That damn Mammoth Town Council.
I was all set to write about one thing, but then, I attended the Council meeting on Wednesday and can’t help but pivot.
I think the biggest news that came out of it is Council’s souring on the Mammoth Arts and Cultural Center (MACC).
Council has pledged $2.5 million to the project, but in light of the Mammoth Lakes Foundation’s recent struggles, and the uncertainty surrounding the redesigned project’s cost (and potential funding shortfall), Councilman John Wentworth pushed to have Council withdraw its financial commitment.
He said Wednesday that he didn’t initially pledge $2.5 million to the project just to have it sit there “suspended in eternity.”
“Our $2.5 million should be repurposed,” he declared, and put to better use. He believes the money should go back to Mammoth Lakes Recreation, the recommending body, for reconsideration. “No harm, no foul,” he said.
Fellow Councilman Bill Sauser demurred. He said the public has expressed huge interest in the performing arts center, and that nationally, people are flocking back to live performance venues. “It’s a facility I think we need,” he said.
Mayor Lynda Salcido expressed caution, because the reimagined plan calls for the Town to ultimately own and operate the new facility. These types of faciities typically operate at a deficit, and the Town already anticipates subsidizing operations of its Multi-Use Facility/Ice Rink going in at Mammoth Creek Park.
Wentworth wanted Council to vote up-or-down on the commitment Wednesday.
Sauser said he wasn’t ready to give up yet.
Councilmember Sarah Rea said “I’m kinda on John’s train here.”
Councilman Kirk Stapp added, “I agree with John.”
While no vote was ultimately taken, it was agreed that Council would take a hard look at the project come end of the fiscal year (June, 2022).
Mammoth Lakes Foundation Executive Director Betsy Truax said if the Town pulls its $2.5 million, it could imperil other funding commitments.
Wentworth said the new Multi-Use Facility could serve as a possible, interim concert/event venue.
Because we all know how awesome the acoustics are in a tent designed to be an ice rink.
The aforementioned discussion came as part of a “Strategic Planning” session where Councilmembers and staff waxed philsophic about “deliverables” and being “nimble” and getting various projects “shovel-ready.”
Sarah Rea spoke in favor of passing a moratorium on short-term housing rental permits. She believes this will preserve housing stock for long-term rental by locals.
Other Councilmembers pressed staff to gather data to prove long-term housing stock is being repurposed for short-term rental before considering a moratorium.
It could be that housing stock is simply being repurposed for full-time residency. And Bill Sauser warned of the law of unintended consequences. You’re messing with people’s property rights/values when you get into talking about moratoriums.
And my cynical argument would be, there’s no reason to worry about this too much because if such an imbalance persists, and workers can’t find a place to live, we’ll end up giving our guests such a lousy experience that demand will wane.
Unless, I suppose, we keep propping it all up with an outsized marketing effort. That’s what the King of Debt would do …
The last topic of discussion was priceless. It was titled “Enhance Town’s public outreach/engagement/information strategies, tools and tactics.” In essence, Council is extremely frustrated because it feels underappreciated and unloved.
So it debated what it might do to court more favorable opinion.
Sarah Rea compared the Town’s dilemma to that of the Democratic party. To paraphrase: We can’t just be the Democratic party and expect to be loved for all the great things we do.
Now that’s funny.
As Bill Sauser said, “We’ve failed for forty years” at trying to tell the public about all the good things we’re doing.
And then he couldn’t help but take his shot. “All people do with the local papers is start fires,” he said. Yes Bill, the damn newspapers are clearly responsible for neglecting to celebrate the Daniel Webster-like stature of our local legislative bodies.
And yes, I do print extra copies in the winter figuring it’ll take you three times as much newsprint to start a fire as the average guy.
And then I thought to myself, “Bill, you shouldn’t make assumptions about what people do with the paper. They’re not all like you. Many of them know how to read.”
The other great shot was Wentworth’s. He suggested that if the Town placed its own content in the papers, it would be free of editorialization, and further, the spelling might be right.
My reply: You know how I define shovel-ready? Every time Wentworth opens his mouth!
Har-har. But seriously, do we really have to sit around trying to figure out how to promote ourselves and worry about our “brand?” As the saying goes, attributed by the internet to Dick Dale, “If you wanna be loved, get a dog.”
But before we leave this topic, just so it’s clear. I appreciate the people who serve. They’re no dummies. They each have their own style and their own wisdom. I just wish that instead of getting frustrated by the sparring and the second-guessing and the disagreement that comes with life in the arena, that they would embrace it.
But why bother with that Lunch hack who “condones crap journalism” (see letter page four)
And from Page’s desk …
The Mono County Board of Supervisors signed off on a redrawing of the county’s district lines on Tuesday, concluding a yearlong process to group county residents into five (relatively) even districts.
The Supervisors opted to continue the existing policy of having three districts with a majority of the population in Mammoth, slightly altering the existing layout within the town to distribute residents evenly.
Mono County reported a decrease of 1,000 residents between 2010 and 2020, the majority of whom had lived in Mammoth Lakes.
Earlier in the process, the board had eliminated any options that split up the Mono Basin or Tri-Valley area per resident requests, limiting the number of options available to supervisors.
The supervisors selected a map that had the smallest population variance between districts, kept the aforementioned areas of the county together, and had two districts with a relatively high percentage of Latinx residents, a priority that the board had established during earlier conversations about redistricting.
The new districts will remain in place until the next census, in 2030.
Back to Lunch … in both Inyo and Mono Counties, certain neighborhoods got split to make things work.
In Inyo, some of the Manor Market neighborhood got siphoned off into Jennifer Roeser’s Big Pine-centric district. She also picked up Forty Acres, Starlite, Rocking K …
What was hilarious about the Inyo vote was that it came down to two maps. The supervisors located outside Bishop (Kingsley, Roeser) wanted one map and the three Bishop area supervisors expressed a preference for a second map.
But then, and maybe it was for the hell of it, Kingsley made a motion to approve his preferred map (4).
And then Pucci flip-flopped and voted for it. No explanation given.
The map that was approved has a 9.76% deviation, just below the 10% legal threshold. It’s a map that was drawn not by a supervisor or staff but by a citizen, Josh Nicholson.
In Mono, a portion of town stretching along the east side of Old Mammoth Road on the northern side of Meridian was the sacrificial lamb. It is incongruously joined with the northern county district which contains Bridgeport and Walker/Coleville. The district is comprised of 18% Mammoth residents. 18% who are pretty much disenfranchised.