Blowin’ in the wind
As I listen to the wind blow the few remaining cottonwood leaves off the trees outside, I am glad to know Winter’s on its way. Hopefully, cooler temperatures can help moderate some of the overheated dialogue obscuring the ongoing implementation of the Inyo National Forest’s Travel Management Decision.
As happens all too often, facts are being obscured by bluster. The work improving designated roads and restoring closed routes happening across the Forest is the result of a process that began in 2003.
After dozens of public meetings up and down the 395 corridor, and hundreds and hundreds of public comments, the Travel Management process added nearly 1,000 new motorized miles to the Forest road system bringing the total miles of motorized route on our local Forest to more than 2,300 miles. The process also identified roughly 700 miles of routes for restoration.
Were there ample opportunities for people to get involved and provide input on which roads to add and which to restore? Yes, many. The hundreds and hundreds of people who took the time to speak up during this process had a direct impact on the decision. Roads to vistas overlooking Crowley Lake that the Forest was proposing to close were added because people (you know who you are) took the time to get engaged. Connecting routes out the back of the June Lake General Store were added to the system because people spoke up. Roads cutting through desert wetlands were restored or moved to higher ground because people spoke up.
Were each of those 1,000 miles of newly legal routes always the best choice to protect the health of land and wildlife? No. Was each one of the 700 miles of road chosen for restoration unwanted? No. The imperfect decision represents a balanced compromise.
Not only am I glad folks are out actually getting something real done for a change, but I look forward to working together to sustain a system of roads and trails to get us all outside. Protecting what we all love about this place — from moto trails to singing chickadees — takes cool heads and real, ongoing work.
If you have questions about the Travel Management process, don’t hesitate to visit the Inyo National Forest’s website and search “travel management” or contact the Forest’s lead, Marty Hornick, at email@example.com.
Paul McFarland is the former Executive Director of Friends of the Inyo.
Who are you, Jean Harris?
The following is a reply to Jean Harris in response to a letter Mr. Harris submitted last week.
Dear Mr. Harris:
Before reading your letter to The Sheet on Measure S, I first read your “Guest Column” to the other newspaper in town, and I understood you to be a “Mono County voter” and therefore a local resident.
In The Sheet last week, however, you let your guard down. Now the truth comes out. You “live in San Diego” and are not a member of this community. Taken as a whole, your opinion is nothing more than an angry, misguided rant of a miserly property owner, one who doesn’t want to bear the responsibilities and burdens of owning multiple parcels of real estate in different communities. You wish to save $59 a year on future property tax bills, rather than seeing those monies continue to benefit the children of our community; the same community that you apparently visit to relax and recreate.
Ours is a vibrant, dynamic, and thriving community, not just an amusement park for you that is operated by seasonal employees. Our children represent our future. Moreover, the future of a community is not only founded upon its children and their education, but also on the quality of new residents who can be attracted to the area by a strong local school system.
There is something wrong here Mr. Harris, and it’s not the continuation of a $59 annual parcel tax for education. You “live in San Diego,” but are a “Mono County voter.” As a resident of San Diego, have you registered here in Mammoth only to vote in this single election? Do you intend to register again as a voter in San Diego once this election is completed? In how many communities do you cast your vote?
Per your letter to the other town newspaper, you are a “former city attorney,” so you must know there are rules regulating where you can be registered to vote. You must know that you can only vote in the precinct where you have your primary place of residence. Are you still an active attorney? I wonder what the State Bar would think about these shenanigans? In fact, I wonder what the voting authorities in San Diego and here would think of you being registered as a “Mono County voter” when you “live in San Diego,” as you’ve admitted in your letters to The Sheet and the other paper?
In reality, you simply have no more business voting on important local matters here than I would in San Diego, had I a vacation home there. When we buy properties (second homes or otherwise) in places where we don’t live, we do so with the full knowledge that we and our properties will be subject to the local voting population. If that reality displeases you, then you shouldn’t purchase property elsewhere.
Honestly, your opinion evidences a true Scrooge in the classic sense, and I have little doubt that you’d complain about putting more than a single lump of coal into the stove to keep your employees warm at Christmastime, just to save a few dollars.
I expect you’ll vote with an absentee ballot.
