving with my teen at 8:30 am on Padua and noticed a lot of contractors arriving and parking w/clipboards for what looked like a pre-construction mtg and "walkabout"... Wednesday on Monte Vista heading north we spotted an unmarked red trolley headed to the Public Works Yard.... Hmmmmmmm It must be nice to be rolling in $$$ like the City of Claremont... Full speed ahead!!!

Yes, you might recall that Claremont didn't have the $10-12 million it needed to build all of Padua Park (originally called Padua Ave. Sports Park), so they've broken it up into phases. Phase IA, which involves one unlit soccer field, some hardscape such as bathrooms, walkways, security and parking lot lights, and a small, 50-plus car parking lot (as opposed to the original 260 spots), has gone out for bid and is supposed to break ground in the fall. Claremont Mayor Ellen Taylor wants the park to be a centerpiece for her reelection bid next March, so it's important that the city get started on it now.

The city has set aside something like $2.4 million to build Phase IB and is trying to secure a grant from the San Gabriel and Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy (RMC) for something like $1.6 million. Another of our readers whose been in contact with the RMC informs us that the city is telling the state conservancy that Padua Park is going to be a passive interpretative park (hence the dropping of "Sports" from the title).

Of course, they're also said publicly, most recently in Saturday's Claremont Courier piece with a quote from recently retired Human Services Director Jeff Porter that they city is looking to complete Phase 1A in order to attract other grant money to build the rest of the park.

From what we're hearing from our readers regarding that RMC grant, it sounds like the Human Services Department might be looking to secure some state money under false pretenses in order to get started on Phase IB of the park, which includes the lit soccer field. They've done this sort of thing at least once before in another state grant application, claiming that Padua Park was needed because the city's Wilderness Park might have had to close for three years because of damage from the 2003 Padua Fire (it was actually closed for just a couple weeks).

Is there a crime of grant writing fraud? If there is, the city's skating pretty close to that line. We'll let you know if they cross it.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Village News

Have we figured out what to call the Claremont "Village Expansion"? When it was still a concept, the city was calling it Village West since it's west of Indian Hill Blvd. and sort of balances out the old Claremont Village on the east side of Indian Hill.

At some point, the name suddenly changed to the Village Expansion. We kinda liked the old name. It sounded a little less bureaucratic, a little less developer-speaky.

The Courier has an online poll to see what readers think is the best name. The leader with 128 votes in is Village West by a landslide. Look for the poll towards the bottom of the Courier's website and vote for yourself. Also, check out the comments.


Meg at M-M-M-My Pomona has a post about a visit to a gastro-pub in Culver City called Father's Office. FO is known for its beer selection and its signature burger, the creation of chef/owner Sang Yoon, whose original FO is on Montana Ave. in Santa Monica.

Meg noticed some strong similarities between the Culver City FO and Claremont's Back Abbey in the Village Whatever:

The CC outpost features three of the four: The beer selection is amazing; the burger was slammin'; the place was so crowded they had a rope and a line at the front door; but the employees were perfectly civil.

But that's not what I'm here to talk about.

No, I'm here to say this: Back Abbey is a complete Father's Office rip-off. Even the LIGHT BULBS are the same, ferchrissakes! From the menu to the beer-tap presentation to the server's shirts, everything is strikingly similar. As for the burger, they are almost identical; it's just that FO's is fresher and cleaner-tasting than BB's. Oh yeah -- it's cheaper, too.
I'd agree with Meg on the pricing over at The Back Abbey. It's one thing to serve great Belgian brews, but it's another to use Belgian Euro pricing. We found at another blogger who noticed a some parallels between FO and The Back Abbey. Steve at Summer of Beer wrote:
The food is what also makes this a destination for those that aren't even beer lovers. They have a simple menu- moules, frites, soups, brats, cheese plates, and probably the most popular item- the Back Abbey Burger (and a couple variations too). Many have said this rivals the famous Father's Office Burger, and I can say it does. They use the same sort of greens and caramelized onions as FO does. It tastes very similar, and is very good (for $13), though I think the cheeses (gruyere and maytag blue cheese) used in the FO burger make it a bit more interesting. The frites are very good, and my sister who went to lunch with me loved the corn chowder.

