Claremont Insider: January 2009

Saturday, January 31, 2009

$3.5 Million Budget Shortfall Handcuffs City

The Claremont City Council is having a special session meeting today that is open to the public. The meeting runs from 8am to noon in the Padua Room of the Alexander Hughes Community Center. The Hughes Center is located at 1700 Danbury Rd., just south of Scripps Rd. between Towne and Mountain Aves.

If you don't have anything better to do, or even if you do, you may want to get out to the meeting. The City Council will be discussing the worst financial situation it has faced since the early 1990's. The City is breaking the bad budget news it has quietly alluded to recently. According to the staff report for the meeting, the City of Claremont is facing a $3.5 million combined budget short fall for rest of this fiscal year and for FY 2009-10 - that's roughly 17 months.

The shortfall breaks down this way: $1.5 million for FY 2008-2009, the budget year ending June 30, 2009, and $2 million for FY 2009-10. We're not sure if these numbers include things like a possible June increase in the City's payments into its CalPERS employee pension account by up to a third of current payments, and there are numerous other variables: the housing market, the unemployment rate, the economy and the continued sales tax slump.

The staff report gives an analysis of the problem:

The City of Claremont is feeling the impacts of the current economic situation across the country and the world. While the City has been fortunate to not suffer as severely from the foreclosure crisis as some of our neighbors, nevertheless, Claremont's other key revenue sources are down. Automobile and other sales are down Transient Occupancy Tax paid by visitors staying at our hotels are down, and development has all but stopped.

The report gives a table showing the projected 2008-09 revenue shortfalls:

Click to Enlarge

And here are the revenue shortfall figures for FY 2009-10:

Click to Enlarge

In addition to the decrease in revenues, the remainder of the projected deficits will come from anticipated increases in operational expenses.

To address the shortfall, Claremont City Manager Jeff Parker has come up with a proposed plan to take $1,011,000 in "onetime unanticipated revenue" (money from grants and fees that the city received but did not budget for) and apply those towards the FY 2008-09 deficit.

The remainder of the deficit reduction for 2008-09 and 2009-10 will come from across-the-board departmental reductions, including reductions in employee benefits, which Parker and his senior staff have been negotiating with the employee unions.

Parker is asking the City Council to approve his recommendations for adjusting the 2008-09 budget, to receive and file Parker's draft 2009-10 budget plan, and to direct Parker to come back to the Council with a final 2009-10 plan on February 24th.

We should note that $2.2 million of the total deficit - about one-third - comes from the city's (primarily Mayor Ellen Taylor's) refusal to put off construction of the Padua Ave. Park until the fiscal crisis passes. Also, the downtown trolley represents a diversion of $1.2 million in funds that might have otherwise been used for traffic related projects like road repair and maintenance.

But Taylor and others see things like the park and the trolley one portion of their legacy to Claremont. The deficit, which may turn out to be larger than projected if the economy does not improve soon, will be the other.

Below is the staff report for today's special budget meeting. Click on the box in the upper right corner of the window to view a full-screen version of the document.
1 31 09 City Budget Report

Friday, January 30, 2009

Friday Crime Report

It's a truly odd day in Claremont. We received a couple emails on a possible police shooting in the Claremont Village. This was the first note we received:

DATE: Friday, January 30, 2009 10:07 AM
SUBJECT: Police shooting in Claremont this morning
TO: Claremont Buzz

My wife called me this morning saying the Police shot someone around 8th and Yale. I called the police, but they would only confirm there was a shooting.
Another writer indicated that a call to the police department yielded the same information and that the person answering at the department's phone would only refer the caller to the watch commander. The caller reported that the person on the phone at the Claremont PD would only say they were not allowed to comment and that "it was not newsworthy."

In other apparently unrelated news, the CPD website posted a news release this afternoon about an apparent homicide in a residence on the 700 block of W. Arrow Hwy. This is what the CPD release said:

Possible Homicide

On Friday January 30, 2009 at about 11:15 a.m., officers responded to a residence in the 700 block W. Arrow Hwy. to check on the welfare of the resident after the resident's employer reported that he did not show up for work. Responding officers found inside the residence a deceased male adult, possibly the resident, who appears to be in his 50's or 60's; identification is pending. The cause of death is not yet determined, but does not appear to be natural, accidental, or self inflicted. Further details regarding the possible cause of death will remain undisclosed until further investigation can be conducted.

City Money Matters

In case you were wondering about Tuesday night's Claremont City Council meeting, there were a few items of interest:


The Council voted unanimously to do away with the option for Councilmembers to take the unused portion of their health benefits and put it into a deferred compensation account. At last report, Councilmember Peter Yao and Mayor Ellen Taylor were the only two of the five Councilmembers receiving the health benefits, and Taylor was the only one putting the money into the deferred compensation plan.


The Council voted 4-1 against financing another million dollars through general obligation bonds to repay the city's General Fund reserve for money the City used to help buy Johnson's Pasture. That $1 million was needed after the state pulled promised grant money because of what the state felt was faulty language in the deed for the property.

Councilmember Linda Elderkin (pictured, left) was the person who pushed this agenda item, citing her worries about the city's future financial situation and the need to have that extra million in reserve. Councilmember Yao, however, pointed out that the financing fees for the bonds Elderkin was proposing amounted to $75,000. As Yao rightly asked, would you pay 7.5% in financing fees on a home loan? Additionally, the city would have been facing much higher interest rate payments on those bonds than they did when they bought the Pasture in 2007 because of the deterioration in the municipal bond market.Even Councilmember

Sam Pedroza seemed to understand that the ride on the bonded debt gravy train is over for now, especially if the city plans on asking voters in the future for $25 million or more in bonds for a police station. Pedroza said, "I get accused of saying, 'I never met a tax I didn't like.' It [Elderkin's bond proposal] looks enticing. The cookie jar's right there." And yet, in the end Pedroza voted against going for the $1 million bond.

