For most folks, and definitely for the Bureaucrat Beat newsroom staff, government budgets might as well be the lost tomes of Atlantis. They're long, arcane, complex, and to most people meaningless; but government budgets do have a lot to do with how our money is spent.
Our state legislators dragged their feet, politicked and fooled around, which made the state budget late. Public comments on that one ranged from "Thank God they delayed and weren't doing anything in those few days to make matters worse" to "They should be fined for every day they hold up the budget."
High marks go to Inyo County Deputy CAO Kevin Carunchio, who, for the first time in a very long time, made the budget available to the media prior to budget hearings. We in the Bureaucrat Beat Newsroom continue to pour over the 500 page document for tidbits of importance.
One thing we did get, after all we are definitely not accountants or business managers, was that Inyo County has deferred paying for maintenance needs on county facilities in the amount of $2.5 million. Ouch! How long can this go on? We'll have more details later.
Speaking of business management, Mammoth Hospital Administrator Gary Myers, was forthright in his admission that he's more of a developer than a business manager. That was one comment about his resignation at the end of the year. Myers did spearhead considerable development of new services, doctors and facilities. Then, money troubles dropped a grim sheet of panic over the hospital. Board Chairman Don Sage says things look better and that they won't have to use their line of credit, most likely, through the end of the year.
Let's face it, government agencies don't seem to much care about hospitals. They keep cutting reimbursements and letting insurance companies do worse.
One final Inyo budget matter that felt like finger nails on blackboards to some locals. Seems the Supervisors were going to consider spending $100,000 on a consultant to tell them how much to raise water rates in southern Inyo. Super ouch!
Residents in the small towns with lowered groundwater thought that the Long Term Water Agreement meant to take over the systems to keep rates low so folks could water their thirsty trees and plants. Some suggested the $100,000 should go into the water system budget.
Good news for the Town of Mammoth Lakes. The Mono County Grand Jury report is out, and the committee which scrutinized Mammoth found…drum roll, please…nothing to criticize!
One complaint letter the jury did ponder – the request to investigate whether MMSA had a change of ownership in November 1997, triggering a reassessment of the property for tax purposes. This is when Intrawest acquired the majority of shares in MMSA. The Grand Jury report says that the Mono County Tax Assessor, now himself under fire, has retained specialized assistance and is conducting an assessment of MMSA based on the position that a change of ownership did occur between MMSA and Intrawest in 1997.
Another controversy – the last Mammoth School Board elections. Some people complained that they submitted papers to run as write-in candidates and were denied seats on the Board. The Jury investigation found that since there actually was no election for Mammoth School Board vacancies, there could be no qualified write-in candidates. Applicants were, instead, appointed to two vacancies.
Finally, a San Francisco Chronicle news story recently stated that "Americans are being closely and constantly watched, carefully scrutinized and meticulously monitored as never before. From government wiretapping, to Google cameras that offer up street-level views of private houses around the world, to mighty digital data banks that record and store everything from real estate loan applications to pizza purchases, the machinery of observation and analysis has become powerful and pervasive." The scarey part? The public doesn't seem to mind.
We in the Bureaucrat Beat newsroom do not relish voyeurs scoping us out. We view the pursuit of happiness as a windowless newsroom where we can privately ponder the meaning of life in the Eastern Sierra and beyond. We await your comments.