There has been a lot of discourse recently about the Town budget. In particular, questions have been raised about the funding of capital improvements. It is not accurate to say that reserves were used to fund capital improvements and operations. The Town adjusted to the realities of the recession as described below:
• State-funded grant projects are planned on a five-year cycle, including five-year revenue estimates.
• The Town counts on development impact fee revenue to support this plan.
• The Town recognized nine months before the meltdown of insurance giant AIG that these funds would be severely limited.
• Returning grant funds comes with severe penalties that would limit or restrict future grant receipts.
• In response a decision was made to cancel or postpone some projects that did not rely on grant funds.
• It was also decided to continue work on $42 million in projects using $34 million in grants.
• The $8 million difference between these amounts was covered in three ways: 1) using money that had been saved for the projects, 2) using money from a right-of-way sale to match six grant funded projects as recommended by a citizen budget committee, and 3) redirecting money that was saved due to a freeze on equipment replacements.
• Throughout this period, the operating budget was balanced and did not require any shifting of funds to support Town services. (It is true that reserves were used to cover the costs of the Hot Creek trial.)
The funding described above was recommended so that the Town could keep $34 million in grant money and construction jobs working in our community on important projects like the Lake Mary Bike Path, and because there was no better short term use for the money. As part of this, the Town also invested in a $2 million airport terminal note so that commercial air service could be restarted during the depths of the recession to support the struggling local economy. That note will be repaid by the FAA with interest over the next few years.
Reasonable people may disagree on what projects should be built and how they should be funded. Those who think some other plan would have been better should identify: which projects they would have canceled, which grants they would have returned and for what better purpose the money should have been used.
Mammoth Lakes Town Manager
Books by Ann Coulter: “Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right,”
“Treason: Liberal Treachery from the Cold War to the War on Terrorism,” “How to talk to a Liberal (If you must),” “Godless: The Church of Liberalism,” and “Guilty: Liberal ‘Victims’ and their Assault on America.” Writings by Rush Limbaugh: “Treacherous Liberal ‘Whistleblowers’ … Liberal Professors Meet Their Match,” “If Liberals Ruled the World.” Books by Sean Hannity: “Deliver Us from Evil … Defeating Terrorism, Despotism, and Liberalism,” and “Let Freedom Ring … Winning the War of Liberty over Liberalism,” and Michael Savage’s: “Liberalism is a Mental Disorder.”
The pundits listed above have a massive audience. They all have generated mega-fortunes built on defining, redefining and ultimately trashing the word “liberal” for their loyal and rabid audience, which has elevated them to cult hero and icon status as the “Only True Americans.”
When you consider how often the Fox News Network uses the word, it roughly comes out to approximately 17.2 times per minute (Okay, okay, that might be a slight exaggeration – but it’s close). Take some time today and see for yourself how frequently the word is used and demonized, and make up your own mind as to what is going on today within certain political movements. In fact, it seems that the mere mention of the word liberal is supposed to be the last word and catch-all in any political debate amongst a certain political group.
The definition of the word according to Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, Second College Edition: “lib-er-al” (adj.) free, belonging to the people, to grow up 1. suitable for a free-man, not restricted 2. giving freely; generous 3. large or plentiful; ample; abundant 4. not restricted to the literal meaning; not strict 5. tolerant of views differing from one’s own; broad-minded, not orthodox or conventional 6. of democratic or republican forms of government, as distinguished from monarchies, aristocracies, etc. 7. favoring reform or progress, as in religion, education, etc., favoring political reforms tending towards democracy and personal freedom for the individual; progressive; a person favoring liberalism.
I was raised with THIS definition of the word liberal: “Live and Let Live.” That’s it. Very simple to understand. Easy to live the principle. No resemblance whatsoever to Godless, Anything Goes or Evil Incarnate, as the aforementioned pundits like to tell their adherents.
This simple definition still makes a lot of sense to me especially in today’s divisive political climate. It has been said that if you can control the meaning of the words, you can control the world. There appears to be a monumental difference between Webster’s definition and the pundits’ definition and I am not so sure Webster’s sets out to control anything. I find it interesting how the word’s meaning has been changed and coded.
