With the negatives that are often thrown at the Town Council and Town Staff, especially during election time, it is important to provide balance by pointing out some of the positive projects which have occurred recently.
1) Probably the most impressive positive thing is the huge success of our local transportation system. Only three years old, our transit system continues to grow and has had an increase in ridership in 32 of its first 35 months. Most recently transit ridership for the month of March, 2010 was up 16 percent above March of 2009.
The ridership on our local, Town bus/trolley system has increased from 200,000 riders in 2007 to 330,000 riders in 2010, or a 65 percent increase in just 3 short years. Also, in a recent survey, the public’s approval with our transportation system came in at a 98% satisfaction level. The success of our local transit can be attributed to 3 things.
First, the community voted to approve Measure T, which has provided around $800,000 per year to fund the operations of our system. Secondly, the Town used $3 million of our transportation DIF revenues, plus a $1 million federal grant to purchase our transit facility in the Industrial Park. And finally, the Town was awarded a second $1 million federal grant that was used to purchase our 12 buses/trolleys.
2) A second and highly successful venture has been air service. The Town and MMSA have jointly succeeded in providing 4 daily winter flights, and the passenger “load factors” have consistently been above projections. Also, in just our second year of air service, we now have spring and summer flights on a daily basis. The short term plan is to increase up to 4 additional winter flights per day, out of locations such as United from SFO, and possibly Horizon out of Las Vegas, Phoenix or San Diego.
An additional positive at the Airport is the recent rebuilding of our runway and taxi-way. This improvement upgraded our airport infrastructure by an amount of nearly $10 million, and was a mostly grant funded (98%) improvement.
3) A third successful Town project is the “Lake Mary Bike Trail.” After several years of planning and construction, the lower section of this trail should be available for public use by this Fourth of July 4 holiday weekend. The upper section should be mostly completed by late fall. Once completed this $14 million project, again mostly grant funded, will provide an adventuresome alternative for those traveling up to the Lakes Basin. This will be a great project for locals and visitors alike.
Improving the economy
Dear Town Council:
Concurrent to the start of the political season, controversy was conjured up by political candidates who chose to establish much of their platform on behalf of the Old Mammoth Place development project. Since then, our community has been inundated with banter over details of the project. The arguments on behalf of these candidates are familiar because they are the same type of arguments we have been hearing for the past 10 or so years. There is effectively no new development occurring in town, and yet we are still beating the “development horse” into the ground.
I believe that in addition to development, many other important issues exist and will continue to challenge our community until council faces them head-on. Arguably, the most important issue is our economy. Our town has an inherent need for more commerce. In being creative with commerce we can make Mammoth an economically viable and sustainable place for all who wish to work and thrive here. I am confident more people among our community are more concerned about putting food on the kitchen table as opposed to how much the developer of Old Mammoth Place should, or should not be paying in Developer Impact Fees. I urge the community to focus on the economy and what stands to improve it. Responsible development is not the problem; it is merely one of many solutions.
Regardless of where you stand on this issue, I would like to take a breather and re-direct attention to some other issues and possible solutions; today it’s the economy.
We as a nation are living in unprecedented economic times. We have to be creative and forward thinking in how we generate commerce. Fortunately, we have boundless opportunity in the magnificent setting in which we live. The beauty in our back yard is the most precious resource we have, and by honoring it and promoting it we are enriching not only our community, but also those who visit it. As we all know, Mammoth is a resort destination that depends on tourism as its primary economic base. Mammoth can do much more to impel tourism to our town; our visitors and our community are counting on town council to do so.
For example, one way for town council to improve our economy is to be pro-active in advancing the marketing of Mammoth Lakes. By shifting our efforts and our budget dollars to marketing we can drive more funds to the coffers of our people and the Town, i.e., collecting of TOT (transient occupancy tax), sales taxes and ultimately property taxes. Progress has been set in motion with the new Destination Marketing Organization (DMO), which essentially privatizes the town’s marketing efforts. By wholly supporting the DMO, I believe the town of Mammoth Lakes may be introduced to limitless contacts, which in turn create boundless financial opportunities.
