Readers comments 12-21-18
I hike the Johnson Pasture and Wilderness Trail on a regular basis. I was delighted to notice that the informal ritual of hanging Christmas ornaments on a little tree near the side of the Johnson Pasture trail was happening again this year. Sometimes people leave trinkets or candy canes for kids as well.
Apparently something else is also happening. Someone is stripping the tree. Mitch, our friendly local park ranger, has found ornaments in the trash. He wants the public to know that the rangers love and support the little rituals in the park.
There is another tree with ornaments to honor the ranger who was killed this last year, and then there is the “shoe” tree, adorned with about 30 pairs of well-worn sneakers. Try finding that one!
Claremont enriches our lives in many ways with the Colleges opening many concerts, lectures, theater events and classes for audit, to the community. The city also does it with the farmer’s market, Village Venture, art walks and other events that abound.
Let us celebrate that we create community and connections with rituals, both formal and informal. Whoever is doing it, stop trashing the tree! And, yes, Mitch wants you to know that the park rangers will help return the tree to its natural state after the holidays.
An adult barn owl fell in our backyard on Sunday. We called Bob Everett, the co-founder of Wild Wings of California, a native wild bird care organization, to take the bird where it could receive care. But instead the bird died from a pellet gun wound that destroyed critical organs.
Bob said the owl was shot quite close to our house, because a bird with this type of wound couldn’t fly far. And since owls are nocturnal and don’t fly during the day, the bird was probably roosting when it was shot, sitting in a tree waiting for night.
Shooting a roosting owl is senseless on so many levels; at the most basic level, it is injuring or killing a living animal. In addition, barn owls eat at least one rodent each night, while a breeding pair and their chicks may consume more than 1,000 each year, assisting significantly in rodent control.
We don’t know who shot the owl, but it was most certainly a neighbor of ours. The pellet that killed the owl had created a bloody entry wound that destroyed critical organs; we saw the owl die, even as Bob was gently assessing its condition.
Everything we do has consequences, though they aren’t always apparent. But whether the shooter meant to or not, today this happened: a neighbor of ours shot a roosting barn owl and killed it.
So, neighbor, whoever you are, please find a different hobby. Perhaps you could volunteer with Wild Wings of California and nurse wounded birds of prey back to health—something that will help, rather than kill.
Rae Rottman and David Reisman
[Editor’s note:?Under California Department of Fish and Game Code, all raptors are protected under state law. Also, Claremont City Ordinance 90-14 prohibits discharge of firearms, pellet or bb guns anywhere within the city. Further, section 9.92.015 prohibits any person from discharging a weapon with the “intent to shoot or hunt within the city.” Hunting in Claremont is illegal and is punishable by fine, arrest or both. —KD]
The $14 million question
In a letter in last week’s COURIER (“Water under the bridge”), Marilee Scaff, Sally Seven and Freeman Allen raised a timely and important question: “Why did we lose our case [to take over the water system]?”
Their answer—that a biased judge prevented the city’s lawyers from presenting all of the evidence—doesn’t hold water, so to speak. Had it been so, the well-respected law firm of Horvitz & Levy, which charged us more than $100,000 to review the verdict, would have told us that there were grounds for an appeal.
The simple truth is that we lost the case because there was a law which said that the city couldn’t take over the water system unless it was necessary and in the public interest to do so; and as the data in the city’s own feasibility study showed that city ownership would result in higher rates, and the state’s water quality reports showed that La Verne would be a substandard operator, there was never a realistic chance that the takeover could succeed.
This disastrous failure was the foreseeable result of the city council’s decision to trust Best, Best & Krieger—the city attorney’s own law firm—to evaluate the merits of a lawsuit that would generate millions of dollars in billings to the firm. To no one’s surprise, BBK found it profitable to exaggerate the potential benefits of the takeover and gloss over the enormous costs and risks.
Nine months ago, I urged the council to hire a genuinely independent law firm to serve as the new city attorney—one which could vigorously investigate the possibility of suing BBK for its conflicts of interest and obvious incompetence, and potentially recover some or all of our $14 million loss. Instead, the council chose a law firm which had itself served as BBK’s co-counsel for part of the failed takeover attempt.
For some undisclosed reason, after having approved the payment of millions of dollars in legal fees to BBK, the council refused to make any effort to find out if we could get any of it back.
It is too late for that now—the statute of limitations has expired—but perhaps this sorry episode can serve as a cautionary tale for the newly-elected council members.
Whether it is trying to take over the water system, building a new police station, or installing parking meters in the Village, the seven most dangerous words in civic governance are “We can’t afford not to do this.”
In reality, there are very few big projects that cities of Claremont’s size have to do, and it is almost always best not do them at all; but even when it is necessary, it is foolish to attempt anything that hasn’t already been successfully accomplished by dozens of other cities. I think that would be an excellent rule for the new council to follow.