Readers comments 11-22-19
After viewing last week’s city council meeting on November 12, I was disappointed to witness the way council members blatantly ignored the reasonable concerns of locals. This was evident in the public comment segment regarding the proposed ordinance of “no-fault ordinances” on Claremont tenants who are vulnerable to home evictions.
Three weeks prior to the meeting, a justifiably emotional woman raised this concern to pass the ordinance, only to have it be avoided by councilmembers who believed they were abiding by the Brown Act.
At the November 12 meeting, the woman reminded the council members that the Brown Act only prohibits the council from taking action on certain items but does not ban them from discussions. However, when asked if any of them were landlords or property owners, the council sat there like lumps on a log and declined to respond.
The council’s avoidance of urgent issues not only shows a lack of support to Claremont residents but also questions their integrity. To some, this silence might imply that they are property owners with assets and profits that might be adversely impacted by the ordinance.
Instead of prioritizing their needs or less urgent issues (e.g. cannabis companies and electric scooter restrictions), the council needs to do a better job of listening to the peoples’ voices.
They must improve upon addressing and discussing the larger concerns of the community. This is what democracy is all about.
I see that Sally Seven passed away last week. She and I seldom found ourselves on the same side of the political fence, but she was a formidable opponent—principled, hard-working, articulate and very smart.
Claremont is poorer for losing her.
Ludd A. Trozpek
I recently read a warning from city councilmember Ed Reece that Claremont would be facing spending cuts in the near future because of the recent failure of Measure CR. This “knee jerk” reaction from current and previous councilmembers is something that was not unexpected by everyone who recently voted, but before we hone the “budget axe,” let’s take a look at some of our spending habits.
When and by whom was it decided that Christmas week should be made a holiday? I recently received a notice from the city of Claremont that municipal offices would be closed from Christmas Eve through New Years Day. What is the dollar cost of such generosity?
Why does our city staff work a 12-and-12 schedule? Major cities and other organizations don’t because it is too costly. It takes no genius to realize that a person on a 12-hour work schedule works only three days per week, most of the time.
Any organization with 24/7 or even five- day-per-week responsibilities must fill in with either additional personnel or costly overtime. After working 12 hours, it is not reasonable to ask personnel to work much overtime on a regular basis.
Asking safety personnel to do so is not only foolish but can adversely impact officer safety. Therefore, we need to hire additional personnel who must be recruited, hired, trained, supplied and yes, eventually given a pension.
Last year, employees received a monetary bonus presumably for a “job well done.” I do not recall hearing about this until after it was fait accompli. How much did this generosity cost taxpayers?
Why is our police department so top heavy? We seem to have a remarkable number of sergeants and lieutenants budgeted for a department the size of ours. Do our officers really need that much supervision? Again, how much is this costing? We could go on, but this will do for openers.
They all need to go
Last month, the state auditor released a report which evaluated the fiscal health of California cities. Claremont was ranked in the bottom 20 percent, in 393rd place. The auditor also determined that we are at a high risk of defaulting on our pension debt. But to really appreciate how badly Claremont’s finances have deteriorated, take a look at how we stack up against our neighbors.
The cities of San Dimas and Walnut, both of which were ranked in the top 20 percent, are the same size as Claremont. In 2018, Claremont spent $6 million more than San Dimas and $13 million more than Walnut to provide essentially identical services.
San Dimas and Walnut each have general fund reserves in excess of $25 million; Claremont’s reserves have fallen below $6 million, and our pension fund is more than $50 million in the hole. Both cities routinely run large budget surpluses, while Claremont, which has millions of dollars more revenue than these cities, can no longer even balance its budget.
Of course, we hardly needed the state auditor to tell us that we are in trouble. Our pension costs have been out of control for decades, our annual budget deficit is projected to exceed $2 million by 2023, and the failed water system takeover blew a $12 million hole in the general fund.
In most cities, the alarm bells would have gone off long ago. Heads would have rolled, belts would have been tightened, and needed reforms would already be in place. How has Claremont’s leadership responded?
The state audit was not even mentioned in last week’s quarterly financial update. City Manager Tara Schultz has not come up with a plan to balance next year’s budget, much less to eliminate the structural deficit that threatens to leave us bankrupt within a decade.
And before the red ink was even dry on the water system fiasco, the city council gave bonuses to employees and tried to build a new police station that would have put us tens of millions of dollars deeper in debt.
But it is so much worse than that. The city could have recovered millions of dollars by suing the law firm which advised us to pursue the legally baseless water system lawsuit, but the council chose to allow the statute of limitations to expire.
Claremont could also immediately save more than $4 million per year—and put a cap on our unfunded pension liability—by joining the 40 cities which already contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department for their public safety services.
Ms. Schultz has said that she will not consider that option, and the council has refused to even ask for a study to look at the costs and benefits of a contract. They have threatened to cut programs for children and seniors instead.
It is time to face some unpleasant facts. Not a single member of the council has been willing to take the slightest responsibility for the city’s financial crisis, much less express any interest in taking the obvious and long overdue steps necessary to fix it. They couldn’t care less that Claremont is in the express lane to insolvency, and other than blaming us for not paying enough taxes, they are not going to do a damn thing about it.
There is only one solution. They all need to go. Every council member has to be voted out of office; the city manager needs to be fired; and all options, including a contract with the sheriff’s department, must be on the table.
The good news is that Claremont’s financial crisis can be solved. All we need are some new leaders with integrity and common sense. We can’t get them soon enough.
In light of the recent decision on Measure CR, I would like to share my thoughts on the spending cuts that are expected to come as a result of Measure CR not being passed.
While reading about the council addressing the impact of Measure CR, councilmember Ed Reece’s comments caught my attention. In light of the spending cuts, I agree with what Mr. Reece says about how important it is that the community comes together to support one another.
This is a difficult time for some programs and services that may see budget cuts, but if we support one another it could ease the blow.
I also think what Councilmember Jennifer Stark said about Claremont is very powerful. The idea that Claremont is able to hold together as a strong unit in a country that is heavily divided is a testament to the amazing Claremont community we are all privileged to be a part of.
I hope everyone is able to support one another as we prepare for the budget cuts soon to come.
An open letter to Claremont
The time to go green has come. There are numerous opportunities for homeowners to take advantage of federal plans like Los Angeles County Residential PACE program to make green investments on our homes.
Since programs like PACE were established, homeowners have been able to reduce utility bills while also reducing their carbon footprints. As responsible homeowners, residents of Claremont should strive to make an impact on the ongoing climate change dilemma.
In times of crisis (like the one we’re in) it is crucial for us to come together to make a positive change.
If we think of a green improvement to homes as what they are—investments—the idea of installing solar panels, or upgrading old heating/cooling systems is highly appealing.
Unfortunately, like all investments, it comes with initial costs associated with installation of new air conditioning/heating systems or new film for windows that may be out of the question for some homeowners. But the reality is, it’s a small price to pay for endless savings.
If we look at the investment in the long run, we are able to see it pays itself off in as little as a few years. If homeowners utilize special programs specifically targeting the reduction of energy waste, homeowners can save lots in the years following their green improvement.
Green projects like Go Go Green Financing allow homeowners to finance virtually anything related to reduction of energy consumption. Looking at climate change, there are many opportunities to play our individual parts in society and not significant costs associated.
What do you say, Claremont? Are we ready to make the move toward a greener, more energy efficient community?