Claremont Insider: May 2010

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Be a Joiner

Tired of unending, futile wrangling with City Hall? Bureaucratic indifference got you down? Now's your chance to swap beating them for joining them. The City of Claremont is accepting applications for seats on the City's commissions.

The City's website has information about all six of its commissions. All of them have commissioners whose terms are expiring at the end of August, but there's no indication of which of those will be stepping down and which will be reappointed.

As you can see below, the requirements are sufficiently vague as to allow just anybody to be accepted. Or blackballed, as the case may be. You can contact the City Clerk's office for more info.

Don't tell them the Insider sent you:

Commission Vacancies Accepted Through June 17

Applications are currently being accepted to fill end-of-term vacancies on various City of Claremont commissions. Persons interested in being considered for appointment are encouraged to file an application with the City Clerk's office by 6:00 p.m. on Thursday, June 17, 2010.

Claremont has six commissions (Architectural, Community Services, Human Services, Planning, Police, Traffic and Transportation) whose purpose is to advise and assist the City Council in addressing issues related to the commission's area of concern. They do this by gathering pertinent information, hearing arguments, weighing values, and making recommendations to the Council.

Each commission is comprised of seven citizens appointed by the Mayor after consultation with and approval by the City Council. Qualifications for commission service include: Claremont residency (with certain exceptions), a strong interest in the community and the work of the commission, and the ability to give generously of one's time while serving.

A personal interview with a two-member City Council sub-committee will be scheduled for all applicants. It is the Council's goal to appoint individuals who reflect the diversity of the community.

Applications and information are available in the City Clerk's office, City Hall, 207 Harvard Avenue, Monday through Thursday, 7:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m., and on the City's website - Please contact the City Clerk's office for assistance - (909) 399-5461 or (909) 399-5463.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The Insider's Got No Game

Bravos and Brickbats Department

We received the following email over the weekend:

Chandler Hill
Sent: Sat, May 22, 2010 1:19:05 PM
Subject: Get back to work

So have your prolific posts come down to old, warmed-over crime summaries from other blogs? What's up with you all? Get called to the principal's office? Dog been eating your stories? Getting too old for this s**t? You all vanish for months and months, then come back like you're recovering from a brain injury. Hey--I love you dudes. This here's some tough love that is necessary.

For example:
Krickl reported on one other recent crime story involving a prowler in a home on the 1100 block of Morningside Dr. On May 5, a resident whose sleep was disturbed by strange noises discovered the prowler in the bedroom of his seven-year-old daughter. The prowler fled on foot, but CPD officers were later able to identify a suspect.

The police ended up arresting a 17-year-old Claremonter who lived in the same area as the home on Morningside Dr.

Now you know there's a story here. Ain't on Krickl's RADAR. Ain't in the local print papers. Think of all the parents with children in this city who want to know what the real story is. Why was this suspect in the bedroom? Why repeatedly? Was this a sex crime? A stalking? A wingnut? Someone the family knew? Someone with parents of their own with the juice the keep the story quiet? Maybe it is less nefarious than any of this ... but the complete lack of any explanation makes one wonder ...

... and if you guys don't go dogging for the answers, then who will? I mean really. Get back on the horse that threw you ... or sell the old nag to the glue factory and call it a day.

C. Hill

We were inclined to swallow our medicine and accept the critique until we remembered that the SAME GUY had posted last Fall on The David Allen Blog:

chandler hill said:

Good riddance. That blog had its moments but the bottom line was it was nothing but snarky, the bloggers hid like cowards behind anonymity, and were afraid to allow responses.

Now, either Chandler is recovering from a brain injury of his (her) own or he (she) is not being careful to align the temporal substance of his (her) comments.

* * * * *

In any event, given C. Hill's incisive and perceptive comment on our laziness, there is not much hope for this correspondent, in an e-mail received on Monday:

From [redacted]

I have been trying to find out what all of the activity was about the afternoon of Friday, May 21st. There were several police cars and ambulances on Scottsbluff just off of Mills. I have been searching on-line and have not seen any information. I came upon it on my attempt to get home and saw a man handcuffed on the ground. I would love if you could do some digging!!! No news sites seem to have any information regarding the happenings of that afternoon. Thank you!


We dunno. And we're probably too lazy to find out. See above. Maybe the Courier will cover it.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Council Meets Tonight

One side effect of Claremont's budget problems is that they've used a good chunk of the Great Recession spending their way into a hole that, absent any additional federal stimulus money, will take a few years to recover from. That means no more big budget busting municipal projects (i.e., a new police station or a water company takeover). Fiscal responsibility, like it or not, has been imposed on Claremont.

Another effect (benefit?) of Claremont's financial woes is that City Council meetings are likely to be shorter because fewer big projects mean less time taken up by staff reports and comments, public comment, legal advice from City Attorney Sonia Carvalho, and the councilmembers' questions and opinions.

We'll see if tonight's City Council regular meeting runs under two hours. The council convenes at 5:15pm for a special closed session meeting that covers ongoing negotiations with the Claremont Police Management Association and the Claremont Police Officers Association.

The regular session begins at 6:30pm in the council chambers at 225 2nd St. in downtown Claremont. You can read the agenda here. If you're a glutton for punishment, or if the Lakers are getting walloped, you can subject yourself to a live feed of the meeting here.

On the council's plate tonight are:

  • A hike in recreational user fees (to be expected given the tight budget). You'll pay a couple bucks more this year for a ticket to the City's 4th of July fireworks show, and things like swim programs will cost more. See the staff report for the new fee schedule.

  • The annual engineer's report for the Landscaping and Lighting District (LLD). The report recommends an increase of 1.86%, mirroring the year-over-year rise in the consumer price index for Southern California as of March, 2010.

    For most single-family residences, this translates to an increase of $2.72, from $147.12 to $149.84. Properties with larger lots pay more. The increase is based on the consumer price index for Southern California.

    Those of you who've been around for a while know the history of the LLD. It's what really one of the first things got people thinking about how City Hall manages our finances.

