Readers comments 11-1-19
There seems to be some concern that shoppers and diners will avoid Claremont if they know they’ll pay an additional 75 cents for every $100 spent on taxable commodities.
I was interested to learn that there are several cities in Los Angeles County that have already implemented this tax. I did not know this until our own Measure CR was proposed. Had I known, would I have been deterred from shopping or dining in those cities? No. Would I have even noticed the difference at the cash register? Probably not.
Would I have kept a handy list in my pocket of all the different municipal tax rates so as to know which places to avoid? Definitely not. Will I continue to patronize my favorite shops and restaurants, regardless? Definitely yes.
Definitely yes on Measure CR.
Vote no on CR
We the people are forced to live within our means and within our budget and I believe our government at all tiers should as well. Sales tax receipts for Claremont should be increasing in this booming economy. If they are not, then either less people are shopping in Claremont, more people are spending less, or a combination of the two.
Raising sales taxes in Claremont will not increase sales of taxable goods and services in Claremont, but in fact will decrease same.
If the city of Claremont truly has a structural deficit, then it is due to poor management and budgetary forecasting. Claremont’s sales tax income is directly proportionate to the health of Claremont’s local economy; when the businesses do well, so does the city.
We’re in good economic times now and the city should be putting away excess money to get through future lean times.
However, instead of putting money away, our city gave cash bonuses to employees. I also do not believe that it is legal for a public agency within the county to tax one community because they have not maximized their sales tax burden when others have. Government will simply raise the rate cap again and all of us will pay for the tax increase.
I believe if Measure CR passes, city administrators and employees will get pay raises which ultimately will increase the structural deficit. Vote no on Measure CR.
Kris M. Meyer
CLASP board urges yes
The city of Claremont provides substantial grants to many community-based organizations. These groups depend on those funds to provide essential services to our citizens. Claremont After-School Programs (CLASP) is one of those organizations.
With a part-time staff and over 200 volunteer tutors each year, CLASP provides academic support for more than 140 elementary-school children in CUSD who can best benefit from our services. So far this academic year, 93 percent of our enrolled students are on the free-and-reduced lunch program at their schools. These families are unable to contribute financially to our program.
As a result, we depend heavily on income from outside agencies and individuals. The city has consistently provided about 30 percent of all the grants we received last year.
The current state of the city’s budget is such that funds granted to community-based organizations are in jeopardy. The loss of these would negatively affect not only CLASP, but also local nonprofits such as Shoes that Fit, AbilityFirst, Claremont Heritage, Claremont Museum of Art, Community Senior Services, Crossroads, Project Sister, Sustainable Claremont, VNA Hospice, Foothill Family Shelter, Inland Valley Hope Partners’ Family Stabilization/Homeless Assistance Program, and Claremont Homeless Advocacy Program (CHAP).
CLASP and other local nonprofits that provide support for struggling families and their children depend on the city’s funding. The CLASP board feels it is important that the community be fully informed and know these facts as they prepare to vote on Measure CR November 5.
The CLASP Board of Directors
Frank D’Emilio, Ellen Townsend, Robin Gottuso, Nancy Ambrose, Harriet Archibald-Woodward, Carol Ivy, Hank Krieger, Bev Jack, Cindy Sullivan, Antoinette Lewis, Greg Shapton, Margaret Lofgren, Art Parker, Lissa Petersen,
Kevin Ward, Teddie Warner
Preserve senior services
When my parents moved to Claremont for the schools in their thirties, they weren’t thinking about the services my mom would receive at the Joslyn Senior Center in her seventies and eighties.
But when she turned 75, my mom needed help with a couple of Medicare and social security issues. Someone told us there was a case manager/social worker available at the Joslyn Center. We met with her and were also referred to an elder attorney.
Additionally, we received information to help my mom continue to age at home. According to the AARP, nearly 90 percent of homeowners approaching retirement want to stay in their homes.
The Joslyn Center is an invaluable resource for helping seniors age in place for a variety of reasons. From navigating Medicare and social security, to eating well-rounded meals for a $2 donation, taking classes on a variety of topics, belonging to a social or support group, getting legal referrals, and finding transportation to doctor appointments, the Joslyn Center served a critical need at a critical time in my mother’s life.
Many of us will live in Claremont long past the time that our kids graduate from high school. Some of us move here as seniors for the outstanding quality of life our town offers, for which we are consistently ranked as one of the best places to live.
It is in our long-term interest to help preserve all that Joslyn offers to keep seniors vital, healthy, contributing members of our community. After all, they are a part of the intergenerational fabric that keeps Claremont strong.
