Claremonters comment on Measure PS, vote Tuesday
The price of security
I plan to vote no on Measure PS (“Palace of Security”?) and urge my fellow Claremont residents to do the same. Obviously, we need a police station that meets current code and policy requirements, and the police officers and staff deserve comfortable and efficient working conditions.
The proposed project, however, is disproportionate to the needs and means of Claremonters in every way: size, price and method of financing. Public safety is squarely within the range of services traditionally paid for through an equitably progressive taxation method such as an income or property tax.
Now is the time
One of the main objections to the parcel tax (Measure PS) has been that its financing will cost more than that of a general obligation bond. That would be true if both borrowings were made at the same time in the same interest-rate environment.
Rejecting the parcel tax now and trying for a general obligation bond later will entail a delay in borrowing. The Federal Reserve is about to raise short-term interest rates, which will probably push up long-term (i.e., bond) interest rates. In addition, developing countries’ exports are down, so they are now selling rather than buying US Treasury bonds. This depresses the demand for the bonds, thereby increasing the interest rate which they must pay. The rate paid on these bonds is the basis for all other long-term borrowing, such as that on a city’s general obligation bond. By the time we pass a later ballot measure to issue a general obligation bond, the interest rate will be higher than it would be today.
We don’t have the option to choose a general obligation bond on the November ballot. I wish we did, but we don’t. The soonest we could approve a general obligation bond will be in the June 2016 primary election. That’s seven months later. Every step in the financing will be seven months later. A lot can change in seven months. We may achieve no savings in interest costs if we reject the parcel tax now and approve a general obligation bond seven months later. The interest expense may even be higher. Delay would be a gamble, and the odds would be poor because the trend would be against us.
The fiscally conservative and prudent course of action is to approve the parcel tax now, while interest rates are still at historic lows and before they rise.
Measure PS sets a ceiling, not a floor, on the borrowing. It doesn’t mandate the size, cost or location of the police station. These can be adjusted later, if the city’s residents push the council to do it. If the cost of the station is reduced, we will borrow less and our annual assessment will be less, too.
We shouldn’t pass up historically cheap financing because we don’t like other features of the plan which are not locked in by approval of the financing alone.
Some of the comments attributed to Corey Calaycay and Michael Shea from the October 15 Active Claremont meeting reported in the COURIER appear to be built on false assumptions.
Residents are not rejecting the need for a new police station, they are rejecting many of the faulty provisions in Measure PS. The mayor and Mr. Shea seem to be hearing something different. Mr. Calaycay said, “If the community…says it’s not right…Council will respect that and we’ll move on to other things.” Mr. Shea seemed to reinforce the mayor’s position with his remark to the question about Measure PS failing. “Well, that means we do nothing.”
If this problem has been going on since 2002, we’ve already done enough of “nothing.” Not being responsive to coming up with an immediate alternative if Measure PS fails seems to be sour grapes.
Doing nothing and quitting is not what most of the citizens’ comments have reflected. A majority of the COURIER comments from opponents to Measure PS have recognized that the current police station is inadequate and that the police force has been doing an exemplary job in spite of limitations. They want a Plan B that eliminates the major problems raised about Measure PS, and still supports our police.
Based on their observations, Plan B would be a more utilitarian proposal, an efficient and economical vehicle, not a Cadillac—a 20,000-square-foot building, not a 40,000-square-foot one. Plan B would throw out the uneconomical parcel tax and replace it with a general obligation bond or commercial loan paid from city taxes.
Plan B would consider partnership with Montclair, which already has excess facility, much like the partnership with La Verne for water management. Plan B would be put to the citizens expediently, not danced around for 12 years.
Mayor Calaycay and Mr. Shea are to be thanked for their public service. Trying to satisfy the diversity of perspectives and values found in our community guarantees conflict and is assuredly frustrating.
If Measure PS fails, I would encourage the council to not give up. Instead, they should identify the primary arguments that dragged down Measure PS, then have the city planner and support staff—who are qualified, already on payroll and unlikely to have vested interests—come up with a more economical and utilitarian Plan B draft to submit to the citizens for comment within a three- to four-month timeline.
If Measure PS fails, it’s an opportunity to correct some mistakes, not take your ball and go home.
Now is the time for PS
What a bargain! We can get an even more functional police force and cut the risk of new lawsuits for a mere 78 cents a day from each Claremont property. I suspect that many (maybe most) of us are saving much more by cutting back our water consumption.
In my view, our CPD is very, very good despite having mini-offices, obsolete facilities and some technology support items from decades ago.
My view is that the Claremont community should seize this chance to take advantage of the current bond rates and the benefit of discounted future dollars to get this long overdue community improvement that we’ve been studying for too many years.
No on PS misses $27 million
I called the city of Montclair and asked how much their police station cost to build and did they have some breakdown of that cost. The staff person said it was funded in 2005 and completed in 2007 and cost $31 million to build. That is, $25 million for the building and $6 million for the design, furnishings and utilities. There was no cost included for the land since they already had it. It was uncertain whether the cost for the radio system was included.
