Readers comments 7-17-20
A public apology
This is an Open Letter of Apology to all the people of color who spoke at the Police Commission meeting on July 7.
I am apologizing for my unawareness and insensitivity to your experiences, especially as I was describing my very positive experience working with our Claremont Police Department.
I quickly came to understand my experience as that of a privileged white person being very different from the experience of those who spoke.
In my past experience of linking arms in acts of civil disobedience in the Civil Rights Movement, with brothers and sisters of color, I felt I was coming to a beginning understanding of the prejudice and discrimination they were experiencing. But it was not until I heard a presentation by the Reverend Roger Floyd in New Haven in the mid-80s did I get educated about institutional and systemic racism.
The main take away from that presentation was the mantra he had taken for himself, which I have adopted for myself: “That I am a recovering (I hope) white, male, chauvinistic, racist, homophobic, xenophobic, classist being, and I am spending the rest of my life seeking to overcome my socialization; changing myself; and helping change unjust institutions and systems in our society.”
I have just begun volunteering in the office of LA County Supervisor Hilda Solis in her Policing and Criminal Justice Reform Program. But I feel I must also respond to those speakers at the police commission meeting and to Police Chief Shelly Vander Veen with any suggestions of how I might assist with reform efforts in the Claremont community.
It is my hope and prayer and commitment to action that before I die, I might see the good experience I have had with the Claremont PD be the experience of every person of color working, living in or homeless in this city be that good experience. May it be so!
The Commons doesn’t fit
My involvement with The Commons began last year (June 19, 2019) at a presentation at the city yard about this residential development.
The issues that stood out very clearly were how dangerously close the development was to Cable Airport, and the fact that this parcel of land is zoned for commercial use precisely to minimize the destruction should a plane crash there.
In fact, there had been a plane crash near Cable Airport two days before that meeting and no mention was made of it or of any other Cable crashes.
No crash was mentioned at the meeting in spite of our many questions, comments, and opposition related to the safety and noise impacts of the airport and concerns about the design, sustainability and suitability the site.
No crashes at Cable were mentioned, including the 2006 fatal crash when a plane overran the runway (which is aligned with The Commons), and those in September 2018 and May 2019.
Since then, a fatal crash occurred in November 2019, and yet another crash just a few weeks ago, on June 24, 2020. And there may have been others, too—these are just what readily appeared in an online search.
Cable is a private airport with noncommercial pilots, a flight school and no control tower! How well will pilots maneuver their crashing planes precisely to the designated crash landing strip? It is required to be in the center of the development because of the proximity to the airport. It is described in the design as a park.
Also at the June 2019 meeting, developers explained that the project would be safer as a residential project than currently zoned commercial use, because most flights are during the day, when people will be at work. That’s just incorrect.
Flights occur day and night and what about those too old or too young to work, parenting, homemaking, working or studying from home, retired, unemployed, home sick, on vacation, sheltering in place?
If the number of possible fatalities is the issue for determining best land use, then change the zoning to the lightest commercial use possible, like the Armstrong Nursery adjacent, or other business park/light industrial uses, as in much of the surrounding area.
And what about all the planes and helicopters that don’t crash, but noisily fly overhead all the time during the day and night? Leaded airplane gas pollution? The isolation, with no place neighborly to walk to?
We old-timers might remember that in the 1980’s both the planning commission and the city council denied a developer’s zoning proposal to change the zoning nearby the current project to residential development. The city decided that it was too close to Cable Airport, too isolated from other residential areas, and too close to other commercial noise. Then the developer promoted a citywide referendum.
Residents of Claremont voted 5-1 against residential development of the area. Those wise findings set a precedent that should be upheld now, by keeping the area zoned for commercial development.
The Commons does not fit the city’s claim as a well-planned, community-minded, safe, healthy, walkable, neighborly place to live. It would set an unfortunate precedent for future projects and for the future character of our town.
Claremont resident since 1976
Some COURIER readers may already be familiar with the term, Trump Derangement Syndrome. TDS for short. A syndrome that has developed as some Americans are “triggered”?merely because Donald Trump exists.
Observing the COURIER pages recently, I believe yet another syndrome has come into being right here in the middle of Claremont! Meyer Derangement Syndrome. MDS for short. A syndrome that has developed because a letter penned by Mr. Meyer contained opinions with which some Claremonters disagree (some more cogently than others). Hey! Maybe MDS will finally put Claremont on the map!
