Tuesday, March 31, 2009


For fans of the great American hamburger like me, the new Burger Bar at the Old School House is worth a visit.

The food is fresh, the place is clean and the staff seems very friendly. You can build a custom-ordered burger with various buns, meats, and cheeses and toppings like sauteed forest mushroom blend, char grilled vegetables or grilled peppers.

The prices are higher than a typical fast food joint, but I guess you pay for the added quality and freshness. My combo meal cost about $9.15. If I had one complaint, they could be a little more generous with the French fries.

The Burger Bar is located at 425 W. Foothill Blvd. right next to Trader Joe's.

Old School House Developer Harry Wu once told me that he hopes the Burger Bar and neighboring Robeks Juice become a popular destination for students. It's within walking distance of both Claremont High School and the colleges.

Click here to read a couple more reviews about the place.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Dog owners behaving like animals

The Pooch Park skirmish that has exploded in the Reader's Comments section of the COURIER was certainly an unfortunate incident and could have been avoided.

Both dog owners involved in the altercation reacted poorly during the incident and their continuing attacks through letters to the editor are not helping anyone.

The dog park is for all people and their pets to enjoy, get exercise, spend some time outdoors and socialize, regardless of what city you're from or your background.

The 2 dog owners in this case, David Null and Leonardo Reyes, need to take responsibility for what happened rather than continuing to sling insults at each other.

Pooch park regulars have told me that it's not wise to have your dog on a leash in a park where all the other dogs are running freely. Other dogs will see that the dog is restricted and can interpret it as a sign of weakness, causing them to attack.

As a Pooch Park regular, Null should have known this. His dog was recovering from surgery and had no business being in a park with lots of other dogs running around.

He should have kept his dog in the western portion of the grounds in a separated area that is specifically reserved for smaller, older or more timid dogs.

Reyes was also at fault. He elbowed Null very hard in the chest while they were trying to pull their dogs away. The pain from the injury got so bad, Null went to the hospital later that night because he was worried he might be suffering a heart attack. I'm not sure this is the type of behavior Reyes wants to teach his children on how to resolve conflicts.

I understand that pets are like family members, and pet owners are very protective of their animals. But it's time for those involved in this incident to move on. Bruises and bloody noses will heal. While the dog fight was unfortunate, hopefully the dog owners and observers learned how to avoid a similarly ugly incident in the future.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Young professionals unite

The Claremont Young Professionals had their inaugural meeting last night at the Wine Merchant in the Packing House.

The newest subcommittee of the Chamber of Commerce hopes to get younger professionals in town more involved in business affairs and better connected with each other. The target age group is between 21 and 39.

I've been to my share of civic meetings in Claremont. Whether it's the League of Women Voters, Active Claremont, Chamber of Commerce mixers or the University Club, the median age at these events seems to be somewhere in the mid-80s. Of course I'm exaggerating, but you get my point.

It was nice to see so many young faces getting involved in town and excited about the new endeavor. There was a great turn out, probably around 100 people throughout the night, and many spoke about building lasting relationships that can serve them for years to come.

They hope they can pump some new life and fresh ideas into the Chamber while building connections and increasing charity work. The group is planning an event or mixer every 2 months.

In one twist of irony, the top raffle prize at the mixer didn't go to one of the many young professionals who showed up. The $100 gift certificate for Buca Di Beppo went to City Manager Jeff Parker, who's over 50 and clearly very established in his career.

No fair Jeff! Next time keep your business card in your pocket.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Active Claremont hosts City Manager

City Manager Jeff Parker will be the guest speaker tonight at Active Claremont's monthly meeting. Parker is scheduled to speak about Claremont Budget Issues.

"The city of Claremont is feeling the results of the current economic situation that is also affecting individuals, schools, businesses and everything else in general. Come to our March 19th meeting and get first-hand information about the local impact of these issues from our city manager, Jeff Parker. Find out how it relates to the quality of life and city services," Active Claremont's newsletter reads.

The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Claremont Library. All members of the public are welcome.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Big talk, little content from The Student Life

Pomona College's The Student Life Editorial Board recently wrote a piece entitled "COURIER Article shows unprofessionalism" that was printed in its Friday, March 13 issue. (see page 8)

The piece was in response to our article on Ken Starr's visit to Pomona College last week for a mock debate, after which he fielded questions from students and discussed his thoughts on Proposition 8.

TSL called the piece a "gross breach of journalistic ethics and reporting etiquette" because we gave little print space to the actual debate between Starr and fellow attorney Erwin Cherminsky. "A gross breach of journalist ethics," that's quite a bold statement!

While I certainly don't want to discourage aspiring journalists from voicing their opinions, a couple of things they wrote certainly deserve some attention.

First and foremost, what TSL editors may not realize is that at many professional newspapers, reporters are limited by page inches or number of words for stories they are assigned to cover. Given these limitations, reporters are forced to focus their articles on the meat of the news while cutting out as much fat as possible.