After the vote, Councilmember Elderkin warned, "Wait until we've gotten to where there's no money left in the General Fund. Remember your vote." Perhaps Elderkin and the others, instead of looking to find more money, might try living within their means for a change. If they and past councils had done so in the first place, they wouldn't be in such dire fiscal straits now.


The other issue of the day was the request by the Claremont Community Foundation - the Claremont 400's charity arm - to use the Claremont Trolley for a fundraiser. The CCF wants to use the Trolley to bus people around to different historical sites in town. They plan on doing two of these tours with about 20 people per tour.

CCF Executive Director Nickie Cleaves (pictured, right) was on hand at the Council meeting Tuesday to lobby for the proposal. Cleaves said there was extra urgency because the CCF booklet advertising the event in question was at the printer's, and the event was listed in the copy.

This was a real tactical error by Cleaves and the 400, by the way. It illustrates perfectly how official Claremont decisions are supposed to work: an event gets dreamed up by former Mayor Judy Wright and is supposed to be approved without any real discussion by the Council. It's just assumed that the item will automatically pass. So much for the public process. It shows how the 400 will intentionally create a false sense of urgency to get their way: "The brochure is at the printer's. It's too late to make a change. We must pass this. If you don't vote for this important charity event, you are a heartless monster."

Two problems arose. The first, mentioned by Councilmember Yao, was the lack of any procedure for giving city resources over to private organizations. For all her talk about caring about "the process," Councilmember Elderkin, who supported lending out the trolley, conveniently ignored the fact that there was NO process at all in place here. It was completely arbitrary, which is how even things with set processes can go in Claremont anyway.

The second objection was the fact that because the trolley is garaged in a city facility funded with Federal Transit Authority grant money, the city risked getting that penalized for lending out the trolley for a private function. Apparently, federal policies restrict how municipal resources linked to federal transit funds can be used. Councilmember Corey Calaycay, who is Claremont's representative to the Foothill Transit Authority, raised this concern, citing the example of a project in Sierra Madre where similar concerns arose.

Oddly, the councilmembers (Taylor, Elderkin, and Pedroza) in favor of lending out the trolley were unconcerned with the possibility of getting penalized by the federal government. Because of the false urgency the CCF's Nickie Cleaves stirred up, the Councilmembers who favored the event did not even want to wait a week or two for an opinion from an attorney familiar with the laws governing federal transit funds (City Attorney Sonia Carvalho wisely acknowledged she didn't know enough about the subject).

In his tongue-tied way, Councilmember Pedroza (pictured, left) expressed his unconditional love for the proposal: "I feel it's a shame that we dwarf [sic] this because of a technicality." To which Mayor Taylor added with a scowl, "Say petty technicality."

Incidentally, where was the League of Women Voters on this issue? They send observers to every Council meeting, yet they will be inevitably silent on this issue. If it didn't involve the CCF, whose own governing board includes at least one League member, the LWV would have been up in arms about the lack of process and the potential risk of federal violations.

In any case, the item was approved on a 3-2 vote with Yao and Calaycay dissenting. It was unclear whether or not the vote was contingent upon the City getting a legal opinion on the issue of the federal transit funds.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Crime News

Will Bigham at the Daily Bulletin reports that charges were filed Monday against the two men accused of breaking into a home on the 700 block of 10th St. in Claremont and beating the homeowner:

Robert LaMonte Jones, 20, and Messigh Liketin Perry-Garner, 16, were both charged Monday with attempted murder and first-degree residential robbery.

The two Pomona men appeared in Pomona Superior Court Monday for an arraignment hearing, but they did not enter pleas. The hearing was postponed to Feb. 10.

The morning of Jan. 20, Jones and Perry-Garner broke into a home in the 700 block of West 10th Street, according to a Claremont police news release.

During the course of the robbery, the homeowner, Vincent J. Gottuso, returned home.

He confronted the two men and was repeatedly beaten in the head with his own shotgun, according to information from police and prosecutors.

Bigham also reported that a third man, Kenyatta Harris, was charged with receiving stolen property in connection with the burglary.

As we noted a couple days ago, Gottuso, who had to be airlifted because of his life-threatening injuries, was released from the hospital and is back home convalescing.

Next Tuesday at Hip Kitty

Nina Beck, the jazz pianist and vocalist who played at Claremont's Hip Kitty a year ago will be back in town next Tuesday. Beck is appearing at the Hip Kitty once again, beginning at 7pm.

Beck sent us some information on her upcoming appearance:

Hi there, friends, colleagues and music fans! -

It would be great if you could come! Hip Kitty Jazz & Fondue is at 502 W. 1st Street, Claremont; (909) 447-6700. Just north of Arrow Hwy., just west of Indian Hill Bl. (exit n. off 10 Fwy.); free parking in the structure. Web site: (have a look!).

DATE/TIME: Tuesday, Feb. 3rd, 7 PM to 10:30 PM

New songs in my repertoire that I'll sing and play include "Misty," "I'm Old Fashioned," and even a non-jazz ballad, "I Can't Help Falling in Love With You." A few newer originals will also be featured.

This unique jewel of a club, in a charming part of town, is so spacious and inviting! Enjoy a drink and a tasty fondue or soup or salad, in a fabulous and friendly atmosphere. Two drink minimum; no cover.

THANKS, take care all, and hope to see you. Musicians (except drummers, alas - no drum set on hand!) and singers are welcome to sit in!!


Nina Beck, Jazz Pianist & Vocalise

Hip Kitty is located in the Claremont Packing House at 502 W. First St. Call (909) 447-6700 for information.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Second Story Books to Close

Wes Woods II at his Claremont Now blog reports that Second Story Books is going out of business. Second Story opened at the end of November, 2007, taking over from Claremont Books & Print, which had been there for over 20 years.

Woods tells us that Second Story is selling off its inventory at 50-75% off. Woods writes:

There are more than 10,000 second hand and antiquarian books of all genres and types.

