Readers comments 4-13-18

Accountability

Dear Editor:

Councilman Joseph Lyons and the city council rejected a parcel tax that would have saved homeowners over $5 million and required non-profits, including the Colleges, to contribute $4.9 million to the new police station. That is a fact.

In Councilman Lyons’ attack on Kathryn Dunn and the COURIER, he states that it is “beyond the council’s authority to demand” $5 million from the Colleges. Later, in response to Ms. Dunn’s point that the council did “not attempt in good faith to reduce the financial burden of the homeowner,” he attacks that statement as having “no basis in fact.”

Councilman Lyons is correct. The city council does not have the authority, at this point, to demand $5 million from the Colleges, or even $1. But he and his fellow councilmen did have the authority to demand over $4 million before they rejected a square-footage parcel tax—a parcel tax that Ms. Dunn correctly points out was supported by the majority of survey respondents.

Councilman Lyons, please explain how that decision was a good-faith attempt to reduce the financial burden of homeowners. And for those who think that survey wasn’t representative of the community, because “Claremont doesn’t like parcel taxes,” Measure A, a county-wide measure for clean parks and open space in 2016, was a parcel tax based on square footage and it was approved by 68 percent of Claremont voters!

President Trump attacks the press, along with our democracy, almost daily. Now, Councilman Lyons has adopted the same strategy. He and the city council should understand that there are consequences for the decisions they make. It’s called accountability. Hooray to Ms. Dunn and the COURIER for holding the council accountable and allowing everyone in Claremont a voice.   

Matt Magilke

Claremont

 

Shaking the tree

Dear Editor:

To respond to Councilman Joe Lyons’ request for reflection regarding Editor Kathryn Dunn’s column and his response to it, let me start by saying that I found Ms. Dunn’s editorial a thoughtful, responsible and appropriately challenging piece that explored the realities, obstacles and potential opportunities that surround the proposed and much-needed police station, and with Measure SC as it stands.

Too often, voting choices and decisions are made that “simply” and ultimately come down to all of us just reaching into our already over-taxed pockets. To me, the editorial was written to challenge this status quo process and to hold accountable our elected officials to determine other potential avenues of revenue that are, or may be, available to help fund the much-needed station. That to me is what this editorial set out to accomplish. And it succeeded. 

What I found most troubling about your response, Mr. Lyons, is that even though you wrote that you were “more disappointed than angry” with what was written, you went on to write such things as Ms. Dunn being on a “duplicitous tirade” (and using the word duplicitous three times), saying that her words were “subversive,” “confounding,” “disturbing and serious,” and that, in your opinion, there was “questionable style” in what she wrote that included “selectively edited” and “demeaning references” (mentioned twice). I would hate to read your thoughts if you were actually angry!

Differences of opinion and challenging existing processes should be welcomed, not attacked. Having an open mind and the willingness to shake the tree on occasion—and when needed—is beneficial for progress and for new ideas and actions to occur. And I applaud the COURIER and Ms. Dunn for doing just that.

Brian Ofstedahl

Claremont

 

New leadership

Dear Editor:

I am writing in response to Joe Lyons’ viewpoint published April 6. First, I would like to thank Mr. Lyons for serving on the city council and donating his time.

However, I feel compelled to address his personal and professional attack piece on Kathryn Dunn, COURIER Editor, and share my thoughts about the police bond as well as the upcoming election for city council.

I have only lived in Claremont since 2004, which makes me an infant in this town, but I have been following the political scene (both council and school board) very closely because they are the only government entities that can bind my household to long-term debt that I can possibly have a personal influence on. 

During my time here, I have fought against Measure CL (failed school bond), supported G (successful school bond) and fought against Measure PS to fund a massively oversized police station. Up until reading Mr. Lyons’ rant in the COURIER, I was on the fence about Measure SC. I was leaning toward a no. I am now an emphatic no for the reasons below.

Mr. Lyons’ arrogant and entitled stance made it clear just how out of touch with the community he is and I believe the other two councilmembers whose seats are up for reelection may suffer from the same disease.

One of the seats up for re-election is occupied by a candidate who originally ran  with “Living within our means” as a platform, and he has done anything but that since he reached the dais. 

These guys spend, they don’t listen and apparently when the COURIER writes an op/ed piece they don’t like, at least one of them feels entitled to have a toddleresque temper tantrum and make personal attacks on the editor.

