Friday, April 30, 2010

Donut shop owner pleads guilty to ivory smuggling

In case you missed this item in Wednesday's paper, the owner of Pixie Donuts up in the Vons shopping center reversed his not guilty plea to charges of ivory smuggling.

Earlier in March, shop owner Moun Chau plead not guilty to the charges that he smuggled ivory from endangered African elephants into the US in violation of federal laws and international treaties. If convicted, he could have faced a 25-year jail sentence.

On March 24, Chau entered a plea bargain with federal prosecutors. By admitting guilt in the case, his maximum sentence was lowered to 5 years in prison, 3 years of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000.

His sentencing hearing is scheduled for October 18.

Pixie Donuts is still open for business and has been for over 20 years. We've already heard from at least one loyal customers who stands firmly behind the business owners despite Chau's involvement in the illicit ivory carving trade.

Here's a photo of some of the ivory Fish and Wildlife Services officers found in the back room of Pixies Donuts during a search warrant in 2006.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Smoking ban rejected

"I choose free will." - Mayor Pro Tem Sam Pedroza, quoting a song from Rush.

The proposed outdoor ban on smoking in Claremont was not passed on Tuesday night. The city council voted 4 to 1 against the prohibition measure, citing potential negative impacts on businesses and a lack of evidence that second-hand smoke in outdoor settings is any sort of health risk.

Nearly 20 speakers addresses the council on the issue during the meeting, most of whom were opposed to the ban. One speaker, Ed Tessier, mocked the idea, saying the council should next ban strong smelling perfumes, the Metrolink because it causes pollution and crying babies.

Only Councilmember Larry Schroeder supported the proposal, saying that "the public good often trumps the personal choice."

Both Councilmember Peter Yao and Mayor Pro Tem Sam Pedroza questioned why the item was even on the council's agenda. Back in 2008, the council already discussed banning smoking in the public plaza and decided against it at that time.

They criticized the Community Services Commission for wasting the time of an already understaffed city staff with an item that was clearly not a priority for the city council.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Is smoking in public a nuisance?

The city council will meet tonight to discuss an ordinance that would bar people from smoking in many public places around the city.

The proposed law should generate some controversy, raising questions about personal freedoms of smokers and the government's role in addressing public health concerns due to smoking. Others are asking what the law's affect can have on businesses in town.

Smokers certainly enjoy having their beverage of choice and a smoke while lounging on patios outside of Starbucks, Some Crust Bakery, the Press, the Hip Kitty, Coffee Bean, the Back Abbey, etc. Casablanca in the Packing House even rents out hookahs on their patio. The law would bar smoking in all these places, and some are worried it will push business out of town.

The proposed ordinance would also ban smoking at the Farmer's Market, in the Village West public plaza and at city functions with large gatherings. College students would be affected too, at their outdoor cafes and restaurant seating areas.

Here's the city staff report on the subject. On page 2, the report acknowledges the reality of the situation. Even if this law is passed, it will be just another leaf blower ordinance that is largely ineffective and rarely enforced.

Tonight's meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. in the city council chambers at city hall.

Friday, April 16, 2010

A busy weekend in Claremont

It will be a busy weekend in Claremont with lots of fun stuff to do. Tonight Earth Day kicks off with an art opening and music at the Packing House Forum combined with a Green Market.

Beginning at 6:30 p.m., the art opening will feature directors of Otterspace Arts, Jen Rosen and Mary Beth Fletcher and music by the Sugar Mountain Mama Serenade.

On Saturday, Earth Day continues in the Village with activities throughout the day. Vendors and exhibitions on green businesses will line Second Street from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

And don't forget about the annual Spelling Bee on Sunday, hosted by the Friends of the Claremont Library. The event will be from 2 to 4 p.m. at Taylor Hall.

Come out and support "the Weekly Buzz" - the COURIER team of managing editor Kathryn Dunn, features writer Brenda Bolinger and yours truly!

Beep beep!

Thanks to reader Christine Meek for sending in this photo, taken by her son Parker. This road runner has been spotted on Hood Drive in north Claremont several times dating back to the summer.

Christine asked me if there are other road runners running around town, what they eat and where they nest. I'm no bird expert, but I can copy and paste from Wikipedia. Here's what I found:

The breeding habitat is desert and shrubby country in the southwestern United States and northern Mexico. It can be seen in the US states of California, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas, Louisiana, and rarely in Arkansas and Missouri.

The Greater Roadrunner nests on a platform of sticks low in a cactus or a bush and lays 3-6 eggs which hatch in 20 days. The chicks fledge in another 18 days. Pairs may occasionally rear a second brood. This bird walks rapidly about, running down prey or occasionally jumping up to catch insects or birds.

It mainly feeds on insects, small reptiles, rodents, tarantulas, scorpions and small birds, as well as fruit and seeds.
Although capable of flight, it spends most of its time on the ground, and can run at speeds of up to 20 miles per hour (32 km/h).

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Freeway pollution flip flop

One of the biggest issues in Claremont in recent years was the affordable housing project on Base Line Road.

Dozens upon dozens of residents came out against the project, mostly citing studies that say children living near freeways can develop serious health problems from the air pollution.

But when the city council on Tuesday night approved the sale of that land to a private residential developer, there was one lone voice in the audience who addressed the council.

Former city council candidate Opanyi Nasiali said, "I still want to be on the record as saying that the city should not be allowing any new residential developments adjacent to the freeway."

