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Readers comments 5-13-16

We can have it all

Dear Editor:

We support the development of a new Pomona College Museum of Art on the west side of College Avenue and we encourage the Claremont City Council to act decisively to end debate about this issue and vote in favor of the project.

We believe it is well past time for people of good will on both sides of the issue to reach a compromise that preserves the college’s plans to build a new museum on the site they’ve chosen and provides preservationists with assurances that any historic properties owned by the college in the vicinity will be restored and protected going forward.

We can have both a re-imagined Renwick House dedicated to local history and a new art museum for the college and our city. Given how much is at stake for our community, and with the amount of talent, intelligence and great ideas this small city has at its disposal, we find it hard to believe that both sides of the debate have been unable to reach accommodation thus far.

In a comment on the COURIER’s  website, people opposed to the new museum noted that if their opposition means that Pomona College will have to abandon this worthwhile project entirely, “so be it.” With respect, we believe this sort of thinking is rooted in a zero-sum, “I win, you lose” mentality, which only hurts everyone.

It’s time for new thinking, led by our city council and people of good will on both sides of the argument.

Instead of a continued fight over where one Victorian-style house is situated, imagine instead a new art museum in the heart of our community on the west side of College Avenue. Directly across the street is a renewed Renwick House, a National Register historic building, completely restored with a ground floor programmed by local historic preservationists to highlight Claremont’s rich history and to celebrate the legacy of Helen Renwick, the home’s original owner.

And what of this dividing line between college and community, which moving Renwick would purportedly destroy? It is easy to forget that the neighborhood many have called “the buffer” between town and gown is chiefly comprised of moved buildings: the 1879 Sumner House and the 1900 Seaver House were both moved to their present locations from the city of Pomona.  No one doubts their importance and historical integrity; in fact, both structures are celebrated by Claremont Heritage on its website.

Those who feel concerned that a new building on the west side of College Avenue will disrupt the community’s access to parking may be justified and their concerns should be addressed, not as a way to block the project but to identify real solutions to a practical issue.

Working together, the city council and its staff, the college and dedicated community members can come together to solve the parking issue. One possible solution would be to limit College Avenue street parking to one or two hours, like many nearby streets in the Village, to ensure the frequent turnover of vehicles. This would prevent Pomona College employees from parking their cars on College Avenue for the entire day and free up many spots in the process. 

City council members and their special working group tasked with the question of the museum’s location in advance of the May 24 council meeting should not re-hash tired arguments but instead seek concessions from both sides to help this project move forward without further delay. We believe that Claremont can have it all—a new location for an art museum and a restored Renwick House the community can use and enjoy.

What would we hope to see? An agreement in which the college consults preservationists about how Renwick House is restored, and about whether and which parts of the space are to serve as a museum or visitor center, perhaps with museum offices upstairs.

Rather than decrying movement of historic buildings, those truly interested in creating a historic district should instead encourage the college to eventually move another great Victorian, Kenyon House, to a place just south of the new Renwick location, to help provide a neighborhood feel on both sides of College Avenue.

In exchange for its blessing of the project, the city should ask Pomona College to re-double its efforts and expand the programs it already offers to the city’s public schools, as well as to develop new ones that will benefit not just the academic community but Claremont’s entire population.

For the first time in a generation, Claremont has the chance to turn a neglected, moribund block directly adjacent to the civic center into a thriving cultural nexus. Although one could get the impression by reading these pages that the community is overwhelmingly incensed about this issue, council members and readers should take note that city staff received letters favoring a new museum by a 3-to-1 margin. How to make it happen is the only question.

We believe the Pomona College Museum of Art, standing in proximity to the soon-to-open Claremont Museum of Art at the Depot, will foster collaboration and make the Village an arts destination for those who may not have thought of downtown Claremont in those terms before. 