Regardless of arguments to the contrary, operating a town is similar to operating a business and Operating a business without effective marketing is like winking at a girl in the dark … you know you’re doing it, but the one you want to impress has no idea. Mammoth has a current marketing budget of approximately $2 million and we lag behind some of our closest competitors, who enjoy marketing budgets in excess of $4 million.
Another example for stimulating our economy is to encourage people to visit our town through more events, culture and art. These are relatively inexpensive cures that can result in large and long-term benefits to locals and visitors alike. People are looking for more cost effective methods to treat their families, or to merely escape the hardships of the recession.
An April 15, 2010, LAtimes.com article, “Coachella is sweet music to promoters,” describes the success of the Coachella event in this challenging economy. “The big question heading into last year’s Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival was whether the event would survive the recession,” the story said. “This year, the only question was how fast it would sell out.” The article further explains that hotels and motels have been booked for months with some lodging being no more than a “spot on the floor of a mobile home” due to the sellouts. Mammoth has everything to offer and more, and many local promoters working together to drive these types of events to success … we just need to support them.
Most of last year’s local events proved their salt as well as their need. They proved that there is an unfilled demand for locals and visitors to gather, blow off steam and enjoy life. My first impression of this demand was witnessed at the successful Bluesapalooza. It was at 7 a.m. on opening day and the event wouldn’t open for several hours, but I saw a line of people in their lawn chairs already stretching halfway up Minaret Road. Many latecomers were standing on the side of the road holding “Need Tickets” signs, the event having long been sold out.
My next observation was at the first annual, “Mammoth Rocks/Taste of the Sierra,” when the previously quiet Village was bursting at the seams with event goers. Kegs were blowing and food vendors were enjoying sellout participation to music and food lovers.
New marketing, events, culture and arts are only a few possible solutions. The real key to success is to act and make it happen. Talking about it and formulating a plan means nothing in the end if all we do is talk. The next several years needs to be a period of creative thinking and equally important action.
In search of slopeside savior
On February 25, 2009, I was at the top of Stump Alley in a very severe white-out accompanied by terrific winds. I had made a couple turns and, due to the extremely poor visibility, I was somewhat disoriented. As I was preparing to make another turn a gust of wind caught me off guard. I slid a few inches and came down in a very awkward position, the result of which was a fractured tibia.Fortunately a very stong young woman (Chrissie or Kristy sp.?) came along and helped me up. She stayed with me for several more turns. I had hoped to make my way down the hill; however the pain in my left leg became unbearable and I collapsed. Soon a ski host appeared and we discussed my situation. The host rather abruptly dismissed Chrissie. I have always regretted not properly thanking her for all her help and patience. I hope she may read this, recall the event and contact me by e-mail.(During our ski trip to Mammoth in 2010 I inquired at several ski bases and shops regarding if anyone might know of this young woman who, I am sure, is an expert skier.) No luck!
Advocate: (verb) Recommend or support something (noun) Somebody giving support.
After reading District 3 Supervisor Vikki Bauer’s letter, “In defense of Bill” (The Sheet, April 24), I have to say Ms. Bauer needs to practice what she preaches. Some of us June Lake residents who live in Ms. Bauer’s District 3 have long been waiting for her to ‘tune in’ and fight as an advocate for everyone here. Those of us who are not always in tóto with Ms. Bauer’s views or agenda are ignored and/or neglected.
She certainly puts a lot of energy into advocating Mr. Sauser, but what she has written is not entirely correct when she states: “(He)…helped to achieve compromise in last year’s bipartisan Wilderness Bill.” I attended both Lee Vining and Bishop Wilderness Bill Board of Supervisors meetings. My recollection is Mr. Sauser was not on board for compromise. As a matter of fact, after reading the minutes from the Lee Vining meeting, which are online for all the public to read, Mr. Sausser (Sauser) is listed as a speaker who “did not support the compromise.”
