Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Calaycay's Christmas lights solution goes "down in flames"

Last week, the city council spent about half an hour discussing whether to create a new law that would force all residents of the city to remove any holiday displays within one month after the holiday. That's right, if your Christmas lights, pumpkins and other festive decorations are outside too long, city code enforcement would be knocking on your door.

For a long list of reasons, the council voted down the ordinance. In nicer words, council members called the ordinance pointless, unnecessary and even questioned its constitutionality.

So why is the city council wasting time to consider such a proposal? Hundreds of residents have holiday lights mounted on their houses all year round and it's never been an issue before.

Keep in mind, it's not just a 30-minute discussion at the council meeting. City staff has to research the item, write up a staff report and ordinance and a present its findings to the council.

The Planning Commission also had to consider the item. Like the council, the commission overwhelmingly opposed the ordinance, saying it wasn't in the best interest of the city.

Not to mention the fact that the city council has already discussed this matter before, and chose not to take action. Many of the same issues were brought up at both meetings.

The answer is that the mayor has some power to set the agenda for council meetings, picking and choosing items that interest him/her. In this case, Mayor Corey Calaycay brought this item before the council after no doubt hearing an earful from one unhappy resident.

That unhappy resident is Robert Swartz, who's been in an ongoing dispute with his neighbor Richard Viselli. Each year Viselli transforms his home into an over-the-top Christmas lights show. Nothing would make Swartz happier than having the show completely shut down.

So 2 neighbors can't resolve their differences, one goes and complains to the Mayor and now everyone in the city has to take their Christmas lights down?

Even if this ordinance was approved, little would be resolved between the neighbors. The brunt of the conflict between them is about the actual lights show. Swartz complained at the meeting about Viselli setting up lights several months before the holiday. There's nothing in the ordinance that would regulate either of these things.

"We expect people to take their trash cans in at the end of the day, I figured it wasn't too far removed from what we already have in Claremont that we could at least investigate this as a possible solution to the problem," Calaycay said.

When it was clear the proposal was "going to go down in flames," he added, "To those neighbors who were hoping that this might work, I apologize. And to those who think this is the most stupid idea in the world, I also apologize to you."

The council voted 4 to 1 against the new law.

"I hope this doesn't come back [to the council]," Councilmember Sam Pedroza said. "I hope this is something that you guys figure out and take care of it."

I couldn't agree more.

Friday, September 25, 2009

A mess that could have been avoided

Sparks flew at Tuesday night's city council meeting with a number of residents upset over the Claremont Police Department's handling of the health care reform debate.

Members of the Democratic Club of Claremont rallied around Rudy Mann, who was cited for allegedly assaulting a disruptive participant, Charles Cox.

Andrew Winnick, a DCC member and a Human Services Commissioner, said police should have been aware of a potential threat and called their response a "major failure."

Mann also spoke out at the meeting. He said he was "denied his right to file a complaint against this person who committed this crime against me and against the public."

The police officer who did show up cited Mann for assault but refused to cite Cox for disrupting the meeting. Both men were attempting to make citizen's arrests against each other, but the officer refused to handle Mann's request.

So the officer either showed bias against Mann or simply did not understand how citizen's arrests should be handled. Either case is inexcusable.

Another speaker, Carolyn Gonzalez, President of the Mountain View Republican Club, also addressed the council.
She place the blame on the organizers (the event was sponsored by the Democratic Club of Claremont), calling them "irresponsible" to host the event without any security.

She went on: “[Cox] did stand up. He did shout. He was loud and that is accurate. However what is not being said is that one of the moderators went to him and was poking him in the chest. Physically poking him. He did nothing in response to defend himself. Another gentleman came up, an older man and physically grabbed him. Again, this protester did nothing to defend himself."

I wasn't at the debate, but it seems Cox's whole goal of being there was to draw attention to his pro-life organization, Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust.

He was annoying enough to get organizers to poke, grab, push or otherwise physically confront him. Then he can file a citizen's arrest and get his name and his organization's name some media attention.

If just one police officer had been there throughout the meeting, perhaps none of this mess would have happened. The officer could have removed Cox from the meeting for being disruptive, and organizers would never have touched him.

Police Chief Paul Cooper argued that the Police Department is not a private security force, and the organizers could have hired police to be there.

But I've been to plenty of protests in Claremont, and there's always a police presence. Why have 3 cops at a rally for peace in Iraq and none at a heated health care debate?

It would have been wise to designate at least one officer to monitor the event. After all, health care debates across the country have erupted into yelling matches and even violence.

The follow-up investigation, the citizen's arrests, the accusations of bias and threats of lawsuits could have all been avoided by sending one officer to the 2-hour meeting.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Update on the Health Care Debate altercation

Claremont's town hall debate on health care reform was marred by a mix-up between one of the debate's organizers and a visitor to the event.

The Claremont Police Department has been investigating the matter and last week filed a report with the District Attorney's office. Police expect to hear back later this week from the DA's Office whether charges will be filed against one or both parties.

Outside of the debate, Charles Cox, 21, of Riverside claims that organizer Rudolph Mann pushed or otherwise assaulted him, causing him to fall to the ground and hurt his knee. (I hope he has health insurance.) See the photo above.

Cox wanted Mann arrested for the assault, while Mann wanted Cox arrested for disturbing the meeting. Nobody was actually arrested, but Mann was cited by police.