The last failed police bond proposed by our city council would have replicated the monstrosity that Montclair built and would have saddled our households with massive debt. The same group of people who pushed that measure are now pushing the SC bond for the new, supposedly “right sized” police station. 

Claremont is now supposed to assume they got it right this time? The same people? Again?  

These same councilmembers, three of whose seats are up for reelection, are responsible for approving and moving forward with the terribly planned and poorly executed strategy to acquire the Claremont water system from Golden State and have burdened Claremont residents with roughly $12 million of debt. All Claremont residents will be paying for this failure for many years to come. And we got nothing for it.

And guess what? Several of the same people who pushed for the mismanaged water company eminent domain failure and the failed Measure PS are leading the charge for the new police station. The same people. Again?

These councilmembers blew it on the Gold Line. There was no reason to take a premature stance only to be embarrassed later when they were forced by the CPUC to do exactly what they voted against.

We have a massive pension liability that is going to hit us in the future that we will absolutely have to plan for. Sometimes, just like at home, you can’t buy everything you want at one time because you don’t have the money. Claremont needs to budget. Claremont needs to plan. The “ready, shoot, aim” approaches by this council have cost all of us Claremont residents dearly.

Claremont has hired a brand-new city manager, Tara Schultz. I sat on a committee that helped the city council select her. She’s great. She’s very smart and worth knowing if you have the opportunity. She has a background of fixing broken things for 17 years working for the city of Alhambra.

With three seats coming up for election, I say it’s time to get some new people and perspectives on the council, and let the new city manager use her experience to dig into the police situation and look at lower cost or financing solutions that may not require loading more debt on backs of our citizens.   

I fully support the police department and place great value on what they do. They will need a police station at some point in the future, but right now Claremont needs leadership and fresh perspectives.

In response to Diann Ring’s letter on the same day asking, “What will you and I, who have benefitted so much from past investments, leave to our successors?” The answer is simple if we continue down this path: debt.

John Watkins

Claremont

 

It won’t cost you that much!

Dear Editor:

In the March 30 COURIER, Jeff Hammill wrote a letter with misleading information about Measure SC. He wrote that the police station requires a “GO bond that will cost them another $200 to $400 a year in their property tax bill.”

The fact is that 86 percent of Claremont property taxpayers will pay less than $200, even for their highest first-year tax. I guessed that this was true, so I requested information from our city finance director, who has access to the “net taxable value” for all Claremont properties. In fact, 46 percent of our taxpayers will pay less than even $100 in the highest first year.

In future years, the amount paid for Measure SC will be even less. With the total of taxable values growing quickly in Claremont as properties are being resold, the city forecasts an average cost of $24.47 per $100,000 of taxable value. As a result, over the 25-year life of the bond, 92 percent of all homeowners will pay less than $200 per year on average, and 58 percent will pay less than $100 per year on average.

How can this be? Why is the cost so low? I think all of us can remember how much we paid for our home. With Proposition 13 limiting the growth in taxable values to 2 percent per year, we homeowners have a taxable value very close to the amount we paid for our home. We are not paying taxes based on its currently high resale value.

We property owners are very happy and even amazed about the high prices new buyers are offering for homes like ours. These high values help us not only when we will sell, but also when we need money for periods of high family costs. My wife and I took out second home loans in order to help pay for our daughters’ major expenses.

I am very thankful for the proactive and effective actions of our police department in making Claremont a very safe place to raise our families. Their results plus the quality of our schools are two major reasons why new buyers are willing to pay so much for our homes.

Almost everyone agrees that a new station is needed. Even while opposing the bond, Mr. Hammill wrote, “The station is old, outdated, unsafe and needs to be replaced.” I totally agree.

We must not take our excellent police department employees and volunteers for granted. We can afford to share some of our good fortune to build a safe and efficient workplace with Measure SC.

Jim Keith

Claremont

 

Analyzing alternatives

Dear Editor:

Longtime resident and public servant Diann Ring’s well-written and thoughtful advocacy piece urging citizens to pay for needed city services is a welcome discourse on civic responsibility.

What it overlooks is that there are different views among Claremonters as to the level of services needed. Ms. Ring makes assertions—“we know that our home values exceed our expectations” and “we know that a new station is needed”—that may not be shared by the one-third of Claremont voters she labels the “tyranny of the minority.”

Joseph Lyons’ (somewhat bombastic) critique of Editor Kathryn Dunn’s comments on the need for more compromise on Measure SC to secure passage makes one wish for a more rational discussion of the issue of what level of public services the city should fund.

