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Measure SC gets strong support, but cannot reach 67 percent supermajority

Measure SC, the bond measure that was to pay for a new Claremont police station, could not garner enough votes to pass on Election Day.

The unofficial results showed a majority of Claremont voters—58.59 percent—supporting the measure, but it was well short of the 67 percent supermajority needed to succeed, according to the Los Angeles County Registrar-Recorder.

The $23.5 million general obligation bond would have paid for a 26,000 square foot police station—at the site of the current station at 570 west Bonita Avenue—by taxing Claremont homeowners based on the assessed value of their home. The measure also featured $1.5 million in general funds from the city and a $750,000 one-time donation from the Claremont Colleges to pay for technology.

Betty Crocker, co-chair of the Partners for a Safe Claremont, said she was “incredibly disappointed” by the results.

“I hear the results, I hear our neighbors that are not with us. We must rise above this and inspire the council to lead us to the next generation,” Ms. Crocker said. “This is a critical need that is not going away.”

She called for unity going forward between those who were in favor of the measure and those who were against. “This is a time where we really need to come together,” she said.

On election night, the roughly 40 people who gathered at the watch party for the Yes on SC campaign were full of nervous optimism as the first absentee votes were counted. Many had predicted the numbers would eventually rise past 67 percent as more votes were tallied. Alas, this was not the case.

Councilmember Sam Pedroza said he was disappointed by the results, but lauded Partners for a Safe Claremont’s work.

“From the campaign perspective, it was a very, very well run campaign,” he said. “Everything that works in Claremont didn’t work this time around.”

Both Ms. Crocker and Mr. Pedroza said an “anti-tax sentiment” in Claremont was one of the reasons why SC did not succeed.

Election Day was a headache for some Claremonters, as an apparent printing problem on Los Angeles County voter rolls resulted in over 118,000 names being left off, forcing many in the county to fill out provisional ballots. Ms. Crocker said roughly 920 provisional ballots had been handed out throughout Claremont, a number that remained unconfirmed by City Clerk Shelley Desautels as of Thursday.

As the numbers began to roll in Tuesday night, murmurs of the error permeated the party, as proponents of SC began to speculate how much of an impact it would play. Mr. Pedroza said his first thought was “if any of this snafu had anything to do with it,” but noted the margin between yes and no was too high.

Supporters of the bond measure had appealed to Claremonters to support the police by voting yes on the measure. They also centered on the old and outdated state of the current station—storage closets converted into offices, no ADA compliance, outdated jails and a dispatch room that could barely maintain the power necessary to operate current technology.

The current station also has a separate trailer serving as a locker room for female officers and police station employees—something advocates of SC said was against Claremont’s values.

“This has to happen, we can’t go on like this,” Mayor Opanyi Nasiali said on Tuesday night, later claiming that if the current station were to fail in a natural disaster, the costs would be “astronomical.”

Some people against the measure took issue with the funding mechanism. The general obligation bond was an ad valorem tax based on a home’s assessed value, and some deemed it unfair for Claremonters who had recently bought their house.

Under Proposition 13, those who purchased their home 40 years ago would be paying much less into the bond than those who recently bought their home.

Other detractors thought the proposed station was too big and too costly, and questioned if the current station really needed to be replaced. An anonymous text message sent to voters the weekend before the election read, “We each pay $5,686.87 for a building we DON’T NEED.”

That number was taken from the average yearly payment a homeowner with an assessed value of $750,000 would have paid over the lifetime of the bond. Under the plan, Claremonters would have paid $30.33 per $100,000 of assessed value the first year, with the number eventually dropping to around $24.47 throughout the life of the 25-year bond.

Donna Lowe, who voted against Measure SC, said it was possible to pay for renovations and refurbishments to the existing police station without building a “palatial” replacement, and cited the city yard building as a possible location for the department.

“The solution, I think, is already in front of us with one of those two options,” she said.

Ms. Crocker had a message for the opposition, some of whom remained anonymous, noting that, “they need to come out from the comfort of their keyboards and sit with us at committee meetings and provide us with real community input.”

Ms. Lowe claimed those against the measure elected not to speak out in fear of retribution from the community, and accused the pro-SC crowd of shaming those who voted no.

“I think that was really very dishonest and very disgusting, because I do support our police, I love our police department, but not to the tune where we would be in financial peril,” she said.

Ms. Lowe brought up the ongoing payments to Golden State Water Company as well as the city’s unfunded pension liabilities as additional reasons to vote no, claiming those costs plus two existing school bonds was “madness and it needs to stop.”

Mr. Pedroza said the results didn’t match with what he heard from the community during the campaign.

“I think at this point I’m questioning everything,” Mr. Pedroza said. “In all the research and campaigning, we’re being told that yes, we need a new police station. So I’m questioning that as well, if the community truly wants it. Do they really feel that there’s a need for a new police station?”

This was the second police station measure to fail at the Claremont ballot box in three years. Measure PS, a $50 million parcel tax that would have paid for a 50,000 square foot station north of the city yard on Monte Vista Avenue, failed decisively in 2015.

Measure SC was the result of a 15-member ad hoc committee that was convened in January 2016 by then–mayor Corey Calaycay to create a winning ballot measure after PS’s failure. The committee managed to cut the size and the price of PS in half, changed the location based on community input and narrowly voted 7-5 to support a general obligation bond.

An additional point of contention throughout the campaign was a contribution from the Claremont Colleges.

After months of speculation, the Colleges issued a one-time donation of $750,000 to pay for tech. Some residents said that was too low, took issue with the Colleges’ formula for coming up with the amount, and noted a parcel tax would have forced the Colleges to pay $4.2 million throughout the measure’s lifetime.

Ms. Crocker said Partners for a Safe Claremont would have a meeting about lessons learned and present a path forward to the city.

“I don’t have all the answers, we don’t have all the answers,” she said. “Clearly we need more help. This is a huge threshold.”

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com