Readers comments 4-16-21
The benefits of paying a living wage
Jim Belna (COURIER, April 2) thinks the city should turn over its waste collection services to a private company. He believes the city will thereby save a considerable amount of money. Claremont officials believe, on the other hand, that city ownership of the service is not more expensive than a private service would be. Since none of us in the public have access to all the relevant information, I think we have to assume that the city knows what it is doing and that Mr. Belna is relying on his ideology (whereby government cannot be more efficient than private firms) to assert otherwise.
Let us suppose the city does spend more on pay and benefits for its sanitation workers than comparable workers for a private company would earn. Mr. Belna believes that in itself shows the service should be privatized: the cheapest solution is always the correct one.
The principle that we as a community must spend the least possible amount of money is unacceptable. We all know that those who are working in collecting trash and garbage are not very high up on the economic scale. Earning more than the market would pay will help provide them with a better life. So the city, by paying them more than market rate (on our supposition), would be helping those less well off than we ordinary residents. That seems a sufficient reason for paying more than what they would earn if the service were privatized.
I have no idea whether such a consideration about paying a living wage enters Claremont’s calculations about pay rates for our waste collection workers. However, Claremont would be a better city if it does.
The $160,000 question
There should never be an instance where the Claremont city council spends a dime of public funds—much less tens of thousands of dollars—unless it is perfectly clear that the expenditure is legal and in furtherance of the city’s legitimate interests. Regrettably, the council has failed this fundamental test of fiscal integrity.
Six months ago, Tara Schultz resigned her position as Claremont’s city manager. Neither Ms. Schultz nor the city provided any explanation for her sudden departure. As far as anyone could tell, there had not been the slightest disagreement between Ms. Schultz and the council on any issues, large or small. In fact, only a few months earlier the council had extended her contract until February 2023 with options for two additional years.
It is not unusual for a city manager to resign in order to take a similar position in another city, but that was not the case here. Instead, Ms. Schultz simply walked away from a well-paying job that she had recently agreed to continue performing for at least two more years.
It is unusual—and apparently unprecedented—for resigning Claremont city managers to receive severance pay. Under the terms of her contract, Ms. Schultz was not entitled to receive any severance pay at all if she resigned. Moreover, the California Constitution explicitly prohibits the payment of extra compensation to a public employee after service has been rendered or a contract has been entered into and performed.
Although Ms. Schultz had never received a single bonus or raise in pay during her three-year tenure, for some undisclosed reason the city council decided to give her a lucrative severance package worth more than $160,000. Unless the city received something of commensurate value in return, this severance package was an illegal gift of public funds.
It does not appear that the city received anything at all in exchange for this payment. The only obligation imposed on Ms. Schultz was to clean out her desk by the end of October. Ms. Schultz and the city have also acknowledged that she had not filed any claims, charges, or lawsuits against the city.
Of course, it is hard to believe that the members of the council gave Ms. Schultz more than $160,000 without expecting something in return—if not for the city, then perhaps for their own personal benefit.
The council could have required Ms. Schultz to earn this extra pay by staying on the job until her replacement was hired, but instead they gave her the money with the understanding that she would leave city hall almost immediately; and as (under the terms of her contract) the council could not fire Ms. Schultz without cause before the November 3rd council election, they were apparently willing to spend a substantial sum of our money to induce her to resign.
There are many unanswered questions here: Did the council ask Ms. Schultz to resign, or did she do so on her own initiative? Who proposed the severance pay, and for what purpose? Why was Ms. Schultz allowed (or required) to leave immediately, instead of staying on until a new city manager was in place? And as the city didn’t get anything of value in return, how is this payment even legal?
In the absence of a good explanation for this severance payment—or more accurately, any explanation at all—the council has given us no choice but to speculate as to their motives. Was this a bribe, a kickback scheme, “hush money,” or something else entirely? The citizens of Claremont should not have to tolerate even the appearance of deceit and corruption. If there is a reasonable, legal and ethical justification for this payment, we need to know what it is right now.
