Kirk Stapp wants transparency, fiscal responsibility back on the dias
Kirk Stapp is running for Mammoth Town Council this spring.
If elected, he will have almost three times as much experience as his fellow Councilmembers— combined.
Stapp served on Mammoth’s Council from 1986-2008.
He is a former schoolteacher. Post-retirement, he’s written three novels.
He is still very active in community affairs, serving as President of the Mammoth Lakes Housing Board, and as a member of the Eastern Sierra Transit Authority Board. He is also Treasurer of his Snowcreek IV HOA and is a member of the Mono County Grand Jury.
Why is he running? “It may sound like a cliché,” said Stapp, “but I care about the people in this community, the business community, our natural environment, trails …”
“Also, I’m disappointed with the current Town government.”
Specifically, he is dumbfounded that the current Council agreed to pay $6.5 million for the Shady Rest Parcel.
Yes, the idea behind the purchase (the goal of building affordable housing) is a noble one, a necessary one given the local housing shortage. But Stapp thinks the Town paid too much. Way too much.
“I don’t think [current Mayor] John Wentworth knows what it takes to do a housing project,” said Stapp bluntly.
“Normally, a developer gets the land for free to do an affordable housing project. Every affordable housing project the Town has ever done has been accomplished that way. So we just spent $6.5 million, ‘borrowing’ the money from ourselves, in the hopes of giving that money away [to a developer], on a piece of land that was appraised for $1.6 million by a consultant hired by Mammoth Lakes Housing a little over two years ago.”
Further, Stapp made a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request after the Shady Rest purchase was announced out of curiosity as to whether the Town had hired anyone to do a subsequent appraisal. It hadn’t.
“We can’t find the money for road rehabilitation, vehicle replacement … the Town has identified nearly $5 million in upcoming maintenance obligations for its recreational facilities … in short, we have too many wants and not enough money.”
Never mind the latest $170,000 Council just authorized at its meeting Wednesday for further consulting work on its looming Solid Waste issue (The Benton Crossing Landfill is scheduled to close in 2023, meaning the Town will pretty much have to truck its garbage to Nevada).
“We need transparency,” he added. “I’m no financial whiz, but it doesn’t look right. With Shady Rest, the Multi-Use Facility … we’re taking on a lot of debt, whichis going to inpact service levels for police, snow removal, asphalt overlays …”
“Without transparency, Council is just endorsing agenda bills without asking questions. My criticism of this Council is that they’re not digging into issues, particularly the budget, which is the anchor for policy decisions.”
For example, Stapp noted that Council had identified 105 tasks in its strategic plan that it wished to accomplish.
“But they accepted that plan without a budget or a calculation of staff time required connected to accomplish these tasks.”
The upshot, he says, is that you’re creating a blank slate, where you’ve justified any sort of action the Town Manager may wish to take (“It’s in the plan”) without adequately pricing or prioritizing.
“[Town Manager] Dan Holler’s agenda bills are crafted as done deals, with analysis that doesn’t offer options so much as arguments in support,” observes Stapp.
What does Stapp like? He’d like to see the TBID (Tourism Business Improvement District) renewed. And he is pleased the Town has funded its Reserve for Economic Uncertainty at a healthy $3.4 million.
But if you’re an optimist looking to vote for a cheerleader, Stapp is not your guy.