Letter to the editor: Feet to fire


Tom Cage to Supervisor Byng Hunt: “I’m appalled you don’t think there is enough benefit to at least fight for some level of air service.”

Open Apology:

On 7/11 there was a special meeting held in suite Z to discuss options for the funding of air subsidy to Alaska Airlines.  I stood up and openly challenged one of Mammoth’s Supervisors, Mr. Byng Hunt, after his comments on the podium to our Town Council and the people of Mammoth.

I want to say that I am sorry to each and everyone in Mammoth and Mono County, for not saying more!!

I am continually amazed by our elected officials in Bridgeport; did Mr. Hunt not learn from other supervisors that have recently been replaced?  Does Mr. Hunt not realize that the economic engine begins in Mammoth?  Does Mr. Hunt not understand that the majority of Property Tax originates in Mammoth?  Does Mr. Hunt think that losing air service would help June Lake, Crowley Lake or Lee Vining? You may be surprised Mr. Hunt there are people in Bishop that use our Airport and the air service provided.

I failed to point out these exact issues and others and I am deeply sorry for not holding Mr. Hunt’s feet to the fire.  I want to publicly say that I will point my finger at you and any elected official that I feel is not representing the majority and the good of the people.  And I am pointing my finger at you Supervisor Hunt to get whatever information you need (it is available) to understand that Air Service benefits the majority of Mono County and Mammoth.  It brings in new business, convenience to local residents, additional bed tax, FAA funds, $$ spent in our establishments and enplanement dollars.

And don’t say those that benefit should pay; MMSA pays millions per year for this and a far greater % than they benefit. I am working with Mr. Urdi to find a way business owners may contribute and receive ticket vouchers for their direct investment even though the Mammoth business community is taxed beyond belief and suffering from a poor winter.  The county has meagerly supported the air service subsidy the last 2 years with a continued increase in traffic at our airport (adjusted for the drought) and now wants to back out.  To me this is just another case of an elected official not realizing who he is elected by and who he should be representing.  In 2 years I will be here to make sure people are reminded of your lack of support to the people of Mammoth who elected you.   As for your comments to the Mammoth Town Council about getting back to basics.  Have you had your head buried in the sand the last year?  Do you not realize what the TC has gone through, what the staff has given up, the cuts that have been made and the people that have been affected?  HOLY MOTHER OF PEARL, please prove me wrong and correct the path you are traveling down.  Support the Mammoth/Yosemite Airport and contribute $100,000.00 from the County.

And as far as “getting back to Basic’s” there is nothing basic about the challenges we all face today.  We all need to work together, get creative, contribute as much as we can and openly communicate with each other.

Tom Cage

Local Resident, Business Man and elected official of the MCWD



, , , ,

46 Responses to Letter to the editor: Feet to fire

  1. Jay Wheaton July 18, 2012 at 7:05 pm #

    Mr Cage with all due respect I think a basic civics lesson in in order. The purpose of government is to provide for basic necessary services that ordinary people cannot provide on their own. Public safety, roads, legal system, orgazional system so these and other necessities for the public to function. Using tax money to subsidize business is not a function of government, successful busniesses will succeed others will fail. If a business needs charity (subsidy) maybe that business Is not necessary. I have a home in Mono County I would rather the county use its funds for what is absolutely necessary, sheriff, fire, plows, building and safety, and so on. Air service is not the responsibility of the town or the county. Tax money should NOT be used to supplement PRIVATE business. Look it up its Civics 101

    • Benett Kessler July 18, 2012 at 9:20 pm #

      Dear Jay,
      How do you feel about the fact that the federal government subsidizes agriculture to the tune of many millions?
      This is particularly on point this year when five or six midwestern states have been devastated with drought and
      corn and wheat crops are dead. (On NBC News tonight, they said 29 state are affected by the drought.) Yes, food
      is more essential than air service, but when you consider we are hundreds of miles from cities and airports, it
      seems essential.

