Council assesses next steps for police station bond measure

The city is looking at March 3, 2020 as the next time a police station ballot measure comes before Claremont voters.

That was the 4-1 decision by the council, which also moved unanimously to look into maintaining the current station in the meantime, and narrowly voted 3-2 to appropriate $20,000 to conduct additional surveys and solicit input from Claremonters.

The decision comes after some spirited and—at times—contentious debate between the councilmembers.

While the majority of the council was cautious to move forward too quickly, Councilmember Joe Lyons was adamant on putting the ballot measure on the November 2018 ballot with a new financing mechanism.

During his presentation to the council, Assistant City Manager Colin Tudor presented possible election dates for a future bond measure, including November 2018, March 2019, March 2020 (which was the city’s suggestion) and November 2020.

Mr. Tudor also presented different financing mechanisms to replace the recently defeated Measure SC general obligation bond— including a parcel tax based on square footage and a general tax. The latter would only require a majority vote, but the money would go into the general fund without any specific direction, Mr. Tudor said.

Putting the measure on the November 2018 ballot would be the least expensive option, at roughly $7,500, but it would come with legal challenges, the city said. State law forbids a legislative body from placing the same failed ballot measure, unchanged, on another ballot measure within six months. 

It could work if the funding mechanism were changed, but there still could be a potential legal risk, according to City Attorney Alisha Patterson. If the council were to choose the November 2018 election, city staff would have to come back with a resolution by the next meeting on July 10, City Manager Tara Schultz said.

During public comment, former city manager Tony Ramos said that would put a strain on city staff.

“I think you’re going to overburden them if you do this now,” he said.

Fourteen Claremonters spoke during public comment, sharing what they would like to see in a new measure and what they thought the council should do.

Jennifer Jaffe and Joyce Sauter were both in favor of changing the funding mechanism and moving forward for the November 2018 ballot. Doug Lyon wanted the measure on the November 2020 ballot and called for an open enrollment for the next committee.

Jim Keith also called for a new ad hoc committee and for residents to apply. Those applying, he noted, should sign a statement proclaiming they see the need to create a new police station that meets current safety requirements, support the efficiency of the police department, and that they never knowingly attempted to mislead voters with anonymous texts and ads.  

“They should sign that before you put them on the committee,” Mr. Keith said.

Councilmember Sam Pedroza was also frustrated with the opposition’s tactics, and asked the city to look into possible Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) violations.

Mr. Lyons, in his support for the placing the measure on the November ballot as a parcel tax based on square footage, noted in part it was the least expensive way to go and all that the information regarding the measure has already been collected.

Gathering more information, he said, “is not going to provide any more certainty than simply finding out from the voters if we were right or if we were wrong.”

Councilmember Larry Schroeder disagreed, and emphasized that if the measure was placed on the November ballot and it lost again, “it will kill this issue.”

Mayor Opanyi Nasiali agreed. “If we lose again, our options are almost shut completely,” he said.

The $20,000 figure, which would be taken from the city’s operating and environmental emergency reserve, is a “guesstimate” by the city, since they have not yet received bids from polling firms as of Tuesday, Ms. Schultz said.

The city has also looked into changing the 67 percent threshold as well. Betty Crocker and Ed Reece, co-chairs of Partners for a Safe Claremont, have petitioned Assemblymember Chris Holden about the issue, and Mr. Pedroza noted the assemblymember was “open” about looking into the issue, but conceded it was a “tall order” that might not be accomplished within the timeframe for a new ballot measure.

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