With the high profile nature of the Prop. 8 case and Starr's role as the lead attorney, clearly the presidential war powers debate was the fat. In showing up for the event, I never intended to cover the debate. I was there to report on any comments Starr might make on the landmark case and the planned protest outside.

"The COURIER implies that Starr was solely on campus to field questions about gay rights,” the TSL editorial board writes.

As printed in the COURIER article: “Mr. Starr, who serves as the Dean of Pepperdine University's Law School, was invited to speak by the Pomona Student Union. Along with Erwin Chemerinsky, Dean of the new Law School at University of California Irvine, the 2 deans staged a mock debate on constitutional powers of the U.S. President in a hypothetical war situation. Mr. Starr was invited to speak before becoming involved in the Prop. 8 case.”

To me, the preceding statement very clearly shows the context of Starr's comments and his reason for being on campus.

Now, here's where TSL editors get a bit out of control: "We would appreciate coverage that is not so heavily slanted."

The term "slanted" in this context is traditionally reserved for news coverage that shows a political bias, leaning either to the left or right, or taking a side on a particular issue.

The COURIER article did not take any sides on this topic. It never criticized or praised Mr. Starr for his position on Proposition 8 or his role in the case. The article simply laid out Mr. Starr’s positions on the issue, his responses to questions on the topic and provided a description of the student protest.

I'm not so sure I could say the same about the TSL's coverage of the event. In their article (see page 1 and 3), the TSL reporter interviewed or used statements from 4 different people who were directly criticizing Starr, his appearance on campus or Prop. 8 itself.

But TSL's report fails to counter these statements with a single voice of opposition, making the student paper's political leanings on Prop. 8 clear for all to see. Is this the neutral or balanced coverage that TSL editors are demanding?

Sorry if I come off defensive here, but when being accused of "a gross breach of journalism ethics," I don't take that very lightly. I've always done my best to present both sides of a story and to be accurate in my reporting.

I believe the article was both neutral and detailed in outlining Mr. Starr’s comments on Prop. 8 and his role in the case, which was my goal in attending the event. And I hardly think my decision to do so warrants accusations of bias and unprofessionalism.

I would love to hear some comments. Any TSL editors out there? Any thought from readers?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

And your new Mayor is ...

Corey Calaycay is the new Mayor of Claremont or "the guy who was born to be Mayor" as Councilmember Sam Pedroza put it. He was sworn into office last night by retired State Senator Bob Margett, Calaycay's former boss.

Linda Elderkin was nominated for the Mayor Pro Tem position, which she happily accepted. There was no wrangling over who would get the 2 posts this time around.

After the Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem nominations, all 5 council members spoke positively about Claremont's future and working together to accomplish goals for the city.

New Councilmember Larry Schroeder mentioned some of his hopes for the city, including the "arduous task of attracting and retaining businesses in Claremont."

"With hard work, we will have a thriving local economy that provides jobs, provides shopping opportunities and sales tax revenue to our community," he said.

Also at the meeting, outgoing Mayor Ellen Taylor bid the community a farewell. During her speech, she outlined a lengthy list of accomplishments for the council during her tenure in office. She lamented over some goals not accomplished, like the affordable housing project on Base Line Road.

She was showered with flowers and thanks from community members and city staff before leaving the podium for the final time. She was able to have an early dinner with her husband on a Tuesday night, a rarity for her over a very busy last 4 years.

With her work on the Youth Master Plan, the board of Tri City Mental Health Center, on senior programs and her support of youth sports, Taylor was praised as a champion of Human Services in Claremont by fellow council members.

For a full report on the evening, be sure to pick up a copy of Saturday's paper.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Deciding Claremont's Mayor

At tonight's city council meeting, Corey Calaycay and Larry Schroeder will be sworn into office, a new Mayor and Mayor Pro Tem will be chosen and a farewell is planned for Mayor Ellen Taylor, who will preside over her final council meeting. Taylor will likely have a few words to say about her tenure in office.

There is no set guidelines for determining who will be the next Mayor or Mayor Pro Tem based on tenure or any defined criteria. One council member will nominate a fellow councilmember and then a vote takes place.

The mayor is largely a ceremonial post. They moderate the council meetings and act as the face of the city at public functions. But all council members eventually want the position, if nothing more than to tell their grandkids that they were once Mayor of Claremont. Over the last couple of years, there has been some wrangling on the council over who gets what position.

In 2007, Calaycay nominated Taylor for the mayor position, even though Peter Yao made it well known that he wanted the post for a second straight year. Calaycay explained his rationale in nominating Taylor over Yao. The position should be rotated annually so that all council members (including himself) have a better chance to serve as mayor during their tenure in office, Calaycay argued.

Taylor declined the nomination, knowing that Yao wanted to serve one more year as Mayor. She nominated Yao for Mayor, who accepted, and she became the Mayor Pro Tem.