I urge you to vote yes on Measure CR to assure that Claremont’s senior services are preserved.
Who should we believe?
The COURIER reported last week that during the city’s Measure CR forum on October 19, Assistant City Manager Chris Paulson “stressed that Measure CR was put forth simply to maintain the current level of service in Claremont.”
Mayor Calaycay appears to disagree with this statement. Writing in the Arguments for Measure CR, the mayor specifically states that Measure CR taxes will be used for “enhanced service levels.”
Who are we to believe?
Our quality of life
As a relative newcomer to Claremont, I write in support of Measure CR. I moved from California in the 1980s and, when time came to return, slightly over three years ago, was determined, for quality-of-life reasons, to live in Claremont. In fact, I only looked at houses in Claremont before purchasing one here in the Village.
Since moving here, I have benefited from the professional, prompt and considerate assistance of the Claremont Police Department (whose approximately $12 million budget is 45 percent of our general fund); hiked the paths of the Wilderness Park many times; taken dance classes at the Hughes Center; and shown family and friends around our small oasis as we patronized the many shops and eateries in our well designed and well maintained Village.
This list is a partial one, of course, and a self-centered one. Last year, I volunteered for the Future Financial Opportunities Committee. The committee, whose members included a cross-section of our neighbors, struggled with a number of difficult issues and options and arrived at the sales tax increase as our top choice. I believe the vote was unanimous.
Though we did not focus on efficiencies and cost cutting, we were aware of much that has been done already, such as staff reductions—from 189 in 2007 to the current 160—as well as maintenance deferrals.
Since our recommendation was taken up by the council, many of our neighbors and key institutions—such as the COURIER, Chamber of Commerce, Claremont Wildlands Conservancy, League of Women Voters, Sustainable Claremont, and Claremont Heritage—have also examined the case for the sales tax increase, and have agreed with us.
I urge everyone to vote yes.
Iraj Isaac Rahmim
In our best interest
The core issue of Measure CR is not whether the additional .75 percent in sales tax will be levied, but whether Claremont will benefit from the tax. Everyone dislikes paying higher taxes—no dispute.
However, if LA County or another entity prevails, residents and those purchasing in Claremont would be required to pay the additional tax, yet Claremont would derive little, if any, benefit. This is inarguably unacceptable.
Claremont’s City Council and staff have clearly and repeatedly shown how Measure CR’s revenue is intended to diminish Claremont’s structural deficit and fund the many valued city services, facility/infrastructure maintenance and community programs.
For these reasons, voting yes on Measure CR is in Claremont’s best interest.
Voting no on Measure CR will not ultimately keep the sales tax rate in Claremont from rising to 10.25 percent or even higher. Voting no on measure CR will guarantee that Claremont will not receive any money from any sales tax increases. That’s one reason I already voted for Measure CR on my mail-in ballot and urge all others to vote for Measure CR: keep the sales tax increase in Claremont.
Parker G. Emerson
Join me in voting yes
After reviewing letters to the COURIER for and against Measure CR, I’d like to sum up three main reasons I strongly support it, and I urge readers to join me.
First, some agency will fill the vacuum between Claremont’s current sales-tax rate of 9.5 percent and the state cap of 10.25 percent. Measure CR’s success will assure that every penny collected will stay in Claremont, and regional visitors will share the cost with us.
Second, although I do not agree with all of the decisions they make, I fundamentally trust the city council members we elect to spend our money wisely. We have a new majority on the council and new top staff at city hall. We should give them the resources they need to offer us the level of services we expect and deserve.
Finally, as for the business owners worried about Measure CR, I love shopping and dining in Claremont and want all its businesses to thrive. But thriving depends on a symbiotic relationship between them and the city. It’s unlikely that a 75-cent increase on a $100 purchase will keep customers away.
It’s more likely that customers will keep flocking to shops and eateries if they also experience attractive landscaping, clean and well-maintained streets and walkways, lively concerts and special events like Village Venture; and above all, safety.
Along with its efforts to develop new businesses in town, the city provides, or contributes to, all of these services to support us and our local businesses. We, in turn, need to support our city.
The heart of the matter
Measure CR, at best, will stabilize the city’s budget for a few years. It is not a long-term solution for the city’s fiscal issues.
The city does not have a revenue problem. Tax receipts over the last few decades have outpaced inflation and population growth. Despite Proposition 13, property tax receipts in real terms far exceed what the city received prior to this law being enacted in 1978.
Likewise, retail sales tax revenue continues to climb—not surprising given the expansion of retail establishments in the city and the bustling crowds we all confront in the Village.