Given the council’s embrace of the expensive and ill-conceived and executed effort to take over Golden State’s water system on the grounds of “local control” and given the COURIER’s recent report of the looming challenge of meeting the city’s unfunded pension liabilities, I would hope that city council members (Mr. Lyons included) would be more fiscally cautious than they’ve been over the last few years and that advocates for Measure SC would make a full case for passage.

That case should include an analysis of next best alternatives, chief among them why Claremont should continue to pay for its own police force (and please elaborate on what “local control” means) rather than contracting for the service with the LA County Sheriff’s Department.

It is worth considering that the higher the tax burden is on Claremont residents the more likely it is that only the very wealthy will be able to afford the cost of living in this great community.

Michael Hertel

Claremont

 

Mayor urges residents to vote yes on Measure SC

Dear Editor:

On June 5, Claremont voters will decide on Measure SC, which will be crucial in sustaining the city as a safe community.

Measure SC asks voters to approve a general obligation bond to finance a new police station. State law requires a two-thirds majority of those voting to approve the tax.

The city’s existing station is over 45 years old. It no longer meets California building codes and regulations. It cannot accommodate the electrical needs of computer and communication systems, which are essential for modern police operations. Structurally, the building will not withstand a major earthquake. And its size is too inadequate to equally accommodate necessary facilities (offices, bathrooms and dressing rooms) for a larger department with female and male employees.

We need a new police station. For two decades, the city has patched and repaired the existing station. Patching is no longer an option. Waiting is no longer an option. Building a new station after a catastrophic event will be unavoidably too expensive.

The city council is quite aware that this will have a burdensome financial impact on our residents. There is no good time to ask residents to finance the new station, but for the fact that it is absolutely necessary.

The Police Station Ad Hoc Committee and city council chose the general obligation (GO) bond to finance construction. Some members of the community think the council should have chosen a parcel tax instead. Both financing mechanisms are viable and require two-thirds majority.

While the GO bond exempts parcels owned by non-profit organizations, including the Colleges, its financing cost is cheaper than that of the parcel tax. And by the way, in 2015 the voters overwhelmingly defeated a parcel tax measure for the same project. Granted, there may have been other reasons for the defeat than merely because it was a parcel tax.

Nevertheless, whether it is a GO bond or parcel tax, the city council would be asking voters to approve special financing for the new station because the city does not have any other viable way of paying for the construction.  

Critics of the proposed station will say it is too big, too expensive, not the right time or not the right financing option. I would remind everyone that a citizen’s ad hoc committee examined the condition of the station, the needs and operations of the department and evaluated funding options. The proposal before voters on June 5 represents 15 years of research and analysis.

There has been a proposal to lower the Landscaping and Lighting District (LLD) assessment in order to induce community support for Measure SC. Let me point out that the city’s general fund already subsidizes the LLD by about $750,000 annually, even with the annual assessment increases based on the Consumer Price Index (CPI).

During the seven years I have served on the city council, I have heard clearly that our residents value the proper management and maintenance of our city resources as well as the safety of our community.

The beauty and safety of our community are primary reasons why many residents chose to live in Claremont. To ensure sustainability of these values and amenities, we need to invest in the community.

Approval of Measure SC will be an investment in the future well-being of our community.

Opanyi Nasiali

mayor, city of Claremont

 

Where is our mail?

Dear Editor:

Before leaving town in early March, we put a hold on mail delivery through the USPS website and received a confirmation number. Returning a day before the hold was to end, we were reassured by an empty mailbox. However, with the resumption of regular delivery service the next day, our “held mail” was not delivered.

We went to the La Verne post office and started an inquiry there and with the postal inspection office at USPS. The supervisors at La Verne told us there was no record of a hold order for our mail despite their being a record at the postal inspection office. The deliverer could not recall whether he delivered the mail, nor did he recall a mailbox packed full of mail. One of the supervisors later told us that the deliverers somehow recalled delivering the mail.

I requested a written letter to that effect and despite being told that it would be done, it was not. An internal investigator told us she could not elicit a clear picture from the deliverers as to whether the mail was delivered. The following week, we let our mail accumulate and within four days the mailbox was packed full.

While this may be an error on the part of USPS La Verne, we are concerned about inconsistencies and that there is no evidence of mail delivery during our absence. The postulate that someone raided our mailbox during the week seems highly unlikely since no one knew of our absence, our outside and inside lights were on and there is a street light directly over the mailbox.

