Friday, July 31, 2009

The future of Claremont's Commissions

One thing I forgot to mention in my budget report from last Wednesday's paper was the council's discussion on the city commissions. Claremont has 6 commissions that review projects, policies and programs before they get to the city council level.
Together they look at everything under the sun from architectural design of a new development to the Police Department's video surveillance policy, a new sidewalk or traffic light and removing city trees.

The 6 Commissions include Community Services, Police, Human Services, Traffic and Transportation, Planning and Architectural. The commissions usually meet once a month, with exception to the Architectural and Planning Commissions, which meet twice a month.

When commissions meet, at least two city staff members have to be there to make presentations, take minutes and answer questions. Sometimes the meetings run late into the night, eating away at staff time.

At the recent budget workshop, the council talked generally about reigning in spending on the commissions. Without much specifics, they directed staff to come up with ideas to find ways to save with the commissions. This could mean anything from less frequent meetings, combining commissions or even cutting some altogether.

The council will hear a report about the commissions sometime after the city's August break.

On a side note, the council just confirmed several new city commissioners at Tuesday night's meeting. There was one bit of controversy over the appointment of James Manifold to the Architectural Commission.

Manifold is an assistant Professor of Accounting and Vice President of Financial Aid and Business Affairs at Scripps College. He also worked on the citizens committee for the City's revision of the General Plan a couple years back.

But Manifold is technically not a Claremont resident. He lives on the county side of Via Padova. The council confirmed him anyways despite discovering the night before that Manifold does not live in the city.

The confusion came from the actual application for commissions, which does not clearly state that one has to be a Claremont resident to apply. According to City Clerk Lynne Fryman, the application does ask: "How long have you been a resident of the city?" Manifold answered "29 years."

The applications will be changed to say that only Claremont residents can apply for commission spots, Fryman said.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

College pays off

The New York Times ran an interesting piece a few days back about which colleges produce the highest wage earners. Claremont's Harvey Mudd College was third on the list, just behind Dartmouth College and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

According to data pulled from Payscale, the median mid-career salary (at least 10 years out of school) for Harvey Mudd alumns is $125,000 per year. Further down the list was Claremont McKenna College at $102,000 and Pomona College at $97,500.

Just down the 10 Freeway, Loma Linda University came in first on the list for median starting salaries (5 years or less out of college) at $71,400 per year.

Click here for a full list of schools and salaries.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Budget update

The council met all day on Saturday to address Claremont's budget problems. For the most part, the council went along with the City Manager's recommendations on how to shore up the deficit. At the end of the day, the council approved about $2.5 million in cuts.

The most drastic moves involved city staff and their working hours. Over the next 2 weeks, department heads will be looking at their staff in order to shave off 11 percent of their operating budgets. That means eliminating positions and laying off workers.

Those who keep their jobs are looking at a 5 percent pay cut while working 38 hours a week. City hall and perhaps other city buildings will be closed on Fridays, beginning in September or October.

The council also approved a "Golden Handshake" retirement package but it's only applicable to 6 current employees. The package offers incentives to employees nearing retirement age to walk away from their jobs early. If they accept, the positions will remain empty, saving more money in the future.

City services were cut. Fees on things like sports fields usage and parking tickets will likely go up. And the city will be looking at more ways to generate revenue.

A commonly expressed concern at the meeting was that the budget problems are not over. The state could come back to hit local cities and/or Claremont's tax earnings could keep dwindling. A scary thought considering how deep the latest round of cuts were.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Budget workshop to address $2.69 million shortfall

The city released the staff report for tomorrow's budget meeting. The city council will meet from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. to discuss an estimated $2.69 million budget shortfall for the fiscal year 2009-10.

According to a staff report, the city is considering cutting programs, services and reigning in spending by different city departments by up to 15 percent.

The city is also considering moving employees to a 38 hour work week, which would cut their salaries by about 5 percent. The move, if implemented, would save the city about $437,409.

According to the report, the deficit comes from $500,000 in a revenue shortfall due to current economic conditions and a $2.1 million loss of revenue due to state seizures for its budget deficit.

With the changes being proposed, residents will really feel an impact from this budget deficit. To earn more revenue, the city is proposing raising rates on parking tickets by 20 percent, issuing citations to cars parked in the way of street sweepers and increased transit occupancy taxes at hotels.

