Readers comments 6-1-18
Cost of failing to act
In letters to the COURIER, opponents often state that if we fail to pass Measure SC, then we simply go back to the drawing board for a new plan. I disagree the consequence will be so simple.
Interest rates on any future proposal may rise. The ad hoc committee first proposed financing with a bond in September 2016. Had this gone to the ballot in June 2017, we would have secured an interest rate of 3.1 percent by November 2017.
By putting this project on the June 2018 ballot, our project costs incorporated a potential interest rate increase of one percent, which alone costs us $130,000 per year in increased interest, or $3.25 million for the project. If we fail to pass SC, and should rates rise 1.5 percent on same principal over our original project costs, our increased cost in interest would total $210,000 per year, for a total of $5.25 million over 25 years! We also can see construction and engineering costs rise with inflation.
But the police department is not just sworn officers and paid staff. Like so many essential services, our PD is robust with the efforts of volunteers. CERT has over 115 members. Community patrol has over 25 volunteer officers, none of whom are paid. When called for duty, they report to the station to help ensure the security of this community. As I write this, unpaid volunteers work on our behalf in potentially unsafe conditions.
How does one calculate the cost of failing to act? Interest and construction costs can all be calculated. The toll of allowing volunteers and staff to remain at risk cannot. We are now entertaining risks too great to observe comfortably and passively.
Proposition 68 deserves our support. It’s been over a decade since California voters approved a comprehensive statewide bond measure to upgrade parks and protect our water supplies and natural resources.
State coffers for these projects are emptying, and Prop 68 will replenish them long into the future.
The proposition will bolster the state’s infrastructure in three critical areas: Parks—It will upgrade current parks and provide new ones where they are most needed. Water—It will ensure clean and adequate drinking water and prepare for future droughts. Natural Resources—It will increase natural open space, restore and protect rivers, streams and coastal areas, and mitigate the effects of fire, flooding, mudslides and other natural disasters.
The cost of the $4.1 billion bond measure will be negligible for individual taxpayers. With payments of about $200 million per year spread across 40 million Californians, the cost per person will be about $5 a year. Accountability will be assured through annual independent audits and a citizen advisory committee to oversee expenditures.
These state funds could significantly reduce local governmental spending on worthwhile projects. Claremont could benefit by applying for Prop 68 funds to improve its parks and to secure more open space for the Wilderness Park and upgrade its trails.
Claremont Wildlands Conservancy
On April 20, roughly 30 students from Claremont High School walked out of their classes to city hall in the Village. It was a political protest against guns and school shootings. Though the protest had been spurred by the shooting in Parkland, Florida, the date chosen was the anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado.
The students were warned in advance that leaving campus to engage in that protest would cause them to be counted as truant and would bear the penalty of having to attend Saturday school. They nonetheless persisted.
In consequence, the threatened penalty was applied and they had to be at school for a mandatory study session on Saturday, May 19 from 8 a.m. to noon.
The protest, being political in nature and in the face of breaking school rules and a clear warning, was an act of civil disobedience.
The students should be commended for both their interest in protesting a situation in this country which allows one school shooting after another with nothing more occurring than moments of silence and prayers and stupid remarks about how to prevent such shootings. (It turns out that so far in 2018 there have been more deaths by shooting at schools than to US personnel in military action.)
Moreover, the students should be commended for accepting their punishment for knowingly breaking school rules. That is part of what civil disobedience is—a willingness to accept the consequences of disobeying laws.
My only regret is that the school administration (so far as I know) did not use the opportunity of the required Saturday school as an occasion of civic education. It would have been a perfect time to talk about a citizen’s duties in the face of political evil, the nature of civil disobedience and non-violent resistance as practiced by Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
A new kind of cell
As a resident of La Verne who happens to really like Claremont, I have no particular point of view (appropriately!) about the ongoing police station controversy. It has been a singular theme in the readers’ comments for awhile now. However, I do have a suggestion.
If a shiny new police station is ultimately approved and built, I do suggest that a very special dedicated cell be included in which the creators of Twitter can be housed with no possibility of parole. I personally do not tweet (I thought only small birds did that) and have no desire to share every crazy stream-of-consciousness thought that pops into my head. Not the case, however, with our president, who seems to think Twitter is a key element to the running of this great nation.
Now we have Roseanne’s Twitter “joke” that cost her and a lot of people their jobs. And let’s not forget Don, Jr., who’s starting to take after his father more and more. We apparently are unable to close this Pandora’s Box, but can’t we at least punish the people who created the thing that has made our lives a 280-character hell?
