Mammoth Lakes Town Council approved a contract update, worth an estimated $6 million, with Mammoth Lakes Tourism (MLT) on Wednesday, July 15.
Last year, MLT and the Town of Mammoth Lakes (TOML) signed a four year contract spanning July 1, 2019- June 30, 2023. Parts of this contract require an annual update to Town Council.
Exhibit B (of the contract), outlined contract deliverables (if you say it long enough, it becomes a word -Lunch), while Exhibit C outlined compensation.
Council moved the agenda item along. July 15 might not have been the best time to dispute the intricacies of a four-year contract but still – it took them 20 minutes to hand over $6 million. Later in the meeting, they quibbled just as long over $100,000 to a rental assistance program … peanuts.
Councilmember comments were passive. Granicus wasn’t working. The whole thing was weird.
“This has gone through a number of incarnations before coming to us. At each point, MLT was amenable to the changes being made,” said Mayor Pro Tem Lynda Salcido.
Councilmember John Wentworth mentioned how hard it is to iterate information to potential visitors and called MLT a “sophisticated, world class voice,” in this domain. Wentworth said it was important to get these kinds of things in place as the world becomes less predictable.
Finally Wentworth said, “ I think the public should make sure to read the sentences that open up item B.”
So here it is public: “The COVID-19 Pandemic has fundamentally affected the Tourism Industry in Mammoth Lakes, with ongoing consequences that are both consequential and unpredictable. Desired COVID-19 Specific Goals are called out in addition to the baseline set of goals that may or may not be attainable given the operational realities imposed by the COVID-19 Pandemic. MLT’s role in providing timely and accurate visitation related data to assist decision makers in the Town, the County, and the Emergency Operations Center will be critical as the Town and its partners respond successfully to the COVID-19 Pandemic.”
Councilman Kirk Stapp kept his comments short and suggested moving the agenda item forward.
Councilmember Cleland Hoff had a palpable hesitation to simply turning the page. “Again, I can tell the way the wind is blowing here. Everyone feels very supportive of this. I do not think we could stop people coming here even if we tried. This is the best we can do contract-wise but if we are not going to recognize the fact that we have had to roll back … and it does have to do with our tourism, then I don’t know.”
Hoff, before she even spoke, was outgunned. Her vague comments reflect this.
Mayor Bill Sauser had a couple of questions for MLT Executive Director John Urdi regarding semantic issues such as the use of the word ‘sustainable’ in sustainable recreation, or even ‘why are labor costs coming out of Measure A rather than TBID?’
Urdi parked these softballs easily over the left field fence..
Council wasn’t only concerned about where the labor costs are coming from. No. Council knew it had to give MLT extra deliverables over FY 2020-21 to justify a $5-6 million slice of the pie.
And what are these strings specifically?
Most of the pre-existing deliverables are altered within the confines of COVID. For example, on ‘International Marketing’ the deliverable is “achieve 30% of 2019-20 international visits for 2020-21.”
Lunch: 30%? That’s insanely optimistic and flat-out dumb. Who thinks of this crap? There’s another one where they state a goal of “minimizing reduction in TOT revenue by less than 40% year-over-year in September and October.
You could do the greatest marketing job in the world and miss that goal, or not do a damn thing and beat it by a mile. Dump the metrics. They’re unfair, unnecessary, bean-counting b.s.
But there are also COVID specific items such as “Communicate decisions and actions by the Mono County Public Health Official, the USFS, the National Park Service, and the Town of Mammoth Lakes that may have significant effects on the visitor experience in coordination with the Public Health Official and the Town.”
Or “Communicate ‘In-Market COVID-19’ specific graphs and messaging to external audiences to facilitate the setting of appropriate expectations for COVID-19 visitor behaviors in the market.
Another unique deliverable read, “Communicate decisions and actions by the Mono County Public Health Official and the TOML that may have significant effects on visitor attracting events in coordination with the Public Health Official and the Town.
All of these specific deliverables start with the word ‘communicate’ and seem to indicate a slight alteration of services provided by the marketing arm of town. MLT is now as much a COVID-19 awareness team as marketing organization.
Council approved the budget and deliverables for FY 2020-21 by a vote of 5-0. Before the vote, Wentworth summarized it best, “I want to make sure we have this communication tool in the environment that we are in.”