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The more tricks the better in this bag of treats

by John Pixley
Oh, Horror of Horrors! Oh, Terror of Terrors! It is that time again! Yes, once again, it is that time of year when the dark encroaches and your night of nights draws near. It is the time when All Hallow’s Eve, that night of all nights when you rise in all your ghastly glory, approaches.
And, as always on this most auspicious of occasions, it is my honor, as your humble minion, to greet you and give you a report on the doings here in Claremont. Yes, I know I’m far back in line with a full two weeks to go before October 31 but you’ll be delighted to hear, oh, Vicar of the Vain, that at least some of these Claremonters are going whole hog in celebrating Halloween. Not only are the decorations continuing to get more and more elaborate—a trend in recent years—they started to appear late last month. It is almost, only almost, I’m afraid, as crazy as the Christmas decorations that go up in stores before Halloween. Yes, I know, how very rude!
What’s even crazier and no doubt all the more delightful to you is that this goes on in southern California where some days are hotter than ever—yes, hotter than, well, you know where. At least some people here have been moaning about this, saying that they’re being cheated out of nice autumnal weather.
No doubt you will hear plenty about the drought here in California, oh, Titan of Trouble. Yes, the weather last Christmas was quite pleasant, with you-know-who being able to spend a good part of that afternoon sitting outside next to the blooming camellias in a T-shirt, but it was eerie and surreal. When it continued to be lovely like this through the winter, it began to feel downright dangerous, and, sure enough, the governor declared a drought.  Some small towns up north are rationing water, and many farmers in the central area of the state are having to cut way back or call it quits.
And then there have been all the wildfires this dry weather has caused, with so much dry bush and tinder the sun reflecting off a sheet of metal or a window can nearly set off flames. There were fires going on in February—yes, that lovely weather was dangerous— whereas the fire season usually starts in September. In this situation that has been labeled a “catastrophe,” the money budgeted for firefighting this year has recently been all spent (reserves are now being used).
Yes, you’re in for lots of perfectly sad stories about this. You’ll also be hearing plenty about civil unrest over police action with racial overtones, people up in arms about illegal immigrants, and, oh, yes, beheadings and ebola. You know, all the usual, but things have seemed to get crazier than usual in recent months.
As you know, oh, Monarch of the Mediocre, Claremont—where an old tree dying and the new signs at a shopping center are big news— is pretty far away from all this, or it likes to see itself as pretty far from it. And it’s easy to think that it is, with its nice little pie festivals and all the performances and presentations going on at the Colleges which, even you have to admit, are quite impressive for a small town. But Claremont has had some strange and fishy, if not evil, stuff happening this year.
Take the way the Wilderness Park with its Loop Trail in northern Claremont was closed recently due to fire danger. See, all that bad stuff isn’t so far! It’s amazing how the city has bungled this prized project. The park was seen as the town jewel, with hopes that many people would enjoy the opportunity to be out in nature so close by, but the city appeared to be stumped when thousands started coming to walk in the park.
It has been a perfect mess, with the city scrambling to come up with a parking system and enough spaces, and nearby residents screaming about their streets being jammed with parked cars alongside people making their way between their cars and the park and trash left behind. Meanwhile, there has been confusion about what time the park opens and closes—rotating hours were posted to clarify what time dawn and dusk are each month or so. There has been considerable debate over not only how people should behave in the park—walkers with earbuds can’t hear passing bikes, for example, and how fast is too fast for a bike?—but also about  how many people can be in a wilderness park and have it still be wilderness. I’m not sure if it’s a sad or funny irony that the consulting company working with the city on all this is from Berkeley, where the Tilden Regional Park, in the hills above the city, has been quite popular for years.
And then, oh, Shah of the Shady, there has been the city’s effort to take over the water system. Or, really, the effort to stop it.
There is a measure on next month’s ballot asking residents if bonds should be purchased for the purpose of taking over the system from the Golden State Water Company. This is a company that lots of Claremonters have complained about, in that it keeps getting rate hikes approved by the Public Utilities Commission so that its stockholders will profit. What’s more, when customers conserve water, as they should during this drought, they’re hit with a fee called WRAM, as in wram it up your you-know-what.
Not surprisingly, Golden State has been doing everything it can to defeat the bond and, boy, you would love how sneaky and dumb it has been. Insisting on calling it a tax, when it’s a bond to be paid off by customers, is just the start.
When people began speaking out in opposition to the city’s efforts, saying that it may be much more expensive than estimated, there was speculation they were plants by the water company. Now it appears that this is really the case. A small group of residents, including a woman who has run for office as a Tea Party candidate, keep showing up in ads and mailings paid for by, yep, the water company. Or is it that this motley crew is speaking for the silent majority that will rise up at the polls?
In one of the sillier attempts to scare the Claremont folks,  a retired economics professor plastered the town with letters and newspaper ads, again sponsored by the water company, printed on a fancy-schmancy Claremont McKenna College letterhead. Meanwhile, the proponents know perfectly well that their water bills won’t go down if the city takes over; they just want more control and not to be a profit source to a bunch of stockholders.
It gets even sillier, oh, Duke of D’oh! When the water company was doing door-to-door canvassing this summer, two of the paid walkers were caught engaging in some rather graphic hanky-panky outside a resident’s front door. What fools these mortals be, even here in oh-so-fair Claremont!

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