  • An update on the restoration Sycamore Canyon Park, which was damaged in the 2003 Grand Prix Fire. The park has been closed since that time. The City has secured $180,000 in grant funding, and will proceed with restoring the trail and picnic areas. The City will also remove non-native eucalyptus trees and plant sycamores and oaks. Work is expected to commence this coming fall and finish sometime next winter.

  • A report on the traffic signal at Indian Hill Blvd. and 10th St. You'll recall there were several pedestrian accidents there before the City, bowing to pressure from the neighborhood, installed the signal last month.

  • An update on the City's abandoned property ordinance. The staff report by Community Development Director Tony Witt for this item says there are currently 150 Claremont properties in some stage of foreclosure. The City has levied over $120,000 in fines under the ordinance, and around $22,000 has gone uncollected.

City Council Meeting

6:30 PM
225 W. 2nd St. - City Council Chamber

June 8 Primaries

From Assemblyman
Anthony Adams' website

California's 59th Assembly District sprawls along most of the San Gabriel Mountains out to the west tip of the San Bernardino Mountains. The district, gerrymandered to guarantee a reliably Republican seat, covers parts of two counties, running eastward from La Crescenta. The district picks up Altadena, then goes on to Arcadia and Monrovia, continues east through La Verne and Claremont, reaches a finger out to Redlands, heads north into Crestline and Lake Arrowhead, and then out into the high desert to catch Hesperia and Apple Valley.

Our current Assemblyman is Anthony Adams, who last year avoided a recall election when recall petitioners failed to gather sufficient signatures to initiate a recall. The recall effort stemmed from conservative voters' anger over Adams crossing the aisle to vote with Democrats to temporarily raise taxes in order to resolve last year's state budget crisis.

Adams decided not to run for re-election, probably because he knew he stood a good chance of losing the June Republican primary. Given Republicans' 43% to 35% edge in the district's registered voters, the Republican primary effectively decides who will represent the 59th.

Adams' decision to step down left the district seat up for grabs. As a result, there are six Republican candidates (their occupations are taken from :

The Riverside Press-Enterprise had a rundown of the field for the Republican primary. The article also notes that there is also Libertarian primary with two candidates: Dan Fernandes from La Verne and Apple Valley's Tony Tyler.

Darcel Woods, also from La Verne, is running unopposed in the Democratic primary. American Independent candidate Robert Gosney from Hesperia is running unopposed as well. Both will be on the ballot in the November general election.

There's a website called that breaks down all of California's local and statewide elections. The site has links to the candidates' campaign finance disclosures (if they've filed one). In the Republican primary, Chris Lancaster raised the most money for the 1/1/10 to 3/17/10 reporting period. Lancaster collected $116,974. Corey Calaycay was next with $73,097 for the same period. At the end of that reporting period, Lancaster had $70,513.50 remaining, and Calaycay had $54,416.44.

The election is in two weeks on June 8. Whatever your political inclinations, don't forget to vote.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Claremont Officials Spinning Tangled Webs


Claremont City Manager Jeff Parker and Human Services Director Mercy Santoro did their bureaucratic best to rewrite history in their recent interviews with the Daily Bulletin. Parker and Santoro were quoted in yesterday's Bulletin in an article about the possibility of cuts in city staff and services being connected to the costs of the newly opened Padua Park.

Both Parker and Santoro put their spin on the story. Santoro was quoted in the article, saying that all the funding decisions for the park occurred before the City faced any real budget problems:

"We were not having drastic budget reductions until January 2009," Santoro said. "We were not faced with takeaways until well after. We were well into our project when we were faced with having to look at reducing our workforce."

Parker claimed in the Bulletin article that once the City Council awarded its contract for building Padua Park, the City's hands were tied because the cost of breaking the contract would have been $500,000:
"Theoretically, we could have said, `Gee, the economic downturn will not let us build the park.' And could we have gone back? ... I'm sure they would have said, `Sure. Do you want to pay me a half a million to walk away?' It doesn't make a lot of sense" to change the contract, Parker said.

Santoro also said the City had been planning the park for 19 years and seemed to claim, like Parker, that they could not postpone building the park. Santoro and Parker must have had their fingers crossed behind their backs when they were interviewed for the story, because none of their claims is supported by the record.


We considered the points the Claremont officials made and then examined the record. Take Parker's claim of having to pay the contractor $500,000 to buy out the contract. We noted that Parker mentioned breaking the contract and ending the project while conveniently omitting other options. Parker himself had mentioned the idea of reworking the contract back in December, 2009, when the $850,000 grant for the park from the San Gabriel and Los Angeles Rivers and Mountains Conservancy was placed on hold in December, 2009, because the state had stopped selling the bonds needed to fund RMC grants.

The city council could have put the matter on hold until the RMC came through with the money the City was counting on for the park's construction. Parker indicated that the cost would have been less than $100,000. If the City could work out a deal like that in order to wait for the RMC's funds, as Parker seemed to think, they certainly could have worked out something with the contractor to place the matter on temporary hold until the City's deteriorating financial picture improved.


As to Santoro's claims that the money for the park construction was allocated before the City realized the extent of their financial problems, a look at a timeline of Padua Park funding decisions along with events in the banking and housing crisis shows that there was plenty of time for the City to hold the project in abeyance and use the money for other things - like paying for employees' jobs.

We looked at two of the City's Padua Park funding decision points - the 10/9/07 decision to appropriate $1.6 million from the General Fund for the park's construction and the 9/23/08 decision to award a park construction contract and dip into the City's General Fund reserve to pay for the job. When you set those two dates, almost exactly one year apart, against the backdrop of the housing and banking crises, you can see that there were plenty of red flags warning the City to proceed with caution in its spending.

