Readers comments 9-18-15
Put public safety first
On November 3, Claremont residents will have the opportunity to vote on a parcel tax to finance the construction of a new police station. It is instructive to compare the costs and benefits of this project with those of the proposed water system acquisition.
The planned $50 million station will cost homeowners $286 per year for the next 40 years. This will provide our police force with a state-of-the-art facility that will be of immediate and lasting benefit to the community.
By contrast, the $135 million water system acquisition will not improve the quality or reliability of our water service, or make it more affordable; to the contrary, the city says that we will be paying $336 more per year just for the privilege of saying that we own it.
Each of these projects has its champions and its critics, and residents may disagree as to which one is a higher priority. But it should be obvious to everyone that Claremont cannot afford to do both at the same time.
Our total debt, which is currently among the lowest in the region, would almost quadruple in size to $248 million. To put that number in perspective, on a per capita basis Claremont’s new debt load would be twice the size of Upland’s, and three times larger than that of Pomona or La Verne.
It is foolish to imagine that there will be no consequences to borrowing so much money all at once. Our city leadership should have foreseen this problem and dealt with it themselves, but it has now been dropped squarely in our laps.
Here are the choices we are left with: we can approve the parcel tax and run the risk of assuming the massive combined debt of both projects; or we can disapprove the tax and wait and see what happens with the water system acquisition, which may take years to resolve.
We deserve a third option. While there are some legitimate questions as to the size and cost of the proposed new police station, most of us would agree that the department faces real infrastructure problems that need to be dealt with one way or another.
On the other hand, there is no urgency whatsoever to acquire the water system. It can be stopped right now without any negative consequences at all, and revived in the future if and when the city’s financial posture allows us to do so in a responsible way.
In fact, Claremont can more than cover the cost of a brand-new police station with the money we would save by foregoing the water system acquisition.
Under the circumstances, this is the only course of action which ensures that our public safety needs can be met in a timely and affordable manner.
Overextending our youth
I have a 16-year-old daughter who is a junior at Claremont High School where, last Wednesday, I had the pleasure of attending the open house. It was a nice event and I was really impressed with the professionalism and enthusiasm of my daughter’s teachers. They seemed kind and genuinely interested in their subjects and invested in the success of the children under their tutelage. I was also really impressed with the amount of homework being assigned, but not in a good way.
Of her six classes, five teachers said she should expect “no more” than one hour of homework per night.
I know—not only from past experience but also from work already assigned this semester—that, depending on the subject, for my daughter one hour can easily turn into 90 minutes. It is also true that at other times it can be less. So let’s say it still amounts to five hours of homework a night.
The many people who know my daughter would agree that she is a very hard worker who takes her academics seriously. But she is also a social kid, with many great friends, a very serious athlete and member of both the CHS cross country and track and field teams, requiring about two hours of practice, six days per week.
This is why we decided she would enroll in AP classes rather than the more strenuous IB, so she could have some kind of balance in her life, which as a father and teacher I know to be critical in the development of a whole person.
On the way home from school Thursday, my daughter and I added it all up:?She’s in class from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. (seven hours); after-school athletics practice from 3:15 to 5:15 p.m. (two hours); straight home and hit the homework, eat dinner while working, take a shower, more homework from 5:30 to 10 p.m. (four-and-a-half hours, 20 minutes of them through tears), go to bed and get up to finish homework from 6:30 to 7 a.m.
Total school and school-related activities totals 14 hours on an average day. My daughter told me that instead of sitting with her friends at lunch she now does homework, which is why I didn’t deduct lunchtime from the total hours in school.
I understand that the high school curriculum is meant to be “rigorous” so that students will matriculate into quality-level colleges and universities, and that there is also a great amount of pressure, both academic and non-academic, to produce high scores on standardized tests.
I spent a lot of time in school myself, eventually earning a doctorate degree. I’m also an adjunct college instructor. In my classes, I see many students who are unprepared for college, so I get it. I get that this is important. But 14 hours a day? Really? I know there has to be a better way.
What climate change?
Around 2:30 p.m. on Wednesday, September 9, the temperature north of Foothill Boulevard was around 102 degrees, humidity was greater than 40 percent, and snow was falling on the summit of Mt. Baldy!
I ventured outside to have a look at a band of dark clouds approaching from the east and happened to look north towards the mountains. There was snow clearly visible above 8500 ft., which goes to prove that climate change is nothing but a hoax!
Last week, I wrote a response to Jeffrey Auerbach’s editorial about Dollar Tree coming to Peppertree Square. What I failed to mention is that Jeff and I have been longtime friends (despite having very different views of the world).
After Jeff read my editorial, he contacted me to apologize and to discuss our differences of opinion. We then talked (we actually spoke—we did not use email) and I apologized for any of my comments that may have been derogatory to him.
When the conversation was complete, we both had a better understanding of each other’s opinions and we certainly will remain friends. In a world where so many show such partisanship and dislike towards each other, I am very proud to have been able to engage in such civilized discourse regarding a community concern.
Scrap the parcel tax
I’ve been looking over the material from the city on Claremont’s public safety measure. Initially, I was pleased that a parcel tax had been chosen so our many nonprofits would contribute to the funding of a new facility. Clearly, the Colleges, retirement communities and churches are served by our local police. At $286 per parcel per year, nonprofits would contribute just under $95,000 each year.
Then I looked at the city’s estimates of the annual debt service charges. The comparison table shows that for a 40-year period the parcel tax annual service cost would be $3 million; the annual cost for GO bonds would be $2.6 million By choosing parcel tax instead of GO bonds as the funding mechanism, we are paying an extra $400,000 each year. The city material recognizes this difference by noting the disadvantage of a parcel tax is that “debt service is higher.”
Certainly it is fair for the nonprofits to contribute, but if it costs us four times as much in debt service costs as the nonprofits contribute, is it a good choice?
The other major difference I see between the two funding mechanisms is that with a parcel tax, the most modest home would pay the same amount as the most palatial. That may be equal but it doesn’t seem fair. A charge based on property value (despite some inequalities based on length of ownership) seems preferable to me. Why choose a regressive tax, especially one that costs more?
Having all those who benefit contribute is a fine principle. However, paying money merchants an extra $400,000 every year so we can collect $95,000 from local nonprofits is not a choice I support. I’d rather give the nonprofits a free ride and save the extra $300,000.
Sally A. Seven
Thanks so much to the COURIER for the spread on keeping our trees alive! And thanks for reporting on my comments to the city council about water bags. I’d like to be clear that I have concerns about them being used on trees over about five inches or so in trunk diameter.
Bags are very helpful for newly-planted or small trees, or ones whose roots are covered with hardscape except near the trunk, but not for larger trees.
The water from bags only moves outward a short distance from the actual bag, missing much of the root area of a larger tree, which extends from the trunk to beyond the canopy edge and down to about two feet.
Another difficulty is that an established tree with a 12-inch trunk would need about 120 gallons distributed over the whole of its root area to deep water it to 12 to 18 inches, and a bag only delivers 20 gallons in a limited spot.
Trees over about a five-inch trunk diameter do best with a soaker hose, one with inline emitters or hand watering, arranged to distribute the needed amount of water over the whole root area.
Bags on larger trees are better than no water at all of course, but they can provide a sense that water needs are being fully addressed when in fact they are not. For more information, visit www.sustainableclaremont.org.