      • Ken Warner July 18, 2012 at 10:14 pm #

        I think we can all agree that air service for the Eastern Sierra would be useful in many ways.

        The question: is the cost for providing air service at Mammoth Yosemite Airport justified and is there a measurable return to those that put up the the money to provide air service.

        To date, I’ve seen only estimates. The most recent based on a demographic survey by C.A. Walker Research Solutions which I would like to see. And an economic impact report based on “independent American Express research from summer 2011”

        That survey and that report were referenced in the Measure U Test Application.

        Given all the concern about the airport, a complete cost / benefit analysis should be publicly available. I have yet to see a credible analysis.

      • Fed Up! July 19, 2012 at 7:26 am #

        I feel it’s a lot easier to be for something one uses and doesn’t pay
        a subsidy for Benett. Unless I’m mistaken, Inyo taxpayers contribute no tax dollars other than those associated with ticket purchases for the MYA.

        • Fed Up July 20, 2012 at 1:17 pm #

          why are you using my byline fed!!

      • upthecreek July 19, 2012 at 10:20 pm #

        Solyndra TOOK THE FEDS for $528 million ( tax payer dollars). this is why the govt should not be allowed to make loans OR Subsidize private industry.


  2. Tim Traynor July 18, 2012 at 7:29 pm #

    As an owner of a motel in Lee Vining for 24 years; I receive no benefit from the flights in and out of Mammoth/Yosemite Airport. I do receive a direct benefit when county dollars are spent to
    open Tioga Pass road; as does all of Inyo/Mono and many other counties.
    Including Yosemite in the airport’s name did not bring us any new business.

  3. Chad Oney July 18, 2012 at 10:05 pm #

    Who is this Tom guy speaking on behalf of the people? Using our tax dollars, would/does he directly profit from this air service? Maybe like owning a rental car franchise at the airport? Follow the money. Get off your mighty soap box! I support the supervisor not wanting to spend my tax dollars on air service.

  4. MJA July 18, 2012 at 11:48 pm #

    Here is some information you need Mr. Cage:

    If there was any real demand for air service in and out of Mammoth it wouldn’t need to be subsidized, it would pay for itself. The business model of supply and demand 101.
    The airport has bankrupt Mammoth, and its time to let it go.
    Stay firm Mr. Hunt,


    • just one July 19, 2012 at 9:44 am #

      Well MJA you just squarely hit the nail on the head. If the airport was so useful, was so necessary, provided so much business, it wouldn’t need to be subsidized. I agree 100%

    • Devout Liberal July 19, 2012 at 6:13 pm #


      If there was any real demand for ” green energy ” then why are we subsidising Solindra, Fisikar, Solar panel farms etc? ( BILLIONS WASTED WITH ZERO RETURN )

      • Ken Warner July 19, 2012 at 10:08 pm #

        I wish people would do just a little investigation of things that concern them.


        A 2009 study by the Environmental Law Institute[5] assessed the size and structure of U.S. energy subsidies over the 2002–2008 period. The study estimated that subsidies to fossil-fuel based sources amounted to approximately $72 billion over this period and subsidies to renewable fuel sources totaled $29 billion. The study did not assess subsidies supporting nuclear energy.

        The three largest fossil fuel subsidies were:

        1. Foreign tax credit ($15.3 billion)
        2. Credit for production of non-conventional fuels ($14.1 billion)
        3. Oil and Gas exploration and development expensing ($7.1 billion)

        The three largest renewable fuel subsidies were:

        1. Alcohol Credit for Fuel Excise Tax ($11.6 billion)
        2. Renewable Electricity Production Credit ($5.2 billion)
        3. Corn-Based Ethanol ($5.0 billion)

      • taxifornia July 20, 2012 at 1:32 pm #

        they have to pay back their buddies for getting them into office..
        Govt gone WILD

        Spending money they will NEVER have

  5. Big AL July 19, 2012 at 12:21 am #

    County dollars are not used to open Tioga … state dollars and federal dollars are used in that. The last I saw, it is still a state highway that runs through it.