Liberal is code for Democrat. Democrat has become code for Socialist. And Socialist today is the same as Communist. Let’s face it, the group responsible for demonizing the word liberal is not exactly the “glass is half-full” type to begin with. One might think they were living in the Joe McCarthy era if they did not know better. And all at a time when we should be coming together more than ever.
Seeking a different perspective
When I read “A little history on Clearwater/Old Mammoth Place” by Elizabeth Tenney, member of the Mammoth Lakes Planning Commission, I could not help but think of a quote by Skip Harvey which appeared in your Mar. 6 edition: “Staff spends more time circumventing code than enforcing it.”
Tenney writes,“Today March 10, is the 55th public meeting on the Clearwater/Old Mammoth Place application including related policy development. The public may find this brief recap tracing the project’s history useful.”
What I found useful when I read the history is that I now know how many meetings it takes to circumvent code: 55.
Now let’s see if I have this correct. It takes 55 meetings to circumvent the code and the height of the proposed Old Mammoth Place development is “55 feet.” Does that mean you get a foot of height for every public meeting it takes to circumvent code? But wait, I keep hearing the real height of Old Mammoth Place is 64.5 feet when you calculate the height from the 9.5 foot garage podium. It seems to me since the real height of the roof of this “55 foot” development is 64.5 feet we need 9.5 more meetings to justify approving a development where both staff and the developer agreed the 9.5 extra feet was a mutual oversight.
Another note in The Sheet that got my attention was Jim Demetriades, Old Mammoth Place developer, being quoted to have “expressed surprise at the relative lack of public comment” during the March 10 planning commission meeting. I remember attending one of the 55 public meetings where the public expressed overwhelming opposition to the project. Someone at that meeting made the public comment “they were shocked by how much opposition there was to the Old Mammoth Place Project (at the time Clearwater ).” That comment really struck me so I got in line to make my public comments opposing the project and I closed with this, “What shocks me is not how much opposition there is to this project. What shocks me is you [the Planning Commission] are going to approve it in spite of the overwhelming public opposition to this project.”
There are a couple of other “f” words besides “fatigue” that should be attributed to the lack of public comment: “fed-up” and “frustrated.” How many times do an overwhelming number of residents, second homeowners and visitors (who live 350 miles away) have to show up and say, “What are you thinking? Don’t do it. The current height along Old Mammoth Rd is correct; don’t go higher. Stop ruining Mammoth; we do not want to be a high-rise town with double density … stop circumventing code?”
Thanks, Skip, for speaking your mind about how staff spends all its time circumventing code rather than enforcing it. I now have a much better handle on how many meetings it takes to wear down the public so they stop showing up to express their outrage with the Staff, Planning Commission and a Council that refuses to be accountable to the community. It will be interesting to see if in the June 8 Town Council election the community votes NOT to elect the planning commissioner who voted for Old Mammoth Place. It will also be interesting to see if the public will vote NOT to reelect the incumbent council member running if he votes to approve Old Mammoth Place in spite of all the overwhelming public opposition to this project.
When are we going to wise up and realize the reason residents, visitors and second homeowners come here is to get away from the dense, high-rise communities of Southern California where they live and work. The second homeowners and visitors I deal with in my tourism based business regularly tell me, “I don’t like what is happening in Mammoth. I come here to get away from LA. I do not want to come to another LA in Mammoth.” It is time for the members of Council to stop listening to staff and start listening to and be accountable to the voters of this community and deny approval of Old Mammoth Place. In my opinion, changing code heights, doubling densities and becoming a higher, taller and denser Village that towers above the trees are all a detriment to the future of Mammoth Lakes.
Your reporter (Geisel) apparently misunderstood me when he wrote that I would be “reducing costs in terms of filing fees and other court-related expenses as well as some better use of funding opportunities that could save money.” This is not a direct quote. My statement was that, if elected, I would like to look into some of the programs which Inyo County has implemented, such as the Community Based Alternative Dispute Resolution program, which is facilitated by the Inyo County Superior Court (although not run by the Court), increasing the responsibilities of the Self Help Center (In Mono County this is the Family Law Facilitator) and programs such as the Drug Court.
These types of programs can reduce costs of litigants by avoiding costly trials, and can reduce costs to the community in general, and to the taxpayer in particular.
