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Lyons takes exception to editor’s column on police station

I have read with great interest the Readers’ Comments that have been published in the COURIER regarding the police facility bond measure, Measure SC.

With rare exception, the thoughtful opinions and concerns, whether for, against or undecided, have been expressed respectfully and in keeping with our community’s commitment to civility in public discourse on matters relating to municipal affaires; and I commend the COURIER’s editors for providing the public with this valuable means of expression and debate on this most needed investment in our public safety infrastructure, and for the balance and variety of the published comments.

To date, and in begrudging compliance with legal constraints on public discourse by elected official on matters within their jurisdiction, I have refrained from responding to articles, editorials, and letters published in the COURIER. 

However, after reading and serious reflection on the subversive and provocative style and duplicitously selected content of Kathryn Dunn’s “Editor’s Notes” of March 22, I am compelled “to lead the charge to get Measure SC passed” on June 5. In so doing, my intent is to hold the COURIER accountable for the impacts their published words have on public opinion and election outcomes in our community.

However, before commenting further, I must unequivocally state that I am not speaking on behalf of the city, the council, or as a councilperson, but solely as a resident of Claremont. My comments will be directed at what I consider to be a serious breach in the social contract that the COURIER has with its readers and our community. 

I will not comment on Ms. Dunn’s proposed two-part compromise, except to hold her responsible for confounding the issue by suggesting that support for Measure SC be contingent upon council 1) obtaining a $5,000,000 donation from the Colleges, which has been requested on numerous occasions, but is beyond the council’s authority to demand; and 2) implementing a fiscally irresponsible proposal to reduce revenue to the already significantly underfunded and supplemented Lighting and Landscape District Fund. Neither would provide “real solutions,” and the mere mention of them in the context of rallying support to get Measure SC passed is an example of Ms. Dunn’s duplicity.

That said, and in my opinion a much more disturbing and serious reason for concern and criticism of Ms. Dunn’s remarks is the apparent abandonment of the COURIER’s unqualified assessment of the need and unequivocal support for the construction of a new police station expressed in its editorial of November 3, 2015. 

Although unable to recommend a yes vote on a $50 million parcel tax measure to fund construction in 2015, it was clear the COURIER’s editorial staff indicated it would support a more prudently and creatively crafted general obligation bond measure that incorporated the public feedback received during the unsuccessful effort conducted in 2015. Nothing could be closer to mirroring that requested do over than Measure SC.

And finally, there is the matter of the questionable style and selectively edited and demeaning references to what has occurred between November 2015 and March 22, 2018. In Ms. Dunn’s opinion and based on her piecemeal rendition of recent Claremont history, the efforts of the Police Facility Citizens Ad Hoc Committee were deemed “admirable” but inadequate, and the proposed design plan, location, and projected cost “will need to be improved upon to get everyone on board by June.” 

Additionally, Ms. Dunn charges that the council’s failure to compromise and build consensus “did not reflect the good work done by the committee.” Ending her duplicitous tirade, Ms. Dunn makes the accusation that the council “does not attempt in good faith to reduce the financial burden of the homeowner.” 

As both a witness to and participant in the events of the last two years, and using the reporting by the COURIER as a reference, there is no basis in fact to support any of these demeaning opinions. Rather, what did take place was a public process designed to ensure that compromise, consensus and community engagement were the means used to propose a police station budget and design that would address the concerns that contributed to the failure to pass the police facility funding measure placed before the citizens of Claremont in 2015.

To conclude, I am more disappointed than angry that the COURIER editorial staff did not intervene in the publication of what I consider an irresponsible expression of personal opinions in which Ms. Dunn impugned the integrity and competence of the Citizens Ad Hoc Committee and the city council.

Additionally, and despite her claims of support for Measure SC, Ms. Dunn has made it much more difficult for the Partners for a Safe Claremont to “get everyone on board to get Measure SC passed.”  Her remarks have blurred the distinction between what has for over 15 years been an indisputable consensus on the need to build a new police station, with the always disputable specifics of how to best provide the means to build it.

I will close with two requests, and excerpts from the COURIER’s editorial published November 3, 2015. The first request is that the editorial staff read and reflect on both Ms. Dunn’s editorial and my response to it, for the purpose of clarifying any misrepresentation of the COURIER’s position on Measure SC contained in either. 

The second, and more significant because of its potential influence on the outcome, is a request that the editorial staff conduct the soul-searching necessary to recommend a yes or no vote on Measure SC and to publish the recommendation now rather than on election eve.

I would suggest that because this was such a thoughtful and considerate piece when published, that an updated editing of the 2015 editorial with the decision to recommend a yes vote would be a fitting bookend to the the more than 15-year process in which the COURIER and my Fellow Claremonters have been a part.

“Residents have become aware of the terrible working conditions faced by our police force, and decided they need to be remedied. It’s embarrassing to know what poor conditions our officers are working under. In fact, it’s unacceptable. We’re a thoughtful community that is willing to undertake obligations because it’s the right thing to do. And here we want to do the right thing for our police. Let’s do the right thing well.” Claremont COURIER, November 3, 2015.

And let’s do it on June 5—vote yes on Measure SC.

—Joseph M. Lyons

Proud citizen of Claremont

Partners for a Safe Claremont