Steve is right about the corn chowder, which is creamy with all sorts of diced veggies and chunks of thick sliced bacon floating around to give it a rich, smoky flavor. A Leffe and a Back Abbey Burger isn't a bad meal either, even if it is a little pricey.

The Back Abbey may have borrowed or expropriated from FO, it may be more expensive, and and the food may not be that's not quite as good as FO, but to me it has one major advantage. It's here, not in Culver City or Santa Monica. And, it does have the sort of neighborly pub feel you might find in a Belgian town, and Claremont definitely needs more of these types of places.

If you're interested in seeing what FO's all about, I found a video of the original in Santa Monica. It's a foodie show called After Hours with Daniel and features chef Daniel Boulud chumming it up in the kitchen of with FO owner Sang Yoon. The video runs long but is kinda fun if you're into Food Network-type celebrity chef shows. Here it is (sorry about the commercial tag at the beginning):

The Local Sporting Scene


Our apologies for our recent sabbatical. It being August and all, we ended up taking a brief hiatus to recharge our blogging batteries and to enjoy the end of summer. So, we gave the Insider staff some time off to live it up. The weather's been so great, we just needed to pack up and get away to enjoy the ocean breezes and sip fruity drinks from frosty glasses with little umbrellas.

As we try to ease back into the swing of things, in the spirit of the Summer Olympics we thought we'd start off with a couple notes about local sports.


Claremont High School has named as Steve Jackson as the replacement for former head baseball coach Mike Lee, whose coaching contract was not renewed after a contentious last season when Coach Lee clashed with a number of parent of CHS baseball players.

The CHS baseball team's website has the announcement:

The Claremont Unified School District Board of Education, at its meeting on Monday, Aug. 18, voted to approve the recommendation to hire Steve Jackson as new varsity baseball coach at Claremont High School.

Jackson played baseball at Chaffey College and the University of Northern Alabama. He also served as a student-assistant coach at UNA and brings 13 years of experience coaching American Legion and travel ball. Comments received by the school district describe Jackson as someone who has a thorough knowledge of the game and the ability to impart that knowledge and skills to his players. A local varsity high school baseball coach wrote, “In being associated with Steve on and off the baseball diamond, I have found him to be a true professional who possesses a genuine concern and ability to motivate athletes.”

Jackson’s full-time job is working for the City of Montclair Fire Department as a division chief, responsible for the supervision of emergency medical systems and training.

CHS Principal Brett O’Connor commented, “Whenever people talk about Mr. Jackson they talk not only about his baseball knowledge, but also his integrity, leadership and passion. I know Steve has the depth of knowledge to not only mentor young men in the game of baseball but, more importantly, as individuals.”

We've received some emails from CHS baseball parents who indicate that some of them don't approve of Jackson's hiring. Among the issues cited were the fact that Jackson has a son on the team, the fact that Jackson's job with Montclair FD might make it hard to devote enough time to his coaching duties, and that Jackson, who lives in Upland, has ties to other Upland youth baseball players and might encourage them to transfer to CHS.

On the other hand, Sid over at Sid's Side thinks Jackson is a good hire and that CHS baseball parents just need to give him a chance. Sid writes:
I’m simply not going to host another debate that knocks and bashes someone who deserves a fair chance. As I said before, this is a guy who is incredibly talented, bright and fair. That may not be what some people want. I don’t think their complaints are even about him, but, unfortunately, he will be the target. That’s too bad, because those people don’t yet understand how lucky they are. He absolutely will make a positive difference. I know he still needs to prove himself. So let him.


Congratulations are in order for the Claremont Crush under-12 team, which won the Cooperstown All-Star Village tournament in Cooperstown, NY, last week. The Claremont Courier had an article about the team's big win:
With the 24 teams consisting of squads from all across the country, Claremont was given the opportunity to play against unfamiliar competition. But it was just part of the fun for the Crush, who batted .545 for the tournament and mercied 5 of its 10 opponents.

