City solicits community input for determining top budget priorities

by Steven Felschundneff |

The city got its budget priorities ball rolling this week with the first in a series of meetings aimed at narrowing down what residents think are the top issues and opportunities facing Claremont.

To kick off the process, the city is soliciting input through a survey allowing anyone to share their opinion about which projects it should tackle and which programs deserve further investment. The survey closes December 15.

There is also a dedicated page on the city’s website at with information on the priorities process.

“In early 2024, the City Council will develop a list of objectives and work items to guide staff’s work plan for the 2024-26 budget cycle (July 1, 2024 through June 30, 2026),” read a staff report. “As part of this process, there will be several opportunities for public participation.”

The first of three community focus group meetings was held Tuesday evening over Zoom, which made it feel like 2020 all over again. The meeting was lightly attended with just four people logged in to the app, but those who did speak brought up some timely issues.

The roughly hourlong session seemed at times like a conversation between the moderator, Patrick Ibarra of Mejorando Group, and Russ Binder of Claremont Speaks. Two other people shared their thoughts, one was anonymous and the other expressed a desire not to be quoted in the newspaper.

Ibarra said the low attendance was not an issue since the conversation was constructive. There will also be a second virtual meeting at 6 p.m. Wednesday, December 13, and an in-person session at 6 p.m. Thursday, January 25, 2024 in the Padua Room of the Hughes Community Center.

Ibarra asked three questions: What do you enjoy most about living or working Claremont? What are the biggest challenges? What do you believe should be the top priorities?

He emphasized there were no wrong answers because the point of the process is to gauge public opinion. The same three questions will be asked at the next two focus group meetings.

Binder was the only person who answered the first question, stating what he likes about Claremont is it’s a place where you can easily get to know your neighbors if you make the minimum effort.

He also asked rhetorically what it would be like to propel yourself 10 years into the future and look around at Claremont, and wondered whether there is a shared vision. He said that “the party of no is strong,” referring to the tendency for some to resist change. He challenged those who would attend a City Council meeting to oppose a project to also have, and support, an alternate plan.

Other issues brought up include the loss of local control, particularly when it comes to housing; the perception that the city’s move to council districts is dividing neighbors and neighborhoods; and supporting housing developments with smaller units as a way to create sustainable affordable housing.

Other ideas included utilizing more resources to lift up the southernmost portion of the city, including resurfacing streets, reducing traffic, and a suggestion that the underpass at Indian Hill and the 10 Freeway needs to be wider.

Binder said his top priority would be for Claremont to become the gold standard in Los Angeles County for economic and ecological development. He would like to see the city and the Claremont Colleges work together so that someone could graduate from one of the colleges and get a good professional job right here in town.

Binder went on to say he would like to see the city attract higher quality businesses that can pay employees enough so that they can afford to live here and move the city’s economy forward. He cited Stanford University and the many technology companies that operate in the surrounding communities as an example of what that could look like.

There was a suggestion that as a starting point the council should look at the priorities from two years ago and assess whether those goals have been achieved.

The 2022-2024 priorities include maintain financial stability; preserve our natural, cultural, and historic resources; invest in the maintenance and improvement of our infrastructure; increase livability in our neighborhoods and expand opportunities for our businesses; ensure the safety of our community through community based policing and emergency preparedness; promote community engagement through transparency and communication; and develop anti-racist, anti-discrimination policies and plan to achieve community and organizational diversity, equity, and inclusion.


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