Some who have commented on Measure SC—to finance the replacement of our seismically unsafe, over-crowded, technologically obsolete and no longer legally compliant police station—are concerned that, because of 1978’s Prop 13, newer and usually younger home buyers will pay more than the old-timers who have lived here for years. I can sympathize with that, because I hate to pay more than someone else for the same goods or services.
However, I hope that our newer and younger homeowners will consider this: Those who have been here longer have paid to create our attractive community. Their contributions have not only been monetary, but also zillions of hours of volunteer service to committees, commissions, organizations like Sustainable Claremont, Claremont Heritage, League of Women Voters, Active Claremont and parent-faculty associations. Every generation benefits from the contributions of its predecessors and pays it forward to later generations.
Those who have been here longer are likely to be older and will benefit for a shorter time from the new station’s operational efficiencies and public accommodations. It’s really not unfair that those who will benefit less will pay less. If we were to pay in proportion to the number of years remaining in our lives to enjoy the benefits, older folks might pay even less!
And we shouldn’t forget that after their years in their homes are over their houses will be sold, and will then have taxable values that exceed the taxable values of the homes of today’s most recent buyers, whose share of the bond payments will thereby decrease.
In this way the older generation will reduce the younger generation’s costs. No payment method will seem completely fair to everyone, but the recommended method minimizes the total cost. Let’s pass Measure SC before the costs of financing and construction increase.
The cost of the new police facility is the expense today. The price is the value we get from better, improved space, technology, work environment and safety. The price is much higher than any cost we pay.
As a recent “new” (although not so young) resident to Claremont, I’m happy to pay my estimated $160 per year for the value of a new police facility that will endure longer than any initial cost. The price is right. Vote yes on SC.
Vote no for families
Convicted felons get more love at parole hearings than Measure SC got by the COURIER’s editorial staff on May 18. But Measure SC was far more fortunate than most convicted felons. How did we get here?
We got here because of what Eileen Ambrose referred to on May 18 as the “favored minority.” City hall is controlled by a small group of chummy insiders. And up to this point, they have not been challenged. At least not until Kathryn Dunn challenged them on March 23, and we all know how that turned out.
The ad hoc police station committee was made up of 15 members “representing the community.” While the median age in Claremont is 39 years, the median age of the committee members is 67—hardly a representation of the community—and they have been living in Claremont, collectively, for about 300 years. Where was the representation of young families with school-aged children? You know, the ones who will actually pay for the new police station if Measure SC passes? They were shut out of that discussion by a city council that hand-picked the committee.
Paul Cooper, the man who wanted to spend $118 million on a 47,000 square foot police palace, even admitted in his letter on May 11 that the “20/20/20 theme was a suggestion by an audience member” and “it was disregarded by the committee and not considered an option.”
Add to his admission the 75 percent of survey respondents who favored a parcel tax and were flatly dismissed by the city council and there is a clear message coming from both our elected officials and the favored minority, “We don’t care what the community’s newest residents think, we just want them to pay for everything.”
The fact of the matter is the families who will subsidize everyone in the community if Measure SC passes were dismissed throughout the entire process. They aren’t the “silent majority” as Ms. Ambrose suggested, they spoke up at committee meetings and they responded overwhelmingly to the city survey when the favored minority didn’t. They were just ignored.
If you think it’s ethical to saddle cash-strapped families working multiple jobs to make ends meet with $5 million in additional taxes, while businesses like Claremont Toyota enjoy the benefits of a new police station without having to pay their fair share, then, by all means, vote yes on Tuesday. I don’t think it’s ethical and I never will.
For me, the difference between a parcel tax and a GO?bond is less than $40 a year, not even close for me to care financially. But that’s not the case for many young families moving to Claremont.
In fact, the federal reserve just reported last week that 40 percent of American households could not cover a $400 emergency expense. It would be a mistake to think that Claremont is “different” given that the city just held a forum on homelessness.
The “Claremont way” of taxing young families is not sustainable no matter how many times they’re told $200 isn’t that much money. These families will have to make choices as a result of Measure SC while the “favored minority” basks in how little it’s costing them.
On June 5, I will be supporting Claremont’s young families by voting no on Measure SC, because they deserve more respect.
The police station and the “big one”
Since the 1970s, when our current police station was built, seismic engineering and seismic standards have dramatically changed following several major California earthquakes. Hospitals, fire stations and police stations are the most needed infrastructure in such inevitable emergencies and consequently are held to higher seismic standards.
