Readers comments 10-4-19
Deal with the pensions
I am a longtime resident of Claremont and, in addition, run a small firm in the city. I am voting no on Measure CR for the following reasons.
The people in this state are already overburdened with taxes. In addition to property tax, income tax, payroll tax and sales tax I already pay, I do fictitious business filing with the COURIER and pay my business license to the city of Claremont. The city must learn to live within its means.
Specifically, the unfunded pension liability the city currently faces will grow even more as it fails to require employees to pay the maximum into their pension, as most states are now requiring. This shows a lack of fiscal accountability and responsibility moving forward and it will only bolster the fiscal crisis in which the city finds itself.
A small community like Claremont cannot sustain itself with the high employee and pension costs that will not be resolved with an increase in sales tax.
Lisa S. Hart
The losses add up
A few Measure CR issues that strike me as worth thinking about: The city has been steadily making budget cuts, and at some point each of us will personally feel the changes. Some noticeable changes are already happening.
For example, ceiling leaks at the Hughes Center require strategically placed trashcans because roof repairs have been deferred. A smaller staff sometimes can’t get back to us quickly after we call about an urgent item on a commission’s agenda. With further cuts, imagine that when a large tree limb falls onto the street, we will call, but the limb will not be picked up until we make several more calls. When we call, a machine, not a person, will answer.
Playing fields will look shabbier and trash will accumulate in the Village. A few community-based organizations will quietly go out of existence, and the library will be closed on Sundays without the city’s contribution. There will be fewer programs and events for senior citizens.
These will be quiet but deeply felt changes. Am I exaggerating? Maybe, but after cutting $3.4 million to balance the 2018-19 budget and $1.3 million to balance the 2019-20 budget, how much more can be cut before we start noticing that the city we love is deteriorating?
Our city needs more revenue to maintain current levels of maintenance, staff, capital projects, programs and services. If we are to keep our excellent staff that responds with grace and diligence to a highly-demanding citizenry, we need to ensure that their compensation is at least on par with that of similar-sized cities.
Let’s not forget that the loss seven years ago of the redevelopment agency, whose funds helped supplement the city’s general fund for qualifying activities and projects, resulted in major reductions in staff, programs and services (not to mention our ability to contribute to affordable housing efforts.) The current fiscal crisis is due in part to that loss.
Measure CR will increase the sales tax we pay by 75 cents per every $100 we spend in Claremont. In the aggregate, this small increase adds up to a mighty $2 million plus per year, enough to prevent cuts to services and programs we value such as senior classes, Sunday library hours and contributions to preservation and sustainability organizations.
It is likely that the county will swoop in like a hawk and get approval to raise the sales tax to the current 10.25 percent ceiling, so we will be stuck paying the extra 75 cents per $100 anyway, but the money will not be kept in Claremont.
To paraphrase a line about Las Vegas: Sales tax generated in Claremont should stay in Claremont (or at least our fair share). Vote yes and approve Measure CR!
Taxes won’t stop
Proponents for the regressive sales tax increase are determined to use their razor-sharp crystal ball to scare voters into thinking that other LA County agencies are coming to take what is rightfully ours. While at the same time, they refuse to use that same crystal ball to enlighten us all as to what will happen when county-wide agencies who provide fire protection in Claremont, and work to ensure clean air for us all to breathe, do come looking for more money if Measure CR passes.
Instead, they just throw up their hands and give us a lesson from School House Rock on how Sacramento works. No thank you, we already know how Sacramento works.
They want us to believe there is a statewide cap of 10.25 percent, when there isn’t. They want us to believe that if Measure CR passes, sales taxes in Claremont won’t go any higher, when they will.
One only has to look at just how accommodating the state legislature has been to increasing sales tax rates above the statewide cap of 9.25 percent. There isn’t a sales tax increase they don’t cheer.
It’s time for proponents to come clean with voters. If Measure CR passes, it will not stop other taxing agencies from increasing the sales tax rate well above 11 percent. It’s misleading and dishonest to suggest otherwise.
[Editor’s note:?In his reference to the 9.25 percent statewide cap, Mr. Burgdorf is referring to the 7.25 percent statewide tax rate plus the 2 percent local tax rate cap, which is a statutory restriction that can be exceeded with permission from the California legislature. —KD]
CWC supports CR
The board of Claremont Wildlands Conservancy has unanimously voted to support Measure CR. By increasing the sales tax three-quarter percent to bring over $2 million per year to city coffers, the measure will help the city manage a projected structural deficit in order to retain the current level of services.
We greatly value these services to our community at large, to our parks, and especially to the Claremont Hills Wilderness Park, which is our focus. This park accommodates about 500,000 visits a year.
All who visit appreciate how enriching it is for our lives and how accessible and well managed it is. In fact, an official at Trust for Public Land in Southern California recently called it the best-managed wilderness park in the whole region.
We give substantial credit for the high quality of the park’s management to the city of Claremont, which has developed and implemented the CHWP Master Plan over the past five years. The plan has provided for a comprehensive ranger program that keeps the park clean, safe and welcoming.
To assure that the city will continue to provide these services and many others, we urge you and your readers to join us in supporting Measure CR.
Terry Grill, President
Claremont Wildlands Conservancy
In an insert in the COURIER, “a concerned resident” quoted part of my opinion piece on Village South. Some readers believed that my frustration with the planning process meant that I oppose Measure CR, which is not correct. I support the .75 percent sales tax increase.
I see major reasons why the city needs the additional income, and most of us know them.
