Financial challenges already existing will only be exacerbated by losses from COVID-19. What is one concrete example of helping to balance the budget?
Claremont is in a crisis that goes way beyond giving a single example of balancing the budget. The COVID pandemic has sent economic shockwaves through the community. We must steer the city through a structural deficit without the safety net that Measure CR would have provided.
In my first few months in office, we will sit with city officials, community activists, business owners and leaders from the Colleges to form a Post-Pandemic Economic Recovery Plan that we will implement in our first year in office. We will push for affordable housing in our district to attract working families and college graduates to live, create and spend time here. We want to reduce the police budget by 20 percent in the next three years, the cost savings of which will roughly equal our projected structural deficit. Part of that reduction will include turning to the Colleges and nonprofits to house a first responder program that reduces the need for the police and, as a result, save money for the community.
We will make it easier to open up a Claremont business. When businesses or residents apply for permits or review, the process is long and costs the city a lot of money. We would reduce costs by simplifying that process and making more requests ministerial as opposed to discretionary. During and after the COVID recovery, we also need to bring the kind of cultural and city attractions to Claremont that will fill our empty storefronts and jumpstart our local economy, bringing students, seniors and families together.
Although Claremont is getting close to built out, developers are still finding pockets to build more units. What is something the council could do to help balance the old with the new and to help make the unaffordable to affordable?
One way we can do it is by combining existing historical structures with new development for a seamless addition to the community. An example of this is integrating the Vortox building into the upcoming Village South development.
We can make sure more affordable housing is built in Claremont by revisiting our inclusionary housing ordinance. What we need to do is place more of an emphasis on building low and very low income housing—20 percent low income or 10 percent very low income for each new development. More affordable housing closer to the Village will contribute to the “15-minute city” idea, where someone’s daily necessities are accessible within a 15-minute walk or bike ride. This will help lower our dependence on cars and reduce our carbon footprint.
Finally, we must push back on the stigma that affordable housing means overdevelopment. It's a myth, and it’s time to stop misinformation campaigns that discourage positive and inclusive growth in Claremont.
Do you believe there is an issue of racial profiling within the Claremont Police Department? What is your opinion of the movement to defund police?
Implicit racial bias begins with us and it reflects in our institutions, including the Claremont Police Department. When a white person calls the police on a person of color walking through their neighborhood without causing a disturbance that’s implicit bias. We’ve heard numerous stories from our community forums—the Black mother who said she and her son were followed by a Claremont police officer as they were walking home or the social worker who told us about the unwritten rule that “You don’t drive while Black in Claremont.” Despite an emphasis on “community policing” that the CPD is known for, we still have a lot more work to do.
The police department receives over 50 percent of the total Claremont budget share. This is the wrong approach, and we need to cut back on the budget share toward the police department and revitalize human services. As mentioned before, we can do this by partnering with the Colleges and nonprofits to replace police officers with unarmed mental health and substance abuse professionals to respond to those types of calls—this will cut down on racial profiling and discrimination while also being economically beneficial to the city. We will also unmask traffic stop data to look for hidden racial biases, implement implicit bias training citywide, and give more oversight power to the Police Commission without overlapping efforts. This is an opportunity for us to pull a community together to deliver effective solutions.
We are excited to see that our ideas are becoming mainstream. At the last Police Commission meeting, Chief Shelly Vander Veen recently revealed that she is looking into a program involving a partnership with the city and Tri-City Mental Health to respond to mental health calls. A week before the meeting, we unveiled our policy calling for such a program. This shows we’re leading the conversation on rethinking how the police should operate in town. These are goals that are reachable and actionable, and we believe Claremont should do all it can to better protect its Black and Brown residents, as well as those suffering from mental illness, domestic violence and substance abuse.
Please share what will be your number-one priority (if any) should you be elected to council.
Our number one priority will be to steer the city recovery from the pandemic. We've seen households lose dual incomes and COVID unemployment benefits. We've seen small businesses shuttered. Our Colleges generated $400 million regionally before COVID - that's no longer the case. Tourism has dried up. Seniors are in lockdown and separated from their friends and families, and living rooms have now become classrooms.
We need an holistic approach to the pandemic recovery, that includes revitalizing our small businesses, making rent affordable for everyone and reimagining community safety. We must restore funding to CHAP and support our homeless population within and outside of Claremont through a scalable, regional program with our city neighbors. These fundamentals will create a more equitable and economically beneficial society for a community on the cusp of real change.
Some residents have expressed concern that the current council works as a unit (i.e., group think). Do you see this as an issue? If so, how will your style be different?
The Council may have been perceived as acting in “groupthink” in the past, but the challenges that we will face in the future regarding the pandemic are deeply complicated. They will spark debates and disagreements that will require leadership in the Council to pull us together after a decision is made. We are running an inclusive campaign that signals to the community that we will listen to everyone. We intend to continue that approach once elected to the Council, and we will encourage our colleagues to do so as well.
To those who support other candidates, our track record shows this campaign is about centering our community, and I will do my best to make sure you don’t feel alienated if I am elected to the Council. As council members, we should listen to everyone even if it makes us uncomfortable. That’s what I will do if you elect me on November 3rd.