Water, traffic problems and a sad goodby
Water, traffic problems and sad goodbye
For some time, I’ve knocked around the idea of launching a regular column as a way to give background to stories or insight as a resident who closely follows city governance.
The format won’t be a traditional column on a single issue, but instead will ponder a few different topics or projects that have grabbed my attention. I don’t profess to have the answers, not by a long shot, but I do hope you enjoy hearing an alternate view on all things Claremont.
Claremont suffered a loss this week. Resident Democrat Gar Byrum, who would have been 72 next week, died at home Saturday. Gar once served as a 41st district delegate and was a longtime active member of the Democratic Club of Claremont.
Facebook tributes carried common themes; Locals recognized Gar’s passion for politics, his gentle demeanor and his good sense of humor. He and I frequented the Village Starbucks, so many of our interactions took place on the patio at Second and Yale. He always offered encouragement about my work, or we would share a new frustration over politics. We squabbled only once—I went for Bernie, he supported Hillary—but he never dismissed my concerns or made me feel like a Democratic deserter.
Gar was one of the COURIER’s more regular letter-writers. I recall one particular letter he wrote a while back that contained misinformation. It turned out he shared a story he heard from a friend who had heard it from a friend. When I brought it to his attention, Gar didn’t act defensively, he just thanked me for the clarification and rewrote the letter.
It often feels that as people become more involved in politics, they become more indignant. Not Gar. He was a serious Democrat and worked tirelessly for what he believed in. But what made him most unique was his grace and his willingness to have robust and respectful debate with anyone, regardless of party affiliation. His decency should be an example for all of us.
Decisions by city leaders recently led me to a realization—Claremont has a confidence problem. What I can’t figure out is if it’s too much or too little?
As Larry Schroeder said about the city’s decision to continue with its eminent domain case against Golden State Water, “This is our time, this is our one opportunity. So I say, let’s go ahead with the appeal.”
Based on the earlier comments of the city’s appeal attorney David Axelrad, it’s clear the city’s mistakes happened early. Claremont’s resolution of necessity, by Mr. Axelrad’s observation, didn’t hit the mark.
“Ordinarily, the city’s adoption of the resolution of necessity would create almost a conclusive fact that there was a more appropriate public use of the utility,” he told the council earlier this year.
As we reported in February, Mr. Axelrad said it was “very unusual” the city only had a “rebuttable resumption” of a more public use of the system, which GSW successfully overcame during the trial.
The Second District Court of Appeals ruled in favor of Ojai Flow and Casitas in its 2015 eminent domain case against Golden State. I can’t quite figure out how Claremont botched this so badly. We were just a year behind Ojai and could have followed their lead. We didn’t.
It will take time to understand what exactly went wrong. From my perspective, confidence—either too much or too little—is driving nearly every decision by our council and city staff. They were over-confident in its attorneys at Best, Best & Krieger. They were, perhaps, less confident in their ability to take the long road and actually win the case like Ojai did. We’ll have more on Ojai in a future edition.
Like we addressed in our endorsement the last election, the council, city staff and city attorneys are just too chummy. It’s important to have good working relationships but I get the feeling BB&K and Sonia Carvalho aren’t simply attorneys hired to represent our interests. Because they’ve been working together for so long—we’ve had the same council members for a decade—the relationships have become too personal. With most organizations, longevity can be a good thing. That’s not necessarily the case with municipal government.
I sincerely hope our leaders spend time reviewing the case, because this may have been our one chance to recapture the water system and we blew it. Understanding why should be the paramount concern at city hall.
As I sat in traffic at Indian Hill near First Street the other day, it dawned on me that perhaps it’s time to eliminate parking from Harrison Avenue to First Street. If we open Indian Hill to four-lanes through the Village, we’d lose some parking spaces, but it would keep traffic moving in the area. It’s absurd to have our main drag narrow to two lanes in the busiest part of town, especially when you factor in nervous drivers trying to parallel park in front of Village West and the trains.