The accomplishment of the 12U team led to the team receiving a 6-foot trophy and each player receiving a championship ring. The 6-foot trophy was an enigma to the players, who found the object to either be almost just as tall or even taller than they were.

The Crush are a travel ball team and practice at Claremont's College Park.


What is it with Claremont and hurdlers? The August 16th edition of the Claremont Courier had a story about Claremonter Richard Holmes, who at 41 won the 110-meter hurdles USA Masters Track & Field Championships.

Holmes, who is originally from Sacramento, competed for Fresno State University's track team as a collegian. The Courier article gave Holmes' backstory:
Relocating to southern California in 1991, Mr. Holmes tried his hand at writing and acting, even interning at Walt Disney Studios. He was featured in commercials and also played a track & field athlete in the movie Higher Learning. Meanwhile, Mr. Holmes still continued to train in hopes of qualifying for the 1992 Olympics.

The hurdler qualified for the B standard in the 110-meter high hurdles of the 1992 Olympics and was training to give the 1996 Olympics a shot when he fractured his hip at the Mt. SAC Relays that same year. Struggling to get his trail leg over the hurdle due to the pain, Mr. Holmes decided to move on from the sport, embracing married life with his wife Sabrina and taking on a sales career.

“I did not lift a weight for 4 years,” Mr. Holmes recalled.

But once his wife was pregnant with Arianna—the couple’s now 9-year-old daughter—the Claremonter decided to start training again in order for his daughter to have the chance to see him compete. He also went to see a sports orthopedist that showed him how to work through the pain and eventually found himself in better shape than he was in before he suffered his injury.

Holmes is Claremont's second hurdler to win honors this year. CHS sophomore Kori Carter won a state championship in the 300-meter hurdles and was fourth in the 110-meter race. Carter also placed second in 400-meter hurdles at the USA Junior Outdoor Track & Field Championships in June.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The Amethyst Initiative: David Oxtoby is On Board

The Amethyst Initiative. It sounds soothing and beautiful and soft and loving. A carelessly tossed necklace on a wooden nightstand in a honey pool of Sunday morning sunshine. Or, as in the screenshot above from, it might be a pair of 30- or 40-something professors sharing a little apr├Ęs-lecture bubbly with a couple of coeds. (Oh. You say they aren't coeds? We say, "Card 'em.")

Actually, it's an effort by college presidents and chancellors to "rethink the drinking age". It began only last month, in July of 2008. If you somehow thought that this sounds like an initiative that Pomona College president David Oxtoby ought to get involved in, since his Alma Mater decision has now been ruled on by the New York Times, you would have thought right. He's already there:

"I support this initiative because it will allow our colleges to engage in real education of our students about responsible use of alcohol, as well as model moderate behavior. At present we are constrained only to talk about abstinence, since anything else is against the law. Treating college students as adults will help them to make more responsible decisions."

~David Oxtoby, Pomona College

He has signed on
with some 113 (as of this writing) other college presidents. At this time, no other 5C president has signed on. Probably the news hasn't made it to the hinterlands.

What has President Oxtoby committed his campus to do, apart from beginning to "engage in real education"?

"...Signing the statement commits you [the college president] to describing, as clearly and fully and compellingly as you can, the place of alcohol in your own campus community [that should be a great convocation]. Signing the statement, finally, commits you to making sure the discussions in which you are engaged, or which you will lead, are civil, informed, and dispassionate [none of those shrieking parents of dead children, killed by a drunk driver], weighing all evidence, excluding no credible participants [always, always keeping control of the guest list], and considering all policy alternatives, no matter how controversial, assuming that, once the discussion has run its course, and all voices have been heard, either policy and reality will be seen to be in alignment or policy will be changed to reflect reality more clearly." [here is the page this paragraph quotes]

It sounds as if the college presidents won't be changing the world on this topic. If their students want to drink, if the reality is a dozen or more per semester carried off to hospital on a gurney, well then let's change policy to reflect reality. Let's define the problem away.