Attorney/Real Estate Investor
Harris weighs in … again
People do not like to be embarrassed by facts. The supporters of Measure S are upset with my objection to the Measure because I make the best case for dismissing the parcel tax idea and instead consolidate the Mammoth Unified School District. I’m tired of the “it’s for the kids” mantra and scare tactics always used by the District. When given the choice, the District has always chosen to keep themselves large rather than provide for the kids. It’s time for the District to remake itself into something people can afford. Something that serves the children first. Measure S is all about maintaining big salaries of the administration and teachers. It has nothing to do with serving kids.
I am not suggesting that the District’s gargantuan administration and staff is being perpetuated solely by design. Too often organizations simply plug along because they did it that way last year. There is no thought given to questioning if the District’s old plan is now necessary. But, since the District has asked for more allowance we can ask, “Are 5 principals and a superintendent, plus 69 teachers, really necessary to manage 1,100 plus children?” Get rid of this overhead and there will be plenty of money for afterschool sports, music and any program you can imagine. Why can’t each of the five campuses be run by an “administrative assistant,” who reports to one centralized office of principal and vice principal? With a total student population the size of one typical California high school graduating class, why is the overhead of a District Superintendent needed?
I’m not suggesting firing anyone. Creating a forward four-year plan using natural attrition to accomplish its goal would be the first task. Freezing salaries would be part of this plan, and feasible because the MUSD salaries for administration and teachers are 12-15% higher than the state average.
At least one District Board member wrote a guest column trying to respond to the revenue facts and voting abuse I have described. His further threats to parents failed to explain a need for the Measure S parcel tax. His discussion of revenue cuts failed to set forth anything specific about future MUSD revenue. He did not respond to the fact that the MUSD will receive the same revenue next year as it received last year [AB 114]. He did not address the fact that MUSD spends $12,000 per pupil each year (50% more than the state average) and still reduces programs for the kids. He did not answer why the MUSD spends 66% of its revenue on teacher salaries and benefits. when the teacher union legislation mandates “only” 55%? This reduction alone will provide $1,700,000 annually “for the kids.” All he did was threaten the community with more cuts for the kids. Not once did he offer to consolidate the oversized administration.
Every voter needs to look carefully at the figures used by the District to justify Measure S. None of the figures are specific to the District. You will only see “national averages” and “state averages.” The District has yet to publish any revenue and expense figures specific to the MUSD.
The guest column Board member also condoned “taxation without representation.” He actually stated that giving those 11,000 property owners notice of the Measure and notice of their right to vote is “dumbfounding and without moral character.” He thereby admitted that Measure S is a rigged election. It’s rigged because it has been planned to be as secret as the political machine can make it. What public notice was given for this Measure? Who paid for this special election? There was such a great effort to keep the Measure secret that you will not see any written objection within your voter packet.
Don’t expect any benefit to the children if you vote in favor of Measure S. The afterschool programs that have been cut back will continue to be cut back until the community takes control of the MUSD. With the present parcel tax proceeds, during the last four years has the District cut programs and services to your children? Yes! During the same period, have the administrative costs, staff and salaries increased? Yes! Debate over!
The community must demand consolidation of the Pentarchy of 5 principals with a pentad of staff plus a superintendent. Any money the District receives from this Measure will first go to feed the perpetuation of this Pentarchy. Before you give the District more money ask them how they spend what they have. Vote No on Measure S.
Retired City Attorney
We aren’t just your playground
As a graduate of Mammoth Elementary, Middle and High School, I disagree with Jean Harris’s argument against Measure S. I wonder at his vehement rejection of a $59 annual tax, a negligible sum for a second-home owner. Harris’ refusal to support Measure S reveals his desire to treat our community as a playground with little regard for the wellbeing of the town’s year-round residents, or the futures of their children.
Harris twists statistics to argue that Mammoth’s education budget is inflated. He fails to acknowledge that over the past three years, California has cut public education funds by more than $18 billion, including $900,000 eliminated from Mammoth’s education budget this year. These cuts leave California ranked 44th in funding public education, with annual funding for each student falling $2,500 below the national average. If Mammoth were to meet the national average, we would require $3 million in additional annual revenue, far above the $650,000 that Measure S would generate.