    I am not a supporter of subsidizing air service in this setting, I don’t see that it brings a good return for the cost. And most of all …. basically we are giving the airline money to fly people here while they scoop up the profit from the flights.

    I think an air service should be able to operate here on it’s own money, if they can not operate then we don’t need to give them money to do that, especially in this time of short fall the local economy is dealing with.

    How about the air service provider, kick back some return on the subsidy when they do turn a profit? Yeah you can bet that will happen. Again another business hauling money off to the bank at the community’s expense.

    • Benett Kessler July 19, 2012 at 9:16 am #

      Mono County Public Works does help in the opening of Tioga Pass.

      The air service subsidy, according to Rusty Gregory, is a guarantee. Money is returned if seats are occupied.

      • Friar Tuck July 19, 2012 at 4:10 pm #

        Many more seats would be occupied if a two week advance purchase was not needed to get the low price calender fares. No need to market when you’re guaranteed a profit by subsidy.

        I was told by a mountain employee that they could get Alaska Air tickets with a few days notice at a subsidy price from the MMSA indirectly. Will the measure U taxpayers get this same subsidy price too?

        Rusty must of left town taxpayers out of that part of the negotiations too!

  6. Sean July 19, 2012 at 12:41 am #

    Keep the flights coming…

    There is nothing wrong with subsidizing the flights if it needs to be done to keep them coming.

    Regarding the comments about not using Gov money for this all you have to do it look at the 20,000 plus page of the Tax Code to see all the back door tax incentive subsidizing this nation does. It is FAR more common than people think. On principle you are correct but that is not the reality we live in.

  7. Not fooling anyone July 19, 2012 at 5:31 am #

    Byng Hunt has always favored air service.
    Cage’s tirade is a witch hunt that serves no one.

  8. Jake July 19, 2012 at 6:24 am #

    Mr Hunt one of our 45 million dollar men. The Guy live’s on our street and NO ONE will talk to him anymore. lol if Cage shows up over here we would throw him to the wolves. Sorry Tom I am not subsidizing your business with a tax measure that is meant for something else. Your are out of touch pal. Move to LA with Hunt and Mammoth will be better.

  9. Poli-Sci 101 July 19, 2012 at 7:28 am #

    Hmmmmm. Let’s see.
    Demanding the taxpayer pick up the tab for private enterprise.
    Isn’t that the dreaded socialism, Cage?

  10. hisierragal July 19, 2012 at 7:34 am #

    “….. the economic engine begins in Mammoth…” out of the mouth of a businessman – terribly sorry Mr Cage but as a resident of north county who has watched county services diminished I believe the supervisors ARE “… representing the majority and the good of the people.”

    “….Air Service benefits the majority of Mono County and Mammoth”
    How about you prove this to us instead of admonishing a government official to do so?
    Oh, that’s right, as a business person the government is supposed to do all this stuff for YOU.

    But you can prove me wrong. Come up with the numbers to convince me and most of my neighbors that our money should be paying for empty plane seats while the court is open only two days a week. Go ahead and give me the numbers that will show me how much a few people flying into Mammoth benefits anyone enough to justify the cost. Real numbers please, not the statistical “fudge” that we are tired of hearing.

    I think you might have it backwards. I believe it would be up to you to find the facts to support your position when asking for public funds. Apparently you believe we should all throw money at the airport just because you say so .

    • Benett Kessler July 19, 2012 at 9:09 am #

      Just an aside – Courts are run and paid for by the State government.

    • Place your bets July 19, 2012 at 9:54 am #

      Perhaps the north county should consider seceding from the south and go it alone.
      Maybe Nevada will annex the north county into its state.
      Gambling from Topaz to Bridgeport just might save them.

