Eight Questions for Eight Candidates: Murray Monroe
Murray Monroe is a 45-year Claremont resident and investment advisor. Mr. Monroe, 53, aims to have the city’s policies and practices reflect the core values of Claremont, while keeping a keen eye on sustainability issues.
Why are you running for city council?
I’m a longtime resident and I want to continue to keep up the Claremont tradition—the trees, promoting solar, purchasing the water company. I figure that being here as long as I have, I’ve got a unique perspective on going to the schools here and what the community is all about. I want to continue to make Claremont strong together.
In light of the city losing the eminent domain case against Golden State Water Company, what are your thoughts about the council’s decision to move forward with an appeal?
I have a unique perspective in talking with a number of people in our club [Democratic Club of Claremont] that you’ve got about five or six reasons why we want to continue to purchase the water company. One, how about putting the groundwater back? I would figure the city of Claremont would do a better job than a private corporation. At least we know that they would be responsible. Number two, we pay for the water and Golden State charges us an 8.5 percent dividend. They can pump the water or they can get the water from other sources—like the Colorado River or LA, which one is cheaper? Does it make more sense for Golden State to get the more expensive water or the cheaper water? How do we know that Golden State is doing the best for Claremont residents? In the past 15 years we’ve seen our rates double, even triple! We’re up 200 percent on water rates and they seem to go to the PUC and get a rubber stamp for their increased rates. We used to pay our water bill once every two months, now it’s once a month. You’ve got groundwater, you’ve got whether they pump the water, whether they get it from a more expensive source—there are a number of other reasons why we should purchase the water company. In order to pay for this, we’re not getting any real benefit other than we’re taking control and not having these increased rates. We’re going to maintain at this level, but the advantage of that is we’re not having to pay the 8.5 percent dividends; we’re not having those $2 million salaries go to the heads of Golden State Water. I heard that we’re grouped in with Apple Valley as far as rank—Claremont’s pretty much maxed out. You’re going to come up to where the last piece of vacant land has been sold. How much more growth can Claremont do to have more water expenses, infrastructure??Apple Valley is growing. They have lots of open land up there. And when Apple Valley grows, Claremont’s on the hook for helping to pay for that.
Is Claremont losing its small-town charm?
I hope not. You’ve got the growth and you know it’s going to be high-density with every place that’s left. Hibbard Chevrolet, that land over there, they’re going to develop it and it’s going to be high-density. I’d just like to see that we put solar on that. A parking structure. This is the thing, I believe that there’s climate change. I did a fishing trip in Alaska 20 years ago and I believe I saw it then. I wasn’t that cold in Alaska, fishing the Ugashik River. To see what happened with the water table, over-fishing—we’ve got all kinds of problems going on. It’s endless. Dealing with Claremont, solar is one way to combat climate change. And why the city does not have solar on 100 percent of the buildings that can hold it—I understand that the tile of the Mexican roofs can’t hold it, but the city yard should be 100 percent solar. The police department should have solar. Any new building where we have the high rises going in, we should focus on making sure that they’re putting solar on them.
The mayor’s ad hoc committee has recommended a three-tier financing mechanism to fund construction of the new police station. Do you agree with that suggestion?
I don’t know much about the three-tiered mechanism but being an investment advisor for 25-plus years, you are not going to see a better time to do any kind of financing at these low interest rates. Why not take that 50-year old building and convert it? Keep it in the same location and work from that at financing of 3 percent municipal bond. I was not in favor of the last $50 million one, but I can get behind the $25 million one. I appreciate the efforts our city council has done. This is one of the things that they’ll get behind. The last one—obviously the voters didn’t get behind that one—but with my knowledge in selling municipal bonds for the last 25 years, it couldn’t be a better time for the city of Claremont to raise the funds at the lowest possible interest rates while keeping the police department centrally located. Put solar on it and upgrade our police department. Let them know that they are loved.
What do you think about the new housing developments on Base Line Road?
It’s high-density. We have a property we have just finished fixing up across the street from the Towne and Base Line development. It’s looking prettier. The strawberry fields were replaced and high-density housing was put in. They’ve done a nice job. I’m sure that that’s going to continue. We’re going to see more. That’s the only way it’s going to be done. Hibbard Chevrolet—that’s going to be high-density. We’re going to have to build a parking structure. How does that differ from old Claremont? You start seeing the senior homes across the street and what are these, four stories? You’re seeing these larger scale buildings and this is what’s going to happen with the limited amount of space that we have. We’re going to have to build high-density. While we do that, I would say that we have to put solar on these to help curb climate change and set an example.
What are your feelings about the town-gown relationship?
I understand that people get a little offended when you start encroaching across College Avenue. I think the [proposed Pomona College Museum of Art building] looks beautiful. Once you see the amount of museum traffic and what the Colleges help bring to the city of Claremont—I think the city council and the presidents of the Colleges can work together to mend those fences.
Some residents have said that city staff steamrolls projects without allowing city commissions an opportunity to sufficiently vet projects. Do you think city staff gives proper consideration to the recommendations of the city’s commissions?
In some instances, it doesn’t look like the city did. It’s one of those things that you have to take into consideration. These folks are putting their time in; you need to listen to them. There is an awful lot of communication breakdown. That’s one of the things that I would work hard to change, the communication, along those lines, and the information from our own sustainability group. I understand the lady who is in charge of solar panels is leaving to go to San Francisco. Who’s going to carry the torch from there? And how well aware are the citizens of Claremont, and what can we do to promote solar? Those are the kinds of things that I would like to get involved with and, being on the city council, I feel like I could participate with a heavier role.
If you had a magic wand, what would you change about Claremont?
The trees in Claremont are going through an awful lot with drought and climate change. I understand this is 100-year drought. If only our trees could be like Redwoods and last longer. Keeping the integrity of old Claremont and the trees that these folks planted many years ago. There’s not much we can do about it with these bark beetles and other invasive species start in on Claremont. It’s sad to see it because it’s one of the best things about Claremont. Keeping our trees alive keeps Claremont beautiful.
Editor’s note: We’ve got a problem. Our clever title for the candidates’ series, “Eight Questions for Eight Candidates,” needs to be renamed, “Eight Questions for Seven Candidates.” Candidate Korey Johnson has passed on our offer to be interviewed, stating that he would like to “Let the chips fall where they may.” Mr. Johnson hasn’t formally withdrawn from the race, but he also hasn’t attended a single forum or—based on our time spent on the campaign trail—interacted with constituents in a meaningful way. From our perspective, he should not be considered a viable candidate. —KD