The housing market, on which the state and the City depend for property tax revenue, peaked in 2005, three years before the Padua Park contract was awarded. In early 2008, housing's decline was well on its way to a far off bottom. Even if we accept for the sake of argument that Parker was correct about being locked into the park construction contract, there was plenty of time before the City Council's 9/23/08 vote to give Mega Way, Inc. the contract to build the project. Here's a graph showing the Case-Shiller housing market index from mid-2006 to mid-2009 (we've overlaid the two Padua Park decision points):

(Click to Enlarge)
Background chart courtesy of Juan Toledo

The City had 350 days between the first arrow and the second to put an emergency hold on the project. At the City's 6/12/08 budget workshop, the staff's presentation said the City had a hiring freeze on and was reducing staff through attrition by not replacing employees who decided to leave. Staff also noted a decrease in sales tax revenues and the need to raise sanitation service fees - all signs that the revenues wouldn't cover expenditures.

The City was also having to deal with foreclosures in the spring of 2008. Empty, untended houses prompted the city to adopt an ordinance requiring owners of foreclosed properties (banks mostly) to properly maintain the houses they took over, and unemployment in California reached a 12-year high of 7.3% by July, 2008. Those were additional indicators that should have told us to expect even more mortgage defaults as well as declining sales tax revenue due to more people losing jobs.

Here is a timeline of the Padua Park decisions with some major and minor events in the Great Recession (in red):
  • Early 2005 - housing market peaks, then begins its long decline.

  • 10/9/07 - Council authorizes $2.4 million for Padua Park, including $1.6 million from the General Fund. Vote is 4-1 with Councilmember Calaycay voting "No."

  • 4/8/08 - Federal Reserve brokers the sale of investment bank Bear Stearns to JP Morgan Chase and underwrites the purchase with a $29 billion loan.

  • 4/30/08 - NYSE suspends trading of PFF Bancorp stock, one of the banks in which the City held its short-term savings accounts.

  • 7/11/08 - Talk of a federal bailout Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac reported in NY Times.

    FDIC takeover of IndyMac Bank.

  • 8/28/08 - PFF announces shareholder meeting to vote on merger deal with Illinois-based FBOC, Inc.

  • 9/8/08 - Government places Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac in conservatorship.

  • 9/13 - 9/14/09 - Fed and US Treasury Dept. allow Lehman Bros. to fail.

  • 9/16/08 - Fed bails out AIG with a $85 billion loan.

  • 9/17/08 - Dow Jones Industrial Avg., already down over 3,000 points from its peak, declines 449.36 points - 4.1%.

  • 9/23/08 - Council votes to award $2.4 million Padua Park construction contract to Mega Ways, Inc., in Pomona. City awaits announcement from RMC on $850,000 grant. Again, 4-1 with Councilmember Calaycay the sole "No" vote.

    Council also votes 4-1 to go forward with Padua Park's phase 1A, appropriated an additional $450,000 from the City's General Fund and $527,859 from the General Fund reserve.

So, you can see there were plenty of serious red flags ignored by Parker, Santoro, and the Claremont City Council, plenty of opportunities to not spend the $3.4 million or so appropriated for Padua Park's construction on 10/9/07 and 9/23/08. That last meeting occurred a week after the federal government allowed Lehman Bros. to fail and right at the very height of investor anxiety. All of this occurred at the very moment an already down stock market was preparing to take its own dizzying plunge.

City officials knew what was happening with the financial markets and knew those markets were unraveling in September, 2008. Yet, the City proceeded with awarding a contract for a project that could have easily been put on hold. Worse still, the City dipped into it's rainy day General Fund reserve at a time when they would need it most. The decision to go forward with the park's construction that September represented a total of $3.4 million that could have been used to balance the city's budget, which in turn would have allowed the city to avoid the really big cuts in staff and service.

The City certainly has no control over the financial markets or housing and employment figures, but it does have a responsibility for conservative spending in times of crisis. It's just incredibly sad to see the City dig itself into a very avoidable fiscal hole, and it's even sadder to see city officials, elected and paid, refuse to take ownership of their poor decisions.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Crime News

Catching up with some local crime stories:

Donut shop owner Moun Chau pleaded guilty last month to charges of illegally purchasing elephant ivory on eBay. Chau, the owner of Pixie Donuts in the Von's Shopping Center on Base Line Rd., had purchased and imported about $2,750 worth of ivory from Thailand, according to the Daily Bulletin's Wes Woods II:

Moun Chau, 50, will face up to five years in federal prison and up to $250,000 in fines when he is sentenced Oct. 18 in Los Angeles federal court.

Chau, who owns Pixie Donuts in Claremont and lives in Montclair, pleaded guilty April 8 to one count of importing ivory in part of a plea agreement reached with prosecutors.

Chau sentencing hearing is scheduled for October.

* * * * *

Claremont Courier reporter Tony Krickl had a story last week about Claremont PD officer Matt Hamill breaking his ankle while in pursuit of a shoplifting suspect at the Von's in the same shopping center as Pixie Donuts.

Krickl's also had a blog post that noted that the same suspect, 19-year-old Robert Hunt, was arrested by CPD immediately after he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor shoplifting charge. Krickl explained the reasons for Hunt's second arrest:
During the booking process, Hunt's fingerprints were taken and entered into the Cal-ID print system. On Tuesday, a match was returned on the prints for a residential burglary that occurred in Claremont on April 24.

During that incident, a resident in the 400 block of Platt Boulevard woke to voices heard in his home and the sound of footsteps leaving through the front door. It was discovered that someone entered the home and stole a laptop.

* * * * *

The Tyler Singleton story also made the Krickl's Courier City Beat. Singleton, a star running back on the Claremont High School football team, pleaded no contest two charges of statutory rape. He had been accused of raping a 14-year-old girl in a public restroom at Claremont's Cahuilla Park.

Singleton received a six-month prison sentence, according to Krickl.

* * * * *

Krickl reported on one other recent crime story involving a prowler in a home on the 1100 block of Morningside Dr. On May 5, a resident whose sleep was disturbed by strange noises discovered the prowler in the bedroom of his seven-year-old daughter. The prowler fled on foot, but CPD officers were later able to identify a suspect.

The police ended up arresting a 17-year-old Claremonter who lived in the same area as the home on Morningside Dr.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Invasive Flora, Opportunistic Fauna

Click on images to enlarge

On a recent weekend, the Insider staff decided to get away and enjoy the wonderful spring weather in San Gabriel Mountains. We drove out past Wrightwood on the Angeles Crest Hwy. and found a relatively easy path that joined up with the Pacific Crest Trail near Vincent Gap.

