League forum closes out Claremont’s election season

Forum season ended with a bang on February 24 as the seven city council candidates made their final case to the public at Pitzer College.

The forum, co-sponsored by Pitzer as well as the Claremont chapter of the League of Women Voters, was the final event before the March 7 election. The two-hour forum addressed many important topics that were touched upon in prior forums.

The first question was appropriate for the setting—What can the candidates do, if elected, to strengthen town and gown relations?

Incumbent candidate Larry Schroeder recommended reinstating a quarterly lunch between the council and the Colleges’ presidents, but noted there wasn’t much to mend.

“We have a good relationship already, but we could always make that stronger,” he said.

Abraham Prattella took it a step further, calling for a monthly meeting as opposed to a quarterly meeting with the Colleges’ presidents and presenting the idea of a committee to help mend the divide.

The candidates were also asked a question on the minds of many long-term Claremonters—How would the candidates juggle Claremont’s small-town feel with the need for growth?

“I think we need to maintain what standards we already have in place so we don’t lose a sense of small town,” Michael Keenan said.

Incumbent candidate Corey Calaycay noted the delicate balancing act the city has to undertake with respect to changing the face of the Village. He highlighted the future Village South project as a way to keep the city’s character while connecting Pepper Tree Square and, by extension, south Claremont.

Sustainability efforts were also addressed, with Murray Monroe offering his pledge to put solar panels on every rooftop in the city.

“We have 360 days of sunshine a year, and we’re just giving it away to Southern California Edison and promoting fossil fuels,” he said.

Zach Courser complimented the city’s effort toward sustainability, but suggested it take inventory of what more it could be doing in the wake of a changing world.

“Our sustainability goals are 10 years old,”?he said. “I think it’s time to go back and look at our priorities, and look at how science and technology has changed. We should look at how we’re measuring and what we’re trying to achieve here in Claremont.”

Measure H, the LA County proposal that would issue a quarter-cent sales tax to pay for homeless services, also took center stage. Mr. Calaycay noted the importance of looking at both sides of the argument.

He lauded the city’s efforts toward lowering the homeless population, but relayed concerns from business owners that the uptick in tax could force consumers to drive into San Bernardino County to shop.

“It could have unintended consequences on consumers here in Claremont. So we just have to keep that in mind,” Mr. Calaycay said.

Mr. Prattella and Mr. Courser—who both support Measure H—took no issue with the proposed tax increase, with Mr. Prattella noting that a quarter of a cent “would not hurt us that much.” Mr. Courser agreed.

“The idea that a quarter cent is going to have me shop at Vons in Claremont or Vons in Upland just doesn’t mean anything to me,” Mr. Courser said.

Anthony Grynchal is also in support of Measure H noting, “It’s our duty to help our brothers and sisters out there,” and mentioning his involvement as an advocate in the Claremont Homeless Advocacy Program (CHAP).

Another question dealt with the city’s commissions and their role in Claremont. Mr. Courser, who has been on the Traffic and Transportation Commission since 2014, noted he found the commission training to be “inadequate.”

Mr. Prattella said there wasn’t enough publicity for people to know about or join the commissions, a sentiment echoed by Mr. Monroe.

Public safety was also addressed. The city recently released its 2016 stats on part I crimes that showed a  two percent decrease overall, but an increase in specific crimes such as robbery, which is up from 15 incidents last year to 29 this year.

Mr. Calaycay said the stats in the report reflect “a small increase, but nonetheless a two percent decrease” in overall crimes, and praised the Claremont Police Department’s crime-fighting efforts, particularly with ALPR license plate-reading system.

“We’ve seen over 300 stolen cars and over 500 individuals arrested thanks to those cameras,” he said. “And those were individuals who weren’t able to move further into the community and create more crimes.”

Mr. Courser painted a grimmer picture of the crime stats in Claremont, while relaying that the decrease in bike thefts was due in part to an awareness program set up by himself and fellow TTC member Walter Farmer.

“It’s clear to me that crime is becoming a problem, and we have to acknowledge that,” he said.

Mr. Schroeder noted that the city is in the middle of training and prepping new officers with two of them currently in field training and three in the academy.

Mr. Schroeder pointed to the condition of the police facility, noting that it doesn’t meet seismic or ADA requirements and suffers from a lack of proper locker rooms for female officers.

“It’s not a matter of keeping up the station, it needs to be redone,” he said.

The final question of the campaign was one that was overarching and reflected the essence of the city council—how would you intend to make sound policy decisions while incorporating public input and community dialogue?

Mr. Keenan noted how he forced the city to review its solar policy that ended up getting “a gold award.” Mr. Monroe said he would go out, get involved and listen to his constituents for input.

Mr. Courser said he would like to reinvigorate the commission system, and to put a focus on evidence, process and research, which would benefit the council going forward.

Mr. Calaycay emphasized his effort to work as a “bridge-builder” and his weekly emails giving information about that week’s city and commission meetings.

Mr. Prattella said he would bring transparency and pledged to challenge his fellow councilmembers on a wide range of topics. Mr. Schroeder talked about how he meets regularly with citizens and pointed to his openness with constituents, who often call him on his personal phone number. Mr. Grynchal said he is a man of his word, and pledged to “work hard, state the facts, and always apply common sense.”

—Matthew Bramlett



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