There may be cuts to programs like DARE, the mobile recreation program, increased fees for sports field usage, children's programs and much more.

The city council will have tough decision to make at tomorrow's meeting. In March, the city already squeezed $2 million out of the budget to close a deficit. Most of that came from the General Fund Reserve and benefits cuts to city staff.

I'll have a full report of the meeting in the Wednesday, July 29 edition of the COURIER.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Affordable housing site review

The Architectural Commission will meet tonight to review the site plan for the affordable housing project on College Avenue.

Here's the staff report. The meeting begin at 7 p.m. in the city council chambers.

The city also conducted a traffic impact analysis for the project. The document, viewable on the city's website, concludes that "there are no significant project impacts, and no mitigation measures are required." Some points worth noting:

"Vehicles would not experience significant delays due to trains crossing College Avenue."
"Pedestrians can safely cross College Avenue to/from Oakmont Elementary School and College Park according to the pedestrian gap surveys."
"... the addition of project traffic would not impact pedestrian connectivity or neighboring streets."
"... the existing traffic signal at College Avenue/Kirkwood Avenue does not need to be relocated to College Avenue/Green Street."

Friday, July 17, 2009

Notes on coyotes

I've gotten some feedback on my recent article on coyote attacks in northeast Claremont. The paper's received 2 "Letters to the Editor" from residents recounting their own experiences with coyote attacks on pets. See below.

As a pet owner myself, I empathize with anyone who's lost a pet in such a horrifying manner. At the same time, I certainly wouldn't promote any vigilante justice against coyotes that I heard during interviews for the story. The foothills is the animal's native habitat and like it or not, coyotes are here to stay.

Some residents are calling on the city to do something about the aggressive coyotes. There are genuine concerns about a baby or child being the next victim.

But what can the city really do? Police and city officials have consistently said they won't remove coyotes unless it is posing an "immediate threat" to humans. Even if a coyote is relocated, they will eventually return to the place they were moved from.

The city certainly cannot kill coyotes. That's illegal.

The best thing is for residents with small pets and children to always be vigilant. This is especially true in summer, when coyotes are attracted to man-made water sources like sprinklers and pools.

Here's some tips from the city's website on living with coyotes. It might not be the answer people are looking for, especially those who've already lost their pets, but it may help prevent more deadly encounters in the future.

I read your article on the aggressive nature of Coyotes with great interest as I have noticed a large increase in my personal coyote sightings in Claremont over the past 28 years. In my own neighborhood I have not seen a cat prowling day or night for 8 or 9 years. But I was foolish enough to think that our family pet was protected behind the stone fencing around my home. I was discussing your article as my family and I left for dinner and upon our return two hours later at dusk we found our beloved dog mortally wounded in our back yard. My children were not only traumatized by the loss of their life long companion but by the carnage left behind. I think it is time that the city step up and recognize this as not an isolated incident but accept the responsibility for the safety and welfare of all it’s residence. I would ask that my fellow neighbors take a moment to tie a white ribbon around their mail box or tree in the front of their homes to let our City Government know how many animals we have lost so it does not take the loss of a human before something is done. – Mourning

After reading the July 15th Courier article about the recent increase in coyote sighting, I took a moment to reflect on the recent demise of our little “snuggle-bear.” It was a sunny Monday morning, just after 9 a.m. The trash collectors were traveling up and down the alley, emptying out trash bins. My daughter resting with a migraine. She cracked open the door from her bedroom to the backyard patio. Her 15 year cat, Snuggle went out to sun in a spot perhaps 4 feet from the open door. Suddenly my daughter said that something rushed by and Snuggle was gone. She called me at work and I rushed home. I search the alley behind our house but to no avail.

What we learned later was that yes indeed, a coyote had taken her. Two blocks away, a woman driving down Yale at 11^th saw a coyote with a cat in its mouth. She beeped and the coyote drop Snuggle. The woman was afraid but nonetheless got out of her car and tried to prevent the coyote from picking her up again. The coyote retreated to a den where she had pups. A neighbor who lives on Indian Hill was walking by and saw what happened. He scooped up Snuggle and told my daughter that he cuddled her as she died in his arms, telling her she would be missed.