A judge cannot reduce a court filing fee. Those fees are set by the legislature and the revenue from these fees is intended to offset part, but not all, of the expenses incurred by the court that is associated with civil cases. Such expenses include the administrative costs of setting up hearings, notifying the parties involved, and, in cases where the case goes to trial, the costs associated with conducting the proceedings.
Run over by a snowboarder
I am a grandmother, 77 years of age, and have skied many years including the last seven at Mammoth. On March 5, while at Mammoth, an out-of-control snowboarder struck me down from behind, breaking both my ankles. The Mammoth Mountain Ski Patrol brought me down and Mammoth Hospital provided emergency care, both done with great skill and compassion.
I returned home, obtained the collision report from Ski Patrol, and wrote the accompanying letter to the snowboarder.
New York City
You clipped the tail of my skis on Friday, March 5 at Mammoth Mountain, and sent me flying, so I am writing to let you know the result of what happened. I obtained your name and address from the information you gave the Mammoth Ski Patrol on the accident report. I appreciate that you said several times that you were sorry and I appreciate that you and your friend stayed to give information to the Ski Patrol.
However, I think that it is important for me to tell how this careless run over the back of my skis has impacted my life. I am now confined to a wheelchair until the ankle bones heal in 6 weeks.
In your snowboarding future, remember that the person in front always has the right of way and that you must avoid any possible contact with that person. Keep your distance and stay under control!!!
I’m one of those (really) hard working people in town trying to support my family and do the right thing, but recently something was done to me that I find absolutely inconceivable.
I was trying to sell my old car, so I parked it at the back of the Vons parking lot and and put a couple of signs on it advertising it. I parked it there on Wednesday, March 3 at approximately 3 p.m. I have since come to realize that there are signs in the lot that say no overnight parking, park at your own risk, etc., but haven’t you often seen cars for sale parked in the lot?? I know I have. And I bet they didn’t meet the same fate as my poor vehicle. Keep in mind that at no time while my car had been parked in the lot did it snow at all.
On Friday, March 5, at about 5:50 a.m., I had a few extra minutes before work so I decided to go move the vehicle so the powers that be wouldn’t think it was abandoned. As I drove into the lot I quickly realized that my car wasn’t where I’d left it. Had it been towed? Alas, no. As I continued in somewhat of a state of shock to drive through the lot, I soon saw my vehicle, and some very big black skid marks emanating from its tires about 2 football fields from where I’d parked it at the back of the lot. It now rested catty corner across two spaces in front of Union Bank.
My car had been not only pushed across the lot while in park, but also had been picked up by a loader in order to loose it from its backed in spot at the rear of the lot. To make a long story short: the vehicle was pushed by Manny Bravo, who is responsible for clearing the Vons lot, and his crew in order to clear no significant amount of snow. (I know who did it because of the message left on my voicemail at 12:08 a.m. with Manny Bravo speaking his own name asking me to move the car so they could move the snow around.)
Michael O’Kelly, the mall manager, feels no responsibility for the incident, even though he’s ultimately responsible for the actions of his agent, Manny Bravo.
Did you know that such a thing could happen and not even be illegal? According to Mammoth Lakes Police, it happened in a parking lot (private property), so is therefore not a crime. Now I’m out a perfectly working vehicle, because the tires are shot, and so is the transmission, both due to it having been shoved across the lot by a 2-ton loader.
Susan M. Berger
No on Measure U
I have always believed that successful communities invest in themselves. But don’t ask me to be stupid.
On March 10, I attended the special Town Council meeting at which the Council voted 5-0 to adopt a proposed ordinance that will place Measure U, an extension of the 2.5 percent Utility User Tax (UUT), on the June 8 ballot. I spoke in support of the Measure although I had several reservations.
Since March 10, my reservations have grown to such an extent that I will vote NO on Measure U, June 8.
My first reservation is that there is no sunset on Measure U. The 2.5 percent utility user tax will continue indefinitely.
My second concern is that according to the language in Measure U, the use of the UUT revenues can be used for “Planning, construction, operation, maintenance, programming and administration of facilities and projects for mobility, recreation, and arts and culture.” There are no capital projects identified to be built with these funds and the language in the ordinance is so broad that UUT revenues could simply disappear into the Town’s Performance Based, Outcome Based, Process Based budget.
