Readers comments 5-25-18
Measure SC pros and cons
Voters who have questions about Measure SC may find this of interest. On May 7, Sustainable Claremont hosted a public pros and cons dialog on Measure SC, the funding for rebuilding Claremont’s police facility.
Sally Seven spoke on the pros and cons in a very informative session lasting about 40 minutes, followed by another 40 minutes of discussion with the audience and their questions, thoughts and concerns.
Ms. Seven has years of experience with the League of Women Voters, and she is especially well qualified to speak on the proposed police facility, as she was a member of the citizens committee that developed the proposal being voted on in the June 5 primary election.
The presentation included a film showing the present state of the police station and the plans for renewal, narrated by Claremont’s chief of police.
The entire session has been videotaped and edited to make the projected images clearer. It can be viewed by using a link to the dialog at the website sustainableclaremont.org.
Too many unknowns
Over the last few months I’ve been following the Safe Claremont campaign to build a new police station. The arguments for it aren’t unconvincing, and maybe I’d vote for the new station if I understood why it was being financed in the way it was and what the costs would be for operating it. Meanwhile, I don’t know either of these things, which makes it hard to vote yes.
Consider first the way the station is being financed, using a GO bond. There have been letters in the paper about the fairness of such a bond, as people with higher assessed valuations pay more. That’s true, but it would also be true for a parcel tax, which has the added advantage that commercial property owners in the city would have to pay for the police station too. My guess is that owners of commercial property use police services.
What I object to about the GO bond is that it penalizes those who have moved to Claremont recently whereas longtime residents of Claremont end up paying far less because Proposition 13 limits the amount assessed valuation can rise to 2 percent per year.
Suppose two people own houses with values of $690,000, which according to Zillow is close to the median price of a house in Claremont today, and the first bought a house in 2000 and the other this year. The second person would have an assessed valuation of $690,000 whereas the first would have an assessed valuation of about $350,062. I got that number by taking the median home price in Claremont in 2000 of $249,300 and multiplying it by 1.43 (an approximation which assumes that assessed values rose by 2 percent every year). Well, $690,000 is 94 percent higher than $350,062.
This means that someone who just bought a house next door to our longtime resident would end up paying 94 percent more for the police station.
If the new residents are young families moving in, then they are subsidizing long-term residents by paying nearly twice as much for the police station. This may be legal, but I don’t think it’s ethical to ask young families to do the subsidizing here. A parcel tax doesn’t have this disadvantage—identical houses are charged identical taxes.
Next, I am worried about the way the police station is being financed. When the GO bond was originally proposed, it involved selling callable debt. This means that the debt can be refinanced, but not for free. It costs several hundred thousand dollars to do so, and the contract design proposed by the city made refinancing almost inevitable.
In the current proposition, there is no mention of the details of how the debt will be issued. Normally, I wouldn’t complain, but here it matters, because the refinancing costs are large. I assume that financing details will be decided later, but I prefer to vote with full knowledge understanding that the costs of different financing options for different types of GO bonds differ by several hundred thousand dollars.
It’s hard to trust the city to choose a cheap financing option after the vote when it proposed an expensive financing option initially.
Finally, there is no mention of the costs of maintaining the new station, which not only is three times larger than the original, but will be filled with expensive (although necessary) technology. I think it unlikely that the costs of maintaining such a structure will be similar to the costs we have now.
Before voting for anything, I would like to see a careful accounting of those costs. At the Colleges recently, experts underestimated substantially the costs of maintaining the new Roberts Pavilion at CMC. I find it distressing that there is no attempt in the current proposal to try to estimate these costs.
To sum up, I support our police, and I think building a new police station is a good idea—maybe even this police station. But I’m not voting yes on a proposal where I think that the costs are underestimated and unfairly distributed.
Caring for our police
As you know, the June 5 ballot contains a local bond measure to provide the funds to construct a new police facility to replace the outdated, unsafe and inadequate police station at its familiar site on Bonita Avenue.
