It was only a matter of time.
MMSA CEO Rusty Gregory broke his cone of silence and addressed Mammoth Lakes Town Council on Wednesday evening.
While Gregory’s remarks were described as “vague” by Mayor Pro-Tem Rick Wood, he hinted at the Mountain’s support and participation in a town-wide BID (Business Improvement District).
The idea being that the Town would raise big pots of dough from local businesses (Gregory suggested that with some sacrifice, $5-6 million could be raised) and embark on an aggressive marketing campaign. The goal, said Gregory in a Wednesday morning interview, should be to “grow ourselves out of the problem [airport litigation settlement].”
“The obligation will only feel lesser if we grow our resources,” he added.
Gregory also suggested that the Mountain would begin to play a little nicer in the sandbox. “The Mountain will not compete with you. We’re going to collaborate to build a great experience. We’re not going to keep trying to eat a bigger and bigger piece of the pie … the Mountain will be different.”
“To a capitalist like me, this is like the Anti-Christ,” he said of his philosophical reversal towards benevolence and collectivism.
The address met with applause and in an email received Thursday morning, one local business owner said, “I hear Rusty had words of wisdom and comfort … promises too.”
So what is the nature of these promises, exactly?
From a discussion The Sheet had with Gregory on Wednesday morning, it appears that Gregory would fund MMSA’s share of the BID by shifting money from MMSA’s marketing department to the collective venture.
Therefore, it doesn’t appear as if MMSA would be spending additional money on marketing so much as shifting its dollars.
It appears, however, that local businesses would be asked to pay more than what they’re currently paying in taxes to fund the BID.
This disconnect has not been lost on local business owners. As one local business owner said Thursday, “He [Rusty] is just trying to distract the Town from looking more closely at a lift ticket tax.”
When Councilman Michael Raimondo asked Gregory for his thoughts about an admissions (ticket) tax on Wednesday, Gregory replied, “It’s not that I’m against a tax, but I’m for doing it [raising revenue] differently.”
The Sheet spoke to Raimondo on Thursday. He believes that the Mountain “wants to be a contributor of additional dollars” beyond what it is spending now on marketing. In other words, Raimondo doesn’t think it will just be a shifting of dollars.
Raimondo also cited the infamous online survey conducted by the Town. Whatever its shortcomings, the survey indicated that there was less than 40% support for any particular tax proposal.
That’s why a BID may be a more feasible option, he explained, because it would require a vote of the participating business owners as opposed to the vote of the entire town, and participants would have greater control as to how their money would be spent.
How the BID might work?
Raimondo, Mammoth Lakes Tourism’s John Urdi, MMSA’s Jim Smith and Bob Peckenpaugh, Mono County Supervisors Byng Hunt and Tim Hansen, Supervisor-Elect Tim Fesko, Snowcreek’s John Morris, Kirk Schaubmayer, Jimmy Little and Tom Cage participated in an informal BID discussion on Thursday.
The tentative plan would be to raise the T.O.T. rate by 1% to 14% and raise the sales tax by a half-percent to fund the BID.
The money would then flow into Urdi’s MLT budget.
Note that lift tickets are not subject to sales tax because lift tickets are considered to provide a service as opposed to a tangible product.
When is a tax a tax?
Mayor Pro-Tem Rick Wood, ever the politician, declared Wednesday that he is not supportive of a tax increase of any kind (fortunately, he did not ask us to read his lips).
Taxes are not the way. Investment is, he said.
By investment, I suppose that refers to other people taxing themselves so he doesn’t have to take the hit politically.
So a BID is not a tax? we asked Raimondo.
“Rick may have been confused,” he replied diplomatically.
What’s the point spread?
Hilariously, the Town dedicated a whole bunch of workshop time prior to the meeting to a consultant from the firm Dyett and Bhatia regarding the Zoning Code Update.
As if we haven’t kicked around the whole community benefits/incentive zoning issue enough, this consultant now recommends we implement a “points system” to determine the size and scope of contemplated zoning variances based upon what a developer might provide in “community benefits.”
Rhonda Duggan and Elizabeth Tenney have finally decided that doing these things on a case-by-case basis is too difficult. Glad we reached this conclusion … five years too late.
Suggestion: If a developer hires Rick Wood as legal counsel, 1 million points!