Claremont Insider: Duelling Narratives

Monday, February 23, 2009

Duelling Narratives

The Claremont 400, that group that has more or less run the city for the past 30 years, seems to be losing its long monopoly on defining the terms of city elections. For the first time in recent memory, the 400's chosen candidate wasn't among the city council candidates endorsed by the two local newspapers, the Claremont Courier and the Daily Bulletin.

We're also getting the impression that the 400's candidate, former Claremont Assistant City Manager Bridget Healy, either doesn't have her heart in the campaign or she figures she's such a shoe-in that she doesn't have to work as hard as the other two candidates, incumbent Corey Calaycay and Larry Schroeder.

Healy, who ought to have plenty of money raised for the campaign, hasn't spent large amounts on the traditional things like full-page newspaper ads or mailers. Nor has she been doing things like walking neighborhoods with the same sense of urgency or energy as the other two candidates.

Healy did get a letter of support in Saturday's Claremont Courier, though the letter, which only ran one two paragraphs [on the Courier's website it was run as a one-paragraph note], spoke only in the broadest generalities and failed to give any specifics, other than that Healy knows our values and is (in the letter signers' eyes) a proven leader:

We support Bridget because we need council members who know our community and its values, have the experience and demonstrated leadership Claremont needs, understand how to balance a city budget in difficult economic times, and possess the vision and skills to lead Claremont into the future.

The letter was signed by some of the usual 400 names, several of whom were Preserve Claremont supporters and donors in 2005. Though to be fair, a number of them are listed as Corey Calaycay supporters this time around, perhaps a sign of a willingness to make amends for the last go 'round when they absolutely dragged Calaycay through the mud and muck of their own imaginations.

In any case, it's clear that Healy is their candidate, and when they write of values, it's their values, not necessarily the community's values, that they write of. The 400's most notable trait has always been the insistent projection of its wants and wishes onto the city at large followed by the packaging of those as universal values for Greater Claremont.

The 400's letter Saturday had the misfortune of appearing with another letter by a person named Carolyn Gonzales, who questioned a recent Courier insert by the Healy campaign. The insert had included a bulleted list of things the city accomplished while Healy was assistant city manager. The insert described these accomplishments as gifts from Healy to our citizens, but the campaign advertisement failed to mention that Healy was a city employee and that she was very highly compensated for those so-called gifts. Healy's campaign seems to have forgotten that gifts are traditionally presented without billing the recipients.

The Gonzales letter was quite detailed in its particulars. First, she reminded readers of the Healy's very strong ties to former Claremont City Manager Glenn Southard, whose management style many in town consider the casus belli of the near-civil war that split the community, especially from January, 1999, when the Irvin Landrum shooting occurred, to April, 2005, when Southard (and Healy) left Claremont together for jobs in Indio.

Gonzales went on to say:
Twenty years working for Mr. Southard, even following him to Indio when he “left” Claremont, this is some kind of loyalty, but alas, it was not loyalty to Claremont. It was loyalty to oneself. Or perhaps it was that the Southard/Healy political climate of that time was jaded with the debacle of the Landrum shooting episode. While serious errors were made, perhaps they thought there were merely ‘hiccups”.

Of course, while her “team saved the day” by acquiring 1,600 acres of hillside property that became the Wilderness Park, at no cost to the tax payers [n.b. Even this statement by Healy is wrong. Healy's campaign strategy is for people to be hypnotized or to have short memories. See note at end of post] of Claremont, she should “rue” the day when her “teams” failure to properly manage brush clearance in the Wilderness Park cost the city a judgment of $17.5 million for more than 40 homes lost in the Palmer Canyon fire. What a team!!

Now on a more serious note, the fact that Ms. Healy drafted a policy that would have required mental health professionals to “assess” citizens expressing their views at City Council Meetings, lends me to wonder what her ideological mindset would be if elected. Could it be that Claremont citizens could not speak at future Council meetings without a “note from one’s doctor”. (Kudos to the City Council at that time for not implementing this “are you fit to ask a question” requirement.)

Gonzales' letter points up the paradox in the argument Healy's campaign makes for her election. On the one hand, they want Healy recognized as a generous volunteer for certain things that happened while she was an employee doing what she was amply paid to do; on the other, they want the public to overlook the many bad things that occurred during Healy's working career here, things that ended in her fleeing our city for Indio with her mentor when the City Council election of 2005 didn't go the way she and Southard wanted.

Healy may very well win one of the two seats in the election. In fact, unless an unexpected bout of sentience suddenly afflicts the residents of Pilgrim Place and environs, she most certainly will awake a Claremont councilperson come March 4th. But it is greatly encouraging that other voices are gaining traction in the debate and that the local papers have been able to weigh all of the evidence before them without too much distraction from people wishing to take the city backwards.

We'll see how it all turns out in eight more days.


Note: We don't believe that the Wilderness Park was acquired "at no cost to taxpayers." Our recollection is that it cost the City some $1.2M. It seems to us that Glenn Southard--and, let's be fair to her, Bridget Healy--had engineered some complicated land transaction with Pomona College involving option payments of $35,000 per month. The City continued these option payments for some some time, approximately 3 years, until it became clear the City was going to be unable to hold up it's end of the bargain. The City stopped making option payments along about 1992 and ultimately gave Pomona College a specific plan (a specific plan is an exception to the otherwise-controlling zoning ordinance) that allowed it to sell the entitlements and land north of Baldy Road to Centex, which built the big-box houses now blighting the landscape there. Pomona College also kept all option payments made. This is where the $1.2M comes in. In return, the City received 1220 acres, more or less, of undevelopable land for the Wilderness Park.

See the City Council agenda report for July 26, 1994. Note especially the paragraph on page four, clipped here:

Let's have a little truth in advertising here, Healy Campaign.