On a whim this week, I dug back into the recesses of my e-mail to reread letters sent by Town gadfly (and Sierra Club and Advocates for Mammoth member) Owen Maloy during 2004 and 2005.
The guy should take a bow.
Generally, all the warnings he issued Mammoth’s Town Council about the airport turned out to be true.
And went unheeded.
And continue to go unheeded.
Because Council would still rather listen to Airport Manager Bill Manning.
A sample of some of Maloy’s writings:
From October 20, 2004: “You may be told that it’s only a formality, not to worry, that our good buddies at the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] are on our side, etc. But Ballas has sold at least partial title to all those hangar owners. As long as that condition exists, the FAA can cut Mammoth off at any time. I think the Town must immediately take action to show that its act is cleaned up, including personnel changes and some sort of action to cancel the Ballas agreement.”
From October 23, 2004: “It becomes ever more clear that [Bill] Manning is conning the Town.”
From March 7, 2005: “If we had real leadership, [the Town would] bite the bullet and buy out Terry Ballas, and screw the ice rink and other toys until they resolved that issue.”
From April 21, 2008: “This whole issue was handled incompetently, and Manning was in the middle. It’s clear from the record in the press and Town minutes that the Council and public and probably the Town manager were repeatedly told there was no problem, just a few details the FAA was worried about.”
We all know about the Town losing the $30 million judgment for reneging on a development agreement with Terry Ballas. We also know that an 11-page letter sent by the FAA’s Andrew Richards in October 2004 expressly outlined the many ways in which Mammoth Yosemite Airport was out of compliance with FAA regulations. We also know that our Town Council at the time did not fully comprehend the implications of Richards’ letter. As then-Mayor Rick Wood wrote in an e-mail to then-Town Manager Robert Clark (cc’d to Maloy) on March 7, 2005:
“Rob: Thanks for keeping me in the loop. I am particularly pleased that you have accurately and forthrightly responded to Owen’s assertions. As you know, the Council has remained mostly silent on the various airport issues, even in the face of the publication of inaccurate, misleading conclusions about the FAA requirements which are not based on true facts.”
Obviously, not so misleading in hindsight.
In January 2005, Maloy sent an e-mail where he quoted California Gov’t code Sect. 50478. The code reads:
50478. A local agency may lease or sublease property owned, leased, or otherwise controlled by it for not to exceed 50 years for airport purposes or purposes incidental to aircraft, including:
(a) Manufacture of aircraft, airplane engines, and aircraft equipment, parts, and accessories.
(b) Construction and maintenance of hangars, mooring masts, flying fields, signal lights, radio equipment, service shops, conveniences, appliances, works, structures, and other air navigation, aircraft, and airplane engine manufacturing plants and facilities.
“So 55 years [the length of the lease the Town agreed to with Ballas] wasn’t just excessive, it was illegal,” wrote Maloy, “as was a lease for purposes not ‘incidental to aircraft.’” – i.e. condo hotels.
Sheet: How come the lease term never came up [during the court case]?”
Maloy: Bad lawyers.
Sheet: How bad? Malpractice bad?
It actually wasn’t until July 2005 that the FAA determined that the hangars built by Ballas’ Hot Creek Aviation had been sited in the wrong place. They’re located too close to the taxiway … 30 feet too close.
As Maloy said, “Manning should have been fired when it was discovered the hangars were located in the wrong place.”
Fast-forwarding to today, what you may not know is that the hangars are still non-compliant. In fact, as Stephen Kalish outlined in a June 2010 letter to then-Assistant Town Manager Karen Johnston, the airport is non-compliant in a variety of areas.
“From my perspective,” wrote Kalish, “it appears that the Town has hoodwinked the FAA through the submission of incomplete ALPs [Airport Layout Plans], the failure to list substandard conditions, the failure to update the FAA and obtain prior approval for construction, the failure to follow-though with fence installation or removal, the failure to acquire vested title or even lease rights to airport-activity adjacent lands, the failure to relocate non-conforming hangars, the failure to prepare a proper ALP since a decision was made in 2005 to abort a new EIS, and the failure to do due diligence research on the approach speeds and ARC ratings of first the Q-400 and now the CRJ-700.”
To quote Otter from Animal House: “I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part.”
That somebody, more often than not, is seemingly Bill Manning.
While Manning said he recently submitted a draft ALP to the FAA for review (points, I suppose, for good faith), problem is, the act itself is illegal according to Maloy.
According to California Aeronautics Code outlining City Council or Board of Supervisors and Airport Land Use Commission Approvals:
21661.5. (a) No political subdivision, any of its officers or employees, or any person may submit any application for the construction of a new airport to any local, regional, state, or federal agency unless the plan for construction is first approved by the board of supervisors of the county, or the city council of the city, in which the airport is to be located and unless the plan is submitted to the appropriate commission exercising powers pursuant to Article 3.5 (commencing with Section 21670) of Chapter 4 of Part 1 of Division 9, and acted upon by that commission in accordance with the provisions of that article.
Such a quaint notion, getting approval from actual elected representatives of the people …
A letter to the editor from Maloy giving his analysis of the current situation at Mammoth Yosemite can be found on page five.
A special meeting of Mammoth’s Airport Commission is tentatively scheduled for this Wednesday. Visit the Town website at www.ci.mammoth-lakes.ca.us to get the exact date and time.
Finally, despite everything, let’s give some credit where credit is due.
This summer’s enplanement numbers at MMH have reflected a vast year-over-year improvement:
June 879 1165
July 819 1189
August 976 1419