So why is the city broke and wanting to raise our taxes? The city attorney in her voter’s guide “Impartial Analysis” presents a long list items on which the Measure CR tax could be spent. This list is not prioritized or quantified. Reading it gives one no clue as to what is driving the city’s budget shortfall.
She places minor items, such as “special events,” high up on her list, but buries, some would say hides, the very thing that is bringing the city to the brink of insolvency. Way down on her list, second from last, hiding between parenthesis is the cause of our ills: “increased pension costs.” This is the heart of the matter.
Increasingly the city is having to contribute more of our tax dollars to CalPERS leaving less for needed services. Presently the city has 15 former employees receiving six-figure pensions.
A former city manager receives well over $200,000 per year and a former assistant city manager receives over $190,000 per year—with automatic annual increases. This amount does not include their separate 457 deferred compensation plans or retiree health benefits.
Several city pensioners retired in their early fifties, allowing some to take up second careers (with another pension). They are receiving, with generous taxpayer support, pensions that would be valued in excess of $3 to 6 million each in the private market.
The city will be minting more and more of these pension millionaires over the next several years. Currently 23 city employees each receive a total compensation of over $200,000 per year; putting most if not all of them in line for a six-figure pension.
Public pensions were meant to keep civil servants out of destitution. What we have now is a hideous distortion of this ideal, a corrupt system that benefits a few politically connected insiders at the expense of the general public. So how did we get into this mess?
In 1999, the California legislature passed the CalPERS sponsored SB400 on a bipartisan vote, dramatically increasing public pension benefits with the promise that this would be done at no additional cost to taxpayers.
CalPERS led others to believe that the stock boom of the 1990s would continue indefinitely, thus supplying an inexhaustible supply of earnings to support gold-plated pensions in perpetuity. The collapse of the internet bubble and then the great recession destroyed this myth.
But instead of recognizing their thinking as fantastical and reforming the system, CalPERS opted instead to hijack the taxpayer. Cities across the state have been commanded to contribute ever increasing amounts to make up the market shortfall. Even after an unprecedented decade-long economic expansion and historic bull market, the city has an unfunded pension liability of $57 million.
Measure CR is an attempt to get taxpayers to bail the city out of this liability in order to preserve its corrupt pension system. And it is not going to work. What do you think will happen when the next long overdue recession hits?
The very poorly governed CalPERS is stuffed to the gills with high risk investments in real estate, private equity and stocks. Its high-risk assets will plummet during the next market downturn, which will severely exacerbate the city’s unfunded pension liability.
None of Claremont’s budget projections, with or without Measure CR funding, account for this certainty. The revenue from CR will be a pittance compared to the gaping hole that will be the city’s pension liability. Even with Measure CR passing we will be right back where we are today.
Fundamental pension reform is the only way the city will get out of its budgetary quagmire. The city’s leadership should join forces with other municipalities and demand changes to CalPERS instead of trying to suck more taxes into a broken system. Vote no on CR.
John J. McDermott III, M.D.
Yes for Claremont
I’d like to offer some perspective on the list of businesses circulated by opponents of Measure CR:
The 40 businesses who came out against measure CR represent around 21 percent of the number of businesses listed in the Village business directory, published by the Village Marketing Group (which does not include all the businesses in the Village since not all are members of that group).
At least 79 percent of Village businesses did not choose to add their names to this list despite assertive canvassing and pressure by the “no” campaign.
These 40 businesses comprise 2.4 percent of the total number of Claremont-based businesses and only eight or nine are owned by people who live in Claremont (.5 percent of total businesses in Claremont).
In other words, 78 percent of businesses on the “no” list have owners who do not live in Claremont. It might be understandable that these owners have little interest in helping to pay for the programs that keep Claremont safe, beautiful and thriving if these businesses were not receiving benefits from the city.
However, all of these businesses benefit from programs like Friday Nights Live, to which the city contributes, tree maintenance and landscaping, visitors’ center services and the police department, which spends a good portion of its resources patrolling and answering calls pertaining to the Village.
Recently I volunteered at the Chamber booth for Village Venture. During the time I was there, almost two dozen people shared that they were visitors from other cities who come to Claremont to relax and shop because of the pleasant atmosphere and beauty of our town. Some of the programs that make our city so attractive have already been curtailed.
Examples include the lengthening of intervals for tree trimming and police vehicle replacement rotations. Cutting programs and services can only go on so long before the impact starts to be seen and felt in streets that are less safe and less well maintained.