Using the Turner Index for inflation for non-residential construction, I escalated the $31 million to 2017 dollars and got $40 million. Since the no on PS side has been comparing the Montclair site to the Claremont pit site, I added Claremont’s estimate of $11 million for site work. A more reasonable estimate should be $40 + $11 = $51 million for the Montclair facility and not the $24 million shown on their campaign materials.
Vote no on Measure PS
I support our police and think they are doing a fine job of keeping Claremont one of the safest cities in our area. I also believe they need and deserve better facilities. However, I am deeply disappointed in our city leadership for proposing such an irresponsible and extravagant facility that exceeds the needs of our community and police force.
Vote no to send this back to the drawing board for a more financially responsible project. A few million will upgrade the current police offices to a high quality and less than half the proposed amount would provide a new very adequate facility with a scope more appropriate to the size of our community and police force.
Our city leadership has shown total disregard for their duties as stewards of taxpayer dollars in proposing such a lavish project when we are currently acquiring more city debt than is prudent.
Please vote no to remind our leadership of their financial responsibilities and their obligation to be more responsible with our tax dollars.
Support our police, not PS
I hope every registered voter in Claremont will vote November 3 and hope we all realize Measure PS does not ask if we support our police or think they need more space. For most of us, those are givens.
I understand the great pressure to support our officers for their service, to support our council for their good intentions, and to have this over and done with. However, I cannot forget that if Measure PS passes, we would have to pay an extra $400,000 each and every year to money lenders because the flat parcel tax is such an expensive way to fund it. The choice has been justified by telling us it makes nonprofits contribute, but their contributions would offset less than a fourth of the extra expense.
Over the 40 years of the parcel tax, Claremonters collectively would pay an extra $17.4 million (according to city figures) above what financing a General Obligation (GO) bond would cost—just so the nonprofits don’t get a free ride? With a GO bond, any Claremont residence valued below $490,000 would pay less than the $286 per year that Measure PS would cost; properties valued above $490,000 would pay more, the amount depending on value.
Read the measure; there’s no flexibility in it: $286 per parcel per year for 40 years. There’s a better solution: reject the parcel tax and get a revised proposal ready for the June 2016 primary ballot, based on a GO bond. Using actual space requirements, we could consider whether or not the core police functions should remain downtown, with others elsewhere, and reach a needs-based facilities plan.
Voters would approve an appropriately sized and financed proposal. Measure PS represents a specific, and I believe an unwise, solution to a problem. We can say “no” to it and yet support our police and our council.
A ‘Plan B’ for consideration
Using Google Earth, I estimated that the easternmost one-third of the city yard property is utilized by our sanitation division. Free up that space by contracting sanitation services and there may be enough room for police and community services to share the site.
By contracting sanitation services, we will most likely save money by eliminating the associated salaries, pension funding, Workers Compensation claims, fuel, repairs and vehicle replacement costs. We’ve already contracted the sweeping, let’s make the next logical move.
Still not enough room? Move community services to the existing police station site. They should have plenty of operational space as they have downsized over the years by contracting park, landscape and tree services. Yes, it will be a little less convenient for community services vehicle fueling and servicing but much easier for police vehicles, which is probably a wash overall as far as efficiency goes. Moving community services to the PD site downtown will have another positive benefit as they’ll now be closer to the mothership on Harvard.
I’m just trying to think logically here—costs unknown.
Yes on PS
Claremont voters will be headed to the polls in a few days to decide a critical need for the health and safety of our community. The current police facility has run its course and can no longer provide the quality service needed for Claremont. The COURIER has acknowledged the need for a new station and the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin has endorsed Measure PS after a lengthy presentation by and interrogation of knowledgeable community people and elected officials.
I was present at Village Venture at the Yes on PS booth and had the opportunity to listen to Claremont residents concerns. Those I spoke with acknowledged, without exception, the need for a new building. Cost was a concern, but most interesting was the concern of response times if the new station is built on Monte Vista. I got the impression that these folks thought calls for police service meant sending officers from the station.
Modern police procedure is predicated on a field response, not a station response. In general, officers are in the field patrolling and when a call is received response time can be under two to three minutes at worst. I know first-hand it is much faster than the fire department responding from their stations. Minutes count in an emergency.
The opposition appears to be a shadow group of people who have not made their identities known to the public at large. They are not registered with the California Fair Political Practices Commission. There is no reasonable way to vet the information the group purports.
The contrarians to Measure PS use broad sweeping language with no substance to support their position. There is nothing in print by the contrarians with specific alternatives or costs for their version of an acceptable facility for Claremont. All they have done is complain about a cost they cannot even address with a viable alternative. I really question what their true intentions to our community’s health and safety are. They are not contributing any solutions.
The research has been done. The cost and financing options have been analyzed ad nauseum by competent professionals whose expertise far exceeds anything the opposition has offered. I spoke with a local business owner Saturday and confirmed with him that he cannot plan an expansion of his business without a sound business plan to secure financing. The city has the plan. It is a sound, equitable solution for financing a critical need for all of our community.
I can say with a degree of certainty that costs will only rise. If what was observed in the wake of hurricane Patricia this past weekend is an indication of what southern California may see this winter, $50 million will be a bargain, provided materials are even available. Just look at post-Katrina New Orleans today. Vote yes on Measure PS.