The trail had a pretty good elevation gain up through an oak forest for the first mile or so, then it leveled out and followed a ridgeline dotted with pines. As we walked along, we noticed, nestled in a shaded pine needle bed, a group of what looked like bright red and pink hyacinths without any green leaves. As we got closer, we saw that they were supported by thick candy cane stalks.

We returned home and later consulted the old man of the mountains. We described the fantastical plants to him, and he told us in his gravelly voice, "When we were kids, we called that snow plant."

Snow plant, we've since learned, is a fungus-like parasite called a "mycotrophic wildflower" that gets its nutrients from tree roots.


One is never quite sure what one will find when one wanders into the local mountains and foothills. A couple weeks after our mountain adventure, we decided to stick closer to home and explore some of the flatter alluvial areas around northeast Claremont. The undeveloped alluvium is home to the plant and animal community called riversidean alluvial fan sage scrub habitat, or RAFSS.

RAFSS is rapidly dwindling in southern and Baja California. Ten years ago, there was only about 2,000 acres of it left in California. It's disappearing because most of the stuff happens to be located on real estate coveted by developers (that is, until the real estate market tanked).

RAFSS is an odd sort of habitat. It's not at all liked a picturesque English woodland. Instead, if you go during the summer, you're likely to find it brown and sere. That is, in fact, why the city of Claremont had its commissioners trucked to the Padua Park site in July, 2000, to ensure that all they saw was what looked like a weedy lot desperately in need of improvements. About half of the 20-acre main park site consisted of RAFSS.

If the city's commissioners had gone to the same spot three or four months earlier, they would have seen it alive with greenery and flowers. All of which serves to underscore how diligently our town works to manipulate perception to get its projects done.

In any case, when we ventured out to take a look at an area near where the sports park has been installed, we found it teeming with wildflowers. Water percolated up in places from artesian springs (the cienegas that Claremont doyenne Marilee Scaff yearns to build below the dam near the Thompson Creek trail).

As we walked along, a couple quail that had been foraging in the brush, and they scooted off, chittering alarm calls as they took flight. We wondered about rattlesnakes, but it wasn't terribly hot the day we were out, at least, not hot enough to get the snakes stirred up.

Purples, blues, and lavenders seemed the dominant color that particular day. We saw blue-eyed grass and lupine (photo, right) with their five-lobed leaves. There was showy penstomen (below) as well, sitting in large groupings of blue jets arrayed along long, thin spears.

The generous storms of January and February brought so much water that the plain held an abundance of chamise, buckwheat, and bronze-green castor bean, too. Other flowering plants hadn't quite come into their season yet. White sage and short coastal prickly pear cactus looked as if they would burst into bloom any minute.


As we got closer to the park site, approaching it from the east, we noticed that the soil was considerably disturbed by the construction equipment. Black mustard and other invasive exotics had taken over those disturbed, more open areas. We could see the strangely out of place weeds mixed in and projecting above the RAFSS:

As we got closer, we saw that they had overrun the area completely:

And, along with the weeds that choked off the local coastal sage habitat, some even more more opportunistic and parasitic fauna appeared, blindly devastating up entire plant and animal communities from Claremont to Whittier Narrows:

From "Pave to Save," LA Weekly, April 22, 2010:

Shepherded by a group of unwieldy bureaucracies that include two water districts, the San Gabriel & Lower Los Angeles Rivers and Mountain Conservancy and the County of Los Angeles, the San Gabriel River Discovery Center is designed to replace the aging 2,000-square-foot Whittier Narrows Nature Center, buildings including a garage, and "non-native landscaping" with a 14,000-square-foot museum of interactive exhibits for children that would explain the existing state of the watershed, show what the natural rivers were once like and feature a covered, outdoor classroom.

"You're going to bring awareness of the sense of place where the kids sense that they're part of something much bigger," declares Sam Pedroza as he reels off interconnections between man, river and sea. "Everything that we do from the mountains and the inland cities affects the ocean. It's as small as throwing a wrapper in the street or in the parking lot — that can all end up in the ocean."

Pedroza, a Claremont city councilman, chairs the San Gabriel River Discovery Center Authority's Stakeholders Committee. "I know that we look like the Goliath here," he tells the Weekly, but "by every definition this is an environmental project that's aimed at protecting the watershed."

Others aren't so sure.

Teresa Young, who studies insects in habitats near the existing nature center, shares Pedroza's concern for the remaining open space. But she does not agree that the construction of a large building and parking lot somehow improves the environment.

Save by destroying, and then put up a commemorative bronze plaque to describe for future generations that which we've plowed under. It's a truly bizarre logic we've become accustomed to in Claremont, the City of Trees.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Sunday in the Quad with Janet

Official DHS portrait
If you were anywhere around downtown Claremont Sunday morning, you may have seen the parade of several hundred protesters waving banners and signs to protest U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano (photo, right) , who gave the college's commencement address.

As Pomona's graduation ceremony was about to begin on the Marston Quadrangle in front of Bridges Auditorium, the protesters wended their way through the Claremont Village beating drums and shouting protest calls (¡Obama, eschucha! ¡Estamos en la lucha! and ¡Si, se puede!).

The marchers gathered on the steps of the Carnegie Building on College Ave. across the street from Marston and continued their protest as Napolitano gave her speech. The protesters waved banners and signs and a few American flags. They railed against the new Arizona law empowering local police and sheriffs to arrest illegal immigrants and also criticized Pomona College's treatment of its food service workers, who have been trying without success to unionize.

A much smaller group of counter-protesting Minutemen and Minutewomen faced the main protest from the east side of College Ave. and waved their own signs and American flags. A contingent of Claremont police stood in the middle of the street keeping the peace, and there seemed to be plenty of additional private security all around the quadrangle.