Not only does our current police station fall far short of current seismic standards for essential services, but also its 19-inch thick concrete roof atop concrete block walls simply would not survive a major local earthquake.
If the “big one” were to hit and destroy the police station, we would be left without a functional police force just when we need it most, and first-responders from outside Claremont will not be able to respond in an area-wide emergency. Furthermore, following a major disaster, labor and materials will be in such high demand that the cost to replace the station at that time would be prohibitive.
Clearly something needs to be done. While the idea of renovating the current station may seem attractive, the structural engineer’s report says that it simply cannot be “retrofitted” to current standards.
It is easy to say there may be a better plan, better financing or better decision-makers. That just kicks the can down the road. The need is obvious. There are no free options. It is our duty to current and future Claremonters to act now to build an efficient and safe police station worthy of our wonderful city and of the officers and support personnel who serve us. We need to pass Measure SC on June 5 and replace our aging police station as soon as possible.
Let’s find the answers together
The writer of the “Too many unknowns” letter stated it is hard to vote for a project where the details of financing (whether it will be callable debt or not) have not been finalized. He also reported that a college building had unexpected maintenance costs, so he wants to see a study of that issue before voting. “It’s hard to trust the city.”
Our point is that we all are the city. Claremont is known for how extensively our citizens are involved in commissions, committees and other public meetings. The co-signers of this letter had the challenge and opportunity to serve on the police facility ad hoc committee. As requested, our city and police department staff assembled data and prepared reports on many issues. Our 15 committee members as well as members of the public commented on these reports. Consultants answered questions directly.
We would like to invite anyone with ideas on how to make this project better (whether in design, cost of construction, cost of maintenance or the details of financing) to join in future reviews. The city forecasts that the bond will be underwritten in November, so there is time to work on the bond details.
The entire building design will go through the architectural commission. Solar panels and an energy efficient design were budgeted. The city council and our new city manager will have time to review the details with the “new eyes” some have requested. The building can be evaluated for energy efficiency after the design is completed.
We are voting on June 5 to approve the scope and maximum budget for this project. The general obligation bond requires that any savings from this budget will go back to the taxpayers.
The city projects that it will be three years before our police department can move into the new building. We must get started on this journey and not delay any longer. Please vote yes on Measure SC.
Jack Blair, Betty Crocker, Helaine Goldwater, Marci Horowitz, Jim Keith, Sally Seven, Jess Swick, Paul Wheeler
Ad hoc committee members
Spoiled in Claremont
I have been impressed by the functioning of our police department since moving to Claremont nine years ago. During my career as a child protective social worker I had the opportunity to work with multiple police departments and learned what a difference effective policing can create in a community. Not only does prompt response to crimes and thorough investigations lead to capture of criminals, but also it puts in place crime prevention.
We in Claremont don’t seem to realize how many problems are prevented by the assertive actions and community monitoring completed by our police department. However, I can assure you that the criminal element is very aware of geographical areas that might provide them an advantage to complete a crime. We don’t need adequate law enforcement, we require excellent law enforcement to maintain the city we cherish.
I urge all fellow Claremonters to support our police department and vote yes on SC and give our police force the tools they need.
Come together, vote yes
It appears we are all mostly in agreement about the particulars of a new police station. Almost all of us agree on these major points: 1. We want professional, fair, effective and efficient policing of our community; 2.We see that the current station is inadequate and must be improved; 3. We all want improvements to be necessary, efficient, well-planned, reflecting community concerns and funded as fairly as possible.
It’s important to remember that residents from the full political spectrum formed the ad hoc committee. Their sole intention was to determine the best possible solution for meeting the identified needs and financing of the station. The committee’s recommendation is the result of hundreds of hours of careful deliberation including consultation with all related experts, for over a year.
Even with our community’s shared values and goals, some of us question funding the station with this bond and propose instead a parcel tax. The committee did not propose a parcel tax because: 1. The burden of the parcel tax was considered more unfairly distributed; 2. It would cost over $2 million more to finance; 3. Parcel tax payments are fixed, and if there were a revenue surplus, it could be used by the city for any public purpose. But SC bond monies can only be used for the police station. Any funds not spent on the station project will be returned to taxpayers.
Given our shared value for fairness, consider that the most unfair option of all is to defeat Measure SC and postpone the project, leaving our police in substandard and unsafe conditions, and compelling all of us to pay more for less if/when there is a future station tax or bond.
I hope that newcomers and long-time residents will not feel divided, but will continue together our tradition of mutual respect and public participation for our future by uniting to vote for Measure SC.
