Readers comments 9-20-19
Is the new council listening?
Our new city council is changing the direction of the city. They want to increase population density in both the Colby Circle and Village South developments. Sustainability and adequate parking are being left out. Parking is already challenging without these proposed changes.
The proposed EIR does not conform to the Village South Specific Plan. There are numerous protest letters and columns in the paper on both projects. Our new council members campaigned on listening to their constituents. Are they listening?
Our city budget has a $1 million deficit after fiscal belt tightening. Our police need a new station. Our new city council spent over a quarter million to put a special election on the ballot in November for a sales tax increase. They estimate $2.5 million per year from this tax. One of our new council members threatened voters, “If this measure doesn’t pass, it will be a different quality of life here,” (COURIER, September 6).
The glossy summer city letter they mailed out listed a number of items this tax would be spent on. The police station was not mentioned. All has been quiet about the need for a new police station now.
Did they want a special election so both issues are not on the regular election ballot? Are they hoping we forget about the police station while we focus on the deficit? And vote for the sales tax now, and then for the police station next year?
Yes on CR
Tax increases always raise important issues for discussion, and the current .75 percent increase is no exception.
I support this increase because I care that Claremont continues to provide services such as preservation of our urban forest, support for community organizations including AbilityFirst and Meals on Wheels, and police and maintenance services for our parks, streets and Village.
I further support a city budget that provides adequate compensation to retain our very fine staff and to fund the pensions to which we have committed.
I am a 20-year resident of Claremont and I urge a yes vote on Measure CR.
Janet K Vandevender
The letter by Ginger Elliott in the September 13 COURIER makes a material misstatement by incorrectly characterizing Measure CR as “not regressive.”?This is wrong.
She redefines the CR sales tax as “not a regressive tax since it is not placed on food or drugs.” Leaving aside the inaccuracy about drugs (over-the-counter drugs are taxed) her definition of a regressive tax is just made up out of whole cloth.
Make no mistake: Sales taxes are widely understood to be the archetype of a regressive tax—one that exacts a higher percentage of income from those of modest means than from those better off.
The increase in this regressive tax that Measure CR would bring about would disproportionately affect our neighbors with smaller household incomes. Four grocery stores and four gas stations are in the top 20 sales tax producers in Claremont. Simply put, they are patronized equally by all income classes (except those who flee to the lower sales tax rates of San Bernardino County).
I suppose there is a certain irony that I, a conservative, am standing up for the little guys while some of my progressive neighbors seem to be ready to cast them adrift. So much for stereotypes.
Ms. Elliott willfully misstates the facts about Measure CR to confuse the voters. None of the arguments for Measure CR withstand examination.
Don’t be fooled by the pleasant, soft and obfuscating rhetoric of the city and the measure’s proponents. Vote no on Measure CR.
Speak up now
Claremonters! If you care and can, attend the city council meeting Tuesday, September 24. With perhaps too many two- and three-story houses being planned and built, there are concerns that must be addressed. Some of us have done so. Many more of us need to.
Suggested questions: Where will the new residents work, park their cars, play outside, and where will the heart of our city throb? What will be the most congested Claremont streets and at what times of day?
Also, with the base costs of this housing being $500,000 and up, how many families per address will be needed to afford the buyer’s or renter’s freight? Will we have a community in the near future, a true community?
Another question has to do with the Environmental Impact Report (EIR). How current is the applicable EIR to the planned or negotiated new housing? There are other concerns, but perhaps these inquiries will help motivate us to speak up and require answers.
The quality of life and the necessary economics and space for health and sustenance are basic considerations for our Claremont citizens. Show up. Speak up.
First do no harm
As Claremont residents are already paying one of the highest sales tax rates in the nation, any proposal to raise it needs to meet a very high standard of justification.
At the very least, we must be certain that the proposed sales tax hike will advance our community’s interests rather than harm them. Measure CR fails this basic test.
First, unlike all but a handful of other cities in California, Claremont shares a border with cities which impose a substantially lower sales tax rate.
It is already problematic that shoppers can save money by making a five-minute drive to Upland or Montclair; if we increase this disadvantage to a full 2.5 percent, Claremont merchants should expect to lose a significant amount of sales to nearby competitors.
No one needs to patronize our businesses when they can purchase the identical goods at a discount right next door.
For commodities like gasoline and household supplies, even a small price differential can have drastic consequences. And for some small retailers, it may be impractical to stay in business here at all.
Second, as car sales are taxed at the rate of the registered owner’s residence, Measure CR will typically cost Claremont residents hundreds of dollars more whenever we buy a car. To make matters worse, many people may simply avoid purchasing cars at Claremont’s dealerships in the mistaken belief that they are avoiding our high tax rate.
Finally, we need to understand that this is the best-case scenario. Even though Claremont is currently subject to a 10.25 percent sales tax “cap,” the plain truth is that the legislature can (and almost certainly will) authorize other government agencies to raise our overall rate even higher. When that happens, it will magnify the damage caused by Measure CR to our local economy.
The city has not made any effort to estimate the lost sales revenue that Claremont businesses will experience as a result of Measure CR.
It is likely that the decrease in sales will diminish the amount of new tax revenue the city expects to receive—and it is certain that prospective and existing retailers will take our tax rate into consideration when deciding whether it makes sense to do business in Claremont.
As we ought to have learned from the water takeover fiasco, small cities cannot afford to take big risks—and no city of any size can afford to increase an already high sales tax rate without regard for the damage it may do to local businesses and consumers.
Take charge, council
[The following letter was addressed to the Claremont City Council, with a copy forwarded for publication.]
I read recent city responses about the Village South Specific Plan EIR with some approval and a lot more dismay. Although, in what I’ve seen, the suggestion for five-story buildings is gone, the maximum number of residences is fewer, and the number of rental properties is now below a third, the changes still do nothing to address the fundamental issue that you cannot assess the impacts of a project that has not yet been created.
The VSSP planning started with a transparent process that allowed for considerable public discussion and resulted in quite a good set of goals and principles. These are intended to direct this development, but they do not seem to be doing so, and many of us would like to know why not?
The goals and principles clearly prohibit five-story buildings. The initial public suggestion was for a limit of two-stories and that was increased during the discussion to allow some three-story buildings with a very limited number of four-story buildings. That was already quite a compromise and should be adhered to.
The goals and principles clearly ask for a “vital mix of uses,” but this EIR concentrates on the number of residences and ignores the expected fairly even balance between that and commercial, office, retail and professional uses that the goals and principles call for.
We expected the goals and principles to be followed by a draft plan that would receive public input before we would move on to considering the scope of an EIR and the alternatives it includes. That has not happened. Instead, a proposal that does not follow the goals and principles and is very limited in scope was sprung upon the community. Where was the transparency we expect in city processes?
If you start out with something like this proposed EIR before any actual draft specific plan is considered, there is a great chance the plan we end up with will be driven by the limited considerations of the EIR rather than by our vision, and we will have no chance of making the final VSSP conform to the goals and principles that the community worked so hard to create.
Please, council members, take charge of this and return it to the transparent process that we work so hard to maintain in Claremont. We only have one shot at making this area the vibrant connector that we envisioned at the start of this process. Don’t let that get away from us.