We have contacted the police, issued a fraud alert to credit rating agencies and requested an investigation by our congressperson. We continue to cooperate with the La Verne post office as they conduct an internal investigation. We are especially interested in knowing if anyone else has had a similar experience with this post office.

Arthur Weinstein

Claremont

 

Paying for police

Dear Editor:

On January 5, Tony Nelipovich posed, “Does Claremont need its own police department?” Agreeing with his line of thought I followed up with my own letter, and I sent letters directly to each member of our city council (no response was received). I expressed that contracting with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department should be studied and considered before putting the citizens of Claremont another $25 million ($50 million with interest) in debt.

Additional to the cost of a new facility is keeping a small municipal police department current with technology. That cost is ongoing and expensive.

There are varied reasons why a community like Claremont wants to employ their own police force. It is actually my own preference, though I couldn’t say why, exactly. It is more the idea of it than the practicality, tying into the whole small-town community mystique. But times change and perhaps it is time to decide if it is affordable, considering all of the costs, liability insurance, pensions, etc.            

Considering the pension cost, on April 6, the COURIER disclosed that Claremont has an unfunded pension liability of over $50 million. How did the folks running our city let that happen? “Kicking the can down the road,” I suspect. Will another bond be required to erase that debt? We are still paying off the school bond and have to find the funding to cover the $11 million water company takeover fiasco.

The Daily Bulletin recently reported that La Verne has a $55 million unfunded pension liability. (It must be municipal financial disclosure season.) Their city council voted to sell 30-year pension obligation bonds to pay it off. The city manager claims that the repayment won’t show up on property tax bills. “Repayment will come from city coffers.” Doesn’t a bunch of the coffer money come from property taxes? If the money is available from city coffers to make bond payments, why haven’t they been funding the pensions all along? Now the pension cost doubles with the interest payments. But, I digress.

I assume that a big chunk, maybe half, of Claremont’s $50 million pension liability is for police. Contracting with the sheriff would not erase those obligations but pension costs should be included in the contracting cost, forcing pay-as-we-go of future law enforcement pensions and shedding light on the real, total costs. Preventing future shortfalls of other pension costs will require fiscal responsibility.          

On March 23, Editor Kathryn Dunn addressed Measure SC funding as well as other issues and expenses faced by Claremonters. Councilman Joseph Lyons (writing not as a council member) responded with a viewpoint, obviously frustrated that the editorial reported some points of view that were not completely supportive of Measure SC. It is not the editor’s obligation to do so and, unless the information presented was “fake news,” Ms. Dunn was actually doing her job.

If Claremont is to continue to have a municipal police force, there seems to be no question that the facility they currently operate from is inadequate.

The problem I and others I have discussed this with are going to have when casting our votes on Measure SC will be Claremont’s current debt load, unfunded liabilities and that there has apparently been no consideration of outsourcing as an option. 

Jack Sultze

Claremont  

 

Yes on SC

Dear Editor:

I will vote to fund the new police station. Allow me to explain why. Originally, I voted “no,” like most of you, for the $50 million police station, because of the location and the cost.

I was asked by then-Mayor Corey Calaycay to serve on an ad hoc committee to advise the council on the new station. It was an honor to do so. The community was well represented, the committee was made up of citizens who had voted for and against the previous station and came together for many meetings to discuss the issues, mainly—location, size and cost. At the beginning, we all readily agreed that Claremont does need a new station, and soon.

As part of our planning, we toured the current station, and please note our police staff is to be commended for how well they function in their extremely tight and out-of-compliance quarters. We visited other stations, including Upland, LaVerne, Montclair, Whittier, Long Beach and others. While no one on the committee thought we needed an extravagant station, we were 100 percent in agreement that ours paled on every level. We just plainly need a new station for our police men and women.

The committee carefully reviewed locations where it could be built and we all agreed the current location works. Then, the size, it needed to be big enough for the next 25 to 40 years, and to meet all federal and state guidelines for public safety buildings, and to provide space for current and future needs, and community use.

Also, after much discussion it was voted by the committee to recommend $25 million as the maximum cost, cutting the earlier proposal in half. Since we did not want to finance computers, furniture, electronics, etc., the city will pay $1.5 million to cover that cost, so that actually makes the amount we need to borrow (from us via a bond) $23.5 million.