As Ed Tessier noted in his comments to the city council recently, no community can or should be preserved in formaldehyde. As longtime Claremont residents, and parents of a child in the Claremont Unified School District, we sincerely hope for an outcome that will benefit both our family’s interest in arts and education and our community’s future for decades to come.

Paul Speck

Charlotte Hsu Speck

Claremont

 

Zone change on College

Dear Editor:

There is a glaring inconsistency in the city zoning policies that has nothing to do with the zoning change requested by Pomona College for the west side of College Avenue.

Because zoning decisions determine what can be built where, they are considered so important that they require a supermajority of 5-2 for the planning commission to recommend a change, and a supermajority of 4-1 for the city council to approve one (it used to require a vote of 5-0).

But for some completely irrational reason, the council can convene a subcommittee to look at a failed zoning change and, regardless of the outcome of the subcommittee deliberations, the bar for passing the change is then lowered to a simple majority. This makes no sense whatsoever, because it means requiring a supermajority at the start is pointless.

If zoning changes aren’t important enough to require a supermajority for approval, then why bother with that in the first place? And if they are that important, and I for one think they are, then regardless of the outcome of the subcommittee meeting, it should still require a supermajority of the council to approve a zoning change. 

The current policy needs to be revised so it is consistent with what we think about the importance of zoning decisions. The current policy opens a back door that makes it easy to circumvent our standards. The city council should close it.

Susan Schenk

Claremont

 

No zone change on College

[Editor’s note:?The following letter was sent to Community Services Director?Brian Desatnik, with a copy forwarded to the COURIER. —KD]

Dear Editor:

I am against the proposed zone change on the west side of College Avenue between Second and Bonita. Institutional-Educational zoning is inconsistent with the Village Design Plan, the city’s general plan and will change the residential nature of that area.

Our community has described the critical interest in this area through multiple documents over decades. I would be for a new zone that would allow for limited institutional use that would leave this area with a residential feel.

I recommend this change for the cottages area but I believe Renwick House should remain in its current location and with the current zoning. In exchange, I would accept a building at the four cottages location to within 15 feet or so of Renwick in a style and massing consistent with Carnegie Library, Seaver House, Bridges Hall or even Renwick itself—or any other era-appropriate design.

The above recommendations are what I voted for last year as a planning commissioner. I strongly support Councilmember Opanyi Nasiali’s proposal to tie any zone change to a legally-binding agreement to leave the houses on Harvard from Bonita to Fourth Street on the east side and on College Avenue from First to Second Street on the west side intact and with the current zoning in perpetuity.

Martin McLeod

Claremont

 

Accepting the gift

Dear Editor:

In a town that prides itself on its town and gown connection and its affection and support of the arts, I find it troubling that the discussion concerning Pomona College’s proposed museum has caused such heated reactions.

Discussions of the matter have included very divisive language (using “us” and “them” among others more offensive). Feelings on both sides have been hurt, and the relationship of cooperation between the city and the Colleges is being threatened.

The Colleges are an integral part of life in Claremont. When I meet people during my travels, those who have heard of Claremont know it because of the Colleges and their outstanding reputation. Pomona College is offering the community a first-rate art museum, one that will bring additional positive recognition to our city. The placement of the museum is to provide a bridge to the community and make it accessible to the public.

I understand the concerns of some of the opponents of the plan, several of whom are people I respect and admire but, with respect, I must disagree with their conclusions.

Moving Renwick House will not damage its “integrity” or the contributions that Ms. Renwick has made to our area. In fact, having Victorians on both sides of the street may increase the sense of history. The idea that the Colleges have a plan to “take over” the Village and to continue to encroach on the downtown area doesn’t make sense either. They are trying to enhance the community/college unity.

Currently, there are several collections housed (and/or stored) in several facilities on the campus. This museum would unite the collections and make them available to the public.

A well-kept secret, except to local third graders, is the Native American collections stored in the basement of Bridges Auditorium. From February through April, local third graders are introduced to this collection, which supports their classroom curriculum through field trips. The small storeroom has made the visits a feat of logistics, but the art department feels strongly about sharing this exhibit with the public schools. How much better the collection could be studied and enjoyed by the community—and the third graders—if there were a proper facility. The museum, as planned, would provide this.

