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Claremont Insider



A behind-the-scenes look at the news of Claremont, CA. We focus on city hall, city staff, and the so-called "Claremont 400" or "Preserve Claremonters" or "Claremonsters", those goofy, too-serious, power types that run most of the town's service organizat



Updated: 2017-02-07T20:52:19.929-08:00

 



Chief Cooper Tosses It In

2015-11-11T06:00:15.036-08:00

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Claremont Police Chief Paul Cooper (left) Stacks Arms and Double Dips
Having spent the past few months steering Claremont Measure PS to a 75% NO to 25% YES squeaker of a defeat, Chief Paul Cooper of the Claremont Police Department the very next day (November 4th) announced his retirement.

Whether this is a case of taking his ball and going home--we will leave that for you to decide.

Never one to leave any money on the table, Chief Cooper, who last year negotiated  a couple of multi-thousand dollar retention bonuses will retire on December 31, 2015 and be back the next day as a $193,000 annually (approximately $96/hour) Double-Dipper.  (His CALPERS pension will start then, and Lord knows how much it will be but probably in the vicinity of $175,000 per year if our meager knowledge of public safety pensions and our math skills don't fail us.)  That's a lot of Pixie donuts.

He is restricted by CALPERS rules from working more than "part time", defined as 960 hours in any fiscal year during retirement.  But Honest Paul figured this one to just span the second half of the City's FY2015-16 year and the first half of the upcoming FY 2016-2017 fiscal year.  This allows him, as City Manager Tony Ramos cheerfully reports, to "be able to work close to full-time hours over the term of his employment" as interim chief.  He will stay as interim chief not longer than December 31, 2016 at which time he will have scooped every last cent of City money off the table.

Anyway, bon voyage Chief Cooper.  May your retirement be short and may we see you back in the saddle again soon.  Probably in January.



Donnelly Busted at Ontario Airport

2012-01-04T17:07:51.725-08:00

45-Caliber Colt in Briefcase


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Our Assemblyman, Tim Donnelly, the guy who has guns hanging on the wall of is Sacramento office, was busted today at Ontario Airport for trying to carry a loaded weapon onto a flight to Sacramento. What a way to start the new year.

We don't have anything against guns, and subscribe to the school of thought that we would have a lot more polite society if everyone were armed, but really? Where has this guy been the last--say--10 years and almost 4 months?

The LA Times reports there is a lot of chortling in Sacramento legislative circles, but it might be a lot less humorous for Tim when he is sentenced to a stretch in County Jail for this--er--transgression. It's OK to pack when you're tripping with the Minutemen; not OK to pack when your tripping in seat 11C.

Maybe it would be just smarter all the way around for him to hire a bodyguard like Supervisor Antonovich does. And drive to Sac't'o instead of taking Southwest.




Corn-pone Opinions

2012-01-01T08:27:53.532-08:00

You tell me whar a man gits his corn pone, en I'll tell you what his 'pinions is.

More than 100 years ago Mark Twain recollected an incident from his youth along the river in Missouri. His point has quite a bit of relevance to Claremont (and elsewhere) today.

(image) ...I had a friend whose society was very dear to me... He was a gay and impudent and satirical and delightful young black man -a slave -who daily preached sermons from the top of his master's woodpile, with me for sole audience. He imitated the pulpit style of the several clergymen of the village, and did it well, and with fine passion and energy. To me he was a wonder. I believed he was the greatest orator in the United States and would some day be heard from. But it did not happen; in the distribution of rewards he was overlooked. It is the way, in this world. ...I listened to the sermons from the open window of a lumber room at the back of the house. One of his texts was this: "You tell me whar a man gits his corn pone, en I'll tell you what his 'pinions is." ...The black philosopher's idea was that a man is not independent, and cannot afford views which might interfere with his bread and butter. If he would prosper, he must train with the majority; in matters of large moment, like politics and religion, he must think and feel with the bulk of his neighbors, or suffer damage in his social standing and in his business prosperities. He must restrict himself to corn-pone opinions -- at least on the surface. He must get his opinions from other people; he must reason out none for himself; he must have no first-hand views.

* * *

We can't tell you how many variations on this theme we've heard here in Claremont: from a local businesswoman quitting a local election campaign because she was given to understand that pursuing that course would harm her business prospects, to very smart people declining to speak up on--say--local school issues because they believed to do so would harm their kids' standing or prospects in Claremont schools.

The Claremont 400 has that kind of power and are not afraid to use opprobrium and more tangible means to enforce it.

* * *

Original essay here.




New Sheriff in Town

2011-12-26T09:51:05.337-08:00

Claremont City Manager Tony Ramos, Left, and Tinky Winky

By now, Tony Ramos will have taken the chair in the big office in City Hall. He was approved as a replacement for Jeff Parker by City Council late last month in one of the most ram-rodded railroaded maneuvers seen in this city, at least publicly, in years.

Ramos is a two-time bankrupt, most recently this summer where, on a salary north of $170K annually, he stiffed his creditors to the tune of 70 cents on the dollar. Perhaps now with his raise to $198K, car, and a bunch of other benefits, the bankruptcy trustee will take another look and bump up his repayment so he pays every cent he owes. He can afford it. (Remember, his domestic partner went BK earlier this ear with some $40K-$50K in debt in his own name. So the Ramos household is going into 2012 with a clean slate and a new cushy job. Nice to have friends in high places.)

In its most recent meeting, the Council lowered the signature authority of the City Manager from $75,000 to $25,000. This action was draped in the bureaucratic misdirection of providing "consistency" in the purchasing authority of the City Manager and department heads. Uh, why? The elephant in the room that no one would mention is that the lower authority is a tacit acknowledgement by Council (the only one) that Tony Ramos' management of finances might need--well--a little oversight.