A year later, Mayor Pro Tem Taylor was bumped up into the Mayor position, following the traditional pecking order. When voting came up to nominate the Mayor Pro Tem, Yao nominated Sam Pedroza instead of Calaycay, who had 2 years seniority over Pedroza on the council.

Yao never offered an explanation for the snub of Calaycay. Perhaps Yao harbored some lingering resentment from Calaycay's decision the previous year to push Yao out of the Mayor spot earlier than he'd hoped.

In any case, Pedroza respectfully declined the position, and Calaycay was then nominated for Mayor Pro Tem. He accepted.

We'll see tonight if any more jostling goes on. Calaycay's supporters have been calling him "the next Mayor of Claremont" throughout the campaign. He would be the logical choice, having already served 4 years on the council and earning the most votes in the recent election.

If Calaycay becomes Mayor, Pedroza would make the most sense as Mayor Pro Tem, having received the most votes in 2007.

But as we've seen before, logic isn't always the rule of thumb on the city council, so anything is possible.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Election results

The final numbers are in. The voters have spoken. Corey Calaycay and Larry Schroeder are your winners, and the 2 will be serving on the city council for the next 4 years.

While the numbers aren't the final talley, it's hard to believe that the remaining absentee ballots will change the end result. For a complete count of the numbers, click here.

Calaycay was the top vote getter, earning 3,083 votes or 40.1 percent. "I feel like I've closed one chapter of my life and started a new one," Calaycay said, addressing his supporters at his campaign party.

Schroeder came in second with 2,767 votes or 36 percent. "It's still very surreal," Schroeder said at his home along side friends and supporters. "I want to thank the voters for giving me this opportunity to serve them. I promise I will do the best I can for Claremont."

Former Assistant City Manager Bridget Healy finished in third place, with 1,842 total votes, or 23.9 percent.

Voter turnout was way down this year, with only 4,717 ballots cast. That's only 22 percent of registered voters in Claremont. Compared to around 30 percent over the last few elections, voter apathy appears to have played a role in this election.

The new council members will be sworn in at the next city council meeting on Tuesday, March 10.

Congratulations to the winners! The COURIER hopes they hold true to their campaign promises and hopes they serve the community well.

But enough from me. We want to hear your thoughts and observations on the election. Feel free to post a comment below.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Election update: absentee ballots

The absentee ballots are in. Here are the numbers:

Larry Schroeder: 1,139 (33.3 percent)
Corey Calaycay: 1,436 (41.9 percent)
Bridget Healy: 849 (24.8 percent)

A total of 2,195 mailed in absentee ballots, which offers a good sample of the regular voting population. Typical Claremont city council elections bring out between roughly 6,400 and 7,000 voters. Some turned in absentee ballots at polling stations today, and those won't be tallied until tomorrow.

Here's the breakdown by precinct:

Precinct 1: Schroeder 67 Calaycay 65 Healy 42
Precinct 3: Schroeder 72 Calaycay 119 Healy 56
Precinct 6: Schroeder 144 Calaycay 207 Healy 102
Precinct 7: Schroeder 129 Calaycay 157 Healy 98
Precinct 8: Schroeder 174 Calaycay 103 Healy 149
Precinct 13: Schroeder 94 Calaycay 107 Healy 69
Precinct 15: Schroeder 134 Calaycay 194 Healy 121
Precinct 20: Schroeder 92 Calaycay 130 Healy 60
Precinct 29: Schroeder 147 Calaycay 209 Healy 86
Precinct 37: Schroeder 86 Calaycay 145 Healy 66

Election day coverage

Election day has finally arrived!

Be sure to get out to your local polling station and make your voices heard. Polls are open until 8 p.m. tonight. There are 10 polling stations throughout Claremont, one for each precinct.

Check out lavote.net and type in your address to find the station near you. Or call city hall at 399-5460.

So far, it appears voter interest in this council race is pretty low. Assistant City Clerk Shelley Desautels said the city has counted only 2,115 absentee ballots, a significant drop-off from 2,482 in 2007.

Voter turnout for city council elections has declined each year since 2003, when 34 percent of registered voters went to the polls. That year, Peter Yao, Jackie McHenry and Sandy Baldonado were voted into office.

In 2005, 33 percent came out. In 2007, it dropped to 31 percent.

It's unclear why voters seem less interested this time around. Maybe because there are only 3 candidates running for 2 open seats. Maybe because they are all well qualified to serve. Or maybe because there are no hot button issues in the community to sway the casual voter to make the extra trip to the ballot box.

Regardless, the COURIER will be covering the highs and lows of election night. We'll start the evening off at city hall where city staff will start counting ballots starting at 8 p.m.

After that, we'll visit and talk with the candidates at their parties around town.

Check in to the COURIER City Beat later this evening for election updates and photos. The COURIER homepage will have full election results on Wednesday morning.

We want to hear your thoughts on the election results. Be sure to post a comment below.