The Pitzer College Student Senate, in cooperation with the League of Women Voters, organized a forum for Claremont city council candidates to discuss their policy positions in Pitzer's Benson Auditorium on Thursday, Feb. 23.
Eight candidates are vying for two open seats on the city council in the March 7 election. The candidates are incumbent council members Corey Calaycay and Larry Schroeder, Claremont McKenna College professor and Claremont traffic and transportation commissioner Zachary Courser, real estate broker Anthony Grynchal, window cleaner Michael Keenan, investment advisor Murray G. Monroe, real estate broker and pastor Abraham Prattella, and businessman Korey Johnson, who did not participate in the forum.
Pitzer Student Senate President Josue Pasillas PZ ’17 reached out to the League of Women Voters, which organizes candidate forums for local elections nationwide, to put together the forum at Pitzer and enhance Pitzer’s partnership with the local community.
“One of the goals of the Student Senate is to build partnerships with our community,” Pasillas said. The senate aims to “engage students of the Claremont colleges with the Claremont community and its leaders,” he added.
Approximately 100 people attended the forum, but the majority of attendees were Claremont community members, not students.
The forum consisted of a two-minute opening statement by each candidate, followed by one-minute responses to a series of audience-submitted questions, and concluded with a one-minute closing statement from each candidate. Claremont Area League of Women Voters Vice President for Voter Services Cindy Reul and Chance Kawar PZ ’17 moderated the forum.
The first question focused on the relationship between the Claremont colleges and the city of Claremont. All candidates recognized that there is a divide between the city and the 5Cs, and agreed the city council must work to strengthen the relationship between the 5Cs and the city council to unite as one community.
“We need to … recognize that we have our respective interests and we need to also recognize that there may be times when we have differences of opinion, but we need to work hard to try to find common ground to work together for the good of our community,” Calaycay said.
Schroeder proposed that the city should have quarterly meetings with leaders of the Claremont colleges.
“We had a lunch every quarter with the college presidents and the CEO of the Claremont consortium, our city manager, the mayor, and a council member, and that’s fallen off the charts,” Schroeder said. “What we need to do is reinstate that.”
Prattella proposed a broader solution that would provide the colleges more frequent input into Claremont government.
Claremont should “create some type of committee from the colleges that is part of the government. We should meet monthly, not just quarterly with the presidents, or the vice presidents, or someone who can create a voice for the colleges,” Prattella said.
Keenan focused on the importance of local government in protecting academic freedom from potential federal action.
“I propose that if we have to, passing an ordinance to protect (academic freedom) within the jurisdiction of the town, because I see (private organizations) coming after professors, and I don’t want any political interference,” Keenan said.
Grynchal emphasized the city’s role in providing police services to the 5Cs. He proposed that the city drop its eminent domain case against Golden State Water Company and redirect funds for it toward public safety, to help the 5Cs and the city as a whole.
“The funding for (the eminent domain lawsuit) could be provided to putting more cops on the streets, which would keep us safe,” Grynchal said.
Moderators also asked candidates about recent calls, especially from 5C students, to declare Claremont a sanctuary city. The city council passed a resolution affirming Claremont’s support for all of its residents on Feb. 3. All of the candidates supported this resolution.
Schroeder, Grynchal, Keenan, Calaycay, and Prattella believe that this resolution and the Claremont police department's non-involvement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement actions are currently sufficient to protect immigrants.
Grynchal and Prattella worried that the city could lose federal funding if it declared itself a sanctuary city. Pratella and Schroeder also believe that declaring Claremont a sanctuary city could be counterproductive and attract undue attention to its immigrant population.
“There’s no need to create a spotlight and say that we are a ‘sanctuary city,’ which could actually create danger for (immigrants),” Prattella said. “If we declare it … we do lose federal funding, up to a half a million dollars” as well as, potentially, emergency FEMA funds.
Monroe was the only candidate who said Claremont should immediately declare itself a sanctuary city. According to Monroe, potential losses of federal funding are negligible.
“So what if we lose $461,000 (of federal funding),” Monroe said. “If we name ourselves a sanctuary city, morally, we’re doing the right thing.”
Courser believes the city should provide additional resources for immigrants who might feel threatened by new federal policies.
“We can afford to be a bit brave here, in that we can help support, for instance, legally, to inform immigrants that they have their due process rights,” Courser said. “I think that’s the Claremont thing to do.”
The other topics covered in questions were commercial and residential development, sustainability, Claremont’s eminent domain case against Golden State Water, homelessness, the role of city commissions in Claremont, limitations on parking, and public safety.
Johnson spoke to TSL prior to the forum. He believes that, as a long-time resident of Claremont who is younger than most sitting members of the city council, he could bring a new perspective to the council.
“I’m a high school graduate of Claremont High,” he said. “A lot of people that are on the city council right now are in … their late 50s or early 60s. I’m 41, so I think I would bring a different perspective to the city, for the new generation.”