It's not clear whether Ramos took the reins on Thursday, December 23, as indicated by the most recent City press release, or today, as the press release announcing Parker's resignation would imply. Whatever, you can be sure the decision was made with the best interests of Parker and Ramos in the fore.

* * * * * * *

The image leading this post was acquired from a public Facebook post by Tinky Winky himself.
It was not Photoshopped.




Merry Christmas-- Now STFU

2011-12-24T14:41:23.791-08:00

Kathryn Dunn, the Managing Editor of the Claremont Courier, seldom makes news and tries to stay out of the limelight. We last heard about her when there was a photo circulating of her making Monica-eyes at Bill Clinton. We don't expect that Dunn has been the places Monica has been, nor done the things Monica has done.She did, however, take pen in hand to scribe a Christmas missive in Wednesday's paper entitled, The Politics of Charity in Claremont. She was so proud of it that she--or the Publisher-- put it on the Courier homepage for December 24th. Because it has engendered so much talk in town, and since she and the paper obviously want it to get wide circulation, we do our meager part and reproduce it below, exactly as printed in the Courier, along with a discreet Photoshop commentary on the page image. We trust everyone will agree that this is fair use and won't get their panties in a wad about it.click image to enlargeclick image to enlargeWe will let Ms. Dunn's words speak for themselves...but let's just say that this piece could be a bit more tightly-written and coherent. We do note, however, that she conflates the group Claremonters Against Outrageous Water Rates with another group Claremont Taxpayers for Common Sense. That is actually a pretty fair example of her factual bases and cogency of argument. She pretends to see nuance, but mis-apprehends what's in plain sight.There is at least one letter in the Saturday December 24 number of the paper touching on her piece. However, the email servers in Claremont have been melting down the past few days with tentative replies, draft replies, replies, comments, outrage and the like. We've received a boatload, but one will give you the flavor:"Not that you had any doubts about it anyway, but today the Courier spells out in unusually plain language the utter contempt that their editorial staff holds for anyone in town who dares to question the liberal orthodoxy of Claremont's self-anointed ruling elite. According to the Managing Editor of the Courier, when a handful of narcissists set up a faux refugee camp on the steps of city hall, they are making a positive contribution to our community, as is our city council when it patiently resolves to address the issue of political encampments sometime in the distant future; but if a substantial number of law-abiding citizens respectfully ask that the anti-camping ordinance be enforced, or question the wisdom of our bankrupt state giving free tuition to illegal aliens, or exercise their right to publicly comment on water rates, or decline to rubber-stamp a blank-check $100 million school bond, they are divisive obstructionists who are negatively affecting Claremont's reputation. Got that? Good. Now STFU* and do what you are told. Dissent is no longer patriotic within the city limits. And bring your checkbook."* * * * **STFU? Look it up on the Internet. And Merry Christmas. And buy the Courier[...]



Cause and Effect

2011-12-01T18:02:26.954-08:00

At the LibraryA killer wind struck Claremont last night following the appointment of Tony Ramos as next City Manager. Many were left without power through the night and into the following day. In almost every neighborhood, along 'most every street: limbs, trees, and trash littered the gutters, shoulders, and sidewalks.All of this in retribution visited by Providence on the City for council's abominable action in chambers last night. Too bad our neighbors had to suffer also. A Shakespeare might've described described it thus:The night has been unruly. Where we lay, Our chimneys were blown down and, as they say, Lamentings heard i' th' air, strange screams of death, And prophesying with accents terrible Of dire combustion and confused events New hatched to the woeful time. The obscure bird Clamored the livelong night. Some say the Earth Was feverous and did shake.Wellesley Street Light Wires Taken DownAnother Block on WellesleyOn College[...]



Ho-Hum; No News Today

2011-11-30T22:30:18.100-08:00

10:30 p.m. The end of just another quiet day in Claremont. The city council approved Tony Ramos as new City Manager on a 5-0 vote. But then we had that two days ago.



King of Claremont

2011-11-30T08:14:34.655-08:00

Preparations are moving apace for the coronation of King Tony I tonight at City Hall, 6:30 p.m.

(image)
See here, here, and here for background.

Some City Process Wonks are whining to us that, "Hey Insider, you goofball: it's not a done deal. Council didn't 'hire' Tony Ramos on Monday. It only approved a recommendation of the ad hoc committee." Well, yeah.

Make no mistake. The special meeting tonight to rubber-stamp the action in closed session will be one of the most useless, forgone-conclusion, scripted, eye-candy meetings that even Claremont has put on. And Claremont is the acknowledged world leader in U,F-C,S,E-CM.

We understand Tony is already measuring the drapes in that big corner office, and for Tony Ramos that is a task he can really get into.

If it doesn't go down as we say in our last post, we'll eat our bearskin hat.

By the way, a reader points out to us that the city of Riverside is just concluding a search for a new City Manager. That city's search attracted 42 candidates and 10 finalists. What a waste of time and effort on their part...




Ramos Hired

2011-11-28T22:01:33.019-08:00

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8:56 p.m. Monday, November 28. Word from the report-out from council's nearly 3-hour closed session is that Tony Ramos is hired as the next city manager. City will post details by Tuesday, 6 p.m.




