Council finalizes fair trade city; debates non-profit funding
Claremont has been named the first Fair Trade Town in southern California after a decision made by the Claremont City Council Tuesday night.
The council unanimously adopted a resolution supporting Fair Trade USA, a global nonprofit organization aimed at promoting the sale of economically sustainable products, as well as safe and environmentally friendly workplaces.
Linda Michon, along with her husband, Joe, and about a dozen others, helped lead the path to Claremont’s Fair Trade designation over the past year. Tuesday’s meeting was a sign that their hard work had paid off.
“Now it’s time for a big celebration,” Ms. Michon said.
Receiving a city-supported resolution was the last of 5 steps needed in order to obtain the Fair Trade designation, which will place Claremont on the national database with other Fair Trade Towns across the globe. Up until this point Claremont residents formed a steering committee, ensured a wide availability of fair trade products within town, obtained support from other local organizations and community groups, and gained media attention.
Earning the Fair Trade distinction will help attract more visitors and drive vendor sales within the city, according to Interim Assistant City Manager Colin Tudor. The Fair Trade logo can be placed throughout the city and within stores that sell qualifying products.
“By finalizing this status Claremont receives the publicity and recognition,” Mr. Tudor said, adding, “Fair Trade products are currently one of the fastest growing segments of the retail market.”
Local business owners added their support to the resolution, many of which already sell Fair Trade Items. Shop owners included Diana Miller of Color 91711 and Susan Pearson of The Body Workshop. Ms. Pearson recently returned from the Dominican Republic as part of a Fair Trade Town trip, where she visited with Fair Trade cooperatives.
“To be able to be a part of that and be immersed in that was just amazing,” Ms. Pearson said.
“It’s not invisible, faceless people out there,” she said in reference to the co-op farm workers she got to know during her visit. “These are people I lived with, I worked with and am now supporting.”
Mayor Pro Tem Opanyi Nasiali added his support, but emphasized the fact that the Fair Trade distinction should only be the beginning of further outreach to ensure corruption does not continue.
“We need to do more,” Mr. Nasiali said, “to ensure there is education… so they [workers at the cooperatives] are not taken advantage of. They can still be subject to corrupt practices.”
The Michons’ next step is to do just that. Even though Claremont has achieved Fair Trade distinction, there is still work to do, according to Ms. Michon. Fair Trade Claremont will continue with outreach to local retailers looking to join with distribution, and community groups to spread awareness.
Future CBO funding sparks discussion
The city council’s unanimous decision to provide support funds for more than 20 local nonprofit organizations sparked debate at Tuesday’s city council meeting, questioning the length of time any one organization should be supported by city money.
Every year the Claremont Community and Human Services Commission identifies local nonprofit organizations dedicated to providing for the needy in the local community for financial assistance through the Community Based Organization (CBO Program) and Homeless Program. Organizations must apply and go through an extensive review by the commission.
CBO is dedicated to building a social, economic and family infrastructure within the city of Claremont. The Homeless Program serves those providing shelter and aid to the chronically homeless, those without reliable shelter or on the verge of homelessness.
This year the city has designated $86,650 in the General Fund for the 2012-2013 CBO Program with $60,000 available for the Homeless Program, received through revenue from the transient and occupancy tax.
Councilmember Corey Calaycay raised issue with the fact the city has not discussed a cap to funds received by any one organization, as nonprofits should be developing on their own. It goes against the intended use of the program, he claimed.
“It was intended to be seed money, not to keep organizations afloat indefinitely,” Mr. Calaycay said, also stating his discomfort with calling the program a grant if it is given out to the same organizations on a regular basis.
Mr. Calaycay added if the city were going to go against the spirit of the program, he would rather see the city contract out for some of its services.
Of the 24 organizations, only one—Pomona Neighborhood Center—had not applied previously. At this time, the CBO and Homeless Program grant allocation policy does not include any restrictions on the number of years an agency or program can apply for funding, according to Community & Human Services Manager Kristin Turner.
While Council Member Sam Pedroza noted that the policy had never been discussed at the council level, he disagreed with the idea of contracting out for services.
“There is no way we could contract out to provide nearly a fraction of the services all these organizations are providing in our community,” Mr. Pedroza said. “In that regard we really are getting a great bang for our buck.”
These community-based organizations are not solely kept afloat from funding received from the city, added Mr. Pedroza. “Its a great tradition in our city that I hope we continue in the future with,” he said.
City Manager Tony Ramos agreed that the city would look into addressing a CBO policy discussion for next year.