Oftentimes, when I compose this page, way past deadline and rushing along, I write one half of a thought and then get distracted and don’t finish it.
So here’s the second part of my thoughts about Skip Harvey and his recently completed eight-year tenure on Mammoth’s Town Council.
The ice rink. Yes, not his or Council’s finest moment.
As previously reported in The Sheet, Council approved the $4.4 million project in 2007, and the Town is about halfway towards completion of it, not having the money to finish the job, and yet not having the money to abandon it (which would force the Town to return grant money).
From the March 11, 2011 issue: “Judy Farnetti pointed out the irony/comedy of the Town looking for a $28,000/year break on rent (from Mammoth Unified School District) so it can spend another couple of million dollars to finish a facility which has historically lost $200,000 annually on its operations.”
Of course, it’s always important to remember context. I can still recall then-Finance Director Brad Koehn presenting his “normal growth” and “slow growth” budget forecasts to Council around the same time where his “slow growth” model called for a 29% increase in Town revenue over the next five years.
But today, I reflect upon the context of Skip’s initial election to office in 2004. He ran against incumbents Kirk Stapp and Dan Wright as well as Dawn Vereuck in a four-person race.
Rick Wood was serving at the time as “Mayor for Life,” and Council had strong consensus with Wright, John Eastman and Tony Barrett. Stapp was largely marginalized. The Advocates for Mammoth were written off as a whiny minority of mostly crackpots who just weren’t sophisticated enough to understand the Town’s “vision.”
And there was that infamous moment where MMSA’s Rusty Gregory and Intrawest’s Benno Nager were the only members of the public to show for a study session in December, 2002, leading Wood to offhandedly remark that “This is our opportunity to hold a public session in private.”
Anyway, Skip ran. And won fairly handily. Wright, who admitted in an exit interview a few weeks back that when he was on Council he was fully under the influence of the pro-development Kool-Aid, received about 20% of the vote to my recollection, while Stapp and Harvey finished in the low 30s.
At the time, I recall people saying, “Oh, people weren’t actually voting for Skip. They thought they were voting for Dave Harvey.”
The point is, Skip’s election marked a turning point, a pushback against the idea that cramming as many units for as much profit into as big a box as possible was the optimum.
He fought for the concept of a Town nestled within the trees, even as there was a constant push from developers to nestle in the treetops. And he stayed true to that conviction even as fellow Councilmembers like Wendy Sugimura lost their way.
At the outset, my nickname for Skip was “old 41” because he was on the short end of so many 4-1 votes. In a time of excess, Skip was ballast – it’s the practical Ohio in him. We may be bankrupt, but you know what, hard as it is to believe, it could be worse. And on a personal and community level, Skip makes this place better.