The Fix Is In

2011-11-28T14:24:52.437-08:00

Fast Track for Tony Ramos.Eyewash and Window Dressing for the Public.Another BK in Tony Ramos' Past...By now it's common knowledge that the plan hatched last Monday (Nov 21) by at least 3 members of the city council is to "fast track" the appointment of Assistant City Manager Tony Ramos to the soon-vacant position of City Manager. A "Done Deal" the Courier calls it.Why is this man smiling? Courier Photo.Here's what passes for public participation and transparency in Claremont:November 21: Closed session council meeting to discuss "vacancy"in CM position. Parker and Ramos orchestrate Amen-Chorus of reliable business-types touting Tony Ramos for CM in brief public comment prior to meeting. Those not in the know wondered, "Gee, here we just had a vacancy announced and already we are discussing a specific candidate. That's weird." "Surely this is just a process meeting of some sort."November 22: Jeff Parker announces The Plan (during city manager's report at regularly scheduled Tuesday meeting):Over Thanksgiving Holiday: Sam Pedroza and Larry Schroeder are to negotiate a contract with the sole and only candidate for the position: Tony Ramos.November 28: Closed session council meeting scheduled to review and approve contract negotiated with Tony RamosNovember 29: Draft contract--already approved in closed session by city council--made available for public review with agenda for--November 30: Special open meeting to publicly approve contract with Tony Ramos. Coronation to follow immediately.Mayor Pro Tem Larry Schroeder has been known to remark, in the frustratingly interminable Claremont processes that unerringly ensue when dealing with problems of regular citizens that, "Heh, heh, Claremont is not 'slow', it's 'deliberate' Heh, heh." Oh, he just loves that line. Well, deliberation has nothing to do with this procedure.From what we hear, probably all five council members pre-judged Ramos based on their personal assessment that he is a good guy and a go-fer for Jeff Parker of the first magnitude, and decided that all such extraneous process matters such as a search, candidates, vetting, background check, public participation, etc., could be dispensed with. Sam Pedroza seems to be the head cheerleader for this idea if you read the black letter of the Courier and Bulletin. And then they decided to negotiate with him from the enviable position of strength [sarcasm alert for you Democratic-club types] that he's their sole candidate.Parker--the man behind the curtain--foresaw the problems that Ramos' BK would pose and helpfully hypnotized the council members that they were prohibited from considering it. Make no mistake; Parker has been working this one hard.We have always thought that this is less about the fact of personal bankruptcy on Ramos' part, and more about the light that the bankruptcy shines on his judgment. What do we have on that score?According to today's Daily Bulletin, Ramos' bankruptcy petition in March 2011 was dismissed (that is, he was given no relief from his creditors) because he failed to make certain post petition payments. See the article, here (but it may go behind a paywall soon). We are unclear whether this conclusion is the result of reporting by Wes Woods II, or simply an interpretation of the BK documents posted here or available after registration on www.pacer.gov. But the fact remains that it was dismissed and it appears that Ramos took the mere filing of the BK as a get-out-of-jail-free card with respect to those mortgage payments. His probable thought process: "If I'm going to go bankrupt anyways, it might as well be for a large amount as a small amount."The Courier--in an excellent pair of articles last Wednesday--actually interviewed someone in the office of the BK Trustee in Orange County. It is clear from the Courier article [...]



Bankrupt

2011-11-21T14:49:33.703-08:00

City Council meets tonight in closed session to discuss the upcoming vacancy in the City Manager billet when CM Jeff Parker departs for Tustin, a 15 percent raise, and that much fatter pension when he retires.Since the discussion will take place in closed session, we assume it will cover more than simple issues of process. In fact, Friends of Tony Ramos--including Jeff Parker and Mayor Sam Pedroza--are already in print pushing his candidacy.Tony Ramos, from a Claremont Courier photo"...A perfect fit for this community", Parker is quoted in the Courier [Saturday, November 19]. The Courier goes on to write, "Mr. Ramos is the 'natural candidate', according to Mayor Sam Pedroza." We hear there is quite a bit of lobbying going on behind the scenes.The Courier goes on to address, obliquely and in the most genteel way, how "[c]ouncil would not comment on Mr. Ramos' personal bankruptcy filing last March and how that might affect his fiscal responsibilities as potential city manager. " Councilmember Nasiali is quoted, somewhat breathtakingly, that "bankruptcy is a personal matter, but I don't see that as having to be intermingled [with his potential responsibilities as city manager]."As is frequently the case, the Courier is a bit behind the times. Not only did Ramos file for bankruptcy last winter (the case was heard in March and dismissed for reasons that don't appear in the public written record), but he re-filed again in May 2011. This second petition proceeded without serious apparent impediment through the summer (it was amended somewhat on July 15) and Ramos was adjudged a Bankrupt--if that is the term--under Chapter 13 on September 23, 2011.While we don't agree at all with councilmember Nasiali, who erects an imaginary Chinese Wall between a person's private integrity and public integrity, we have purposely stayed away from the Ramos matter on this blog because it was--well--kind of distasteful to us. The Insider has received several emails asking, in sum, "what's the story on Tony Ramos' bankruptcy?" And, we have received numerous emails over the past six months pointing out certain facts, issues, and angles to the story.Almost all of the documents relating to the Ramos bankruptcy are public records at the bankruptcy court in Riverside.It's Hard to Struggle by on an Income of $170,000 Per YearRamos' May 9 bankruptcy petition is essentially similar to his first one a few months earlier. It appears to have a bit more backup information.(Use the controls under the window below to view the document)Ramos Second Bk Eleven Documents class="scribd_iframe_embed" src="http://www.scribd.com/embeds/57591791/content?start_page=1&view_mode=list&access_key=key-2dgagcnyov7bsga84q0r" ratio="0.750920245398773" id="doc_84595" frameborder="0" height="true" scrolling="no" width="100%">It shows a current monthly income of $14,282, annualized to $171,384. This is well over twice the relevant median family income for a California household of 4 ($78.869 from DOJ website). Still, $170K doesn't go as far as it used to although a lot of people would probably think they could scrape by on that.Ramos' list of debts is noteworthy. It's not always possible to determine the time period exactly when these were incurred, but the list alone is rather daunting:City of Claremont, 557 Loan, $2287F&A Credit Union, auto loan on 2006 F150 truck, $13,208Specialized Loan Services, 2nd lien on home taken in 2005, $148,000Toyota Motor Credit, 2009 car loan on Camry, $19,614Wells Fargo, 1st mortgage on home, $457,308 (home value est. at $440K)IRS, 2008 Tax Debt, $3592ACS/CLC College Loan, educational, $1835Bank of America, credit debt, $6493Calvary Portfolio Svcs, collection agency for GE Money Bank, $11,533Capital One, credit debt, $2303Capital One (another acct), $4335Ch[...]



