Readers comments 10-18-19
I have a special request regarding all posts, letters, communications, meetings, and interactions regarding Measure CR. My request comes from a place of peace, love, and desire for community.
A lot of the interactions regarding this measure have saddened me. Not just interactions directly with me, but also what I have witnessed.
We are all part of this community. And yes, Claremont is a great community, but there are many other great communities. What makes a community great is not government measures and policies. What makes a community great are the people and how they interact with each other and personally show care to each other. The government is separate from that.
A lot of the energy I have received during this election has been very closed-minded, one-sided and aggressive, and overall negative. We are all just people. We all have different circumstances, different convictions, different thoughts and opinions. That’s what makes each of us unique. That’s what gives us the ability to learn and grow from each other.
Please, have an open mind to hearing each other’s thoughts, regardless of how we each vote, even if the other person’s thoughts are different than your own. Trying to push your thoughts and agenda without the willingness to understand an opposing side breeds negativity and builds walls between us. Punishing people because they don’t agree with you wages wars.
Please, every discussion, keep an open mind, keep an open heart, be willing to listen and understand. And if you still disagree, do so respectfully and remain friends. It’s okay to be different.
Please keep our community kind during this vote over Measure CR, and in general.
Village South, housing element
This might help Claremont citizens to visualize what the proposed housing element of the Village South plan would look like.
On the west side of Monte Vista Avenue, south of Arrow Highway in Montclair, 211 apartments are under construction. The proposal being considered for Claremont South is four of those!
The actual negative impact Measure CR will have on low-income families is negligible. The argument that this measure will adversely or disproportionately affect such families is intentionally manipulative, largely untrue and ignorantly tokenizing.
Poor and working-class families like mine spend most, if not all, our income on survival-related things like housing, utilities, groceries, transportation and health care, most of which are not subject to sales tax.
After reviewing my family’s receipts from last month, I found that if we had paid the proposed 10.25 percent sales tax on everything we purchased in Claremont that is subject to sales tax, we would only have paid $2.87 more than we did at the current 9.5 percent sales tax rate. That’s an annual impact of less than $35 for my family.
That $35 per year is nothing compared to the cumulative $6,000 increase in our rent over the past several years.
If people are truly concerned about the challenges faced by poor working-class folks, there are better ways to support us than lobbying against a three-quarter cent tax hike.
Volunteer at or donate to Uncommon Good and Claremont Homeless Advocacy Program. Work on things that actually have an impact on us like the lack of jobs that pay a living wage, and the ever rising costs of housing, healthcare and higher education.
What history tells us
In the back and forth on Measure CR, both in these pages and on social media, a couple of themes emerge from its supporters.
First, “local control” of our tax dollars. To me this is the only argument that makes some sense and I am truly happy to see our local progressives embrace what has been a conservative principle for decades.
Hopefully our local leading lights of the progressive movement will oppose future federal, state and county efforts to drain tax dollars and disposable income out of our community. I’d hate to think that in this election they’re just in it for the money.
However, a quick review of the CR supporter list makes me wonder whether the local progressive crowd has truly gotten “local control” religion.
Many of those listed, including many former and current city council members, actively supported the prior county and statewide boondoggles that were going to “bring the Gold Line to Claremont,” “end homelessness” and build a “bullet train.”
Also, some of the CR supporters have stated in these very pages that they would like to see Proposition 13 repealed or significantly changed so more money will flow outward to the state and county.
Second, we read that unless CR passes, the city will have to make “significant cuts that will change Claremont.” As evidence of this “we’ve cut to the bone” narrative, they offer that the city cut $1.4 million out of the 2018-19 budget and $3.4 million out of the 2019-20 budget.
However, I interpret this to mean that the city was spending $4.7 million that it did not need to be spending. In other words we haven’t noticed that the $4.7 million is gone, but now, without the sales tax revenue, we are really going to feel the pain? I don’t know where that final truly painful number is in the budget, but when $4.7 million can be lopped off without “changing Claremont,” I’m inclined to think we still have a ways to go.
The city of Claremont has thrown a spending party over the last two decades through high salaries, increased pensions, bonuses and programs. Turning down the music, dimming the lights and telling the partygoers that the party is over is not politically popular.
The three new councilmembers who did not get to participate in the spending party the past couple of decades now have to clean up after it. And the two councilmen who have been there for over a decade? Well, they’re like the partygoer who has crashed on the couch at the end of the long night: they’re there but don’t expect them to help clean up.
Unfortunately for the supporters of CR, their past behavior undermines the credibility of their current arguments. For this reason, I am voting no.