The signers of the Amethyst Initiative believe that amending a provision of federal law relating to highway funds, and lowering the drinking age to 18, will solve their own problems with their students. This is in line with the magical thinking of the fable of Dionysus, Amethyst, and Diana that led to the naming of the initiative:

The word Amethyst is derived from the Ancient Greek words meaning “not intoxicated” (amethustos). According to mythology, Amethyst was a young girl who incurred the wrath of the God Dionysus after he became intoxicated with red wine. Amethyst cried to Goddess Diana for help. Diana immediately turned the girl into a white stone. Upon discovering what had happened Dionysus wept, and, as his tears fell into his goblet, the wine spilled over the white rock, turning it purple.

The purple gemstone amethyst was widely believed to be an antidote to the negative effects of intoxication. In Ancient Greece, drinking vessels and jewelry were often made of amethyst and used during feasts and celebrations to ward off drunkenness and to promote moderation.

Maybe they ought to follow the classical tradition and the suggestion of this 1997 post and just give out amethyst drinking cups to all frosh.

Magical Thinking.

Monday, August 18, 2008

PFF Faces 2nd Lawsuit

Rancho Cucamonga-based PFF Bank settled its shareholder lawsuit last week, potentially easing the way for its planned merger with FBOC, Inc., an Illinois banking concern.

As an article by the Daily Bulletin's Matt Wrye reported, the suit had alleged that PFF executives got rid of their company stock at a time when they knew they faced big losses from problem loans to builders and developers.

Wrye also informs us that PFF workers and retires have filed their own class action suit against the company:

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh- based Stember, Feinstein, Doyle & Payne - in conjunction with an Agoura Hills firm - filed a class-action suit against PFF and executives on Tuesday seeking to recover $80 million for 900 employees and retirees.

It says executives invested workers' 401(k) and stock plans into PFF shares while knowing the company wasn't "accurately recording its financial condition on its books" and disclosing its true condition to the public.

"They knew the company was headed for trouble," said Steven Pincus, attorney at the Pittsburgh law firm.

More lawsuits could be on their way. If those plaintiffs win, it would deliver a devastating blow to a bank already being watched by federal regulators because of liquidity issues.

Wrye's piece also reminds us of how poorly PFF has performed. According to the article, the company has suffered over $240 million in combined losses in the past three quarters and customers have withdrawn $600 million in assets between March and June this year.

As we previously noted, some of the PFF board fared well with stock options before the bank's fall from grace, to the tune of many hundreds of thousands of dollars in profit from stock sales.

Claremont Laemmle Disappoints Art Film Crowd

Fans of foreign and art films have been disappointed by the Laemmle Claremont 5 theatres in the Claremont Village Expansion.

Prior to the Laemmle's opening last summer, cinemaphiles had thought that the new theatre would save them a trip into Los Angeles or Pasadena to see the latest indie film. Most people seemed to understand that a mix of mainstream Hollywood movies and art films would be needed for the Laemmle to attract enough crowds to be successful, and that's pretty much how things went at first.

However, lately the Claremont 5's menu has been much more run-of-the-mill, as Claremont Courier reader Jeanne Audrey Powers complained in a letter last Wednesday:

What is this with the Laemmle Theatre Company these days? This week, as I read the names of each of the films being shown, I realized that every single one of them is ALSO being shown in the nearby megatheatres, and one doesn't even need to go to Pasadena to see them!

Daily Bulletin columnist David Allen wrote about the films the Claremont 5 has screened, and he also interviewed the theatre chain's president Greg Laemmle, who explained the market forces behind the lack of arty fare at the theatres:
Programming art films isn't as simple as people think, Laemmle said.

For one thing, without a breakout hit like "The Queen" or "Brokeback Mountain," the art-film market has been suffering of late. Low-budget movies come and go, not gaining much traction.

Without money or momentum, studios aren't releasing many prints.

That's hurting the Claremont 5 because distributors want their films at Laemmle's main Pasadena location, the Playhouse 7, an art-film hotspot, and aren't making prints available for the Claremont 5, Laemmle said.