The Ring of Dance

2011-11-21T20:31:07.393-08:00

The news that Meg Worley and Kevin Lahey, the Pomona couple that started a blog called M-M-M-My Pomona (they lost one "M-" early on), have moved from the area left us feeling a little glum, as if we'd lost a friend.  Worley and Lahey have moved on to bigger and better things up in San Jose.  We wish them the best in their new endeavors, but we'll sorely miss the fresh voice and crisp writing Meg brought to the table.We read of this departure in David Allen's Daily Bulletin column and in Allen's own blog, where Allen touched on the evanescence of life in the digital age:M-M-M-My Pomona offered a window into the Lincoln Park neighborhood and the wider world of Pomona, especially in the blog's earlier days. Many of the community of blogs in Pomona have gone dormant; the form seems to have peaked in 2009 or 2010.It's a little strange to think of something as new as blogging as having already fallen out of favor, but that's the way the changing media landscape bounces. The form still seems to have a lot of untapped potential locally.In his column, Allen wrote that Pomona has a fairly lively blogging world compared to surrounding areas:In 2010, the Pomona bloggers had their own float in the Christmas Parade, riding together on a flatbed truck, carrying laptops and waving to children. Now that's influence. (Which I can say, as a former grand marshal.)Contrary to Pomona's reputation as a backwards, disconnected place, the city has been a hotbed of blogging, with up to a dozen active blogs commenting on local affairs from personal perspectives and linking to each other.To my knowledge Claremont has only one community blog, and if Upland, Rancho Cucamonga or Chino have any, they're certainly quiet about it. Actually, besides the Insider, Claremont does have Life in Claremont, which is the domain of Charlotte Van Ryswyk, a violin and viola teacher and the music specialist at Vista del Valle Elementary School.  Life in Claremont is extremely well-written, has a unique voice, and offers a little of everything: books, music, food, and, as the title promises, day-to-day life in our humble burg.  And a few new Claremont-oriented blogs pop up now and again and then pass away quicker than mayflies.Still, compared to Pomona, our blogging scene is pretty barren.  Allen's article nailed the difference between Claremont and Pomona, and it may account for the lack of blogs here.  The blog form is a pretty egalitarian one, and Claremont tends more towards elitism.  Here's what Allen wrote in his M-M-M-My Pomona article: "I think it's significant and telling that Pomona has a lot more community blogs than Claremont," Worley told me. "It's not just population. It's a different style of community engagement."In Claremont, there's a social and political hierarchy. How long you've lived there and who you know matters.Pomona, by contrast, has an improvisatory nature. With a thin layer of government, and civic competence sometimes in short supply, people have to find their own solutions. It's like "The Little House on the Prairie," but with Mexican food. Perhaps it's that very egalitarianism inherent in a blog that appealed to us Insiders in the first place.  So much of one's experience of Claremont's high society is exclusionary, and a blog bypasses that quite neatly.  We can all have a voice, not just a select few. * * * * *Allen, by the way, had a couple columns, one in June and a follow-up in July, that discussed how Claremonters view themselves compared to how people from our neigboring cities often see us, as this from Allen's July 14 column shows:  "I can give you a great example of the `friendly' people of Claremont," said Bob Terry, proceeding to relate an anecdote about a mixer in Claremont some t[...]



Saturday Meeting Cancelled

2011-11-17T17:20:58.020-08:00

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Saturday's City Council workshop has been cancelled, according to the City's website. The cancellation was due to the death of Claremont Mayor Sam Pedroza's father:

Saturday Council Workshop Cancelled (Nov 17, 2011)

The City Council Workshop scheduled for Saturday, November 19 has been cancelled due to the death of Mayor Sam Pedroza's father. The City Council and City Manager have rescheduled the workshop for Saturday, December 3 at 9am to allow Mayor Pedroza to be with his family during this time. Our condolances to the Pedroza family.

We're sorry to hear the news as well, particularly for Mayor Pedroza, who's had a tough year, with the death of his father coming on the heels of a very serious biking accident.



Hargrave Profile

2011-11-17T13:25:15.869-08:00

Hal Hargrave, the fellow who organized Monday's meeting for Claremont residents to discuss Golden State Water Co.'s never-ending rate hikes, is profiled in this month's edition of Southwest Airline's Spirit Magazine.  The article also mentions Hal's son, Hal Jr., who was left a quadraplegic after a 2008 auto accident and who founded the non-profit Be Perfect Foundation, which provides support to people who've had spinal cord injuries:

