Readers comments 10-11-19
Memories with Pixley
My wife and I raised our family in beautiful Claremont from 1964 to 2000. I taught for CUSD during that time. My wife raised our four boys and worked at the Colleges, DuPont and Inter Valley Health Plan. We loved Monday night picnics at Memorial Park concerts and being in the Fourth of July parades.
We keep coming back to Claremont for hair care, which we can’t seem to find near Sun Lakes, Banning. Yesterday at Hair Connections on Foothill Boulevard, while waiting, I caught up with the goings-on by reading old COURIERs. And there was John Pixley’s column.
I was amazed and touched at what he goes through just to exist. What a hero of endurance. I knew of him through working with his mother, Jean Pixley, at Chaparral Elementary. She was a wonderful mom and teacher. We team-taught next door to each other and started the outdoor education camps for fifth and sixth graders. She went through a lot with John and must have been so proud of all he has accomplished in part due to the COURIER.
Mid-career at Vista School I had the privilege of having Chris Fellows main-stream in my classroom. He was also wheelchair bound and yet he fully participated in recess and field trips to Oak Glen’s Los Rios Rancho, with me doing some pushing and lifting. He was a lot like Mr. Pixley in determination, IQ and grit.
Yes, I have fond memories of all my students of almost 40 years, but especially the troopers like Mr. Pixley and Mr. Fellows.
CR a money grab
The parallels between the mess that is Colby Circle and the mess that is Measure CR were drawn clearly last week when former mayor and councilmember Sam Pedroza spoke at city council.
While he alluded to Measure CR, he was primarily talking about the 12-year saga of the contentious Colby Circle development. He sang the praises of the “Claremont process” and continued that “if a project goes through the Claremont process, then it’s a good project.” Right.
How did that work out for the Claremont process in Measure PS? Or Measure SC? Or the water company debacle? Or, going back a decade, to the ill-fated “Parks and Pasture” assessment?
The Claremont process has the evident capability to do dumb things (Measure PS) or incompetent things (the water debacle) and that happens when the powers that be seek to play “hide the ball” and to delegitimize questions, as is now the case with Measure CR.
Measure CR was advanced on the now-discredited idea there is some magical cap to the sales tax and Claremont has to get while the getting is good. However, even proponents understand that what cap exists in law is easily circumvented as has been the case with transportation Measures M and R and would be the case with a proposed sales tax measure by the SCAQMD that is in the hopper in Sacramento.
The process, what there has been of it, has not even developed a proposed budget for the revenue Measure CR would provide to determine if three-quarter cents is enough or too much or just right. Measure CR is simply a money grab, as the proponents admit. There is nothing to keep the sales tax rate from rocketing well beyond 11 percent except the voters.
Please vote no on Measure CR.
For the future
I write in support of Measure CR on the November 5 ballot. As a 46-year resident of Claremont, I have observed and participated in an ever growing and changing Claremont. While we have experienced many physical and demographic changes, our sense of place and community remain.
Are we just lucky? Are our rising property values a result of luck? Is our thriving Village just a lucky happenstance? I think not. From the very beginning, Claremonters have been intentional and forward thinking. Perhaps you have seen the early photographs of settlers watering the eucalyptus trees on College Avenue, trees they would never see mature.
Time and time again, Claremont citizens have affirmed our sense of direction and purpose through tax approvals and many bond proposals.
I think of Claremont as a delicately woven fabric made up of many threads—nonprofit entities, service clubs, the city, our businesses, schools, colleges and churches—each of which provides essential threads for our community tapestry. You can’t rip out any threads without destroying the fabric.
Afteschool tutoring programs, summer camps and concerts in the park, afterschool teen programs, senior programs, tree maintenance, holiday lighting, police patrols and reassuring presence, safe and inviting parks—these are some of the services many of us take for granted. Yet, our current structural budget deficit poses a serious threat to what we have all worked so hard to create.
Every generation of Claremonters has found ways to maintain and grow. For us in 2019, we have the opportunity to do so by voting for Measure CR, a three-quarter cent sales tax increase. This is one penny on a cup of coffee but will add about $2.5 million to our general fund. Please join me in voting “yes” on CR.
During the most recent city council meeting, Mayor Pro Tem Larry Schroeder confirmed the completion of the Edison lights project by which 1,082 streetlights were converted into LED and purchased.
After praising the project’s success, Mr. Schroeder needlessly continued on to make humor of a resident’s complaint about streetlights being “too bright,” suggesting that the comment was comical. Fellow council members chuckled following the remark.
The city council should read the article by National Geographic, “Our nights are getting brighter, and Earth is paying the price.” Maybe then will they take the comment more seriously.