The three-quarter penny sales tax will benefit Claremont as a whole, and the Village in particular, because it will help keep our tax dollars here where they can fund services that make our town a sought-after destination.
Finally, I am a frequent customer of several businesses on the “no” list. Despite my disagreement with their owners’ position, I understand that they are concerned. They have been told by the opponents of CR that if the measure passes those folks will go shop elsewhere. I, for one, plan to keep right on spending money at these businesses because I like their products and services and enjoy having them in our community.
I am supporting this raise of three-quarters of a penny per dollar because it is the right thing to do for our city and the smart move under the current circumstances.
Measure CR: More Q & A
The No on CR committee would like to address the spam text message that many in our community, including ourselves, have received.
It is unfortunate that someone has sent this out and made it look as if it came from us. We have run our campaign on a shoestring budget and we have tried our best to run it clean.
Our committee has not spent any money to purchase voter information data, something that would be required to get this kind of personal information for people in our community. This can be verified with the financial disclosure forms filed with the city of Claremont.
We have filed a sworn complaint regarding the text message with the FPPC and are now waiting for them to take action. We do not support this type of message or campaigning. It saddens us that it has come to these types of tactics over a ballot measure and we hope that this will all soon be behind us.
Now back to the issue, we appreciate that the COURIER printed the very cogent questions about Measure CR by Sue Schenk last week.
In the interest of presenting both sides of the debate, the opponents of Measure CR would like to share our answers with your readers.
Q: Why does the city need more money?
A: The city blew a $14 million hole in the budget by recklessly pursuing what turned out to be a legally baseless eminent domain lawsuit. For reasons which they refuse to divulge, the council refused to even consider suing our law firm (which collected more than $6 million in fees). If the city had recovered the loss, we would have a large surplus.
Q: Can’t the city cut more?
A: The real question is if the city will make any cuts at all. Despite the city’s claim that it made $4.7 million in “cuts” to the general fund over the past two years, the budget actually increased by a half million dollars.
Q: Why 0.75 percent and not a round figure like 1 percent?
A: With the legislature’s permission, Claremont can raise the rate as high as it wants. 0.75 is all that it can do on its own right now.
Q: We already pay 9.50 percent in sales tax. Surely that’s enough.
A: More than 60 cities in LA County are getting by on 9.5 percent, including many with budget surpluses instead of deficits.
Q: Why should we agree to pay more?
A: The city admits that even with this extra sales tax revenue, we will still have a large and growing deficit only four years from now. We need a real plan, not a band-aid that hurts residents and local businesses.
Q: Could the state increase that 10.25 percent cap? Hasn’t one city already exceeded that?
A: Yes, Santa Fe Springs is already at 10.50 percent! The only agency that has stated its intention to pursue a sales tax increase is the AQMD. They have already drafted legislation which would exempt the increase from the cap. If both CR and the AQMD tax hikes are approved, Claremont’s sales tax rate could exceed 11 percent.
Q: How much is this going to cost me?
A: The city projects that CR will raise $2.5 million in revenue next year. This translates to more than $200 per household, although some of it will be paid by non-residents. Claremont residents will typically pay an extra $200 when we purchase a car. In addition to your everyday purchases in town, you will also be taxed 10.25 percent on all internet sales transactions, per Assembly Bill 147.
Q: Why isn’t any of the money earmarked for specific purposes, like the new police station? Shouldn’t we be supporting public safety issues?
A: The city could have earmarked the funds, but then it would have had to convince two-thirds of the voters that the extra money was necessary. The city chose to ask for a “blank check” increase – which only requires a majority to pass. The city also paid several hundred thousand dollars to hold a low-turnout special election to make it easier to pass.
Q: Doesn’t this have a greater effect on those who are less well-off?
A: Yes it does; and even lower-income families which get some benefit from low-cost summer programs for children, for example, will be paying thousands of dollars in extra sales tax long after their children are grown.
Q: Won’t this cause people to do their shopping in other cities?
A: The city made no attempt to determine what effect this tax will have on Claremont businesses. It certainly won’t help to be at a 2.5 percent disadvantage to a competing business right next door in Upland.
Q: Who supports CR?
A: There seems to be a large overlap between the people who support CR and those who supported the failed water system takeover. Why should we trust their judgment?
Q: Will the city use the funds wisely?
A: Anything is possible, but there is zero evidence that the city is serious about getting our finances in order. They formed a committee to explore ways to raise revenue, but not to cut expenses. They project a massive deficit in the near future, but have no plan for dealing with it.
No on Measure CR committee
Aundre Johnson, Jen Wiesner, Donna Lowe, David Burgdorf