Then we debated over how to finance—GO bond or parcel tax. We voted for the GO bond, which starts at $30.33 per $100,000 assessed value. For example, this is what your payment could be if your home has the following assessed value:

Assessed Value Max Rate Hopeful Avg. 25 Years

$100,000 30.33 24.47

$200,000 60.66 48.94

$400,000 121.32 97.88

$600,000 181.98 146.82

$800,000 242.64 195.76

$1,000,000 303.30 244.70

Again, this is assessed value as determined by your property tax bill, not what you think your home is worth.

Some members of the committee wanted the parcel tax so businesses and non-profits would pay a higher amount. The committee voted for the GO bond because the cost of financing is less and it avoids double-taxing ourselves.

In my way of thinking, those who own business property or pay rent on said property, and also those of us who donate to charitable concerns, would need to pay or donate more to cover their increased tax. 

Also, it is important to know, the Colleges do pay the Claremont police department for services rendered. And, the Colleges’ employees who live in Claremont will also contribute to the GO bond.

The fact is, Claremont police need a better facility to help deal with our new realities and issues, such as the significantly increasing homeless, vagrancy, mental illness, government early-release programs, etc.  We also need a police station where training can be easily facilitated and will serve the community. We all need to work to have a safer community. Stop running red lights, and if you see something, say something! Vote yes for a safer community.

Please join me in voting yes in June for the police station.

Jess M. Swick

Claremont

 

Support our local police

Dear Editor:

I am writing in support of Measure SC because, in my opinion, the benefits to our community in providing for the health and safety of our police officers outweigh the costs. Further, the benefits are greater than those provided by a sheriff’s department.

My opinion is informed by my experience as a social worker in a neighboring county, served by both a police department and a sheriff’s department.

Police officers were far more likely to be knowledgeable about risks and strengths in the neighborhoods where child protective services referrals, domestic violence, crime and homelessness were prevalent. My colleagues and I depended upon collaborative relationships with the police to protect children, women who were victims of rape and domestic violence, and mentally ill individuals who were at risk to hurting themselves or others. We simply could not depend upon the sheriff’s department for the same level of service or community knowledge.

The sheriff’s department had jurisdiction over a wide area. So, their officers had limited knowledge of the neighborhoods, and could not offer the same level of response as the police department. Thus, relying solely on the LA County Sheriff’s Department will not result in the same level of service or response we now enjoy.

The Claremont police department is an extremely valuable community asset. As a volunteer on Claremont committees and with non-profits, I have the same experiences with our police department as I did as a social worker. The department has built strong relationships of mutual trust with constituencies in our community.

The department has worked hard to engage the community and has demonstrated that it understands the values and culture of Claremont and what underlies crime in neighborhoods. We depend upon them to protect our most vulnerable citizens and to respond to all of us in times of crisis and emergency.

We should recognize the humanity of the police men and women who volunteer to put themselves in harm’s way, to answer the urgent call in the night, to do the best they can to protect us. We have the responsibility to ensure good working conditions for these vital public servants. 

I will vote for Measure SC because the quality of life I experience in Claremont is, in important part, because of the safety and security provided me by the Claremont Police Department.

Lynne Marsenich

Claremont

 

Ring: wrong lesson

Dear Editor:

Diann Ring’s tedious and romanticized history of Claremont in last week’s COURIER ended with a vignette—a parable actually—of early 1900s professors “hand-watering little eucalyptus trees on College Avenue.” Her point was that they were watering plants they would never see mature; they were watering them for us. Not so.

Eucalyptus—an exotic species not native to California—is known for its fast growth, sometimes five or six feet per year. So the savvy professors knew that their efforts would soon be rewarded. What they didn’t know is that the trees would become over-grown, over-weighted, brittle and dangerous. Large limbs failing and dropping are common. Street trees become diseased and are costly to remove.

In especially unfavorable circumstances, the entire shallow-rooted tree can topple suddenly with fatal results. Recall the two Pomona students killed 20 years ago when a falling eucalyptus crushed their car at the corner of College Avenue and Fourth Street.

Even the city’s Sycamore Canyon Park plan calls for the removal of this invasive species from that park due to its adverse effects and consequences.

Ms. Ring’s parable is more apt than she understands though. Just as eucalyptus trees give immediate gratification but are problematic in the long run, so the general obligation bond would gratify those desirous of putting their own personal imprint on the city, but will burden their neighbors and the next generation with the costs.

Donna S. Lowe

Claremont

Former Tree Committee Member

 

 

 

 

 

 

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