To fill the gap, he's booking Hollywood product. He didn't sound thrilled to have played "Mamma Mia!" but defended the Batman sequel as one of the best-reviewed movies of the year. Ditto with "Tropic Thunder."

"We try to play the better Hollywood films. A lot of people want to see those films," Laemmle said.

Another problem with the Claremont 5 is that demand for art films is not as high as in other venues. For example, Laemmle noted that the French movie "Tell No One," which has been one of the best-reviewed films of 2008, only lasted three weeks in Claremont but in other locations drew enough to last more then twice as long.

If you've been to the Claremont 5, you may have noticed the same thing as the moviegoers David Allen interviewed for his column: Unless you go on opening day for some of these films, the theatres aren't very crowded at all. Without an audience to support the art films, you're likely to end up with more mundane choices.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


Rev up that '56 Chevy and come on out for an evening of classic rock and classic cars. The hard-working local band The Ravelers will be at it again tonight in La Verne's Heritage Park at 6:30pm.

We got this bit of Raveler spam with the details:

Hey Now...

The Ravelers love performing for city sponsored concerts and vintage car shows!

This Sunday, the two are combined into one fun summer evening in La Verne...

Sunday, August 17- La Verne Concert and 6th Annual Vintage Car Display in the Park!
---Heritage Park
---5001 Via De Mansion (at Wheeler)
---La Verne, CA 91750
The Ravelers play at 6:30 pm

Our pals Trinity Sound Company will be providing a killer sound system as usual.

A beautiful summer evening, a vintage car display, musical fun with The Ravelers...if you bring some friends & family, a blanket and a picnic dinner...we can't think of a better way to spend a few hours of relaxing enjoyment!

See you Sunday in La Verne!

Hai, Pat, Martie, Rob
The Ravelers

Heritage Park is located a block a north of Base Line Rd. on the east side of Wheeler Ave.

LA County Fair Opens September 5th

Hankering for your favorite fried food on a stick? Your chance to get a year's supply of trans fat in one sitting is coming soon!

The 2008 LA County Fair opens 11am Friday, September 5th, at the Pomona Fairplex. Here's a rundown of general info from the Fair's website:

General Information

September 5-28, 2008 – Closed Mondays and Tuesdays (18 days and nights)
September 5-22, 2008 – Live thoroughbred horse racing-closed Tuesdays only (16 days)


Wednesday: 11 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Thursday: 11 a.m. - 11 p.m.
Friday: 11 a.m. - midnight
Saturday: 10 a.m. - midnight
Sunday: 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.

Opening Week thru Sept. 28, 2008

Wed. - Sun. (Sept. 3 thru 28)
Closed Mon. and Tues. (Open Tues. Sept. 2)


Ages 13+ (Weekends) $17
Ages 13+ (Weekdays) $12
Ages 6 -12 (Weekends) $12
Ages 6 -12 (Weekdays) $7
Ages 5 and younger (every day)Free

Ages 60+ (weekends) $14
Ages 60+ (weekdays) $9
Ages 60+ Senior Wednesdays $6

Group Sales, ages 13+ (20 or more adults) $10
Group Sales, ages 6-12 (20 or more) $6
Group Sales, ages 60+ (20 or more) $5

Season Pass
Ages 13+ (Season Pass) $50
Ages 6-12 (Season Pass)$24

Opening Day admission, Fri., Sept. 5 $1
($1 admission 11 a.m.-5 p.m.)

Opening Day admission 5 p.m.-midnight

Ages 13+ $12

Opening Day admission 5 p.m.-midnight
Ages 6-12 $7

$5 after 5 p.m. (Wednesdays & Thursdays)$5

College Thursdays (students w/valid ID) $5

RaceFan ClubCard (each, 2 admission tickets per day)$8


General $10
Preferred $15
Red Lot $20
Hotel Valet $25

The Fair also hosts Community Days for different area cities. Here's a sampling:

  • Friday, September 5 - Pomona Day
  • Wednesday, September 10 - Chino Day, Montclair Day, Ontario Day, Upland Day
  • Friday, September 12 - San Dimas Day
  • Wednesday, September 17 - Glendora Day
  • Thursday, September 18 - Claremont Day
  • Wednesday, September 24 - La Verne Day