My third concern is that the conflict between Measure U and the Town’s CBIZ policy is irreconcilable. Measure U states: “Such tax proceeds shall not supplant existing funds used for the purposes set forth above.” In other words, if Measure U passes, the revenues should provide additional funds for mobility, recreation, arts and culture.
Unfortunately, the CBIZ policy (the Community Benefits and Incentive Zoning policy) states that “impact fees (including affordable, development impact fees, and public art fees) are not applied to square footage or density provided as community benefits or granted as an incentive.” In other words, the Town is trading away the fees that fund mobility, recreation, art and culture.
In respect to the approved Old Mammoth Place project, $3.9 million in impact fees are proposed to be traded away for amenities that enhance Old Mammoth Place. Ironically, these development impact fees are supposed to be collected in order to help fund things like mobility, recreation, arts and culture.
So what does this mean? The proceeds from Measure U are not supposed to supplant existing funds and revenue sources. Developer impact fees are being traded away to enhance Old Mammoth Place. If the Town comingles Measure U funds and impacts fee revenues to fund capital projects such as a running track down at Whitmore or a roof on the ice rink or the completion of Trails End Park, Measure U funds will supplant the $3.9 million in impact fees that weren’t collected from the Old Mammoth Place developer.
Another problem with Measure U is that unless the Town Council can guarantee that the Town’s current budgets that fund: “Planning, construction, operations, maintenance, programming and administration of facilities and projects for mobility, recreation, and arts and culture,” will never be reduced, Measure U funds will inevitable be used to backfill or supplant any budget reductions, cuts or shifts which occur in the future.
For example, if the Parks and Recreation budget is reduced $200,000 next year; how can any Measure U revenues be allocated to Parks and Recreation and it not backfill or supplant the shortfall.
It has always been my understanding that developers should contribute their fair share to maintaining our community. The community should not be subsidizing development, that’s why we have Development Impact Fees, Affordable Housing Fees and Art Fees which are a developer’s fair share support of our community.
Unless the Town Council can demonstrate that DIF Fees, Affordable Housing Fees and Art Fees will not be traded away to enhance development, I urge the community to vote NO on Measure U.
Loss of faith
It is with great interest that I read both The Sheet and Mammoth Times articles concerning the Planning Commission’s deliberations regarding Old Mammoth Place in the March 13 issue of each newspaper. The bias of each is clear. The Times seems to just support the decision as “business as usual” while The Sheet describes several unusual aspects to the deliberations. I monitored the proceedings online and have a different perspective. As there is substance to The Sheet article, as opposed to the Times, please read the following analysis of The Sheet article which adds my perception as to what actually occurred at the meeting.
Please understand that I support the Old Mammoth Place project as it has many admirable features. I am, however, unable to establish a position on whether the height fits into the Mammoth vision of small town charm or a village in the trees because of the extremely confusing method of measuring height. Developer Jim Demetriades is to be commended for his persistence in spite of confusing direction from the town staff and its inability to listen to or act on public comment. I am especially concerned about the precedent this project is likely to set for future projects.
Without further ado …
Jim Demetriades “expressed surprise at the relative lack of public comment” as quoted in The Sheet. The Sheet answered that this was attributed to “Fatigue, as this was the 56th meeting on this topic.” I agree that fatigue was a factor for the lack of public presence at this meeting, but equally important is that the public has lost faith in the town listening to them. The many letters that were sent were buried in attachment 11 on the website and not discussed, so Jim apparently was not aware. The Mammoth Alliance of Property Owners (MAPOA) and I have consistently requested the town to honor their own policy requiring Story Poles (effective 11/2006) at Use Permit time, as this would trigger the public to participate and seek additional information on the project. The following is directly from the policy, “visualize a proposed structure from all vantage points and not just from where the project’s architect takes a rendering. Story Poles also allow near and far view impacts to be assessed.”
On December 16, 2009, Town Council recommended changes to a new document, “Building Height and Mass Evaluation Policy (BHMEP)” which allows for computer simulations in place of story poles at Planning Commission discretion. Town Council has not yet approved the document. On January 13, 2010 Town Governance concluded that for OMP, 3-D modeling is best. Considering the number of large projects nearing Use Permit Stage in the next few years (OMP, Holiday Haus, Mammoth Crossing, etc.) the timing is “interesting.”
