City council election endorsements doesn’t sit well with everyone

As election day approaches, the Claremont City Council is getting involved in endorsements. The council has lent its support to Proposition 30—a sales tax initiative to fund California’s public schools—and opposition to Measure J, which would extend the sales tax for public transit until 2069. A resolution for both positions was passed with a 3-0 vote by Mayor Larry Schroeder and Councilmembers Sam Pedroza and Joe Lyons.

Proposition 30, proposed by Governor Jerry Brown, states it will generate $6 billion through a quarter-cent sales tax increase and a one-to-3 percent increase in personal income tax to those who make $250,000 or more. The money will allegedly be used to fund K-12, community colleges and CSU/UC schools as well as public safety services, which will directly affect Claremont, according to several residents in support. Measure J extends Measure R, passed in 2008, helping to finance new transportation. While Measure R claimed it would fund the Gold Line through Claremont, members of the Metrolink Transportation Authority now state that is not the case. Measure J leaves Claremont out of the Gold Line funding altogether.

Mr. Pedroza emphasized his opposition to Measure J.

“I strongly believe we need to take a position. Claremont is specifically not listed in a funding measure that all Claremont people are going to be paying for,” Mr. Pedroza said.

Councilmembers Opanyi Nasiali and Corey Calaycay abstained, a stance Mr. Calaycay says he has taken on endorsing election issues since his days working for the state legislature.

“It was very clear that we could not take a position on any initiative on behalf of a legislator even if that legislator, on his own time, was taking a position,” Mr. Calaycay said. “I draw a very firm line as an elected official after that experience by not involving our city in any way in endorsing an election issue.”

Many in the audience agreed with Mr. Calaycay, calling for the council to remain impartial on election issues.

“City government affects all the residents of the city and that’s the reason the council is a nonpartisan body,” said Claremont resident Carolyn Gonzales.

“This should not even be on the agenda,” added Joseph O’Toole.

However, Mr. Pedroza noted that the resolutions were brought before the council at the request of several Claremont residents. Mr. Pedroza felt at least discussing the issue was part of his duty as a council member.

“I see myself as a representative of the folks that elected me,” he said.

The council has a constitutional responsibility to address issues brought up by the public that elected them, added Mr. Lyons, referring to the city’s best practice that “the city council will refrain from taking a policy stance on all matters clearly unrelated to the local jurisdiction.”

“The word ‘clearly unrelated’ is something that is going to have its fuzzy edges, going to have its moments of difficulty to discern, but that is precisely why the public in Claremont has elected us. We have a responsibility to look this over.”


Claremont to make water offer, with or without Golden State’s blessing

The Claremont City Council has directed staff to make an offer to Golden State Water Company for the purchase of its water system.

City Attorney Sonia Carvalho made the announcement Tuesday night after more than 2 hours of closed session deliberation. Councilmember Sam Pedroza made the motion with a second by councilmember Joe Lyons and unanimous approval by the council.

“The city’s negotiator has been directed to make an offer not less than the fair market value as determined by the appraisal determined by the city council,” said Ms. Carvalho.

Ms. Carvalho declined to state exactly how much the city will offer the water company as an official proposal has not yet been drafted, but assured that a copy will be made available to the public and mailed out to residents.

“We still need to develop the formal offer,” Ms. Carvalho said, adding that the acquisition lawyers need to comply with specific government codes in compiling the offer.

The COURIER requested a copy of the Water Acquisition Feasibility Study reviewed at Tuesday evening’s closed meeting, but the request was denied. City Clerk Lynne Fryman said the decision to withhold the document was based on the Public Records Act, which exempts the city from disclosing information on real estate appraisals or feasibility estimates relating to an acquisition until the real estate is obtained.

Tuesday’s announcement brings to realization phase one of Claremont’s potential purchase of the water system. The journey began last January when the city council designated $250,000 of general reserve funds to explore the possibility of purchasing the city’s water system. In June, the council directed a consulting team to conduct a feasibility study determining the financial impacts the acquisition would have on the city.

Residents were pleased with the decision.

“The League is very supportive of the purchase of the water company,” said Ellen Taylor, representing the local chapter of the League of Women Voters. “We feel the water company should have been bought by the city a long time ago.”

Despite Claremont’s decision, Golden State representatives maintain that the company is not interested in selling.

“The city’s decision last night indicates that they are intending to use eminent domain to force a takeover of the system, which in effect would obligate residents to potentially hundreds of millions in water taxes and, from our perspective, a lower level of service,” said Golden State Water spokesperson Mitch Zak.

If acquisition of the water system must be done by eminent domain, Claremont officials have made it known that they are willing to go in that direction.

—Beth Hartnett





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