Telling this story brings tears to my eyes. Not just because we lost our dear Snuggle-bear but also because of the kindness of strangers for a little black cat.

Yes, coyotes “were here first” but so what. They are no longer kept in check by their natural enemies bears and wolves. They have found it easy to thrive in cities where our pets are much easier pickings than the faster wildlife they are use to hunting.

Coyotes are multiplying and becoming bolder, less afraid of humans and more aggressive. There have been cases in the where small children have been attacked.

There must be a way to have a balanced discussion to develop a management policy.

- Deborah McVeigh

COUIER vs. City softball match update

As some of you may have already heard, the city came out victorious in the softball match held Wednesday at Larkin Park. Despite our best efforts, the COURIER team was outmatched by the younger city team. The final score was 23 to 12.

Regardless of the outcome, everyone had a good time and expressed hope to keep up the tradition. The COURIER team, pictured above, discussed our weaknesses and will be ready to compete in a re-match.

So congratulations to the city for a fine effort. COURIER Publisher Peter Weinberger has been working on a more detailed account of the game. Be sure to look out for the column in tomorrow's paper.

DUI Checkpoint tonight

Just a reminder that the Claremont Police Department will hold a sobriety checkpoint tonight at an undisclosed location. This will be the second one in as many weeks.

The Department gets funding for the programs from the California Office of Traffic Safety.

Police will be checking drivers for the use of drugs or alcohol, use of seat belts and valid driver licenses. The checkpoint runs from 6 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

COURIER vs City softball match

Today the COURIER will take on the city in a friendly softball match. Everyone is invited to come out and support the COURIER team (or the city, if you are so inclined). The city's team features Councilmember Sam Pedroza and several city staff members.

It should be a fun time for all. You might want to be want to bring a lawn chair and something to drink, it's hot out there! The game is at Larkin Park, 660 N. Mountain Ave., beginning at 6 p.m.

Happy Birthday Mayor

Photo Courtesy of the City Website

The COURIER staff would like to offer warm birthday wishes to Mayor Corey Calaycay, who turns 39 today.

Yesterday, the crowd sang 'Happy Birthday' to him at the Chamber of Commerce breakfast and last night at the city council meeting, he received a special gift from his fellow council members.

"Mayor Calaycay, on behalf of your council, we'd like you to replace your malfunctioned alarm clock with the one we're about to give you," Councilmember Peter Yao said.

Calaycay graciously accepted his gift, had a good chuckle and moved things along at the meeting.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Kori Carter wins silver

Kori Carter trains at Claremont High School in February 2009.

This just in from Bressanone, Italy, where Claremont track phenom Kori Carter competed in the 2009 IAAF World Youth Championship. Carter won won the silver medal in the girls’ 100-meter hurdles. Last year, Kori competed in the World Youth Championship in Bydgoszcz, Poland. Read more here.

Here's the news release:

Carter won Team USA's second medal of the competition and in the blink of an eye Bridgette Owens (Oak Park, Mich.) won the third. Carter had a much better start this go around, and hurdled her way to the silver medal in the girls 100m hurdles, finishing in a personal best 13.26. Owens was just behind her, claiming the bronze medal and her second personal best of the day in 13.39.

Team USA finished in the top spot at the World Youth Championship, collecting 16 medals including six gold medals, one short of tying their record of seven gold medals set in 2007. USA and Kenya share the distinction of earning the most gold medals at the event.
USA Track & Field fielded some of the best athletes aged 16 and 17 through December 31, 2009 (born in 1992 or 1993) for the World Youth Team USA at the 6th IAAF World Youth Championship that was held July 8 to 12.

For more information on the 6th IAAF World Youth Championship including complete results, click here.

Friday, July 10, 2009

DUI Checkpoint this Saturday

The Claremont Police Department will conduct a sobriety checkpoint at an undisclosed location in town. The checkpoint will be held this Saturday beginning at 6 p.m. and ending at 2 a.m.

All drivers passing through the checkpoint will be stopped long enough to determine that the drivers are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol. All drivers will be check to ensure they are wearing their seat belts and have valid driver licenses.

Let's hope nothing goes haywire this time around, unlike what happened back at a May 22 DUI checkpoint ...

