There’s been a lot of national hand-wringing of late over the fate of the republic if Trump refuses to concede the election, the resillience of our institutions, et. al.
Maybe it’s because no one really knows what they’re doing. They are ignorant of rules, of procedure, of history. And even if they have some familiarity of these things, none of it applies to them.
Imagine you’re playing a game of tennis. During a rally, your opponent hits the ball long. You call the ball out. Your opponent says, “That ball wasn’t out.”
“That ball wasn’t out. That line you’re pointing at – how do I know it’s even drawn in the right place? And you have some nerve, unilaterally deciding where that ball landed. How do I know you’re telling the truth?
This is what happens when each individual becomes his/her own arbiter. And only their opinion counts. And no one’s willing to say no to them, especially when they raise their voice, or insist that their opinion matters more than yours because it’s really important to them, and they’re emotional about it, and that emotional urgency trumps law, tradition, common sense, decency. It trumps everything.
It gets even more dogmatic when their friends and/or colleagues are too chickenshit to hold them accountable.
That’s the preface to Wednesday’s meeting of the Mammoth Lakes Tourism Board.
The big topic: Discussion of potential funding of a new business assistance program.
As MLT Executive Director John Urdi explained, there had been an initial $300,000 program approved by the town. Two-thirds of the funding for that program came via the Town/MLT joint reserve account, said Urdi. The program had certain restrictions, among them: one had to have a storefront business, and annual revenue of less than $1 million.
Urdi suggested that a follow-up, second program be initiated with broader guidelines, focusing on primarily helping restaurants (the sector of the economy hardest hit by Covid restrictions) and some retail.
He also suggested that grants be “scaled” based on business size and revenue – maybe divided into a few tiers, with some of the larger entities being eligible for up to $25,000 or $30,000.
Instead of division by tier, Board member Eric Clark (MMSA Senior V.P.) tossed out the idea that grants simply be scaled based upon remittance. The larger the business, the bigger the grant.
Urdi suggested second round funding of $500,000.
Before further discussion could take place on the matter, MLT Board member Rhonda Duggan pointed out that there were several fellow Board members who ought to think about recusing themselves from the agenda item, seeing as they own businesses which could conceivably benefit from such a program.
These board members include Michael Ledesma (Gomez Restaurant and Tequileria and Hugs Ice Cream), Matt Hammer (Shelter Distilling and Black Velvet Coffee), Jess Karell (Sierra Nevada Resort, which operates three restaurants) and Jeremy Goico of Black Tie Ski Rentals.
*I leave off Mammoth Mountain because I can’t imagine the Mountain would apply for such funding. Though I was told by Urdi that he didn’t think MMSA would be necessarily excluded, but “Morally, I’d like to say they have deep enough pockets [not to apply],” he said.
Mr. Ledesma acknowledged that in terms of a conflict-of-interest, “I’d probably be at the top of the list.” But then, he said, we all tend to have a conflict of interest in such a small town and this is a “precarious” time.
Suggestion being: In extraordinary times, minor details like conflicts-of-interest should be discarded for the greater good – the greater good apparently reflected in what Mr. Ledesma would like to see occur.
When Ms. Duggan tried to interject, Mr. Ledesma raised his voice and angrily insisted on finishing his thought.
He suggested he would not fight “abstinence” on this (a genius malapropism if there ever was one). My interpretation being that if someone told him he had to recuse himself from the discussion, he would. But that person apparently wasn’t Ms. Duggan, and it’s not like Mr. Urdi asked MLT Attorney Timothy Sanford to sit in on the call.
The Sheet called Sanford Thursday. He said he didn’t know anything about the issue and wasn’t asked to be there.
An expert opinion costs money.
But you’d figure you’d invest an hour of Sanford’s time ($425) if you were discussing promotion of a $500,000 program which could potentially benefit certain board members.
But as Urdi cautioned, MLT doesn’t have the authority to designate the money. That decision ultimately rests with Town Council. All MLT could do as a board on Wednesday was reach a consensus to suggest Mammoth’s Council support the initiative. That was the compromise. They didn’t want to vote on it because, well, then certain conflicts-of-interest would be memorialized.
No board member recused himself from the discussion. Matt Hammer and Jeremy Goico also spoke in support.
