WHEN IS ENOUGH, ENOUGH?
I had no idea what the editorial should be for this week, until I reviewed a letter I wrote this past Saturday to Robert Schaubmayer Sr. and realized … I could lift that whole section and print it verbatim. So thank you Mr. Schaubmayer for the inspiration!
I write you on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend.
The roads make it seem much more like the 4th of July. Jammed. The whole area just has a different feel. I probably won’t leave my property in Bishop for the entire weekend. I am grateful for the luxury of having such a sanctuary.
It is a weird feeling to walk the world as a living dinosaur. I operate a business in a declining industry. My values seem outdated and foreign – and I’m not sure the paper reflects the values of my larger community.
I was back east visiting family and friends a few weeks ago, and I’ll share one conversation I had with a buddy from college who has literally been working as an investment banker in New York for three decades.
And what’s interesting about this buddy – he’s been there three decades but was never made a partner at his firm. Reason being, I think, is because he’s honest – he puts the interests of his clients ahead of the bottom-line interests of “The Bank.”
Normally, they find a reason to fire these kind of people – a combination of snide concerns over “productivity” (If they’re not aggressively fleecing the clients, that means less money for the partners) as well as … thieves don’t like to be surrounded by men of character. It unnerves them.
But for whatever reason, they haven’t whacked my buddy. Maybe they can’t find someone soulless enough to do the deed, I dunno. But he’s still there. And he told me a little story to illustrate a point. While he told it a little differently, I found the following version online. It’s pretty close.
The Parable of the Mexican Fisherman and the Banker
An American investment banker was taking a much-needed vacation in a small coastal Mexican village when a small boat with just one fisherman docked. The boat had several large, fresh fish in it.
The investment banker was impressed by the quality of the fish and asked the Mexican how long it took to catch them.
The Mexican replied, “Only a little while.”
The banker then asked why he didn’t stay out longer and catch more fish?
The Mexican fisherman replied he had enough to support his family’s immediate needs.
The American then asked “But what do you do with the rest of your time?”
The Mexican fisherman replied, “I sleep late, fish a little, play with my children, take siesta with my wife, stroll into the village each evening where I sip wine and play guitar with my amigos: I have a full and busy life, señor.”
The investment banker scoffed, “I am an Ivy League MBA, and I could help you. You could spend more time fishing and with the proceeds buy a bigger boat, and with the proceeds from the bigger boat you could buy several boats until eventually you would have a whole fleet of fishing boats. Instead of selling your catch to the middleman you could sell directly to the processor, eventually opening your own cannery. You could control the product, processing and distribution.”
Then he added, “Of course, you would need to leave this small coastal fishing village and move to Mexico City where you would run your growing enterprise.”
The Mexican fisherman asked, “But señor, how long will this all take?”
To which the American replied, “15-20 years.”
“But what then?” asked the Mexican.
The American laughed and said, “That’s the best part. When the time is right you would announce an IPO and sell your company stock to the public and become very rich. You could make millions.”
“Millions, señor? Then what?”
To which the investment banker replied, “Then you would retire. You could move to a small coastal fishing village where you would sleep late, fish a little, play with your kids, take siesta with your wife, stroll to the village in the evenings where you could sip wine and play your guitar with your amigos.”
I think we all wrestle with that – the concept of “enough.”
And what we’re seeing right now in the Sierra is what happens when we overplay our hand. And enough morphs into way too much and we invite the destruction of our small coastal fishing village.
Never mind that along the way we all work to the point of exhaustion and get sick – especially now since you can’t find anyone who wants to work anyway so you do it all yourself.
I apologize for my utter failure in keeping up with various obituaries.
I’m working on Dave Thomas and Tony Kealoha (sp?) and even the belated Skandar Reid write-up for next week.
But the fourth one I need to work on, which dovetails with page two, regards Owen Maloy.
Maloy was the founding secretary of the Sierra Club’s Range of Light chapter. And a thorn in Rusty Gregory’s side when it came to expansions plans at Mammoth Yosemite Airport.
Which really set up as a David and Goliath battle in so many ways.
Maloy was everything Rusty was not – a short, portly, curmudgeonly man with a biting wit. He was essentially blind – his glasses had to have been an inch thick. He long argued that if there had to be a local airport to handle commercial airline service, that that airport should be located in Bishop.
The environmental studies with projections of 333,000 enplanements per year in Mammoth scared the hell out of him.
Though he knew that number was folly.
As he wrote to this paper in a 2011 letter, “Claims that 300,000 people will come into Mammoth by air are absurd. That is about as many people as US 395 brings in for an entire ski season. Anybody who invests money based on such hype needs a business therapist.”
He was also the guy who told this same joke over and over again:
“If you have to ask the price of an airport, you can’t afford it.”
A variation on the quote oft-attributed to J.P. Morgan.
Owen was a data guy. A man who literally handicapped the probability of things/events for a living.
Owen was a physicist by trade. He graduated from that run-of-the-mill educational institution known as CalTech. According to his friend Stephen Kalish, Owen, at one point, had an offer to return to CalTech to teach the great Richard Feynman’s classes – as Feynman was taking a leave of absence.
One of the highlights of Owen’s career work, said Kalish, involved performing failure analysis of packaging used on space missions.
Let me reprint the lead of my editorial which appeared on Sept. 12, 2011:
On a whim this week, I dug back into the recesses of my e-mail to reread letters sent by Town gadfly (and Sierra Club and Advocates for Mammoth member) Owen Maloy during 2004 and 2005.
The guy should take a bow.
Generally, all the warnings he issued Mammoth’s Town Council about the airport turned out to be true.
And went unheeded.
And continue to go unheeded.
Because Council would still rather listen to [now long retired] Airport Manager Bill Manning.
A sample of some of Maloy’s writings:
From October 20, 2004: “You may be told that it’s only a formality, not to worry, that our good buddies at the FAA [Federal Aviation Administration] are on our side, etc. But Ballas has sold at least partial title to all those hangar owners. As long as that condition exists, the FAA can cut Mammoth off at any time. I think the Town must immediately take action to show that its act is cleaned up, including personnel changes and some sort of action to cancel the Ballas agreement.”
From October 23, 2004: “It becomes ever more clear that [Bill] Manning is conning the Town.”
From March 7, 2005: “If we had real leadership, [the Town would] bite the bullet and buy out Terry Ballas, and screw the ice rink and other toys until they resolved that issue.”
From April 21, 2008: “This whole issue was handled incompetently, and Manning was in the middle. It’s clear from the record in the press and Town minutes that the Council and public and probably the Town Manager were repeatedly told there was no problem, just a few details the FAA was worried about.”
We all know about the Town losing the $30 million judgment for reneging on a development agreement with Terry Ballas. We also know that an 11-page letter sent by the FAA’s Andrew Richards in October 2004 expressly outlined the many ways in which Mammoth Yosemite Airport was out of compliance with FAA regulations. We also know that our Town Council at the time did not fully comprehend the implications of Richards’ letter. As then-Mayor Rick Wood wrote in an e-mail to then-Town Manager Robert Clark (cc’d to Maloy) on March 7, 2005:
“Rob: Thanks for keeping me in the loop. I am particularly pleased that you have accurately and forthrightly responded to Owen’s assertions. As you know, the Council has remained mostly silent on the various airport issues, even in the face of the publication of inaccurate, misleading conclusions about the FAA requirements which are not based on true facts.”
Obviously, not so misleading in hindsight.
Lesson: Hmm. Probably one genius we should not have ignored.