Supervisorial Tiff Over Congressman’s Visit

Congressman Buck McKeon’s visit last week left some Mono Supervisors feeling a bit queasy, while others felt like they had been left totally out of the loop.

The original schedule for McKeon’s visit included numerous meetings with elected officials and community activists, but a delay in his arrival caused many of those meetings to be shortened, or cancelled altogether.

One such meeting was with this reporter, as well as one with Mono Supervisor Byng Hunt, who was interested in talking with McKeon about pending wilderness legislation in Washington. Hunt typically represents a pro-wilderness perspective, one that is widely held in his District.

In the end, Hunt was only able to shake McKeon’s hand at the fundraiser, and never had the opportunity to sit with him.

Meanwhile, Mono Supervisors Hap Hazard and Vikki Bauer, both of whom have concerns with the potential effects of wilderness on motorized access, did meet with McKeon.
The exclusion of pro-wilderness voice in the discussion had many citizens in the county crying foul, and alleging back room dealings.

Supervisor Hazard said at Tuesday’s meeting that he conveyed to McKeon concepts that he “thought represented our Board,” including the establishment of National Resource areas instead of wilderness.

But Hunt took issue with this, as the subject was merely a conversation the board had during a meeting, and never rose to the level of being an endorsed position.

Both Hazard and Bauer denied making any formal representation of the Mono Board, but Hunt said that in terms of perception, they had done exactly that.

Although Hazard was given the opportunity to sit with the congressman, the meeting was far from encouraging. According to Hazard, McKeon explained that the political winds in Washington are leaning towards a pro-wilderness perspective at this time, so much that even the community-based compromise in the Hoover Wilderness seems an unlikely prospect.

Hunt accused the congressman of failing to provide the leadership necessary to move the compromise bill forward over the last two years, when it was politically possible.

Now, with the balance of power in Washington predicted to shift further left in November, any wilderness bill that goes forward could exclude the compromise altogether.

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