Cuts to nonprofits
A writer of a recent letter to the COURIER questioned the wisdom of the city granting funds to certain community-based organizations. The Claremont After School Programs (CLASP) was one of them. There are three main problems with the writer’s argument.
First, while the figures he cites from the June 30 IRS form for CLASP are correct, they form merely a snapshot in time that does not reflect how a nonprofit’s funding cycle works. The $200,000 cash on hand is used to pay CLASP’s staff for the entire 2019-2020 school year. Every year our development committee of volunteers raises funds to maintain that amount and keep the program running.
Second, by attacking our reserves, the writer fails to explain that nonprofits with paid staff, like CLASP, operate differently from the all-volunteer nonprofits that he says deserve city funding. To sustain our programs and our staff, it is essential to build reserves to counter unpredictable decreases in grants and donations
Finally, evaluating CLASP based on a figure in an IRS report ignores other criteria the human services commissioners seriously considered when they awarded CLASP funding. These include community needs that CLASP meets, its history, strategic plan, the quality and consistency of its services, its staff, sustainability, total budget and more.
The writer concedes that $140,000 granted to community-based organizations by the city is “peanuts” compared to the city’s total budget—indeed about one half of one percent. Despite this fact, he argues that with the city’s current financial crisis, every single dollar should be justified. Not only are these dollars justified, the organizations that receive them deserve more.
CLASP, for instance, gets tremendous bang for the buck with its $15,000 grant from the city thanks to over 250 volunteers donating more than 16,000 hours a year to provide academic support to 140 elementary students who most need it. Imagine the cost if the city or the school district were to provide these services.
Claremont is indeed experiencing a budget crisis, and the city council is working hard to bring the budget under control. Cutting funds to nonprofits like CLASP is not an effective way to deal with this problem.
President, CLASP board of directors
No sales tax from LA Co Fire
Wednesday’s mail brought a four-color flyer from the Los Angeles County Fire Department telling us they are considering a parcel tax and not a sales tax measure. Thus falls one of the bogeymen of the proponents of Measure CR.
The proponents have long asserted that LA County Fire is one of the agencies “considering” a sales tax, and the fire department says it is not.
A vote for Measure CR will not keep any other county agency from grabbing money that belongs to Claremont. A vote for Measure CR will simply impose this regressive tax on those least able to bear the added costs.
The proponents’ arguments have now been fully discredited. Vote no on Measure CR.
Beware Claremont voters. The city officials are paying thousands of dollars for a special election in November of 2019.
This election is for Measure CR, which would increase the already exorbitant sales tax in the city to cover forecasted shortfalls in revenue for city services.
The real purpose of the special election is to try and limit participation in hopes that it will pass due to lack of interest. Don’t let that happen in your household.
If this passes, it will be a signal to many other cities to do the same (as several have already done so) and our tax burden will increase again.
Most small retailers in Claremont oppose this tax, because they know it will force potential customers to go a few miles away and shop in San Bernardino County (which has yet to increase their taxes and who already have a lower tax base than LA County).
As individuals, we are forced to live within our means. The city should also be forced to do so. Vote no on CR!
They are us
I am dismayed by the claims that the city council is untrustworthy. It’s a “them” vs. “us” claim. But we elect city council members, and they are us. In the last election, we voted in three new members—the majority.
Over the past year, our councilmembers have examined the city’s structural deficit and the projection of future budget shortfalls.
They have held public workshops and hearings. They have reviewed the recommendations of the Future Financial Opportunities Committee, a group of us Claremonters who spent several months investigating possible ways to balance the budget. And they have adopted the committee’s top recommendation: to seek a .75 percent sales tax increase, with all of the money staying in Claremont.
The logic of the council’s decision is clear: over the past two years, the city has cut its budget, currently about $27 million, by almost $5 million. It has deferred maintenance, reduced staff, frozen COLAs, and increased the amount employees pay into the pension system to the maximum allowable by law.
The next step is to cut services. The $2.5 million per year that passage of Measure CR will generate will preserve City services and address some deferred-maintenance needs.
Let’s work together to keep Claremont the city that responds to our needs and makes us proud and grateful to be its residents.
City of Trees
Being the City of Trees, I’m tempted to use this letter to remind people why topping trees is bad or why you should always hire a licensed and certified arborist, but there is a more pressing issue for our urban forest—that’s funding.
By now, we understand the benefits of trees, they shade our homes and cool neighborhoods, they reduce stress and inspire activity, they lower crime rates, and they reduce particulates and clean the air. Trees really are miracle workers. And while their benefits may be obvious, it’s the cost of maintaining this “green infrastructure” that is not always so apparent.
