The defection of Mono County from the Inyo-Mono Area Agency on Aging will become official on July 1, 2012. This inspires a closer look at ESTA’s Inyo-Mono partnership. Their Short Range Transit Plan adopted in January, 2009 provides a view from the sidewalk into their goals. “Short Range” in transit-speak means five years. The Transit Resource Center that prepared the plan that ESTA adopted, lays out their desire for a “seamless” transit system after morphing from the Inyo-Mono Transit that IMAAA had started in the 80s primarily for the elderly and disabled. The STRP (known as “sterp” to its friends) describes several strategies for spending less administrative energy applying for grants and subsidies in favor of simply raising rates and increasing fees. According to page 7 of STRP’s Executive Summary, ESTA could begin by denying the present discount to all elderly and making only the disabled-elderly eligible. (One can only wonder about the established federal grant intended for the mobility of all elderly and the disabled announced by the Inyo Local Transit Commission.) Apparently sensitive to how the aged 18% of Inyo’spopulation will react, the board voted for the change to be effective in Mammoth Lakes first, and out of loyalty to the goal of ‘seamlessness, ‘they simply postponed enactment for Inyo County.
The sparse populations of our two counties made partnerships once practical, but with time some extremely divergent realities warrant a new look. According to the STRP, Mammoth Lakes -the tail that wags the dog of Mono County- intends to build out to a population of 52,000. Inyo County, on the other hand, has less than two percent private land that inhibits population growth. The “Patchwork Nation” that made its debut in 2008 is the reporting project of the Jefferson Institute. It uses demographic, voting and cultural data to divide America’s 3,141 counties into 12 community types presented on an interactive map. They are: Boom Town, Campus and Careers, Emptying Nests, Significant in Iowa; Evangelical Epicenter, Immigration Nation, Mormon Outpost, Service Worker Center and Tractor Country. Inyo County is identified as a Service Worker Center while Mono is an Immigration Nation. There is also a hardship index meant to be a snapshot of how difficult life is for the average resident. The county hardest to live in is set at 100 and the easiest at 0. For the current month, the scores are 23 Inyo and 61 Mono. As hard times continue, will ESTA’s’seamlessness’ fray like the partnership in IMAAA?