The store is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesdays through Saturdays at 128 Yale Ave. upstairs in the Claremont Village and above Aruffo's Italian Restaurant.

Information: 909-624-0757

Back in November, 2007, Brenda Bollinger had an article in The Claremont Courier about Second Story and its owners, Kyle Hernandez, Stephanie McIlwain, and Laura Hernandez. We're sorry to see them go, and wish them all the best.

Second Story's closing leaves the Village without a bookseller, other than Huntley Bookstore at the Claremont Colleges and the small used book store the Claremont Forum has in the Claremont Packing House.

Candidate Forum Ratings

We received an email report on Monday night's League of Women Voters candidate forum from one of our field correspondents. The writer thought all the candidates were quality people and rated their performances. The correspondent also had some thoughts on the composition of the audience:

DATE: Tuesday, January 27, 2009 10:39 AM
SUBJECT: Hughes Center - Candidate Forum
FROM: Claremont Buzz

I attended the candidate forum at the Alexander Hughes Center last night and was happy to see many Claremont residents. With no favorite candidate(s), I was there with an open mind to see what they Corey [Calaycay], Bridget [Healy] and Larry [Schroeder] had to say. I was impressed by all of them, and feel we are lucky to have quality people running for the open seats. I felt that Corey came out on top, with Larry 2nd and Bridget 3rd. Nothing really was brought up about So. California Water and their need to continue to pursue hefty increases to the PUC [Public Utilities Commission].

I was also struck by the age of the attendees. Kudos to our senior residents for taking the time and making the effort to get out and hear – they were well represented. Looking around I was wondering if ID’s were checked at the door, since no one under 60 seemed to be in the room (other than the candidates). Seriously, I saw one college aged attendee, a couple of people in their 50’s and an overwhelming majority being in their 70’s and 80’s. Aren’t there Claremont residents that are still working that might be interested in who’s leading the city at this critical economic time?

A Concerned Claremont Citizen

We weren't there, but we imagine the scene was probably pretty much like many a past candidate forum from years gone by, except that the crowd is a little grayer, a little less perambulatory than it was the last time around in 2005.

Claremont is a graying population, after all, as our comments regarding The Claremont View a couple months ago suggested. As new people move in, they don't necessarily participate in the local politics as much as the people they replace. That is one unintended consequence of the Claremont 400's insularity. It tends to drive away people not invested in supporting the in-group. If the last U. S. presidential election taught us anything, it's the value of the politics of addition, something sorely lacking among the clique running our City Hall.

For the same reason, the League of Women Voters itself is a graying group. Their lack of real outreach is hurting them, and it also moves them farther and farther out-of-touch from the younger community at large, the community not represented (or at least underrepresented) by the Ellen Taylors, Helaine Goldwaters, Sharon Hightowers, Judy Wrights, and Barbara Musselmans of the town.

We'd like to see a younger demographic get involved in the issues our community faces, especially since they and their progeny will be paying for a lot of it, but most of our 20-, 30-, and 40-somethings have got things like starting careers to think or raising families to think about. They enjoy the good things in town, like the restaurants and shops, the college-town atmosphere, or the tree-lined streets; and they don't see the bad until they bump up against it when the City wants a freeway offramp dumping traffic onto their street or shoves an accident magnet of a roundabout into their favorite downtown intersection.

Also, there just may not be that many of them in the first place. But, perhaps the drop in housing prices will bring some affordability back to the local real estate market and encourage more young families to move into our town. Revitalization spurred by recession: just another unintended consequence, we suppose. This must be the so-called "creative destruction" we've heard about.

Ludacris Reviewed

Wes Woods II had a write up of last Friday's Ludacris performance at Bridges Auditorium. Woods article appeared in the Daily Bulletin and was reprinted in the Bulletin's sister paper, The Contra Costa Times:

Ludacris, whose real name is Christopher Bridges, featured a long horn intro and thundering bass drops of "Last of A Dying Breed" off his latest album "Theater of the Mind" on his opening song.

One of his lines on the song spoke well to the audience "... hip-hop couldn't die I never offer my condolence/but I offer ya'll a day of atonement ..." while the audience roared in approval.

Ludacris, who sprinkled his uncensored lyrical set with references to Claremont in lyrics and shoutouts, walked the stage back and forth constantly and slapped hands with some of the audience members.

While the stage backdrop was a simple black background, the stage itself was lit in different colors like pink, blue and purple from the overhead lights during the performance.

Besides the actual performance, Woods had some observations from the crowd on the heavy police and security presence at the concert and also about the heat. It was literally a hot concert, said Woods.

Woods also blogged about the event with some additional notes on his Claremont Now blog.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

City Council Meets Tonight - More Trolley Folly

The Claremont City Council meets again today for another of their secret, closed session meetings, beginning at 4:30pm at City Hall.

According to the closed session agenda, there are two topics on the Council's plate:

  • A report on labor negotiations from City Manager Jeff Parker, Assistant City Manager Tony Ramos, and City Personnel Manager Shawna Urban.

  • A report on ongoing litigation: L.A. County Civil Court case #BS 117971, Protect Our Neighborhoods v. City of Claremont.

The Council will convene in its regular session at 6:30pm in the Council Chambers at 225 W. 2nd St. The regular session agenda's fairly light, but we did note a few items of interest:
  • The Council will consider doing away with the deferred compensation option for Councilmembers. Councilmembers are currently eligible for city health benefits. If they do not use those benefits, they can take that money ($914 per month) and put it into a deferred compensation account that's pretty much the same as a 401(k). It amounts to $10,968 a year, or nearly $44,000 for a four-year council term.

    The city will keep the health benefits option for Councilmembers who choose to take it. Peter Yao is the only person receiving the city-paid healthcare. The only person among the five councilmembers taking the deferred comp is Mayor Ellen Taylor, who certainly does not need the money.

