They’re either strongly for the Mammoth Police or against them and not much in between. That’s what members of the Mammoth Town Council say they now hear from members of the public responding to the proposal to cut 7 police officers. Officials also say that they are not violating the Police MOU by proposing to make those cuts.
Mayor Matthew Lehman made it clear that the Council has a process and proposals – no decisions yet. As for proposed cuts to police, Lehman said the Council “may modify the proposal or change it.” He pointed to a letter from Mammoth Police Lieutenant John Mair. Lehman said the Lieutenant talked about the need for time, as much as six months, to put in place a reserve and volunteer type program.
The Mayor said that a public survey will go out this week to learn more about what the community wants. He said he respects the Police Chief and Lieutenant’s opinions but must balance their views with the situation of not enough money.
Mayor Lehman did confirm that tax measures are on the table. He said, “We have cut things to the bone and reduced the service level. The community needs to ask what’s important. This has been building for some time.” Lehman said he also has concerns about the IT Department of the Town and the need to keep up with technology in government operations. He said, “We want to be efficient and have to watch what we spend on employees. We have to bring the Town back to its base and then re-build it.”
Lehman said he is willing, personally, to use money from some of the current tax measures for other purposes. The Mayor said, “We need to consider revenue. That will be discussed.” He said that includes potential, new tax measures.
Mayor Pro-Tem Rick Wood said if the public wants to invade tax measure funds to keep the police, the Town Council will consider it. He said, “This is an important message the Town Council must hear.” Wood said input he has heard from the public is strongly for police cuts or strongly against. “This frames the debate,” he said. Wood also said the public needs to decide if they want a traditional police department as it is now or an innovative one. Wood said at the next Town Council meeting he will ask the public questions about cuts, revenue and taxes.
Councilman Michael Raimondo said he’s hearing mixed messages from the Mammoth public on police cuts. He said, “Some people say we need all the public safety we can get. Others say we can do with less.” Raimondo said, “We can’t have both services and no new source of revenue.” He said he would support a new tax measure of some kind.
Meanwhile, others point to the Police-Town Memorandum of Understanding in which police agreed to take 23% in cuts in June. That MOU says the Town will keep a police staff of 17 officers unless police agree otherwise, unless the Town goes to Bankruptcy or unless finances of the Town change. In any case, meet and confer is required. Some say the Town has already violated that MOU by not backing up a staff of 17 and stating cuts would take place January 1st.
Councilman Rick Wood said, “We’ve been very careful to state that the police cuts are a proposal for consideration. We have not made a decision. It’s out there for public debate.” Wood said it’s “undetermined” whether the Town can make staff reductions before July 1, 2013.
Mayor Lehman said, “We’re not in violation of the MOU. We may wait until July to make cuts anyway.” Assistant Town Manager Marianna Marysheva-Martinez also said the police cuts are “a proposed plan now. A lot of things could happen by December 5.” She said the issue of financial emergency is part of the picture. Martinez said when the Town and police signed the MOU, the Town planned to give MLLA $500,000. Now, it is $2 million.
Some police say town officials promised them in June there would be no more cuts and gained concessions based on that promise. They see another broken contract. Martinez said of the potential conflict, “I hope we can resolve this together without an adversarial situation.”