And what about the other residents and groups who came out so fiercely against the affordable housing project being built in their neighborhood? The ones who denied being NIMBYs (not in my backyard) and were only concerned about the welfare of children who would end up living there?

At the March 23 council meeting, Joseph O'Toole chimed in. His group, Citizens for the American Dream, strongly opposed the affordable housing project and relied upon the freeway pollution argument.

"I agree to the market-priced housing on the area next to the strawberry patch," O'Toole said. "We went through many years of fighting [the affordable housing project] and we're very happy with market-based housing."

I guess his argument goes that poor people don't have a choice on where to live and would be stuck living by the freeway. But people with money are free to live where they want and can choose to buy a home by the freeway at their own risk.

But the truth is that all children, rich or poor, do not have a choice on where they live. Their parents are the ones who ultimately make those decisions. And those studies cited by Citizens for the American Dream and others show that children up to the age of 18 and the elderly are the ones most likely to be harmed by freeway pollution.

So if O'Toole and other former opponents of the affordable housing project were genuinely concerned about children's health, they would not support any residential development along freeways in Claremont.

The fact that O'Toole and other former opponents are now supporting "market-based housing" just screams of hypocrisy to me.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

City council to discuss property sales

The city council will meet tonight for its first of 2 April meetings. To begin the meeting, the council has a closed session hearing on negotiations with the city employee unions.

During the open session beginning at 6:30 p.m., the council will be asked to approved the sale of Redevelopment Agency-owned land at Base Line Road and Towne Avenue. The 2.66 acres of land was purchased back in 2005/06 to build an affordable housing project.

If the sale goes through, the agency will be losing money on the property to the tune of $210,000. It was purchased for $1.96 million and the proposed sale prices is $1.75 million.

The proposed buyer is City Ventures, a residential developer based in Los Angeles.

Another item on the agenda centers around the sale of land at the Bernard Field Station after an appeal was filed on the approval of parcel maps there.

On March 2, the Planning Commission approved the creation of 4 parcel maps on 11.45 acres of the property. Owner Harvey Mudd College plans to sell half of the property to Claremont Graduate University.

Michael Keenan filed the appeal on the premise that the zoning and land use designations are inconsistent and inappropriate.

Harvey Mudd has announced in the past their intention to build a parking lot on the property, however the staff report states that neither HMC or CGU "has any development plans at this time."

The meeting takes place at the city council chambers at city hall. Residents can also watch the meetings live here.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

7-Eleven and Claremont

Thanks to the COURIER reader who wrote in with the following bit of information.

We all know how residents effectively and thoroughly ran 7-Eleven out of town. The irony pointed out below is the long-standing connection between Claremont, through Masatoshi Ito of CGU, and the 7-Eleven corporation.

"The official name of Peter Drucker School of Management in Claremont is “Peter F. Drucker & Masatoshi Ito Graduate School of Management.”

Masatoshi Ito is the owner of 7-11. He owns the entire 7-11 corporation; both in the US and in Japan.

Ito's association with Peter Drucker/Claremont spanned over 30 years. Mr. Ito is now over 90 years old but traveled to Claremont just a few months ago in celebrating Drucker's 100 year centennial. We have no 7-11 store, but Claremont does have 30 years of 7-11 connection.

It was Peter Drucker's insistence that Ito's name be added to his school. Drucker was so impressed with Ito's customer focus success and highly ethical operation all grounded on principles learned by Ito from Drucker. Ito's monetary donations to the school was significant but far short of the level in getting his name on the school.

The dichotomy of the large number of Claremont residents demonizing 7-11 while the world renowned "management guru" having given this 7-11 owner the highest expression of praise.

Claremont is Claremont; I don’t think that even Drucker could have reversed a single resident’s opinion of 7-11."

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Claremont power outage

A power outage has affected several homes in northeast Claremont. According to Southern California Edison's "outage center," the problem began at 8:57 a.m. due to an "equipment problem." Crews are currently trying to fix the problem.

The website estimates the power outage will continue until 12:15 a.m. early Wednesday morning. Residents can call the following number for the latest update. 1-800-655-4555

John Pixley blog

Claremont COURIER columnist John Pixley has his own blog called Queerx3. One of COURIER readers' favorite columnists, Pixley has been writing for the COURIER since the mid-1980s.

If you're a fan of his column and unique perspective, you'll definitely enjoy his blog. Be sure to check it out. Here, he explains the name for his blog:

I call it Queer3, because I'm queer in three ways: 1. I'm gay. 2. I'm severely disabled with Cerebral Palsy; hence, my physique, including my speech, is queer. 3. I'm a quaker (unprogrammed). Quakers have been called "a peculiar people." Stretch this a bit, and you get queer. I think this give me a pretty unique perspective on things.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Egg hunt and pancake breakfast tomorrow

The City of Claremont and the Rotary Club of Claremont will be hosting the Annual Spring Celebration and Egg Hunt tomorrow in Memorial Park. This event is FREE and open to the public. The candy hunt begins at 10:30 a.m. Pancake breakfast begins at 9 a.m.

DUI checkpoint tonight

The Claremont Police Department will conduct a DUI/driver's license checkpoint today at an undisclosed location.

The checkpoint will begin at 6 p.m. and end at 2 a.m. Saturday. Motorists will be stopped long enough to check their license and to ensure they are not under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Funding for the operation was provided by a grant from the California Office of Traffic Safety through the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.