Getting a whiff of caution in Claremont by John Pixley observer Claremont COURIER/Friday, November 4, 2016 6 Earlier this spring, I had a couple of piercing rings removed. I might have had it done at the Claremont Tattoo Parlor but, according to the establishment’s website, the Claremont Tattoo Parlor only does tattoos—no piercings. So I ended up going someplace in Upland, on Mountain or Central Avenue, that does piercings as well as tattoos. Besides, it was closer than the Claremont Tattoo Parlor. That’s right—a place in Upland that does tattooing and piercings is closer than the Claremont Tattoo Parlor. How can this be? How can an establishment in Upland be closer to Claremont than a Claremont business? No, it isn’t because the Claremont business is across town while the Upland business is just across the border. It’s because the Claremont Tattoo Parlor isn’t a Claremont business. The Claremont Tattoo Parlor is actually in Rancho Cucamonga. The Claremont Tattoo Parlor is a Rancho Cucamonga business because Claremont didn’t want to have any business with it when it tried to get a space in the Village some 20 years ago. The city decided to not have any business with tattoo parlors and banned them. Well, they eventually decided to allow such establishments in Claremont a few years ago but only in industrial parks or other such in-the-dark, out-of-sight-out-of-mind places. I don’t even know if there is a tattoo parlor in Claremont at this point, which is probably the point. At the time, the debate over whether to let the tattoo parlor locate in the arcade off Yale Avenue in the Village went on for some weeks—well over a month, actually—taking up time at two or three city council meetings. City officials said the concern was over health and safety issues. However, there was plenty of talk and letters written about not wanting that kind of business, not wanting the kind of people that kind of business attracts, in Claremont, much less in our Village. Never mind that, even at that time, it was plainly evident many people who visited the Village and patronized its businesses indulged in the services offered at a tattoo parlor. Never mind that there were guys working at Some Crust Bakery in the Village—just a block from the proposed site—serving up its renowned, beloved treats, whose arms and legs were covered with tattoos. Never mind that, not many years later, I felt comfortable getting my piercings and having them seen in public in Claremont and even in the Village. (I had them removed primarily because of the pain they were causing.) It is all too easy to see that this kind of thinking is behind the city council’s recent unanimous decision to ban pot dispensaries in Claremont. The council took this step before Tuesday’s election, in which Proposition 64 to legalize the recreational use of marijuana as well as dispensaries and various regulations and taxes in California is likely to be approved. The measure permits local governments to make such moves, banning marijuana businesses, regulating cultivation and banning outdoor plants. In going ahead and taking this step to ban dispensaries, but not personal use and cultivation of marijuana in Claremont, the city council mainly cite legal and technical concerns. The worry is that while legislation will occur immediately after Proposition 64 passes, businesses won’t be able to apply for licenses until January 2018. In order to keep illegal commercial dispensaries from opening here, possibly resulting in legal costs, and to observe how the proposition will work in other cities, the council concluded that a ban is best. As City Manager Tony Ramos said, this “put[s] in safeguards to protect this community and then allow this community, if [Prop 64] passes, to have the appropriate dialogue about what they would like to do with recreational marijuana.” It is all well and good to take time out and have a ban or moratorium while an “appropriate dialogue” takes place. But is this what the ban is about? If it is, why is it taking place now, just before recreational pot may be legal, and when it has been a hot topic for several years (at least)? After all, medicinal marijuana has been around for decades, but there are still no medicinal marijuana dispensaries in Claremont. Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised when there are also no recreational marijuana dispensaries in Claremont and, perhaps, a Claremont Pot Shop opens up in San Dimas in a handful of years. This would be too bad. If we stepped up as a community, a truly “appropriate dialogue” could lead to a creative, innovative, responsible way to deal with what “to do with recreational marijuana.” Dealing with recreational marijuana use like this, rather than banning dispensaries or putting them in the shadows, when drinking alcohol can cause at least and probably more damage, would reflect Claremont’s caring, outgoing spirit. Claremont can do better than to be so overly cautious and ban the dispensaries that are coming probably sooner than later, not to mention the ones already here. This community can do better than the man who said he feared for his daughter’s safety when there were people camped out in front of city hall during the Occupy movement. Pitzer College, of all places, can also do better. The student senate at the college, known for its progressive outlook and activism, decided to withhold funding from, and thus cancel, the student-run Reggae Fest, which was slated for this month and has been going on annually for 14 years. The decision was based on concerns expressed by some students and faculty that the festival, at which a number of bands play and vendors offer goods and food, is “cultural appropriation.” The fear here is that, frankly, a bunch of white students are taking on and exploiting the creative expression of black artists. There is also concern that the festival, which usually kicks off at 4:20, glorifies pot use and, as one international student from Jamaica said, “perpetuates the idea that Jamaicans (and Caribbean people in general) just sit around and smoke weed all day.” The Pitzer Student Senate also decided to increase its funding for the school’s Rockabilly Festival. Doesn’t this exploit Latino artists and appropriate Chicano culture? As a disabled, gay man, I’m all for people being sensitive. I want people to take care and be gentle with each other, including me. I understand the desire to be heard and to protect. But again, as with the tattoo parlors and pot shops, we can be too careful and end up hidden from and scared of each other. What good will ignoring reggae music do? Will “trigger warnings” and having only black roommates in college—an issue that arose recently at, yes, Pitzer College—help in getting along in the world? A wall keeping us in is almost as bad as a wall keeping others out.