      • just one July 19, 2012 at 1:10 pm #

        All I have to say is that Lee Vining, Bridgeport, Walker, Coleville and Topaz are not filing for Bankruptcy. Oh and these small towns were here DECADES before Mammoth. Quit acting superior, because you are not. We need to figure a way to work together. I will bet folks from the south will thumbs down this.

        • try going it alone July 19, 2012 at 2:51 pm #

          With all due repect,
          In a capitalistic system, a community must first have the money before they file for bankruptcy.
          Mammoth Lakes and the money it generates has been taking care of the towns you mentioned (via taxpayer dollars) forever.
          Stop whining and demonizing the hand that’s been feeding you all these years.

        • Wayne Deja July 19, 2012 at 3:02 pm #

          Just one…and ALL the little towns you mention there…Lee Vining,Bridgeport,Walker,Coleville and Topaz are GREAT places to visit,great campgrounds,nice little affordable places to stay….and GREAT fishing and camping.As far as working together,doubt that is going to happen up there….Mammoth is always going to act superior to all the little towns in North Mono County,feeling they are better than others….but when you read the newspapers and log on to the Sierra Wave website,you can see it is just the opposite.This September, my vacation dollars are headed right to the north towns that you mentioned here with your post.Two nights in Lee Vining,two nights in Bridgeport and Bodie,and two nights camping in Walker and fishing the Walker River.

          • Capital July 19, 2012 at 6:30 pm #

            Deja –
            And those towns you mention contribute $ ____ to the day-to-day workings of the county?

            And they are receiving $______ from the county in services?

            Get real. Unless you are spending thousands and thousands on your vacation there the taking is grossly out-of-whack with the giving.
            The government is not in the business of subsidizing towns that cannot generate money.

  11. hisierragal July 19, 2012 at 1:05 pm #

    Maybe Mammoth should secede but that’s right – they wouldn’t have anyone else to squeeze for money when they make big boo – boos.

    • Wayne Deja July 19, 2012 at 3:07 pm #

      ….and then file for bankruptcy when they can’t pay back the loans they got…and blame everyone but themselves for what happened.

  12. Jeff July 19, 2012 at 1:18 pm #

    Mr Cage I will not be coming into your store or gas station anymore. You speak for a small group of owners not the people of Mammoth. Shamefull

  13. Boycott Cage's business July 19, 2012 at 2:53 pm #

    That’s tellin’ ’em Jeff!
    I’m with you.
    Cage is just another local government-hater trying to dump everything on Hunt personally.

    • Village People July 20, 2012 at 11:21 am #

      Boycott them all!

  14. Tom Cage July 19, 2012 at 4:44 pm #

    Thank you all for your posts. I am happy that there is some open discussion now going on, this will help elected officials make decisions. I encourage everyone to attend meetings and speak their mind, in a small county it makes a difference. These are challenging times and things can not stay the same. I agree we all need to work together to find solutions and promote Mammoth and Mono County.

    As for the civics lessons, thank you. However there are and have been subsidies from federal, state, county and city going on for decades, and although in a perfect world I agree it would be nice if we did not have to do such subsidies, too bad it is not a perfect world.

    There are plenty of surveys that have been done by the town and the tour. dept. Mr. Urdi presented at the July 11 meeting. I am sorry that I dont have the time to spend on doing my own and I must rely on ones done with information that I do not have access to or the money to accomplish. it does strike me as funny that the county has been contributing the last 2 years to air service and no one said anything. Now when asked to continue you all stand up like it has never happened.

