I hope all of you got out this week for the Perseid meteor shower, Mother Nature’s way of making up for the lack of a Crowley Lake fireworks show on July 4th. And it cost … nothing to produce.
Mother Nature may be onto something.
Ketchum, Idaho Mayor Neil Bradshaw is onto it, too.
Ketchum, for the unfamiliar, is home to Sun Valley Ski Resort, and is well-known as the nation’s first destination ski resort, founded by railroad tycoon Averell Harriman.
On Monday night, the Ketchum City Council debated spending ZERO dollars on marketing out of its general fund budget for 2020-2021.
Now, to be clear, this action wouldn’t have eliminated marketing entirely. Ketchum currently has a “Local Option Tax” on lodging and retail. This funds commercial air service subsidies as well as the Visit Sun Valley marketing organization.
It raises about $3 million annually, with the revenue split between air service subsidy and marketing.
This is augmented by general fund contributions by the cities of Ketchum and Sun Valley, a contribution by the Idaho Travel Council, and contributions by member businesses. These entities generate about $1 million.
So it’s about a $4 million budget.
The City of Ketchum contributes about $2 million annually in Option Tax and another $440,000 in general fund contribution.
This year, Bradshaw proposed eliminating that $440,000.
“As a city,” he told The Sheet this week, “we need to focus on basic services.” He ticked off parks and recreation, roads, public transportation and snow removal as examples of basic services.
“Spending public money to support private business … is difficult at best [to justify],” he said. “And it is not core to our mission.”
“It’s difficult to say marketing takes precedence over core services,” he continued. “Are we really going to plow the streets every other storm? Our focus is [improving] the experience while they are here versus getting them here. If we build a great experience, they will come.”
Bradshaw said he campaigned on affordable housing as representing Ketchum’s #1 need, which is a challenge in a state like Idaho, “where our ability to tax for housing is limited” and “neighborhoods are being destroyed by short-term rentals.”
He feels the taxpayers are behind him, even if the business people are a bit disgruntled at the moment. But, he says, “I’m urging them to take the long view.”
Ketchum City Council voted Monday to provide $110,000 to Visit Sun Valley, a 75% decrease from 2019-2020.
In news a little closer to home …
The United States Forest Service and Mammoth Lakes Tourism did finally get the Welcome Center open for business.
Mammoth Mountain donated a temporary lift ticket shack, which is being staffed by ESIA (Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association). Hours are 9-2 daily.
Meanwhile, Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access (MLTPA) is actively seeking volunteers to help as Trail Hosts. You can sign up for a two-hour shift (where you’ll be paired with Mammoth Lakes Trails System staff) via this link:
Mammoth Councilman John Wentworth, Supervisor Stacy Corless and Mammoth Trails Coordinator Joel Rathje continue to devote many volunteer hours to provide a helpful local presence in the Lakes Basin.
A spike in Inyo County’s Covid caseload (nine new on Sunday and six more on Monday) prompted Bishop schools to change course this week and opt for distance learning to start the school year.
Round Valley Elementary followed suit on Tuesday.
The Bishop Union School District (BUSD) is encouraging its staff to teach from the classroom, even if the kids are absent. This prompted one person to comment during the District Board Zoom meeting on Monday, “If you bring staff to the classroom when it is deemed unsafe to be at the school, and you put their children in childcare [the District proposes to provide childcare for its staff so that they can teach], is there a risk of liability if they happen to become ill … these rooms share ventilation.”
Another issue that arose Monday was that BUSD didn’t have enough Chromebooks for the younger students.
Point being, education in the time of Covid remains a work-in-progress.
Finally, the most interesting part of Monday’s Bishop City Council meeting involved Council granting a Home Street property owner, Katie Goodwin, approval to operate an Airbnb out of her home.
Staff had initially denied the request because Goodwin does not have the required on-site parking.
So Goodwin appealed to Council, and Council unanimously sided with her.
Councilmembers Muchovej and Ellis did not participate because they reside in the area.
Goodwin’s argument is that she is single and wishes to rent out a room to augment her income and since she has two parking spaces, she can use one and dedicate the other for the rental.
Mayor Laura Smith advocated approving Goodwin’s application “based upon her specific conditions at the moment … we don’t want to be boxed in [as a Council], and have our hands cuffed all the the time. Each circumstance is different. No neighbors have a problem with it as is,” asserted Smith, because the application does not ask for street parking.
Mayor Pro-Team Chris Costello and Karen Schwartz also supported the appeal. Costello noted that lots of families use a lot of public parking. Goodwin, by contrast, doesn’t use any – at least on a regular basis.
BTW, to circle back to marketing dollars, Mono County Tourism had its budget slashed 40% during a budget workshop hled Thursday. Ad spending will be pared back and outside agency work suspended. The messaging will all be shifted to “edu-marketing.”
And Mammoth Lakes Tourism had its budget trimmed a bit last week as Director of Special Events Caroline Casey left MLT to take an unspecified new job in the private sector.