For the past 16 years, numerous public committees have assessed the adequacy and safety of the existing station. In every instance, the committee reports to the public and the council have unanimously concluded that the current police station must be replaced, with the recently concluded two-year study resulting in the drafting and council approval of Measure SC.
In 2011, one of the key issues of the campaign was the opinion candidates held on the current police station—its safety in the event of a significant earthquake and its adequacy to serve the public safety needs of a community that had doubled in size since its construction in 1972.
With rare exception, and without exception among the three candidates elected to serve on council, the urgent need to replace the facility was a common and strongly held opinion, and one that the citizens of Claremont demanded be done as soon as possible.
The updated police station is very important for Claremont. This city needs to be up to date with all our buildings. Our current police station is not earthquake safe, nor does it give female officers a private place to change,except for an outside trailer. We are too progressive to treat our women staff in a second class way.
The Colleges have agreed to donate $750,000 to the new police facility because the Colleges realize how important an up-to-date public building is for our staff and for our community.
With the utmost of deliberation and public input, Measure SC appears on the ballot as the means to accomplish the public’s demand that our public safety and police personnel be provided a safe and adequate facility out of which to operate.
By finally addressing what for 16 years has been an indisputable embarrassment and potential infrastructure disaster, we will begin to pay forward our responsibility.
Please support an up-to-date facility for our police staff. Each homeowner would pay only a small amount to reach our goal. We are and should be a city that cares for its police.
The local League of Women Voters cares deeply to make certain that Claremont cares for our police who do such a good job for us. Please vote yes on SC on June 5. Thank you.
VP for Advocacy,
LWV of the Claremont Area
Helaine Goldwater, in a letter last week, can’t help herself from spending a paragraph impugning the motives of those she sees opposing Measure SC. “Those who oppose Measure SC,” she writes, “tend to be the folks who oppose everything.” As if that’s an argument.
It seems a similar critique could be leveled at the proponents. Looking at the list of the proponents in a recent advertisement, it’s populated and led primarily by re-treads from the Yes on PS committee.
They are a little bit shameless in now ignoring and even contradicting some of the very arguments they made awhile back in favor of PS while announcing their support for this, the new and improved Measure PS proposal. They speak out of both sides of their mouth, in different languages, at the same time.
If it’s a way to tap the taxpayers, these folks are for it. $50,000,000 or $24,000,000. Whatever.
The issue of fairness has been brought up time and time again during our discussions about funding mechanisms for a new police station. We are quibbling over cost differences that amount to a pint container of bottled water each week.
While we quibble, construction and financing costs continue to increase every month we delay. Let’s come together and vote yes on SC on June 5.
Do the right thing
The need for a new, safe police station is acknowledged by all who have toured or studied it. Delay only increases costs. A GO bond is the most inexpensive funding mechanism. Vote yes on SC, it’s the right thing to do.
I am one of the silent majority of Claremont homeowners carefully watching the articles and opinions regarding Measure SC on the June ballot.
Like most residents, I have not done original research on the issue, getting my information instead from the COURIER and the city website. The last edition of the COURIER prompted me to speak up.
There have been no denials of the need for the new facility. The 15-member ad hoc committee did an outstanding job of designing a cost-effective, smarter facility.
As far as the 20/20/20 plan, I agree with Betty Crocker (May 4), “What’s another $3.5 million?” If we are going to do it, let’s do it right.
Tony Nelipovich suggested we look at contracting with the LA County Sheriff. Numerous letter writers since then have asked for an analysis of this option. The only response from the city I have seen was reported from the January 23 council meeting when Jennifer Stark said the idea is “untenable” and “It’s a dedication you really can’t put a price on.” The council was unanimously in support. Who is Jennifer Stark? What are her credentials that convinced the city council to follow her recommendation?
On May 4, John Neiuber reported that the police budget is 44 percent of the city budget at almost $11.2 million. The city website lists “Public Safety” as 47 percent of the total operating expenses. Does that include any of the unfunded $50 million pension liability?