  • Johnson's Pasture is back in the news. You might recall that extra $1 million the City had to pay out of its General Fund reserve because some incorrect wording in the deed resulted in the state pulling a million-dollar grant. Now, the Council is going to consider floating additional bonds to reimburse itself the reserve money they had to spend.

    The Council has the discretion to issue more bonds if they choose, but we question the wisdom of doing so at this time. The money's already been paid out. Financing that $1 million just adds the expense of interest that will have to be paid out on the bonds, so we'd really just be penalizing future generations for the staff's mistake.

    Also, according to the staff report for this item, the interest the city would have to pay would be 1.06% higher than for the bonds they originally issued. This is because the market for California municipal bonds has declined greatly in the past year.

    All in all, not a good idea. It's a bit like refinancing your home's equity. It's just going to end up costing you more in financing charges in the end. The fact that staff made no recommendation in their report indicates no one on that end thinks this sort of unnecessary refinancing makes for good policy.

    Whose idea was it, anyway?

  • The Council will also be asked to donate the use of the Claremont Trolley for a March 22nd fundraiser for the Claremont Community Foundation.

    One hardly knows where to start here. The trolley, which you can see making its slow, lonely circuit through the Claremont Village Thursdays through Saturdays, was a waste of $1.2 million that nearly anyone with a brain said would be a failure. (That is, everyone except former mayor Judy Wright and friends, who deemed this project essential to the welfare of our downtown businesses.)

    The person making the request for this private use of the publicly-funded trolley is none other than Judy Wright herself, through the Claremont Community Foundation. So, the Council will of course acquiesce to Judy's wishes and will give the trolley over to her for a day. Under Judy's proposal, the Trolley will be used in two two-hour Claremont Heritage-led tours of historic sites throughout the city.

    In a way it makes sense, repackaging the trolley from a transportation conveyance to a sightseeing one. The money raised would go a charity, and it would probably be a lot of fun. However, there's one problem: the trolley is funded by public transportation grants. The city was verging on fraud in the first place by using those funds for what they called an economic development project (the trolley was supposed to help create more foot traffic for downtown businesses).

    Now they're going even further and removing any pretense of a transportation-related mission for the poor trolley. Simply put, the City and Judy are taking public funds from outside agencies and shifting them to a private use. No matter how well-intended the cause, this sort of transfer of public money is wrong ethically because it puts the city in the position of choosing between good causes: you get the use of the resource, you don't. Also, it may wrong before the law as well because certain transporation grants specify that the money must have strictly public uses. That's why you don't see LA County MTA buses being used for things like American Cancer Society fundraisers, even if the buses are surplus ones sitting in a maintenance yard.

    The staff report also notes that the city has no policy for lending out the trolley for such an event. Does this mean that any group - the Girl Scouts, say - could request the use of the trolley on one of its off days? The Insider is planning a group outing to Disneyland. Can we take the trolley for a spin?

    The staff seems to see the lack of a policy as a clear problem. They pretty much say in their recommendation that the Council should approve this use before they set a policy in place for trolley use by outside groups.

    You can easily see why California is in a $41 billion hole. Imagine Claremont's and Judy's follies repeated across the state on every type of grant. Money intended for one use ends up funneled into other, unrelated things. It amounts to the worst sort of fraud. The City really ought to just pull the plug on the trolley and either give the transportation grant money back or use it for what it was intended: fixing potholes and repaving streets.

BELOW: Claremont Community Foundation
Executive Director Nickie Cleaves
asks the
Claremont City Council if her friend Judy can have the keys to the trolley.

(Click to Enlarge)

CUSD Board President to Step Down

Wes Woods II reported in the Daily Bulletin last week that Claremont Unified School District Board President Jeanne Hamilton will not run for a third term in November.

According to Wood's article, Hamilton said, "Eight years is enough." Woods also described Hamilton's background and the board's accomplishments during Hamilton's two terms:

Besides her vice president role at Citrus, Hamilton has also served in administrative and faculty positions at Chaffey and Fullerton colleges.

She received a bachelor's degree from Baylor University, a master of science in social work from the University of Louisville and a doctorate from Claremont Graduate University.

Hamilton has served as chairwoman of the Facilities Advisory Committee and also co-chaired the 2000 Measure Y School Bond campaign for the Claremont Unified School District which was passed.

"Many of those projects got completed," Hamilton said of the bond. "The district is in much better shape physically than eight years ago."

But a regret for Hamilton is she wished all of the projects associated with the bond would have been completed but an increase in costs stopped some of the work.

Hamilton added she was proud of a renewed focus on nutrition and exercise for district children and "the thing I'm most proud of is the academic achievements."

California test scores for all district students have improved, she said, and other achievements have included enriched curriculums, the Advancement Via Individual Determination support program and an International Baccalaureate program that is getting approval, Hamilton said.

"But no one person accomplishes it. The board accomplishes it as a whole," Hamilton said.

Hamilton became a board member in November 2001. She was president from in 2003-04 and 2007-08.

The Measure Y money is a sore point among many in the community. The bond, which was passed primarily with campaign donations from school district contractors, was bound to get misspent, and it was. There were just too many favors to be called in by those generous donors. Constructions costs went up, yes, but you have to wonder if there weren't some price increases built into contracts to recoup campaign outlays.

* * *

No word yet on whether or not CUSD Board member and clerk Steven Llanusa will run for a second term. You might recall that last year Llanusa ran afoul of CUSD Superintendent David Cash and the rest of CUSD Board. The dispute resulted in Cash and the Board instituting a new censure policy aimed directly at Llanusa.

The matter continued on to the end of the year, and at a December 18th meeting, the CUSD Board voted to extend a protocol governing email contact between Llanusa and Cash. Llanusa responded with a letter to the Claremont Courier on January 10th that said, in part:
Last February the meeting script prepared by Dr. Cash stated one of the reasons for the protocol was "to retain the Superintendent." During other difficulties Dave [Cash] has said repeatedly that he doesn’t have to work in Claremont. Such statements invite neither collaboration nor negotiation.