Due to staffing reductions and reduced budgets, Claremont’s community services department has had to find creative ways to fund the tree planting and maintenance of our urban forest. One of the ways is to work with Sustainable Claremont to develop grant proposals that have brought significant funds. Unfortunately, this partnership is at risk if CR does not pass.
Grant funds have allowed Sustainable Claremont to build the Green Crew, an innovative and cost-effective community based tree planting program. In the last two years alone, more than 1,800 young people and their families volunteered in Green Crew events. They have planted and cared for more than 1,400 trees.
Many of these trees were planted in lower income neighborhoods and are now providing shade and mitigating heat and pollution. City support for this program has been identified as vulnerable without additional revenue streams to shore up the projected budget shortfall.
With Measure CR in place, we can continue to leverage state grants and attract external funding for our urban forest. And while it may not permanently solve our budget issues, it will help us avert a funding disaster and give our city time to find additional savings, grow its tax base and expand economic development as a longer term solution.
Trees aren’t the only answer to our problems but they are essential to ensure that Claremont remains healthy, safe and green. Yes on CR!
Get past the rhetoric
Opponents to Measure CR are correct about one thing: voting yes will not absolutely guarantee that sales taxes can never be increased in the future. However, raising sales taxes above the current 10.25 percent limit is neither easy (it will require affirmative votes in both the state legislature and in the county) nor assured.
The no on Measure CR committee would like us to believe that these possible increases are effectively assured—they are not.
AQMD and other agencies are already drafting proposals for the March 2020 ballot to raise the sales tax in areas of LA County that are not already at the 10.25 percent maximum.
Claremont’s population is .36 percent of the population of Los Angeles County. Even if everyone in Claremont voted against such an increase, it would still have a good chance of going into effect, and Claremont would derive no (or insignificant) benefits from the increase, even though we would have to pay it. If we do not claim the available .75 percent sales tax increase for ourselves, others will.
Voting for Measure CR helps provide some needed funding for the current services we expect from the city, and Measure CR sales tax revenues will go only to the city of Claremont. True, it will not fill all of the city’s current and future financial needs, but it has never been promoted as a fiscal panacea.
The police still want a pay increase; we have deferred maintenance to perform; we still have a police station that needs to be replaced (and has for at least 15 years). Let’s give the city the small raise it needs to not cut any more services and to keep Claremont the way it is; it will cost us $75 for every $10,000 that we will spend in Claremont.
I urge everyone to get past anti-government and no-taxes rhetoric and ideology and vote yes for Measure CR.
Parker G. Emerson
No free lunch
Four reasons we should support Measure CR:
1. We know there’s no free lunch. Nothing is perfect, but as we enjoy Claremont’s high quality of life and services, we need to collect adequate revenues. Our good parks, police, sanitation, senior services, trees, infrastructure and other services require continued investment.
We are blessed to live in a green, safe, vibrant and well-run city and we are facing budget deficits next fiscal year if we don’t find added revenues. The alternatives have been considered and we owe it to ourselves to adequately fund the services we expect by passing Measure CR.
2. If we don’t say yes to the final three-quarter cent sales tax for Claremont within the state-mandated 10.25 percent cap, a similar increase is still quite possible and the added revenues may go elsewhere.
If we vote yes, we decide how and where the added revenue will be invested. We know there are multiple proposals on the horizon for county and/or state to collect the final three-quarter cents in sales taxes, which would still be paid in Claremont. Saying no doesn’t mean our local sales tax won’t rise in the future.
3. Sales taxes are paid by all shoppers, including residents, visitors and college students, all of whom we welcome and serve. Yes on Measure CR keeps the added revenue in Claremont to benefit us all.
And while any sales tax remains regressive, several other revenue sources such as property taxes are progressive, resulting in a blend of revenue to support our city. Several other California cities have wisely taken the opportunity to keep these added sales tax revenues in their cities and we should do the same.
4. The CR proposal requires a simple majority of our votes to pass, which seems fair. Other funding mechanisms could require 67 percent majority to pass, so just 34 percent of voters could stop the will of most of our Claremont voters. We have multiple financial challenges ahead, which require more adequate funding if we are to preserve the quality of life in our beloved Claremont.
Please join me and many of your neighbors in voting yes for CR on November 5. It’s a small price to pay for all of us to be better served for years to come.
Reward vs. risk
I would like to emphasize two points about Measure CR.
1. The additional tax on a $100 tab for dinner or shopping will be 75 cents. Only 75 cents. If you can afford the $100, you won’t even notice the 75 cents. It’s negligible. It won’t keep anyone from patronizing Claremont businesses, which aren’t generic chains available in the next town. But the total monies collected will maintain our current level of services. That’s not negligible.
