Per usual, the biggest news that came out of Council on Wednesday night wasn’t anything you’d find written in an agenda bill.
Instead, it was Councilmember Jo Bacon suggesting that the Measure R and U fall application cycles be placed on hold.
Boom goes the grenade.
The room betrays no reaction. What grenade?
Councilman John Eastman said the topic would be agendized for Council’s next meeting in September.
The first agenda item featured “informational” presentations by Mammoth Lakes Housing, Eastern Sierra Transit Authority and MLTPA (Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access).
Each entity was apparently summoned to defend its own worthiness.
Although Mammoth Lakes Housing’s (MLH) Board told Executive Director Pam Hennarty that MLH is near, if not at the top, of the cut list.
There is a good chance that Council will try to fold MLH into the Community Development Department and perhaps retain one of the two remaining MLH staffers to work on housing issues.
While Councilman Rick Wood said affordable housing was an essential service, noting that 40% of the local population makes less than 80% of AMI (Area Median Income), Councilman John Eastman asked the most crucial and pointed question: Is the funding of affordable housing a state-mandated activity, or a discretionary function of local government.
Outlook for MLH: Mostly cloudy with a 70% chance of thunderstorms.
ESTA’s John Helm was the next person invited to plead for his organization’s funding.
Helm clearly has a supporter in Eastman, who asked the softball question of the night:
“Isn’t it strikingly amazing, the level of success [of the transit system]?”
In a strikingly amazing response, Helm agreed.
Helm was asked about the efficacy of perhaps charging for transit service (Mammoth’s system is currently free).
Note: Mammoth Lakes Land Acquisition (MLLA), the entity which holds the now $44 million judgment against the Town, has suggested the Town charge for transit service to pay for the system.
Helm said the majority of ski resorts do not charge for transit service, viewing it as an amenity.
Helm said the impact of charging a fare would likely cut ridership by 50% or more.
Never mind the prospect of how it might affect the timeliness of service.
MLTPA’s John Wentworth then got up to make his pitch. Councilman Wood commented that it’s hard to understand the “back of the house” component that MLTPA provides for the trails system and how important that is.
That said, to make an analogy, when you dine at a restaurant, regardless of how much time and preparation goes into making you the perfect meal, eventually, you want them to stop talking about it and bring you a plate.
I didn’t envy any of these folks on Wednesday. It was like watching cattle being led to slaughter – only worse, because Hennarty, Helm and Wentworth have cognition that each of their organizations is in trouble. And no one is interested in being entirely straight with them.
“Don’t Feed Our Bears” hits new milestone
Mammoth Lakes Wildlife Specialist Steve Searles had a couple of accomplishments to tout recently. Turns out that during the Olympics, “The Bear Whisperer” TV episodes racked up considerable ratings on English TV. Searles said the hour-long special was particularly well received by the Brits. And, as if that weren’t enough, during the past week or so, Searles reported that the free “Don’t Feed Our Bears” stickers passed out to the public now number more than 61,000. –Geisel
Bankruptcy is tougher than expected
Are the people who drove Mammoth’s municipal car off a cliff still weaving behind the wheel? It seems being deemed bankrupt may be tougher than Mammoth anticipated, and the Town is continuing to pay through the nose to the fight the never-ending uphill battle of the Hot Creek settlement with Mammoth Lakes Land Acquisition.
Sources state that approximately $4 million has already been spent on Town lawyers as it mediates with MLLA and jumps through the hoops of the bankruptcy process. Indeed, there was approximately $1.5 million in retainer fees for legal counsel listed in the Town Council’s latest Register of Demands, so it’s not tough to imagine the bills continuing to rack up toward the $4 million mark.
So, how are we going to stop the bleeding? There’s been talk of voting for a tax increase to save things such as transit and marketing. The Town could then offer MLLA a $20 million settlement that could be supplied by the tax revenue.
If that doesn’t fly, the Town may have to consider cutting some of these services and use the funds usually allocated to these items to pay MLLA instead.
The Chalfant store is under new ownership, according to Jerry Core of Inyo Mono Title Company. Core explained that the previous owners, Tom and Janice Johnson ran the store poorly, not stocking the shelves and eventually turning it into a bar instead. They became delinquent on payments and so Core, the lender, foreclosed on the property and recently sold it to a couple in Bishop.
“There is definitely a need for a store out there,” Core said, adding that the business has been closed for just under a month.
A Hallmark moment
Eastern Sierra native, Trevor Donovan, best known for his role on the latest 90210 series, is starring in a Hallmark movie, says his proud mom, Cindy Neubauer.
The film is titled, “Strawberry Summer,” and Donovan plays the lead role of a country-singer jerk, who turns good. Donovan wrote a song for the film, which he performs as part of his role.
“Strawberry Summer” airs on Saturday, Aug. 25 at 8 p.m. on the Hallmark channel.
Hantavirus problems in Yosemite
The recent diagnosis of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) in two Californians, one of whom died, has prompted Dr. Ron Chapman, director of the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) and state public health officer, to remind Californians to take precautions to prevent exposure to the virus that causes HPS at their places of residence, work, and recreation.
“Hantavirus is a rare but serious disease spread by rodents,” Chapman said. “This disease can frequently become fatal, but there are steps you can take to reduce your exposure.”
Public health officials believe the two recent patients might have been exposed to mice droppings or urine that contained hantavirus while vacationing at Curry Village in Yosemite National Park.
CDPH and Yosemite National Park Public Health Service officers routinely conduct rodent surveillance to monitor deer mouse abundance and virus activity in mouse populations. Yosemite also conducts routine rodent proofing inspections of buildings and facilities throughout the park. Not all deer mice carry hantavirus, but deer mice with hantavirus have been found throughout the United States.
With recommendations from CDPH, Yosemite National Park has increased routine measures to reduce the risk of hantavirus exposure to Park visitors. These efforts include regular thorough inspection and cleaning of rooms and cabins, exclusion of deer mice and other rodents from buildings, maintaining good housekeeping and sanitation levels to discourage rodent infestations, and public education.
The two recent cases bring the total California case count for 2012 to four.