Claremont city council candidate Jennifer Stark
Jennifer Stark is running for city council on a platform of bringing people in the city together.
The current Traffic and Transportation Commissioner is also on the board of Sustainable Claremont, Claremont Heritage and a co-founder of Syrian refugee resettlement group Claremont Canopy.
“Like everybody who is running, I love Claremont,” Ms. Stark said. “Unlike everybody who is running, I have a very big and broad picture of what this town is, in terms of having spent so many aspects of my life benefitting from the town.”
Ms. Stark’s Claremont roots run deep—her father, Jack Stark, is the former president of Claremont McKenna College. Her brother, Jeff Stark, is a former school board member. Her mother, Jil Stark, was the longtime director of the CMC Atheneaum and has served on the Fairplex board for years.
When asked about her plans for building a new police station, Ms. Stark said the first thing to do is repair the relationship between the city and the Colleges.
“To me that means to cultivate a deeper appreciation for what’s unique about all the organizations, to approach the Colleges as individual institutions, not only as a collective,” she said, “and to then appreciate what the Colleges bring to Claremont and also think in terms of what Claremont does that furthers the Colleges.”
As far as a funding mechanism is concerned, Ms. Stark didn’t offer specifics, but wants to leave it up to the community and the committee to come together for a solution. This sense of building bridges is also employed in trying to get a financial contribution from the Claremont Colleges, if at all, in the next attempt.
“If we are going to get payment in lieu of taxation, it needs to come from a place of a healthy relationship,” Ms. Stark said.
She is excited about Village South, the upcoming development that is in the early planning stages and could reimagine the face of south Claremont. She envisions it to be “expands the opportunities in the Village” as a place to eat, shop and work.
“I think it is a tremendous opportunity to create an exceptional development with a very underutilized, important space,” she said. “This development provides the opportunity to integrate our town in a way that is unique to this project, and I find that super exciting.”
Village South is also an area where city-college collaboration could flourish, especially when it’s between Keck Graduate Institute (KGI) and the city.
“The opportunities for commercial use will benefit the lifestyle of the people who live at KGI, because there are dorms, there’s on-campus living there,” she said. “To have a campus that’s in a thriving, fun, vibrant Village is way more fun than to have campus that’s in the middle of a parking lot or that vacant space.”
Village South will also complement the Gold Line Expansion, a massive billon-dollar rail project that will bring new transportation options to Claremont, as well as a few construction headaches. As a city councilperson, Ms. Stark thinks the incoming construction would be an opportunity for city leadership to stay positive and forward thinking.
“I think people will have a lot of feelings about being inconvenienced. A great way to process that is by listening and not telling people their inconvenience is false or a misunderstanding,” she said.
Ms. Stark was also asked about the budget, specifically in regards to the city’s $50 million shortfall to CalPERS. She said Claremont “has a commitment to address our contractual obligations” and advocated for paying off the debt incrementally each year, citing 2028 as the year Claremont could finally pay it off.
“It’s really important to honor the contractual agreements,” she said. “I think that Claremont should not only be a great place to live, but a great place to work. I think we have the best people working in our town.”
As far as generating revenues, Ms. Stark said it was “a good idea,” and floated current discussion about “pay-by-plate” as a parking option that could make money for the city.
She also advocated for shopping local to generate revenue, noting her mother always picked up Christmas presents each year in the Village.
“I think supporting our local businesses is essential. Eating and having a great time in Claremont is essential,” she said. “So I think that’s another way to keep reminding people that there are great businesses here in town to get behind.”
When asked if the city is being led in the right direction, Ms. Stark said city leaders need to listen and be held accountable.
“And that is not only to hold vision and take the appropriate steps to get to that vision, but also along the way, when you’re heading in that direction, to be responsible for the way people feel at any given time,” she said. “Clearly I am stepping into this position because I feel like I have things to offer that aren’t currently there.”
The newly formed Future Financial Opportunities Committee will be looking at different ways to increase revenues, and Ms. Stark noted city leaders need to be available to the public as well.
“It’s up to the openness of leaders to be available to discuss these things, and to be available to show up, listen to, ‘Oh, this makes me nervous’ or, ‘This makes me afraid’ or, ‘Why are you doing this?’” she said. “From that processing phase into consensus building.”
In her spare time, Ms. Stark volunteers in various community-based organizations, including the TTC and Claremont Canopy. She works with the Kiwanis Club flipping burgers and serving popcorn at the Monday night concerts in the park.
“I enjoy working with people for a cause,” she said. “I get a lot of satisfaction from putting the needs of the collective ahead of other things.”
But ultimately, Ms. Stark says she feels deeply indebted to moving Claremont forward.
“I feel obliged to make Claremont continue to be a wonderful place to live, work and have businesses and visit and exercise and do art and learn and all the great things that being a full fleshed out community has to offer,” she said.