Readers comments 2-24-17
The ‘in’ crowd
The “If You See Something Say Something” signs that have appeared all over town seem wildly out of place. At a time when the Claremont City Council has voted to reconstitute the Human Relations Committee, when the local Islamic Center has received hate mail and other threats, and a relatively mild statement on inclusivity and diversity spurs hours of public comment at a city council meeting, we need to think about how we can include and welcome those in our midst.
Encouraging neighbors to turn in neighbors and citizens to be suspicious of those they think “don’t belong,” for whatever reason, seems more an artifact of the old East Germany than leafy, civil Claremont. These signs should be taken down.
Where has the Bookmark column gone? It is fascinating to know what people are reading, and their personal reading habits. It’s also a good way to find out about new books.
You can learn a lot about a person by what they read. Or, as in the case of the president, if they don’t read at all. To have a US president proclaim unapologetically that he does not read is a disgrace. To quote the poet Rigoberto González, “A person can keep their mind shut as easily as they leave a book closed.”
Books nurture curiosity, provide access to knowledge, encourage reflection and critical thinking. Not to mention providing humor and succor in dark, uncertain times. Please bring back the Bookmark column.
[Editor’s note:?Dear Ms. Ortiz, you are right! We sometimes get so laser-focused on reporting, we lose sight of the features our subscribers have grown to love. Look for a Bookmark soon. And thank you so much for reading. —KD]
Million dollar houses
In response to Chino resident Kathlyn Parker, as quoted by columnist John Pixley in the COURIER edition of Friday, February 17:
Ms. Parker stereotyped Claremonters quite inaccurately, when she alleged that “You sit up there in your million dollar homes…at the expense of the underserved and underrepresented communities like Pomona,” which she also thereby stereotyped, and where she also does not live.
Though I do not live in Pomona, I have worked there in years past, and am also a regular and particularly thorough reader not only of the Claremont COURIER, but also of the Inland Valley Daily Bulletin, as well as the Los Angeles Times, none of which have given me cause to believe the people of Pomona are underserved or underrepresented.
Additionally, of all the many fine people I have met during my 41 years living in Claremont, I do not believe any of them live in million dollar homes. My own home is assessed considerably less than that, as would be true of virtually every home in my entire neighborhood or any of those nearby. The same would be true of my various friends who live in the more northern parts of Claremont, where homes are being sold for considerably less than a million dollars.
I suggest that Ms. Parker not utter such blatant accusations about our fine city of Claremont without more research.
If she is indeed concerned about the welfare of the residents of Pomona, she might also attend their city council meetings. Better yet, she might reserve her opinions and accusations for her own Chino community.
Rate of return
Marilee Scaff, although well-intentioned, is not the water expert many believe her to be. Publicly available information contradicts claims and “facts” in her recently published letter.
She states that if we give up now, we will have to pay Golden State’s litigation costs (approximately $7 million), but if we appeal and win, we will be off the hook. What she fails to acknowledge is that if we appeal and lose (the much more likely scenario), we will have wasted millions more dollars.
Unless there is a reasonable expectation of a very low purchase price for the water system, an appeal is a lose/lose proposition for us—only the lawyers stand to benefit regardless of what is ultimately decided on the appeal.
Last year, Missoula, Montana won the right in court to take over the water system (owned by a private water company in the Los Angeles area), but the city had to abandon its plans, despite having incurred extensive litigation costs, because the purchase price was just too steep (i.e., they won, but still lost).
Ms. Scaff states that Claremont customers pay more than $9 million each year to fund dividends. Golden State reported a $34.5 million (book value) investment in 2015 (2016 data will not be released until the end of March), which yields only $2.9 million of net earnings at its authorized 8.34 percent rate of return. However, one-third of that represents interest on debt, leaving less than $2 million (not $9 million) to fund dividends. Nonetheless, the “greed” issue is merely a “red herring.”
