Claremont City Council Elections

TSL reporter Leslie Canter profiles each of the candidates and their platforms

Jay N. Pocock, businessman

Pocock moved to Claremont with his family in 1979. He owns a small business and was recently involved in the Measure CL school bond issue.

Pocock said he envisions the Claremont City Council as being transparent, streamlined, and held accountable for the decisions it makes.

“People have got to be able to separate the personal stuff out of it and run it like a business,” Pocock said. “This is a business. You’ve got to run it as a business; you’ve got to think of it as a business.”

Pocock said he wants the council to focus on turning the local economy around. He added that his main concern is the city’s pension plans and the utility services.

“My platform is basically completely fiscal,” Pocock said. “[The council] won’t deal with the real budget issues and the huge astronomical shortfalls in the increases we’re having in government employees’ costs due to insurance, due to losses in the state pensions.”

Pocock said he wants to have public employees put aside the standard eight percent of their income immediately, as opposed to the city’s “four year plan,” which reallocates two percent each year for four years.

Pocock said that, under his plan, the budget will be balanced in one year.

Michael Keenan, professional window cleaner

Keenan grew up in Claremont, spending long hours in the library and enjoying this oasis of green space in the Inland Empire. A graduate of Pitzer College, Keenan has been involved in a number of watchdog organizations in town, advocating for ecologically sensitive areas.

Keenan said he envisions Claremont becoming a more self-sustaining city. With the high cost of nationally-sourced utilities in Claremont, Keenan proposes the city charter local utility companies and pool rooftop easements, creating what he calls the “Claremont Community Solar Grid and Waterworks.”

“I want change,” Keenan said. “I think we’d be doing better if we became a charter city and we had more local control over our resources, because we’re pretty much driven by California Edison and the water companies.”

Despite the long road ahead, Keenan said he is optimistic.

“I know the character of Claremont and I know what we’re capable of, and I don’t need Southern California Edison or Golden State Water or any of their holding companies. I want to set the price that’s fair.”

Keenan added that he is critical of the council’s “four year plan” to reallocate two percent of government workers’ wages.

Opanyi Nasiali, retired urban planner

For the past 25 years, Nasiali has lived on the same street in Claremont. A trained urban planner, Nasiali has served on Claremont’s City Traffic and Transportation Commission for 18 years and contributed to a number of non-profit organizations in the area. He has also volunteered with the Claremont After School Program (CLASP) and Meals on Wheels, and was a founding member of what is now the Claremont Educational Foundation.

Nasiali said he is running under the slogan, “Living within OUR means.” He argued that the City has reached a “new normal” in terms of budgeting, which mandates that all government employees pay their “fair share” to pension funds.

“We can balance the budget without having to lay anyone else off or cut services,” Nasiali said. “If we keep that ‘new normal’ where it is now and have the employees contribute to their retirement and pay their fair share at once… we can now realize $1.2 million that the city doesn’t have to spend on paying their employees’ retirement.”

Nasiali said he supports economic development in the city and hopes that in the advent of a new city council, “we rethink our attitude… and have a more business-friendly attitude in the city.”

Rex Jaime, quality engineer

Four years ago, Jaime came to Claremont to visit a friend and fell in love with the city. Soon after, he was offered a position as an engineering specialist at Technip USA and moved to Claremont.

Jaime said he sees a lot of potential in Claremont’s community and envisions a more diverse approach to the city’s growth. He wants the City Council to address community safety, economic sustainability, and business expansion.

“There was a lot of reluctance to allow change for a long time,” Jaime said. “We need to get everybody together and sell the value of Claremont.”

Jaime has proposed bringing larger businesses into the city to make Claremont a destination for shoppers in surrounding area.

“We have a good background and good talent, but we need to develop that base,” Jaime said.

Strengthening the bond between the people and the city would encourage young people to stay in town and help build a strong base of commerce within Claremont, he said.

“I like being in Claremont and I want other people to like being in Claremont,” Jaime said. “I want us to be able to think long-term, to keep what we want to keep, to fix this budget.”

Sam Pedroza, councilmember, environmental planner

Pedroza is the only incumbent councilman on the ballot. He was elected to the council four years ago and served as the Mayor Pro Tem under Mayor Linda Elderkin, presiding over council meetings in Elderkin’s absence.

Pedroza moved to Claremont in 1996.

Pedroza said he is concerned about how Claremont can maintain its resources within its new fiscal reality. Central to Pedroza’s plan is making Claremont an enticing place for businesses.

“We need to focus on keeping what we all love about the city, but at the same time seeing what other opportunities are out there,” he said. “I think we have a set image of what we think the city is all about, and we can no longer afford to constrain ourselves to that.”

Pedroza also defended the “four year plan” regarding pensions of government employees.

“I go back to the idea that the economy is our enemy, and it’s bad decisions that have been made through our financial institutions that have gotten us to the point that we’re in now,” he said. “Our goal as a city now is to try to get to a situation where we could better manage it, not just through this year’s budget, but for long term sustainability.”

Joe Lyons, research consultant/educator

Lyons has lived in Claremont for nine years. Before moving to the city, he was a research scientist for City of Hope, a cancer research center, and is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Pomona Valley affiliate of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).

Lyons said he holds the “view that the quality of life and character of Claremont is a top priority and needs to be factored in to any decision that a council person might make.” He said he is concerned about what he considers “Tea Party” politics and bottom line decisions that affect the nature of the city.

“The campaign has focused on the budget,” he said, “and I certainly think it’s a significant issue. We have to literally and figuratively live within our means; that is, with a balanced budget.”

Lyons said he envisions widespread policy restructuring over the next few years, but acknowledged that there would be no quick fix to the city’s economic problems. He cited the choices individual residents make as ultimately determining the trajectory of the city, and said he envisions Claremont working together with the colleges to build what he considers a “model city” for economic and environmental sustainability.”

Joseph Armendarez, teacher

Armendarez grew up in Claremont and is currently the chair of the science department at Colony High School in Ontario.

Armendarez said he is running for city council in the hopes that the changes he could implement might improve the legacy the city leaves for the children of Claremont.

“We must all do our part,” he wrote in an e-mail to The Student Life. “We must align expenditures with revenues and care for those who truly need it.”

He envisions the new council nurturing the city’s growth in a controlled, purposeful manner. He added that he sees Claremont moving forward, but in a responsible manner.

Armendarez also cited pension reforms as a primary goal, though he did not indicate which of the two proposed plans he prefers. He added that he hopes to maintain Claremont’s character as a city that caters to the needs of all its residents.

Robin Haulman, attorney/businesswoman

Haulman has lived in Claremont for many years. She has served on the City Architectural Committee since 2002 and chaired the committee since 2007. As an attorney, Haulman represents consumers in real estate and business law. She also volunteers in the L.A. County Superior Judge Pro Tem program, serving as a judge in county traffic courts.

Haulman is a strong advocate for the Claremont Police Department (CPD). She said she is concerned about the budget and supports the proposed “four year” pension reform plan. She has also proposed to freeze government wages and salaries, as well as the public employee Cost of Living allowance.

“We have to be flexible, creative, and adaptive,” Haulman said. “The responsibility of the newly elected council is to educate the public on what the options are [and] what our budget shortfalls are, and to get community input and feedback on what needs to be cut and what we want to cut.”

Haulman said she wants to support the character of Claremont, and pointed to the restoration of the CPD as an integral part of fulfilling this mission.

According to Haulman, over the past few years, seven sworn officers have been laid off, while crime has increased.

“We have a wonderful, cooperative, very good-natured police force,” Haulman said. “They need to be supported by the community and the council.”

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