Claremont Insider: 2010

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Heading for the Exit

Terry Nichols Resigns as CUSD Superintendent

The Duarte Unified School District website has a crawler welcoming Dr. Terry Nichols, CUSD (lame duck) superintendent as it's new superintendent in 2011.

click image to enlarge

The Courier has this breaking news on its website, here. (link will go stale soon, but paragraph is quoted below; buy the Courier for more news)

From the Courier:

Claremont Unified School District Superintendent Terry Nichols will no longer be with the district come January. After recently submitting his resignation, Dr. Nichols was appointed as the new superintendent of the Duarte Unified School District at a special board meeting on Monday night. Duarte Unified confirmed the appointment to the COURIER on Tuesday afternoon. Dr. Nichols appointed superintendent of CUSD in July 2009 after the resignation of former Superintendent David Cash earlier that year. More news as it develops.

The Contra Costa Times has picked up Wes Woods' story which fleshes out some details. There is a lot about "going home", as if Claremont was not much more than a bad vacation, a rained-out camping trip, or a deployment in Afghanistan.

Lisa Shoemaker, Claremont Unified's assistant superintendent of business services, said she was surprised by Nichols departure.

"I don't think it was something he anticipated," Shoemaker said. "I'm not sure how it went down, but it went down quickly."

We don't know if the Nichols pull-quote in the article contains any subtext below the text. You decide:

"I consider this move as going home and am very pleased," Nichols said. "It is an honor and a privilege to be working closely with the board and the community that continues to focus on student success."

Terry Nichols (standing, fourth from left)
Not feeling at home with the
Claremont Chamber of Commerce Board

Friday, December 3, 2010

Local Attorney Loses License


The California Bar Journal reports that Claremont Community Services Commissioner Stacey Matranga (photo, right) was disbarred on October 28. According to the Bar Journal's December edition:

Matranga committed 17 acts of misconduct in seven matters. Among other things, Matranga misappropriated $21,000 of client funds without any explanation for five months. She also “flagrantly breached her fiduciary duties in seven client matters,” State Bar Court Judge Richard Honn found, and she abandoned clients, did not comply with a court order, and failed to perform legal services competently, return client files, communicate with clients, promptly return client funds and account for or maintain client funds. She also she commingled funds in her trust account and committed acts of moral turpitude.

Matranga had her office in Ontario, but is a Claremont resident.

It's our understanding that the State Bar Court takes client trust account issues very seriously, and any sort of irregularity can be grounds for disciplinary action. Generally, however, the Bar is not quick to pull an attorney's license, so any first offense that results in disbarment must be a serious matter, at least to the Bar.

It appears from the State Bar's records that the combination of client fund issues, together with Matranga's failure to return client documents and files, her lack of communication with clients, and her failure to cooperate fully with the Bar's investigation led to her disbarment. As Judge Honn explained in his decision in this matter:
It is settled that an attorney-client relationship is of the highest fiduciary character and always requires utmost fidelity and fair dealing on the part of the attorney. (Beery v. State Bar (1987) 43 Cal.3d 802, 813.) In this matter, respondent had flagrantly breached her fiduciary duties in seven client matters, including failure to return unearned fees of almost $5,000 to two clients and misappropriation of more than $21,000 in five months. Such misconduct reflects a blatant disregard of professional responsibilities.

Moreover, the misappropriation of client funds is a grievous breach of an attorney’s ethical responsibilities, violates basic notions of honesty and endangers public confidence in the legal profession. In all but the most exceptional cases, it requires the imposition of the harshest discipline – disbarment. (See Grim v. State Bar, supra, 53 Cal.3d 21.)
Commission Roster; Click to Enlarge
It's always painful when something like this happens, for Matranga and her clients, and for the community as well. Matranga seems to be generally well-liked, and she hasn't really been involved in a lot of the political maneuvering that goes on in and around our City Hall.

The State Bar's website has the Bar Court's decision online or you can find it here:

Village Event for Scripps and CMC Students

We don't usually do product placements in here, but we received notice of an event that might be of interest to students at 2 of the 5Cs.

Tonight from 9pm to 11pm, the American Apparel store at the southwest corner of Indian Hill Blvd. and First St. is hosting a college night for students from Claremont McKenna and Scripps Colleges. They're offering 30% off all store merchandise, as well as $10 coupons to first 40 customers.

For details, click to enlarge

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

The Coming Seasons: Holiday and Election

No matter how hard we try to go gentle into that good night (and believe us, we do try), we're always compelled to start yakking again, usually after the powers-that-be start stirring things up.

Now that the Measure CL school bond has come and gone, Shelob-like they've been in their lairs licking their wounds, but rest assured, you'll see many of the old familiar faces back in action in the next City Council election, which should be hitting high gear in another month or so.

If things follow form, we'll see a number of unforeseen issues come to the fore at the next two City Council meetings. These issues will have been carefully chosen to position the insider (small "i") candidates in their campaigns. In the past we've seen things like false rumors of council members harassing city staff or the imminent threat of gravel mining rise up in the months before the election and then fade as soon as the polls close. As always, they'll use a false sense of urgency to instill fear into people - we need to act NOW or else....

We can't wait to see what surprises the next month will bring. We know this much: there will be at least two new faces on the council come next March. Incumbent Sam Pedroza is running, but Mayor Linda Elderkin is not. Peter Yao, the third council member whose term is up, had to step down after he was appointed to the California Citizens Redistricting Commission. Incidentally, Yao was named interim chair at the commission's first meeting yesterday.

The city council candidate pool will these people, all of whom have pulled the necessary papers but haven't filed yet:

  • Joseph Armendarez, unknown
  • Robin Haulman, former Architectural Commission chair
  • Rex Jaime, unknown
  • Citizen Michael John Keenan, man about town
  • Ed Leavell, former Human Services Commission member
  • Joseph Lyons, unknown
  • Opanyi Nasiali, former Traffic Commission member
  • Sam Pedroza, incumbent and America's Got Talent 4th Runner Up

We've got some thoughts on these folks, but we'll hold those until the race firms up. We'll be curious to see which one(s) will end up as the straw candidates the Claremonsters encourage run in order to siphon off votes from the people they don't want on the council.

* * * * *

In the meantime, there's plenty going on around town, beginning with the City's tree lighting ceremony this coming Friday beginning at 5pm at the Claremont Depot (from the City's website):

Annual Holiday Promenade & Tree Lighting

The evening will include a variety of entertainment throughout the Village, as well as the following activities:
  • Photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus at City Hall
  • A Tree Lighting Ceremony at 6 p.m. at the Train Depot
  • An arts and crafts fair, hosted by Gypsy Sisters, in the Packing House
  • Performances by holiday carolers and the Claremont High School Chamber Singers
  • Many shops and restaurants hosting "Holiday Cheer Stops"

You won't want to miss this magical Claremont event. Please join us on Friday, December 3 from 5 - 8 p.m. at the Claremont Village Holiday Promenade and Tree Lighting. Enjoy the festive atmosphere and remember to shop Claremont this holiday season.

For more information, please call (909) 399-5490 or visit us at

They'll have a skating rink set up as well, and if you've got any old holiday lights and want to exchange them, you can do that at the tree lighting. Southern California Edison customers can bring in one strand of the old-style lights and exchange them for a strand of LED lights.

* * * * *

It's also the first weekend of the month, which means the City Council will be at the Farmers Market in the Claremont Village on Sunday, December 5, between 8am and 1pm.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Around Town

Now that Measure CL has come and gone, we can turn our attention to the more mundane goings on around town.

If you're interested in meeting Claremont's council members, you'll have two chances this weekend. On Saturday, November 6, from 8am to 2pm, the City Council will hold a workshop to review and reviews its ongoing priorties list. The workshop will be held in the Padua Room of the Alexander Hughes Community Center at 1700 Danbury Rd.

Some things, like buying the water system from Golden State Water Company, will fall off the list because the City is no longer pursuing a municipal water service. Others, like a new police station, remain on the A-list of priorties. And there are new items to add to the list, like the problem of Claremont's seriously underfunded CalPERS pension liabilities.

The City has the workshop's agenda posted on their document website. You can review last year's priorities here. They've also posted details on the City's ongoing or completed projects, an update on its existing priorties, and descriptions of new topics proposed for inclusion in the priorties lists.

For more information on Saturday's council workshop, call (909) 399-5460.

* * * * *

You can also speak to individual council members in a more informal setting at the Claremont Farmers' Market on Sunday, November 7, between 8am and 1pm. The market is located on 2nd Street between Indian Hill Blvd. and Yale Ave. Council members take their turns in one hour shifts in the little council booth, so feel free to talk one of them up.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Measure CL Goes Down in Flames


Measure CL Fails: 7,977 NO, 5,222 YES

According to the Los Angeles Register-Recorder/County Clerk, as of 12:01am Claremont Unified School District's $95 million Measure CL is certain to go down to defeat (55% needed to pass):

NO - 60.13% (6,949 votes)
Update, Final - 7,977 (60.44%)

YES - 39.87% (4,608 votes)
Update, Final -5,222 (39.56%)
That's with 94% of the Claremont school district precincts reporting and only 2 out of 35 precincts left to report. (Now Final) We won't comment further at this point, other than to say that CUSD will be back with another bond or parcel tax. Let's see if they are willing to include the wider community the next time around, or if they will play the same ol' overreaching Claremont game with consultants like Jared Boigon coordinating things and getting hundreds of thousands from school contractors.

Incidentally, there were five other bond measures on the ballots for other L.A. County school districts yesterday. Four of the five appeared to be winning handily, and the fifth, Lynwood's Measure L, was very close at 53.4% with a little over half the precincts reporting. Claremont's CL was by far the outlier in school bond measure NO votes. (Pomona's Measure SS parcel tax, which needed 67% to pass, was at only 49.84% with a quarter of the precinct results in.)

You can check for updates here. The results probably won't be official for a day or two. Click on "SCHOOLS" and then look for the Claremont CL link. You'll need to refresh the screen for updates - be prepared to get redirected back to the original menu.

Click to Enlarge

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Election Today

In case you missed it, there's an election today. We don't care which cabal and/or vast conspiracy, Right or Left, holds your loyalties. We just think you ought to get involved, assuming you took the trouble to register to vote.

It's part of the social contract, and it's the least you can do as a responsible citizen. That means get up off the couch, put on your shoes, and head on down to your precinct's polling place.

If you don't know where to go, check out the magic polling place locator, courtesy of the Los Angeles County Register-Recorder/County Clerk. Just enter your street address, and the locator will tell you where to go. It's that easy. Then you will get one of these:

Monday, November 1, 2010

Repetition is the Soul of Wit

Measure CL Propaganda

We are sure everyone in Claremont has experienced it. That sense of deja vu when you go to your mailbox, open up the latest CUSD Measure CL mailer, and read the same, old, and by now tired messages. You definitely have the feeling you've read this stuff somewhere before.

"Where's the beef?", you are probably asking yourself. Well, there's not much protein in these political mail pieces, animal, vegetarian, or vegan. There's a lot of saccharin and bromide though.

So you wouldn't have to do it, we went through the nine mailers shown above. We tallied the occurrences and re-occurrences of the messages in the mailers. Most of the time the language was identical. Occasionally, either by mistake, fatigue, ennui, or design the ad-writer threw in a different word. We attempted to be accurate but truth be told, our eyes were glazing over towards the end of this project.

One-sided Messaging or,

$135,000 from Special Interests
Is Not Quite Enough
for Us to Tell the Full Story

Here, in rank order are the top 12 messages (of about 50):

1. Local funding: 12 mentions
2. State an unreliable partner: 10 mentions
3. Protect property values: 9 mentions
4. Replace outdated wiring/fire alarms: 9 mentions
5. Safety: 9 mentions
6. Upgrade classrooms/libraries/labs w/ 21st C technology: 9 mentions
7. Attract/retain great teachers: 9 mentions
8. No money for administrators' salaries: 8 mentions
9. Pay off/Refi old leases and debts, usually paired with offset state cuts: 7 mentions each
10. Replace old/worn-out roofs, plumbing, lights, or windows: 7 mentions
11. Local funds state can't take away (see number 1; this is distinct): 7 mentions
12: Reduce energy/utility costs: 7 mentions.

And the messages that the woman or man in the Trader Joe's parking lot might think were often did they occur in these propaganda pieces?:

A. Measure CL is a bond: 0 mentions
B. Measure CL will borrow $95,000,000:
0 mentions
C. Measure CL total cost estimate:
0 mentions.

The spreadsheet we used to tote up these numbers is reproduced here. Click to enlarge.

The messages above align quite well with the polling done by District consultants prior to initiating the bond. A page from their presentation listing projects is shown below.

The entire polling package can be found below. You can see how the propaganda minister of the Yes on CL side, Jared Boigon, has been feeding Claremont what he thinks it wants to hear. It is somewhat lengthy, but see especially pages numbered 23, ff., for the message "resonance" portion.

Claremont USD Survey Report '10 DRAFT 1T

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Measure CL Update


A reader sends word that the student paper at Claremont High School had an editorial urging a NO vote on the school district's $95 million Measure CL. One of the reasons the Wolfpacket cited for recommending a NO on CL was that it doesn't make any sense to fund operational costs with bond:
Though all of the 95 million dollars are supposed to go towards the Claremont schools, only about a third of the money will actually benefit schools. The high interest rate of the bond will result in increased prices for basic purchases--If the school was to buy a computer costing $1000, due to the interest rate, that computer would cost the school $3000.

The students are right on this count. Although the Claremont Unified School District and its superintendent, Terry Nichols, have refused to release the financing details for the bond, we do know that the bond proponents have acknowledged that the CL bond will be financed over 40 years and that the total costs, with interest payments, will approach $250 million. The district has essentially stipulated to that much.

So for every dollar we borrow and spend, we'll be paying back more than $2.50. The CUSD board of education's enabling resolution for this bond stated that some of the borrowed money from CL will go towards paying operational costs. It means a ream of paper that costs you and I $5.00 would end up costing CUSD $15.00.

Using the bond money in such a way is no different than using a credit card or borrowing against your house to pay for a car. And like a car, that computer the Wolfpacket editorial referred to is going to be worth much less by the time it's paid off. In the case of a computer, it'd be worth nothing at all, except as a collector's item. Ask yourself how much is your own computer going to be worth in 40 years?

We're surprised to see that many people associated with this extremely flawed district finance plan are affiliated with the Claremont Colleges. Pomona College president David Oxtoby, Harvey Mudd College president Maria Klawe, Claremont McKenna College president Pamela Gann, Claremont Graduate University interim president Joseph Hough, CGU president emeritus John Maguire, retired CMC president Jack Stark, and others like Pomona College professor David Menefee-Libey have all endorsed CL.

Yet, if those same parties tried to run their own institutions with bond money financed as proposed under Measure CL, the trustees of their respective colleges be screaming bloody murder. It's simply foolish to spend money in such a way, and the CHS students are on target with their commentary.

Incidentally, this reminds us of some information buried in that the pre-election polling commissioned at a cost of $35,000 by CUSD earlier this year. The poll, conducted by our favorite district consultant, Jared Boigon of TBWB Strategies, indicated that a bond would have less support among people with kids in Claremont Unified schools than it would with people who were older and who didn't have children attending the schools. We suspect that this is because the closer one is to the actual day-to-day workings of our school district, the less wonderful it actually is.

As they do with most things they want you to pay for, the Claremont 400 have romanticized our schools to the point that their idealized vision of our local schools bears no relation to the reality of the situation.

Here's the Wolfpacket editorial, courtesy of our reader:

Click Image to Enlarge

Dept. of Corrections

A couple readers wrote in to comment about our post on the missing developmentally disabled person who went missing for a few days. We had noted that a reader had written in to ask why the City's CodeRED system wasn't used to notify the public about the missing person.

Turns out the Claremont police did use the CodeRED system as well as its E-Watch email alert system to let people know about the teen they were looking for. However, the reader who wrote in on this point noted this and was actually wondering why the CodeRED alert didn't get to him/her until four days after the person went missing.

Nationalizing Measure CL

Get Out the Pig Grease, Dave, and Start Smearing

We think we've now finally seen the single most childish argument to vote for Measure CL. It appeared in Saturday's copy of the Claremont Courier:

What is with this seeming attempt to nationalize Measure CL? What Could This Mean?

The intellectual foundation, if you want to call it that, for this otherwise inexplicable injunction is helpfully provided in the same issue of the Courier by the redoubtable Dave Nemer. We are not going to reproduce his Piece (O.S.) here. We have standards. But suffice it to say its a bunch of paranoic drivel with schizoid overtones. It also shows a pathological need to "belong". It is a smear, done up in his trademark smarmy tone.

Where most people in this community would applaud diversity coming together, Nemer sees "strange bedfellows". He very quickly dismisses the other personalities publicly associated with No on CL, to focus in on the one who supports his strained argument. Here it is (to save you the trouble of reading his screed): No on CL is a Tea Party Plot.

It appears he expects the No on CL side to spend their "less than $4000 (total reported raised in Daily Bulletin, Friday, October 29) restating the Yes side's arguments. Hey--here's a thought--maybe the Yes side could spend some of its $130,000 from outside Special Interests to honestly address some of the cost and planning issues instead of sending out ten or twelve glossy city-wide mailers filled with nothing but Pablum--or maybe it's Ensure. These political mailers don't even tell the community this is a bond. Instead it's presented as some sort of "Magical Mystery Initiative" that will make Claremont schools all better if we just vote for it. Pay no attention to the men behind the curtain. (big contractors, architects, investment banks, and consultants)

Where did this stuff take root and grow? No place other than the airy-fairy precincts of Pomona College. Four of the five named signers of the ad above, David Menefee-Libey, Eleanor Brown, Dan O'Leary, and Len Seligman are on the Pomona College faculty. Wendy M.-L., spouse of David, is at Harvey Mudd College.

We hope Claremont is smarter than to be taken in by the middle-school social group politics that passes for informed discussion in Our Town. We are not sure.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Saturday Mailbag

Public Nuisance?

Not a Stadium. Can't you See?

We received the email reproduced below in our Inbox this morning. It brought to mind the promises the school Superintendent made a decade ago about how Claremont High would not use any Measure Y bond money to build a stadium on the south edge of the high school. There was even an emergency agenda item and a Board resolution to this effect. This was done to mollify the Towne Ranch neighbors and defuse an uprising against Measure Y.

Unfortunately (for the CHS Neighbors) the neighborhood bought what the District was selling, fell into a hypnotic trance, and Measure Y passed narrowly.

By November of 2001, the district deep-sixed that promise and proceeded with the stadium construction, as was reported in the Courier on November 10th of that year:

Anyway, we're not supposed to talk about Measure Y. And its faults. And lies. And broken promises. And mismanagement. Put away those gloomy thoughts. On to Measure CL! Forward thinking! Vision!

The email appears immediately below. The reader invites response, so...both of you Insider readers be sure to swamp the inbox:

CHS Neighbor
From: CHS Neighbors,

Dear Insider,

I have been a residential neighbor of Claremont High School for almost 10 years, and this has always presented its challenges. However, over the past few years, the high-school has shown an increasing disregard towards its neighbors. It seems like there is always some activity going on at the track after hours, including Sunday mornings when loud music and voices on PA systems can began as early as 8 AM. Apparently when these activities are scheduled, or permission is given for use of this track, no consideration whatsoever is given to those who make their homes around the school’s perimeters. At this Friday night’s football game (10/29), an extended fireworks display was set off at 8:30 PM. Certainly the high school should have the decency of alerting its neighbors—especially those with pets—of any planned fireworks activity in advance. This is basic courtesy.

These are two blatant examples of the disinterest and disrespect the school shows towards its neighbors. In the past, an attempt I made to address some of the issues with the principal at the time was completely ignored.

I would like to know if other neighbors are frustrated with the level of noise, the traffic problems, the parking problems, or any other issues. If you might be so kind, can you provide my email address on your site so others might communicate their experiences/concerns?

Thank you.

* * * * * * *

Thnx to a reader for the Courier clip.

Red Alert?

A reader contacted us to say that they wished we would devote less space to the Measure CL school bond and more to other issues such as the disappearance last week of a developmentally disabled teen named Deontay Antone Barlow.

Deontay, who disappeared from his home on Thursday, October 21, was found five days later at a Kaiser Permanante facility in Downey. Claremont Courier reporter Tony Krickl wrote about the happy ending to this story on his Courier City Beat blog.

Our reader wondered why the Claremont Police Department didn't employ their CodeRED system to alert the community immediately after Deontay's family discovered he was missing. CPD's used the system before for community-wide emergencies like fires, so why not in this instance?

The CPD website does list missing persons as one of the emergencies CodeRED is for:


CodeRED is intended to supplement our local law enforcement and public safety first responders with making timely emergency notifications. Examples of its use include:

  • Evacuation Notice
  • Fires or Floods
  • Missing Persons
  • Hazardous Material Spills
  • Water Contamination
  • Identifying Evacuation Centers
  • Emergency and Critical incidents where rapid notification is essential.

Now, the CPD did use their Neighborhood E-Watch newsletter to email residents that Deontay had been found. Our reader wonders, why pay spend all that money for CodeRED if we don't use it for something like this?

Halloween Fun Downtown Tomorrow

Those of you with young children will probably want to take the kids to Claremont's annual Halloween Celebration tomorrow from 1-4pm in the Claremont Village. The main events will take place in front of the Claremont Train Depot at 200 W. First St.

Here's what City Manager Jeff Parker's weekly newletter had to say:


The City of Claremont, Village Marketing Group and local businesses will host Claremont’s Annual Halloween Celebration in the Claremont Village on Sunday, October 31 from 1 – 4 p.m. Enjoy trick-or-treating at Village businesses as well as Halloween-themed games and entertainment at the historic Claremont Depot. The YAC and Teen Committee members will volunteer and will assist with game booths, handing out prizes and helping out where they can during the event. Youth volunteers are excited to help out the community. For more information on youth volunteering, please contact the Youth Activity Center (YAC) at (909) 399-5360.

For more information about the City of Claremont’s Halloween Celebration, log onto the City’s website at or call the Human Services Department at (909) 399-5490.

This year’s schedule is as follows:

1:15 - 1:45 p.m. Franklin Haynes Marionettes
2:00 p.m. Howl-O-Ween Dog Costume Contest
2:15 - 3:15 p.m. The Animal Guys
3:30 p.m. Children’s Costume Contest

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Claremont Unified is a "Pay to Play" School District

Big Donor Cash Tops $125,000

Only about 2% Raised Locally

Drudge Siren Pictures, Images and Photos

There is more big money pouring into the Yes on Measure CL campaign, even as the local contributions are very weak. Recent filings with LA County elections officials show over $125,000 in contributions from 8 district vendors and a teachers' union. Totals after the October 18th filings are as follows, new money in red:

  • $25,000 from Adolph Ziemba, Architects, in Burbank

  • $20,000 from Telacu Construction Management in LA

  • $10,000 from Vanir Construction Managment in Sacramento

  • $10,000 from Flewelling and Moody (architects) in Pasadena. $5,000 previously reported, $5,000 new money.

