Friday, January 29, 2010

Mayor Corey Calaycay moving forward with bid for state assembly

While nothing is official until the March 15 deadline, you can expect Mayor Corey Calaycay to be running for a seat in the California state assembly. Calaycay has already filed some paper work, opened accounts and formed a team of advisers in anticipation of running for the seat.

Earlier this month, current State Assemblyman Anthony Adams announced that he will not seek a third term in office.

For over 12 years, Calaycay has served in various positions working for elected officials in the state government. Most recently, he worked in former State Senator Bob Margett's Glendora office until he left the senate in November 2008.

Calaycay is already planning some kickoff events/press conferences throughout the 59th Assembly Distric to officially announce his run around March 15.

Facebook account

For those of you out there on Facebook, I have a new account dedicated to spreading Claremont news. I will link blog post as they're written and post little tidbits of news here and there. It will be another way for the COURIER to connect with readers and provide information about what's going on in the community. Feel free to add me on your friends list if you're interested. You can do a simple search by my email address:

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Debating Pixie Donut Shop

I try not to get involved in commenting on letters to the editor submitted by COURIER readers. But one recent letter attacks an article I wrote for being "sensational," "twisted" and "over-the-top awful" so I felt compelled to respond.

Here it is as printed in today's issue of the COURIER.

Dear Editor:
Your article on Saturday, January 23, was over-the-top awful. How dare you call out an established business in our town on an alleged and, in my mind, meaningless allegation.
You questioned whether or not the business could retain its customers. Well, I, for one, will not only keep going to Pixie but because of your sensationalism in your article, I might just throw a little more in the tip jar.
For the last 11 years, my morning starts the same way as it does for so many in our neighborhood. No, it is not with a stop at a place with a “barista” with a javelin through her nose. It is not to a place where the youth sit with their laptops and work away on their social networking sites. It is not at a place where you can order coffee a thousand different ways.
It is at a place where you are greeted by June the same way each day. It is at a place where June and her husband start each day at 3:30 a.m. The start of their normal 13-14 hour day (364 days per year). It is a place where June knows everyone’s favorite drink. Not many drinks to pick from you see, and that is great. They have coffee, hot chocolate, orange juice, soda and milk.
I remember the time June apologized for having to raise the price on coffee. They raised the price on a large coffee from $1 to $1.20. Still a far cry from the $4 triple grand latte with no whip made with sub soy milk and one raw sugar. Oh, yeah, leave room. Pixie does not have scones, reduced fat cinnamon swirl coffee cake or their own labeled water, saving children in some far away third world country.
Pixie does have the best donuts and muffins you will find in our community. They have a simple brown bulletin board that they will let you post any event that supports the local community. They have been a constant supporter of local schools, youth sports and youth groups. June and her husband have been part of our kids lives watching them grow up. My kids started by staring through the glass cases at the glazes and frosting. Now they get to enjoy looking over the cases and seeing June’s warm smile as she wishes them luck whether they are going to sports, a dance or school.
Pixie is poetry in motion every morning as June and her staff know the orders of most and work in harmony to move the masses through their small, simple donut shop. They are a Claremont family with their kids going through Claremont schools. They support us and I know I will continue to support them despite the twisted article written about something that took place in 2006. You should have stuck to reporting on “Storm Watch Twenty Ten!”
As I read your description of the all-powerful Department of Fish and game and their aid on Pixie in 2006, all I could picture was the TSA finding a shampoo bottle. Whew, I feel so protected by these almighty governmental agencies.
Pixie, you are an example of what this country is about and is getting away from. You are hard-working, simple people with great values. You deliver a great product at a fair price with great customer service.
Thanks for being a fixture in the community and see you tomorrow at 4:45 a.m.
Your loyal customer,
Hal Hargrave

The letter was in reference to the federal indictment announced last week against the owner of Pixie Donut Shop, Moun Chau, who authorities believe was involved in an ivory smuggling operation. The ivory came from African elephants, classified as an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. You can read more about African elephant poaching and the ivory trade here.