    The Fair is offering discount tickets for your city’s Day at the Fair, which will be available at City Hall or your local Chamber of Commerce. For more information, contact Community & Government Relations Coordinator Brandy Williams at (909) 865-4648 or via email at We’ll see you at the Fair!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Be Careful Whom You Honor

Last week we touched briefly on the Courier letter from Janis Weinberger, Muriel Farritor, and Kay Moore, questioning the city staff planning for removal of senior programs from Joslyn Center, at the corner of Harrison and Mountain, to Hughes Center, in the nethermost reaches of northwest Claremont.

Most readers will recognize Ms. Weinberger as a co-owner of the Courier, wife of long-time Courier editor Martin Weinberger, and local advocate for seniors. In fact, in 2003, the City named a newly completed wing on the Joslyn Center after Ms. Weinberger: the Janis McMaken Weinberger Wing.

So it's more than a little curious to see her as lead author on an August 6th Courier letter questioning the City decision-making on the senior center. Seems the City got a little ahead of itself and had workmen removing the sign, Joslyn Senior Center, even while the Committee on Aging was holding a meeting nearby, not having been informed of this decision.

Welcome to our Claremont, Ms. Weinberger, the Town of the Fait Accompli.

The City hurriedly posted a "fact" sheet on August 7th. [the scare quotes are on purpose; City "facts" are not at all like real facts] For your convenience, we provide a translated version below. Our translations are in red.

We guess the lesson here is that the City ought to honor people only after they are safely deceased, and can no longer readily rally public sentiment.

click on pages to enlarge

Friday, August 15, 2008

IE Weekly Writer Reacts

Boy, that David Silva over at the Inland Empire Weekly really doesn't like us, does he?

The Inland Empire Weekly writer has a response to our comments about his cover story in his paper's August 7-13 issue titled, "Anonymity Sucks: What Really Happened With The Claremont Cookie Monster."

In this week's IE Weekly, Silva has a lengthy clarification on page 5 entitled, "Claremont Blog Still Howling Like a Wounded Dog." The web version is accompanied by a graphic we really like showing a keyboard and a monitor dressed up with a Groucho Marx nose, eyebrows, moustache, and funny glasses. In the piece, Silva brings it right to us:

....My article wasn’t really about “the fight” between Taylor and the Scouts—wouldn’t you agree, Buzz? The notion of Taylor being engaged in a fight with Girl Scouts is your construct, not mine. No, my article was about how the L.A. Times missed the real story behind the Scout issue. And that the real story was how you, Claremont Buzz of the Claremont Insider, seized upon a brief, minor dispute between your arch-nemesis and a group of young girls and shamelessly exploited it to serve your own ends. Isn’t that closer to the truth, Buzz?

Well, we suppose. We must be really dense. We're certainly not professionals, as Silva happily points out. We really don't know how we could have been so stupid as to get the idea that the article was about Claremont Mayor Ellen Taylor and a local Girl Scout troop - unless it was from Silva's original email to us:
Wednesday, July 30, 2008 11:11 AM
Subject: Request for interview
From:"David Silva"
To: Claremont Buzz

Dear Claremont Buzz:

I'm a writer with the Inland Empire Weekly newspaper, working on an article on the recent controversy over then-Claremont Deputy Mayor Ellen Taylor's encounter in March with a troop of local Girl Scouts. Would you be available for an interview, via email exchange, on this subject?

The Inland Empire Weekly, a subsidiary of Southland Publishing Co., is an alternative newspaper based in Corona. This article is scheduled to run as a cover news story in the Weekly.

I look forward to hearing from you,

David Silva
Editorial Contributor
Inland Empire Weekly

So, being the dense amateurs we are, we took Silva's email at face value and assumed he really wanted to know about what he said was the subject of his article. We wrote back, telling him to fire away.

Silva sent back six compound questions, one on Ellen Taylor, two generally on the solicitation ordinance, one on the the issue of our anonymity, one on our handling of the girl scout incident, and another on the general subject of our opinion of restrictions on cookie sales. We answered by focusing on what he had told us was his interest.