Excess light, especially from blue-white LEDs, is very harmful to our environment. It disrupts our biochemical patterns, which are optimized for natural light levels, and endangers ecosystems where animals have life cycles that rely on darkness. A more tangible adverse effect of light pollution can be observed on a daily basis simply by looking up at the night sky. Instead of seeing the countless stars in the Milky Way, we often see little to no stars at all. It’s a shame that this environmental awareness is not reflected in the city’s decision-making process.
Although the Edison lights in themselves may prove to be an overall better solution due to reduced energy use and lower maintenance costs, bright lights are no laughing matter.
In the October 4 letters, Chris Rhoades invites readers to ask avid cyclists about riding in the new Foothill separated bike lanes. I have more than 70,000 miles on my current bike, so I guess I am avid. Here’s my two cents worth.
I will happily ride in those lanes separated by a few protective feet from the traffic. That is with the usual precaution to all cyclists everywhere:?“Ride as if you are invisible!”
At every intersection on every road, vehicles turn to the right. That path crosses the path of cyclists (and pedestrians). Somehow drivers don’t always see the cyclist. Cyclists beware; drivers, wake up! This problem exists with or without bike paths. Nevertheless, streets with bike paths are safer than those without. Be wary approaching intersections, wear bright clothing, use safety lights and wear a helmet. Enjoy the ride.
Jim des Lauriers
Foothill is fantastic
Regarding the Readers’ Comments recently, I’d like to add another perspective. As avid cyclists, my husband and I frequently bike on both Base Line Road and Foothill Boulevard.
We are looking forward to utilizing the new Foothill bike lanes when they are completed. We applaud Claremont for taking the safety of its citizens seriously. Also, the new vegetation is a welcome introduction.
There are many reasons to move to the beautiful city of Claremont. For my husband and I, it was for our son Richard Raymond Neault (or Ricky Ray, as he’s known to many). Ricky was born with Down syndrome and later diagnosed with cerebral palsy.
Finding the right educational environment where Ricky could flourish and be accepted was of the utmost importance. We specifically chose Claremont for this purpose, and we have been very pleased.
I was somewhat familiar with Claremont prior to our move here (my husband and several of his siblings are alumni of Claremont McKenna College and Scripps College). Shortly after arriving we enrolled Ricky at Sumner-Danbury School and at AbilityFirst for his afterschool care. In no time, we found that both offered excellent services.
We found an ideal school for Ricky in Sumner-Danbury, where he is an active, included member of the student body. He is non-verbal, but with the support and collaboration of his amazing team, Ricky is being taught to effectively use his augmentative communication device (iPad) to communicate with those around him.
The nurturing support at his afterschool care at AbilityFirst is another rich environment that lovingly celebrates his abilities, including swimming on Fridays. Lastly, the support extends into the Claremont community: when we are out and about, we will occasionally hear a passerby say “Hi, Ricky Ray!” to which he will gladly respond with a high-five!
As we near the middle of October, Down syndrome awareness month, we would like to express our gratitude to the Claremont residents, organizations and businesses who help Ricky Ray and his friends reach their full potential.
We also sincerely invite you to come and join in the fun at the Inland Valley Down Syndrome Association’s (IVDSA) Buddy Walk, Sunday, October 20 at Memorial Park in Claremont from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Please join us for a fun-filled day for all!
Registration begins at 10 a.m. and the one-mile family-friendly walk starts at 11 a.m. The Aquarium of the Pacific’s free hands-on mobile aquarium will be there from noon to 2 p.m. Disney princesses will roam the park, there will be face painting and games, and you might see Star Wars characters on the dance floor grooving to tunes by DJ Infamous.
IVDSA is a nonprofit dedicated to enriching the lives of those affected by Down syndrome and other special needs. They offer education as well as social and informational programs for kids and adults. Please join “Team Neault” for the Buddy Walk! It is an amazing day and your donations help provide resources and fund programs across the Inland Valley. To join Ricky’s team, visit www.classy.org/ team/249967.
Thanks again and we hope to see you there. Ricky will be there ready for a high-five!
Kristin Bierschbach Neault
This past May, the city council approved over $140,000 in taxpayer funding for community based organizations (CBOs). Many of these CBOs, such as Claremont Meals on Wheels and Claremont Homeless Advocacy Program (CHAP), who received $6,000 and $8,000, respectively, are in obvious need of these funds to run their day-to-day operations. Those are clearly taxpayer dollars well spent.
However, I find it hard to justify taxpayer funding for many other nonprofits that recently requested taxpayer dollars. Claremont Museum of Art requested and received, $7,000. Their latest IRS Form 990 reports that the organization’s revenues exceeded expenses by over $165,000 during the last two years and it had over $160,000 in cash on hand at December 31, 2017.
Claremont After School Program requested and received $15,000. Their latest 990 reports over $72,000 in excess revenues during the last two years and over $200,000 cash on hand at June 30, 2018.
Shoes That Fit requested and received, $5,000. Their latest 990, which lists former city manager Tony Ramos as vice chair, reported over $175,000 in excess revenues during the last two years, and over $447,000 in cash and liquid investments on hand at December 31, 2018.
