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The spirit of compromise

As with any community, there are concerns about quality of life. People worry about communication or about how the city spends its money, and most communities have at least a few residents who feel disenfranchised. Despite these concerns, the Claremont I know is helpful. Residents have typically selected an area of focus—the Colleges, city government, historic preservation, the arts, youth sports, public schools, parks—and put their attention and efforts to help develop programs in that area, generally within a field where they have some practical experience or education.

Claremont’s system of non-partisan volunteerism has always worked well because as one resident secured volunteers for a senior program, a neighbor was busy organizing the next fundraiser for Claremont Heritage. People worked together without focus on politics; Republicans and Democrats, side by side. With this patchwork of service, everyone got a piece of the donation pie. This work and volunteerism is still happening but the focus seems to be shifting as the critics’ voices get louder.

A conservative group in town, Claremont Taxpayers for Common Sense, is working to fight the water company and to stop Occupy Claremont. Their efforts were previously focused on defeating the school bond and their most recent endeavor is to stop the passage of AB131, The Dream Act. Aside from the handful of members, the only constant of the organization seems to be its intent to stop something. Fighting to stop taxes and bonds, to stop poor people from transferring to their schools, to stop protestors at city hall. One can’t help but notice that there is an awful lot of “stopping” going on. They are an intense bunch, that’s for sure.

The new “right” seem to live in a state of fear, holding their breath while waiting for the other shoe to drop. The absence of expressed compassion makes it very difficult to share meaningful dialogue. The political lines blurred in 2009 with the emergence of the Tea Party, and although they originally aligned themselves with the Republican Party, one cannot call them Republicans anymore. It is a whole new breed of conservative.

Claremont is and should remain a city people want to visit. Divisiveness and ridicule is negatively affecting our city’s reputation. We should challenge our officials with tact and decency when there is disagreement because the long-term ramifications of belittling a town cannot be measured.

Sometimes in the course of our work here at the COURIER, we write articles or endorsements that aren’t always favorable with residents. We accept this as part of our job. However, we are not in the business of making the city look bad. We realize the significance of our stories and how they affect public opinion in the region.

Our council members travel outside of the city to secure financial support and to protect our interests in Sacramento. How will they be received at the California Public Utilities Commission if there is insecurity that residents aren’t in full support? The council has so far proven its commitment to resolving the water issue and, at this point, I see no reason why anyone should doubt this conviction.

To any governmental action there is process. On the Occupy Claremont activity, council stated on record and in open session that the camping ordinance did not relate to political protest. It was drafted and passed 6 years ago to specifically address homelessness. Additionally, city council declared in open session that they will rewrite the camping ordinance to better word its intent. If residents are unhappy with the results of the rewrite, there is a process for that, too.

The difference in the Claremont that I once knew and the Claremont of today is that the focus is no longer on what we are “creating.” We are creating opportunities for those less fortunate. We are creating more open space and an upgraded senior center. We are creating affordable housing and a new railway. But these accomplishments are drowned out by the cries of political injustice. “Not my money! You can’t have it.” Where has giving gone? Not the type of giving that helps oneself, but the kind that helps others. I’m talking about charity.

I’m one of the rare people, or perhaps not so rare if you talk with residents at Pilgrim Place, who doesn’t particularly mind paying taxes. I’ve always viewed paying taxes as a kind of donation. I know there is some governmental waste and I know things aren’t always going to make their way back for my personal benefit, but my belief is that most—not all—but most of the taxes I pay go toward essential services. Services like police, fire, highways, infrastructure and social programs. The mission of the occupiers is to ensure that everyone, including corporations and the richest of America, pay their fair share to promote fairness in society. This is common sense.

It is important that we keep a watchful eye on government, but I believe a healthy dose of skepticism doesn’t need to be replaced by panic and fear of conspiracy. We all reap the benefits of taxes paid, and if a little of what I pay goes to help another, all the better.

So back to Claremont. How do we shift our efforts away from politics and back to investment and production? How do we focus on creating? Let us live in a solution-based community. Let us give of ourselves and expect nothing in return. Instead of just fighting to stop the water rate increases, let’s buy the water company. Let’s make a new high school theater, a better ordinance, a community garden, a new drinking fountain at Memorial Park. Anything. Let’s make goodwill. Let’s work together, politics aside, to make a positive change for Claremont.

—Kathryn Dunn

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