Coming off a fairly dry winter, the local bear population was active earlier than usual this spring.
And Mammoth Lakes has been jammed with tourists ever since travel restrictions were lifted a month ago.
These are the typical ingredients which keep Town Wildlife Specialist Steve Searles busy 24/7 during a typical summer.
But this is an atypical year.
And Steve is no longer busy this summer.
The Town of Mammoth Lakes and Mr. Searles parted ways last Friday when Mr. Searles objected to proposed changes in his contract.
Searles used the term “blindsided” to describe his meeting with Town Manager Dan Holler.
Searles is one of the few contract employees in town. Compensation-wise, he’s a relative bargain. $75,000/year but no benefits.
The employee unions have all rejected Covid-related salary adjustments.
Town Manager Dan Holler offered to take a salary cut this spring but Council refused him.
The Town offered Searles a 50% cut in pay and hours.
Work through December at full salary, and then be forced to take a six-month unpaid furlough.
Allowing the Town to claim he “voluntarily resigned.”
The Sheet asked Police Chief Al Davis how the MLPD planned to handle wildlife calls moving forward.
“No change in how we deal with bears. The team has been trained by Steve and they all have bear kits that include less than lethal items to scare off bad bears. Just call 911 like most people do, and not call Steve directly as many have done in the past.” he said.
Searles said he’s still receiving several wildlife calls per day since his resignation.
And he said the New York Times interviewed him Thursday morning.
Okay. It’s 8:20 p.m. I don’t know how it got to be so late. Forty minutes to deadline (which we never make anyway, but …). Here’s the kitchen sink.
The Town of Mammoth launched a $300,000 program to help small business. Those with 1-10 employees and less than a $1 million annual revenue. And a storefront presence. The goal, said Community Development Director Sandra Moberly, is to prevent commercial vacancies.
The Town received 19 applications. Given that the maximum award is $10,000, that means there’s gonna be a second round of awards with at least $110,000 available. Some of the rules are going to be relaxed or modified. For example, the employee requirement, which eliminated hair salons (most of which operate via independent contractors) will be relaxed. For more details, call Moberly at 760.965.3630.
As most of you know, I generally never make political endorsements. But I’ll make two here. Rhonda Duggan for Mono County District #2 Supervisor. She’s earned it. I go on a “learning” tour with Mark Lacey and Mammoth Lakes Recreation’s Matt McClain and Friends of the Inyo Executive Director Wendy Schneider – she’s on it. I do a story on the Mammoth Lakes Food Bank – she’s one of the unsung heroes running the operation. You ask her a question about any County issue under the sun – she’s informed and thoughtful. I honestly can’t remember who she’s running off against. She deserves the job.
Chris Bubser for Congress. When she began her campaign, I didn’t know what to make of her. Her politics aren’t necessarily my politics. She’s a lefty. Her opponent, Jay Obernolte of Big Bear, is a Trump righty. The centrists have long left the stage.
But here’s what I like about Bubser. When she first started campaigning, and I attribute this largely to the fact that she was a political rookie, she had a tendency to talk too much. Had too much to say and hadn’t figured out how to distill her message. I couldn’t tell how good she was at listening.
But when she spoke at a Mammoth Lakes Lions Club luncheon about a month ago, I was greatly impressed by her presence, her message, her empathy, her background (engineering). She’s clearly made the effort, done the homework, actually heard people, and incorporated what she’s heard from the citizens of the district into her message.
And what was really powerful to me – she talked at length about the importance of making healthcare available and affordable – and didn’t once mention that her mother had recently died of Covid-19 in a Pennsylvania nursing home.
Your typical politician would’ve said that right off the bat, very first thing, to garner sympathy.
It didn’t even come up.
She’s a Mammoth resident, she’s approachable, she knows the area and our local issues and she’s keen on serving others.
As for the Searles debacle … I can’t believe the Town is letting the guy go over what amounts to $37,500.
Think about this. He’s literally paid the same as a junior level administrative assistant when you factor in that the admin. asst. receives employee benefits.
But he’s actually out there engaging with the community and visitors, at a time when the town desperately needs ambassadors in the field.
I’ll take boots on the ground over a paper pusher. And how much paper is there to push these days, anyway?
And it seems like a massive disconnect, the Town dictating to Mammoth Lakes Tourism this week that it needs to do less (or at least revised) marketing and more Covid-awareness and resort management, while the Town itself chases off one of the few members of the organization who’s out there mingling with, you know, actual visitors.
I asked Town Manager Dan Holler if there had been any discussions with MLT as to perhaps sharing the Searles contract as one can certainly argue a good portion of his job had been public relations. Holler said no.
And finally, I had a good chuckle over the Mary Trump (Donald’s niece) book that just came out. Most media obsessed about Donald hiring someone to take his SATs (he’s a good delegator!), admiring his niece’s figure (he’s observant!) and regifting Christmas presents (reduce, reuse, recycle!).
The shenanigans surrounding his father’s estate, and convincing niece and nephew that the estate was worth about $30 million (as opposed to close to $1 billion) are so much more interesting.
One key takeaway: Watch oneself around any niece or nephew who may potentially grow up to become a clinical psychologist. They’re gonna understand way too much.