Assuming that Claremont can cut financing costs by more than half (say 4 percent instead of 8.34 percent), the water system would have to be purchased for no more than $73 million (market value), just to break even. That is, before you consider the 10 percent “profit” on operating expenses that we have promised to pay the city of La Verne. Golden State does not earn any profit on operating expenses.
Our groundwater comes from an “adjudicated” basin, meaning the courts have predetermined the maximum amount of water each pumper may withdraw. Golden State has no incentive to use imported water instead of local groundwater, as asserted by Ms. Scaff. If Golden State does not minimize its water costs, its shareholders (not customers) pay the excess cost.
Our water bills appear high because we use a lot of water. In 2015, our average residential usage was 24 units per month. Other customers in Region 3 use much less: San Dimas (20), Barstow (18), Calipatria (18), Orange County (17), San Gabriel Valley (16), Desert (10) and Wrightwood (5). A monthly reduction of only 4 units will save more than $200 each year.
Let’s face reality and redirect our spending to where we, not the lawyers, will reap the benefits.
Conflicts of interest
Alert! Alert! Alert! Before casting your vote for city council, please ask yourself the following question: How effective can a city council member be if they have potential conflicts of interest?
We know, of course, that individuals with conflicts of interest, as identified by the Fair Political Practices Commission, are required to disqualify themselves from participating (both in the discussion and voting) in making a governmental decision. Having just one city council member disqualified may end up in having a decision result in a two-to-two tie vote, which is interpreted as a “no” vote for the city council. This, of course, results in the city’s inability to get anything done!
An example of this is the recent appeal of the architectural commission’s decision on Pomona College’s art museum. The outcome of the recent decision might have been very different if one of the city council members would have had to recuse himself.
Although there are at least three of the current city council candidates who have a potential of a conflict of interest due to their business interests and/or employment, my concern is with only one.
Because of the COURIER’s recent endorsement of Zachary Courser (who is employed at one of the Claremont Colleges), this potential conflict of interest problem arises. So to avoid this “no” vote situation, I would carefully consider choosing which other candidates might get your vote.
Personally, I feel Larry Schroeder has demonstrated fair, reasonable and smart decision-making capabilities as a member of our city council. And, if there are those who want change for change’s sake and “new blood” on the council, I highly recommend casting your other vote for Murray Monroe.
Mr. Monroe, who only has Claremont’s interests at heart and is a lifelong resident, can promise to provide the responsible leadership Claremont residents deserve.
Erich Steinman, Marcella Zita and Ben Benjamin wrote similar letters published in the February 17 COURIER that kind of riled me up a bit, and I feel I should comment.
I, too, attended the forum, which focused on sustainability, and knew nothing of the candidates before that evening other than the fact that two were running for re-election.
I agree with some of the concerns noted by Steinman, Zita and Benjamin in their letters based on the answers to some questions that night, but I feel strongly that these public comments serve only to demonstrate the bias of each author and attempt to prejudice voters in our community.
Each of us has a responsibility as participants in the democratic process—a process, I should add, that is currently under daily attack by our new leader—to do our own research by attending local forums and hearing first-hand responses to questions in order to make up our own minds about who we will support.
The points mentioned by Steinman, Zita and Benjamin regarding conflicts of interest, inexperience and motivation are legitimate, but we should not assume that those points are relevant here just because of a candidate’s profession or his or her age.
Men and women who run for public office, whether at a local, state or national level, in order to be involved in our governing process are responsible for being honest with us about their motives and about the policies they support. In return they deserve our respect for having the courage to offer themselves up for criticism and scrutiny.
National politics are so toxic right now that I want to see an election at home that can be addressed with courtesy and respect. Let us please not muddy up the nest with negative insinuations and cruel accusations. There is enough of that on the evening news.
Grynchal for council
What makes this city council race so interesting? There are a number of candidates running. And, while the majority of the candidates are very similar, there is one that stands out: Anthony Grynchal.
Mr. Grynchal would serve Claremont well. Let us look at what this young man has done in his 26 years.