Mammoth Town Manager Dan Holler, in consultation with Town Attorney Andrew Morris, told The Sheet Thursday that the Town would recommend MLT members Ledesma, Hammer, Goico and Karell not participate in future discussions regarding assistance grants they might be eligible to apply for.
The entire board (Salcido, Duggan, Foster, Morris, Clark – assuming MMSA is a non-applicant) was in support. Why the other members insisted upon participating in this fait d’accompli is a mystery.
If the wind is supporting your sail, there’s no need to plug in the fan
A second round grant process may look different than the first. As Urdi said, “We would continue to refine the process in collaboration with Sandra [Moberly].” Moberly, the Town’s Community Development Director, administered the first round grants.
One refinement could be in the composition of the panel evaluating the applications.
The first round panel featured two Mono County Tourism staff members (Alicia Vennos and Jeff Simpson), two Mammoth Planning and Economic Development Commissioners (Jen Burrows and Greg Eckert), Chamber of Commerce board member Tom Parker and Chamber of Commerce Executive director Ken Brengle.
Which created some appearance of conflict of interest when Chamber board members (Green Fox Events, Warming Hut) applied for grants, as technically, those board members are Mr. Brengle’s bosses.
Mr. Urdi also sits on the Chamber board. One of his bosses on the MLT board, Mr. Ledesma, was awarded a first round small business grant for Hugs Ice Cream shop.
Inyo County Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Tawni Thomson did not participate in Inyo’s business assistance program for this very reason – appearance of conflict. As she says, she just knows some of her members better than others, and has her biases.
Via a public records request, The Sheet obtained copies of the first round grant applications. And what was notable, and what may also seem crass, is that something titled a Business Assistance Program could just as easily be titled the Pay Off Paul Program.
As in Rudder.
Honestly, Paul (my landlord for 15 years) has been very decent. Others? Not so much.
Many of the applications indicated that landlords expressed little empathy for tenants struggling due to Covid impacts.
At least two applications claimed that Minaret Mall management has tried to increase their rent post-pandemic.
So it seems like these grants amount to little more than pass-throughs, with businesses passing grant money onto landlords.
So I asked Dan Holler, “Why can’t the Town just step in and say to the landlord, ‘we’ll pay some back rent on behalf of such-and-such tenant, but only on the condition you offer some sort of rent concession.’
If the Town doesn’t step in, the guy doesn’t get paid. Maybe we can leverage a few landlords and make our money go further.”
Dan Holler politely replied, “Well, that might be a bit of extortion.”
Both Mammoth Town Manager Dan Holler and John Urdi are concerned about businesses going under.
Mr. Urdi said personal experience tells him we may lose 30% of our restaurants if we sit on our hands and don’t provide immediate relief. “Realistically, we’ll probably be [in the] purple tier until President’s weekend.”
But in the very next sentence he tilted toward optimism, saying if we get some decent snow, March and April could set up very well for us, especially given pent-up demand.
A near-term challenge will be air service. Urdi said six scheduled San Francisco flights for later this month have been canceled due to lack of demand.
One Los Angeles has suffered the same fate.
The silver lining on some of the Advanced Air flights is that if there is flagging demand, Advanced can change out its 30-passenger aircraft for a nine-seater.
5, 10, 15 …
Dug into the archives a little bit this week to kill some column inches because I’ve got several projects (like Nick Gunter’s obituary) which I haven’t been able to pull together yet.
Five years ago … Mammoth Mountain Ski Area enjoyed its best Thanksgiving in ten years, hosting 33,000 skiers from Thursday-Sunday.
Southern Inyo Hospital District closed its ER and its CEO resigned.
Barron’s Magazine ranked the presidential candidates based upon the grade level of communication in their speeches.
Bernie Sanders and Mike Huckabee were on the high end, communicating at a 10th grade level.
Donald Trump was on the low end, communicating at a 4th grade level.
And we got the final numbers on the Round Fire environmental cleanup.
The estimate had come in at $2.2 million. The actual was $5 million. Walker take note.
Ten years ago …
We had a Mayor named Skip Harvey.
John Teller podiumed at a Skiercross event in Italy.
The Bishop Broncos won a CIF football title.
