I appreciate Inyo County Board of Supervisors Clerk Darcy Ellis.
She notices errors, moves to fix them, and then is often scapegoated for trying to fix the problem she is not responsible for creating.
This is my way of publicly saying I’m sorry for chirping at Darcy last week over a press release she sent out as I was madly trying to make my Thursday deadline.
The press release talked about a public meeting scheduled for the next day (Friday). Time: 5-8 p.m. Topic: A potential increase in the bed tax rate in unincorporated Inyo County (i.e. anywhere but Bishop) from 12% to 14%.
I was livid. There’s hardly anything more consequential that government does than reach into the taxpayers’ pockets for more money. And to schedule it for a Friday evening? Wow. Never seen anything like that in my career – which embarrassingly becomes longer and more indistinguished with each passing day.
So I chirped at Darcy, and she said, ‘Hey, I’m just trying to get this out there. Don’t shoot the messenger.’
When I arrived at the Clint G. Quilter Consolidated Office Building the next afternoon just after five, I see there are a total of eight people (myself included) in the room. Four work for local media outlets. One is Tawni Thomson, Executive Director of the Bishop Chamber of Commerce. One is Bishop Councilman Jose Garcia. One is newly reelected Inyo County Treasurer/Tax Collector Alisha McMurtrie. One is an owner of Brown’s Town Campground – the only member of the public who’s actually affected by the proposal, as they wish to tax campgrounds now.
By 5:15, nothing’s happened. By now, I’m chirping at McMurtrie for lack of notice of the meeting. I throw in words like “unconscionable” and “pathetic” and “horrible.” I’m on fire. I can’t see straight. It’s Friday evening. I’m exhausted. I still have papers to deliver in Bishop. Time keeps ticking away. And the only topic that’s getting bandied about the room is how to fit the next meeting around Tawni’s schedule so she can attend.
Because Tawni is very sweet. And I’m not.
I ask if there’s a presentation. Oh, there is, I’m told. That’ll be at 6.
There were different postings for the meeting, they say. Some said 5. Some said 6.
I guess everyone else in the room felt that the next 45 minutes of their lives weren’t that important. I just got up and left.
I was later told that as soon as I departed, the rest of the room took a vote and started the presentation immediately. But readers, you apparently didn’t miss much – what we covered in an initial story published on May 21, page two still holds.
Essentially, 94% of bed tax collections in the unincorporated county occur in District 5 (mainly in Lone Pine and Death Valley). You need a majority vote to pass an increase (proceeds dumped into the general fund) but a 2/3 vote if you wish to specify where those funds are spent (logically, District 5 would like to see funds generated in-District, spent in-District).
So I guess whomever’s behind this (McMurtrie? A particular supervisor? A particular group of taxeaters always looking for a chance to skim off the public?) wishes to sway the Bishop vote first. That’s how it always happens. Sell to the least-affected.
But as Mr. O’Connell so deftly explains in his follow-up letter on page four related to Mammoth’s completed TBID increase, enough is enough. Be it Town of Mammoth, or Inyo County, or wherever.
For the longest time, we were told that inflation was dead. That the Federal Reserve had conquered inflation forever. Well, turns out forever = forty years.
In the same vein, various local leaders have told us that tax increases don’t matter. That the traveling public expects wallet-assault. That they don’t look at how the bills are itemized. That it won’t affect their travel decisions.
But this is what I know: I have a daughter who lives in Carlsbad. I tend to visit her every month. And the taxes and resort fees have absolutely changed my consumer behavior. I used to drive down on a Friday and book 2-3 nights at the Sheraton and not think about it. Now, I’ll book the Motel 6 on Friday night, book the Hilton on a Saturday (similar quality to Sheraton but mysteriously priced lower – for now). Try to check in early at the Hilton and then linger a bit after checkout, maximizing the stay. And then drive home Sunday night.
Or, I’’ll arrive on a Saturday, stay at Motel 6, and then upgrade for Sunday and Monday.
Mammoth Yoga Festival producer Kevin Green said he’s been told by some of his instructors and attendees that gas prices have affected projected attendance. But “gas prices” is a euphemism for the entire cost of the trip – hotel and food and event ticket, etc.
By passing it off as “Everybody’s doing it,” I can guarantee you this. That everybody WON’T be doing it. That we are all going to tax ourselves into staying home – especially in recession, deepening recession. So when Ms. McMurtrie projects, based upon current visitation, that a tax hike will add $500,000 annually to the county coffers, she fundamentally ignores the supply/demand curve. You can’t charge more and more and more and expect the same level of demand.
When we punish others, we punish ourselves.
We should strive to be the one resort in North America not intent on mauling its clientele.
From Klusmire’s desk … In last week’s Sheet Mammoth Community Water District Engineer Garrett Higerd said, “we need to use water a little smarter and not do as much outdoor irrigation,” to meet short- and long-term water saving goals during this prolonged drought.
A quick trip to the water district web page shows there is plenty of room for getting “a little smarter” about outside irrigation.
In the winter’s peak tourist season (Oct. to April), the district supplies 1.3 million gallons of water a day, which we can assume is all used indoors. That’s a pretty modest figure when considering up to 30,000 tourists can be in town for winter weekends.
In the summer, the district sends out between 3 and 5 million gallons of water a day. So somewhere between 2 and 4 million gallons of water a day goes for outside watering and irrigation. On a per capita basis (with 9,000 residents), the 4 million gallon figure comes to a stunning 445 gallons of water a day per person.
The city of Bishop calculates its 4,000 residents use about 185 gallons of water a day per person in the winter. In summer the water plant cranks out 2.6 million gallons of water a day, or 650 gallons per person a day. The yearly average is about 450 gallons per person per day.
The national average is 125 gallons per person per day.
In Los Angeles, usage is 112 gallons of water per person a day. And the city is shooting for 105 gallons a day per person.
So when all those well-intentioned Inyo and Mono residents point a finger at Los Angeles and demand that LA needs to do less lawn watering to “save” Eastern Sierra water, the city folk probably reply, “Hello, Pot, my name is Kettle, and I see you are overflowing with excuses. Care to share?”
And finally, the first Eastern Sierra Pride Festival was a huge success.
And Bishop Councilman Stephen Muchovej certainly added some levity.
He came out (pun – ha!) onstage on Sunday afternoon in cowboy-wear, and announced, “Hello everyone, welcome to Mule Days!” then there was some exaggerated whispering near the stage and he said, “Oh, that was last week,” and went running off. Then he came bounding back onstage, still in his western togs, and said, “Hello everyone, welcome to the California High School Rodeo Championships!” Followed by exaggerated whispering. “Oh, sorry. That’s next week.” Then he went bounding backstage before reappearing in the outfit shown on the front page. It was clever.
One thing to note: As reported, 900 people walked through over the two days. And I noticed that District Three Supervisor candidate Kody Jaeger had a table there. If she makes the runoff by 15-20 votes, the other candidates may kick themselves at a lost opportunity.
Similarly, Sheriff candidate Stephanie Rennie was there. Looks like she’ll make the runoff.
Other candidates who rolled the dice by aligning themselves with the Free Eastside group and insisting on their own Constitutional interpretations did not fare as well.
So, at least on the Eastside, it appears that tacking towards the middle politically still resonates with our discerning electorate.