Closure for the class of 2021
On April 8th, Claremont McKenna College announced that they will be holding an in-person, student-only, modified graduation ceremony for the Class of 2021 on campus in mid-May, 2021—this is in addition to a June 2022 weekend celebration they have planned for the classes of 2020 and 2021. As a member of the Class of 2021, this announcement brings upon conflicting emotions of excitement and sadness. In early March 2020, students of the Claremont Colleges, alongside others across the globe, were abruptly sent home in response to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. We were thrown into an environment that can be described by the following words: Zoom, isolation, and loss. Little did we know that over a year later we would still be operating in the same environment. Conducting class through a screen, grinding homework and projects in isolation, and fermenting in the thoughts of losing out on experiences during what many deem as the best years of life—college. As a soon-to-be graduate, despite the many losses brought upon by the pandemic, I am grateful for the two-and-a-half years on Claremont McKenna College’s campus where I grew as a person, learned, and made life-long friends and memories. However, the year and a half of on-campus experience that I, alongside many others, lost to the pandemic will forever weigh on me. Hence, the announcement of an in-person, student-only, modified graduation ceremony brings upon an array of emotions. While I am disappointed that my family and friends will not be able to be in attendance to watch me walk, I am excited that I will be able to come together with my classmates on campus for one last time during our college experiences.
Undoubtedly, stepping on campus next month for the last time as a student will be nothing like before due to the necessary safety protocols, at least it’s something—an act of closure for the Class of 2021.
Chance Sears, Class of 2021
Claremont McKenna College
La Puerta April 6 planning meeting
Kathryn Flynn’s letter that appeared in the April 9 issue of the COURIER states that “… they [the Commissioners] denied the request of two additional raised hands to speak.” In fact, each of those two were given at least three opportunities to speak. They had been unmuted by the Zoom administrator to speak, but they were not able to unmute their own systems. This is an unfortunate side effect of using technology. However, it is incorrect to state that the Commissioners denied the request of these people to address them.
Parker G. Emerson
CUSD rises to the challenge!
CUSD has the reputation of providing high-quality, well-rounded educational opportunities in a safe and clean environment. Why? Professional, caring teachers and staff.
In spite of this stellar reputation, CSUD has not, as a standard practice, provided needed supplies. Teachers regularly use their own funds to purchase pencils, crayons, glue sticks, scissors, lined-paper, construction paper, classroom topical material—the list goes on. These are core supplies, not luxuries, and should be standard issue from the school district.
This lack of support has continued in CUSD’s response to COVID-19 over the past year.
Response to the COVID-19 needs of students, teachers, staff and families consists of unfocused, seemingly random actions. It is clear that the sum of these responses will not provide the safe teaching environment required when in-class teaching begins this month.
CUSD has chosen to not provide supplies, furniture and equipment that would offer a safe environment in the COVID-19 era. As with pencils and paper, in order to ensure their and their students’ safety, teachers must resort to purchasing these needed supplies themselves.
For elementary schools, CUSD has provided a single, contact hand sanitizer station and a single classroom air sanitize.
Teachers who have the means to do so have had to purchase non-contact hand sanitizers, individual barriers for each desk, additional individual barriers for activities such as reading groups, personal protective equipment, and emergency student personal protective equipment to keep the students, their families and the classroom staff safe. This is unacceptable.
Other districts are aggressively pursuing steps to address the immediate and long-term needs that potentially years of COVID-19 will require. For example, the school district that encompasses Moraga, in Northern California, has purchased and taken delivery of 1,100 new desks with integrated acrylic shielding. Additionally, more substantial shielding will be in place for the teachers and staff individually and for groups. This protects everyone: students, teachers, staff and their families. Additionally, teachers, staff and volunteers are required to have periodic, negative COVID tests.
In a school district as well financed and respected as Claremont, the choice to require teachers to be responsible for what should be standard school supplies is shameful. During a pandemic, the choice to make teachers responsible for keeping themselves and their students safe could be lethal. CUSD, please do the right thing and ensure that when students are back in school, they can be there safely.
Thomas (Tom) H. Handley, Jr.
Our Lives and COVID-19
In March 2020, the world temporarily closed. COVID-19 reshaped lives.
The pandemic is not our only problem now.
We heard the doom-and-gloom stories of coronavirus for months. Massive job loss, civil unrest, and whether kids should attend school in person are constantly discussed.
Many people feel a mixture of tiredness, disgust, rage, anxiety, grief, depression and are overwhelmed with the chaos. Californians are physically worn out and emotionally drained.
This ongoing stress is crisis fatigue. It can take a toll on the body and mind.
Crisis fatigue is not a formal medical diagnosis, but it can lead to physical and mental health problems. Here are a few ways to manage it:
• Avoid negative coping skills
Overdrinking, drug use, and overspending money are a few. Negative consequences can come, like driving drunk.
My gait, hearing and speech are damaged because a drunken driver hit me in 1992.
• Make a daily routine
This is an essential cure because it is done continuously. It is something you have control over.
