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Majority of voters opposed to Measure CR, more to count

Measure CR—the proposed three-quarter cent sales tax increase—failed to reach a majority at the ballot box Tuesday night. But the yes campaign is not conceding just yet. 

With 100 percent of the precincts in, 49.02 percent of 6,248 Claremont voters voted in favor of the measure, while 50.98 percent voted against it, according to the LA County Registrar-Recorder. Just 122 votes separated the two sides. There are 22,351 registered voters in Claremont; of those, 13,131 are on permanent vote-by-mail status.

Laura Roach, chair of the Yes on CR campaign, said they were “obviously disappointed” by the results, but were not yet ready to concede. She noted there are still provisional and vote-by-mail ballots that need to be counted. The registrar said late Tuesday that the first ballot counting update would be on Friday, November 8.

“We are going to hold on to hope until those are announced on Friday,” Ms. Roach said.

City Clerk Shelley Desautels said as of Wednesday, there were 1,060 vote-by-mail and 326 provision ballots at the county already.

“This does not include what will be received in the mail through Friday, so the vote by mail number will increase somewhat,” Ms. Desautels said.

The result so far is a blow to city leaders, who tried to sell Measure CR as a way to maintain current service levels in Claremont.

City leaders and the Yes on CR campaign warned that extra cuts to programs and services would be made if the measure didn’t pass, and that an outside agency could come in with its own ballot measure that could take tax dollars out of Claremont.

Measure CR would have added .75 percent to the city’s current tax rate of 9.5 percent, bringing it to the state cap of 10.25 percent. The measure would have brought in around $2.5 million annually, which the city said would have partially offset future budget deficits.

Throughout the election season, the no campaign claimed CR was a regressive tax that would hurt local businesses, negatively impact low-income and fixed-income residents, and would be used to pay for city employee salaries and bonuses. Those claims seemed to have resonated with just enough voters Tuesday night.

Measure CR is the only sales tax measure this election in Los Angeles County that came up short. Measures in Monrovia, Lynwood, Sierra Madre, South Pasadena and Irwindale all passed decisively Tuesday night.

Across the state, Measure CR is also the only proposed sales tax increase to fail in 2019, according to Ballotpedia.

At the No on CR party at Donna Lowe’s house, attendees were shocked as the first numbers flashed across the screen around 8:30 p.m., showing yes and no within a hair’s width of each other. Some had expected the measure to easily pass.

As he watched the numbers roll in, Matt Magilke said Claremont voters “don’t trust what they’re being told.”

Ms. Lowe, who was at the forefront of the campaign, said Tuesday evening the clear message to the council was they have to start “listening to the community.”

“The whole community, not just the Claremont usual suspects,” she added.

After 100 percent of the precincts were reported, Ms. Lowe said the results were “precedent-setting.”

“I think we got a crack in the foundation of my house with all the jumping up and down,” she said.

Ms. Roach said if the measure were to officially fail after Friday, the council is going to have to make difficult decisions and make cuts that “I think are going to be really painful.”

“I have no doubt we will find our way forward, I just worry it will not be optimal and not honor our long tradition of valuing our community programs,” she said.

Ms. Lowe said those on the no campaign ran on a “shoestring budget,” holding rallies, knocking on doors and setting up a tent at the Sunday Farmer’s Market.

“We really did that old fashioned campaign because we didn’t have a lot of money,” she said.

Ms. Lowe said the no campaign was “really excited” to work with the city to figure out the next steps. She was clear she did not want the city to come back with other plans, such as raising the utility user tax or implementing paid parking in the Village.

“We’re not walking away,” she said. “We’re all going to be very visible and engaged in the process.”

As the first numbers rolled in and the margin was just 23 votes, the mood at the Yes on CR party at Mayor Pro Tem Larry Schroeder’s house was one of cautious optimism. Councilmember Jed Leano said he “never expected anyone to win big tonight.”

One positive from the campaign, he said, was that people in town were talking about pressing issues such as CalPERS and city services.

“Win or lose, the merits of that conversation are important,” Mr. Leano said.

But as more votes were counted, a feeling of quiet disappointment fell over the party. Rachel Forester of the Community and Human Services Commission said she was concerned about the fate of community-based organization funding of groups and programs that “make the community the community.”

Ms. Roach said the razor-thin margin means the election could still go either way. She bemoaned the seemingly low voter turnout.

“The fact that more than 3,000 people may decide the future of our city is unfortunate,” she said. “I wish we had a better turnout. I wish more people will be willing to engage on this issue and on all government issues.”

Councilmember Jennifer Stark, who is on vacation, said in a statement by text that although the election is a “big disappointment,” she had no doubt the city would recover.

“It is clear there is a smoldering distrust in our city. I think this comes from losing two police station bonds and the eminent domain case,” she wrote, referencing Measures SC and PS—two special use taxes that failed in 2018 and 2015—and the city’s failed attempt to take over the water system. “I think we need to come to an understanding of these past disappointments. We need to process the past and get over it.”

In order to “move into a more positive future,” Ms. Stark called for residents to “reestablish our common values as a community,” and remember what they appreciate about Claremont. 

“I hope the wound-licking period is brief, because we have a lot of work ahead of us,” she wrote. “I have confidence that our community is up for the challenge.”

—Matthew Bramlett

news@claremont-courier.com

 

Photo: Yes on CR supporters Laura Roach and Diann Ring were concerned over the strong early showing of No on CR support. Their instincts were correct as Measure CR was defeated 51 to 49 percent.