Town Council candidates make final pitches
So here it is. Days to go. London bookmakers won’t even post odds on the Mammoth Council election because it’s just too uncertain.
Despite massive election fatigue, The Sheet decided to interview all eight candidates this week to elicit their final, best arguments as to why they should win your vote.
Without further ado …
“I fixed [the] Steve Searles situation. I fixed the MLPD (Mammoth Lakes Police Dept. And if reelected, I’ll fix the budget,” said incumbent Councilmember John Eastman this week. Eastman has been a Town Councilmember for 22 years.
In regard to management changes made at the MLPD, Eastman said “I’m the one person on Council who drove that ship. I had zero support a year ago from Staff and fellow Councilmembers. Things that transpired have proven me right. Give Laurel and Hardy enough time to make fools of themselves and they will.”
In regard to the Steve Searles saga, Eastman recalls attending the first wildlife subcommittee meeting following Searles’s dismissal by MLPD Chief Randy Schienle.
“There were seven people in that room saying they were committed to ensuring Steve would never be rehired again. So I got up and told them I would do everything in my power to make sure that it did happen …
I’m kinda quiet, but when something comes up, I’m not afraid to express my point of view.
We don’t need Councilmembers with specific skills so much as Councilmembers who have the confidence and resolve to fix things. We need those who have the inner strength to make the appropriate decisions to move the community forward.”
“There’s policy. And then there’s reality,” says Barrett. “I’m committed to viable solutions.”
By viable solutions, Barrett, who currently sits on the Mammoth Lakes Planning Commission, would point to the recent approval of the Old Mammoth Place project as well as recent Planning Commission approval of a Development Agreement with the Chadmar Group for Snowcreek VIII.
“Our former DIF (Development Impact Fee) policy was ill-conceived. We asked developers for a whole basketful of infrastructure. It wasn’t realistic. That thinking has been revised since. We need to target what we really want.
Sheet: Do you think if we’d had a different policy in place, there would’ve been a different outcome [when the recession hit)?
Barrett: Yes. I don’t think local construction would have collapsed entirely with better policy … the point is, we need to retain our community. Think of the people who’ve left and the families that have been fractured by this recession.
Sheet: You’ve been a little disappointed by the Advocates for Mammoth advertisement, which ran in the paper last week. Why?
Barrett: I don’t expect their support, but … don’t tie my name to a list of items that I never participated in. The Intrawest D.A., the Hot Creek [Airport] D.A., redevelopment … I wasn’t on Council when those decisions were made.
Sheet: If elected, what’s the first thing you’d do?
Barrett: The only way to get anything done is to get our house in order first and resolve Town Manager/Staff/Restructuring issues. I disagree with the piecemeal approach of attrition and furloughs, which has been pursued up to this point.
Don’t let appearances fool you. She may be a little old lady, but Sharon Clark’s sharp and feisty and has got a big personality.
She also may need a new pair of shoes.
Clark says she’s walked into about 90% of Town businesses during her campaign. “Boy, did I get an earful!” she said. “Small businesses are the lifeblood of any community. I did not know the depth and breadth of their issues.”
Clark gave the above answer in part to address a question regarding her dedication to the local business community. As a retiree, The Sheet asked, perhaps the health of the business community might not be as vital of a concern to her.
Clark scoffed at the notion. “I worked for 50 years. I’ve earned my retirement. I’ve run a small business. I understand their struggles.” Sheet: Last week, you were on the short end of a Planning Commission vote (Clark has served as a Mammoth Lakes Planning Commissioner since 2008) to approve the Snowcreek Development Agreement. What happened?
Clark: My position (to make the developer’s financial contribution subject to a cost-of-living adjustment) was clear from the beginning and Commissioners Tenney and Deinken agreed with me. Then they flip-flopped. You’d have to ask them.
Sheet: You are perceived as the Advocates for Mammoth candidate. Is that perception correct?
Clark: I think the Advocates realize what past Councils have done over the past decade and I think they’re looking for new faces. But I am an independent candidate. I’m not, nor have I ever been, a member of their organization.
Sheet: Why Sharon Clark versus another candidate?
Clark: My concern is that Town Council ignores people. My strength is in hearing what people say … when we didn’t follow through with our General Plan, I think people lost interest and felt betrayed. We have a plan. Why aren’t we sticking with it?
This era of political divisiveness is somewhat dismaying to former two-term Councilmember Rick Wood, who says, “There are too many hard-line positions and not enough middle ground.”
For his part, Wood would like to claim the “logical center.”
“It’s about what’s best for the community. It’s not about winners and losers,” he said.
The biggest issues facing Council, in his mind, are leadership and management. Town Manager Rob Clark, in his mind, “has great capacity, but I don’t think he’s been led well.”
Sheet: What do you think about the recent Planning Commission approval of the Development Agreement with Chadmar for Snowcreek?