A 53-year-old North Hollywood resident nearly killed himself at a police checkpoint located at the intersection of Indian Hill Boulevard-Dartmouth Avenue.

At approximately 8:05 p.m., the man was diverted into a 2nd lane when police discovered he was driving on a suspended license and had a warrant out for his arrest. While in the vehicle, the 53-year-old pulled out a knife and started slashing his throat, causing multiple lacerations in his neck.

Officers attempted to get the man to stop but he refused. Police then used a taser on the man to get the knife away.

Paramedics arrived shortly after police seized the knife and transferred the man to Pomona Valley Hospital, where he was diagnosed in serious condition due to the loss of blood. After being treated and undergoing a psychiatric evaluation, the man was later released.

Police later issued the man a citation for the warrant and his suspended driver’s license.

COURIER recognized by the National Newspaper Association

The Claremont COURIER recently found out that we've earned a few awards from the National Newspaper Association's Better Newspaper contest.

COURIER photographer Gabriel Fenoy won first place for Best Feature Photo, in the category Non-daily Division, circulation 4,500 - 5,999. The photo, seen above, was taken at Claremont Place's Easter egg hunt.

Fenoy and Managing Editor Kathryn Dunn also took first prize for Best Use of Photographs, Non-daily Division, circulation less than 6,000, for page design and photos in the issues dated March 5 and March 8 2008.

Columnist Mellissa Martinez won 2nd place in the category Best Humorous Column, Non-daily Division, circulation 5,000 - 7,999. You can read her "Lex in the City" article, entitled Money Talks, by clicking here.

Finally, obituaries and features writer Brenda Bolinger took 3rd place in the category Best Obituary, Non-daily Division, circulation less than 6,000. You can read the article here.

Congratulations to a hard-working team for producing quality work and making the COURIER a great paper.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Claremont filmmaker wins again

Claremont Jared Cicon, a former wedding photographer turned "do it yourself" filmmaker and producer, nabbed the top prize of $10,000 for his homemade advertisement for Skinit Inc.

Cicon has won or been a finalist for similar contests in the past for companies like Heinz, Klondike Bar and Fanta.

Congratulations Jared! Here's a link to watch the winning video.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

July 4th notes

It was a great fourth of July once again in Claremont. COURIER photographer Gabriel Fenoy was out and about from 8 a.m. to the last firework to capture all the great moments.

Here's a few of his photos that didn't make it into tomorrow's paper. You can also view a photo gallery of his best shots tomorrow on our website.

I ran in the Claremont Freedom 5000 race, as did my colleague Brenda Bolinger. I put up a decent time of 23.17 that I'm pretty proud of and wrote a column about the run for tomorrow's paper. Click here for the race results.

For some it was a very long day. City staff and countless volunteers worked hard to make July 4th a great success. We thank them for all their efforts.

But one man was noticeably missing for much of the day's activities. Mayor Corey Calaycay, pictured below, pulled a no-show for the Flag Raising and Opening Ceremonies at 10 a.m. and was still absent for his 11 a.m. address at the Speaker's Corner.

By 11:30 a.m., city staff was getting seriously worried about his safety. Police, fire fighters and assistant city manager Tony Ramos were sent to Calaycay's house to make sure he was okay.

They found him, alive and well, if not a bit sleepy-eyed. The mayor had simply overslept. He eventually made his way down to Memorial Park to join in the fun and apologized for his earlier absence.

"It's never a nice thing to have to begin a speech with an apology but I must do that," he said at the Speaker's Corner. "It's tradition for the mayor to open the speaker's corner and I was truly looking forward to that and I'm embarrassed to say I overslept this morning."

Mayor Corey Calaycay and Mayor Pro Tem Linda Elderkin wave to the crowd at the 4th of July parade.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Home decorating contest winners

Congrats to Sharon (left) and Sheila (right) Murphy, winners of this year's 4th of July home decorating contest. The sisters recreated a beach scene on their driveway and a rockin' hoppin' park on their front lawn. Be sure to stop by and check out their handiwork at 1311 Cedarview Drive.

Second place winners are the McClosky family at 1828 Santa Rosa Court and third place went to the Kerners at 1731 North Towne Avenue.