Was redistricting about fairness, or political expediency?
As I pondered the absurdity of Mono County’s redistricting process, which resulted in having 700 Mammoth Knolls residents being lumped into District 4 to join their County brethren in Bridgeport, Walker and Coleville, I decided to call Knolls resident Dawn Vereuck for a reaction.
Vereuck, who’s been burning the midnight oil volunteering for Mammoth Rocks, hasn’t been keeping up with the news of late and was caught unawares. “How is that even possible?” she asked, a little stunned.
How did Nancy Walter, who’s been away most of the summer traveling in Russia, react? “I’m not overly happy,” she said. When asked if the Knolls residents had essentially been treated as sacrifical lambs in the process, Walter replied, “I wouldn’t call it sacrificial. But certainly, it was the most expedient [decision]. They felt we could learn to live with it.”
Tom Cage wasn’t so benign. “700 people in Mammoth Lakes will get no representation,” he said. “It stinks of unfair political practices.” Then he paused for a moment. “It feels unfair … I don’t know whether it is.”
In Kirkner’s story last week, Byng Hunt was quoted as saying, “Maybe it will open the door to more conversation between north and south counties.”
When asked about that comment this week, Hunt said candidly, “I was very honestly trying to assuage myself [with that comment].”
“The other options were equally absurd,” he added. “It [Option B] was the best of the lousy answers.”
The lousy answer achieved by the redistricting committee and approved by the Mono Supervisors on a least affected 3/most affected 2 vote, was arrived at much like the answer to a Sudoku puzzle. Through the power of elimination, you end up with the inevitable result.
In this case, District 3 Supervisor Vikki Bauer (by far the best politician in Mono County), convinced all that Lee Vining and June Lake needed to be reunited within one district.
Then it was determined that combining all the rural communities into one super rural district stretching north-south from Topaz to Chalfant [Option A] wasn’t workable because we couldn’t possibly expect a Supervisor to represent a district that unwieldy in terms of travel.
Then it was decided that the demographics of Hap Hazard’s District 2 are largely unchanged so why mess with it. Besides, as Bauer explained, “Hap begs off every issue involving Mammoth that comes before us. He views Mammoth as a cesspool.”
So obviously, tweaking Hazard’s district to include part of Mammoth would meet with stiff resistance.
One option which didn’t even make the final round voting was the one titled B2. This would have preserved Tim Hansen’s residence in District 4 and ability to run again for his seat.
But Mammoth Supervisor Byng Hunt didn’t like that option because it would’ve “decimated” his district and made it too “jagged.”
“At least he’s still got a district,” deadpanned Hansen.
When asked if he would run against Bauer for the District 3 seat, Hansen demurred. “I’m a lame duck. No offense, but I want nothing to do with June Lake and Mammoth Lakes.”
Hansen, however, thinks that the redistricting gives Mammoth more power, not less, with Mammoth having a vote in four of five districts.
Two Mammoth districts are 100% Mammoth. Bauer’s District 3 is comprised of 63% Mammoth voters. District 4 will have 23% Mammoth voters.
Mammoth Lakes Town Councilman Rick Wood said his initial thought was that even though Mammoth would have just a slice of District 4, he thought that slice would be large enough to provide a certain degree of leverage.
When informed that the slice was 23%, Wood replied, “That’s not leverage.”
“All we’ll do with the demographics [over the next decade] is that Mammoth will continue to grow and continue to be underrepresented.”
Bauer countered, “They [the Town] are in such desperate straits [financially] that all they wanted was three seats so they could hijack the County budget.”
Bauer is currently the only supervisor who is essentially a swing vote, balancing the interests of incorporated Mammoth and unincorporated Mono County.
She said one thing that’s become evident during the redistricting process is that there remains a lot of friction between Mammoth and the outlying Mono communities.
But, she said, what Mammoth residents don’t often take into consideration is that they have the benefit of an extra layer of government. If the unincorporated areas aren’t properly served by the County, they have nowhere to turn.
I asked Bauer what would have happened if District 4 had been stretched southward and June Lake had been split. How many June Lake voters would have been lumped into a largely Mammoth district?
About 200 was the reply.
Is it fair then, I followed, to disenfranchise 700 Knolls voters as opposed to, say, 200 June Lake voters?
Because Mammoth has the extra layer of government, she said, the 200 June Lake voters deserve more consideration.
I talked to Mammoth Lakes Tourism’s John Urdi on Tuesday to ask him about the letter to the editor which appeared last week criticzing his sticker postcard.
Urdi said 5,200 postcards were sent out and that MLT spent about $3,000 on the effort.
The $36,000 number referenced in the letter concerns the entire budget for the rebranding effort in the short term , placing the logo on Town vehicles, business cards, website, et. al.
“I have heard only a few truly negative things about the branding [process],” said Urdi. But he thinks it’s critical. “Mammoth Lakes is a destination. It’s not Gardnerville.”
Criticism, he said, comes with change. Mammoth Mountain caught heat when it transitioned its logo, noted Urdi.
Expect the chain link fence to come down in Bishop sometime soon now that investor Ray Eslamieh has bought the Cottonwood Plaza in Bishop.
Eslamieh owns a number of El Pollo Loco franchises down south.
The initial thought was that Eslamieh would put an El Pollo Loco into the old Burger King location as an anchor tenant, but it was determined that Bishop is not a large enough community for an El Pollo franchise.
Unfortunately, Eslamieh has been suffering from illness of late, so pending his recovery, the rental and renovation process has stalled.
Isaacs wins recommendation
Ted Schade of the Great Basin Unified Air Pollution Control District (GBUAPCD) announced this week that he is recommending his Board award the management contract for the $6 million in mitigation money paid to the district by the Los Angeles Dept. of Water and Power to Lisa Isaacs.
Isaacs would oversee disbursement of the funds to organizations which would create local clean air projects.
Isaacs and Rick Phelps of the High Sierra Energy Foundation were the only two bidders. Isaacs bid was $86/hour or $172,000/year. Phelps bid was $125/hour or $254,000/year.
Both bids contemplated one total full-time employee.
The contract will last for two years, and likely three said Schade.
The Board will have the option of accepting Schade’s recommendation, choosing Phelps, or directing staff to run the program with existing personnel.
That is not a misprint.
The Sheet learned this week that interviews were held this week to hire a “temporary maintenance worker” at the airport.
When asked why the hire is being made now, Airport Manager Bill Manning replied, “Brian Picken and I are the only remaining airport employees from last winter and as such there is a significant amount of firefighting, snow removal, and general airport training required for the new hires.”
Hmm. Doesn’t sound temporary.
When asked where the job was advertised, Sr. Personnel Analyst Noreen Wilbur said the job was posted in June in the Fifty Center, Inyo Register and Town website.
Interesting, since The Sheet has the Town’s legal classified contract and yet the legal classified was placed elsewhere.
Several Councilmembers were unaware of the planned hiring.
Finally, a late press release from the Sheriff’s Dept.