Mammoth Lakes Town Council voted Wednesday to give Elizabeth Tenney’s Gateway Project $250,000 out of the Public Arts Fund, effectively overruling its own Public Arts Commission.
In a letter to Council submitted prior to Wednesday’s regular meetng, Arts Commission Chairman Nick Holst said he did not support Tenney’s request. “My response is still, ‘this is not public art,’” he wrote.
In fact, he added, “by duplicating the sign on both sides of the road it appears more monolithic and intrusive and resembles much more a park entrance where one expects to pay an entrance fee. All it needs is a kiosk in the middle of the road where the town can collect money. That is not an image the town should promote.”
Those who stuck around for Wednesday’s 10 p.m. discussion, however, appeared to have a few more guns in their holsters.
Supporters of the project included Snowcreek’s Chuck Lande, MMSA’s Vice President of Real Estate Jim Smith and Mammoth Lakes Chamber of Commerce President Brent Truax.
Lande said the Gateway project lies within the parameters of what the people who wrote the ordinance intended. He also noted that the Main Street District Plan calls for an entrance marker of some kind.
Smith challenged the Arts Commission’s assertion that the monument is not art. Smith said he knows Larry Walker (the project’s designer) and that it’s offensive to categorize his work as otherwise.
Lunch’s aside: At least that’s what I think he said. Once he casually threw out the word “vernacular” in a sentence, I may have been too stunned to think clearly.
Truax observed that in the hospitality industry, first contact and last contact are tremendously important and that’s what this sign represents.
Councilman Skip Harvey wasn’t too thrilled about overriding the Arts Commission, but said he was willing to be convinced otherwise, and ultimately was.
The dissenting voice on Council was Mayor Jo Bacon, who said the project sounded more like marketing than public art and should be funded by another mechanism.
She also noted that the project was rejected for Measure R funding consideration and that the petition before Council just seemed like the next best and most convenient follow-up money grab.
The Arts Commission may not have done itself any favors with its staunch support of a Steven and Janice Kabala-designed entrance sign which the PAC initially wanted to place on Highway 203 where a current entrance sign is located (just as you’re heading up the hill on the right after turning off 395).
However, the United States Forest Service rejected this replacement sign.
In response, the Arts Commission identified a new proposed location on Meridian Blvd.
Begging the obvious question as to who the hell would want to spend $138,000 for a sign on an arterial road that the vast majority of visitors would never see?
That sign is now permanently mothballed.
Domo Arigato Mr. Ribaudo
Consultant Carl Ribaudo was on hand Wednesday to present the findings of the Measure U Steering Committee, which had been entrusted with the task of setting up ground rules as to how Measure U monies will be administered.
Council accepted the committee’s recommendation that a three-person application committee be established, consisting of a Mobility Commissioner, a Recreation Commissioner and one at-large member who is affiliated with the local arts community.
However, this three-person committe will not be put in place until after the initial, test-drive spring funding cycle. The initial Measure U funding process will be vetted by the Steering Committee.
Steering Committee member Jim Smith argued persuasively that it was best for the committee to handle the initial awards to ensure the timeliness of getting some projects in the ground this summer.
Let’s stick together
The start of the meeting was dominated by discussion of the airport litigation.
As John Vereuck said, “I think we’re here tonight because of the P.R. that came out from the other side. I think it’s a ploy to divide us. No one in this room is the opposition.”
The ultimate conflict between the Town and Mammoth Lakes Land Acquisition is over the term “basic services.”
Obviously, MLLA thinks the Town can do with a lot less than the Town thinks it can do without.
But as Teri Stehlik said, if the Town’s not viable, there won’t be any money to pay off the judgment anyway.
In addition to the $42 million judgment the Town currently owes, Town Manager David Wilbrecht said the Town expects to spend $400,000 this fiscal year on legal expenses related to the ongoing litigation.
Local resident Leigh Gaasch said she would object to any settlement which suggests a property tax levy.