1) He worked and paid his way through Cal Poly Pomona, graduating with a bachelors’ degree.
2) He bought his first home at 21, gave it to his sister and then purchased another home, sold that home and, finally, purchased a home in Claremont, fulfilling his dream of living in Claremont and in the future raising a family in Claremont.
3) He has a heart for the underprivileged and for those who hunger. While in college, at the request of Capt. Singh, he went to Punjab, India to help mass produce a tree called Moringa Oleifera, which is a super food and considered the number one source of combating malnutrition worldwide and reducing carbon.
4) He supports CHAP, the Claremont Homeless Advocacy Program.
5) He has developed a successful career through innovation, transparency and integrity.
6) His career has demanded he is current on many laws relative to real estate, discrimination, financing, etc.
So why does all of this add up to being an asset on the council? Because Mr. Grynchal’s skills are well-rounded, and his insatiable quest to look at all sides of a complex problem leads to finding the best, not just the easiest, solution.
There has not been a council yet that has not made errors in judgment. Some have been small errors, others have been more costly and poorly analyzed.
Three that come to mind are the downtown trolley and the roundabout. Also, the council approved a ballot measure of an extravagant $50 million police station. Thank goodness the people of Claremont voted it down and demanded a more reasonable cost, which is to point out that even “seasoned, professional” council members are not immune to error in judgment or application.
It is time Claremont has a more diversified council made up of a range of ages. Innovation and fresh eyes and approaches will make the city council one that is no longer paradigm driven.
Please join Wole Soyinka, emeritus professor and 1986 Nobel Prize for Literature recipient, and myself in our support of Anthony Grynchal for city council.
A youth to watch
Anthony Grynchal is, summatively, one of the most dynamic young men of his generation I have encountered in the past decade. It has been quite uplifting to watch him develop through childhood into early maturity with the comportment of a self-reliant, enterprising young man.
Mr. Grynchal is full of abundant energy, always brimful of ideas, which he translates into action in a determined, single-minded effort. I have watched him among his peers, listened to their discussion and been astonished by his comparative range of his knowledge of events and his concern about, and attached to, the environment in which he lives.
Mr. Grynchal asks questions, and intelligently checks the answer. Even as a young school pupil, his interests ranged outside the confines of the school curriculum. His sense of a need for social involvement began to define his personality quite early, and I am in no way surprised that he is now strongly tending toward activities that enlarge his scope beyond mere employment satisfaction or entrepreneurship into social commitments and organizational skills.
I shall look forward with great interest to where his expanding horizons propel him. Without a doubt, Mr. Grynchal fits into that category that is captured by that optimistic phrase “A Youth to Watch.”
Yes on Measure H
The number of homeless citizens in Los Angeles County has grown to 254,000 at some point in the year, which means that on any given night, 82,000 people are defined as homeless.
Measure H aims to fund mental health, substance abuse treatment, health care, education, job training, rental subsidies, emergency and affordable housing, transportation, outreach, prevention and supportive services for the homeless with independent annual audits and citizens’ oversight.
Homelessness is a major problem today in LA County. The League of Women Voters looked to its adopted positions that include support for meeting “basic needs for food, shelter and access to health care” as well as the need to provide “affordable housing for all Californians.” The aims of Measure H are consistent with these concerns.
Although Measure H uses a sales tax to address the problem of homelessness and the League prefers “an equitable tax system that is progressive overall,” we also believe that government revenues must be sufficient to meet the needs for services. The quarter-cent sales tax (e.g., one cent on a $4 purchase or $1 on a $400 purchase) for 10 years will also include annual independent audits and citizen oversight.
The LWV stresses supporting Measure H on the March ballot after considering the size of the tax and recognizing that addressing homelessness is an urgent and present responsibility. We urge all LA County voters to join us in supporting the county’s efforts to reduce homelessness.
VP for Advocacy
LWV of the Claremont Area