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Click to Enlarge



Meetings and Events Around Town

2011-11-17T07:17:51.805-08:00

There are a couple upcoming meetings the civic-minded among you might want to attend.The City Council will hold a goal-setting workshop this Saturday beginning at 9am.  Come on out and tell the council what you think our top priorities should be:(from the City's website):Council Workshop9:00 AMCity Council Chambers225 W. Second StreetClaremont(909) 399-5460The City council will meet to discuss projects and priorities to allow staff to draft a work plan. This workshop is open to the public.On December 6, the California Public Utilities Commission pays a visit to Claremont's Taylor Hall to hear public comment on Golden State Water Co.'s application for a rate increase.  There will be an afternoon and an evening session:Public Hearing on Water Rate Increase on December 6 The California Public Utilities Commission will hold a Public Hearing on the Golden State Water Company proposed rate increase on December 6 at 2pm and 6pm at Taylor Hall. An Administrative law judge will preside over the hearing and all comments will be included in the General Rate Case.Golden State Water has filed for a 27% rate increase for 2012 with smaller increases in 2013, and 2014. The public may comment or protest the rate increase at the public hearing, by e-mail, or writing to the Public Advisor's Office. All public comments are provided to the CPUC Commissioners and Administrative Law Judge assigned to the proceedings. Please send all comments to:Public Advisor's Office320 West 4th St. Ste. 500Los Angeles, CA 90013or via e-mail to public.advisor.la@cpuc.ca.govVisit the Golden State Water WebsiteThe first weekend in December brings us Claremont's annual Christmas Holiday Promenade and Tree Lighting:Holiday Promenade & Tree Lighting 2011The City of Claremont invites you to an evening filled with live music, festive storefronts, a magnificent tree lighting ceremony and more. The Claremont Village, the area's ultimate shopping destination, will transform into a holiday wonderland where the young and young at heart can enjoy the festivities. The Holiday Promenade will include live entertainment throughout the Village as well as an opportunity to take a photo with Santa Claus.You won't want to miss this magical Claremont event. Please join us Friday, December 2nd, 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 contact us at (909) 399-5490 or visit us at www.ci.claremont.ca.us. And, also in December, the Gypsies Sisters Art Show, having found a new home, will hold their December sale the same weekend as the tree lighting:THE GYPSY SISTERS ART SHOW has finally found a home and will be pulling up and parking at the UCC church on Harrison and Harvard Aves. in Claremont. The 31 Gypsies complete with their wonderfully creative art will be settling in down in the basement which faces Harrison Ave. on Friday, December 2 from 4-9, on Saturday, December 3 from 10-8 and on Sunday, December 4 from 10-5. Their wide variety of arts and crafts include quilts, weavings, dolls, clothing, ceramics, jewelry, glass, paintings, handmade books, collages, photographs, prints, purses, metal sculptures, paper sculpture, artistic boxes and bowls and a psychic.  The Gypsy Sisters and their brothers have been coming to Claremont twice a year for more than 18 years.  Please join them for a relaxing visit and some exciting shopping.[...]



Wednesday Mail

2011-11-16T20:19:41.415-08:00

(image) We received this email from a reader who, while agreeing with some of what we wrote Monday about the Claremont Police Officers Association's latest negotiating tactics, disagreed with the idea that the city of Claremont has improved its responsiveness to public document requests:
SUBJECT: claremont pd
DATE: Tuesday, November 15, 2011 7:19 AM
TO: Claremont Buzz

I agree with most of your latest piece on the Claremont PD pension fiasco. However, suggesting that all of the documents Dieter was requesting could be obtained from the city clerk is not credible. I have tried to get documents from the city clerk in the past and was stonewalled by her higher ups. And when my attorney brother tried to do it for me the city demanded a several thousand dollar fee for "copying" and researching our request. My brother has done several of these requests (for pension, salary, and disability numbers) in Ventura County and he never meant the level of resistance to disclosure there as he did in Claremont. Transparency is not part of the Claremont way.

Well, we didn't say they were perfect. Lord knows we've had our own problems when it comes to obtaining copies of City employee pay stubs (see here, here, here, here, and here).



City Manager: Movin' On Up - UPDATED

2011-11-17T17:04:20.405-08:00

(image) Well, it's time to bid farewell to Claremont City Manager Jeff Parker, who is leaving our fair city to take the same position with the City of Tustin.  At least, that's what the Orange County Register reported today.

As of 10:30am today, the news wasn't up on Claremont's website, but we expect there will be a press release soon.

The Register article, which was fairly short, said:

Jeff Parker, city manager of Claremont, told the council he will start work in late December and expects to spend time at City Hall this month as he gets to know the city.

The City Council voted unanimously to appoint Parker, said Mayor Jerry Amante.

"Thank you for that very gracious, warm welcome," Parker said. "It's a very big honor for me to take this next step in becoming your city manager."
The terms of Parker's new contract weren't announced, but we'd expect him to get a bump in salary, which should give Parker's CalPERS retirement payments a nice boost when he decides to retire, which we suspect is not too many years away.


UPDATED, 11/17/11, 5:00PM:

Yesterday, the City posted a notice of City Manager Parker's resignation on the City's website:

City Manager Jeff Parker Resigns (Nov 16, 2011)

On November 16, City Manager Jeff Parker announced his resignation with the following statement:

"I wanted to inform everyone that I have accepted the position of City Manager in Tustin,CA. My resignation from Claremont is with mixed emotions. I have found my last 6 years both challenging and rewarding and want to personally thank all of you for the opportunity to lead this wonderful organization and serve the community. We have accomplished many great things over the last 6 years. To the talented members of the staff, although the last few years have been difficult you continue to display the knowledge, experience and caring that sets you a part from other cities. You will always be the heart of this wonderful community."

City Manager Parker's last day will be December 26, 2011.



PD Contract Conflict Continues

2011-11-14T07:39:36.955-08:00

The Daily Bulletin yesterday had an article by Wes Woods II about legal actions taken by the Claremont Police Officer Associations in response to the City's decision to unilaterally impose a one-year police contract that calls for Claremont public safety employees to pay 6-percent of their 9-percent CalPERS retirement contribution.

