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Readers comments 1-11-19

New park space

Dear Editor:

Would the city and the people of Claremont be willing to try and have the acres that were formerly La Puerta school grounds become parklands instead of something else?

If it is agreed that additional city park space is needed, is this worth exploring? Are there grant monies available for this purpose? Are there ways to seek contributions large and small?

Ted Nall

Claremont

 

Working together

Dear Editor

In response to Charles Young (“Testing Tickets,” January 4), and his comments addressing my “testing” of parking enforcement in the Village, Mr. Young prefaces his seemingly passive-aggressive statement toward me with the word “grateful.” To that I say, “You’re welcome!”

There are more than 900 other residents who signed the change.org petition that are also truly grateful for the outcome we achieved together. The result we arrived at is an excellent example of how important it is that we use our knowledge and voices to help shape the city in which we live.

I’d also like to reassure Mr. Young that while I did stay parked past the allotted time limit in the Village for this test, not a muffin was harmed at the bakery and no garment went unretrieved from the cleaners that I’m aware of.

It is unclear what relevance my tenure of residency has in any of this discussion other than an attempt by Mr. Young to minimize the value or weight my input brings.

The fact remains, however, that we have new voices emerging with fresh eyes and new perspectives and it brings a value that should be realized and welcomed by all.

I will continue to stay involved and encourage others to do the same as we help to shape the city we all own, together.

Aundre Johnson

Claremont

 

Don’t play the race game

Dear Editor:

There are many reasons for Claremont residents to be proud of our very special community, but perhaps the most important is our evident and sincere regard for the equal dignity of one another.

I don’t mean to suggest that we are perfect, but I am sure that all of us would recoil in disgust at the suggestion that we should intentionally manipulate our political system along racial lines.

Sadly, our city council has done exactly that by imposing a new “by-district” system for council elections to replace the existing “at-large” system (where candidates are voted on by the entire city).

District elections are wholly inappropriate for small cities like Claremont, and pose a serious threat to civic governance. It is hard enough to find enough qualified candidates to run for city-wide council races, and splitting the city into five districts—each with their own council elections—will exponentially increase the likelihood of non-competitive races, or elections with no candidates at all.

Even more significantly, council members will be under pressure to put the special concerns of their own neighborhoods ahead of the city as a whole. A small city cannot afford to create conflicts of interest like that. So why is the council forcing us to adopt a by-district voting system?

That’s an excellent question that deserves a serious answer. The majority of cities in Los Angeles County—and virtually all of them the size of Claremont—have at-large council elections. There is no law which requires Claremont to adopt a by-district system, nor has anyone threatened to sue Claremont for failing to do so.

It is true that several large cities have been forced to switch to by-district elections, and dozens more have voluntarily switched to avoid costly lawsuits; but in each of these cases there was substantial evidence that minority candidates were consistently unable to win elections—and had presumably been disadvantaged by an at-large system.

To our credit, Claremont is completely different. Minority candidates have not only routinely won council seats; over the past 10 elections, Latino, African-American and Asian candidates have all had a higher success rate than white candidates. We have had at least two minority council members since 2007, and a multi-racial council majority for the past eight years.

Under the circumstances, it is unlikely that any residents of Claremont would try to sue the city for “racially polarized voting,” or that any lawyer would take on such an unpromising case. In the event that this ever did happen, the city council would have 45 days to evaluate the merits of the threatened lawsuit—and, if appropriate, approve a transition to a by-district election. If the council acts within that time period, our liability for the challenger’s legal fees is capped at $30,000.

Remarkably, despite the fact that Claremont has an extraordinary record of color blind voting and minority empowerment—and that no one has ever even suggested that Claremont has engaged in racially polarized voting—the council has decided to spend $75,000 (and you can bet it will cost more than that) to immediately make a voluntary transition to by-district elections—without even waiting to see if anyone intends to sue us.

It is important to understand that Claremont does not have to spend a dime to transition to a by-district system that all five members of the council have acknowledged to be detrimental to the city’s interests. And considering that the council just spent $14 million pursuing an ill-fated eminent domain suit, and an additional $200,000 on a meritless appeal, it is absurd that they are making a costly, unnecessary and undesirable change to our electoral system just to potentially save $30,000 sometime in the future.

Perhaps we could overlook this costly and premature decision if it was merely a matter of wasting money, but far more is at stake. Over the next few weeks, Claremont residents are going to be invited to participate in an exercise to divide the city into five equal districts. This would be bad enough if it was simply a mathematical exercise, but that is not how this game is played. We are all supposed to figure out exactly how many Latinos, African-Americans and Asians we want to include in our districts.

I refuse to look at my neighbors as anything other than fellow Claremonters, so I won’t be playing the district-drawing game. I will be spending my time trying to convince the members of the council to reconsider their unfortunate decision, and I hope that other residents will make their sentiments known to them as well.

Jim Belna

Claremont

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