Pomona College is offering our community a free museum. We should be paving the road for them, not putting up obstacles. I trust that the college has reviewed its properties thoroughly, and I trust that their master plan has found the best spot for its placement. Let’s not argue. Let’s thank them and accept it wholeheartedly and with gratitude.

Elizabeth Smith

Claremont

 

La Casita

Dear Editor:

The Girl Scouts of Claremont would like to thank the Claremont City Council and city manager for inviting us to their recent council meeting to provide an update on the La Casita Program Center.  Because of their support and the support of others in our community, much has happened in the last year to keep La Casita a place for Girl and Boy Scouts to gather and enjoy nature and learn valuable skills.

Under the care of Girl Scouts of Greater Los Angeles Property Director Gerardo Castro and GSGLA Maintenance Supervisor Dan Petrovick, the property has been the focus of considerable activity, including building improvements, beautification and preservation of the grounds and the surrounding natural environment, and installation of an archery range.

We are looking forward to further enhancements and additions to the property including a ropes course, established hiking trails, and stargazing and tent platforms.

Additionally, this June will bring the re-establishment of weeklong summer camp programming. La Casita is also the beneficiary of several service-related projects completed by Girl Scout Silver Award and Eagle Scout candidates.

We appreciate the ongoing interest and encouragement from our Claremont city officials and look forward to providing future updates as La Casita continues to evolve into a program center that offers multiple opportunities for the youth of our local communities and the adults who serve them. 

The Claremont Neighborhood of Girl Scouts

 

Changes needed to the FEC

Dear Editor:

The agency tasked with overseeing federal laws governing money in politics, the Federal Election Commission (FEC), is broken. Paralyzed by its own structure, with four commissioners who regularly cast tie votes on a partisan basis, the FEC has failed to enforce and properly interpret the nation’s already weak campaign finance laws.

The League of Women Voters has endorsed legislation by Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) and Representative David Price (D-NC) that would create a new independent agency to replace the FEC.

The new Federal Election Administration (FEA) would be comprised of five commissioners, appointed by the president and confirmed by the senate, where only two members can be from the same political party.

The fifth commissioner would be appointed on a nonpartisan basis from a list of candidates selected by a blue-ribbon panel of retired federal judges, former law enforcement officials or individuals with election law experience.

With this five-member structure, the new legislation would end gridlock at the commission and put the public’s interests over partisan interests.

Take action—tell congress to establish a new, effective enforcement body to oversee the nation’s campaign finance laws.

The new FEA will still have the responsibilities previously held by the FEC to administer campaign finance laws and the presidential public financing system, as well as to issue regulations and advisory opinions.

The FEA would also have the authority to conduct investigations of possible violations. However, the legislation sets up a new system of administrative law judges with jurisdiction over individual enforcement cases in order provide for consistent and impartial enforcement.

Ellen Taylor

VP for Advocacy

LWV of the Claremont Area

 

Educating voters

Dear Editor:

A recent letter from the League of Women Voters urging us to protect voting rights illustrates a fundamental reason why “our democracy’s future is on the line,” but not for the reasons cited.

We focus each election (whether local, statewide or national) on voter turnout percentages, lamenting the small percentage of eligible voters who actually voted. Many of those who did vote proudly wear their “I voted” stickers as a badge of patriotism or as a fulfillment of civic duty.

We celebrate the registration of more voters and express outrage at anything that makes it more difficult to register and/or to vote (such as having to produce a photo ID showing one is, in fact, eligible to cast a ballot in the election).

But is the casting of a vote a valued end in itself? Clearly, it is not. How much effort does it take to go to the polling place and check a few boxes a couple of times each year? Employers are legally required to allow employees time away from work, if necessary, so they can vote. Heck, nowadays you don’t even have to leave home to vote; you can just mail your ballot any time prior to election day. I maintain that the simple act of voting is nothing to boast about.