Up until the new contract was imposed, the City had paid the CPOA employees retirement contribution.  The City has argued that that payment is not fiscally sustainable.

The CPOA, through its attorney Dieter Dammeier, have taken a pretty hard negotiating stance.  The Bulletin article indicated that Dammeier has gone on a fishing expedition, making a court request for City documents:
An unfair labor practice charge was filed in late October with the state Public Employment Relations Board. The city has 30 days to respond to the filing.

Attorneys for the association also filed a writ of mandate in Pomona Superior Court requesting salary information for Claremont's city manager, assistant city manager, City Council members, retired members of the council and executives of city departments.

Both actions were filed "because we were treated differently than the rest of the city," said Dieter Dammeier, attorney for the Claremont Police Officers Association, referring to the Oct. 25 council decision.

We had a couple reactions to Dammeier's requests. First, if he's too lazy to check the City's online archives, why can't he ask the City Clerk for the documents like everyone else? To be fair, this seems to have started as a simple document request, but Dammeier's document demand sounds so broad that he would always be able to claim the City hadn't been forthcoming in its response.  That would then open the door to Dammeier's media play, first by filing for a writ of mandate in Superior Court, which would then generate the headlines Dammeier seeks.

Second, Dammeier's claim that the City is treating the CPOA differently from other city employees strikes us as awfully hypocritical. Dammeier's recent tactics have been to have the CPOA argue that they deserve to be treated differently because police duties are different than other employees.

The CPOA's complaint has been that they haven't been treated differently at all and that public safety employees deserve different types of contracts than every single other city employee. Seems like Dammeier's trying to have it both ways when it suits him best.

This is exactly why it's so hard to take sides in the current police contract negotiations. The City's played the same games in the past, arguing both sides of an argument depending on the situation. City? Dammeier? It's a match made in heaven.



Water Rate Pain

2011-11-13T16:40:53.940-08:00

Yesterday's Claremont Courier carried a small ad announcing a "Resident's Meeting [sic]" 6pm tomorrow at Apex Imaging Services, located at 720 Indigo Ct. in Pomona. The ad's title said, "CLAREMONTERS AGAINST OUTRAGEOUS WATER RATES! Golden State Water STOP RIPPING US OFF!!!"Click to EnlargeThe ad was apparently placed by Hal Hargrave, who recently had a letter to the Courier complaining of our water rates. It also pointed readers to the group's Facebook page.Residents planning on attending tomorrow's meeting are asked to bring a copy of their latest water bill. The meeting's goal is to "set a plan of action to fight Golden State Water."A noble goal indeed, and one we support. Golden State Water and its parent company, American States Water Co., certainly do a great job of playing the Public Utility Commission rate game by, every three or so years, asking for huge rate increases to cover infrastructure repairs that we're not sure are ever completed. (Did they ever get around to upgrading the water tank up by Claraboya after the water presure failed during the 2003 Grand Prix Fire?)The PUC, in all its wisdom, shows how fair its judgment is by chopping down the rate increases into digestible chunks - 20%, say, over three years.Incidentally, Golden State is playing the same game elsewhere in Southern California: Ojai, Orange County, and the high desert.Of course, thanks to regionalized water rates, Claremont's rate hikes are tied to the Bartow-Victorville area. As we've written in the past, Claremont's water rates got lumped together with Barstow's back in 1998 when the water company (then known as Southern California Water Co.) asked for the rates to be regionalized.  Then-City Manager Glenn Southard claimed to have worked out a great deal for the City, getting discounted rates for municipal water use, along with SCWC leasing the City's rights to 535 acre-feet of ground water per year.   In return, the City signed off on SCWC's regionalization request.Ironically, in the current fight against rising water rates, the ratepayers' best friend may just be the City of Claremont and other affected municipalities, whose city attorneys will be needed to make a coordinated fight against Golden State Water, whose main goal has always seemed to be to ensure a steady dividend stream to its stockholders, who in turn reward GSW execs with huge salaries and bonuses.[...]



The Joke's on Us

2011-11-17T14:16:58.872-08:00

Xavier AlvarFormer Three Valleys Municipal Water District board member Xavier Alvarez seems to find his way into the news with great regularity, the latest instance having to do with the U.S. Supreme Court deciding to hear an appeal of the dismissal of the federal criminal charges against Alvarez by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.That last story made the New York Times, so it wasn't surprising to see it also pop up in the November, 2011, edition of the California State Bar's California Bar Journal. What was surprising, however, was the rather outlandish photo that accompanied the article by writer Diane Curtis.   The photo displayed a mustachioed Alvarez grinning and in full military dress, complete with rows of medals and ribbons.November 2011 California Bar Journal(Click to Enlarge)The photo first appeared in a Claremont Insider post and was a Photoshop graphic that superimposed an Army Ranger dress uniform over a photo of Alvarez.  If the Bar's writer had emailed us to check on the graphic, we'd gladly have told her it was a joke.Alas, we didn't receive any inquiry on the photo and just happened to learn of it after a reader did a double-take after reading the Bar Journal article.  We plan on letting Curtis and the Bar Journal in on the joke.  In hindsight, we suppose it could have been worse:or[...]