While these statistics alone would convince a caring individual to vote “yes” on Measure S, the experiences of our community members provide additional motivation to pass this essential measure. As a product of Mammoth’s public school system, I take personal offense at Harris’s attempt to deny present and future students the quality education and extracurricular activities enjoyed by the students in his own affluent community of La Jolla, where families contribute an annual $1,500 for the benefit of local schools. Harris claims he would gladly donate to Mammoth schools, and merely rejects a mandatory tax. To this I ask, why has Harris yet to put his money where his mouth is?
As a Mammoth High School student, my classmates and I became accustomed to the roof falling through from the weight of snow each winter. We endured outdated, virus-ridden computers. We watched friends drop out and fail to graduate with us due to a lack of academic support and extracurricular activities. At age 12, my aspirations to become a flautist were cut short when Mammoth Middle School was forced to cut its band program. We lost our art classes, hands on shop classes and job training, some of which have been reinstated thanks to Measure S.
Instead of over-paid teachers and administrators, we saw teachers quit and move away because they could not afford to raise a family in Mammoth on an educator’s salary. Still, those working for public education did the best they could with extremely limited resources, and can come closer to giving Mammoth students the education they deserve through the parcel tax.
My father, an occasional substitute teacher at Mammoth schools, admires local teachers and administrators and wishes we could pay them more for the important work they do, rather than forcing them to endure a stressful job as well as a stressful economic situation. He makes donations to local schools, since he believes he is not required to pay sufficient property taxes to fund quality education, a result of Prop 13 in the 1970s. He operates under the belief that it is essential we fund the future, and not so much the stock market.
Harris’s children might not be attending Mammoth High School, but he still benefits from our community. The students from whom he would rob a quality education, as well as their parents, are clearing his tables in local restaurants, grooming his ski runs, attaching chains to his tires and keeping his streets safe. And if Harris would willingly deny his Mammoth neighbors the benefits he would wish for his own children, I beseech him to reevaluate his position. I also ask that Mammoth residents take action to protect our schools and our future, and vote “yes” on Measure S.
MHS Class of 2007
No Measure S a scary thought
Recently, a teacher told our class we would all have to pay 10 cents for each photocopied item in history class. Then, it would become schoolwide because the middle school didn’t have any financial aid coming in. It was scary, knowing those who couldn’t pay the 10 cents would just get an F. It also made it very real what kind of situation the schools are in. At the end of class, she told us it was all a hoax symbolizing a situation the colonists were in hundreds of years ago. Without Measure S, would kids and their parents have to pay for photocopies? For books and supplies?
Why is it that schools are always the first and last to be targeted when the state makes budget cuts? People are always telling us, we kids are the future. Is this what the future represents? Is this what YOU want it to represent? Measure S helps supply the schools with a library, books, and a librarian. Everyday students ask, “May I go get a new book from the library?” The middle school has an Accelerated Reader program, which challenges students to reach a point goal in reading. The teachers encourage us to read 4,000 pages a year. That’s a lot of books. Without Measure S none of this would be possible. This is just one example of the difference it makes in the lives of students like me. I’m only 13, so I can’t vote, but you can. Please help pass Measure S!
Mammoth Middle School
Re-watering Mill Creek
I enjoyed reading the Sheet’s detailed article on Mill Creek last week. It’s good to know that after many years of talk, real progress is being made.
As a Mono City homeowner, I overlook Mill Creek downstream of the hydropower and irrigation facilities discussed in the article. Up at the waterfalls in Lundy Canyon, Mill Creek is full, the fishery healthy, and the forest thick with trees and wildlife. In contrast, there’s not much left in the creek below my house, after all these water diversions.
It’s sad that this water — and the fish and wildlife it would support—is missing. What’s shocking is to read that there’s no legal basis for many of these excessively large water diversions. Leaving water in Mill Creek, unless there is a documented right to divert it, makes complete sense, and it’s commendable that SCE is doing its part by repairing its hydropower facilities.
The article noted that reports and agency reviews have been taking place for more than a decade, yet Mono County and others talked about conducting even more studies. It’s time to move forward; in fact, if anything deserves more study, it clearly should be how taking away more than 75% of the natural flow of Mill Creek is damaging the stream and its fishery, forest, and wildlife. Thanks again for reporting on this topic.