Who’s in charge around here, Al Haig?
Or to quote Casey Stengel, “Does anyone around here know how to play this game?”
On Wednesday, the Town of Mammoth Lakes issued a press release regarding a public survey it had posted online. According to the press release,
“The Survey seeks comments on the Town’s proposed Restructuring Plan, which calls for significant reductions in expenditures to help pay $2 million annually to Mammoth Lakes Land Acquisition (MLLA) and divert over $111,000 annually to the Ballas entities (the Airport’s original Developer). The proposed reductions include the elimination of up to 13 Town positions, including up to 7.0 police sworn jobs, and discontinuing the Town’s 50% funding for the Whitmore Pool and Park.”
An email which included the attached press release was sent to Lunch at 3:19 p.m. by Assistant Town Manager MMMartinez. Town Manager Wilbrecht was cc’d on the email.
Wilbrecht replied to the email at 9:19 p.m. Fortunately for Sheet readers, it appears Wilbrecht replied to all when he likely only meant to reply to MMM.
“Marianna, I got a very strong negative call from Matthew wanting to pull the survey. He got calls from John Urdi and others. I said I’d email you. I think we need to add options for comments and some other things. Please call me tomorrow morning to discuss.”
I suppose this is what happens when you have two Town Managers, and yet, neither one showed up at the office this week. Assistant Town Manager MMM worked from home in Southern California. Town Manager David Wilbrecht is on vacation.
Naturally, I got the email and rushed to my computer, hoping the survey was still posted. It was. There were the four basic questions that were asked. In the interest of brevity, I will edit the questions and possible answers down to their essence. After the question and possible answers from the survey, I will add my usual pithy commentary. The first question related to proposed police staffing cuts.
1.) Would you support raising new revenues, including options below? (If you are OPPOSED to cuts in the Police Dept., check all options that you would support. Otherwise, select “Not Applicable” only).
Answers to choose from:
-Not Applicable – I am not opposed to Police reductions
-Seek voter approval for a new admissions tax, which would be a surcharge on all lift ticket and other admissions, including event tickets
-Sales tax hike
-Establish a B.I.D. (Business Improvement District) to support tourism and air service, which would consequently free up money for police
-Utility tax hike
So you can see already why folks might’ve been irritated with the survey. If you opposed police cuts, you were given no alternative but to approve a tax hike.
2.) Would you support making reductions to tourism, housing and transit in violation of tax measures A & T?
Answers to choose from:
-Charge a transit fee. This would allow the Town to reduce its $700,000 annual support for transit
-Reduce spending on tourism, which costs $2.2 million annually
-Reduce spending on Housing, which costs $300,000 annually
You can see why Mammoth Lakes Tourism Executive Director John Urdi would balk at how this question was framed. If you are only provided the option of cutting one of these three items, it would seem natural that folks would be inclined to pare the most expensive program. As Urdi said in a telephone interview Thursday, “We’re not looking to right-size things. We’re just looking to backfill things.
“And I didn’t see anything about cutting the Assistant Town Manager [MMMartinez] to realize a $300,000 savings.”
3.) Do you support the Town searching for ways to maintain its current level of service for police at reduced cost?
Answers to choose from:
-Yes, as an alternative to proposed cuts
-Yes, in addition to proposed cuts
-No, I do not
This is just a dumb question. Everyone’s always looking to get something for less – that’s a basic tenet of a market economy. But here’s the funny part – it’s not as if the Town has actually done any searching yet. When I spoke to Mono County Sheriff Rick Scholl on Wednesday, he said he has not been “approached in any way” by the Town regarding a possible contracting of law enforcement duties.
Furthermore, said Scholl, “I wouldn’t [recommend] sign a contract that calls for less patrol staffing.”
Scholl hadn’t crunched any numbers to determine whether or not the Town would realize any cost savings if it contracted with the Sheriff’s Dept. But in closing, he did say, “In Mammoth, people come to party. If you don’t have a police department, you’re taking a huge safety risk.”
For kicks, I asked Mammoth Mayor Matthew Lehman in a separate conversation if the County had been approached regarding the contracting of law enforcement services. “Yes, [Town Manager Dave] Wilbrecht has had some conversations with them … Dave’s in constant communication with the County.”
4.) If you oppose the proposed elimination of the Town’s share of funding (50%) for the Whitmore Pool and Park to save nearly $120,000 annually, would you support using Measure R funds to help fund these programs at the current level?
Answers to choose from:
-Not Applicable, I am not opposed to the proposed cuts in funding to the Whitmore Pool and Park
-Yes, I’d support using R
-No, I don’t support using R, which could lead to closure of the facilities.
Only at the end was there a place to provide comment. And to proceed from one question to the next, you had to give an answer.
When reached for comment Thursday, Mayor Matthew Lehman took the hit for the survey as initially written, saying “My fault. I reviewed it and said okay.”
By noon Thursday, the survey had been amended so you didn’t have to choose an answer on the first two questions to proceed and comment space had been added.
When asked about the proposed police cuts, Lehman acknowledged that the Town could be in violation of its MOU (Memorandum of Understanding) with the Police Officers’ union if it eliminated sworn officer positions before July 1, 2013. “The department looks like it’s off the table [as far as possible cuts are concerned] until then,” he said.
The relevant sections from the revised MOU (in which the police agreed to modifications which resulted in a 23% cost savings to the Town and changes in their retirement plan) signed by Dave Wilbrecht and the MLPOA’s Paul Robles in June are excerpted below.
“For each budget year during the remaining term of this MOU, the Town will maintain the budgeted sworn officer staffing level that exists at July 1 of fiscal year for the duration of that year, and allow for hiring to maintain that level if during the applicable year staffing falls below that level. For clarity, that staffing level for the 2012-2013 fiscal year is 17 sworn officers. The foregoing staff maintenance provision is subject to the following exceptions: a) agreement by the MLPOA to a different staffing level; b) as a condition of a chapter 9 bankruptcy plan confirmation; and c) changes to this agreement agreed upon under the financial reopener in paragraph c4.”
C4: “The Town and the Association agree to meet and confer in good faith at any time during the term of the Memorandum of Understanding regarding potential changes to this agreement, if there is a material change in the Town’s revenues or expenses from the FTI long-term projections included as part of the Agenda Bill dated May 8, 2012.”
Apologies to all in that my story about the single family housing rental issue will be delayed until next week. Also, be advised that because Council is postponing its meeting until Thursday night, we will not go to press until that meeting is complete, which could result in a later paper delivery on Friday. Now from Kirkner: