The temperature was certainly hotter during the various Covid conversations this week.
In Inyo County, several business owners made public comment at both the Bishop City Council meeting on Monday evening and the Inyo Supervisors meeting on Tuesday morning.
Inyo Supervisors bore the brunt of Bishop businessman Chris Taylor’s (owner of 1903 – formerly McMurry’s) remarks on Tuesday. One could argue he was set off by how he was treated at the Council meeting Monday.
To set the stage, there was a light agenda for Monday’s Council meeting.
Neverthless, there were many queue’d for public comment so the public was warned it would have three minutes maximum to speak.
I’ve covered public meetings in the Sierra for 18 years. I don’t ever recall an instance where a person was literally shut down for exceeding the three-minute limit. Maybe one time. Maybe after ten minutes.
From the moment Taylor began speaking (after the ‘can you hear me?’ phase), until when he was first muted was exactly three minutes. No warning, just muted.
He’s silenced for a moment and then you hear him talking again and a voice telling him his time is up and then he’s muted for good.
So I raised my hand and when I was promoted, I asked Mayor Stephen Muchovej if he could give my three minutes to Mr. Taylor because i wanted to hear the rest of what he had to say.
As I’m making this request, Councilmember Jose Garcia is vigorously (and sourly) shaking his head.
So here’s my message to Mr. Garcia. You are a public servant. You were elected to represent the citizens of Bishop, and it’s your job to listen, even when you disagree with someone, even if you don’t like what they have to say, or how they say it.
As impressed as I was with Mr. Garcia a few weeks ago during the midyear budget review when he asked a number of pertinent questions, I found his demeanor on Monday to be jarringly tone-deaf.
When Mr. Taylor spoke to Council Monday, he said plaintively that with vaccine occurring and overall testing down, the percentage model used to determine tiers within the state system is destined to remain elevated, and with just $25,000 from the county coming in a recent grant and no money from the state, he has no choice. He is open.
*And he is. As well as Whiskey Creek and Back Alley Bowl in Bishop. The Sheet confirmed that Tuesday evening one cocktail at a time.
How can I get by seating just 25%, or 22 people? he asked.
It’s time to get open without the county stopping by to issue fines. Or threaten to recover its grant due to non-compliance with the terms.
“Please, please let us thrive,” pleaded Rosie Garcia in her comment.
Aaron Schat said his workforce has been trimmed from 100 employees to 60. People think to-go business makes everything right, he said. It doesn’t. Help us out.
Inyo County Supervisor Jeff Griffiths urged these business owners to attend the Supervisors meeting the next day where discretion on enforcement would be discussed.
Griffiths added that from what he’s read and gathered from public health sources, and it may be controversial, but there hasn’t been a lot of spread in the County from restaurants, perhaps there’s been spread in the back, in the kitchen, but that’s happening whether there’s in-person dining or not.
Mayor Stephen Muchovej then referenced a recent CDC study which indicates that states allowing indoor dining do have higher transmission rates, but the “error bars” are high, meaning the correlation is fairly weak. Suggesting a 1% case growth in places where there’s indoor dining versus not.
The next day, Chris Taylor got a bit more antagonistic. “Everyone on this call has to go to work except for the people appearing on this screen,” he said, concluding with “While you may work for the governor, I don’t.”
Public Health Officer James Richardson responded. “I understand and am aware of your frustration, but please understand our position.”
Richardson then went ahead to give the only cautionary counterpoint heard locally all week.
-We could be in for a surge within few months.
– The UK variant, which was present in 4% of U.S. cases last month, is now at 30-40%, and will be the predominant strain within a month. The UK variant is highly transmissible and caues more death.
-When we relax health standards, we see cases increase
-Experts insist now is not the time to let one’s guard down.
Richardson concluded by saying he didn’t think the existing rules are arbitrary. They’re based on science and data. “It doesn’t make sense when you’re running a marathon to give up with 100 yards to go,” he said.
The race between vaccination and variant continues …
He also said, as a physician in private practice, that “I have a job, too. I’m also affected.”
He noted that currently, there are hardly any hospitalizations and “activity is low.”
Supervisors agreed that the County would only pursue enforcement of Covid rules in “egregious” cases. It did not define egregious.
Supervisor Roeser wanted enforcement to only include “education” but her colleagues were more realistic. Enforcement without a threat of penalty is a complete non-sequitur.
Mayor Muchovej, who spoke at the Inyo Supervisors meeting, said continued closure “is a blueprint for a dead economy.”
There was so much from the George Booth interviews that didn’t fit into the confines of an obituary, so permit me to indulge a few stories here.
Ex-wife Susie told one story testifying to the fact that he wasn’t much of a fix-it person (something I can relate to).
They’d moved into a new place in Crowley and were still familiarizing themselves with things and George just couldn’t get the outside lights to work. So he called Paul’s Electric. The electrician dutifully comes over, assesses the problem, and makes the following expert recommendation.
“You might wish to buy bulbs for the fixtures.”
I didn’t include this next one because it was more about Dave Hammon than George Booth but quite funny. As well as being a throwback story to a different era.
Hammon was a young lawyer who’d just gotten a job in Dave Baumwohl’s office and had been in town for approximately two weeks when Mono County Sheriff’s Deputy Hap Hazard pulls him over for a light being out and soon realizes that Hammon’s had a bit too much to drink.
Hammon’s feeling his oats and when Hazard asks him to take a breathalyzer, Hammon refuses. Which he’s coherent enough to recognize as a dumb error. A refusal = a one year suspension of one’s license.
So Hazard hauls Hammon to the Sheriff Substation on 395. He asks him what he does for a living. Hammon doesn’t want to give Hazard the satisfaction of knowing he’s bagged a local attorney so he tells him “Gigolo.”
The next day, hitchhiking home from Bridgeport, Hammon is picked up by a guy named Jimmy Stewart, who also happens to be an attorney and agrees to represent him.
So the pair set up a meeting with Assistant D.A. Booth in the Justice Court, located in the old Footloose building (long torn down) in the Village at Mammoth.
As they get to talking, it’s revealed that Hammon’s also a Michigan State alum – which didn’t forgive Hammon’s DUI, but Booth did agree to dismiss the refusal of the breathalyzer.
Another detail referenced by more than one person … when not married or when he was in between marriages, George was famous for working the ladies restroom line at concerts and events during intermissions. Smart, right? There’s nothing like having a captive audience.
As Jim Moffett said with a laugh, “Of course, there were a lot of misses. But some of them called! I’m so thankful social media didn’t exist in our era.”
Social media has a definite cooling effect on hijinks.