    As for Tioga it is huge and each year we should do all in our powers to get the pass open early and in a safe manner. I believe over the years the county, town of Mammoth and MMSA have assisted in accomplishing that but I believe that was back int he 80’s. It is my hope and desire that one day air service may stand on its own and that the airport may also stand on its own. People flying in has increased over the last 3 years and routes have increased. I believe the total subsidy has gone down however I will check into that. We all need to know those numbers and be updated regularly. I also agree local businesses should particapate and I was the second person to stand up and pledge to do just that. I will put my money where my mouth is. This is not a witch hunt (no pun intended) if it were I would have reminded everyone how Mr. Hunt voted long ago on airport issues. We can’t correct the past mistakes, just learn from them. We all need to move forward for the future and good of all. We also must move forward now, not after years of study and excuses. we need action from our elected officials from the county and the town. as the TC showed meeting on the 4th and then on the 11th. that is addressing the issue, much like Mr. Alpers is doing in addressing the June Mt. issue. As for throwing me to the wolves I am quite capable of doing that myself. after 36 years in Mammoth I am not going anywhere. As for subsidizing my business be serious. If the airport goes away I will still rent cars in town, sell gas, and rent skis, with air service I would hope to do a little more of both and hire additional staff to help accomplish that. as a footnote I pay over 30k per year in rent at the airport for my little space. and the profit is not that great.

    And last but not least, Jeff (??? last name) I am sorry you won’t be patronizing my business, however I felt compelled to speak to this issue and have no regrets. Getting the conversation going is a good thing and should help our elected officials make better decisions. I only speak for myself that is all anyone can ever do. Thank you all for the comments and I hope to see some of you at public meetings where your voice may be heard. Tom Cage

    • Tourbillon July 19, 2012 at 7:36 pm #

      Tom, I very much appreciate your post. And I will certainly continue to patronize your businesses.

      But Tom, you must recalibrate your position on subsidies, immediately for your own sake. Yes, there are and have been subsidies from federal, state, county and city going on for decades, as you observe. And as you also observe, in a perfect world such subsidies would not be needed. You conclude, correctly, that it is not a perfect world.

      What you fail to comprehend is that far from being merely imperfect, it is increasingly an insolvent world, one that settles its debts onto the shoulders of coming generations. This should be treated as the immoral monstrosity that it is, not used as an alibi to continue the same benighted policies, including government subsidies, that got us here in the past. For your own good, for the good of your children, for the good of this country Tom – get off the sugar.

    • Trouble July 19, 2012 at 8:36 pm #

      Don’t know Tom Cage, but he sounds like he has a lot knowledge to offer us here.

  15. lou1 July 19, 2012 at 6:23 pm #

    Tom Cage,

    If you expect the government to bail you out of your personal jam – you’ve got a long wait.
    Go to The Mountain and get them to cough up the money.
    The County has not gone through the customary budget process yet.
    What don’t you understand about this? It’s not about one board member making a decision. It’s about 5 of them voting. Do you run your business that way?

    The County is busy taking care of the other not-for-profit services: police, jail, the poor, many, many other sources that you cannot (or will not) imagine.

    • Fed Up July 19, 2012 at 11:44 pm #

      You don’t get it!
      The complaint is that Hunt will not support air service.
      I bet he or friends of his have used it!

  16. North County Rules! July 19, 2012 at 8:23 pm #

    Let us not forget that the Town of Mammoth Lakes is incorporated. Why do towns and cities incorporate? Because they are bored with nothing to do? Or is it so that they can keep the vast majority of tax revenues for themselves rather than share with the rest of the county? Is it because they have penciled out that they can use these tax proceeds and pay for general services that a county would otherwise provide and still be better off? Don’t get me wrong, I have no qualms with Mammoth being incorporated. It was a perfectly logical and rational decision on their part. I just think it is disingenuous to both be incorporated and simultaneously claim egalitarian status with the rest of Mono and claim that Mammoth is contributing pari passu with the rest of Mono to Mono’s coffers, and Mono, therefore, should participate quid pro quo.

    Let me also say that Byng Hunt is Mammoth’s supervisor. Have no problem with criticism of his performance as Mammoth’s representative, but there is no reason for the other supervisors to feel compelled to waste money on subsidies.