Robert Calvert opened the first medical marijuana dispensary in town, with Green mammoth soon to follow.
It was the snowiest December ever. 155” through Christmas, and a 249” season total to date.
And from the December 11, 2010 issue, page two:
I’ve heard a lot of grumbling about how MLTPA is all planning and no shovels. So I said as much to MLTPA’s John Wentworth.
Now Wentworth will be able to explain this all in much greater detail at the Trails System Open House on Monday, but in short, it’s a long slog getting agencies together, working through planning and environmental processes, and getting work on the ground completed. “Government works chaotically,” he said succinctly, but he does anticipate that six miles of trail on seven trail alignments will be constructed in the Sherwins next summer.
He also said that current solutions are being forged by direct engagement with public participation, not by some bureaucrat in a cubicle.
“I can deliver [via MLTPA] three times the people and the productivity than the public sector,” he added, expressing a lack of patience for the naysayers he lovingly referred to as the “grumpy old deadwood f***’s.”
Fifteen years ago …
More Wentworth. the Ranch Road gate/public access issue was raging. Which kicked off his civic career.
Andrea Clark (now the private development partner for The Parcel) was the Mammoth Lakes Housing Executive Director.
“As a quality-of-life issue, she [Clark]feels that having more than 20 units on an acre raises livability concerns.”
Interesting, seeing as the current density range has been pegged at between 16-23/units per acre.
Two weeks ago, a consultant who works for Clark said you can’t do less than 18 units/acre and successfully apply for grants.
This archived comment would suggest 20 units/acre should be the ceiling.
So The Sheet has narrowed the unit density focus 71% from 16-23 to 18-20.
*I’m like Grady Dutton, but free.
Jane Baer was The Sheet’s Person of the Year for her work in getting Volcom Brothers Skatepark built.
Dave Fultz had a heart attack at the Mammoth Lakes Foundation dinner. Survived.
I got to ask Dave a few of the near-death experience questions I’ve always wanted to ask someone directly (as opposed to getting the description from some documentary on the Discovery Channel). No, said Dave, there was no bright white light. No angels. Nobody like Abe Lincoln (Fultz must be a history buff) to welcome him into the afterlife. Instead, he said, it all just sort of fell away and went black.
Sheet: And when they revived you, was it a shock, a rude awakening?
Fultz: Nah, he said. I just woke up. And then drifted in and out of consciousness from there.
And the view from Hartley regarding Coco in Washington state:
The CoCo has taken things to a ridiculous level. Around here they have walked back some of the bar and restaurant openings. Now you can’t have indoor dining or drinking. So a bar/restaurant can have outdoor seating. You get where this is going, right? The weather here is awful this time of year. More rain than actual air is in the air. It’s damp and cold. So bars and restaurants are fueling another industry in order to keep their businesses alive. They are driving the plastic tarp and dropcloth industry to new heights. You drive by a bar and they have taken any area outside that is shielded by one wall on one side and constructed tarp-covered and tarp-wrapped “outside” seating areas for folks to drink. So … you took an outdoor area, wrapped it in a tarp and filled it with drinking and smoking folks … have more people in that area than the capacity of your indoor seating and … made it another INDOOR AREA, just less cleaning and ventilation.
What the hell are we doing?
I see them all around town. I stopped at one, the Blue Goose, just to take a look inside. I couldn’t believe how many cars were in the parking lot. Peeked in and it was the s*%tshow I expected. Cold, stale air and packed with folks desperate to prove they wiill NOT be held down by the Coco. A couple guys, drunk, crawling under or between tarps to get in and out or leaning between them to smoke and vape.
So they are adhering to one state mandate to not be inside, but indoor smoking, capacity and other state restrictions are out. They probably have portable heating in some of these with the temperature dropping weekly. So a heat source in a tarp-covered area. Yeah, nothing bad can happen there. But you gotta hand it to ‘em. They are working hard to save their businesses. That is some Swamp People ingenuity.
But watch out if you need a tarp in Kitsap County. There may be a shortage. The hardware stores might start jacking prices on tarps … Now that’s a business idea. Maybe buy up all the tarps you can, drive ‘em up here, and sell ‘em out of the back of a truck.