SC deserves to pass
In November 2015, Measure PS was rejected by voters for good reasons. Now, in June 2018, a new proposal, Measure SC, is on the ballot. This one deserves to pass.
A great deal of community effort (including a very diverse 15-member committee working for over a year) has produced a new and very different plan—an appropriately sized facility, reasonably priced, in a good location and funded wisely and fairly—over half (57 percent) will pay less than $122 in the first, most expensive year and under $100 on average over the 25-year life of the bonds.
Funds raised go only to this project; the design will go through the typical Claremont process. Although the cost was cut about in half, the Colleges cut their contribution only 25 percent (from $1 million to $750,000).
The proposal needs a two-thirds super-majority to pass, a very high bar. (Every “no” vote offsets two “yes” votes.) But we all, even the naysayers, will profit from a safer, more efficient facility. Not just those who make calls for service, but everyone who lives in, works in or visits Claremont benefits from safer streets and neighborhoods, from local control of priorities and from safety personnel at all levels who are committed to our community and supported by an efficient, up-to-date facility.
Time is not on our side. Costs of financing and construction are rising. We are often reminded that this area is overdue for a major earthquake. Our present police station is dangerously vulnerable, as well as crowded and operationally challenged. Further delay would be needlessly expensive without major benefit.
Measure SC is a referendum not just on a very good plan for a police station but also on the very open community participation process that produced it. Please vote “yes” on Measure SC and ask friends and neighbors to join you.
Let’s pass SC
I would like to add my thoughts regarding Measure SC and also refute some of the negative comments by residents who are against this important measure.
Carolyn Gonzales (May 11) mentioned that the police station serves the entire community; therefore, the entire community should share in the commitment to finance it. While her claim sounds good, Paul Cooper shares in the same edition that the financing costs of a parcel tax would be an extra $2.4 million.
Rod E. Fehlman wondered how a “pretty” police station makes us “safer.” Even though he alluded to the fact that the police station was “built like a vault,” a significant earthquake would completely destroy that so-called vault. Even though it looks that way, it is still unsafe.
Then, Eileen Ambrose came up with this wild idea: “Based on my 0 percent calls for police services, my share of cost is $0,” Really? Is that how you should look at police services? Aren’t you glad that you haven’t had to call the police? Don’t you want to ensure the police have a better opportunity to serve you when you do need them?
Finally, Enid Eckert chides the people in Claremont for “spending money as though there is no tomorrow.” Then she refers to the “recent spending fiascos” and “it would be ridiculous to vote ourselves into many more millions of dollars of debt.” Wait, what? Seriously? She is comparing a need for a new, fully-functional police station to a prior fiasco? I am flabbergasted by her comments.
Even if we do pass this measure, it would be three years before the project would be completed. In that time, we can continue to search for additional ways to pay for our necessary police operations. Let’s pass the measure first and we can continue to discuss how to improve the plan later.
I am in favor of building a new station for the Claremont police department.
Some opponents of replacing the old station complain that living in Claremont is already expensive. I would like to point out that high property values (which result in high taxes) are often determined by two factors: the quality of the school district and the perception (reality) of public safety.
It would cost less to build the new station on a vacant lot. Unfortunately, there are no vacant lots left in the city of Claremont. The police department has to function 24 hours a day throughout the period of construction. The old station will be occupied until the new one is completed.
Successful organizations know that the morale of their employees is important. Asking our police to work in a building that is too small, insufficient for the technology that is now required, and that might well collapse in a big earthquake, is bound to effect how our officers feel about their jobs.
The San Andreas fault has not stopped moving. It is a question of when, not if, the next big earthquake devastates Southern California. Sadly, experience has shown that after every major natural disaster, looters appear. It would be a good thing to have police on the streets, not buried in the collapsed rubble of their failed station.
Last year, after many years in denial, I finally applied for earthquake insurance on my house. The premium is about $700 a year. My share of financing the new police station will be about $150 per year. That amount is cheap insurance to have the police available when I most need them.
Please vote yes on SC.
Please consider voting with the League of Women Voters for the propositions on the June 5 ballot. Our organization has studied the issues and makes the following recommendations:
PROP 68: California Drought, Water, Parks, Climate, Coastal Protection and Outdoor Access for All Act. Vote yes.
PROP 69: Motor Vehicle Fees and Taxes: Vote yes.
PROP 70: Greenhouse Gas Reduction Reserve Fund. Vote no.
PROP 71: Effective Date of Initiatives. Vote yes.
PROP 72: Property taxation: new construction: rain water capture system. Vote yes.
VP for Advocacy, League of Women
Voters of the Claremont Area