Vote no on everything Dear Editor: I’ve read every page of the 230-page state voter pamphlet and the 80-page county voter booklet. It was daunting but I did it so you wouldn’t have to. I recommend voting “no” on every state proposition and county and school measure. It’s easy to remember and you'll be 85 to 90 percent right, a pretty good batting average. Ludd A. Trozpek Claremont City council erred on Prop 57 Dear Editor: I’m voting yes on Proposition 57—the Public Safety and Rehabilitation Act of 2016. Though I am now a private citizen, my decision is based on years of service as a public school teacher in a family of public school teachers, in a town that values education. Many students I have taught have been involved, either personally or through family and friends, with the criminal justice system. Through them, I have learned how important it is that we push for reforms. This is why I was surprised when I picked up last Friday’s COURIER and saw that our city council voted to officially oppose the proposition. Our police chief—who lobbied for endorsement against it—is certainly a very important voice in the conversation, but there are many other important voices to consider. In this instance, the council has taken a position in opposition to various local groups including the League of Women Voters (both local and state chapters), the Democratic Club of Claremont (as well as the California Democratic Party), Inland Congregations United for Change and various Pitzer College action groups. Statewide support for Prop 57 includes the ACLU, the Los Angeles Times editorial board, Chief Probation Officers of California, California State Law Enforcement Association and the California Federation of Teachers, among many others. READERS’ COMMENTS Proposition 57 is written in two parts: One part addresses how we try youth in juvenile courts. Prior to 2000, accused lawbreakers under 18 were subject to the state’s juvenile court system. If a prosecutor wanted the case transferred to adult court, he or she was required to make an appeal to a judge, who would have the final say on where the case would be tried. In 2000, voters passed Prop 21, which allowed prosecutors rather than judges to choose between juvenile and adult court. Those who support 57 believe it would return better balance to our justice system by putting power back in the hands of judges, who have less “skin in the game” than prosecutors. The second part of Prop 57 deals with parole and it’s more complex. Prop 57 would make some prison inmates eligible to seek parole once they have served the base portion of their terms but before they have served time for the add-ons used to “enhance” sentences. These add-ons are for things like having previous convictions or belonging to a gang. This proposition begins to address some of the injustices of the three-strikes law and gang injunctions. Prison inmates would still serve out sentences as meted out in their trials or settlements, but would be less subject to the extras that are piled onto their sentences. I leave the citizens of Claremont with some facts to consider before casting their votes: Fact: In October 2013, the incarceration rate of the United States was the highest in the world at 716 per 100,000 of the national population. While the US represents about 4.4 percent of the world’s population, it houses around 22 percent of the world’s prisoners. California’s incarceration rate is slightly below the national average, but certainly nothing to brag about. Fact: Research does not support trying youth as adults. A private MacArthur Foundation study released in 2003 states that many children under 16 had as much difficulty grasping the complex legal proceedings as adults who had been ruled incompetent to go to trial. Fact: According to data collected by the Campaign for Youth Justice, “Latino youth are four times, and African American youth nine times, more likely than white youth to receive an adult prison sentence for the same charges.” Fact: Though the city of Claremont based its endorsement on a causal relationship between the passage of Prop 47 in 2014 and an increase in crime, many experts say it is too soon for such conclusions. Keramet Reiter, a criminology professor at UC Irvine, said the ballot measure has been used by critics as a “convenient scapegoat” for the rise in crime. The reality, she said, is more complicated in a state that is undergoing broad changes to its criminal justice system, including a massive shift of inmates from state prisons to local jails. The Los Angeles Police Department has reported a double-digit increase in property crime in 2015, but Chief Charlie Beck said it is premature to fault Proposition 47. “The studies are not done and the results aren’t in,” he said. Claremont, it is time to start conversations about the kind of society we want to build, whether we favor rehabilitation and redemption or more punitive measures. Voting yes on Proposition 57 would be a good start. Pamela Casey Nagler Claremont LA County Measure A Dear Editor: The Claremont Wildlands Conservancy Board’s “could” list doesn’t take into account the basic rules of Measure A, which imposes an additional property tax with no expiration date. The allocation of funds is Claremont COURIER/Friday, November 4, 2016 7 based on the LA County’s needs list, which was finalized in July. LA County was divided into 188 areas with priorities from very high to very low needs. One hundred and forty-four areas have higher needs than Claremont's “low” needs. It will take decades before our area will receive funds. In the meantime, property owners will be paying increased property taxes. It only takes three members of the board of supervisors to approve tax rate increases; and our property tax bills “shall be the only notices required.” The five members of the Citizens Oversight Advisory Board will be appointed by the board and “will serve at the pleasure of the board.” Measure A is a funding source completely controlled by the five-member board of supervisors. Diana Blaine Claremont Prop 58, Measure M Dear Editor: Vote yes on 58—English Proficiency, Multilingual Education. Prop 58 repeals the most restrictive parts of Proposition 227, a 1998 initiative that limited the methods California schools can use to teach English to students who are not native English speakers. This measure addresses the inequity of Prop 227 and frees parents and schools to provide the best educational opportunities for all children, regardless of first language. The League opposed Prop 227 nearly 20 years ago and urges support for this change. The county and local League also supports Measure M, which raises money for the Gold Line to be built from Azusa to Claremont. Vote yes on Measure M, so we can get to and from Los Angeles and points west without driving the clogged freeways. It is difficult to gather enough information to vote wisely on the 17 state propositions and the county ones as well, and I hope my letters have helped you understand them better so that your vote is an educated one. Ellen Taylor VP for Advocacy, Claremont LWV