A glossy brochure on Measure SC was just sent out by the city. Why hasn’t the city provided the electorate the often requested analysis of contracting with the sherriff’s department?
Matt Magilke on April 20 points out that under the proposed GO bond, “young families will subsidize the entire community for a police station that benefits everyone.”
A May 4 article on homelessness and the lack of affordable housing in Claremont prompted me to write this letter. The GO bond will just exacerbate the problems. Many young adults who grew up in Claremont cannot afford to live here because they make less than $100,000 per year.
Jim Keith, in several letters, points out that new homeowners paying much more for the facility under the GO bond is a benefit, and blames young families for “bidding up the cost of Claremont homes” (April 27). He argues that Prop 13 is the problem. However, a parcel tax based on square footage effectively negates that argument.
I am one of the residents who responded to the committee survey regarding funding. I voted with the majority of respondents for a parcel tax based on square footage. I am a senior on a fixed income who has only owned my Claremont home for 18 years. I am not in the favored minority that the GO bond is designed to protect.
Mr. Keith on April 27 claims that a parcel tax would cost an extra $2.268 million. However, on February 16, he wrote that it would also “cost” the Colleges $4.5 million, commercial properties $2.9 million, and nonprofits $667,000. Do homeowners use police services more than the Colleges, commercial properties and nonprofits?
As reported on February 2, then-mayor Larry Schroeder, speaking of the Colleges contribution, said, “We supply more than just services—active shooter training…”
On May 4, the COURIER reported the Colleges donated $750,000 based on the three percent average of calls for police services. Kathryn Dunn wrote an excellent column on March 23 describing the Colleges’ ability to contribute more.
Conclusion: The Colleges have educated me. Based on my 0% calls for police services my share of cost is $0.
To quote John Watkins, another Claremont ‘newbie’ like myself, “Sometimes, just like at home, you can’t buy everything you want at one time because you don’t have the money.”
He suggests giving our new city manager, Tara Schultz, and possibly three new city council members, a chance to come up with an alternative solution. I second that.
League supports Measure SC
At its board meeting May 10, the League of Women Voters of the Claremont Area voted to support Measure SC to approve a general obligation bond to build a new police station for the city of Claremont to replace the existing substandard station.
This decision was taken following a presentation of the pros and cons of the issue at the previous meeting. The League bases its support of measures on its positions taken after study. Stated briefly, the decision is based on the League’s position to “ensure revenues that are flexible, suitable and sufficient to meet changing priorities for local government services.”
The League of Women Voters of the Claremont Area urges a yes vote on Measure SC.
President, League of Women Voters of the Claremont Area
Bite the bullet
Remember 2008 when the recession hit and people worried about money for schools? Hundreds in our community pledged a dollar a day in the $365 campaign. Hundreds still carry the pledge today, as you can see from yard signs. The pledges continue even though the school bond passed last year.
My best guess is the police station was put on hold so we only had to contend with one bond, namely for the schools. I hope this is the year for the police bond measure. If hundreds can, for years, pledge $365 for the schools, why can’t we pay $100 to $200 a year to build a new police facility?
What if our children went to school where classrooms were so crowded that desks were shoved together to make room? How could they do assignments? What if books and file cabinets were not neatly shelved in the library or classroom but were put where ever there was space, and so jammed together that not even a razor blade could fit between two? What if there were no computer rooms or the latest software for our kids? What if the girls’ locker room was a tenth the size of the boys’ and was located farther away from the school?
What if teachers had no lounge areas or limited bathrooms? What if the classrooms had limited phone and internet connections, because some were not working and the expense to replace the system was cost prohibitive? What if the schools had limited supplies and equipment because that is all the public would allot?
If you were a parent in this scenario, you would do anything to assure that your child had every advantage for an excellent learning experience.
We need to provide the best working conditions for our police. It’s time to stop being petty and trying to find any little fault in a truly-needed bond. An old saying from 70 years ago went like this, “Put your money where your mouth is and bite the bullet.”