Unseemly: (adj.) Not in good taste – contrary to accepted standards of good taste or appropriate behavior (adv.) In an unseemly manner; In an improper or inappropriate manner.
Supervisor Bauer’s position as a public Advocate and Campaign Treasurer for Bill Sauser, to me, is inappropriate and unbecoming an elected official. Unseemly!
Attempting to “stack the deck” a little bit higher for more control on the Board, Ms. Bauer? How about taking more initiative to do the work you should be doing in your own district.
I love U
All elections matter, but Mammoth’s June 8 election really matters! Not only will three Town Council members be elected, but our community will decide with its vote on Measure U just how much it supports enhanced recreation, “feet first, transit second, cars last” mobility improvements and local art and cultural events.
Measure U funds will not go to the Town’s General Fund. The language in Measure U specifically prohibits that. Nor is Measure U a new tax. The existing Utility Users Tax dollars will shift from the now completed Shady Rest and Mammoth Creek Parks to provide a dedicated and reliable funding source for new projects that our community said it wanted in the 2007 General Plan Update goals.
“Reliable funding source” is key here. A friend of mine, who is grants administrator for two family foundations, has told me that in her annual grant application review with the foundations’ boards, she struggles to persuade the directors that funding new and different organizations every year won’t make for a sustainable community. Worthy non-profit organizations need a reliable source of annual funding that they then can use to leverage matching grants and additional State and Federal dollars. New grant applications are considered, of course, my friend said, but supporting the successful non-profits so they’ll stay successful is critical.
The same holds true for Mammoth. When our community came to consensus on the 2007 General Plan Update, we agreed on a vision and the goals to attain it. Like Measure R (“a half-penny for trails” that passed by an amazing 72%) before it, Measure U, a dedicated and reliable funding source, is key to achieving our vision. I urge everyone to vote YES on Measure U.
I am somewhat surprised and specifically disappointed with your article on “Hip-Hip-Hippies.” In fact, a group of us were discussing it while enjoying a cup of coffee and were in consensus with what I will opine below.
Simply the photo and constant veiled reference to drug use has stained your publication’s reputation in our book.
Marijuana is an illegal drug, and as a retired law Enforcement professional I have seen its negative effect on people (especially juveniles) on a repeated basis.
It’s NOT OK to panhandle for drugs, as your photo with the article might imply. Hmmm, what was the reaction from the Mammoth Police Department when they saw it? Where was your judgment when you decided to publish it?
The Sheet needs to provide an information service to the Mammoth Community as well as supply you and your employees a paycheck through your advertising revenue. Articles/photos of this nature don’t accomplish that mission. As a Mammoth homeowner I will pay more careful attention to The Sheet’s content and if it again fails to responsibly publish content, we’ll discontinue reading it and not patronize your advertisers.
Thanks for taking our commentary into consideration! I hope you share this in an opinion column and with your staff.
Brian V. Hunter
PS – I love The Dead, but I love their music without experiencing the “munchies” or participating in “a drunken group hug.” Get the hazy picture, Mr. Lunch?
McKenna’s reply: This is awesome. He may be the first law enforcement professional–whatever that is–to ever admit to liking the Dead. Why, since the photo was clearly taken in front of an ocean pier, something we don’t have any of in the Eastern Sierra, would the MLPD care anyway? It’s too bad he’s never partaken in a drunken group hug. Sounds like he could use one.
Editor’s reply: As Voltaire said, “I may not agree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” If Mr. Hunter is out there waiting for the next time The Sheet publishes something he doesn’t like, he probably won’t have to wait long.
Politics at its worst
I attended the April 21 Town Council meeting as an observer of the debate regarding the Old Mammoth Place Appeal. The appeal questioned the Town’s habit of voting to amend our General Plan and Specific Plans to accommodate developer demands. The Town and the developer came prepared with a force of ten people. The debate lasted more than two hours and it showed that the appeal certainly had merit.
After the last remarks of the productive debate were made, Mammoth Mountain CEO Rusty Gregory went to the microphone and without referring to any points of the debate flatly demanded the Town Council deny the sppeal, which they dutifully did in a 3-1 vote.
Rusty Gregory boastfully announced that he was not running for the Town Council. He does not have to; he IS the Town Council. We do not need a Town Council. Just call Rusty Gregory and he will have the answer to any town-related question.
Brigitte H. Berman
Still voting No on U
Measure U, an extension of the 2.5% utility user tax (UUT), will cost the average homeowner approximately $80 to $100 a year, and, if approved, the tax will continue indefinitely.
The Council-adopted ordinance states:
Recommendation for Expenditure of Funds. The Tourism and Recreation Commission, or such other commission or committee as is hereafter designated by the Town Council, shall annually conduct at least one public hearing where it takes public testimony as to how tax revenues collected under the Mammoth Lakes Mobility, Recreation, and Arts and Culture Utility Tax Ordinance should be expended. After accepting such public input, such commission or committee shall make written recommendations to the Town Council as to how such tax revenues should be expended. Prior to expending such tax revenues as have not been earlier committed, the Town Council SHALL CONSIDER (emphases added) the recommendations of such commission or committee report.”
Bottom line: the Town Council appoints a commission or committee that can make recommendation to the Town Council which has the final authority over budget appropriations.
Measure U funds can only be used for:
“Planning, construction, operation, maintenance, programming and administration of facilities and projects for mobility, recreation, and art & culture. Such tax proceeds shall not supplant existing funds used for the purposed set forth above.”
The combination of an unending tax and the open ended language on how Measure U funds can be used, gives me pause. The question voters might want to ask the Town Council and the Utility User Tax Supporters is: What projects are being contemplated? A roof on the ice rink? The completion of Trails End Park? A running track down at Whitmore Park? An increase in funding for MLTPA? Is there a five-year or 20-year expenditure plan? What are the Town Council’s priorities and needs?
It is also bothersome that the language in Measure U, “proceeds shall not supplant existing funds” is in conflict with the Town’s Community Benefits and Incentive Zoning (CBIZ) policy. The CBIZ policy states that “impact fees (including affordable housing, development impact fees, and public art fees) are not applied to square footage or density provided as community benefits…” In other words, the Town is trading away the fees which should be collected to fund Mobility, Recreation, Art and Culture. Has the Council reneged on Measure R? When Measure R was passed by the voters, “impact fees” were a funding source for Mobility, i.e. “transit and trails.”
Even more bothersome is the fact that the Town Council by trading away Old Mammoth Place’s DIF fees and affordable housing fees has created a de facto community priority list. What they value are plazas/open space, a mid-block connector, retail/restaurant/conference facilities, and underground parking. What is not valued are the Town’s facilities and critical infrastructure which are funded by DIF and affordable housing fees.
Some supporters of Measure U have argued that the Old Mammoth Place (OMP) project will be a revenue producer, thus, it is a “good deal” for the Town. After all, the financial consultant for the OMP project argued that with the additional 244 condo/hotel rooms or incremental density, the Town will annually generate $1,872,000 in additional TOT, property taxes and sales taxes. Of course, the financial consultant assumes that every guest, visitor, and customer staying in these new rooms is a NEW visitor, guest or customer. Apparently, adding rooms and commercial spaces when there is empty space all of Town will bring new visitors to Town.
On Monday, April 26, my husband and I decided to try and find someplace to walk other than Old Mammoth Road. Imagine our delight when we discovered that the trail from the high school, by The Trails, the transfer station and the RV Park had been plowed! We don’t know who paid for this wonderful amenity: the Town’s General Fund, doubtful … Measures R or U, don’t know.
In any case, what joy to walk, hear the birds, see the squirrels and enjoy a taste of spring.
Joy comes in appreciating small moments and we had ours on Monday.