Readers comments 1-17-20
Look in the mirror, Joe
As members of the committee that led the opposition to Measure CR, we recognize that many residents of Claremont reasonably supported the proposed increase of our local sales tax to 10.5 percent. We also believe that vigorous debate is the hallmark of a healthy civic culture.
We are disappointed to see that former mayor and councilmember Joe Lyons does not share our respect for political diversity—and in fact seems to hold it in contempt.
In his viewpoint column in last week’s COURIER, Mr. Lyons not only refused to credit the more than 4,000 voters who rejected Measure CR with the intellect and integrity to make an informed decision; he claimed that they were duped by a small group of “anti-government” activists.
We are proud of the campaign that we ran, particularly considering the extraordinary efforts which the proponents of Measure CR made to stack the deck: calling a special election to ensure a low turnout; falsely claiming that there was a real 10.5 percent “cap” on Claremont’s sales tax rate; and threatening voters with the specter of a nonexistent county fire department sales tax measure.
Whether Mr. Lyons cares to admit it or not, the dozens of no on CR volunteers who walked almost every neighborhood in town, manned an information booth at the weekly farmers’ market, and challenged the misleading information propagated by city officials were responsible for elevating the level of political discourse and motivating thousands of residents to take an interest in the city’s financial situation.
Once the facts became known—that Claremont already has higher per capita general fund revenues than neighboring cities that have balanced budgets and large surpluses; that our local merchants would have been at a 2 percent disadvantage on every taxable sale to their competitors five minutes away in Upland; and that Mr. Lyons and his council colleagues refused to even consider filing a malpractice suit against the law firm which advised us to pursue a costly and legally baseless eminent domain takeover—it is hardly surprising that a majority of voters rejected Measure CR.
We do agree with Mr. Lyons on one thing. It is certainly true that the veracity, integrity and competency of our councilpersons and city staff are being questioned by many residents. Considering the events of the past few years—the $12 million water takeover fiasco, the repeated misrepresentations about the need for a costly new police station, and the failure to deal with an out-of-control public pension liability that now exceeds $50 million—the public’s skepticism has been well-earned.
If Mr. Lyons is genuinely concerned about the erosion of trust in Claremont’s political leadership, he first needs to identify the source of the problem. Rather than pointing fingers at the voters who disagree with him, we suggest he should first look in the mirror.
Dan Ryan and Jen Weisner
No on CR Committee
Last month, the city council unanimously approved the use of $325,000 of Prop C transportation funds to refurbish a city building that doesn’t have a single square foot dedicated to transportation, and it hasn’t for years.
How were city staff and council able to divert funds meant for transportation to a city building that is being leased to a non-profit for $1 a year?
According to Metro, Claremont city staff wrote in its 2016 application that the transit funds would be used for “Improvements to the historic Claremont Transit Depot, which currently serves passengers on Metrolink trains, as well as Foothill Transit bus routes.” Seriously?
When exactly did the Claremont Depot become the Claremont Transit Depot? The sign on First Street still reads Claremont Depot. Clearly, someone at city hall thought it was important to insert “Transit” into the name of the building in order to influence Metro’s decision to commit hundreds of thousands of dollars to this project.
Anyone with an ounce of integrity would admit there are no Metrolink and Foothill Transit passenger services offered at the Depot. And there are no transit services planned in the future either, because it clearly states in the lease contract that the city’s intent is to “convert the leased premises from a generic commercial space to a museum-quality art gallery.”
Yes, it is true that Metrolink and Foothill Transit passengers can be served at the Depot, but only if they pay $5 to look at art on the weekend, and one could make that same argument for any commercial building in the Village.
In the end, I suspect the Metro’s Independent Citizen’s Advisory and Oversight Committee will just look the other way. But, we’ve already seen how accountability and trust play into voters’ decisions at the ballot box.
If voters lose trust that “the government” will spend taxpayer money as it was intended to be spent, they will eventually say enough is enough and turn off the leaky spigot.