Cox is reportedly a member of the radical "Christian, pro-life activism organization" called Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust.

Click here to watch footage of Cox captured at the Town Hall debate in Alhambra.

It seems Cox, wearing the same sweaty blue shirt he was wearing at Claremont's town hall debate, likes to draw attention to himself and his cause. In the video, a man appears to punch/push Cox for his excessive chanting while speakers are trying to address the crowd.

I'll have an update on the DA Office's decision as soon as information is available.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Alvarez guilty on all counts, loses seat on Water Board

Xavier Alvarez's days of embarrassing Three Valley Municipal Water District are officially over. About an hour ago, the elected official from Pomona was found guilty of 3 felony counts for misappropriation of public funds, insurance fraud and grand theft.

According to Deputy District Attorney Sandi Roth, a conviction of misappropriation of public funds means Alvarez can no longer be a public servant. His days as a Three Valleys Board member are over.

The news will certainly be welcome by his fellow board members, who have publicly and privately blasted him and his behavior.

The conviction came over 2 years after Alvarez signed up his ex-wife for health insurance benefits through Three Valleys, bilking thousands of dollars in tax payers money over the course of several months.

A dejected Alvarez was taken away in handcuffs after the reading of the guilty verdicts. He will remain behind bar until a sentencing hearing on October 1. Alvarez could be put away for up to 5 years in state prison, although the prosecutor said that stiff a sentence was unlikely.

"I think he should think about his misdeeds while he's sitting in jail," she said.

For a complete story, be sure to check out Wednesday's issue of the COURIER.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Xavier Alvarez trial resumes

Stay tuned for some upcoming news on Xavier Alvarez, Pomona's representative to the board of Three Valley Municipal Water District. Alvarez will be spending some more time in court this week.

Jury selection, opening statements and calling of witnesses should begin tomorrow in his trial. He has been charged with felony accounts of insurance fraud, misappropriation of public funds and grand theft.

The District Attorney has also filed a separate charge against him for perjury, and a preliminary hearing is scheduled this week. Prosecutors will try to prove that Alvarez intentionally falsified his W4 forms at Three Valley to claim that he was married. Alvarez has not been married since 2002.

Tri-City Board meeting today

Tri-City Mental Health Center will have a Governing Board meeting today.

Among the agenda items are a resolution determining salaries for staff members, a resolution to approve the 2009-10 budget and a hearing on the final list of delegates for Tri-City's upcoming Prevention and Early Intervention Planning Process.

Councilmember Larry Schroeder is Claremont's elected representative to Tr-City governing board and Chuck Leeb is the citizen representative for Claremont.

The meeting begins at 4:45 p.m. at Tr-City's main office building at 2008 N. Garey Ave. in Pomona.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

School Board Candidates Forum

The lawn signs are beginning to pop up around town and that means another election is heating up in Claremont.

The race has begun for the CUSD Board of Education featuring 4 candidates running for 3 open seats. Candidates include incumbents Steven Llanusa and Mary Caenepeel and challengers Jeff Hammill and Jeff Stark.
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Tomorrow, you can get to know the candidates and the issues at the first candidate's forum hosted by Active Claremont.

The forum will take place Wednesday evening at the Claremont Library beginning at 7 p.m.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Free pass at the Fair

Get into the LA County Fair for free today, and the next 3 Fridays. If you bring 5 cans of Ralphs Private Label canned goods before 6 p.m., you'll get a free pass into the Fair. Not a bad deal!

For more info on what's going on at the Fair and promotions, visit lacountyfair.com.

Panel Discussion on Health Care System

A panel discussion on “Perspectives from Within the Health Care System” is being presented by the League of Women Voters of the Claremont Area tomorrow from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Hughes Center, 1700 Danbury Rd.

Panelists from sectors involving hospitals, physicians, safety net providers, employer groups and the insurance industry will take part in the panel presentation. The League of Women Voters emphasizes that the event is NOT a debate.

Frederick Lynch, PhD and associate professor at Claremont McKenna College, is the moderator.

Panelists include:

Jaime Garcia, regional vice president of the Hospital Association of Southern California
Patrick Wade, MD,retired neurosurgeon, representing the California Medical Association and the American Association of Neurological Surgeons
Alicia Mardini, chief executive officer of East Valley Community Health Center
Barbara Decker, director of benefits, Southern California Center
Michael Lugo, vice president of The Rule Group
Leanne Gassaway, regional director for state affairs, America’s Health Insurance Plans.

RSVP options include voice mail at 909-624-9457, e-mail: league@claremontn.ca.lwvnet.org or by Fax at 909-624-9839.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Peter Yao to head the Independent Cities Association

I'm back from vacation and back to blogging.

Tonight, the Packing House will be packed with officials from across southern California, including mayors from Beverly Hills, Manhattan Beach and more. Organized by the Independent Cities Association, the event will see Claremont City Councilmember Peter Yao take over as President of the association for the next year.

The event will allow city leaders from the region, including those who've never been to Claremont, to visit our city and see what it has to offer.

The Independent Cities Association is for cities which have hired staff members to operate their own services, including policing, sanitation and engineering, rather than contracting them out to the county. There are currently 52 member cities.

Mr. Yao, Packing House Developer Jerry Tessier and Claremont Museum of Art Director Bill Moreno are schedule to speak at the event.