  17. Tom Cage July 20, 2012 at 6:46 am #

    lou, good point on the budget. i hope this leads the discussion into the budget process for the Mammoth Sups. the County has supported air service for the last 2 years and i hope they continue to support the air service. i also hope the local business community gets involved and supports the air service.
    i am not asking anyone to bail me out of anything, this is something that i feel strongly about and if we see the commercial air service go away it will not be helpful for Mammoth, South County and the traffic it brings.

    • Bob July 20, 2012 at 11:59 am #

      Tom, your last paragraph is at least partially right. If commercial air service goes away it will not be helpful for Mammoth. However, I fail to see how this is either a positive or a negative for the county as a whole.

      A motel owner from Lee Vining has already said that he is receiving no benefit from the airport; it stands to reason that none of the businesses and communites north of Lee Vining are receiving any benefit either. Rusty has already announced that June Mountain will not open this winter, so tourists will not be flying up to go there this year. There are no significant motels and tourist facilities south of Mammoth Lakes in Mono County, and the ones that do exist are primarily based on camping, fishing, and hiking. These are obviously bringing in the flying tourists, or the planes would not be so empty most of the year.

      When toursists fly into MYA, the town gets the airport landing fees. When they stay in Mammoth Lakes, the town gets the TOT. When they spens money in town or at MMSA, the town gets the sales tax. Other than supporting the town of Mammoth Lakes, which is in bankruptcy because of bad decisions made by the town’s elected officials, what is Mono County going to receive that justifies a subsidy?

      • Bob July 20, 2012 at 2:04 pm #

        Typo, Should have read “obviously not bringing in”. Also, “spens” should have been “spend”. Stupid fingers.

  18. cat July 20, 2012 at 1:09 pm #

    Tom Cage is having a Mantrum!

  19. Tom Cage July 20, 2012 at 3:55 pm #

    great comments Tourbillon, and i agree to your overall points and those of Bob, i hope you both get to the sup’s meetings to give input.
    now for the disclaimer, the amount of money that the county is being asked and has contributed over the last couple of years is very small and the majority of the sub is being born by MMSA and more should be taken up by mammoth businesses. From the stats that Urdi has brought forward it seems fair and resonable and beneficial to the county (crowley, june at least) that some $ are put in. another words there is an ROI on the 100k that exceeds the sub. I hope June is back on line for next year with the work that is being done in meetings.
    the other point is jobs, without air service the trickle down is directly a loss in jobs to car rental, cabs/taxi’s, terminal staff, security staff, airport staff, and lost business in town which will cost jobs. at the July 11 meeting there was a young, smart business owner from Black Tie Ski rentals (who has recently been kicking it in his business) who said were in business after the TC elected to find the money for air service. these are the kinds of people i would like to see suceed and prosper in Mammoth even though they compete with me.
    i am an optimist and believe that support for air service for 3 maybe 5 more years will allow the airline to obtain a foot hold here and be profitable, thereby not needing any more sub.

    thanks agian for your comments and see you at the meetings. i’m done replying in this fashion.

    • Trouble July 21, 2012 at 8:35 am #

      Tom- Since I read you are involved in car rentals at the airport and other business related to Mammoth, I would like to know if you have other thoughts or ideas to help create more income for the airport ?

    • Whose feet to the fire? July 21, 2012 at 3:25 pm #

      The County provides services such as medical services, food stamps, etc. for needy families. It also provides child protective services, care-giving services, in-home support services, foster parenting, emergency shelters … and many more during these difficult economic times. Services that are monumentally more important than flying rich people into Mammoth to play. This is something The Mountain should find a way to pay for – not from the pockets of the good people of the county.
      If businesses are not making it – it is most likely because of poor management.
      Hold your own feet to the fire, Cage. Not those of the people.

  20. Political Science July 21, 2012 at 5:46 am #

    It’s never a good idea for government to take taxpayer’s money and spend it on private enterprise.


Leave a Reply

KSRW · 1280 N. Main St. Suite J · Bishop, CA 93514 · 760-873-5329
Positive Projections Web Design