At no point in either of the emails from Silva did he refer to the Los Angeles Times, the article, its accuracy, or its author David Pierson.

Ever helpful, and because we believe context is important, we also suggested he contextualize the girl scout encounter--his stated topic--by examining some past incidents in town, including the very public, divisive, and well-documented Claremont municipal election of 2005, which involved a number of Taylor supporters, as well as a couple incidents involving Taylor and her neighbors.

But, since Silva's story wasn't really what he told us, there was no need for him to try to understand the Girl Scout incident, to place it in context, or to be objective about it. So, he just discarded most of our responses to his questions. Silva instead focused on the reporting mistakes LA Times writer Pierson made (already covered by us on July 19) and railed more than a bit against against the Insider.

He concludes his clarification by berating us for taking the long way--in two separate posts--to make what he conceded to be a valid point. We'll take a lesson from a pro and conclude the same way.

Silva seems to have started out with an a priori opinion about anonymity and certain bloggers, and he stuck closely to it. Our only question is, why not save the 2,541 words in the first article and the 960 words in follow-up and just run the very last sentence of his latest piece? That seems to be have been Silva's point in the first place: "Your blog is still crap, though."

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Catch the Fever!

Atascadero City Manager Wade McKinney and Indio City Manager Glenn Southard pose for the April, 2008, edition of the City Manager Newsletter, a publication of Trackdown Management and Jack Simpson. All three, McKinney, Southard, and Simpson, are on the board of the California City Management Foundation, which Southard helped found.

We've been writing this past week about the situation in Indio where a portion of the city's utility tax has reportedly gone uncollected from nearly 8,000 homes and 650 businesses. Our fascination with the story has less to do with the fact that former Claremont City Manager Glenn Southard in now ensconced in that desert down and much more to do with the opportunity to view the story as a case study in crisis management by Southard.

Southard would like to have the public believe the under collection of the 23-year-old Indio utility tax preceded his administration by decades. But has anyone bothered to look at how many of those 8,000 homes and 650 businesses were constructed in the past three years during Indio's great real estate boom? Indio's population, according to U.S. Census estimates, went from 49,116 in 2000 to 76,896 - a better-than-50% increase.

So if the taxes that weren't collected came as newly constructed properties, and if many or most of those new properties were built during the Southard years in Indio, then he would have to bear a much greater share of the blame than he's been willing to up to this point.

We also suspect that Southard will do his best to slip any blame at all for the mess, which likely runs into the millions of uncollected tax dollars. As we've noted, Southard survived a number of crises in Claremont by effectively controlling the public message - defining the story himself; by using his ability to charm councilmembers into supporting his actions even at the cost of their council seats; and by marshaling the power of city employee unions to get involved politically to exert pressure on councils (see the Preserve Claremont campaign of 2005).

Spinning the public and the press is certainly not a new phenomena. It's really not much different than a medieval king having his favorite scribe write a chronicle of the monarch's most recent war of conquest.

We've seen it go on here in Claremont as well. The recent Cookie Monster flap with Claremont Mayor Ellen Taylor is a good example with Taylor trying to counter the negative attention she received by portraying herself as being concerned about the safety of the girls involved.

These things are scalable, from the local level to the highest international circles. In a lot of ways, the current Beijing Olympics is a massive PR campaign by China, complete with lip-syncing and digitally-enhanced fireworks.

And that's not all:

Chinese Officials: Deadly Virus Sweeping China Is Just Olympic Fever

DUI Checkpoint This Weekend

There must be a lot of drunks driving around Claremont. Either that or a lot of drunk state or federal grant agency bureaucrats doling out money for DUI checkpoints.

The city is conducting yet another of these things this weekend, beginning Friday, August 15th, at 6pm and ending at 2am Saturday morning. The checkpoint will be set up by the Claremont Police Department at an undisclosed location.

You fugitive felons should also think twice about driving through town, too. The city will probably have its digital fingerprint gadget handy to ID you if happen through the checkpoint.