I have met with the Superintendent many times in the past. It was Dave who unilaterally stopped mediation after only three meetings. Among other problems with previous one-on-one meetings were disagreements about what was or wasn’t said. Communication by emails provided objective data about the questions and responses.

To avoid confusion I asked Dave if I could bring a note taker or tape recorder to our meetings. He refused to meet with either condition. I am content to ask my questions during Board meetings and by getting information this way transparent governance is achieved. The School Board has a governance policy regarding the Superintendent’s duty to provide the same information to all Board Members, not that we get that information the same way.

We get the sense that Llanusa's support among the Claremont 400 may be dwindling, and those insiders (small "i") are running away from Llanusa as fast as they can. Such is the price of dissent in Clareville. This doesn't bode well for Llanusa's re-election prospects, but November's a long way off, and he may yet have time to mend some fences.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Gottuso Home from County USC

This from a friend:

Vince came home today from County USC. It seems the hospital menu didn't include Italian cuisine! :)

Seriously, he's got a long road to recovery ahead, but while he's extremely beat up physically, the Vince we all know and love lives on from the inside out!

Our Best Wishes!

LWV Candidate Forum Tonight

This evening the League of Women Voters of the Claremont Area hosts their candidate forum for the 2009 Claremont municipal election.

The forum begins at 7pm tonight in the Padua Room of the City's Alexander Hughes Community Center. League President and City Police Commissioner Barbara Musselman will take question suggestions from the audience and then cull through them to decide what questions are appropriate for tonight's forum. You can submit your proposed question to Musselman before the forum begins.

Candidate Forum - 7pm tonight
Alexander Hughes Center, Padua Room
1700 N. Danbury Rd. Claremont, CA 91711

Sponsored by the League of Women Voters of the Claremont Area

(909) 624-9457

Election Money Report

Saturday's Claremont Courier had a report from Tony Krickl on the campaign finances of the three candidates for the March 3rd municipal elections. The article, unfortunately, is not posted on the Courier's website.

Krickl's article gave the amounts of money raised and spent as of the first reporting period for 2009. The reporting deadline was last Thursday. Krickl also explained what that money gets spent on. As Krickl noted, the maximum an individual can donate in to a Claremont city council candidate is $250 in a calendar year. Here's the information from Krick's article:

Unless he can raise some quick cash, Candidate Larry Schroeder will have his hands tied with only $439.65 in his balance. He has raised a total of $4,455 and already spent $4,015.35.

Candidates are allowed to dip into their own pockets for campaign expenditures if they choose. Mr. Schroeder loaned his campaign a total of $3,500 while Ms. Healy made a loan of $1,300.

....Mr. [Corey] Calaycay is in the best financial shape, with a cash balance of $14,305.18. He has made $3,512.11 in expenditures so far. Some of his supporters in the maximum $250 range include Glenn and Patricia Gross, Susan Schenk, Ivan and Elisabeth Misner and Beatrice Niu.

Ms. [Bridget] Healy has a balance of $7,209.85 after spending $3,376 thus far on her campaign. Her top supporters in the $250 range include Paul Held, Sandy Baldonado, Valerie Martinez, and Francine Baker.

Many of the initial expenditures for a campaign, including lawn signs and postage for mailing literature, are some of the most costly. Anyone who has driven around town can see that Mr. Calaycay has won the lawn sign battle thus far.

Candidates typically make more expenditures in the month before the election, including newspaper ads and a final mailer just days before the election.

The Claremont City Clerk, for the first time in recent memory, has posted the campaign finance filings on the City's online archive. Kudos to City Clerk Lynne Pahner for having the documents up in such a timely manner.

Below, we've posted the filings in order of the money raised, from lowest to highest. There is one Form 460 shown for the Healy and Schroeder campaigns. There are two Form 460s listed for Calaycay, whose campaign started fundraising earlier than the other two candidates and so had to file a report for the 7/1/08 to 12/31/08 reporting period.

Click on the box in the upper right corner of each window to enlarge the documents. We'll hold off on any analysis at this juncture.

Larry Schroeder's
Campaign Finance Filing Form 460
Schroeder Pre Election 090120

Bridget Healy's
Campaign Finance Filing Form 460
Healy Pre Election 090120

Corey Calaycay's
Campaign Finance Filing Form 460
Calaycay PreElection 090121

Corey Calaycay's
Campaign Finance Filing Form 460
for 7/1/08 to 12/31/08
Calaycay Semiannual Campaign Filing

A Little Housekeeping

We've made a few changes and additions to the links list in the left-hand margin. First, we've moved the Claremont-specific links into a "Community Links" list.

Second, we've moved Gary Scott into the "News" links section because his posts are primarily related to journalism rather than local interest items. We did leave David Allen in the "Local Blogs" section because Allen's posts seem to have a good deal of local color sort of items.

Lastly, if you scroll down towards the bottom of the left-hand margin, you'll see we've added several Craigslist feeds specific to Claremont: "Jobs in Claremont," "Gigs," and "For Sale/Wanted." There's also a feed for "Free Stuff" in the San Gabriel Valley (there wasn't much free stuff in Claremont alone, so we had to go to a wider area).
As always with Craigslist, you'll want to perform your due dilligence in all cases.

We got the idea for the Craigslist feeds from Amanda Wray's Living in Monrovia blog, which is one of the better designed and written metro blogs around.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


A post over on M-M-M-My Pomona announcing the "retirement" of Pomona Police Chief Joe Romero featured a photograph of him. This put us in mind of our own Chief Paul Cooper and similarity these two chiefs of police have in their physiques. We then dug out our copies of Sheldon, The Varieties of Temperament and The Varieties of Human Physique to see if there was an explanation for this extreme endomorphy in the upper echelons of law enforcement. Alas, Sheldon is more descriptive than he is explanatory, so no help there. In fact, most psychologists today dismiss his ideas as so much hooey.

