In his letter to the editor this week (page 17), John Armstrong asserts that based upon nicknames I bestowed upon Mammoth Lakes Public Works director Grady Dutton, I have “reduced the inclination of citizens to take part in the governance of our community” by “casting unacceptable ridicule and scorn on the citizens of Mammoth Lakes.”
Okay. Let’s review.
Mr. Dutton sought to ban public and press from scheduled meetings with the Federal Aviation Administration officials. He claimed the meetings were private. He didn’t properly notice the meetings, sending out emails to “invited” parties late Wednesday afternoon prior to the first meeting held Thursday, January 25, at 1 p.m.
I called Town Attorney Andrew Morris on Thursday morning and said The Sheet would be attending the meeting, and if we were denied entry, we would pursue legal action against the Town of Mammoth Lakes.
Morris assured me that no legal proceedings would be necessary and that The Sheet and members of the public were welcome to attend.
Mr. Dutton is a Town staffer. He serves at the pleasure of the Town Manager, the Town Council and this community. It is his job to represent the entire community, to present issues and alternatives as objectively as possible, to give Councilmembers the best and most comprehensive information with which to make informed decisions.
Given the shenanigans which have occurred at Mammoth Yosemite Airport over the years, the Council and public should know all the facts and discussion regarding the future of the airport, and capital projects under consideration.
Dutton’s imperial behavior last week absolutely fit the nicknames we offered, among them Kim Jong Dutt Un and Jabba The Dutt.
If offering these monikers reduces the inclination of citizens to take part in governance, my rebuttal to Mr. Armstrong is simple. Grady Dutton sought last week to remove the ability of citizens to participate in governance whatsoever. And he deserves every bit of criticism he received.
On Friday, I attended the second part of that FAA meeting, which was held at Bishop Airport.
At the meeting, FAA Western Regional Director Mark McClardy again urged Mono and Inyo Counties to pursue a regional solution to commercial air service.
“We’ve gone through the environmental documents,” he said. “Both airports have problems.”
However, the work needed to be done in Bishop to obtain a Part 139 certification necessary for commercial service “does not seem insurmountable,” according to McClardy.
In fact, Bishop representatives feel they are very close to getting such a certification-—which, I’m guessing, makes Mammoth airport proponents like Mr. Dutton very nervous.
Bishop also has a letter of interest from Allegiant Airlines, which would consider flying a 156-seat Airbus 319 airplane into Bishop’s Airport.
As Inyo County Administrator Kevin Carunchio pointed out, Bishop Airport received an “infrastructure dividend” thanks to World War II.
Bishop has cross-wind runways, a primary runway that is longer than Mammoth’s, is rated to 600,000 pounds and can accommodate aircraft as large as a Boeing 767.
It also poses few of the weather problems which are endemic to Mammoth Yosemite.
As stated in the LeighFisher passenger traffic study commissioned by Inyo County, which came out in February, 2017, Mammoth-Yosemite has a 15 percent rate of cancellations and diversions—and this does not include last winter’s numbers, which were significantly worse.
By contrast, the national average is 3 percent.
At a recent Mammoth Lakes Tourism meeting, MLT’s Executive Director John Urdi asserted that while Mammoth had about a 20 percent cancellation rate last season, even if the flights had been into Bishop, there still would have been 10 percent cancellations.
Friday’s meeting demonstrated that Mr. Urdi must have made up the 10 percent figure.