  • $5,000 from Northcross Hill Ach (financial advisors) in San Rafael

  • $1,500 from the California Teachers Assn, Burlingame CA
With 98% of the cash received by the Yes on CL side coming from big businesses outside Claremont with a direct financial interest in the outcome, it's pretty clear the CL's supporters and the District leadership have put out the word that CUSD is a Pay to Play district, and a little baksheesh in the form of help on Measure CL is necessary to get business down the line.

What other conclusion is there that is not, well, ridiculous? Certainly no one is buying Yes on CL Treasurer J. Michael Fay's assertion that "There is no quid pro quo." That's an insult to our intelligence.

We post the report for the Period October 1-October 16 below. The earlier report is covered here. Following the first report is a single-page "late contribution" filing detailing $21,500 (included in the above totals) from Ziemba, Flewelling and Moody, and the teachers unions.

One interesting fact is that named contributions from residents of Claremont number only nine and total only $1,100. Even crediting all of the unitemized contributions ($115) to Claremont brings the total Claremont money to a mere $1,215. This is only 1.9% of the total cash reported since October 1 of $63,715.

This is nothing like a grassroots cause, and doesn't appear even to have the financial backing of the President of the Board of Education, Hilary LeConte, nor board supporters Jeff Stark and Beth Bingham. Only board member Mary Caenepeel and her husband kicked in a hundred bucks.

For those whoe worry about big money influencing elections, possible corruption, pay to play, sweetheart deals, bid-rigging, and the like, there is plenty to worry about here.

Yes on Cl Campaign Finance Report Oct 18 2

And here is a report dated October 18, 2010. "Late" reports of contributions exceeding $1,000 are required to be overnighted to the county campaign finance disclosure office.

Form 497

Monday, October 25, 2010

Daily Bulletin Opinion on Measure CL Influenced by Supporter

Why the Bulletin Editorial Sounded Like Regurgitated Measure CL Talking Points

It was just a little too pat. The phrases had the ring of a familiar cant even if there was nothing of the truth in them: improvements that will save operating costs in the long run ... $45 per $100,000 of assessed valuation ... long-term investment ... sustainability improvements ... construction costs are low ... modern-day computers ...

It was a bunch of pedestrian nouns decorated with jargonish adjectives.

The words seemed to be cut and pasted from the Yes On CL 4-color glossy mailers that have been arriving at about the rate of one per day in Claremont recently.

It was a disappointment but not much of a surprise, this Daily Bulletin opinion.

Who writes these things?

We have our ideas on this.

Take a look at the masthead below. The Bulletin uses an editorial board. Presumably the editorial positions are hashed out by said board, and whaddya know? The name "Nick Quackenbos fairly jumps out at you.

Click to enlarge

Could this be the selfsame Nick Quackenbos whose name appears as a supporter of Measure CL? We are pretty sure it is. How many N. Q.'s could there be?

Click to enlarge

When we tumbled to this, the similarity of the article to the Measure CL propaganda was instantly explained. We wonder if the Daily Bulletin is willing to reveal whether or not Mr. Quackenbos, a local commercial real estate broker, participated in the discussion leading to the decision of the paper to endorse Measure CL? We think he should have recused himself from that discussion based on his obvious bias and conflict. If not, he should have been excused by Editor Mike Brossart. And if Mr. Quackenbos participated in the decision, did he reveal to the board his public position on Measure CL? And if he participated, was Mr. Brossart careful to include a member, from Claremont, with a counter-balancing bias to ensure robust, informed, and fair discussion?

The Bulletin could clear up any questions about the objectivity of its endorsement of Measure CL by publishing a short statement of the facts of its deliberation and decision.

Meanwhile, we see that the NO on CL people, on their website, have posted a deconstruction of the Bulletin opinion piece. We clip it below along with this link: nocusdbond deconstruction

Although the point and counter-point in the aforementioned deconstruction is lengthy, it is complete. It's beginning to get out, for example, that the first $10,000,000 in bond money, should CL be approved, does not go to the kids, to safety, to technology, to modernization, but rather to bail out the District from a tricky financial scheme it entered into in 2001, where it leased out Claremont High School to investors. This garnered the District an immediate $11,300,000 payment to refurbish the District Offices at 170 San Jose by the 10 freeway but obligates it to an ANNUAL payment of some $930,000. This payment is what the district would like to shift to the taxpayers.

But we digress.

The Bulletin opinion has the air of illegitimacy if Mr. Quackenbos participated in it. But Claremont should not be surprised, The Yes on CL people have their tentacles everywhere in town and, to mix a metaphor, have been assiduously working their traplines in all of the Better Organizations: The Claremont League of Women Voters (endorsed CL without hearing from the opponents), The Claremont Chamber (endorsed CL without hearing from the opponents), Sustainable Claremont (endorsed CL without hearing from the opponents), Claremont teachers' union (endorsed CL without hearing from the opponents and also has a pecuniary interest in its passage), California School Employees Assn (ditto).

Even the Claremont Police Department. Here, here, and here.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday Sermon

As we've often said, some Claremonters (the ones that count, anyway) possess a peculiar, almost religious devotion to their city workers with members of groups like the local League of Women Voters or the Claremont Community Foundation acting as oracles or priests. Sometimes they are even actual religious leaders.

A mere hint of outsourcing any of city services will result in widespread hysteria among the true believers, the Claremont 400, as the recent civic discussion over Claremont's waste management showed. Imagine the wailing that would ensue if the city were to consider disbanding Claremont's police department and entering into a contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Office. The pitchforks-and-torches set would be out in force at the next City Council meeting.

