Police station package is ready, but ballot date in limbo

After nearly a year, the committee tasked with crafting a third police station package for voters held their final meeting last Wednesday.  

The Police Station Citizens’ Advisory Committee (PSCAC), a 15-member body created by former mayor Opanyi Nasiali in August 2018 in the wake of Measure SC’s defeat, hammered out a plan that would appeal to Claremont voters—a 30-year, $17.5 million parcel tax to retrofit and expand the existing building at 570 west Bonita Avenue.

The parcel tax will be based on square footage of real property on a parcel, a different kind of parcel tax than the flat-rate version used by Measure PS, the first police station ballot measure that was defeated in 2015.

It was a long and contentious road to get to this point. The committee, chaired by vocal SC critic Matt Magilke, at times argued with each other over aspects such as the price of the package, whether to consider the City Yard building, or contracting with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department. 

Two $15,000 studies, to see if the current station could be retrofitted and if the City Yard building was a feasible option, were turned down by the previous city council in 2018, but approved by the new council months later, delaying the committee by several weeks.

While the pricing, financing method and bond lifetime have been secured, exactly when this package will be presented to voters remains up in the air.

Originally saddled with a March 2020 vote date, the committee opted to push until after November 2020, partly due to a proposed constitutional amendment, ACA 1, which could lower the voting threshold for special use parcel taxes to 55 percent and could go to voters next year.

Currently, special use taxes need at least a two-thirds supermajority to pass. Measure SC failed to reach that mark in 2018, even though it garnered a strong majority of 59 percent.

If ACA 1 doesn’t get to the ballot box, the committee reasoned, the police station measure would move forward to the next available ballot.

The committee also narrowly voted out a provision in the recommendation that asked for a request for proposals (RFP) from the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for policing services. This has been a contentious issue not just within the committee, but within some in the community as well.

Committee member Anthony Nelipovich argued the decision should come down to which department would be more cost-effective and save money in the long run. Jim Keith argued that vital services the Claremont Police Department provides, such as a deep knowledge of the community and the Crime-Free Multi-Housing Program, would not exist if there were a new Sheriff in town.

Claremont Police Chief Shelly Vander Veen noted as a city employee and resident, “I’ll tell you that you will not get better service than you’re getting now.”

She noted that some spects of policing, such as automated license plate readers, at-scene fingerprinting and others could be scaled back if the committee wanted to save money.

“We can maybe provide that quality of service at a cheaper price, if that’s what you’re asking,” she said. “So just know what you’re asking for.”

Joyce Sauter, who initially voted in favor of the RFP in a previous meeting, officially took back her vote, and Mr. Keith called for another vote to take out the provision altogether. The motion narrowly passed, 7-5.

More on last week’s meeting will be in this week’s editions of the COURIER.

Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com

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