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March 7 La Verne Council Decision: Is a Robin in the Hand Worth Two in the Bush?

February 8, 2017
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Carder Country: Robin with children and grandchildren.

Robin Carder, a councilmember for the last eight years in La Verne, is everywhere. She is more ubiquitous than that “Don’t Wait, Call Eight,” ad blitzing our media channels.

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She seems to sit on more committees than there are causes. In fact, if you don’t see her on one, you better call 911. She’s supposed to be there.

She’s on or has been on the boards of the Veterans’ Memorial committee, the Youth Sports committee, the Active Transportation committee, the City Seal committee, and the Metro Gold Line JPA. For nine years, she was a board trustee for the Bonita Unified School District. She chaired the two committees behind the successful bond measures that brought us the Bonita Center for the Arts, modernized classrooms and new gymnasiums at Bonita and soon Ramona.

While some people are fond of saying, they’re going to hit the ground running, well, she is the ground upholding and supporting many of the events and activities and much of the growth in La Verne.

Now here’s the real kicker. On May 31, she is going to be retiring from the University of La Verne, where she has worked for the last l7 years as the executive assistant to the vice president of enrollment management and strategic communications.

“I will have eight more hours a day to do things,” Robin said.

After serving two terms on the council, one might think she would want to slow down and smell a few roses. After sitting down with LaVerneOnline.com, we got the impression, she wants to plant more roses or at least spend more time tending the ones that she has sunk in the ground.

La Verne’s Veterans’ Memorial: In our veterans, she trusts.

Unfinished Business

“I want to finish up the items I’ve been involved with,” Robin said.

Among those, she wants to welcome the Gold Line to town. Currently, she serves as secretary of the Metro Gold Line JPA. Were she not on the council, she would lose that important seat.

She also wants to help facilitate all of the new development that will radiate from the Gold Line juggernaut – a new station, transit-oriented housing, mixed-used commercial development, and possibly a hotel.

“It’s just very exciting,” Robin said.

And she’ll have a greater voice in the outcome of these projects because, as she’ll no longer be an employee of the university affected by conflict of interest rules, she won’t have to recuse herself from critical downtown development votes.

She wants to help usher in the new bike lanes and pedestrian paths that have been greenlighted and supported with a $1.9 Bicycle Gap Project state grant.

Further, she wants to be that red line in the sand, when it comes to talk about contracting out public safety services to the county to save money. For Robin, it’s priority No. 1.

“It’s not up for discussion,” Robin said. “That’s what residents and businesses have told me, and I stand behind them 100 percent. I will never support our going county.”

For Carder, public safety remains priority No. 1.

Long Experience

Robin’s main campaign flyer says “Re-elect Experience.” It’s definitely her strong suit. She moved into the community 38 years ago with her husband Robert to whom she has been married 43 years. Not long after, she called La Verne city hall and asked whether she could get involved in one of the city council campaigns underway.

She was put in touch with Craig Walters, a 22-year-old University of La Verne student who went on to win office and serve on the council for 14 years (1978-1993). Today, Craig is chairman of the Old Town La Verne Business District.

“That introduction gave me the drive, and I wanted to stay involved,” Robin said.

And there’s nothing like a new campaign to keep you involved.

“It’s been great to be reunited with a lot of old friends,” Robin said. “We had a kick-off party, and so many turned out who said they wanted to help out with the campaign or donate to the campaign.”

Although campaign volunteers have been enthusiastically been staking her signs around town, she said she actually prefers doing it herself because she simply enjoys being out in the community.

“I’m very social and I love people,” she said. “It’s fun and it’s refreshing.”

She thinks this year’s election will see an increase in voter turnout because it piggy-backs on the Los Angeles County election, where voters will be asked to vote on a proposed one-quarter cent sales tax increase to fund homeless programs, and also because of the mayoral race featuring Don Kendrick, the incumbent, and Tim Hepburn, the challenger, who is a current councilmember. Previously, Kendrick ran unopposed.

About the mayoral choice, Robin hasn’t made an official endorsement, adding that she wants to see how they conduct themselves at the upcoming candidates’ forums and what they propose doing for the town’s residents and businesses going forward.

One issue that has been raised is the reputed $1 million budget deficit that La Verne has. Carder has taken exception to that conclusion, clarifying at several different public forums that while city revenues and expenditures might fluctuate from month to month over the course of the fiscal year (July 1 – June 30), the budget remains balanced.

She further emphasized that the city has not touched its reserves since 2010, when “we were in the middle of a terrible recession.”

“We planned for it, and since then have not spent a penny of the reserves, and we never had to lay off one person,” Carder stated. “We run a very lean ship.”

Whether comments runs positive or negative, Carder always listens. In fact, she often does more than that. When there was a real chance of a Walmart grocery store coming to La Verne, she canvassed both businesses and residents to get their direct input. Despite her own opinion, retail shop owners in the directly impacted center saw Walmart as a lifeline, rationalizing that it was better to have a national retailer here than an empty lot for another five or 10 years. Walmart , however, eventually pulled out.

During Robin’s eight years in office, Robin will be the first to tell you it’s hard to please all of the people all of the time. Asked whether she had any regrets, she was refreshingly frank.

When a council meeting invited discussion about the possibility of converting Marshall Canyon Golf Course into a housing development and making Sierra La Verne the county golf course, she said she didn’t represent the residents in North La Verne who were so passionate about preserving Marshall Canyon. The council eventually voted down the idea of a land swap, but it nevertheless bothered Robin.

Honest Broker

“I felt bad,” Robin said, admitting to the mea culpa, which is unusual for most politicians.  “That wasn’t me. I didn’t represent the citizens as well as I could have. I was mad at myself. That will never happen again.”

You can take her at her word. She does the intel and has a reputation for being overly prepared. “I love getting into the meat of an issue,” she said.

And now with an extra eight hours a day, one can only imagine how she will use her extra time and energy. But it won’t be all work and no play.

“I do want to play more tennis,” said Robin, who founded the La Verne Tennis Association more than three decades ago and still runs it today. There are currently 59 members, including an 84-year-old player.

“Nobody in our tennis group has passed away,” Robin added. “I really think activity is the key.”

Longer-range, she also would like to help her alma mater, the University of La Verne, build a tennis stadium by the sportsplex off Wheeler. It would be open to the community as well, in much the same way that the Leos softball field is now shared by La Verne adult softball leagues.

“This is my way of giving back to the university that has treated me so nicely,” she said.

It’s one more time that Robin appears ahead of the curve.

“We already have the plans,” Robin said. “The design is breathtaking.”

As she said, “Activity is the key,” one area where Robin can clearly point to an inexhaustible surplus.

 

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