As a longtime investor, I look at reward vs. risk. The reward for passing the sales tax is substantial. The cost to us and the risk of losing customers are negligible. That makes Measure CR a fine investment.
2. To those who are angry at our city government or its employees for one reason or another, and to those who think that our employees are overpaid or have too good a retirement plan, I say don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.
If you kill the sales tax, you’ll be cutting benefits to yourselves, because we’ll have fewer and less experienced employees, older and less reliable equipment, and fewer and worse public services. You’ll be stopping visitors from helping to pay for maintaining the quantity and quality of services that benefit you. You’ll be punishing yourselves.
It isn’t even a close call between yes and no. Only yes on Measure CR makes any sense.
An immediate need
I am writing to express my support for Measure CR. While nobody wants to pay more in taxes, I am fearful that the current financial crisis will cause long term damage to our beloved city if we do not take immediate action to protect important programming in the face of deep cuts.
I am hopeful that the renewed interest and vigorous conversation that this issue has elicited about the operations and finances of the city will result in greater citizen participation and oversight moving forward, but we have an immediate need to forestall the loss of services that are threatened by the current budget crisis.
Currently, Claremont receives only 1 percent of our 9.5 percent sales tax. The proposed sales tax increase of .75 percent will provide an estimated $2 to $2.5 million annually in revenues, and although additional taxes are burdensome for many local residents, Claremont is a regional destination and therefore the burdens of this tax will be shared across residents in multiple cities who have enough disposable income to choose to shop and dine in our town.
Moreover, even if we were to opt not to adopt this new tax, chances are we will be paying it in the near future anyway, albeit with far less control over how these monies are utilized, since multiple other regional entities (such as LA County Fire and the AQMD) have shared their intention to pursue whatever is available up to the maximum of 10.25 percent allowed by the state.
It would be penny wise and pound foolish to allow our city’s current services to be drastically cut, since it is the quality of life here that draws so many people from across the region to spend an evening out—or a lifetime—in Claremont.
CBO grant funding
A letter in the COURIER last week regarding the city’s community-based organization (CBO) funding is full of incorrect assertions. We know this for a fact because we are the chair and the immediate past chair of the community and human services commission, which allocates these funds.
We have an intimate knowledge of how this process works and why these organizations receive city funding.
The CBO grant funding program was established in 1989 to meet the social service needs of Claremont residents through nonprofit agencies. These agencies provide programs that benefit our community with separate funding for organizations that provide services to our homeless residents. This creative program utilizes the resources and knowledge of nonprofit staff to augment city services without hiring additional personnel.
Our commissioners volunteer many hours to our city every month, especially during the funding process. The CBOs go through a rigorous vetting process before they are awarded the small grants. The CBOs submit grant applications that include financial information. Commissioners visit each CBO that receives funding to assess whether they are meeting their goals and to ask questions about their work.
The commission reviews each application and meets to discuss our funding recommendations, which must balance to the penny with the funding allotted.
Once we vote on the funding, our recommendations go to the city council for final approval. The organizations receive half the grant upon award and then must provide documentation for reimbursement of the remaining funds.
Last week’s letter challenges the thorough and deliberative process of our commission by looking at only one piece of evidence for organizations we voted to fund: the budget figures at one point in time based on IRS reports. This approach does not reflect how nonprofits with paid staff operate.
Furthermore, just like the city, every nonprofit needs a substantial rainy day fund, should one or more reliable funders stop providing grants. Should we really not fund financially healthy organizations that provide services of value to our city, our schools, and our neediest residents at relatively little cost to us?
The letter claims that three nonprofts that provide critical services to Claremont and its residents should not have been funded. In fact, these organizations help make Claremont the wonderful city that it is.
We find it hard to believe that anyone doubts the benefit of the city funding Claremont After School Program (CLASP) for helping our students succeed in school. Because of Shoes That Fit, children who cannot afford them attend school in new athletic shoes. The Claremont Museum of Art’s grant specifically provides programs to Claremont students.
Meals on Wheels and Claremont Homeless Advocacy Program (CHAP), which have no paid staff and are therefore more vulnerable, are certainly wonderful organizations that deserve our support, even though the statistics the letter points out are actually a red flag regarding their ongoing financial health. Should CR not pass and this CBO funding disappear, there is a chance that neither organization could survive. The letter shows this is a real possibility.
We encourage everyone to become well informed about these issues. The financial details are public information, easily accessible on the city’s website.
And we encourage concerned residents to volunteer to serve on a commission if they would like to take part in the city’s decision-making process. It’s hard work, but it feels good to know that you are building our community up— not tearing it down.
Nancy Brower, Chair
Lee Kane, Past Chair
Claremont Community and
Human Services Commission