The following is a direct quote from The Sheet: “Planners (and be advised, every vote was 4-1 with Commissioner Sharon Clark in opposition) approved the new height definition”. Later in the article the following quote appears: “I thought the commitment was for 35, 45 and 55-feet said dissenting Commissioner Sharon Clark. A talented architect can build to the standard given.” What is left unsaid by The Sheet is that Sharon Clark is a relative newcomer and did not participate in most of the previous 55 meetings, so she has a legitimate question. Unfortunately, the other Planning Commissioners and the Community Development Director (Mark Wardlaw) appeared to take great pride in the 55 meetings. I believe having 55 meetings on a single project is a disgrace. It clearly demonstrates how dysfunctional the town governance is in dealing with developers. Why can’t the Planning Commission create clear rules and regulations with which all developers must abide? If the developer is not willing to do so, the town should thank them for their interest BUT make it clear that town rules and regulations are to be followed, Period.
At least four hours during the public portion of the meeting (and more in private) were expended describing a change in the manner of measuring height from natural grade. According to The Sheet “Try to imagine a gently sloping property with a 14’ horizontal sandwich stuck in it —the top of the sandwich is 4’ below ground and the bottom is 18’ down—meaning some of the 55’ building will actually end up 64’ above ground.” Left unsaid by The Sheet were even more confusing statements from the architect regarding how the “underground parking is only 70 percent underground with the other 30 percent meeting the town definition for underground” but in fact resulting in a podium at the garage ceiling level from which height should be measured. Wow! If this confuses the “experts” of the Planning Commission and town staff, how is the public to understand?
The Sheet quotes the architect. “Ashworth also said the 35’ height at street level essentially renders the height of the interior project a moot point. The height issue is something you can’t see, taste, or smell.” I disagree. I can see it, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth and the smell reeks of disingenuousness (alternate statement: the smell is consistent with the bull—- that the town is handing out). All views presented, including flyby, were from street level. Of course there is no view impact if you are close to the 35-foot structures fronting the street.
There was no consideration for any private view protection. There had been many letters sent prior to the meeting that pointed this out but were ignored at the meeting. The Sheet quoted Sally, a neighboring property owner at Timberline as being effusive in praise for the property. She did praise the development, but left unsaid by The Sheet and ignored by the Planning Commission was her statement “my view from my 2nd floor condo would be impacted. I request a photo from my condo.”
The lawyer for the architect stated, “there is no right to private view per California law and hence there is no issue for visual impact.” It needs to be pointed out that this is also true for federal and international law; it is left to the local community to establish these rules. Unfortunately, Mammoth Town governance does not consider private views. Worse, they skirt around the issue and do not make the public aware of this. For example, during several Town Council meetings I attended in the past few months when Mammoth Crossing project was on the agenda, the Community Development Director in the presence of the Town Council and the town attorney clearly stated that the town DOES CONSIDER private views, even though there is no specific ordinance as to how. All I can say is that action speaks louder than words.
Finally, The Sheet opines “It appears Demetriades and Co. are poised to shatter Joltin Joe’s 56-game hitting streak when Old Mammoth Place comes before Town Council on April 7.” I can only imagine how much time and money was wasted because the town had not clearly established the rules and regulations and did not keep to the agreements that were made along the way. I hope the Town Council meeting on April 7 does not take up Joe Dimaggio’s 56 consecutive-game hitting streak as a new challenge and decides to go after Babe Ruth at 60 home runs or Barry Bonds, who currently holds the record at 73. Cal Ripken’s record of most consecutive games played is 2,632, so I believe even Mammoth Town governance cannot break this one.
Please understand that I actually support the Old Mammoth Place project and believe it will be an asset to the community. I am concerned about the precedents it sets for measuring height and the lack of concern on the part of town governance to the public, not only for private view protection but many other concerns as well. Sharon Clark was attacked for being in the opposition, but her reasons for dissenting are sound. I am pleased that she is running for Town Council; hopefully she can be an agent for change.