• Limit the news
Stay informed, but do not be glued to the media. Too much can increase your crisis fatigue. Wind down and disconnect from the news sometimes.
Believe in your own resilience. This helps you survive the long road ahead.
A thank you
Thank you to our community!
Many, many thanks from Priceless Pets/Claremont to our community members who have donated pet crates and carriers, pet food, paper towels, towels and blankets, detergent, and much needed kitten food. Kitten season is in full swing: currently, Priceless Pets has over 102 kittens and 21 moms in our foster care. We very much appreciate your help!
Donations are always needed, and we welcome community members to become involved by volunteering at our center, adopting or fostering a pet, and supporting our spay/neuter and medical fund. Please stop in to see us at 665 E. Foothill Boulevard. Thank you again for your support!
Kathleen Driscoll and Darya Harris
Managers, Priceless Pets/Claremont
Response to La Puerta story
I am writing in response to the April 9, 2021 article “La Puerta development heats up” published in the Claremont COURIER by author Steven Felschundneff, which quoted me (Kathryn Flynn) and my daughter (Maura Carter) as part of our efforts in the Keep La Puerta Public grassroots efforts.
Overall, I am very thankful that the COURIER is bringing attention to this issue, as the city and developer have done an inadequate job informing and involving residents. In particular, the information on this development plan that is publicly available is not complete, has not been widely disseminated, and has largely avoided the careful review by the residents and citizens of Claremont who would be most affected. Keep La Puerta Public believes that rigorous scrutiny is necessary in order to validate a plan which would substantially reduce the size of a beloved public park for student athletics and recreation, disrupt the local neighborhood permanently, and cause severely negative repercussions and spillover for Cahuilla park and adjacent communities.
My response is threefold:
Firstly, my goal is to take ownership and proclaim (partial) authorship of the fliers which were distributed to residents. The COURIER and Ms. Rosenthal both suggested that these fliers were an anonymous or underhanded effort. Contrary to these insinuations, the fliers themselves include an email address and my daughter’s contact information, which the article itself later notes directly. After all, how else would the author have called us for comment? We felt the need to address the mistaken and insulting statements that this was an anonymous “Trumpian” effort: it wasn’t. We are proud of our work, which is why we included contact information, and which is why I am writing now.
Secondly, my goal is to head-on address the characterization that our group provides “misinformation” and is “fear mongering”—this is exactly the opposite purpose of Keep La Puerta Public. The main reason we decided to organize is that, since the purchase agreement nearly two years ago, there is a total lack of information on the part of the city about this development plan. CUSD says escrow will close in December 2021, eight months from now.
Our information comes directly from the Specific Plan, the city, or CUSD. For instance, the map we published in the flier, which shows which part of the park would be repurposed for development, was based on city disclosures. Specifically, our group was told by officials that the park would be reduced to the width of five house lots on the north side, but we were never provided a requested official map. We decided to draw our own line after the 5th house. Our effort is easy to attack, but on the other hand, where is the official map? Perhaps the developer has a different set of ideas or plans than the city?
The only way to address this problem is to provide more clear information, and a reasonable timeline and forum for discussion. We view our fliers as a public service wherein we are doing everything possible to fill the city’s somewhat inexcusable lapses. It is a volunteer effort on our part, so it merely adds insult to injury to be attacked for our service by the city establishment in the local paper. A better approach for city officials would be to correct information as clearly as possible and start a dialogue.
Thirdly, my goal is to correct what I perceive as a lapse in the reporting around the April 6th planning commission meeting. This meeting had 165 attendees, the substantial and influential majority of which voiced incredible concerns. To say that the plan is merely “contentious” does no service to the astonishing outpouring of detailed concerns.
The reporting was lacking key information or objectivity around 1) the significant concerns about the plan, 2) the magnitude of the grass roots opposition to the plan, or 3) the city’s heretofore significantly lacking process of governance on this issue (and that is the politest possible way I can put it). The most important problem with the article was that it didn’t mention that the feedback was so unexpectedly overwhelming that the city was forced to schedule a continuation meeting on April 20th, https://zoom.us/j/93823869306
The city has a dedicated page on its website for the La Puerta development specific plan with multiple maps including one that illustrates how the La Puerta Sports Park would be reconfigured under Trumark’s plan. This information, including the maps, was made available to the public long before the April 6th planning commission meeting. The city was not forced to schedule an additional meeting to hear the remainder of the written public input—those comments will be read at the next regularly scheduled planning commission meeting.