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Yes committee presents its case at Measure SC forum

About 50 Claremonters got their first look at Measure SC during a forum at the Hughes Center on April 19. 

The forum, hosted by Active Claremont,  featured presentations and a question-and-answer session.

Betty Crocker and Jim Keith represented the pro-SC side.

“It’s our time, it’s our turn,” Ms. Crocker said. “It’s our time to give our city direction. It’s or time to invest in the police department in building a station that will support its needs for the next 50 years.”

Moderator and former Claremont councilmember Jackie McHenry said she asked six people who were against the measure to speak at the forum, but they were either unavailable or declined.

The plan totals $25 million—a $23.5 million general obligation bond and $1.5 million in general fund money for furniture, fixtures and equipment—to be paid over 25 years. The proposed 26,000 square foot, two–story police station would be built on the site of the current police station on Bonita Avenue.

A video featuring Police Chief Shelly Vander Veen showed the current conditions of the station—storage closets turned into offices, aging and non-compliant jail cells and a portable building that serves as the locker room for female officers.

The plan was born from over a year of meetings of a 15-member ad hoc committee, which was created in the wake of the failure of Measure PS—Claremont’s first attempt at a police station bond measure that was voted down in 2015.

Ms. Crocker, herself a part of the committee along with Mr. Keith, relayed how “nitty gritty we got on the committee,” even down to the number of parking spaces on the impound lot.

Mr. Keith tackled the financials. He noted that the average payment homeowners would have to make would be $30.33 per year per $100,000 of a home’s assessed value in the first year, and would drop to $24.47 per year over time.

Further, Mr. Keith explained, new families moving to Claremont will reduce the overall bond payments made by older homeowners by paying higher tax rates on the higher assessed value of the homes.

He explained that of the 11 homes on his block, three sold this year, with each new homeowner assuming a greater tax burden than the previous owners.

Forty-six percent of Claremont homeowners, he claimed, would pay less than $100 per year in the first year of the bond.

Mr. Keith also presented quotes straight from the readers’ comments of the COURIER. One quote he highlighted was resident John Watkins’ desire for “new leadership and fresh perspectives” to look at a better police station plan in the future.

“It’s saying that it really won’t hurt to wait another three years to consider it again, because that’s how long it’s been from the last one,” Mr. Keith said.

The “now-or-never” mentality was repeated throughout the forum, as Ms. Crocker and Mr. Keith tried to persuade residents to vote in favor of the station. This was in part due to the current nature of the existing station—Mr. Keith pointed to photos of cracks in the walls, and later noted the station has been out of compliance for an “essential services” building since 1986.

Mr. Keith also warned that rising interest costs would make the station more costly in the future.

He spent time emphasizing the differences between the general obligation bond and a parcel-tax based on square footage, which has seen support from some residents in recent weeks.

Mr. Keith said under a GO bond, a new family moving to Claremont who buys a house with a $700,000 assessed value would pay roughly $212 in the first year, whereas a family who bought their home decades ago would pay less, based on the assessment of their property at the time it was bought as a result of Prop 13.

Square-footage parcel tax payments are determined by the size of a house, which would potentially eliminate the discrepancy in payments by a new family who moves to Claremont and a family who has lived in town for decades, if both live in similar-sized homes.

Mr. Keith noted that although the Claremont Colleges would have paid $4.2 million over 25 years under a parcel tax, nonprofits such as churches and commercial properties would also have paid. He warned that a higher payment from commercial entities in the city “may drive companies to either have fewer sales or to not invest here.”

All of this, he claimed, would only add up to a minimal saving.

“If your big thing is ‘I want the Colleges to pay,’ you’re going to force the nonprofits, you’re going to force the commercial to pay as well, and your benefits are going to be 16 percent,” Mr. Keith said.

When one audience member asked when the Colleges were going to give their contribution, Ms. Crocker said she was, “hoping it comes very soon, and we have the pleasure of sharing what it is they would like to provide.”

While there were no official representatives against Measure SC, resident Donna Lowe briefly took the mic to argue her stance against the measure.

Ms. Lowe took issue with Mr. Keith’s comments. She argued that it’s the city’s current financial situation—including the payments to Golden State Water Company from the failed water takeover bid and unfunded liabilities to CalPERS—as well as current tax initiatives to Claremont homes such as Measure G that give her pause.

“I just think there are so many questions that are unanswered,” she said. “The police station absolutely needs some modifications and modernization, but to the extent that they’re asking, I don’t know. I think it’s too big, too costly.”

Literature passed out at the meeting against SC lambasted the size of the station—nearly three times the size of the current police facility—and encouraged a leaner plan: 20,000 square feet for $20 million over 20 years. The flier accused the city of “not spreading the costs fairly across the community.”

Other questions from the audience ranged from the structural integrity of the current police station, to what would happen if the LA County Sheriff’s Department were to take over Claremont, to how the police would feel if Measure SC were defeated.

The Yes on SC committee has already received some large contributions from a number of local entities. According to a campaign form received by the city on April 24, Claremont Toyota and Claremont Lincoln University have each pledged $5,000; Norwalk-based Nationwide Environmental Services pledged $1,500; West Coast Arborists, Grand Central Recycling and the Claremont Police Officers Association have each contributed $1,000.

Claremonters will vote on Measure SC on June 5. The measure needs a two-thirds majority to pass.

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com