One topic that’s been largely relegated to also-ran status during all the Town Council campaigning and forums is bears. Not to worry, the folks at Bear-With-Us.org took it upon themselves to quiz all eight Council candidates on their positions. We took the “War and Peace”-sized results and excerpted the pertinent parts for our “Readers Digest” version. The observations are broken out by candidate, in no particular order.
He’s not in favor of killing bears, problem or not. “If they’re a problem, then we should find a solution that does not involve killing them.”
What about Wildlife Management Specialist Steve Searles? “[He] is an incredible asset to our community, the state, the nation and internationally. I will support Steve, his program and Bear With Us in their endeavors. Council must take the lead … and give specific direction to the Town Manager and the new Police Chief regarding [Searles’] wildlife management program today and for the future.”
The Wildlife Subcommittee, he opined, “was a political maneuver by some to subvert [Searles’] efforts.”
Eastman thinks an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. “It is my feeling that if we allow our wildlife specialist to do his job … there won’t be any ‘problem bears.’”
Eastman said he wants to “educate” the new Police Chief upfront, and make part of his job performance criteria having his officers cooperate with Steve Searles.
As to the Wildlife Subcommittee, Eastman said he thinks there is still a need for one, but isn’t as concerned about the staff representation anymore. “I feel the community has long since moved past allowing our staff to mess this up.”
“We need to realize just how precious these animals are and we shouldn’t kill them unless absolutely necessary. I do have a strong irritation with ‘problem people’ killing innocent bears with town limits.”
He’s also a “Bear Whisperer” fan. “Steve’s the man! Steve has done more for education and bad bear prevention than anyone I can think of. He is a celebrity and should be honored as such.”
He favors stronger and stricter laws for trash storage and bear feeding as part of the Human-Bear Management Plan, but isn’t so sure we need a Wildlife Subcommittee. “We have enough chefs in the kitchen as it is.” A wildlife officer should be sufficient, he said. “[We] should trust this person and not micromanage them.”
Admittedly “highly critical” of outgoing Council member Wendy Sugimura for “lack of transparency regarding bear management issues and openness of [wildlife] subcommittee meetings, Wood said he’s also “shocked that we could go several years without a bear killing, and then have multiple killings in one year, because [Searles] has not been given the tools and authority needed to manage wildlife.”
Wood said he would require the new Police Chief’s support of Searles as “a litmus test for hiring.” He also said he thinks the Human-Bear Management Plan in its current form is “over-processed. We need to overhaul it by simplifying the protocols.”
He also thinks there should still be a Wildlife Subcommittee and said he’d “love to serve” on it as “one new council member who … will listen to the experts and public instead of staff.”
“If a bear is life-threatening, then the bear has to be put down,” Stapp said. If it’s damaging property, he recommends calling Searles first and giving him a chance to change the bear’s behavior.
Searles, he added, is incredibly important, not only as a wildlife educator, but also as a “$1 million walking advertisement for Mammoth Lakes.”
Ed. note: Clearly that $1 million isn’t being spent on Searles’ apparel.
He did, however, wash his hands regarding the new Chief of Police, who he said is hired by the Town Manager. “The only thing a [council member] can do is keep pressure on the Town Manager.”
The Human-Bear Management Plan should, in his opinion, be funded as part of the public safety program. “Without a wildlife subcommittee, the plan will gather dust on a bureaucrat’s shelf,” he added.
Candidate Vereuck said she finds bear killing no less than “deplorable.”
“I understand the concern about public safety, but the so-called ‘problem bears’ are a problem because of us.” Vereuck cited a need to enforce “stiff penalties for those who violate our trash/do not feed ordinances.”
Vereuck supports cooperation between the Mammoth Lakes Police Department (MLPD) and Searles, and said she has concerns with implementation of the Human-Bear Management Plan. “My concern is the Town’s responsibility. They are charged with seeing to it the bears do not have access to human food/trash. Without a code compliance officer, I am not comfortable with the role the Town is playing.”