Shouldn’t our objective instead be a population of informed voters? Democracy is strengthened when voters have a reasonable basis for voting the way they do, not because their political party or some celebrity endorses a particular candidate or position on an issue.

Democracy is not strenghtened because of the candidate’s race, gender, religion or charisma, and not because of entitlements the politician promises to deliver or because of some emotionally-charged rhetoric to which the voter has been exposed but rather because the voter has an opinion, based on some basic level of understanding of what he or she is voting for.

Active Claremont has the proper focus—informing us of, and encouraging the debate of, relevant issues. The League of Women Voters would better serve the community by educating people (thereby motivating them to register and to vote), rather than by simply focusing on how many voters can be registered or on how many voters exercise their right to vote.

Without question, our Constitutional right to vote is vitally important, but an uninformed vote only weakens our democracy. We don’t just want to “take control over what happens to our families and communities” but, rather, we want to steer it in a desired direction through informed voting.

Dan Dell’Osa

Claremont

 

Thank you, Claremont

Dear Editor:

On behalf of the Claremont Film Festival, I wish to thank you and your readers for making our eighth annual event such a success!

We wish to thank Jerry Reynolds III for providing the accompaniment for our Silent Film Night. We are grateful for Denny Tedesco and Don Randi, who gave us a glimpse into rock n’ roll history with the presentation of The Wrecking Crew and their Q & A reminisces of Phil Spector, Brian Wilson and Claremont’s own Frank Zappa.

And we are so appreciative of the filmmakers from around the world who provided such remarkable films for our Saturday night short-film extravaganza.

We also thank Judy Hopf, Curt Dale, the Landfill Harmonic Orchestra, the Polish Film Institute, the estate of Carl Sagan, the NELA Rotary Club, the American Film Market, Jim Mitchell, Lauren Cearley, Kaylin Agosti and Le Pain Quotidien. And none of this would be possible without Greg Laemmle and Cassie Gratton. We are so glad to have the expertise of our technical director, T Rose.

Thank you, Claremont!

Vince Turner

Claremont Film Festival

 

Claremont Film Festival

Dear Editor:

Once again the Claremont Community College, Vince Turner’s imaginative and cooperative enterprise, has produced an assortment of features most of us would never see.

What a unique menu of films they have given us! One of the people behind the scenes, for the most part, is T Rose, the computer and formatting wizard. He works closely with Mr. Turner and the others to make these evenings seamless, trouble-free and completely entertaining.

Having Laemmle in the Village makes the Claremont Film Festival convenient and certainly draws people to the restaurants and imbibing venues close by.

We came away entertained, thoughtful and with lots of subsequent conversation stimulated by the films presented this year. Hats off to Vince Turner and his cohorts!

The trite but true phase, “It takes a village” is surely appropriate for Claremont.

Chris Rubel

Claremont

 

Vote no on Prop 50

Dear Editor:

The one and only proposition on the June ballot, Prop 50, is another way for Democrats in the Sacramento legislature to skirt their responsibilities. 

By suspending members, rather than expelling them, they maintain a super majority and avoid the possibility of a voter backlash that might put a Republican in office to replace the expelled Democrat. 

Wouldn’t it be terrible if that happened and the majority couldn’t jam more ill- conceived legislation down our throats?  The bill is also ill-conceived because it allows the legislature to suspend a member with or without pay. What do you think the chances are that it will be without?

Come on California voters. Use your heads and vote this proposition down.

If a legislator is brought up on charges, guilty or not, do you really want them potentially representing you again when he or she is either cleared or receives a sentence so small that he or she can resume duties?

Don’t you instead want him or her expelled to remove a stigma from the legislature already tainted by the three examples that caused this bill to be introduced? Vote no on Prop 50.  

Hayden Lening

Claremont

 

 

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