Still, the characteristics must be widespread enough to gain the attention of Hollywood moguls who can make a buck off of anything if it's obvious enough.

You form your own opinion. Below we compare photos of top law enforcement officers in Claremont (Paul Cooper), Pomona (Joe Romero), and New Jersey (Paul Blart).

But Will It Play in Peoria?

Claremont High alum Elliot Graham has been nominated for an Oscar by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences.

Wes Woods II over at the Daily Bulletin had an article about Graham's nomination and gave the film editor's background:

Graham, 32, attended Sycamore Elementary School, El Roble Intermediate School and graduated from Claremont High School in 1994. He had "a stopover at Webb" before he attended New York University and graduated in 1999.

He has lived in Los Angeles, Seattle and London since leaving Claremont....

Graham said Claremont is a special place for him.

"I think growing up in old town Claremont, on-and-off college campuses, is a unique and special experience. With its Ivy League-ish, New England setting and tree-covered campuses, it affects the area around it. You meet all sorts of people and cultures who are interested in learning and knowledge."

The Claremont Courier's Tony Krickl also wrote about Graham's nomination on his COURIER City Beat blog:
He has also been nominated for an Eddie Award by the American Cinema Editors.

Graham will be in Claremont this weekend for a friend's engagement party. We'll be sure to catch up with him for a full story to appear in the Wednesday, January 28 edition of the COURIER.

We finally got around to seeing "Milk" a few weeks ago and liked it. As a genre, bio pics tend towards weakness, perhaps because the audience knows the outcome, but "Milk" has much to recommend it. For one thing, Sean Penn's lead performance is remarkable in the way he captures the title character's essence, showing Harvey Milk's transformation and growth from a slightly awkward, closeted gay New York attorney to a leader of a political movement. Penn, who was nominated for a Best Actor award for his work, also manages to convey both the need to be loved and the charisma that so many successful politicians seem to possess.

Liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, the film has some important lessons to offer to anyone seeking change through politics. Persistence is one of these. Harvey Milk ran for office and was defeated three times before he was finally elected to office as a San Francisco City Supervisor.

More importantly, while being a change agent may get you elected, it won't necessarily make you a good elected official. You have to actually stand for something and offer positive alternatives; and, once in office, you have to govern, which means compromising at times and dealing with your former opponents fairly - something guaranteed to rile up your base supporters. The lesson is that, while it's great fun to lob Molotov cocktails over the Establishment walls, at some point the outsider becomes the legislator and has to lead from within the constraints of a new Establishment.

As if to underscore this, one of the film's key scenes is an exchange between Milk and Art Agnos (played by Jeff Koons). The two are both candidates in the Democratic primary for a State Assembly seat and have just finished a debate. As Agnos walks over to his car, he offers a tip to Milk: “In this town, you gotta give them a reason for optimism, or you’re cooked.”

So true, but it's not just Frisco, Art. It's Anytown, Anywhere. Claremont is no different. A few years ago, enough people wanted change to vote against incumbency. Councilmembers Al Leiga and Karen Rosenthal lost their re-election bids, and Paul Held and Sandy Baldonado likely would have been defeated if they had not stepped down rather than run again.

Llewellyn Miller, Jackie McHenry, Peter Yao, and current councilmember Corey Calaycay all ran as outsiders looking to change the council's direction. Of the first three, only Yao was re-elected, and we'll have to wait until March 3rd to see if people will re-elect Calaycay.

Miller and McHenry lost their second elections, but for different reasons. Miller, who was the first African-American elected to Claremont's City Council, was elected in the wake of the Irvin Landrum shooting, but quickly seemed to be co-opted by the very forces he was elected to change. McHenry, on the other hand, never seemed to learn the Art Agnos lesson about offering optimism, and that cooked her goose. McHenry the Revolutionary didn't quite manage the transition to governance, though to be fair, she also had then-City Manager Glenn Southard and his staff working to undermine her legitimacy.

The trick, as in some many things in life, seems to be balance, and it does seem possible that our City Hall is coming a little closer to finding that sort of moderation. As we've written recently, this election feels different from any in the past eight years, and the current council, even with the often disagreeable Mayor Ellen Taylor running things, has managed to work together in a more open, cooperative way than anytime in recent memory.

There are still times when things become knockdown, drag-out fights, but whereas in the past the Council and its commissions would have railroaded their plans through the decision-making processes, opposition voices have found just a bit more representation with this council than with previous ones. We'll have to see what the voters, who have the final say, think about all this.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Upcoming CMA Events

The Claremont Museum of Art's next exhibit will be a retrospective of Claremont artist James Hueter's work. The show opens on Sunday, February 22nd with an opening reception at 7pm and runs through May 3rd.

CMA sent out a press release with information about Hueter's work:

Born in San Francisco in 1925 and a 60-year resident of Claremont, James Hueter epitomizes a generation of artists who, attracted to Claremont and the surrounding region after World War II, established their reputations here, contributing importantly to the creation of the art-rich environment we enjoy today. A 1948 graduate of Pomona College, Hueter holds an M.F.A. from the Claremont Graduate School (1951). His life as an artist continues to be as productive as ever.

This exhibition surveys Hueter’s long and fertile career, from the early realist paintings influenced by his teacher and mentor Henry Lee McFee to the most recent works that combine his multiple interests in painting, sculpture, representation, and illusion. The exhibition will introduce to new generations an artist of diligent devotion to his craft through decades of drawing, painting, photography, and sculpture.

While widely admired by those knowledgeable about the arts, James Hueter is also – due to his modest demeanor – one of the best-kept secrets of the arts in Claremont. This exhibition aspires to reveal and celebrate Hueter’s work, while realizing a core mission of the Claremont Museum of Art to celebrate the region’s rich artistic heritage through in-depth exhibitions of its most prominent local heroes

The Hueter exhibit will be accompanied by an outdoor installation by Pomona artist Juan Thorpe titled "Citrus Processor." The work is a large canvas and will be installed in the eastern courtyard of the Claremont Packing House. The CMA's press release said this about the Thorpe work: "Furthering the artist's investigative imagery of deconstructed machinery, this work references the history of the Museum’s home, The Packing House, and the City of Claremont's unique association with the citrus industry."