We saw a news van from Corona-based Telemundo affiliate KVEA-52 parked near the counter-protest. A reporter stood on a platform with a hand-held mike, describing the hullabaloo for her viewers.

The events made the Los Angeles Times, whose Ruben Vives wrote:
Demonstrators said Napolitano has continued to expand immigration programs that they say were precursors to Arizona's law, which requires police officers to check the immigration status of anybody they stop and suspect may be here illegally.

And LA Newspaper Group reporter Liset Marquez gave a more detailed account of the protest:
The group was calling for an end to what they claim are discriminatory immigration enforcement policies in her department.

"Wherever (Napolitano) and others who continue to support shameful immigration policies go, we're going to be there demanding change," [Pomona grad Nick] Gerber told the marchers just before leaving for his graduation Sunday morning.

After Napolitano concluded her speech, the protest moved on to Claremont's Shelton Park. Some more speechifying ensued, mostly in Spanish, which prompted one sympathetic bystander to remark that the protesters might alienate the general public by not speaking in Spanish and could actually encourage calls for crackdowns on illegal immigration as happened in 2006 after images of large-scale pro-immigrant protesters waving Mexican flags made the news.

We'd have to concur with the bystander. While we can certainly understand immigrants, legal or not, being proud of their heritage, it's also been important historically for these same groups to show that they've assimilated, and language (English) is a part of demonstrating that assimilation. For better or worse, that's just a fact of life here.

Memo to Sunday's protesters: your marketing message may need a little more fine-tuning to resonate with a wider, non-college audience.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Joint City Council and School Board Meeting Tomorrow

The Claremont City Council and the Claremont Unified School District's Board of Education will hold their annual joint meeting 6:30pm tomorrow night in the board room at CUSD's Kirkendall Center on San Jose Ave..

Here are the meeting's agenda items:

  • The joint facilities use agreement between the two agencies, presented by the ubiquitous city Human Services Director Mercy Santoro.

  • A proposed health study presentation by CGU's Dr. C. Anderson Johnson a professor at the university's School of Community and Global Health. The study would be conducted jointly by CGU, the city of Claremont, and CUSD.

  • A report on a proposed fundraiser involving Claremont Toyota.

  • A report on the City's updated transportation plan.

Joint City Council/School Board Meeting

6:30 PM
Kirkendall Center - Board Room
170 W. San Jose Avenue
Claremont, 91711

Movin' On Up.... photo
Claremont Police Captain Gary Jenkins (photo, left) will likely be trading our college town for a larger one in the Pacific Northwest.

The city of Pullman, WA, home of Washington State University (go Cougars!), has named Jenkins its top candidate for new police chief. Pullman mayor Glenn Johnson made the announcement last Friday, according to CBS affiliate KLEW-TV in Lewiston, ID:

Johnson said Jenkins agreed to undergo the next stage of the selection process, which consists of the background check, polygraph and psychological tests. The city hopes the tests can be completed in about a month, at which time Mayor Johnson will formally appoint Jenkins. All appointments must be confirmed by the city council.

Five candidates appeared Wednesday before an interview panel, met with police officers, had a tour of the city with Chief Ted Weatherly and met with the general public.

Assuming he passes the final portion of the hiring process, Jenkins would fill the opening created by Pullman Police Chief Weatherly's impending retirement. Jenkins has been serving as the CPD's Operations Division Captain and is often quoted in high-profile news stories involving our police department.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Around Town


Claremont's Architectural Commission announced the winners of the City's Excellence in Design Awards. Six of the seven winning designs were on or affiliated with the Claremont Colleges. The City's website listed the award winners:

Winners of 2009 Excellence in Design Award Announced (May 12, 2010)

The Claremont Architectural Commission has announced the winners of the 29th Annual "Excellence in Design Awards," a program designed to recognize recently completed projects that best reflect the City's standards of design excellence. Seven projects have earned awards in the categories of New Construction, Renovation, Addition, Sustainable Landscaping, and Restorative Landscaping.

The Architectural Commission will formally recognize the award winners at its meeting on Wednesday, June 9, 2010. The meeting will begin at 7:00 p.m. in the Council Chamber, 225 W. Second Street. The public is invited to attend.

The Winners are:
- Claremont McKenna College - Biszantz Family Tennis Center
- 601 E. Foothill Boulevard Commercial Building Claremont University Consortium - - Honnold Library
- Scripps College - Sicilian Court
- McDermott Building
- CGU Residence
- Shafer Residence


Packrats all over Claremont are gearing up for a buying spree tomorrow at the annual City Yard Sale. In a sign of the fiscal times, the City is no longer hosting the event. Instead, the Claremont High School Softball Boosters will be in charge of the annual community yard sale in Cahuilla Park. The yard sale begins at 8am.
Citywide Yard Sale
May 15, 2010

Please note the change in this event!

This event will now be offered by the Claremont High School Softball Boosters and will no longer be offered by the City of Claremont. The 2010 event will take place from 8 am to 11 am at Cahuilla Park 1775 N. Indian Hill Blvd. (corner of Indian Hill and Scripps Ave). For more information please contact the Claremont High School Boosters at (909) 450-1730.


City Manager Jeff Parker's weekly report informs us that the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park will be closed next Monday through Wednesday for what has become an annual training exercise.

If you're curious to see where the exercise will take place, you can see the grove L.A. County Fire has worn into the hills on the west side of Thompson Creek. Rather than changing the area they practice in, L.A. County Fire has used the exact same area each time for their exercise. Every year, the firefighters use a trail that they created by tromping around the hillsides, and all that activity, together with erosion, has resulted an unintended, permanent feature.

This was Jeff Parker's blurb on the subject:

On May 17, 18 and 19, the Los Angeles County Fire Department is conducting its annual wildfire training exercise in the City of Claremont Wilderness Park. This exercise will begin at 8:00 AM and conclude at 1:00 PM each day. During this time, the Claremont Wilderness Park will be closed. Mills Avenue north of Mt. Baldy Road will also be closed, except to residents.