First, we remember the eminent domain lawsuit against Golden State Water. Have we forgotten that 71 percent of us voters approved Measure W in November 2014 to take over the water system? Many voters thought it would reduce their cost for water. The disastrous result was that the city lost the lawsuit and had to pay legal fees for Golden State as well as Claremont.
The city reports the final cost will total $11.3 million. Most of that money has already come from the general fund as well as at least $2 million from reserves. The loss also led to deferred maintenance, which now must be caught up, along with another $234,000 per year paid to Golden State for the next 12 years. This loss is a major reason the city has a low reserve fund and has been cutting budgets.
Second, we know the police station must be made safe and enlarged. The most recent citizens advisory committee voted to restrict new bond funds so that the city will need to provide money from the general fund to complete the project.
The city cannot declare at this point how much will go to the police station, or else the threshold for approving the .75 percent tax will increase from 50 to 67 percent. However, I believe there will be no general funds to support the police station without this tax increase. With this station issue and a contract dispute, it was reported at the September police commission meeting that eight current officers are investigating transfers to other cities.
Lastly, we know that the annual payment to the PERS employee retirement system has increased greatly. The state has reduced their expected rate of return on investment, while simultaneously increasing the expected life span for employees. This is a statewide problem. There is an opportunity for the city council to establish a committee to identify the PERS cost history, track the unfunded liability, and present options being developed by other cities who are working to reduce these increases.
There is no doubt that our city needs the additional income from Measure CR. We voters need to step up to meet our city’s challenges. Nineteen LA County cities have already passed a sales tax increase, and La Verne will vote next March. Please vote yes on November 5.
One of the prominent themes in recent letters supporting the CR proposal is trust. We are implored to trust the city and its leadership. Many citizens have done this in the past, with marginal results.
We were told that the infamous trolley would stimulate business in the Village, that the roundabout would improve traffic flow, and the takeover of Golden State Water would result in lower water rates, and that the city would prevail in the eminent domain case. Incidentally, the city’s position was refuted on every single point of legal contention. A read of the judge’s decision will lead you to the conclusion of “what was the city thinking?”
In addition, a number of citizens voted against the $50 million Taj Mahal police station. Incidentally, the rank-and-file were not invited to offer suggestions on that tax measure until late in the process.
A second measure for a new police station was voted down when we were bombarded with images of a police station in disrepair and the reassurance that the building could not be retrofitted.
However, a third police station advisory committee determined that, indeed, the police station could be retrofitted and expanded at an even lower level than the second police station bond issue.
Oh, by the way, the most recent rendition of the police station advisory committee, at the last meeting, reversed a recommendation that a comparison be done between the cost and benefits of our current police force and the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department. We all love our police force, but apparently some did not believe that such a study should be reviewed by the taxpaying citizens.
As a result of many missteps, the city has undergone some positive changes, including the city council and new administrative leadership. However, caution is a key concept here, as all of the new faces were endorsed or supported by those nameless, faceless individuals who continually strive to keep Claremont special, just like it has always been.
Even now we are being told that the citizens of Claremont wanted the beautification of Foothill Boulevard. Why were there so many letters of complaint? We are also being told that the bike lanes will be safe for families and reduce pollution. What they have not told you is that the funds for this project were originally intended for road maintenance. Several years from now, you will be told there is no money for maintenance, so you citizens need belly up to the tax bar.
In regards to safety on the bike lanes to nowhere, ask an avid cyclist if they will ride in the new bike lanes.
One last question, we trusted the city when they removed the sprinklers along Indian Hill, prudent water use, you know? That being the case, why did we multiply the number of sprinklers installed along Foothill Boulevard?
Some may choose to trust, but accompany that with your eagerness to verify.
Rain makes applesauce
Some readers will recognize this statement from a children’s book that we read to our now-grown children many years ago. They might also remember the repeated refrain: “You are just talking silly talk!” I thought of these words as I read the letters Friday, September 20.
Though I remind myself that I should not bother reading letters from those who cannot let a week go by without whining about this or that, often at excessive length, which would be accepted by most newspapers. I do actually read them all, but many of them aggravate me to no end, as they repeat weekly their favorite complaints.
Though I wonder why some of these ranters do not run for city council themselves, they probably know that most people would never vote for them.
I also often wonder whether some of these regular ranters consciously hope to be asked by the editor to submit their own weekly column, in which case I would expect the professionals need to politely demure.
Some writers are outraged at the taxes they pay, while others are obsessed with whether our police or other city employees, or those who work at our schools, might enjoy better retirement plans and other benefits than the complainers do.
These complainers sometimes include people of my acquaintance who enjoyed the benefits of family wealth, which they seem to believe makes themselves as sacrosanct as the tax privileges they claim as their own birthright.
Some worry that local people will travel to Upland or elsewhere if our own local merchants must raise prices a few cents! Yet I cannot think of even one item I ever buy from stores in nearby cities that is sold in any store in Claremont. Do those concerned with Claremont’s wannabe image as the Beverly Hills of Eastern Los Angeles County want to solicit a WalMart or Target or Lowe’s or Home Depot to come to our “city of trees and PhDs?”
One writer worries that shoppers might “save money by making a five-minute drive to Upland or Montclair” if the sales tax is 2.5 percent higher, and that “No one needs to patronize our businesses when they can purchase the identical goods at a discount right next door.”
Yet this writer does not offer convincing information to persuade me that any savings I might attain by driving to the neighboring city would offset the price of the gasoline, or warrant the time required for the round-trip.
Again, these alarmists fearful of the small increase in our taxes being discussed are “just talking silly talk.”