Claremont Insider: January 2011

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Mean Girls


We've noticed that the brand of bullying practiced most often by the Claremont 400 has a decidedly feminine component. The coterie that runs things in this town has long been dominated by women. Former mayors Judy Wright, Diann Ring, Ellen Taylor, Sandra Baldonado, and ex-commissioners Barbara Musselman and Helaine Goldwater have called the shots for far too long. And we can add former Claremont Assistant City Manager Bridget Healy (photo, right) to this list.

Just because the style is a dominated by a womanly kind of aggressiveness, though, that doesn't mean it's limited to people of the female persuasion. If you'll recall, men like Claremont Human Services commissioner Butch Henderson, former mayor Paul Held, former planning commissioner Bill Baker we especially nasty in their leadership of the Preserve Claremont campaign in the 2005 City Council race. (Not coincidentally, they are all also very much involved with current city council candidate Robin Haulman's campaign.) And the person who tapped into all that aggression to use it for his own purposes was a man, former City Manager Glenn Southard.

We've always thought the psychodynamic undercurrents in Claremont were worthy of academic research, and it turns out there's actually people who study the kind of female aggression at play here. We found an old NPR Talk of the Nation segment from February 27, 2002, the topic of which was just the sort of bullying practiced by the Claremont 400. (You need the free RealPlayer if you want to hear the discussion.) The segment's description said:

Girls are not all sugar and spice according to some researchers. The latest study on girls says they may be AS likely to use aggression as boys. Rather than fists, girls express it through manipulation, exclusion and gossip-mongering. It's become quite a problem in some middle and high schools, but what's the solution?


People who study such things, psychologists and anthropologists and the like, say that among children and teens, male aggression tends to be more straightforward and less complex than the sort seen in girls. Female aggression is generally indirect and has a strong social component, with the most aggressive girls leveraging their social intelligence to get their friends to ostracize girls they don't like, usually through gossip and whispering campaigns. Female aggression relies on the mastery and manipulation of social relationships to isolate and ostracize, hence the term "relational aggression."

The pressure of wanting to fit in, coupled with the relief at not be the one targeted, causes weaker girls in a group to join in or to at least remain silent, and the group comes to be dominated by the girls who the most socially adept but who have the lowest empathy, the ones who are capable of the most cruelty.

One of the panelists on that NPR show was seventh grader Nicky Marewski from Poukeepsie, NY, who described what she observed at her school:
The girls who are sort of in charge of all this, they figure out who they don't like and who they just don't think are acceptable, and they tell their friends.

That seems to be the general Claremonster modus operandi, which makes us wonder if we're just witnessing a collective case of arrested development. From what the relational aggression experts say, there seems to be some anecdotal evidence of this behavior continuing on through life. It can express itself in the workplace in the form of office politics or, in the case of the Claremont 400, in just plain old politics in general.

It's really empathy, or rather its absence, that seems to be the key factor, and that's certainly something that's been lacking among the Claremont 400, though they seem to be blind to their own shortcomings. Time and again, we've seen them unable to step outside of their own groupthink, unable to place themselves in their opponents' shoes, with the result that they have no openness to ideas that don't comport with their own preconceptions.

Let's go back to the 2002 Talk of the Nation show for a moment. Kaj Bjorkqvist, a Finnish professor of developmental psychology, remarked:
If you combine it [social intelligence] with low empathy, then it turns into indirect aggression. Girls who are high in both social intelligence and empathy tend to use more constructive strategies for solving conflict.

And that's exactly why we're caught in this odd community dance of anger. The people in power leverage their high social intelligence and dominate city elections so that they control the City Council and all the city commissions. Similarly, they control organizations like the Claremont Chamber of Commerce and various local charities. That's why you see someone like Preserve Claremont donor and former Claremont Board of Education member Michael Fay again and again, as treasurer of current council candidate Joseph Lyon's campaign or treasurer of the failed $95 million Measure CL school bond.