Yes, Claremont loves its public servants.

As if to prove our point, the Yes on Measure CL campaign, the folks who are trying to pass a $95 million school bond, sent out a mailer last week adorned with photos of one of Claremont's finest, CPD Officer Sean Evans, who was quoted and featured in a couple photos.

We were mulling over our politicized police department, which seems intent on lending the Measure CL campaign a helping hand or two, no matter how many claims of non-partisanship City Hall makes. Looking at the recent flyer, it struck us that, as Officer Evans blessed the children gathered around him in one of the photos, he might have possessed just a touch of that beaming, beneficent, iconic presence leaders of all types, religious and political, like to affect in order to inspire the masses:


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Weekend Mailbag

The mail's been piling up here the last couple weeks, so we thought we'd pass some of our readers' thoughts along.

One soccer parent wrote us because, in addition to copper theft problems, the city of Claremont still has some kinks to work out at Padua Park:

DATE: Sat, October 9, 2010 6:44:50 PM
SUBJECT: [No Subject ]
TO: Claremont Insider

Re: Padua park

FYI - AYSO soccer games today at Padua park were interupted several times because the sprinklers kept coming on. They first came on at about 11:30am and continued in different sections for more than an hour. Why was the city watering in the middle of the day?

* * * * *

Another reader wrote in to say that, rather than floating it's $95 million Measure CL bond on the November 2 ballot, what the Claremont Unified School District should be doing is cutting back on interdistrict transfers--students from outside CUSD's enrollment area, that is.

DATE: Tue, October 12, 2010 4:41:57 PM
SUBJECT: Does Claremont need to tax itself for the benefit of students who have transferred from adjoining districts?

TO: Claremont Insider

I have read someplace, either in these pages or in the Daily Bulletin, that as many as one out of six students in Claremont schools comes from an adjoining district. The "benefit" to our district supposedly is that Claremont schools get the normal state funding for each student. That brings in a little money to the district. (Cui bono?) However, as we have found out repeatedly, state funding is not sufficient to run the Claremont District. Each student in Claremont costs more than what the state provides. Hence, we have been persuaded to pass bond issues from time to time in addition to a parcel tax.

Now, we have been asked to supplement the state funding with a whopping $95 million bond issue. The question is, how much of this money will be used to benefit students other than Claremont students? One would think that if one out of six students is from outside the district than almost $16 million dollars out of the $95 million would be for the direct benefit of other than Claremont students.

Do Claremont citizens really want to take over a tax burden that properly should be borne by adjoining towns? Should the School District not be encouraged cut back on its expenses, for example, by limiting the number of transfers to a more reasonable number so that the bond issues paid by Claremonters actually benefit Claremont students? Maybe the whole District could be downsized to a size adequate for Claremont students. In that case, we might not be confronted by such an outrageous funding request.

The matter of CUSD's interdistrict transfers hasn't really been discussed too much by the local papers. We saw this with the Daily Bulletin editorial endorsing the bond. The editorial simply parroted back the Yes on CL campaign's mailer language without digging into them to see if they were true statements, and they ignored several of the arguments against the Measure CL, including the fact that 17% of CUSD's students have transferred in from outside the district.

Claremont is able to absorb that 17% because they have too much capacity and too many teachers. Yet the school district refuses to consider cutting back on the transfers and won't trim staff or downsize its facilities. CUSD's school board stubbornly clings to the idea that they must keep their enrollment numbers artificially inflated.
[CORRECTION: After we wrote the above-section of this post, we opened up today's Claremont Courier and saw that the interdistrict transfer issue did come up at Thursday night's Active Claremont Measure CL debate. So at least the Courier is trying to delve into all the nuances of the bond campaign. According to Landus Rigsby's article, Yes on CL representative Bill Fox claimed that CUSD would have to shutter its elementary schools, El Roble Intermediate School, and Claremont High. Highly unlikely. Mr. Fox was just being true to his nature.]
Another related issue is the fact that, because all those interdistrict transfers don't live in CUSD's area, their families don't have to pay for any taxes or bonds the district levies. They aren't paying off the $30 million we still owe for the Measure Y bond, and they don't have to pay for CUSD's annual Recreation Assessment District. They won't have to pay a penny of the Measure CL costs either, costs that amount to a total of around $250 million over 40 years.

In essence, the school district has asked property owners within the district's boundaries to subsidize those children from outside the enrollment area.

The involvement of people from outside the district extends to the Measure CL campaign. Besides a Bay Area consultant running the Yes campaign from behind the scenes, there are a good many people listed as Measure CL endorsers don't even live in Claremont. For instance, many of the CUSD teachers and administrators who were listed in the first Measure CL ad in the Claremont Courier reside out of town, including CUSD Superintendent Terry Nichols, who lives in Glendora.
[BTW, IS SUPERINTENDENT NICHOLS A LIAR? Maybe not, but he comes perilously close.

In the Courier article today, Superintendent Nichols was quoted as having said the district trimmed Measure CL from its original $160 million to $95 million before submitting it to the voters. Superintendent Nichols casts the district as being frugal, saving property owners tens of millions. The truth is, $95 million is just about at the state's limit of bonded indebtedness for CUSD: 2.5% of the total assessed value of all the properties in Claremont. The district wasn't pinching pennies; CUSD was making a money grab, maxing out their credit card.

Nichols is well aware of the limit to the amount of debt CUSD can take on, and he is behaving no better than a scamming telemarketer. If he could grab $160 million, he and the school board would.]
The faculty members who support the bond and who are working on the Yes on CL campaign don't really care about the long-term consequences of the measure. The teachers, like CUSD's contractors and vendors, will benefit financially if Measure CL passes, and the teachers union agreed to its latest contract in exchange for endorsing and working to pass the bond measure. It's pocketbook issue to some of them -- moving as much as possible from your pocketbook to theirs.

Because so many, including the Daily Bulletin's editorial board, think that we have to pass just about any school bond that comes up, these things will continue to pass, and the cumulative debt in Claremont and all around the state will continue to pile up. These bonds are simply financing schemes that are incredibly wasteful because of all the extra dollars that have to be diverted from actual projects to service debt and to line the pockets of the contractors who underwrite the bond campaigns. One way or another, it's going to have to stop.

Signs, Signs, Everywhere There's Signs

Not OK

We've seen the trailer sign brought into town by the NO on Measure CL folks, or maybe it's just one opponent "going rogue". This is the kind of thing that is Not Done in Claremont, and as such is probably driving the proponents bonkers. As an aside, it is notable that the opponents can't even fit the amount of the proposed bond on their sign. They've only got 8 spaces and $95,000,000 takes eleven. That's a lot of money.

We are hearing that the NO on CL folks are getting heat from the proponents for the trailer sign. This is being done "the Claremont Way" of course, through official channels: the proponents' enforcement arm, the CPD or maybe it's Code Enforcement.

We are the first to admit we don't know all of the ins and outs of the sign ordinance. Believe it or not, Title 18 of the Municipal Code: SIGNS, runs 41 pages, and prohibits most things. Take a look at it here if you are really interested. You may have to scroll down to open Title 18.

Anyway, if the lit trailer sign is prohibited--and how does the City get by prohibiting a legal vehicle on the street?--then what about the permanent (and in our opinion very tacky) lit message board sign at Claremont High School? How come that's OK?


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Nothing to See Here Folks!


In response to Claremont PD Officer Sean Evans appearing in uniform in a political mailer for Measure CL, the City of Claremont issued this statement:

A recent flyer sent out and posted on the campaign committee website for the Yes on CL measure contained the photograph of a uniformed Claremont Police Officer. While the uniform is indistinguishable and the flyer does not mention the Claremont Police Department, it may give the impression that the officer is speaking on behalf of the Claremont Police Department. The officer was photographed for this flyer on his day off and any statements made by the officer were his own personal views and not that of the Claremont Police Department. The Claremont Police Department strives to be apolitical and is neutral on this local measure.

Click Image to Enlarge

For a while, the statement that the flyer didn't mention the CPD by name and you couldn't tell from his uniform he was CPD will be on the City website.

More about Officer Evans' duties here.

On His Own Time
Uniform Indistinguishable
Claremont Police not Mentioned
Not Speaking for Claremont
Nothing to See Here, Move Along

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Claremont Police Department Used to Push Measure CL

CPD Officer Sean Evans. Let's Hear it, Kids, for Measure CL!

Is there no advantage that the proponents of Measure CL will not press?

Another mail piece hit our mailboxes today using Sean Evans, school cop, as a prop in the advertising campaign. We reproduce part of it above. You'd think that the Claremont Police would have a policy against officers in uniform advertising for a political campaign, but then, this is Claremont. It's probably only a policy when someone outside the power elite wants to do it. Did Officer Evans have no idea he was being used?--or did he readily assent to a photoshoot in costume? So many questions...

He gave them a nice quote, anyway. Or at least the consultant in San Francisco put a nice quote in his mouth. Really. Does anyone actually say, "Local funding for student safety that can't be taken away by Sacramento is a win-win for Claremont schools."

We think this doesn't help the street cred of the CPD when one side gets to use the badge and the patch as props. We know that the police command a lot of respect in town but can't see how trotting out friendly SRO Officer Evans in the tawdry search for votes for an ill-advised, unsustainable, $95 million school bond does anything to advance the interest of public safety in our community.

Look for there to be a short flurry of noise, ritual wringing of hands, and the matter will be swept under the rug because, well, it's for the kids.

Anything goes when you're doing it for the kids, and Piper Jaffray.

And while we are on the subject of kids, we've been noticing this: there are a lot of kids in those flyers and their faces are more or less recognizable. Since we here at the Insider really do put kids' safety first, we've been careful to blur out our kids faces (or otherwise obliterate them, see below). Does the consultant have permission from the parents to use these kids this way? And is it OK to use pictures of kids and classes, apparently taken on school time, for political advertising? So many questions...

From the reverse of the Measure CL mailer

As we post this late Wednesday, the mailer is still on the website.

Monday, October 18, 2010

On the Money Trail

As you may have heard, Saturday's edition of the Claremont Courier raised a lot of questions about the financing behind CUSD's Measure CL campaign.

Courier reporter Tony Krickl got a Nancy Mintie-style response from Yes on CL treasurer J. Michael Fay as he answered Krickl's questions about the source of the majority of the Yes money. Fay's response seemed to underscore rather than refute bond critics' concerns about the enormous amounts of money pumped into the Yes campaign by out-of-town school contractors:

“These aren’t just outside interests,” said J. Michael Fay, campaign treasurer for Yes on Measure CL. “Most of the companies have already conducted business in the district with Measure Y. So now they’ve volunteered to support the [Measure CL] campaign.”

Fay went on to say that any future school district contracts would have to go out to bid, so there's no quid pro quo involved. Fay, however, overlooks the fact that these bond servicing companies and contractors have a big picture to consider. This could just be thank-you money for past contracts, and dollars given here in Claremont can translate to contracts with other districts.

We got to thinking about this and looked back at the sources of some of the big money for Measure Y, CUSD's last bond measure in the June 2000 election. One of Measure Y's campaign donors was the architectural design firm Flewelling & Moody. On 5/11/00, F & M donated $2,500 to the Yes on Measure Y campaign. On 5/30/00, the week before the election, F & M made a second donation of $2,500.