One responding letter ventured some astonishment that Mr. Meyer would dare to state opinions with which some Claremonters might disagree. A violation of “the party line,” I suppose, in that writer’s mind.
In any case, on the basis of everything that has transpired, I would ask Mr. Meyer to write many more letters, which the COURIER will hopefully publish. John Stuart Mill would be proud of any resulting vigorous debate.
Down memory lane
The other day at the post office I parked by a car with a large “America, Love It or Leave It” sticker on its bumper. I hadn’t seen one of those in years.
I believe it was a popular slogan during the Vietnam War and meant that any criticism of America, its policies, its wars, its weaknesses in living up to its full potential, was unacceptable. Just wave the flag and don’t question anything.
Now we have a Trump rerun of Reagan’s 1980 “Make America Great Again” slogan and I’m a bit confused. Did the same “love it or leave it” crowd have an epiphany and realize that improvements were needed and possible?
Did Reagan and Trump use the slogan because they both followed Democratic presidents and blamed them for all of America’s problems? Or is the message a sly (wink, wink) way of saying that America should go back to those Leave-It-To-Beaver-Norman-Rockwell good old white days? Who knows?
I guess slogans are a simple way to make complex issues easier to deal with: Don’t like racial injustice? Leave America! Growing wealth inequality? Buh-bye and don’t let the door hit you in the butt on your way out! Remember when father always knew best and mom cooked three squares a day? Boy, America sure was great back then!
I’m truly grateful that the people who move society forward and work tirelessly to improve our country are not the types blinded by simplistic slogans and don’t apparently own a single pair of rose-colored glasses.
I am writing in support of Claremont Change and the work of Josue Barnes and Noah Winnick.
The problem of police violence is not restricted to any city, town, or village—it is a symptom of the systemic racism of our society and its tolerance of white supremacy for too long.
The city of Claremont likes to imagine itself a liberal, progressive bastion of professors and others who would not think a racist thought. I include myself in that category. Yet I know I benefit from a racist society and carry implicit biases as we all do. As a white person, I am given access to all the opportunities that America offers, to make of what I will.
Black people are not now and have never been given the same opportunity, in spite of the individual exceptions one can point to. Our society and country have been built upon the principle of white supremacy and on the backs of our Black fellow citizens. Most of the wealth of our nation came from the unpaid labor (as enslaved people) and later the underpaid labor of Black people brought to this country against their will.
Even after Emancipation, Black people have been held down, beaten and killed, and generally kept from having access to the American Dream, which has always been reserved for white people.
In 1921, a white mob burned an entire community in Tulsa, known as Black Wall Street, to the ground, killing more than 100 Black people in the process, all for the crime of being successful, of having the temerity to strive for the same prosperity that white people had. The Tulsa race massacre is just one of innumerable such examples throughout our history.
It is against this backdrop that we have to consider the current state of policing in our country, including in our own little liberal bastion, Claremont.
The #8CantWait movement is not a negotiating ploy for incremental change. It is an anguished cry of people who cannot tolerate another moment of the long litany of Black deaths at the hands of police and vigilantes never brought to justice, or only grudgingly and when their deeds have been revealed with the incontrovertible evidence of video.
How many Black people have been abused, killed or even pulled over for the crime of “driving while Black” but no one knew because there is no video of the event?
If a Black person complains, it is their word against the police, and we all know how that would turn out. Claremont is not immune to this problem: see Irvin Landrum, Jr.
I appreciate that the current police chief is engaging in a dialogue with Claremont Change and the #8CantWait agenda, but I hope that we as a city can go beyond tinkering around the edges and confront that we are a racist society and that we have to reimagine our approach to public safety from the ground up.
“Defund the police” does not necessarily mean eliminating the police department. What it can mean is to zero out the police budget, along with all the social service budgets the city has, and pool them into one pot called “public safety.” We are then free to imagine public safety from the ground up, with policing being the last, not the first, approach funded.
Fund social workers, community members with conflict resolution training, health care workers, and others as the front line of public safety, with the police as the last resort, a police force also trained in de-escalation and accountable for their choices, including the choice to fire their weapon, itself the last resort in a sliding scale of escalation which should be rarely used.
I implore the city council to start a dialogue along these lines immediately and ask the police to participate in their own shrinking for the betterment of our society. Doing so would give us some claim to be the progressive, liberal, thinking place we like to think we are.