Or you see Preserve Claremont spokesperson Butch Henderson listed as an honorary co-chair of council candidate Robin Haulman's campaign and PC donor Bill Baker listed as Haulman's treasurer.


If you want to observe relational aggression in action, go to a city council meeting. You're likely to see Helaine Goldwater seated in the back row knitting away like Madame Defarge as she watches the little melodramas she creates get played out.

At one recent council meeting, Sandy Baldonado, Barbara Musselman, and Robin Haulman were in the audience, all in a row like crows on a telephone line. Baldonado and Musselman, along with Bridget Healy, are backing Haulman as step one in their plan to get Healy elected to the council in 2013.

Recall that Healy lost badly in the 2009 city election, but rather than accept defeat, she and her friends began an image rehab program by getting Healy a position on the the Claremont Chamber of Commerce board, having her prominently involved with the Claremont Area League of Women Voters and by having her make appearances at City Council meetings to speak, along with Musselman, about the poor performance of current City Manager Jeff Parker, whom they accuse of gutting and outsourcing city services.

In their long range plan to shove Bridget down our throats, they've adopted more than a few positions they fought against when Baldonado was on the council and Healy working in City Hall as Glenn Southard's right hand woman. To listen to them now, they've replaced the secrecy they coveted with concerns for governmental transparency and have claimed to be champions of the people where once they had nothing but contempt for the public.

We can never forget, though, that Healy once authored a city staff report outlining a proposal to have a social worker or psychologist stationed at City Council meetings ready to rule on whether people trying to speak during public comment represented imminent threats to the council, commissioners and staff. The idea was to have a process for removing speakers from the council chambers. Then there was Baldonado, who with her trademark classiness, once told members of the public who were observing a council retreat to "get a life."

As strange as it sounds, the Baldonado-Musselman plan seems to be working. Haulman (photo, left) stands a good chance of getting elected, and people have cut her a lot a slack. At candidate forums she's been unprepared and has read canned responses from a notebook she continually flips through (she's working on fixing this and a few of her other obvious shortcomings), but to hear the after action reports, one would think she's a regular policy wonk when it comes to city issues. People, too, have forgiven Healy and are willing to overlook the ethical conflicts of interests she would have on the council on important issues such as employee pensions.

We'll see how much Claremont has really changed since Healy last worked here. Our guess is that the mean girls still have the run of the town.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Coming Attractions

Some items of interest from the City's website:


The Claremont PD will be out tomorrow night conducting another DUI checkpoint beginning at 6pm.

DUI / License Checkpoint

Claremont, CA – On Sunday, January 23rd, 2011 the Claremont Police Department will be conducting a sobriety checkpoint at an undisclosed location within the City. The checkpoint will start at 6:00 p.m. and conclude at 2:00 a.m. Drivers will be stopped long enough to ensure they are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Officers will also ensure that drivers are wearing their seatbelts and possess valid driver licenses. Funding for this program was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety, through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.


If your New Year's resolutions included getting fit and losing weight, you might want to take advantage of the City's Generation Fit series of intergenerational walks:

Generation Fit Walking Program

The teens at the TRACKS Activity Center (TAC) will be challenging the Claremont adult community to a series of four walking excursions. "Generation Fit" will run four weeks on Tuesdays from January 25 through February 15, from 2:30-4:00 p.m. Both teens and adults will form a unified team in front of the Joslyn Center, 660 North Mountain Avenue, and walk a series of planned routes through the Claremont community to raise heartbeats, health awareness, and increase intergenerational socialization. Walking routes will average 1-2 miles each day. For more information, please call (909) 399-5488.


