Well, it being election season, I feel like the paper’s been hijacked this week with profiles and forums and such.
One such forum occurred Monday evening in Independence.
Six candidates squaring off to see who can replace retiring District Five Supervisor Matt Kingsley.
I’m not gonna get into a detailed analysis of the forum and the various questions and answers.
Dan Berry, a 5th-generation Lone Pine resident who works as a risk and insurance consultant, was head-and-shoulders above his peers in terms of demeanor, knowledge and relevant experience.
Of his competition, I’d acknowledge Spencer McNeal of Tecopa. Mr. McNeal definitely has a point-of-view. He is anti-taxation and has a chip on his shoulder regarding County staff (he think their reports are driven buy “narratives” versus “facts”) and the “mainstream media.”
But a bit too antagonistic in his approach (at least right now) to be more than a sideshow.
Then there was Ash Seiter. Young guy (appeared to be in his mid-30s). Articulate. But to my mind not enough work/life experience yet. But perhaps place him on the watch list for the future. And as I told him during an intermission, “Maybe lose the baseball cap, bro’.”
Other candidates for the position are Will “The Handyman” Wadelton, Aaron Cassell of Panamint Springs Resort and Laura Blystone.
Blystone had the answer of the night as far as I was concerned.
The question (which was a dry, open-ended and lousy one meant to bore the crap out of candidate and voter alike): Explain how you view the structure of Inyo County government. What is your understanding of the role of elected officials and appointed officials? What is the function of the Chief Administrative Officer of the County and the function of the members of the Board of Supervisors?”
First thing out of Blystone’s mouth: I understand the position to be an elected one.
On Wednesday evening, I had a nice chat with Genevieve “Gina” Jones. Ms. Jones is challenging Jennifer Roeser for the Supervisorial seat in District 4 (which encompasses Big Pine and outlying Bishop neighborhoods such as Starlite, Aspendell and Mustang Mesa)
The district’s voter registration is 41% Republican, 33% Democrat and 26% unaffiliated.
Jones was born and raised in Bishop and graduated from Big Pine High School in 1975.
She just retired this past September from her job as Career Educational Director of the Owens Valley Career Development Center (OVCDC) and was recruited to run for the post by Meryl Picard and Kody Jaeger – both of whom were nonplussed by Ms. Roeser’s initial posturing when she assumed office as a culture warrior who took a position against an Indigenous Peoples Proclamation.
Roeser also supported bringing a speaker to town who bore an anti-LGBTQ reputation and voted against a Safe Parking Plan for homeless people living in their cars.
This was all in year one of her term. She has dialed it back since – but this isn’t “Men in Black” and you can’t just wave a Neuralyzer around and pretend those colors aren’t true.
The candidates face off in a candidate forum this Friday evening (6 p.m.) in Big Pine at the Town Hall on Dewey Street.
In terms of pet issues, Jones said, “I care about water, of course,” noting that Big Pine is the most-pumped [by LADWP] area in the Valley and that the Big Pine tribe remains without a water agreement with the city of Los Angeles.
Speaking of the tribe, there has been controversy of late regarding two factions of the Big Pine tribe who both claim they’re in charge.
In short, one faction was elected and then made some dramatic and unpopular changes (such as firing a longtime Tribal Administrator). This faction was then recalled by a majority Tribal vote but refuses to cede power.
Jones has withdrawn from the controversy of late to focus on her Supervisorial campaign.
Well-spoken and thoughtful, Jones may prove a formidable opponent.
Milender covered a candidate forum on Thursday pitting incumbent Mono County District Two Supervisor Rhonda Duggan versus Loran Kitts.
The virtual forum was hosted by Eastern Sierra Now.
*Kitts’s technological ineptitude (He did not have his camera turned on for the duration, was repeatedly asked to unmute/mute – he could never quite get it right, and accessed the meeting on a Fire Tablet) could either be taken as a badge of honor or a sign that he’s not ready for prime time.
Duggan, the incumbent supervisor, spoke first of the unique challenges Mono County faces in terms of affordable housing. She highlighted the scarcity of private land and the prevalence of short-term rentals, and stressed the importance of tailored solutions and collaboration with public land agencies to address housing needs.
“94% of the land here is public lands, and whether it’s the Department of Water and Power, the Department of LADWP or the Bureau of Land Management, they’re all competing for the very same housing land that we are,” said Duggan. “We’re looking for solutions that work a little bit differently than in other communities.”
She also mentioned efforts to streamline accessibility processes for alternative housing options, such as accessory dwelling units and recreational vehicles (RVs).
Kitts expressed concern over the lack of workforce housing and emphasized the need for low-income housing initiatives. He acknowledged the resistance faced in proposing such developments but advocated for the benefits they could bring to the community, including economic growth and improved education.
In discussing the top issues confronting Mono County, Duggan underscored housing solutions, infrastructure development, and disaster preparedness as priorities.
Kitts echoed concerns about housing and infrastructure, particularly roads and snow removal. He highlighted specific issues in the Tri-Valley area, including groundwater management and emergency responsiveness, stressing the importance of community involvement in decision-making.
Both candidates were asked to discuss their leadership styles and respective approaches to engaging residents in decision-making processes. Duggan emphasized the importance of listening to the community, collaborating with tribal partners, and being proactive in addressing issues. Kitts emphasized a hands-on approach, prioritizing community input and responsiveness to local concerns.
In her closing statement, Duggan reiterated her commitment to serving the community and addressing its diverse needs.
“We all share those same values to protect the environment, and to have sustainable, meaningful lives here … I just want to continue to help and support my community in any way that I can,” said Duggan.
Kitts emphasized his experience in public works and his dedication to improving communication and representation for residents. “I’m hopeful that no matter how this thing goes, that my valley will have a better relationship with Mono County,” said Kitts, a resident of Hammil Valley. “I look forward to being a part of that.”
The final meeting of Mammoth’s STR (Short-Term Rental) Committee took place Tuesday evening in Suite Z.
A lot of it was rehash, but some new.
Rob Patterson put together a short study of TOT rates from peer resorts.
If Mammoth is successful at raising its TOT rate 2%, its effective room tax rate (including TBID) would jump to 16%.
Only Santa Monica is currently higher at 17%. Anaheim sits at 15%.
A TOT hike has been contemplated as a means of raising revenue to dedicate to creating more housing supply.
Reference was made to a recent story in the LA Times regarding a “cap” on STRs which was instituted in Palm Springs.
In any given Palm Springs neighborhood, only 20% of the homes can be STR.
10 neighborhoods are capped out.
Home prices in the capped neighborhoods are in freefall (decreasing anecdotally by more than 25%).
But waning overall demand for STR as well as high interest rates are also con tributing factors.
Committee (and Council) member Amanda Rice pointed out that 36% of our housing stock is STR. It’s hard to have an honest conversation about ‘caps,’ she said, which is unfortunate because that was kind of the point of the moratorium – to have a frank discussion of it without having a run on permits. But we kinda chickened out …
Rice suggested we should all care more about people who live in their cars than a 10-20% hit to property valuations.
During public comment, Mammoth Lakes Housing Executive Director Patricia Robertson said the most recent PIT (Point-in-Time) count of sheltered and unsheltered people experiencing homelessness showed 50 local homeless families. “It’s unfortunate that in the U.S., housing is commodified,” she said.
Committee (and Council) member Bubser said if a revenue measure on the ballot fails, “then we’ll be right back here,” looking at options.