Activism of the worst sort
I share Dennis Kostecki’s concern about the influence of money on our electoral system (July 17, Vol. 8. No.29).
Things recently went from bad to worse with the Supreme court ruling granting corporations the status of individual citizens, with regard to the right to make unlimited campaign contributions. This ruling establishes the first amendment “free speech” rights of entities that already have enormous influence over our government and way of life, but without any democratic accountability. They also have none of the characteristics of human beings that qualify them as “citizens” as set forth in the constitution. They don’t need education or health care, or a clean environment. They don’t get hungry or need a roof over their heads. They are also not capable of compassion, altruism, charity, or concern for the fate of society. And when they die, the stockholders just move on to other investments. In short, they possess neither human qualities nor human vulnerabilities. The fact is, we can’t trust them to influence our political system in ways that benefit most people.
This decision by the court is an example of “judicial activism” of the worst sort. The justices have succeeded in rewriting the constitution in a very dangerous way. The only way to restore human rights over corporate rights is to amend the constitution. There are currently a number of groups with sensible and realistic proposals to do just that. Contact publiccitizen.org, commoncause.org, or movetoamend.org for more information.
This may be the most important issue of our times. Unless we can wrest control of our government from corporate dominance, all other populist causes will suffer.
Wine and darts
After reading “Good Hire” I feel the need to ask you to show a little compassion, and stop getting your digs in regarding our previous superintendent. You may not know this, but Dr. Romero had a major stroke over Memorial weekend. It is a miracle that he is alive, and he, his family, and his many good friends in this town want nothing more than for him to recover. He is still in a fight for his life and it will take months for him to recover, if in fact he does. He spent weeks in ICU and is now trying to regain his life through rehab. I can’t say that the stress that your paper and some members of our school board ceaselessly showered upon him caused his stroke, but I do know that he was under a considerable amount of strain being that there were so many derogatory and, in my opinion, undeserved things said about this hard working, dedicated man.
You printed the opinions of a minority … I know because as a teacher who worked closely with Dr. Romero for several years, I can say that the majority of the elementary school staff who knew him best thought very highly of him in spite of your smear campaign. Maybe, just maybe, you can find it in your heart to give it a rest and keep your opinions, and your wife’s as well, to yourself. In the name of love, give the man some peace, please. It is truly tragic what he is going through. He’s gone … let’s move forward.
I’m sure the new superintendent will be fine, but I can’t help remember that everyone sang Dr. Romero’s praises for a while as well. I hope for his sake that Mr. Boccia is infallible or has a really thick skin as this town and our media can be merciless.
In addition, I am a teacher at the elementary school, and I can not begin to tell you how offensive I find your implications regarding our staff members and the lottery. I have worked at the elementary school for more than 15 years and it is the most devoted group of people you’ll ever meet.
“Wine and darts?” Really? Sounds a bit like sour grapes to me.
Editor’s reply: I wrote about my experience communicating with several superintendents, including Messrs. Halperin, DeRisi and Romero. Life circumstances, as tragic as they may be, cannot change that experience.
And I think Boccia knows what he’s up against.
As to the lottery, make it public and publicize it and you remove all doubt and the general public doesn’t feel like the futures of its children are left to the whims of some secret fiefdom. It’s not about whether you’re honest or not – I believe you’re honest. It’s about process and transparency.
Life, bureaucracy, newspapering … is a lot of trial and error. I am not perfect. Neither is the school district or the district staff.
Good things don’t come easy or fast, and the Downtown Neighborhood District Plan had no trouble adhering to that formula. The first proposal, called the Hart-Howerton Plan, created by a group that apparently had never been to Mammoth and wasn’t coming anytime soon, seemed to want to turn the downtown area into downscale lodging with a gondola designed to whisk all of our former customers off to a new Mountain Village with lots of retail. Fortunately, the “Focus Group,” created by the Mountain to be a cheering squad for the Howerton Plan, wasn’t! Instead, with the help of the Planning Department and Planning Commission, they created a new plan that looked at all the alternatives and selected the ones best suited to promote a downtown that would serve both tourists and locals without destroying existing uses or shopping patterns.
Even with that good input, there was still a lot that was a “vision” but without the specifics or practicalities that would get us from where we are to where we need to go in a sensible and step-by-step process. As a Main Street property owner, my concern was that we be in tune with the realities of today and have a plan that recognized the financial limitations of both the public and private sectors, while acknowledging the need for immediate improvement, not just some grand plan for the far-off future. Small, incremental improvement would either delineate the path to the future, or prove that what we thought was workable, really wasn’t and could be changed. Like all businessmen, I wanted to preserve what we have and improve it with the passage of time. Unfortunately, while we on Main Street may have been good at keeping what we have, we haven’t been so good at any discernible process of improvement over time. Instead, Main Street looks outdated and is not fun.
In the course of innumerable discussions with Main St. merchants, Focus Group members, and others, I have seen a consensus arise that Main Street, in the short term, needs to be a walk-around shopping, eating, and entertainment area that achieves its improvement in a process of small, inexpensive steps; where traffic is constrained, perhaps by limiting the frontage road to one direction, and where pedestrian amenities are added as usage increases and needs become self-evident.
On Monday of this week, I met with Mark Wardlaw, Community Development Director, to see if that common wisdom had become part of Planning Department thinking and was enormously pleased to find that not only had the Department, working with members of the Planning Commission Deinken and Tenney, embraced the “walk before you run,” and “make doable improvements now” philosophy, but this approach found its way into the Department’s new “Downtown Concept for Main Street” brochure. While most of that document is still devoted to what Main Street can become over the very long term, (the vision thing!) a modest block on the back page entitled “Short Range Actions” set out the above concept (“smaller and sooner”) in concise bullet points and encapsulated an approach that I believe will easily garner a majority of support among Mammoth locals, property owners, and taxpayers.
The payoff is a real walk-around area on Main Street that will promptly become the true center of town both day and night. During the day, people with families, tourists, L.A. visitors, etc, will stroll Main Street with their kids in tow, a little shopping here, an ice-cream cone there, sit down for a meal, browse the store windows, get a donut at Schat’s, take in the good air, and enjoy the Mammoth ambiance … a great experience. At night, people will still stroll, but the crowd will be younger, the teenagers and young adults will go from Slocums to Base Camp to Perry’s to John’s Pizza and will socialize up a storm. The downtown will be vibrant, alive, a commercial success, and an attraction in and of itself for our visitors and locals to enjoy and have fun with, all without any significant investment of public funds.
All in all, a “Plan” that started off shaky is beginning to look like a new beginning for Mammoth and may be a pathway to making the downtown as much fun as the Paranoids on a powder day. (Well, maybe not that much fun…). We can only hope. My congratulations to all the people, both in government and out, that have created a plan that will make the downtown a point of Mammoth pride and a tourist attraction in its own right.
Geisel update: On Wednesday, the Mammoth Lakes Planning Commission voted 5-0 to recommend Council accept the draft DNDP as modified. The Commission requested that Council be provided a “strike-out” version with the following changes: The report will now be titled “Downtown Concept,” eliminating all references to the term ‘plan.’ The Commission also recommends identifying affordable components that showcase benefits of the concept allowing it to be implemented as soon as possible and continue at closely spaced intervals. The DNDP has been seen by Tourism and Recreation, Mobility and Public Arts Commissions. CDD Director Wardlaw says Council consideration of the concept is targeted for Sept. 1.