Claremont will hold another budget workshop on Saturday, May 22 in the City Council chambers at 225 W. Second St. The workshop runs from 1pm to 4pm, and the public is welcome and encouraged to attend. This is your chance to take partial ownership of your community's financial decisions. Here's the info from the City:

May 22 Budget Workshop (Mar 25, 2010)

The City Council has scheduled a Budget Workshop on May 22 from 1pm to 4pm to address the budget shortfall in 2011-12 Fiscal Year. The City Council approved staff recommendations for staff and program reductions for fiscal year 2010-11 resulting in a reduction of $1,318,727 in expenditures. In fiscal year 2011-12, staff has projected a $750,000 shortfall which is dependent on several undecided factors. These factors include the outcome of the State Redevelopment lawsuit, negotiations with labor unions, and the California State budget. At the late May workshop, staff will give an update on these factors, and provide additional reduction recommendations if necessary.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger will release his revised spending proposal for the 2010-2011 fiscal year today.

The outlook? Not so good. Here's what we know so far:

  • Cash commitments from federal officials have amounted to about $3 billion -- far less than the $6.9 billion in federal aid Schwarzenegger counted on in his January proposal.
  • Last month's drop in personal income tax revenues ruined any chance of a "May surprise" revise -- the state ended April about $1.3 billion short of revenue projections.
  • The governor's office has warned of "absolutely terrible cuts," including to social services programs.
  • Democrats say they want "everything on the table," including tax increases to close the gap. Republican leaders and Schwarzenegger say the topic of taxes is a non-starter.

The bottom line: Get ready for another long budget fight.

Bee colleague Kevin Yamamura reports today that one proposal expected to be included in today's revision would revive a plan to house some 15,000 nonviolent felons in county jails instead of state prisons. Read more on that here.

The big rollout of the governor's proposal, set for 1 p.m. at the Secretary of State building, will be broadcast live here.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Another Blog in Town

A while back, Daily Bulletin columnist David Allen mentioned a relatively new Claremont blog. Unlike other blogs about our fair city, Allen wrote, Conscious Claremont avoids being hectoring in its tone, which is a good thing. The last thing Claremont (and the blogosphere) needs is another whiny blogger.

Here's the anonymous blogger self-description:

About Me

I moved to Claremont in the 3rd grade & went to elementary, junior,& high school here. I went away for college, into the ‘big city’, Los Angeles. I was, like most Claremont kids, eager to leave. But, after 4 yrs. there, I felt city life wasn't for me. I've resided here the past 6 yrs. I have not been active in civic life before & only started to follow city hall in depth since last Aug. I have a b.a. in business economics & accounting. Thank you for reading, & I appreciate your feedback.

The posts cover a variety of Claremont issues, usually with a cost-benefit analysis weaved in. The sampling we read included posts about redevelopment (with a comment on ex-city manager Glenn Southard), changes in Claremont's financial policies, our zany, conflicted city council, and the real cost of the new Padua Park. The new blog also covers other items of interest, such as local architecture and local art events.

The park post had a comment that seemed fairly representative of Conscious Claremont's analyses:
An observer can't help feeling strange at the vast & expensive construction occurring while we experience serious fiscal problems.

While in recent years we've terminated employees & funding, we were able to spend almost 4 million from the general fund to finance this site, including this year's costs of $1.7 million. Even with an $850,000 conservancy grant, projections of city spending are upwards of $4.7 million.

This brings up another point. Why haven't the local papers made the obvious connection between the huge cost of the park to the loss of employees and city programs?

Observations like the one above show why blogs like Conscious Claremont exist in the first place. They fill an informational niche that most newspapers, including the Daily Bulletin or the Claremont Courier can't or won't address because the stories are too complex to fit into 15 or 20 column-inches.

So it takes a Conscious Claremont to put things into their proper context. To take the example of Padua Park, that one project accounts for virtually all of the City's budget deficit over that past two fiscal years. Our town mothers and fathers have bemoaned the loss of staff and services, yet they are the very ones who insisted that the park be completed now, costs be damned. The project could easily have been deferred until the economy and the city finances improved, but people like former mayor Ellen Taylor, current mayor Linda Elderkin, and our mayor pro tem Sam Pedroza, remained inflexible in their refusal to see how their project would end up gutting the city's balance sheet.

Ironically, some of the staff members whose jobs were eliminated because of Claremont's financial problems were the ones most responsible for the park's construction. Those employees were victims of the karma wheel coming full circle, like soon-to-be executed prisoners ordered to dig their own graves.

There are any number of ways a real news story could have been constructed out of the Padua Park project, but the traditional local news sources took the cheap, easy way out and failed to connect the dots. They simply wrote pieces about the park's grand opening without one single mention of the project's destructive fiscal effects.

Readers do notice the lack of context in such stories, contrary to whatever marketing reports editors are studying. As newspaper readership continues its downward death-spiral, we can't help wonder if papers themselves aren't doing more than a little of their own grave digging by not taking the time and energy to report the real news.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Claremont Art News

Fans of the Claremont Museum of Art, which closed last December, may want to know the museum lives on. When they closed, the CMA put its collection into storage with the idea of putting on exhibits in different places around the area.

The museum's website says they reorganized in April:

April 2010: The Board of Directors is working to reorganize the Claremont Museum of Art. We have lost our museum space, but there is still much we can do to promote the arts in Claremont. Our permanent collection has been securely stored and we have a dedicated group of volunteers building our “Museum without Walls”.

The website also has an announcement of a fundraiser this Friday evening at the Padua Hills Theatre. Ticket are $35, and it includes a raffle that includes artworks from Karl Benjamin, Millard Sheets, and other Claremont artists.

(click on the image to enlarge)

* * * * *

Art of the written sort has also been on exhibit in the Claremont Village. One of our readers wrote in to say that though it's not yet open, the new Cheese Cave on Yale Ave. has been tantalizing poetry lovers with a community poetry wall.

The reader sent this message:
....the cheese cave poetry window is getting more and more ridiculous. And by ridiculous, I mean awesome. you should really stop by and have a gander. :-)

Poetry loving fromagephiles should take a look. Since the owners posted their original greeting, they've posted a number of responses, from rhymed poetry,

to Hello Kitty haiku,

to prose (or should we say prosaic?) poems.