Wood: You can’t measure a deal without knowing the context, but from the outside, it looked like Chuck Lande got a great deal … even though we’re going through tough times, I don’t see the pressure to … warrant those concessions.
There’s no question [outgoing Mayor] McCarroll and [Councilmember] Sugimura are driving the push to ‘accomplish something.’
… There’s bad leadership as well as good. You can’t cede authority to Staff.
Sheet: Is it better to have experience negotiating a flawed D.A. than to have no experience at all?
Wood: Negotiating experience in general will help one grasp the implocations of a document.
… I am amused by the rush of Town Council candidates to write letters to the editor clarifying, explaining, correcting or changing their positions.
I have changed none of mine. When you vote on June 8, choose candidates who will make principled decisions not for the benefit of a particular constituency, but for the community as a whole.
That is good leadership. We are one community who can find common values. Vote for those who will.
“Day one, I would address the budget. I would address that there have been no changes or adjustments in other areas of the budget despite the end of the employee furlough program.
The single dumbest thing the current Council’s done is begin the furloughs, which postponed the difficult task of assessing our staffing needs. And ending the furloughs, which will cost a fortune … and still doesn’t address the issue!”
Vereuck, a Mammoth Lakes Chamber of Commerce Board member for seven years and President for three, says that experience has helped her get to know the various segments of the local business community. It’s also reinforced a lack of confidence in Town government, which she’d like to change.
“What can government do for business? How can we incentivize development by lowering or eliminating fees? We’ve lost so many amazing tradespeople. I’m sick and tired of people leaving because it’s too expensive to do business here.
I just don’t accept that everything has to go in the toilet every 8 to 10 years.”
Sheet: What about concerns that we’re mortgaging too much of our future to incentivize development which probably won’t even happen anytime soon?
Vereuck: You can’t lose what you don’t have.
Sheet: Do you have an opinion on the Snowcreek D.A.?
Vereuck: I’d have to look at it more closely.
Sheet: What about Old Mammoth Place?
Vereuck: I’m okay with the height and density.
Stapp, a longtime Councilmember who was defeated in a 2008 reelection bid, is running for Council again because he’s a little worried that the current decision-makers are giving away the store.
“When I was on Council, [Mammoth Mountain CEO] Rusty Gregory would always lecture that we had to lower fees during recessionary times and raise fees coming out of these periods.
With the Snowcreek Development Agreement, we negotiated at recession levels and locked in fees at recession levels.”
And Stapp can’t blame Town Staff for the acquiescence.
“Staff carries out what Council wants.” He says Mayor McCarroll’s desire to appease faraway capital markets is driving Community Development’s agenda.
“I’m fighting the Snowcreek D.A. because I’ve been down that road before.”
Stapp outlined the five-pronged plan every developer is now seemingly destined to follow:
1. Submit a crappy plan. The biggest p.o.s. you can think of.
2. Then come back with a new plan filled with goodies you would have had to provide anyway to sell your product. Call them community benefits.
3. Cite the reluctance of capital markets and get the Mayor on board.
4. Get project approval without paying any fees.
5. Build and bolt.
Lehman says if he’s elected, he’d really like to tackle the T.O.T. and illegal rentals issue.
“Not only do we need to create income via marketing efforts, but we’ve got to watch our receivables,” he said. “It’s not just about getting ‘em here. We’ve got to collect on it … They’ve been preaching that we’re in good budgetary shape, but they’re wrong. Just because Mammoth Mountain did a good job marketing last year doesn’t mean the recession is over.”
Sheet: Thoughts on CB/IZ
Lehman: I support it, but we do need to tighten it up. That COLA issue [regarding the Snowcreek D.A.] raised the red flag a little bit.
Sheet: What did Mammoth Rocks show the community?
Lehman: It illustrated my ability to work with other people and get things done.
Sheet: Do you have potential conflicts which may hinder what issues you could participate in?
Lehman: I’m business partners with John Vereuck on one project, the Lee Apartments property on Tavern Rd. which we lease to the Mountain. I also live at Fireside which would likely disqualify me from voting on projects in the surrounding area.
Blumer says he’s all about “NO ADS! No littering lawns and windows and business fronts (and newspapers). This is definitely a shoestring candidacy, if and when you can actually catch me wearing shoes!”
1. Bring On the FUN! Amenities and concerts and pass Measure U to pay for ‘em. Blumer advocates building a 3,500-seat covered amphitheatre, finishing the ice rink and expanding the skatepark.
2. Maintain Village in the Trees and keep all future buildings under three stories in height.
3. Find tenants for the many empty houses, condos and businesses before we jump into any new construction.
He also wants a wildlife sanctuary, but The Sheet has pointed out to him that he may need a partner with scientific and/or business credentials to make that happen.
Measure M? MMMMMMM! Now get out and vote.