Saturday Mailbag

2011-11-12T03:00:03.151-08:00

We received an email from a reader who was concerned that the City of Claremont's Winter 2012 recreation and activities guide has a cover with some of Claremont's children throwing down gang signs:DATE: Wednesday, November 9, 2011 4:45 AMSUBJECT: Are those gang symbols?TO:  Claremont BuzzSorry for my ignorance on the matter, but looking at the cover of the recently arrived in the mails Recreation & Activities Guide from the City of Claremont...Are the girls in the cover photo, in the back row, right side trying to communicate something?http://content.yudu.com/Library/A1ui7a/ClaremontHumanServic/resources/index.htm?referrerUrl=-- Here's the cover:Well, it turns out the kids are communicating something, but it's nothing sinister.  The hand signs are called "chuckin' the deuce" or "chuckin up deuces."  It's origins are attributed to hip-hop star Chris Brown.  Here's how the website rapgenius.com defines the term:“Chuckin' the deuce” is a term that originated in the Southern part of the United States. It’s what someone does when they’re just passing by, or leaving. People used to say “peace” instead of goodbye, now they just do it with their hand signals(cf. Chris Brown’s “Deuces”)* * * * *And we got this note from a former Claremont who read our post about the planned expansion of the Wilderness Park/Thompson Creek Trail parking lots:SUBJECT: RE: Claremont InsiderDATE: Friday, November 11, 2011 4:04 AMTO: Claremont InsiderI feel sorry for the Meyers Family. Are you Stealing their land, TOO ???So much Government intrusion in Claremont since the days that I grew up there. I truly feel sorry for the citizens of Claremont who are now being bamboozled by a bunch of corrupt council members, and city politicians. They (they City Council), should ALL be put down like a pack of rabid Coyotes !!!Let's see if THIS letter makes it to print? LOL !!!! I SERIOUSLY doubt it![...]



This Weekend in Claremont

2011-11-11T06:11:03.384-08:00

PILGRIM FESTThe annual Pilgrim Place Festival is today and tomorrow, from 10am to 4pm at 625 Mayflower Rd. in the Claremont Village.  As with any Claremont event, there'll be arts and crafts, music, fun for the kids, and food.(Click to Enlarge)  Here what the Pilgrims' website has to say: 63rd Annual Pilgrim Place Festival Friday and Saturday, November 11 & 12, 201110:00 am to 4:00 pm Visitors to our Festival will share in a unique “Pilgrim experience” filled with fun activities for people of all ages which include rides, booths selling a variety of items (including creative crafts!), an authentic drama, and terrific food. We celebrate the spirit of friendship and community that is Pilgrim Place.Pilgrim Place residents work selflessly throughout the year to create crafts, prepare activities and attractions to engage people of all ages—all for a worthy goal. Proceeds from this event go directly to support those residents who have dedicated their lives to serving others and who now need help themselves.For detailsAnd here's a slideshow with photos from last year's event: allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/enx0TXjhZho" width="420">PADUA ART EVENTThe Claremont Museum of Art, which hasn't gone away despite losing its gallery space in the Claremont Packing House, revives the old Padua Hills Art Fiesta this Sunday, November 13, from 11am to 4pm at the Padua Theater, located at 4467 Padua Ave. in northeast Claremont.Admission is $8 for adults, and anyone under 18 gets in free.The original Fiesta ran from 1953 to 1959 and showcased the works of that era's prominent Claremont artists.  This Fiesta features works by 20 local artists, and there is also a special exhibit called Claremont Moderns: The Fiesta Artists of Padua Hills 1953-1959 at Claremont Heritage's Ginger Elliot Gallery.The Elliot Gallery is located in the Garner House in Claremont's Memorial Park on Indian Hill Blvd. between 8th and 10th Streets.  The exhibit runs November 18 to December 18 with a special preview this Sunday. The opening reception is next Friday, November 18, from 5:30 to 8:30pm. RHINO NEWSOur Rhino spam tells us that Led Zepplin IV is out on iTunes this week in honor of the 40th anniversary of the album's release:40 years ago today, the greatest rock band of all-time released the greatest rock album of all-time, Led Zeppelin IV. A powerhouse from the legendary opening vocal intro of "Black Dog" to the final notes of the hypnotic Mississippi blues-infused "When The Levee Breaks," IV contains eight radio classics including "Rock And Roll," "The Battle Of Evermore," "Misty Mountain Hop," "Four Sticks," "Going To California," and, of course, the ultimate rock anthem, "Stairway To Heaven." "Hats Off" to Jimmy, Robert, John Paul, and John for creating a true work of art that only gets better with age.Of course, this reminded us of a plug we saw a long time ago on Second City TV: allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="315" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/_QFDsUgjqIo" width="420">[...]



Build It and They Will Come

2011-11-10T09:53:23.754-08:00

The City of Claremont is moving forward with the expansion of the parking lots for the Claremont Wilderness Park and the Thompson Creek Trail.  There are currently two small lots, one at the north end of Mills Ave. and one at the northeast corner of Mills and Mt. Baldy Rd.  The City intends to expand both lots.The parking expansion plans are on the agenda for tonight's Community Services meeting.  The meeting begins 7pm in the City Council chambers at 225 W. Second St., across from Saca's Restaurant in the Claremont Village.The plans call for the Mt. Baldy Rd. lot to be expanded east onto the empty land under the Edison powerlines.  The new lot there will add 178 spaces and will also have an entrance opening onto Mt. Baldy Rd., directly across from the Strasbourg Ct. cul-de-sac.  We've already heard complaints from hikers and residents who worry that traffic speeding along Mt. Baldy Rd. will inevitably lead to more accidents once the new lot is built.Proposed Parking at Mills Ave. and Mt. Baldy Rd.(Click to Enlarge)The City is is expanding the existing north lot at the Wilderness Park trailhead and will add 127 parking spaces.  The expansion area will run south and west from the current lot at the terminus of Mills Ave.Proposed Parking at North End of Mills Ave.Whatever the lots' final configuration, one thing is certain.  There won't be enough parking in 10 years.  In 1999, we went through the same thing.  The original 15-space lot at the trailhead wasn't big enough, and parking was spilling over onto Mills.   The City's answer was to triple the number of spots by adding the 45-space Mt. Baldy Rd. lot.  Here we are again needing another parking expansion, taking the total parking to nearly 360 spaces, about three-fourths of the parking in the Packing House parking structure.Claremont Courier, 2/20/99 At this rate, in 2021, we'll need to build a Wilderness Parking Garage.  Don't worry, though.  It'll be a LEED certified design and use recycled concrete.Incidentally, the City has completed an initial study with a mitigated negative declaration, saying that the parking lots will have no negative environmental, traffic, biological or cultural impacts.   We had to laugh, reading this because if this had been proposed for the Claremont Village by a private developer, there would  likely be all sorts of language about how the added parking was going to generate additional daily vehicle trips and would therefore be a cause of more pollution.  Which just goes to show that these documents are a lot like the school district's Blattner Report - not much more than a political statement written by a consultant to support position whatever you need propped up with jargon.Here's the information from the City's website:Wilderness Park & Thompson Creek Trail Parking Lot Expansion (Nov 7, 2011)The City will conduct public meetings regarding a proposal to expand the existing parking facilities serving the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park (CHWP) and Thompson Creek Trail (Project File #10-A01). Currently, parking is located at the CHWP entrance on Mills Avenue, as well as in an overflow parking lot at the northeast corner of Mills Avenue and Mt. Baldy Road that also allows access to the Thompson Creek Trail trailhead. The proposed project would essentially be an expansion of these existing parking facilities. The proposed increase in parking spaces is i[...]