So, whether you like your verse verbose or sublime, check out the front window at the Cheese Cave.

We await the opening of our new cheesemonger,
but, please, let the verse linger a while longer.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

City Calendar


It's the second Tuesday of the May, which means another meeting of the Claremont City Council. Or, if you're the half-full-glass type, only five more meetings until the City's annual August recess for the council and city commissions.

The council convenes at 5:15pm for a special closed session to discuss negotiations involving the Peppertree Square property at 390 W. Arrow Hwy. and with Jerry Tessier and Arteco Partners on price and terms of the lease agreement for the Padua Hills Theatre. That second bit is an odd one - isn't that all settled?

Here's the closed session agenda.

The council's regular session begins at 6:30pm. You can watch it here.

It looks to be a fairly quiet meeting, though agenda item 9 piqued our curiosity. That item concerns a proposal by Claremont Heritage and the Kiwanis Club of Claremont to move from the Garner House in Memorial Park to the adjacent carriage house.

The carriage house used to house a child care program, the Kids Club program, but that ended in 2008, so Claremont Heritage wants to incorporate the carriage house's north half into its lease agreement with the City. The Kiwanis Club wants to renovate the south half and create a formal meeting and exhibit space.

Since 2002, Claremont Heritage has managed the Garner House for the City in exchange for rent-free office space and an agreement to renovate and restore the living room, dining room and kitchen.

City staff is recommending that the council review the proposal, provide some input, and return it to staff for study. Here's the staff report.

One other item of interest is the renewal of the City's agreement with the Claremont Chamber of Commerce. The city staff report recommends renewing the $40,000-per-fiscal year agreement with the chamber of commerce to run the local visitors center. The agreement also calls for the chamber to promote the city and its businesses.


The city of Claremont holds another of its semi-regular neighborhood meetings 7pm tomorrow night at the Joslyn Senior Center. The Joslyn Center is located at 660 N. Mountain Ave. in Larkin Park at the northeast corner of Harrison Ave. and Mountain.

Two councilmembers will be on hand to accept your rotten tomatoes. Hurl them with kindness.

Here's the info:

Neighborhood Forum Set For May 12

The public is invited to a Neighborhood Forum on Wednesday, May 12 from 7 - 9pm at the Joslyn Senior Center. Neighborhood Forums are an opportunity for the community to speak with members of the City Council in an informal setting. The forums are targeted to specific neighborhoods but any residents may attend. For more information, please contact Public Information Officer Bevin Handel at (909) 399-5497.


Weekly live music returned to the Claremont Village last Friday. The Friday Nights Live! program started May 7 and runs through June 25. Here's the City blurb:

Friday Nights Live is Back in the Village! (May 6, 2010)

The City of Claremont, in conjunction with the Claremont Chamber of Commerce, Village Marketing Group, and the Tolkin Group's Village Square, is pleased to announce that Friday Nights Live is coming back to the Claremont Village! Starting May 7 and running every Friday from 6-9 p.m. through June 25, 2010, two bands will be providing musical entertainment to patrons of Village shops and restaurants. The bands will be located at Second and Yale Avenue, as well as at the Public Plaza. Don't miss this opportunity to enjoy some great entertainment while shopping Claremont's restaurants and stores. Also, every dollar spent shopping in Claremont helps pay for the City's programs and services that makes Claremont the wonderful community it is. For more information on Friday Nights Live, contact the Chamber at (909)624-1681.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Another Year Older and Deeper in Debt

Local governments around California let out a collective groan last week when Sacramento Superior Court Judge Lloyd Connelly issued a ruling that supported the state's right to take $2 billion in redevelopment funds from redevelopment agencies across the state over the next two fiscal years.

The state, as you know, needs the money to help balance its $18 billion budget deficit. It seems to us that we were in just about the same place this time last year. The plan is for the state to take $1.7 billion for 2009-10 and $350 million for 2010-11. The money, legislators say, is supposed to go to local schools, which have their own problem with the state withholding money.

The first $1.7 billion payment was due yesterday. Monday's Daily Bulletin had an article about the state's latest money shift. The article described the impact of the redevelopment money grab on Inland Empire cities. Claremont City Manager Jeff Parker told the Bulletin that at least one Claremont Redevelopment Agency job will be eliminated because of the money transfer:

The Claremont redevelopment agency takes in about $3.8 million in property taxes, but has to pass along $1.3 million to other local agencies or into its low-income housing fund. Of the remaining $2.5 million, half goes to pay for debt incurred for past projects.

That leaves $1.25 million, with the state next week taking $1.19 million.

"It basically takes everything from that one year," Claremont City Manger Jeff Parker said.

That means Claremont will lay off its only full-time employee focused solely on economic development.

Claremont's City Hall has resigned itself to coughing up that $1.19 million Parker alluded to. The City's website has this news blurb:

Claremont Will Pay State Redevelopment Funds (May 6, 2010)

On Tuesday, May 4, 2010, the City was notified of the decision in the CRA lawsuit against the State of California. Sacramento Superior Court Judge Lloyd Connelly upheld AB X4 26, the state budget bill passed in July 2009 as part of the 2009-10 state budget that requires redevelopment agencies statewide to transfer $2.05 billion in local redevelopment funds over the next two years.Anticipating this decision, the City of Claremont put aside $1.2 million and is prepared to make the payment by the May 10 deadline.

Advocates of smaller government should be happy. Because of Sacramento's financial ineptitude, along with the refusal of state legislators to come up with reality-based methods for balancing the state's budget, every level of California government will have to enact even more austerity measures in the coming year. Those cuts will likely include such things as releasing older prisoners to reduce the state's prison costs and even taking a look at reforming public pensions.

Anti-tax groups won't be pleased, though, with the revenue side of the budget equation. Along with more cuts in services, the state will have to find replacement income to help reduce its deficit. Californians will soon have a clear picture of the exact size of that deficit when Governor Schwarzenegger's May budget revision (the "budget revise") is released.

