When you’re a Mammoth Lakes Town Councilmember, I suppose every budget meeting is bound to leave you dumbfounded.
Such was the case Monday night when Council was informed that the $1 million Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grant it became eligible for when it reached 10,000 commercial enplanements wouldn’t actually be paid out until October 2011.
Kirkner said the reaction of Councilmembers upon hearing the news was largely muted.
But as Councilman Rick Wood noted this week, his voice dripping with sarcasm, “Well, at least we’re charging ourselves a decent interest rate,” he said. (The Town’s financing the loan out of its own cash reserves).
How does Staff talk about this grant for years on end and not know the actual grant cycle? It’s embarrassing.
This leads me to the Town Commission interviews conducted on Tuesday. Some sample tweets from TheSheetTweet:
“At Town Commission interviews. Wood asks each airport commission candidate what they think the commission does.”
“Eastman quips, ‘We didn’t know so that’s why we’re asking.’”
Hmm. Maybe creating a job description would be helpful. Something like, “An airport commissioner’s job is to check behind the fax machine every two weeks to make sure the Airport Manager hasn’t misplaced any crucial missives from the FAA.”
The Planning Commissioner interviews were the most interesting. Incumbent Commissioner Rhonda Duggan said, “I’m working for what’s best for the community as opposed to my employer’s interest. In public service, your first allegiance is to the community.”
Duggan said that during her time working for Mammoth Mountain, CEO Rusty Gregory never told her what to do [regarding Commission decisions].
To bolster her credentials as an independent voice, Duggan said that in hindsight, she now regrets the Commission’s 2007 approval of the Tanavista project.
Not that it mattered. The project was shelved by that summer.
Duggan now works for Jim Demetriades at Old Mammoth Place.
Then came another incumbent commissioner, Tony Barrett, who promised that if reappointed, he wouldn’t run for Council in two years.
“If you’re committing to a four-year term, you’ve got to fulfill it,” he said.
Hmm. But what about Barrett’s aborted run for Council in 2008 after serving just two years on the Planning Commission?
Exactly, replied Tony. That was one of the reasons why he says he chose to drop out of that race. He also said during his interview that he enjoys serving on Planning Commission better than Town Council, a logical explanation from someone who just ran for Town Council.
Both incumbents were reappointed to the Commission on Wednesday, beating out a third applicant, Dawn Vereuck.
The biggest issue on Council’s agenda Wednesday involved funding for Mammoth Lakes Tourism (MLT), with Councilmembers politely fighting with Staff to leave as much money unencumbered as possible so that incoming director John Urdi can actually exercise some decision-making authority.
As MLT Board member Teri Stehlik said, “Mammoth Lakes Tourism is not here to put on activities, but to market them.”
Council agreed, and ordered Staff to find money out of the general fund to pay for 4th of July fireworks, fishing enhancement, the Mammoth Lakes Chamber of Commerce, and other activities Council does not define as “marketing.”
The $370,000 air subsidy for 2010-2011 will be secured by the Town’s REU (Reserve for Economic Uncertainty) as opposed to being paid for out of the Mammoth Lakes Tourism budget. Then again, what isn’t secured by the REU? I wonder if the REU is securing my home loan.
The issue as to whether air subsidies should be classified as a marketing expense is a debate for a future day.
And from Geisel’s desk …
Fannie and Freddie
Finance Director Brian Muir briefed the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday, saying that, based on Mono County’s quarterly investment report which was sent out on Tuesday morning, he expects next quarter to be fairly good, but added that long-term the fed and other agencies are predicting a long recovery, with the first real mention of “inflation.” County portfolio includes bonds in Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. Mono County’s not a stockholder in either entity, which bodes well in Muir’s estimation. He thinks that as Congress tinkers with Fannie and Freddie, the stock of the quasi-government agencies will go further south.
Freddie and Fannie aren’t part of President Obama’s recently enacted Financial Reform bill, but Muir said the fed nonetheless has a vested interest in not letting them fail. “The fed will print more money before they let them fail,” Muir estimated. Muir said that it’s almost a certainty that the
state won’t pass a budget until after the November elections, and that work should proceed on the County’s budget, which will have Muir’s “best guesses” used where necessary. “We still have state-mandated deadlines to meet, state budget or not,” he explained.
Bishop transit users could be the big losers when it comes to fixing Eastern Sierra Transit Authority’s potential $160,000 budget shortfall. ESTA officials briefed members of Mammoth’s Mobility Commission on Tuesday afternoon regarding possible cuts in service that may be considered as part of ESTA’s money-saving efforts.
ESTA runs on an annual $3 million budget, which has lately been affected by state funding and other problems.
According to ESTA’s report, Mammoth would only be affected in that the town might lose either the midday Bishop Express route, or the Saturday weekend run, both of which ESTA officials said were “underperformers.”
Bishop, however, stands to lose all of its fixed routes, which ESTA said have also been deemed “underperforming.” Trolley and LIFT service would continue. They are, the report said, “better performers,” and seem to lend themselves to the type of layout that characterizes Bishop’s metro footprint.
Mammoth, by comparison, has had great success with its fixed routes, which also perform well in the town’s configuration.In any case, ESTA went on to firmly state, “No one will be without service.”
Fair winds …
It appears Mono County’s decision to field its own booth at the recent State Fair in Sacramento was a good one, picking up two awards for the entry. Mono has partnered with Inyo County in previous years, but hasn’t set up its own booth for awhile now.
The County won a Silver overall medal for its Bodie-themed booth (which replicates some of the buildings in the state park) and Best in Show for Use of Artifacts. Economic Development Director Dan Lyster said busy weekends can see an average traffic flow of 70,000 persons at the State Fair. As many as 100,000 may pass through during peak times.
Lyster said it might be harder next year to win Best in Show, since Bodie lends itself to use of artifacts. “It’s hard to encapsulate other areas in terms of ‘artifacts,’ but we’re already thinking about next year,” he added.