And if you've been stockpiling old batteries, cans of oil or paint, TVs or computer monitors, you can off load that stuff in two weeks when the City and the County of Los Angeles hold their next local hazardous waste roundup:
Household Hazardous Waste Roundup

Claremont and other Los Angeles County residents can dispose of household hazardous waste including unused pharmaceuticals, antifreeze, car batteries, used motor oil, paint, pesticides, and universal waste including household batteries, fluorescent light bulbs, and electronic waste (e-waste) such as TVs and monitors, computers, VCRs, stereos, and cell phones at the next free Countywide Household Hazardous Waste Roundup. It will be held in Claremont at the Claremont Corporate Yard, 1616 Monte Vista Avenue, on Saturday, February 5, 2011 from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Residents can bring up to 15 gallons or 125 pounds of household hazardous waste per vehicle to the Roundup.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Because We're Claremonters...


Some years ago, a friend of the Insider moved to New York to work in the publishing industry. This person settled into a small, six-square block village on Long Island and soon came to marvel at the local natives, who insisted on spending large amounts of money on things like maintaining a volunteer fire department, complete with a fully equipped fire engine. Fires in the area were rare, and the main purpose seemed to be to keep up with the neighboring villages, all of which had their own volunteer fire departments.

The locals also overpaid for their trash service, whose waste hauler wouldn't allow residents to move their garbage cans from their yards to the street for pick up. The trash contract specified that the trash workers moved all containers, even if they were in backyards. This seemed mainly designed to require extra workers on each waste disposal truck.

Our friend tried asking some of his neighbors about these peculiar arrangements and received nothing but odd looks, as if he were crazy for questioning how much money the village was spending on toys. This is how we've always done things, they'd say. Our friend eventually came to the conclusion that his fellow LI villagers were completely irrational. One night at a restaurant, the friend struck up a conversation with a waitress, who was herself a West Coast transplant. He asked the waitress why people in the area seemed to have such a hard time with reasoning skills. She leaned over and whispered, "Because they're STUPID."


Claremonters seem similarly committed to their own brand of craziness, which includes overpaying for services too, for everything from their schools to their city services. Witness last November's $95 million Measure CL school bond campaign. Or the recent editorials and letters in the Claremont Courier by former Claremont Mayor Sandy Baldonado and police commissioner Barbara Musselman, who is also a former Claremont League of Women Voters president. Readers will recall that Musselman, in keeping with her LWV ties, has a long history of interfering in Claremont elections.

The two yentas, Baldonado and Musselman, are upset that the City has had to cut back on services because of budget deficits. Both, along with their friend and failed City Council candidate Bridget Healy, have labored mightily to put a scare into residents, first when city staff looked into outsource Claremont's trash service and more recently after someone in City Hall leaked the news that Police Chief Paul Cooper is a finalist for the chief of Glendora's police. The B-M party line is that Claremont City Manager Jeff Parker is gutting city staff and services with the support of his city council.

Baldonado and Musselman have both claimed that Chief Cooper wants to leave because he doesn't feel that our City Council fully supports the police. What they conveniently overlook is that Chief Cooper, who will be eligible for a generous CalPERS retirement in a few years, needs to bump up his salary, since his pension will be based on final salary. Glendora, which is larger than Claremont, will always be able to pay more than our town.

Musselman, who is a former human resources director for San Bernardino County (and herself a public pensioner) certainly knows this, as does Baldonado, who through her council voting record is responsible for awarding lavish CalPERS plans to Claremont municipal retirees - the very city pension that Cooper seeks to maximize with his Glendora job application.

If Baldonado had been more fiscally responsible, she wouldn't have supported those super-sized pension plans, which included having the City paying for the employees' share of their pensions, and we would have more money now to dedicate towards staff and services. It's because of the foolish arrangements supported by Baldonado's votes that management-level employees are able to collect six-figure retirement incomes, an inflation-indexed $166,700 per year in Bridget Healy's case, a good chunk of which is paid for by the City of Claremont.

Click to Enlarge

The simple fact of the matter is that the free-spending ways of Baldonado and her friends, not Parker, are responsible for City Hall's present belt-tightening. However, instead of owning up to their respective roles in all this, they want to take down Parker's administration and seek to take us back to the Glenn Southard era in City Hall. (The two, if they were capable of introspection, might consider where we'd be if Glenn were here now - after he retired from Indio, Southard left that city with a $9 million budget deficit.)