We cannot afford a new station
When will people in Claremont face the fact that we cannot keep spending as though there is no tomorrow? After all the recent spending fiascos in this city it’s ridiculous to vote ourselves into many more millions of dollars of debt.
Fred McDowell, bless his memory, would have had no trouble adding on to his perfectly attractive, useful, solidly-designed structure, which is not, as spendthrifts want us to believe, obsolete. It can be rewired for the 21st century.
The rest of the world uses and adds on to buildings for centuries, they don’t blow them up after a mere 50 years. I, for one, will vote against Measure SC.
The seismic danger
When our police facility ad hoc committee first met January 13, 2016, it was looking at literally four pages of questions to be asked, answered and decided as we planned a station for the next 40 years. One of those questions was “Why is the current station unsafe? Seismic Data.”
By June 1, we received a summary of the structural engineering analysis of the existing building. The following are quotes from that presentation:
“The connections from the walls to the roof are not strong enough to withstand forces expected from a major seismic activity. The roof is a slab-like cap not made to accommodate seismic motion and will likely separate from the walls.”
“No matter what retrofitting was done and what functional areas are put into the old building, it will not be usable after a seismic event.”
We have since learned from city staff that the cement roof is 19-inches thick and the structural analysis was performed by Risha Engineering. Based on this study, our committee reluctantly agreed that the old building could not be made safe.
After the Sylmar earthquake dropped supposedly strong freeway overpasses to the ground and destroyed “earthquake-resistant” hospital buildings, engineers worked to find out why it happened. They discovered how earthquakes bring cement structures down. We now know more than what architects knew in 1970 when our station was designed. The Northridge earthquake provided lessons as well.
Please do not believe those who deny this earthquake danger. We need to protect our employees and build a station that can operate after a major earthquake. It is past time to correct this danger, improve the efficiency of our police department operations, and lock in interest rates that have already increased—before they climb even higher.
Frank Bedoya Betty Crocker
Helaine Goldwater Marci Horowitz
Jim Keith Sally Seven
Jess Swick Paul Wheeler
Ad Hoc Committee Members
Don’t start over
Passing Measure SC is Claremont’s best option, allowing construction of a new police station and a payment method that have been carefully considered.
Measure SC results from the efforts of a citizens’ committee that met in good faith for over a year to design a plan that honors the values and needs of the community while meeting the needs of the police department. The plan is carefully researched, with input from all stakeholders and related professionals, including architects, structural engineers and financial consultants.
The station will remain in its current location. Its size is based on needs, not wants. The funding method is the most reliable and economical, and is as fair as possible. There is no future plan that could be enough better, either in process, design or financing, to justify defeating Measure SC.
If we don’t approve Measure SC, costs will continue to rise, including labor, materials and financing. We will definitely pay more for less. And the process, design, financing, timetable and even the possibility of a future option are all unknowns.
We need the most professional, effective, fair and humane police force. Some have suggested abandoning the Claremont police force and its building, and contracting with the LA County Sheriff. Only with our own Claremont police force do we have community control and oversight over the culture, personnel and actions of both the police and the city’s police commission. We will attract and retain the best personnel if we have an adequate station.
We need to support our police now by voting for Measure SC, so that they can best serve, protect and support the community.
Would you take a bullet?
I am proud of the Claremont Police Department and all of the hard work they do for our community. Some will say, “That is what they get paid for,” but they are near the bottom in compensation compared to 13 communities in our area.
There are things in life you need, but never want to use. Life insurance is one. So is medical insurance. If air bags were an option on new cars, how many of us would bet that we’d never need them and not purchase that option? Having our police prepared to assist in any situation is something we need, but once again, never want to have to use.
The men and women of the CPD would take a bullet to protect us. The least we can do is give them the best technology, equipment and facility we can to assist them in their endeavor.
For $30.33 per $100,000 of assessed value on our residences and with a 25-year repayment period, we can fund a state-of-the-art structure that will serve our community and police department for the next 50 years. Please join me in voting yes on Measure SC.