The CMA will also host the following events in the next few months:
Saturday, February 21, 7 – 9 p.m.
Public Opening Reception: James Hueter: A Retrospective

Sunday, February 22, noon – 4 p.m.
Family Art Day: Self-portraits
Free and open to the public
Look in a mirror and what do you see? Inspired by the artwork of James Hueter, the subject for this Family Art Day activity is self-portraits. Join us as we learn how to turn self-observation into a work of art.

All Wednesdays (through the run of the exhibition)
Senior Wednesdays – James Hueter: A Retrospective
$3 admission for seniors 62 and older (Admission is always free for Museum Members)
Docents available for free tours, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.; special 20% discount in Museum Store off a single item.


Sunday, March 1, 3 – 4:30 p.m.
Curator Walk-through – James Hueter: A Retrospective
Free for Members and under 18/$8 for non-members (includes gallery admission)
Exhibition guest curator Steve Comba walks members and visitors through the new exhibition.

Sunday, March 15, noon – 4 p.m.
Family Art Day: Not-So-Still Life Drawing
Free and open to the public
Ask three people to look at a grouping of objects, and you’ll get three different interpretations. That’s what still life drawing is all about. Family Art Day participants will try their hands at mastering this most basic of art skills using art works from the Hueter exhibition as inspiration.

Claremont Museum of Art
536 West First Street
Claremont, CA 91711

Hours: The galleries and Museum Store are open Wednesday through Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., and until 8:30 p.m. the first Friday of every month and closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year's Day.

Admission: Admission is $5 for adults. Free admission for visitors under 18. Admission is $3 for seniors over 62 every Wednesday. Admission is free for everyone from 5 to 8:30 p.m. the first Friday of every month, and admission is always free for Museum Members.

Here's the full press release, which we've posted on a nifty site called that's great for posting images, documents, and PDF's. Thanks to Calwatch at M-M-M-My Pomona for introducing this to us. It sort of like YouTube for documents. Click on the little box in the upper right hand corner to expand the document to full-screen size:

Friday, January 23, 2009

More on Claremont 10th Street Beating

This morning's Inland Valley Daily Bulletin has a Melissa Pinion-Whitt article on the beating of 61-year old Vince Gottuso of Claremont inside his home on the 700 block of west 1oth Street.

Ms. Pinion-Whitt says that Robert Jones, 20, living on the 400 Block of east Foothill, and a 16-year old who is unidentified because of his age were confronted by Mr. Gottuso Tuesday morning as they were burglarizing his home.

More details of the crime as information unfolded can be found here, here, and here.

The arrest came after police found a stolen item in the possession of one Kenyata Harris, 32, of Pomona, who was then arrested on suspicion of receiving stolen property. Nothing in the article about what the stolen item was, how police connected it to the burglary, or any other details. We are thinking, "Pawnshop", but could be wrong.

The arrest of Harris led police to arrest Jones and the teenager, who were acquaintances. Sounds to us as if he gave them up after being plied with treacle and warm tea with milk at a party arranged in his honor just for the purpose.

Tony Krickl said yesterday that the Claremont PD conducted surveillance, interviewed witnesses, and processed forensic evidence on their way to nabbing Jones and the teenager.

Jones is now living at the Claremont city jail and the teenager was booked into a juvenile facility.

Jones will be arraigned Monday in Pomona.

Krickl also reported yesterday that Gottuso was doing better but that there would be a long road ahead to recovery. We wish him well. As of yesterday, he was still in intensive care, but the family was expecting--hoping--that he would be home within a week.

California Catches a Break

The Los Angeles Times reports today that the federal government's proposed $825 billion (that's BILLION with a "B") economic stimulus package, could include over $11 billion for California. Most of that, about $7.3 billion, would go towards healthcare costs to fund Medi-Cal programs. Another chunk, about $4 billion, would go to education.

This would all help whittle down the projected state budget deficit from around $42 billion down to only $31 billion (again, with a "B"). Still, this all makes it easier for Sacramento leaders to cobble together another one of their last minute fiscal agreements. Hopefully, the feds aren't just enabling more bad behavior on the part of our state government and that we will end up with permanent, long-term solutions that will prevent this sort of near-collapse from happening again.

As the Times article observed, the money, though enormously helpful, won't prevent the state from having to begin issuing IOU's come February:

"It will be a huge help to us in resolving our current fiscal problems," state Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) said.

But he and Assembly Speaker Karen Bass (D-Los Angeles) warned that it solves only part of the state's problem and lawmakers are running out of time to deal with the rest. "We have to make really horrible cuts, and we have to raise revenue, but we are just hoping whatever we get will help us avoid deeper cuts," Bass said.

State Controller John Chiang plans to suspend payment of tax refunds, college grants and some welfare checks if lawmakers do not take action by Feb. 1. The state, he says, simply won't have the cash to cover them.

Legislative leaders on Thursday met with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to discuss the budget in their first joint meeting in nearly a week. The three-hour discussion failed to produce any agreement.

Let's just hope the stimulus package isn't treated as so much fiscal meth by the hopelessly addicted in our state capitol. Intervention is still the order of the day on both sides of California's political aisle.

Claremont Tipping Policy

We've had an ongoing debate here at the Insider for quite some time about tipping. Do you automatically tip 15% unless the service is absolutely odious? Do you ramp it up to 20% or 25% for really fabulous service? When do you not tip?