That’s just three. There are many others.
While I do not question that these organizations provide valuable services to our community, I do question why they are at city hall with hat-in-hand, and why the city is funding their endowments. These organizations are clearly capable of operating at the same level of service to the community without taxpayer dollars. Does city hall even look at an applicant’s 990 as a part of the funding process? If they don’t, perhaps they should. And if they do, just how well-off does a non-profit have to be to say no?
Some might argue that $140,000 is peanuts compared to the city’s $27 million budget. I would argue, that’s not the point. City hall has declared a fiscal emergency and wants to raise taxes. Every single dollar this city spends should be justified in order to ensure that taxpayers are not funding large endowments and nonprofits like Meals on Wheels and CHAP can count on the city’s continued support.
League supports CR
Since 1920 the League of Women Voters has dedicated itself to educating voters and supporting good government practices. If we are to expect Claremont’s government to provide for the needs of our community, we must provide it with the means to do so. From vital infrastructure to public safety to parks and recreation, the work our local government does touches every member of the community.
An efficient and responsive government requires adequate financing. We must ensure we have revenues both sufficient and flexible enough to meet today’s changing needs. Measure CR will provide revenue to meet those needs. We invite you to join the League of Women Voters of the Mt. Baldy Area in voting yes on measure CR.
President, LWV Mt. Baldy Area
If the facts surrounding Measure CR were as COURIER publisher Peter Weinberger believes them to be—that if the city of Claremont raises our sales tax, other agencies can’t; and if the city doesn’t raise our sales tax, some other agency surely will—then perhaps it might make sense to support it. As it happens, the actual facts are considerably different than Mr. Weinberger imagines—so much so that no reasonable case can be made for approving Measure CR.
Mr. Weinberger’s first mistake is to assume it is inevitable that outside agencies will pass their own sales tax measures in the near future. But countywide sales tax initiatives are only rarely placed on the ballot—precisely because they are so difficult to pass.
In the past two decades, there have only been four successful sales tax initiatives in Los Angeles County: Measures C, M and R, which fund mass transit; and Measure H, which funds programs for the homeless. Despite the fact that there was only token opposition to these measures, and that they were supported by powerful political and business interests, they each barely met the two-thirds supermajority necessary for passage. Another transit-related sales tax initiative, Measure J, failed to pass.
As the projects funded by these measures have fallen well below public expectations—and as Los Angeles County already has the highest sales tax rate in the state—no agency can count on passing a new countywide sales tax increase anytime soon. But if one manages to do so, Mr. Weinberger is also mistaken in his belief that there is a cap in place which will effectively shield Claremont residents from future sales tax increases.
The fact is that the legislature has routinely exempted sales tax increases from the so-called “cap,” as it did for Measures M and R, and almost certainly will do so in the future. The only sales tax initiative which is even under consideration right now—a multi-county proposal by the AQMD—already includes a cap exemption in the draft language of the authorizing legislation. If and when it passes, Claremont residents will be paying at least a half-cent more on top of the 10.25 percent that we’ll already be paying if Measure CR is approved.
To his credit, Mr. Weinberger did not claim that the additional sales tax revenue—most of which will be coming directly out of the pockets of Claremont residents, including what will typically be hundreds of dollars in extra sales tax every time we buy a car—is essential, or even that it will be wisely spent. The reality is that Measure CR is a multi-million-dollar blank check that the city council can spend however it wants to.
If Measure CR is defeated, Claremont will have exactly the same sales tax rate as more than 60 other cities in Los Angeles County, and a higher rate than almost every other city in the country. Considering that Claremont’s property tax revenue is poised to increase significantly in the near future, as many houses will be sold and reassessed at five to 10 times their current valuation, there is no reason why our city cannot live within its already substantial means, just as all of these other cities somehow manage to do.
The Claremont Heritage board of directors received an informative presentation from city staff on the details of the upcoming Measure CR. The board subsequently adopted the following statement of support:
“The mission of Claremont Heritage is to advance, preserve and celebrate the historic, architectural, natural, and cultural resources of the community through collaboration, education, and advocacy. Upon careful consideration, Claremont Heritage supports the city of Claremont’s proposed local sales tax measure CR. Not only will the measure ensure that the increase will stay in Claremont, from Claremont Heritage’s perspective it will ‘Keep Claremont, Claremont.’
The funding will ensure that those things that Claremont residents love and revere in the community will continue to be maintained—the urban forest, community parks, recreational programs for the young and seniors alike, walkable streets and sidewalks, public safety, and the historic built and cultural environment.
This year, Claremont Heritage celebrates the uniqueness of the city through its 2019 theme: Spirit of Place. Measure CR will ensure that the ‘Spirit of Place’ continues and that the city will continue to be an attractive, enticing city in which to visit, shop, work, play, and live.”
President, Claremont Heritage