I spoke to two-term Mammoth Councilman John Wentworth on Wednesday to ask him if he was at all surprised by election results, which placed him in danger of potential defeat. He was fairly sanguine and already looking ahead to issues he hoped to tackle over the next four years. As he said, the new face(s) on the block tend to get a favorable nod from the electorate. He points out the same was true of his initial candidacy in 2014 and the numbers would appear to bear that out.
In 2014, Wentworth was the top vote-getter in a field of eight, garnering 21.8% of the votes cast. In 2018, in a field of six, he ran second to Lynda Salcido, winning 20.5% of the votes cast. This time around, his vote share is just over 20% in a field of six.
Still, I pressed. This is a tight race, I said. I don’t know if I’d call [the results processed to date] it a repudiation, but it’s certainly not an endorsement.
He agreed with that analysis. “You can’t run away from incumbency,” he said, both good and bad. But for now, he’d like you to focus on the Parcel housing project zipping along in the center of town. Phase one (~80 units) should be ready for occupancy next summer.
But enough of good and bad. Let’s proceed to ugly. The California Highway Patrol released the name of the driver involved in an October 14 accident south of Lone Pine which killed a pedestrian.
As I suspected, the 72-year old driver from Cambria was identified as Dirk Winter.
According to CHP, Mr. Winter was driving at a high rate of speed when he collided with a 55-year old man from Stockton identified as Javier Hernandez.
The accident occurred in the 45 m.p.h. zone just south of the Chevron station. There’s a dirt shoulder there where many truckers pull over. Often, they’ll then zip across the highway to visit a local taco truck. The area does not have a crosswalk nor street lights.
Many locally know Mr. Winter from his controversial purchase of Sam’s Woodsite, where he duped the Mammoth Lakes Tourism board into handing him public money for improvements – he used the money to make the down payment instead.
He then ditched plans to develop the Woodsite as an event venue, and now has the property on the market. Bought it for ~$4 million. Now listed for $6.4 million by former Mayor Shields Richardson and his wife Kathy. The co-listing agent is former Mayor Matthew Lehman.
No charges have been filed thus far. CHP indicated the investigation is still ongoing.
So let’s return to the merely bad.
At Mammoth’s Council meeting on November 2, I was struck by a small consent agenda item. The item called for $120,000 to be drawn from “Fund 215” for archeological services.
Fund 215. That’s code for Measure R.
The archeological services are the Sherwin trails project.
As the staff report states, “Due to staffing constraints within the Inyo National Forest, the Town is seeking the services of Cardno (Stantec) to perform this environmental work.
Off the record, a Councilmember (and I won’t identify this member as current or past to make it a bit harder to guess) expressed concern that the Town is establishing rather expensive precedent.
The Forest Service is like a bad bear feeding at the Town wallet.
“We continue to backfill the forest and clean up trash and bathrooms in the Lakes Basin, and they respond by crying poverty.”
Or respond by recently threatening to starting charging the town fees for use of the Snow Pit off Sherwin Creek road.
One response I had to Grady Dutton’s letter last week where he wondered about a town feedback loop and who’s part of it.
“A sure sign you’re part of the feedback loop is if you can’t identify who’s part of the feedback loop.”
Five years ago this week, Grady was quoted in this paper touting a $12 million price tag for the community recreation center (CRC) at Mammoth Creek Park, formerly known as the MUF (multi-use facility).
And that was not a tent price.
Last Wednesday, the town approved an eight-month, $33,600 extension for its rink lease behind Mammoth Library as the MUF is not expected to be completed until late winter/early spring.
What do you think was in the paper ten years ago this week? I’ll give you a sec …
It was then-MMSA CEO Rusty Gregory pushing for the establishment of a Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID). From the November 10, 2012 editorial:
MMSA CEO Rusty Gregory broke his cone of silence and addressed Mammoth Lakes Town Council on Wednesday evening.
While Gregory’s remarks were described as “vague” by Mayor Pro-Tem Rick Wood, he hinted at the Mountain’s support and participation in a town-wide BID (Business Improvement District).
The idea being that the Town would raise big pots of dough from local businesses (Gregory suggested that with some sacrifice, $5-6 million could be raised) and embark on an aggressive marketing campaign. The goal, said Gregory in a Wednesday morning interview, should be to “grow ourselves out of the problem [airport litigation settlement].”
“The obligation will only feel lesser if we grow our resources,” he added.
Gregory also suggested that the Mountain would begin to play a little nicer in the sandbox. “The Mountain will not compete with you. We’re going to collaborate to build a great experience. We’re not going to keep trying to eat a bigger and bigger piece of the pie … the Mountain will be different.”
“To a capitalist like me, this is like the Anti-Christ,” he said of his philosophical reversal towards benevolence and collectivism.
The address met with applause and in an email received Thursday morning, one local business owner said, “I hear Rusty had words of wisdom and comfort. Promises too.”
So what is the nature of these promises, exactly?
From a discussion The Sheet had with Gregory on Wednesday morning, it appears that Gregory would fund MMSA’s share of the BID by shifting money from MMSA’s marketing department to the collective venture.
Therefore, it doesn’t appear as if MMSA would be spending additional money on marketing so much as shifting its dollars.
It appears, however, that local businesses would be asked to pay more than what they’re currently paying in taxes to fund the BID.
This disconnect has not been lost on local business owners. As one local
business owner said Thursday, “He [Rusty] is just trying to distract the Town from looking more closely at a lift ticket tax.”
When Councilman Michael Raimondo asked Gregory for his thoughts about an admissions (ticket) tax on Wednesday, Gregory replied, “It’s not that I’m against a tax, but I’m for doing it [raising revenue] differently.”
The Sheet spoke to Raimondo on Thursday. He believes that the Mountain “wants to be a contributor of additional dollars” beyond what it is spending now on marketing. In other words, Raimondo doesn’t think it will just be a shifting of dollars.
Final word. Loved this letter to the edtor in a recent issue of the Economist by
Professor of Economics Francois Melese of Monterey, Calif.
“After earning a small fortune in post-retirement speeches, [former Democratic Party Presidential nominee George] McGovern bought an inn in Connecticut. In 1990 it went bankrupt and closed the following year. In a column written for the Wall Street Journal in 1992, the Democratic lion blamed the failure on suffocating red tape. He described these myriad regulations as being worthy in their intention, but admitted:
‘I … wish that during the years I was in public office I had had this first-hand experience about the difficulties businesspeople face every day. That knowledge would have made me a better U.S. Senator and a more understanding presidential candidate.’”