Well, the field has almost been set for the 2014 Mammoth Town Council race.
And it appears that all three incumbents, Matthew Lehman, Rick Wood and John Eastman, are not in the race. At least that’s what they told me this week, and none had pulled papers as of Thursday.
According to Town Clerk Jamie Gray, the following people had pulled nomination papers as of Thursday morning: Deb Pierrel, John Wentworth, Joe Parrino, Ken Murray, Elena Blomgren, Karen Sibert, Shields Richardson, and Colin Fernie.
Wentworth and Pierrel are the only one who have actually filed their papers to date.
Because at least one incumbent is not running, the date to file nomination papers will be extended until March 12 at 5 p.m.
Whomever is elected this June, that person will be in line for a pay raise.
Mammoth’s Council voted itself a $435/month pay increase at its regular meeting Wednesday. The vote was 3-2, with Eastman and Wood dissenting.
As Council had been making just $300/month, this represents a 145% pay raise.
But before you get too much in a lather, consider: Councilmembers have paid themselves $300/month for the past 29 years. That’s right. There’s never been a pay increase for Council in the history of Mammoth Lakes until Wednesday.
In his dissent, Councilman Eastman said he wasn’t supportive because of the message a raise would send, particularly to the Town’s employees who have been asked to make several wage concessions over the past few years.
Mayor Wood added that serving on Council “is not about the money.”
Lehman, who is not running for reelection and will not see the raise (Town Attorney Andrew Morris said any Council pay raises adopted by one Council do not take effect until a new Council is seated), said he thought a raise would perhaps make running for Council more attractive to a different demographic – that it might inspire younger people with less means to consider taking on the responsibility.
Councilmember Jo Bacon added that it might provide some consolation for what is often a thankless job.
“How much was $300 worth in 1985?” Bacon asked Eastman, trying to get him to acknowledge that the pay might’ve been more attractive back in the day before 29 years of currency depreciation.
“Don’t know, don’t care,” was his terse reply.
In addition to the $735/month salary which will go into effect in July, Councilmembers do have the option to get covered by the Town’s insurance plan. Town Manager Dan Holler estimated the value of that coverage at $17,000/year.
According to Town Attorney Andrew Morris, government code allows Councils to increase the $300 baseline amount by 5% (or $15) each year. But the interest is not compounded. In other words, for each year of the Town’s existence, Council can add 5% of 300 ($15) to the salary. 29 x 15 = 435, so that’s how they arrived at the new $735/month salary.
In other Council news … there are a few things we need to pause and give the current Council some credit for.
First, there was all sorts of controversy a few years ago when the Council, in a cost-cutting move, drastically scaled back the Mammoth Lakes Police Dept.
It seemed like a risky move at the time.
And yet, there was Police Chief Dan Watson on Wednesday night saying that staffing, crime, arrests, traffic collisions, traffic enforcement and overall reported incidents are all down.
There were 400 felony and misdemeanor arrests in both 2007 and 2008, and less than half that number, 150, in 2013.
In his conclusion, Watson hazards a few guesses as to why this is the case, but ultimately states, “I frankly cannot explain the dramatic reductions [in crime] over the past few years except to add that perhaps good fortune is a part of it.”
Councilman Eastman stated that he thought “three bunk winters” have had as big an impact as anything on the reduction in crime.
Then there is the ASICS sponsorship of the Mammoth Track Club, now the ASICS Mammoth Track Club.
As Andrew Kastor said Thursday, a lot of the credit has to go to both the Mammoth Town Council and Mammoth Mountain Ski Area for their continued support in trying to make Mammoth a high-altitude training center.
Kastor noted that the Town has offered financial support to the High Sierra Striders and its successor, the Mammoth Track Club, since 2001.
The runners featured in our cover story live rent-free in Mammoth Mountain housing.
The ASICS sponsorship represents a big bet that’s paid off.
As Kastor said, as part of its sponsorship of the L.A. Marathon, ASICS gets to run a 90-second infomercial during the marathon telecast. That 90-second infomercial is entirely about Mammoth.
Kastor said the shoe companies in recent years have been shifting to a “group-training” model, where they support pods of athletes in various locales. Nike has three groups in Oregon. Brooks and New Balance also have established training centers. Mammoth represents ASICS initial venture into this game.
ASICS will provide Mammoth Track Club money for travel, training, etc., and also provides performance bonuses to the club and its athletes.
As Mayor Rick Wood said Thursday (and as much as I’ve criticized Wood over the years, he gets all the credit here), “When the High Sierra Striders came to us in 2001 and asked us for money, they said they were keen on establishing a high-altitude training center, and they said they would produce Olympic-caliber athletes … and by God, they did.”
That first Council commitment was for approximately $100,000 over three years.
“This [the ASICS sponsorship of Mammoth Track Club] is yet another step down the path of Mammoth Lakes becoming an official high-altitude training center,” concluded Wood.
Finally … according to a late-breaking report from the Sacramento Bee, Cerberus Capital management, the parent company of Albertsons, has reached a deal to buy Safeway, so it looks like our loical supermarkets are in for a change of ownership.
The deal is reported to be in the $9 billion range.
The deal would represent one of the largest supermarket mergers in recent years.
Safeway, based in Pleasanton, Calif., has more than 1,300 stores in the U.S.