The state's deficit is almost certainly to increase when the May revise comes out. Last week, the LA Times reported that the state's tax revenues were down 30% year-over-year. That translates to $3 billion, so the hard times are likely to continue a while more.

Absurdly Subtle

On his Daily Bulletin blog, David Allen has posted a photo of Claremont's attempt at subliminal messaging. Subtle. Really subtle.

Speaking of the theatre of the absurd, Allen also has his reading log for April, which includes Samuel Beckett's play Endgame. For the misogynists in the crowd, there's some Mark Twain, as well a smattering of sci fi.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Claremont Colleges 2010 Commencement Calendar

The academic year has wound down, and next weekend we say goodbye to another group of graduates from the Claremont Colleges. May they recall their bright college days in Claremont with fondness.

Here's the slate of speakers for next week's commencement ceremonies:

Friday, May 14th

  • Baccalaureate Ceremony
    The Claremont Colleges

    3:30pm - 4:30pm
    Bridges Hall of Music, Pomona College
    150 East Fourth Street, Pomona College
    Please contact the Office of the Chaplains for questions regarding this event.

    Jacqueline Powers Doud, Ph.D., President, Mount St. Mary's College, Los Angeles
    Alumna, Claremont Graduate University

Saturday, May 15th

Sunday, May 16th
  • Pomona College Commencement
    Marston Quad
    Pomona College
    College Ave., between 4th and 6th Streets
    (909) 621-8131

    Commencement speaker:
    Janet Napolitano, U.S. Secretary of Homeland Security, former Arizona governor, former Arizona Attorney General

  • Scripps College

    Elm Tree Lawn
    Scripps College
    345 E. 9th St.
    (909) 607-1870

    Commencement Speaker:
    Speakers: Sue Monk Kidd, New York Times best-selling author, The Secret Life of Bees,; and her daughter Ann Kidd Taylor, co-author, Traveling With Pomegranates.

  • Harvey Mudd College Commencement
    Harvey S. Mudd Quadrangle
    Claremont University Consortium
    East Tenth Street and Dartmouth Avenue
    Claremont, 91711
    (909) 621-8125

    Speaker: Freeman A. Hrabowski, III, longtime president of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County (UMBC) and advocate for promoting education within underrepresented groups.

Tuesday, May 18

Saturday, May 8, 2010

2010 OLA Fiesta Continues Today, Tomorrow

Claremont's Our Lady of the Assumption Church's 63rd annual fiesta opened yesterday and continues today and tomorrow. Admission is free, and there's a variety of activities for the entire family, including games and carnival rides, live music, along with plenty of food and drinks.

Click on the image for more details.

OLA Fiesta

Saturday, May 8, 11am to 11pm
Sunday, May 9, Noon to 9pm

OLA Church
435 Berkeley Ave.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Unintended Consequences

It came as no surprise that the proposal for a 7-Eleven at the northwest corner of Mills Ave. and Foothill Blvd. bit the dust. The person whose conditional use permit application was rejected by Claremont's Planning Commission withdrew his appeal to the City Council at the end of March.

What was a surprise was that anyone would want to put a 7-Eleven in there in the first place. The way the building is situated on the site, with its back facing Foothill Blvd., always struck us as strange. The only access is from Mills Ave. and from the frontage road that runs parallel to Foothill. Laying the property out as it is now guaranteed complaints from residents who live along E. Morelia Dr., which connects to the frontage road, because some of the traffic leaving the site would inevitably have ended up on their narrow street.

Even worse for potential 7-Eleven customers was the exit from the site onto Mills Ave. The City planned on that particular exit being a right-turn only driveway. So, if you wanted to get from that exit to Foothill Blvd., you would have had to turn right, then make a U-turn farther up Mills.

Here is what the property looks like in its current configuration:

(Click to Enlarge)
7-Eleven site: 6/19/09

Why would anyone create such a cockamamie layout in the first place? The answer is that the property owners were following Claremont's "design vision" for the area. When the design was reviewed by Claremont's Architectural Commission on 7/25/07, city staff recommended approving the design. The staff report for that meeting said on page 3:
The proposal is well planned and makes efficient use of the property. The placement and height of the proposed building is consistent with the standards of the CH zoning district. The site plan is consistent with the city's design vision for Foothill Boulevard in that the building is placed adjacent to the street with the parking area to the north of the building, thereby minimizing the visibility of parking areas to the major street.

The site wasn't always laid out like as it is now. It used to be a Union 76 gas station with a building farther away from Foothill Blvd. than the current building. The location had four driveways rather than two, and two extra entrances opened onto Foothill, making it easier for traffic from the main road to get in and out easily.

Here is what the site used to look like:

7-Eleven site: 12/30/03

However well-intended the reasoning behind Claremont's design vision for Foothill Blvd., the result was a property that will be difficult to fill, and any business owner considering the site in the future will have to contend with its limitations, as well the perception that Claremont simply isn't a business-friendly town.

As always with our screwy town, there was some irony involved. On his COURIER City Beat blog, Tony Krickl posted a letter from one of his readers that addressed the 7-Eleven issue. If you listened closely to the complaints about the 7-Eleven, there was an undercurrent of snobbery in some (not all) of the comments. That haughty attitude is one Claremont has affected for years, probably all the way back to its founding.

The letter Krickl posted on his blog noted that Masatoshi Ito, who lent his name to the Peter Drucker & Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management at Claremont Graduate University, is the founder of the corporation that owns 7-Eleven. Not a 7-Eleven. Over 10,000 of them.

Krickl's reader said:
It was Peter Drucker's insistence that Ito's name be added to his school. Drucker was so impressed with Ito's customer focus success and highly ethical operation all grounded on principles learned by Ito from Drucker. Ito's monetary donations to the school was significant but far short of the level in getting his name on the school.

The dichotomy of the large number of Claremont residents demonizing 7-11 while the world renowned "management guru" having given this 7-11 owner the highest expression of praise.

So, to Ito-san, Claremont says, many thanks for any prestige that your name brings to CGU. Now leave.