Hargrave's letter doesn't touch on the charges that Chau's activities violated a federal law, the Endangered Species Act, and an international treaty signed by the United States. Or that he is facing up to 25 years in federal prison for his alleged crimes. Or that evidence points to the fact that Chau had an ivory carving studio in the back of his doughnut shop.

Instead, Hargrave criticizes everything from coffee shop employees with nose piercings to Ethos Water for "saving children in some far away third world country." By the way, Ethos, founded by CMC grad Peter Thum, has to date raised over $6 million toward a grant for humanitarian water programs.

Hargrave clearly likes the blue collar setting at Pixies while thumbing his nose at the foo foo coffee shop atmosphere at places like Starbucks. In fact, he applauds Pixie owners for being a family-run business that is friendly and offers good products at reasonable prices.

I am not doubting that Pixies has good doughnuts or the owners are friendly to their customers. But the fact remains that federal agents found dozens of pieces of ivory in the business as well as tools to carve them into decorative products, likely to be sold on to collectors.

I personally find ivory smuggling a reprehensible activity. I applaud federal laws and international treaties banning it and punishing those who commit it for personal gain. Whether a poacher, trader or ivory carver, all are links in a chain that decimated elephant populations before laws like the Endangered Species Act were created.

In a community like Claremont so concerned with sustainability of the natural environment, I'm quite sure I'm not the only one who is disturbed by a business owner allegedly smuggling ivory from overseas and carving it in the back of his shop. Apparently, Hargrave isn't bothered by this, calling the indictment against Chau a "meaningless allegation."

Yes, in the article I questioned whether the business will suffer because the owner is an accused ivory smuggler. I think it's a legitimate question. I know some people who won't go there anymore. But apparently there are people out there, like Hargrave, standing strongly behind the business.

I, for one, plan to get my doughnuts from Yum Yum from now on.

Friday, January 15, 2010

CMC grad is OC's most notorious criminal

The Orange County Register recently created a new blog dedicated the 50 most notorious crimes in the history of Orange County. With the county celebrating its 120th Anniversary, the newspaper thought it would highlight these dark parts of the county's history.

Written by Register reporter Larry Welborn, the blog generated both praise and criticism, with some readers calling it "sensational" and untimely as it was published right around the holidays.

One feature of the blog also allowed readers to vote on what they thought was the most notorious crime story in the history of the county. The top vote getter was Randy Steven Kraft, whom I wrote about here.

The Claremont McKenna College graduate is believed to have killed some 65 young men in California, Oregon and Michigan over a 13-year span. Police found a scorecard in Kraft's vehicle with 65 codified names on it.

Kraft was finally arrested on May 14, 1983 when CHP pulled him over for swerving and discovered a dead marine in his passenger seat. Many of his victims were simply shoved out of his moving vehicle on the side of the freeway, discarded like a piece of litter.

Kraft was convicted of 16 murders and sentenced to death in 1989. He is still on death row.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Get your sandbags

Free sandbags are available at Claremont's 3 fire stations. The city is handing them out to residents in anticipation of heavy rains next week. The fire stations are located at 606 W. Bonita Ave., 4370 Sumner Ave and 3710 N. Mills Ave.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Mark McGwire apologizes for steroid use

Most of you have heard by now about how baseball slugger Mark McGwire has come clean on his use of steroids.

McGwire grew up in Claremont and Pomona and, according to the COURIER Almanac from last year, still holds the Claremont Little League record for home runs. He once played baseball for Claremont High School before transferring to Damien High School.

The COURIER has put a poll on our homepage, asking readers if you think he still deserves a place in the Baseball Hall of Fame. Be sure to cast your vote.

Here's a clip of a teary McGwire discussing his steroid use in an interview with the Associated Press.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Happy Birthday COURIER City Beat!

I've been blogging now for one whole year. I've managed a total of 145 posts over the course of the year. Not too shabby.

