A verbal exchange which occurred during a candidates forum in June Lake on Thursday, May 15 has raised the level of testiness in the District 5 Supervisors race in Mono County.
According to candidate Kirk Stapp, there was a question regarding June Mountain Ski Area, and fellow candidate Stacy Corless said, to paraphrase: if there’s an issue with JMSA, I’d go up to MMSA and have a conversation and figure out what’s going on. I could go talk to these people.
Stapp found the exchange shocking because he felt Corless, who is married to a Senior V.P. at Mammoth Mountain (owner of June Mountain), seemed oblivious to her conflict of interest (via marriage).
“Does Stacy’s husband [Ron Cohen] have a financial interest [however small] tied to everything the Mountain does?” asks Stapp. “If Cohen helps MMSA negotiate down its share of an airport subsidy, or a contribution to ESTA (Eastern Sierra Transit Authority),” does Stacy indirectly benefit?
Stapp then referenced the Mono Lake property which is included as part of land trade.
“It appears she has not asked herself the hard questions … you have to recognize the economic self-interest of the corporation … that doesn’t mean you can’t like the people [who work there], but the stockholders, investors … those are the economic needs they’re looking to meet.”
Greg Eckert, a third candidate in the race to replace the retiring Byng Hunt, commented as follows:
“After redistricting, Mammoth has only two dedicated seats on the Board of Supervisors. There will be many important issues coming before the County regarding Mammoth Mountain, which will continue to be the 800-pound gorilla in terms of local development. Mammoth needs a supervisor to lead these discussions, not one sitting out in the hallway during these important times.
Stacy’s response in June Lake was that it may be beneficial for a Supervisor to pick up the phone and know who they’re talking to at the Mountain. Problem, is, she’s not allowed to pick up the phone. Her conflict precludes her from any substantive discussion.
What Stacy does not seem to understand is this is not an election about personal friendships. It’s about who has the leadership to vote for Mammoth.”
Which leads us to Corless, who says simply, “The whole issue is a decoy.”
She continues, “This issue has been pressed by my opponents for political reasons. One of my opponents told me last week that he perceived that I was leading in the race, and therefore had to attack me. So, the fact that they have engaged you on this topic is not surprising. Like I said, I consider this topic a distraction rather than a real campaign and Board issue. We talked about a lot of reasons why (the fact that other MMSA employees are and have been in public service–including, I learned today, Don Sharp, who in the 1970s was a Mono County Supervisor and MMSA employee; the value that my experience with and perspective on MMSA brings; the fact that we, as a region, have to stop the us vs. them mentality with Mammoth Mountain, the Forest Service and other agencies and entities), but I think the actual numbers are the most compelling reason:
I reviewed the Board of Supervisors meeting agendas for the last year, from May 1, 2013, to April 30, 2014. During this period, the Board considered a total of approximately 494 Recommended Actions and Closed Session Items (of course my tally might not be perfect, but it is very close). Within these 494 items, I see a potential conflict on two items – both concerning the consideration of a letter of support for the Mammoth Mountain Base Land Exchange. There may be some variation year to year (although not much), but those figures equate to a potential conflict in less than one half of one percent of items considered by the Board.”
Other election tidbits: Will John Wentworth remain Executive Director of MLTPA (Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access) if elected to Mammoth’s Town Council? Answer: “The MLTPA job goes away if I’m elected. I won’t have any conflicts. I will have to get a paying job,” said Wentworth.
From the maybe-this-is-what-they-mean-by-succession-planning department: I was cleaning up my garage the other day and came across a letter published in The Sheet on April 22, 2008, illustrating that the Mono County Sheriff has been conducting unpopular “saturation patrols” for several years now. Highlights of Chris Jackson’s letter are as follows:
“As a resident and taxpayer of Mono County, I am appalled, upset and embarrassed by the actions of the Mono County Sheriff’s drug/crime interdiction team conducted at the June Lake Junction this past weekend. The Sheriff claims there was no “social profiling” and that all individuals and vehicles were searched legally. Sure. My personal experience of passing through the gauntlet of law enforcement and being glared at and sized up by an OUT-OF-STATE police officer upset me greatly. My friends’ son and his vehicle were searched because the date tag on his license plate was faded! A friend of my daughter was searched twice in one day! A Mountain employee on his way to work was removed from a vehicle and put in the back of a patrol car and interrogated by officers demanding to know how much dope he had. These actions are NOT the way to fight drugs or crime. This is NOT the way our tax money should be spent (What did this cost?) The whole episode was an overreaction. It is harassment and social profiling of a particular group of people. Being young and a snowboarder/skier does not mean you are a criminal or drug user. If the Sheriff’s Dept. was even-handed in its approach, it would conduct the same program opening weekend, Clampers Day, Friday nights on 203, etc. Heck, they could just do this every day. Regardless of one’s opinion on crime/drugs, you have to object to such encroachment on our 4th Amendment rights.” –Chris Jackson, June Lake
Quiz for extra credit: Can you identify what the Grenade Games are, or whether they’re even still held?
Finally, to confirm everything you know about politics, just consult the May 17 issue of the Economist or a recent issue of the New Yorker regarding a recent paper by Martin Gilens (Princeton) and Benjamin Page (Northwestern).
Their conclusion: “Not only do ordinary citizens not have uniquely substantial power over policy decisions: they have little or no independent influence on policy at all.”
Those with the biggest influence are economic elites (top 10 percent) and interest groups representing business.
The Economist reports: “In cases where a proposed policy change had low support among the wealthy (one in five in favor), the policy was adopted about 18% of the time. When four in five wealthy people supported a plan, the prospects for adoption rose to 45%.”
Whether a vast majority or minority back a plan doesn’t matter. Chances of adoption are 30 percent either way.
The danger this poses: It creates a wealth cycle whereby politicians adopt policies that favor the wealthy, who in turn lobby for more favorable legislation, armed with now greater wealth.