Clark also thinks that eliminating a problem bear should be a tactic of last resort. “We have a responsibility, as [Searles] often reminds us, to train humans NOT to feed wildlife and make garbage available.” She favors improving “our working relationship with the Department of Fish and Game (DFG) and the U.S. Forest Service.”
She also supports Searles in his official capacity, as well as continued funding of his contract.
Her position on the new Police Chief is “very clear … we expect the new Chief to support our Wildlife Specialist and our program.”
No mincing of words here. “I think it is a disgrace and waste that DFG goes behind the back of our town and MLPD to sanction [depredation of] bears. It ends in negative publicity.”
He supports Searles, calling his services “vital” to the community. “I would like to see him get the accreditation he needs to discharge firearms and haze bears during his operations both in town and in camping areas,” which he added entails an increase in his salary.
He said there’s still more work to be done” on the Human-Bear Management Plan, and sees a need to continue with the Wildlife Subcommittee, at least until issues with the Forest Service are resolved. He also reiterated the need for a Sierra Wildlife Sanctuary.
Speaking of Blumer …
Eligible to run
Recent rumors have questioned the eligibility of candidate Allen Blumer to run for Town Council. Those rumors talk of felony convictions and parole terms that somehow would prevent him from holding office.
Mono County Supervisor of Elections Lynda Roberts reminded The Sheet and its readers, “As you know, a person must be a properly registered voter to run for office.” When he filed papers for his candidacy, Blumer would have had to sign a voter declaration on his voter registration form, under penalty of perjury, that says, “I am a U.S. citizen, will be at least 18 years old on or before the next election, and am not imprisoned or on parole for a felony conviction.”
California and County election code, and the California State Constitution all basically reach the same parameters for running for office as the Secretary of State’s determination of voter eligibility: “An individual who is convicted of a felony loses the right to register and vote during the term of the prison sentence and the parole period. Once the parole period is completed, the person’s eligibility to register and vote is restored.” Further, according to California Election Code, “The clerk of the superior court [shall provide] information about persons who have been convicted of felonies, and the elections official shall cancel the affidavits of registration of those persons who are currently imprisoned or on parole for the conviction of a felony.”
No felony issues have surfaced, be they via the Mono Superior Court (or any other superior court), the Mono County Sheriff’s Department or the Mono County Supervisor of Elections office. The Sheet spoke with Blumer, who acknowledged he had spent time in prison, but explained that his parole had been completed.
Blumer said his sentence was due to a Driving Under the Influence charge dating back to September 1996 in Redding, Calif., and a series of subsequent lesser violations that added up to 4.5 years in jail. He takes responsibility for the DUI charges, which he freely admits to, but adds that the law enforcement structure in Redding is, in his opinion, excessively harsh, describing it as “mafia-like.”
“Don’t drink and drive, anywhere, but especially in Redding,” Blumer advises. “And remember, sometimes the shortcut ain’t.”
It doesn’t encourage violators or foster rehabilitation, it’s almost purely punitive, Blumer indicated.
“In the one DUI case, I was convicted even though the other party admitted in court that the accident was her fault,” Blumer maintains. He was also given another 6-8 months simply because he refused to cut his hair. “I stood on Native American principle,” he said. Even during his parole, he wasn’t allowed to leave Redding, but today is happy to be far away from the city.
The experience cost him almost 10 years of his life and a considerable amount of lost time with his some, all of which he regrets. Still, he managed to turn the negative into a positive.
“I set up an outreach ministry and helped 25 inmates get their General Education Diploma by tutoring them,” he said. “I did my time; I didn’t let my time do me.” One program Blumer would like to see set up here is one that would, locally, allow certain parole violators enter rehab and get recidivated.
Meanwhile, Blumer, who also works as caretaker for Mammoth Community Church (he passed a background check before being hired), is forging ahead with his candidacy, among other things planning to sponsor a district for Town Cleanup Day. The parts of his past that have given rise to speculation are ones he’s not proud of, “but I’m over and past that,” Blumer said. His advice to readers: watch how you drive through Redding and remember, “Sometimes the shortcut ain’t.”