LACONTE AND MOWBRAY WIN

2011-11-10T07:07:21.569-08:00

Incumbent Hilary LaConte and returning former Sam Mowbray were elected to the CUSD Board of Education in yesterday's election.   LaConte received 3,123 votes, or 43.1%.   Mowbray got 2,630, or 36.3%.  Joseph Farrell, who was the outsider candidate, got 1,488 votes - good enough for 20.6%.

You can see the actual results here.


As we thought, turnout was pretty light.  A total of 7,241 votes were cast, but since voters could vote for two candidates, that means that the number of ballots possible was around half that, or about 3,620, which would be 15.1% of the 23,949 registered voters in the district.   The actually turnout was a little higher, since some people would have cast only one of their two possible votes.

That's probably an accurate barometer of community interest in the election, which is unfortunate because, humility not being their strong point, we can count on LaConte, Mowbray and the board misinterpreting the vote as a huge endorsement of their governing philosophy.  That will translate into more of the same, including closed door discussions that verge on violations of the state's Brown Act and another hugely overpriced school bond in a year or two.

Turnout for the Citrus College Board of Trustees Area 2 seat was almost as low in the CUSD election.  A total of 4,369 votes were cast out of a total of 26,298 registered voters for that district.  That's a turnout of 16.1%.  Incumbent Sue Keith creamed her opponent, Tracy Rickman, and received 3,328 votes, or 76.2% of the total cast.




Election Tomorrow

2011-11-09T06:03:56.834-08:00

The polls open at 7am tomorrow, and a select few voters (less than 20% of the eligible registered voters, if the past is any guide) will have the opportunity to vote for two seats on the Claremont Unified School District Board of Education as well as for the Citrus College Board of Trustees District 2 seat.If you need to know where your polling place is, check the LA County Registrar-Recorder's website and enter your street address and zip code.There are two candidates for the Citrus College District 2 position:  incumbent Sue Keith and Tracy Rickman.The three CUSD candidates are, in alphabetical order, Joe Farrell, Hilary LaConte, and Sam Mowbray.   Farrell is the outsider, having been one of the leaders of the No on CL school bond campaign last year.  LaConte is the incumbent, having been board president when the district tried unsuccessfully to pass the $95 million CL bond.  Mowbray is a former CUSD board member and is seeking to return for a fourth term on the school board.The Daily Bulletin endorsed Farrell and LaConte.  The Claremont Courier, on the other hand, endorsed Mowbray and LaConte.  Judging from candidate lawn signs, campaign supporter lists, and letters to the Courier, the Mowbray-LaConte combo is the Claremont 400's ticket of choice for this election. The Courier and the 400 seem to have given LaConte a pass on the failed bond, which got less than 40% of the vote a year ago.The Courier and the 400 have also opted to look the other way with regards to LeConte's possible circumvention of the state's Brown Act sunshine law when she was board president in October, 2010 - something that drew criticism from the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Bureau of Public Integrity recently.   This last bit we thought particularly odd for the Courier, which in the past has been something of an advocate for open government.Through its endorsments the Courier has usually been the most accurate barometer of voter sentiment in Claremont, so we'll see if 2010 CL bond vote or the Brown Act inquiry have much of an effect on the voting. We suspect that it neither issue will matter much at all, but the turnout should tell all.   If CUSD voters are really bothered by enough to overcome their usual apathy, then LeConte might be in some trouble.   Last Saturday's Courier carried letters from two LeConte-Mowbray supporters, Nancy Tresser-Osgood and Dave Nemer.  Both lamented the low turnouts in past elections (Nemer also had a haiku on the same subject in a prior edition of the Courier).  Tresser-Osgood and Nemer are either terribly naive or just plain ignorant, or both, when it comes to local elections.   The 400's candidates traditionally do best in low-turnout elections.   When election turnout goes over 30%, the vote usually goes against the insider (small "I") candidates.That's why our City Council elections are in March and the CUSD elections are in November of off-years.   If those elections were changed to general election dates, the turnout would swamp the Claremonster candidates.  In past council elections Llewellyn Miller, Peter Yao, Jackie McHenry, and Corey Calaycay all ran as outsider candidates in what were relatively high-turnout municipal elections.Similarly, because it was a bond measure, the CL vote had to be held during a general election and was soundly def[...]