Did they receive any consideration in return? We can't say for sure, but F & M's website does list Claremont Unified as one of their clients from 2005:

Click on Images to Enlarge

Flewelling & Moody has kicked in $5,000 so far for the current Yes on CL campaign. Judging from the way it went after the last Claremont school bond, if Measure CL passes, there's no telling what sort of contract they might land five years hence after everyone's forgotten about this election.

When one roots around, one starts to find all sorts of things. For instance, F & M, as well as the San Rafael financial advising firm Northcross Hill & Ach (another $5,000 Yes on CL donor) and Rancho Cucamonga-based WLC Architects (a whopping $25,000 to the Yes on CL campaign), are all sponsors of the Claremont Chamber of Commerce. So we shouldn't be surprised that the Chamber's governmental affairs committee voted to endorse CL after meeting with the Yes on CL campaign team and without seeking to hear at all from the No side.

The best CL information on the contract side of things comes from the agenda for the July 22, 2010, CUSD school board meeting. That was the same meeting where the school board approved the resolution to go forward with a bond election. Item 4 on that agenda was the approval of an agreement with Minnesota-based investment bank Piper Jaffray & Co. (see page 3 of the full agenda at the end of this post).

Piper Jaffray has so far donated $25,000 to the Yes on CL effort. Getting back to that July 22 meeting, the Claremont school board agreed to employ them as bond underwriters should CL pass. In return, Piper Jaffray would receive the following:
Total compensation for all of the pre-election and post-election services shall not exceed 1.10% of the total principal amount of each individual General Obligation Bond issue.

Hmmmm, let's see....1.10% of $95 million (the maximum amount CUSD could seek under CL)? That's $1,045,000. Not at all a bad return on $25,000 in what amounts to, uh, marketing costs. All CUSD has done is put the big money carrot up front instead of at the end of the campaign.

Bond counsel Stradling Yocca Carlson & Rauth also stands to make a decent bit off CUSD property owners from a successful Yes on CL campaign - up to 1% of the total bonds issued.

This is precisely where Yes on CL campaign consultants like Jared Boigon and TBWB Strategies could easily act as facilitators, getting contractors to underwrite bond campaigns in some places and then offering introductions between those same contractors and other districts that have successfully passed their bond measures with the aid of these ever-helpful consultants.

It's a great business model, earning Boigon and TBWB $35,000 from the school district for pre-campaign polling services, along with another $10,000 as of September 30 from the Yes on CL campaign. And the money wheel keeps spinning as long as voters are naive enough to believe the misinformation issued forth from the mouths of people like Michael Fay, who manages to remain credible in our community no matter how many times he and his friends play this game.

We can't help but stand in awe at the hypocrisy of those among the Claremont 400 who are pushing this incredibly flawed school bond. One sees this when the League of Women Voters complains about the U.S. Supreme Court's Citizens United decision opening up the floodgates to corporate election contributions as the local LWV chapter stays silent when companies with financial stakes in a successful bond campaign donate all but $2,000 of the $66,027 (and counting) raised by the Yes on CL campaign.

So, let's get this straight. Investment banks contributing to the campaigns of elected officials in charge of financial reform? Bad. Investment banks contributing to school bond campaigns they stand to earn $1 million from? Good.

Hypocritical? Certainly. But, heck, if you're a Claremont 400 critic, we suppose it's job security.

* * * * *

Here's the business operations agenda for that July 22, 2010, CUSD school board meeting:

Monday News Briefs


The Claremont Courier and Daily Bulletin both reported on the arrests of two suspected copper thieves last week. The Claremont Police Department, with help of three other nearby city police agencies, had the thieves under surveillance as they tried to steal copper wire from La Puerta Sports Park. There's been no word on whether or not the two suspects were responsible for the September 22 theft of wire from Padua Park.

Here's what the CPD website says:

On October 14 2010, two suspects were arrested for copper theft at La Puerta Sports Park during a surveillance by officers at the park. Following recent copper thefts at the park, officers were assigned to conduct surveillance operations. At about 12:30 a.m., two suspects were observed entering the park and going from light pole to light pole removing the copper wire.

Additional officers from the Pomona and La Verne Police Departments responded to the park, along with a helicopter from the Ontario Police Department to assist the Claremont officers in taking the suspects into custody. Upon hearing the helicopter approaching, both suspects fled the park. After a short foot pursuit and fight with officers, one suspect was taken into custody. The second suspect fled into the rear yard of a home in the 2400 block of San Jacinto Ct. where he was taken into custody with the assistance of a Pomona Police K-9.

Arrested: Brian Arnold, 24 yrs old, Ontario resident
Arrested: Ryan Lawrence, 23 yrs old, Transient


The City of Claremont is hosting another of its neighborhood forums tomorrow. Two council members and city staff will be on hand at the Padua Theatre to talk with North Claremont residents about anything that's on their minds (you don't have to be from the area to attend):
City Council Neighborhood Forum -Padua Hills Theatre

7:00 PM
4467 Via Padova
(909) 399-5460

Council Members are also hosting a series of Neighborhood Forums. Neighborhood Forums give residents from different neighborhoods the opportunity to talk with City Council Members in a relaxed and informal setting. Neighborhoods can discuss issues that are important to them, air concerns, share ideas, ask questions and get the latest information about topics and projects that are specific to each neighborhood. Although forums are scheduled for specific neighborhoods, you do not have to live in that immediate area to attend.


Claremont's annual Village Venture happens this Saturday in the Claremont Village:

Village Venture Returns To The Village On October 23

The annual Village Venture craft faire will return to the Claremont Village on Saturday, October 23 from 9:00am to 5:00pm. The event attracts hundreds of craft vendors and thousands of attendees each year. The Claremont Chamber of Commerce hosts the event, which features entertainment, food, and a children's costume parade. For more information on Village Venture, please call the Claremont Chamber of Commerce at (909) 624-1681.