But, because they suffer the same malady that once afflicted certain Long Islanders, Baldonado and Musselman are bent on stirring things up in town, mostly because they think this will benefit the election prospects of their friend and current City Council candidate Robin Haulman, whom both Baldonado and Musselman have endorsed.

The Haulman campaign, or at least her endorsers, seek to scare voters by telling them city employees are leaving because they're being undermined by Parker and by the City Council. We've seen this scare game before with the 2005 Preserve Claremont campaign, so it's no coincidence Human Services Commissioner and former PC spokesman Butch Henderson is an honorary chair of Haulman's campaign. Also, PC's treasurer, Francine Baker (a city employee, by the way) is listed as a Haulman endorser, and her husband Bill is Haulman's treasurer.

We should expect more than a little campaign skulduggery from Haulman's backers. After all, Pastor Butch has told us this is how Claremont does campaigns.


This past Saturday, thanks to the Baldondo-Musselman-Haulman communications team, the Claremont Courier carried a letter by Musselman, and another by a third Haulman endorser, Gregory Shearer. Shearer's letter took up the B-M message. Oddly, though, Shearer also included a passage that left us scratching our heads:
In speaking with the rank and file officers of the Claremont PD, I am sure they will be glad to see Cooper get the Glendora gig as more than one Claremont officer has mentioned his abusive management style, which may just be frustration over working with the current city council.

Hmmm. Tell us again why we want to keep the abusive Chief Cooper? It's the city council's fault for driving Cooper to abuse his employees? We had all wrong. We thought a good boss protected his employees and took the heat himself.

One thing's for sure, Shearer fits right in with Baldonado, Musselman, Haulman, Healy, Henderson, the Bakers and all the rest of their friends when it to wasting public dollars. In 2000, Greg Shearer was the subject of a money-makeover column by LA Times business section columnist Kathy Kristof:
In short, unless Shearer learns to restrain himself, he'll never attain the comfortable retirement that he wants, said Margaret Mullen, a fee-only financial advisor in Los Angeles.

But restraint is something that the Claremont adult-video salesman, who has filed for personal bankruptcy three times, finds exceptionally difficult.

Serial bankruptcy filer advising us on municipal policy? Makes as much sense as anything else here in this kooky town. Shearer probably has some ideas for next summer's movies in the park series, too.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Scripps on Giffords

This afternoon, Scripps College posted more on Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords who was shot today in Tucson. Giffords is a Scripps College alumna.

See here.

Giffords' 2009 Commencement address at Scripps is here.

See any national news source for more information. This is a huge national story. Google New right now is showing 8,505 stories. The story is moving so fast it's more or less pointless to try to keep up.

Our humble best wishes for Congresswoman Giffords to make a speedy and full recovery, to her family and friends, and to the loved ones of the six who died at the hand of this crazy.

Scripps Graduate Shot

Gabrielle Giffords, Congresswoman
and Scripps College Graduate,
Shot in Arizona

Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords (D-Arizona) was shot Saturday morning at a constituent outreach event in Tucson. She was a graduate of Scripps College, class of 1993, was first elected to Congress in 2006, and was re-elected to a third term last November.

Giffords had been Commencement Speaker at Scripps in May 2009.

Early reports were that she had died. MSNBC (screenshot below) and others are unable to confirm it and in fact are reporting that she is in surgery at noon Pacific time. President Obama has just (12:17 Pacific time) issued a statement saying her condition is unknown but she is "gravely wounded".

Update, 2:40 p.m. Saturday, January 8: Congresswoman Giffords survived the shooting and surgery. Her surgeon is optimistic for a recovery of some sort.

At least five other victims died: a federal judge and a nine-year-old among them.

The shooter, whom we won't stoop even to name, is certifiably loony.