Pictured: “Tuff” guy: Councilmember Michael Raimondo then (left) in his ‘80s metal band “Tuff,” and today, banging his head in Suite Z every other Wednesday night./
Michael Raimondo: The First 180 days
When he was elected to Mammoth Lakes’ Town Council this past summer, the Town’s newest lawmaker, Michael Raimondo, was the second of two candidates (Jo Bacon was the other) for two open seats in the Town Council race that wasn’t. Raimondo was made Councilmember via appointment, when the Town opted to forego spending money on what was essentially a non-election.
After six months, how does Raimondo think he’s doing? “It hasn’t been boring,” he replied. “I ended up getting thrown out of the frying pan and into the fire, with the bankruptcy and the settlement and everything that was going on. We’re made some progress, though.”
Raimondo stands by his decisions to date, and is especially proud of the tough, challenging decisions, including his lone dissenting vote on the settlement agreement with Mammoth Lakes Land Acquisition. “It’s over. I’m supportive of the Council today and the idea of growing ourselves out of this,” Raimondo stated. “I still believe in the way I voted. I’m not against a settlement. I just thought this settlement wasn’t the best one for the community. We could have done better, but it’s about moving forward.”
As to his seat on the dais, Raimondo is quick to point out that he didn’t run because no one else wanted the seat. “No one wants to run in a time of need, but when I filed initially I was running against Jo Bacon and Skip Harvey,” he explained. “Soon after I entered the race Skip withdrew, understandably. We’ll see what happens next election.”[Harvey opted not to run for health reasons and finished out the remainder of his term. He later passed away from cancer.
Thinking inside the box
Now that he’s settled into his Council seat and has a firm grasp of the Town’s obstacles and challenges, Raimondo is starting to turn his attention to some agenda items of his own. One of those involves Mammoth’s sidewalks and local trails. He’s impressed with the work that’s been done in terms of outer connectivity to the town’s outlying trails system, but thinks the time has come to shift more of the focus toward inner-connectivity.
“I want to finish the box that runs from Minaret to Meridian, to Old Mammoth Road and up to the Village via Main Street,” he proposed. “And I’d like to work on sidewalks and crossings near Whiskey Creek and 80|50. With the traffic that goes by there, someone could get killed or really injured, and I don’t want to wait for that to happen for it to become a priority.”
“I’m not reinventing the wheel,” he insists. “This has been championed before and it’s been discussed before. We keep saying we want to be a ‘feet first’ community, which is spelled out in part of the General Plan, but we need to finish the pieces. Council needs to take more leadership.”
And that means not just summer season trails, but also winter ones as well. “We spent $13 million to build a phenomenal summer and fall trails system, and six months of the year it’s covered in snow. Why?” he asked rhetorically. Raimondo particularly want to explore how to fund clearing snow from the Lake Mary Bike Path, which would allow more foot traffic for locals and guests to Tamarack and the Lakes Basin area, a popular snowshoe and cross-country ski destination. He also thinks it would improve access to residences along the way, which currently require some form of public or private transportation.
There are, he acknowledged, things to consider, such as avalanche dangers on parts of the route. “But the bottom line is it’s a great amenity that’s underutilized,” he summed up. “Meanwhile, we could be working on it, doing studies, put our heads together.”
He’s also looking forward to the next steps in the redevelopment of Main Street. “We can’t sit and wait … and wait for development to return; we need to make things happen,” he opined.
Raimondo is a realist in that he knows all this costs money. “Sure, it’s how to pay for it. We should look at grants and other potential sources of funding. R & U should be considered as options. There are definitions for mobility and recreation and this fits them. It just needs to be a priority of execution, not just discussion.
Speaking of summer, call them sidewalks or trails, either way Raimondo cited the series of outdoor concerts and events that have patrons walking in the street. “They should be on a designated path,” he said. “More bikes mean less car traffic, which means less accidents.”
Parking in the North Village, he said, is another problem that needs both short- and long-term work on a permanent structure. “We need it, no doubt. “Perhaps we could utilize the community center property and relocate the tennis courts?” he posited. “It’s been 10 years since we put up the Village and there’s no solution in place. I’m all in favor of air service, but people drive here and will continue to drive here, no matter how many flights we have. You can’t have a town with 60,000 people and no parking.”