I've tried to bring a variety of news to the blog: crime, city council news and announcements about upcoming events.

With the paper coming out just twice a week, one great things about having a blog is the speed I can get news out. When there's breaking news, like the Metrolink crash or election results, residents can get the information right away.

It also allows me to give some background information or opinion on stories that I've written for the paper. At times, I've had to deal with angry phone calls, emails or comments after writing some posts like Claremont swap meet? or Pit bull shooting.

The blog also lets me have some fun, like with my Halloween piece or publishing old photos of the Mayor. I'm happy he's been a really good sport about it.

I hope readers out there have enjoyed reading the CCB so far. I've enjoyed writing it. Of course, I'm always open to suggestions on how to make it better. What would you like to read about?

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Southard spending habits back under scrutiny

The COURIER has been getting calls about some news reports surfacing in the Desert Sun involving former Claremont city manager Glenn Southard.

Southard, who is now city manager of Indio, has come under fire after it was revealed that Indio city staff charged over $805,000 since January 2008 using 62 staff-issued credit cards. According to this article, some of the expenses were for tickets to professional sporting events, lavish dinners and travel expenses for Southard's wife.

Southard was also questioned about his spending habits during his time in Claremont. He clashed with former city councilmember Jackie McHenry after she began asking to see receipts for his expenses. He left Claremont in 2005.

With Indio facing a $9 million budget deficit, Southard's time in Indio may be up soon. The Indio city council will meet in closed session today to discuss offering "golden handshake" retirement packages to city employees. According to this article, Southard would be eligible for early retirement if he opts to take it.

Museum troubles

The COURIER put out an article in today's paper examining the financial problems that led to the closure of the Claremont Museum of Art. The article also touched on some plans for the museum's future.

Last night I received a call from Janet Myhre, a CMA board member who was instrumental in finding donors from the museum. By the time we spoke, it was well past deadline and her comments couldn't be included in the article.

She spoke about the museum's major donor, a Los Angeles resident who's been the largest financial backer of the museum. Today's article notes that the donor "cut off her steady stream of funding to the museum, sending museum officials scrambling to find other funding sources."

The statement may be somewhat misleading, according to Myhre. The donor, who wants to remain anonymous, has given over one million dollars to support the museum over the last 3 years. She has also pledged $10 million in assets to the museum as a deferred gift upon her death.

The donor did not abruptly stop giving but offered to match funds raised by the museum in order to see that it was somewhat financially stable. Myhre was critical of those who tried to place blame the donor for the museum's failure as she's seen some negative comments from former staff or board members in newspaper articles.

"How can you blame a donor who'd already given so much and been so generous to the museum?" Myhre said.

In any case, the CMA is not the only museum with financial hardships. The Fresno Metropolitan Museum announced this week it was closing after 26 years in operation.

According to this article from KMPH, the museum had mounting debts, a declining endowment and was heavily subsidized by the city of Fresno.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Accident victim released from hospital

The 54-year-old man struck by a motorist on Saturday afternoon was released from the hospital yesterday with no broken bones or serious injuries.

The man was walking in a crosswalk at Indian Hill Boulevard and San Jose Avenue around 4:20 p.m. when the accident occurred. A 55-year-old woman turning southbound onto Indian Hill caused the accident.

After the crash, a helicopter landing at Larkin Park airlifted the man to USC Medical Center. Police do not believe drugs or alcohol were involved but continue to investigate the crash.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Accident on San Jose and Indian Hill

A man in his 50s is in the hospital after a vehicle struck him at Indian Hill Boulevard and San Jose Avenue.

Around 4:20 p.m., the Claremont resident was walking in the crosswalk at the intersection, Claremont Police Seargant John Costa said. Driving a Kia Spectra, another Claremont resident in his 50s was turning south on Indian Hill from San Jose when the collission occurred.

The man suffered injuries to his head and arm and was airlifted to UCLA Medical Center for treatment. Police are still investigating the matter.