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Climate change, sustainability, heritage highlight forum

Sustainability and heritage were the topics of the night as the Claremont City Council race kicked into high gear Monday.

The forum, hosted by Sustainable Claremont and Claremont Heritage, is one of six throughout February, which will allow voters to get to know the eight candidates vying for two open spots on the council. The forum’s moderators were Claremont Heritage Executive Director David Shearer and Sustainable Claremont Chair Steve Sabicer.

The 10 questions ran the gamut from the candidates’ personal contributions to sustainability and heritage to what the city could do in the future to improve in these areas.

Incumbents Corey Calaycay and Larry Schroeder had the distinct advantage of drawing on their voting records. Mr. Calaycay drew upon his work with the Cool California Challenge, CHERP and the PACE and HERO retrofit programs.

Mr. Schroeder, in his opening statement, noted that MS-4, a state requirement for the city to allocate storm water runoff, is one of the future challenges facing the city and an experienced leader would be needed to tackle that issue.

Candidate Abraham Prattella, a real-estate developer and part-time pastor, conceded his lack of knowledge on sustainability issues, but vowed to bring transparency and integrity to the council.

“I may not have all the knowledge that Corey and Larry have, but I know I could help bridge the gap between the new and the old,” he said.

Another question asked was if the candidates would support a preservation ordinance in light of the somewhat contentious planning process of the new Pomona College Museum of Art. All of the candidates expressed interest or support of the ordinance.

Candidate Murray Monroe brought up the old Claremont Inn, offering the notion that if there was already a preservation ordinance put in place, older buildings would still be intact.

“If we had this up where older buildings could not be demolished or removed, these Victorian homes on College Avenue, who could ever think of demolishing those?” he asked.

Candidate Zach Courser, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College, cited Judy Wright’s book in pointing out that the Victorians originally came from Pomona. He also called for balancing the past with the future.

“Claremont should not be preserved in amber,” he said. “But we do have a tradition that we need to uphold, a quality of life and character, and I see that.”

Mr. Courser and Mr. Schroeder expressed disappointment in the lack of communication and collaboration between the city and the Colleges while the Pomona College Master Plan, which included plans for the museum, was vetted.

When asked what more the city should do toward sustainability, each candidate offered different ideas. Michael Keenan offered to “take the sustainability plan and turn it upside down” with regard to metrics, while Mr. Monroe stressed Claremont’s potential in being a leader in solar power.

While answering a question on whether climate change was man-made and what the city can do to help curb it, candidate Anthony Grynchal—who calls himself “Mr. Claremont”—touted the moringa olefeira tree, which he claimed was a leading combatant against global warming.

“It not only fully nourishes a human being, it naturally revitalizes the soil and purifies water,” Mr. Grynchal said, offering seeds of the tree to everyone in attendance.

Mr. Prattella was more skeptical about man-made climate change.

“I have a hard time believing the media fully and also online Google research can sometimes be really negative,” Mr. Prattella said. “But I do believe there is some form of climate change occurring and that we should take part on a city level, state level and federal level. We should be aligned and be a thought-leader for our country.”

Development also came into the fray during questions, specifically the candidates’ thoughts on the upcoming development on the southwest side of Indian Hill Boulevard and the railroad tracks.

“My vision for that, my hope, is that we can do something to expand the Village to better connect the southern part of town, even Pepper Tree Square, with the Village,” Mr. Calaycay said.

Mr. Courser, who is a traffic and transportation commissioner, advocated collaboration between Metro Gold Line, Keck Graduate Institute and the city in planning the Village expansion project. He noted, in part, that the city should “bring people in from the Gold Line—have them come through and see our city for what it is.”

Parking and congestion issues were touched upon, specifically in regards to the wilderness park and the Village. Both Mr. Prattella and Mr. Grynchal offered up the idea of a shuttle—Mr. Prattella’s shuttle idea would be from the Village to the wilderness park, and Mr. Grynchal’s shuttle idea was for city employees. Mr. Monroe disagreed with the idea of a shuttle, and suggested more dialog with north Claremont residents in terms of parking near the wilderness park.

“I was a little disappointed that the neighborhood up there was not happy with the parking situation,” Mr. Monroe said. “But it’s nice to see all those people using our park.”

Mr. Shearer asked if the city should create a fixed set of design guidelines to help protect established neighborhoods. If so, would the candidates support them?

Mr. Schroeder was in favor. “As time goes on, it’s more important to have guidelines like that,” he said, noting it was high priority because of the increasing importance of protecting the city’s heritage.

Another question dealt with how the city is approaching sustainability—are we measuring the right things, and what metrics can we use to determine sustainability success?

Mr. Keenan was in favor of overhauling those metrics altogether and vowed to bring the issue to the next council meeting.

Mr. Courser called for a more dynamic approach that is open to change and revision, noting the city needs to be flexible when priorities and sciences change.

At the end of the forum, each candidate was given the opportunity to state his case over the course of one minute.

Mr. Prattella offered his four-generation solution as a way to safeguard Claremont’s economic future. Mr. Calaycay emphasized his track record as a bridge-builder and that he is, “tested, tried and true” when it comes to service on the city council.

Mr. Courser said he first became involved with the Traffic and Transportation Commission because he values the importance of local-level politics and sees it as a way to give back to the community. He vowed to bring a “hands-on approach” to the city’s complex issues.

Mr. Monroe looked forward to solar panels on the police station and vowed to “continue to make Claremont great.” Mr. Keenan used his time to observe a moment of silence for his friend, Matthew Richardson, who died while hiking a Chilean mountain in 2002. Mr. Keenan attributes the accident to climate change.

Mr. Grynchal, who said he really wants to be a civil servant, emphasized he was running for city council “because I love you guys.” He vowed to be a voice for all residents.

Mr. Schroeder noted that citizen participation is essential to the community and touched upon his demonstrated ability on the council to “collaborate, rather than compromise” and vowed to continue that ethos if re-elected.

Candidate Korey Johnson was absent from the forum. Repeated phone calls from the COURIER went unanswered.

See the election calendar on this page for information on upcoming forums.

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com