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Public safety facility: the committee has to up its game

I attended Wednesday’s inaugural meeting of Mayor Corey Calaycay’s police facility ad hoc committee, conceived to resurrect some plan for an improvement to the police station from the ashes of Measure PS.

It seemed to me that the committee is going to have to wrest control of this project from city staff to be at all successful.

This committee was selected by the mayor using his own criteria, and at least eight or nine of the 14 members were public supporters of Measure PS or former police commissioners. Only a few, two or perhaps three, had participated in opposition to the measure. Given the drubbing suffered by the police facility in the November election, the committee seemed a bit stacked against the expressed will of the people.

It seemed odd that, before any discussion, the first order of business was to select committee leadership. But that was the city staff’s agenda.

After two-sentence self-introductions by each member, Mark Sterba, an opponent of Measure PS, was elected chair. There seemed to be little heart among the members to take the reins of the committee. Even Mr. Sterba’s nominated opponent, Michael Shea, voted for him.

The vice-chair, proponent Marci Horowitz, was nominated by acclamation. There wasn’t exactly a scramble for the leadership posts. Several nominees declined the honor.

In the roundtable discussion that followed, it was surprising to hear so many arguments in opposition raised, even by proponents of the measure.

The common theme was that this project needed to go back to the drawing board, not just back to the table. Some specific issues raised included: The impound lot as a profit center. Is it worth it given the land required? The public meeting room and parking required for it. Is that necessary in a community with so many meeting rooms? The jail facility. Are there better alternatives? What about partnerships with other local law enforcement?

What about making use of other city facilities, such as the built but unfinished second floor of the city yard building and, generally, the underutilized space there?

Surprisingly, for Claremont, even use of the prevailing wage was questioned (adds 30 percent to construction costs), as was the expensive LEED premium.

The Monte Vista location was universally panned. There seemed to be sentiment for keeping the main police station in the center of town, probably at its current site, and working harder to make use of the existing building.

If I were a betting man, I’d bet the current building is not so unusable as the Measure PS proponents would like us to believe. Even an architect on the committee voiced that idea, and there was nothing in the two three-inch binders of material to refute it.

Given the urgency continually cited by proponents to do something, I was a bit surprised by the business-as-usual attitude of city staff. When Mr. Sterba wanted to set the next committee meeting in three weeks, the city manager took charge of the schedule and said he needed at least six and a half weeks to respond to questions brought up at the meeting. In the end, a long date was selected for the next meeting: March 9, nearly two months out. It will be interesting to see if Mr. Sterba and the vice-chair Ms. Horowitz can shake city staff and the mayor—who did not intervene at this point—out of their complacency.

Mr. Sterba expressed some frustration at not wanting to “lose all that time,” and offered at least one idea to get some work done in parallel while city staff meanders along; he probably has some others.

The city manager seems to have some kind of six-month timeline in mind, which may be oriented to attempting to get a measure on the ballot by November 2016. That is a pipe dream, given the heavy lifting that will have to be done before the election deadline in August.

Not only does this committee and the city have to ruthlessly scrub the Measure PS proposal, they have a formidable sales job to do with the voters if the project going forward requires any voter-approved financing.

If this committee is to meet the heavy expectations for it, it’s going to have to up its game.

 

Mr. Trozpek served as treasurer for the campaign committee opposing Measure PS.

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