One of our readers seems to be having some similar concerns about Claremont City Manager Jeff Parker's recent 3% raise and 4% performance bonus, worth about $7,000 and $8,000, respectively. The reader said:

DATE: Saturday, January 17, 2009 1:55 PM
SUBJECT: Comment concerning City Manager bonus
TO: Claremont Buzz

I bet other people commented on that already, but the more I think about the manager's "performance bonus" the more upset I get.

Following reasons: Wasn't Parker hired to do a job, because he was supposedly best qualified for it. And didn't the city provide adequate compensation that he does his best job for the city based on his qualifications and experiences. Otherwise, why not hire somebody else...?

What kind of signal do we give city employees, if the city hands out "performance bonuses" or should we rather call them bribes. Does this mean that the city staff gets their base pay for just showing up for work and occupying expensive office space, and in order to get anything productive and well done from the staff, we need to pay them a bonus. Can't the citizens of Claremont not expect good work from staff, which are in my opinion overpaid already.

Using the same logic, will we soon have to pay teachers a bonus, so that they will teach our kids adequately or can we only expect good policing if we pay bonuses to police officers as well.

A concerned citizen of Claremont.

Questions about the need for tipping, by the way, have been around for a long time. New Yorker writer James Suroweicki had a column in 2005 about tipping, and he dredged up some pretty old arguments against the practice:
Restaurant workers in the United States make more than twenty-five billion dollars a year in tips, so it’s natural that people think of the custom as quintessentially American. But it wasn’t always. Tipping didn’t take hold here until after the Civil War, and even as it spread it met with fervent public opposition from people who considered it a toxic vestige of Old World patronage. Anti-tipping associations were formed; newspapers—including the Times—regularly denounced the custom. Tipping, the activists held, fostered a masterservant relationship that was ill suited to a nation in which people were meant to be social equals. William R. Scott, in his 1916 polemic “The Itching Palm,” described the tip as the price that “one American is willing to pay to induce another American to acknowledge inferiority”; Gunton’s Magazine labelled the custom “offensively un-American,” arguing that workers here should seek honest wages “instead of fawning for favors.” The anti-tipping campaigns were so effective that six states actually banned the practice.

Suroweicki seemed to come to the conclusion that tipping really is an irrational process:
People tip even though they don’t have to. Since they tip after they’ve been served, they’re not buying good treatment in advance. Nor are they just buttering up their regular waitresses—studies show that people tip about as well at out-of-town restaurants as they do at their local Bennigan’s. Americans are paying money that they do not have to pay, then, while receiving no obvious benefit as a result.

So why tip? When people are asked, they usually say that they tip to reward good service. Yet how much people tip is determined mainly by how much their meal cost, and the cost of a meal at a given restaurant is usually only tenuously connected to the work required to serve it. (It’s just as easy to open a hundred-dollar bottle of wine as it is to open a thirty-dollar bottle.) In an extensive survey of tipping studies, Michael Lynn, a professor at Cornell, found only a weak correlation between the quality of service that people report receiving and the tips they give. On average, exceptional service raised tips by about 1.5 per cent, which, Lynn argues, is too small for waiters to notice. And countries where there’s no tipping—like Australia and Japan—don’t have worse service than the United States.

It’s instructive to consider the sort of things that tippers actually respond to. In one study, a waitress received fifty per cent more in tips when she introduced herself by name than when she didn’t. In another, waiters sharply increased their tips by giving each member of a dining party a piece of candy and then, seemingly spontaneously, offering each person a second piece, too. Squatting by the table instead of standing, writing “Thank you” on the back of checks, and touching customers on their shoulders all measurably improved tips. And waitresses at an upscale restaurant who simply put flowers in their hair boosted their tips by seventeen per cent.

These tricks may seem cutesy, but they help personalize the relationship between the customer and the server, which tells you something important about the nature of tipping. The practice really belongs to what sociologists call a gift economy rather than to a market one. The free market, at least in theory, is all about impersonal exchange—as long as you have goods to sell and I have money to buy them, we can make a deal, regardless of how we feel about each other. But, when it comes to tipping, who we are and how we feel matter a lot, because a tip is essentially a gift, and we give better gifts to people we like than to people we don’t. Tippers aren’t trying to drive hard bargains or maximize their economic interests; they’re trying to demonstrate their status and to reciprocate what they see as good behavior.

You get the impression that the market for municipal employees really falls into the same "gift market" category as tipping. How else was former City Manager Glenn Southard able to not only survive but thrive in Claremont for 17 years with crisis after crisis dogging him? How does current City Manager Jeff Parker get a raise and bonus in a year of financial and real estate crashes, in a year when his staff made a $250,000 blunder by bulldozing the Claremont Wilderness Park, or a little over a year after that same staff cost the city $1 million as the result of a misworded deed when they bought Johnson's Pasture?

The answers are very simple. People - at least three out of the five councilpeople who counted - liked these guys, so they got the tips, whether they deserved them or not. The trick, then, if you're a high-level municipal employee, is to make sure that you do whatever that council majority (and the influential people who support them) wants. You have to do this whether it's right or wrong, whether it's good or bad for the town, whether or not you ought to be counseling the council against something you know is a potential misstep, because your financial self-interest dictates that you absolutely need to be liked by them.

So, Mr. City Manager, you support a downtown trolley even when you know it's a colossal waste of money at a time when you're well aware your budget can ill-afford such toys; or, you let your staff push an affordable housing project that's located on the worst possible site in town, even though you know the proposed project is doomed to fail. And so on and so forth. This good behavior gets you the rewards you seek with little or no rational thought involved in the process, just as Suroweicki's tipping piece noted. Real quality of service has very little relationship to the rewards lavished on municipal staff, at least that's the way it's worked historically in our fair city.

Of course, there's a very important distinction to note in this analogy: with tipping, it's your money to give; with a city raise or bonus, it's still your money, but you're not the one doing the gifting.

Your City Council
(in no particular order)
Left to right: Sam Pedroza, Ellen Taylor, Peter Yao,
Linda Elderkin, Corey Calaycay