Harvey pleads for accountability, change, and MLLA resolution

mltc“What a mess.  A total mess.”  That’s what Mammoth Town Councilman Skip Harvey said of the situation in Mammoth after hearing the Assistant Town Manager explain a budget restructuring plan with $3 million more in proposed cuts and after hearing a dozen citizens make a plea to preserve funding of marketing.  Harvey fell short of naming names but made it clear that the airport manager and a councilman made arrogance a town problem.  He implied it has been a chronic problem. Harvey was the only one at the Council meeting who sharply addressed the awful $43 million debt owed to MLLA.

For weeks, Mammoth officials have said they would tell the public what was going on with a budget crisis and with the MLLA debt.  At each meeting, they continued to fall short of talking about the status of the MLLA problem and what would happen if the town had to declare bankruptcy.  Tuesday night’s special meeting was following the same path.

Assistant Town Manager Marianna Marysheva-Martinez did roll out the new budget restructuring plan which is based on the hope that employees will accept 10% pay cuts and police, 24%, saving a million a year.  Martinez said tougher enforcement of TOT collection could raise $500,000 more.  She said that better control of overtime would save another $500,000. Elimination of vacant or soon to be vacant positions would cut another million.  $170,000 in funding for Mammoth Lakes Trails would go away next year.  Contracts for the Mono County Animal Shelter and High Sierra Energy Foundation would go.  Cuts for Tourism, Housing and Transit would follow.

Martinez told the Council and the public that the long-term forecast for the budget plan shows that $3.6 million in net funds would be generated and that after the five-year forecast period, some $550,000 in annua funds would be  available. Martinez fell short of saying that the annual savings could go to MLLA as a payment.

13 people then stood up to support continued funding of marketing.  Tourism Director John Urdi had offered compelling statistics earlier on the bad things that happen to resorts that don’t advertise themselves.

Then, Skip Harvey went to the underbelly of all the talk – the huge lawsuit debt.  He called restructuring the budget a function of the financial realities of the times.  Harvey then said, “The lawsuit is really what’s on peoples’ minds.  I owe the people an apology for not wrapping up the lawsuit before leaving office.  I apologize to you,” he said.  “I’m sorry.  Truly sorry for what’s going on here.”

Harvey went on in a compelling statement that labeled bankruptcy as a disgrace and pressed the need for the Town to take responsibility for actions that got Mammoth in its mess.  Harvey said MLLA “are just people. They are not the bad guys.”  He said a jury found Mammoth guilty and so did a couple of judges.  “We didn’t conduct our business well.  I think MLLA is mad,” said Harvey.  “Really mad.  We need to talk to them.  I will respectfully ask MLLA to take part in this mediation.  It’s our last chance.  We need to invite them.”  Then Harvey said that all along the Town Council has been listening to experts.  He said the people elected the Council to make decisions.  Said Harvey, “We need to lock the team from MLLA, this Council and management in a room so we can’t come out until it’s done.  We need to wrap this up.”

Harvey continued.  He said the people want accountability.  Why did all this happen?  And, they want to make sure it doesn’t happen again.  Then, without naming Airport Manager Bill Manning, Harvey said, “Who was down at the airport making decisions, making sure information got to the right people?”  This statement referred to Manning’s testimony on the airport lawsuit in which he admitted that he got a fax from the FAA with concerns about the development project proposed at the airport but never shared the document with anyone.

Harvey said he is tired of the Town’s most important asset being managed in a mediocre way.  “Change what caused this position,” he said.  Without naming him, Harvey pointed to Councilman John Eastman’s effort to have his future son-in-law hired at the airport and Manning’s reported manipulation of that hiring process.  Harvey called it “I can do what I want arrogance.  This has to be changed,” he said.

The Councilman then moved on to what he thinks is the need for a tax measure of some kind to get the Town out of its mess.  He said, bring Mammoth Mountain in to help too.  Harvey made a plea for all in the Town to help.  When he was clearly finished, the crowd loudly applauded. The Council will meet again May 16th.

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20 Responses to Harvey pleads for accountability, change, and MLLA resolution

  1. what the ...? May 10, 2012 at 11:46 am #

    I’m waiting for some elected official or elected official wannabe to come forward with:

    “Let the town go bankrupt!”

    Then when things turn around – try to convince everybody they should take credit for the turnaround.

    What can you say? It’s a world gone mad.

  2. Same ol - same ol marketing May 10, 2012 at 10:08 am #

    I think it’s WHAT is being marketed.

    Gone are the days when the town can soley depend on people coming up from L.A. during ski season (there are other seasons, you know) many of which are snowboarders who are in their 20s, sleep 5-8 to a room, dining experience is a McDouble and small fries, and their cultural activity post-recreation is getting loaded at Hyde Lounge and puking on the steps outside the bar.

    Gregory knows this and could care less so long as the lift-tickets continue to make him rich.
    A bad snow year? No problem. Just reduce the work force and send them all packing. No world-class airport service? So? Just get yes-men elected officials to swing airport deals. If that fails – it’s the town’s fault.

    Other ski towns like Vail, Aspen and Park City are more progessive and customer-savvy. These ski towns attract a much more affluent crowd looking for more than what is currently being offered. They are prospering.

  3. Bill May 10, 2012 at 9:46 am #

    Jake, you say you are a marketer, yourself? And you need to ask the question: why the ToML has a marketing department?? WOW. Take a look at other destination resorts/towns – do they only rely on the local ski company (likely an international corporation which take profits out of town) to do their marketing?

    FYI, ML Tourism conducts marketing, promotes events etc on many levels – all year around!! If you have not noticed, this town is not only a winter playground. There are summer activities as well. When was the last time you saw a real campaign to promote, say, the local fishing from MMSA??

    MMSA is concerned ONLY with profitability in their target markets, and driving sales to their wholly owned subsidiaries in – snow sports, mtn biking, lodging and food service etc.

    We have a whole lot more to offer and private business owners can only do so much. Having talented, effective, and motivated marketers (like the Tourism crew) creates a huge impact on the effectiveness of Town marketing. But you know this, you are a marketer.

    The marketing strategies of both MMSA and ToML compliment each other! However, if I were a local business owner (and I am) you are damn right I would want ToML actively marketing our town and what we offer. MMSA is going to drive business to THEIR owned/operated establishments while the ToML is going to market for the collective area (including my fellow business owners)

    Lastly, I applaud the efforts of John Urdi and his staff. I’ve lived in town for quite a while and have never seen such a dynamic, positive, effective, hard working crew in ML. If we lose John and his staff to the woes of bankruptcy, MLLA etc – It will be truly devastating for our town and County, for that matter!!! Anyone who does not recognize their hard work and effective strategies has had their head in the sand.

    • Ken Warner May 10, 2012 at 11:51 am #

      Bill, your point is that the money TOML spends on marketing has a net positive effect on revenues for the town.

      Here’s the chance for you to prove your point.

      Take a historical look at revenues — TOT and sales tax — for the town. Adjust those revenues for inflation and population growth in the West. The number of visitors will increase gradually over time just from population growth so that growth has to be taken into account to judge the value of spent marketing dollars.

      Now, from those revenues subtract:
      1) The total cost of marketing — salaries of all town employees involved and money spent on advertising.
      2) The cost of the airport because that is certainly used to market TOML.
      3) The money spent on amenities and events used to attract visitors. Like the Summer trolley and the ice rink. And those fish on sticks and flags on poles.
      4) The cost of maintaining our infrastructure from wear caused by increased numbers of visitors.
      5) The extra cost of police security — drunks puking on stairs etc.
      6) The degradation of our environment caused by over use and what it costs to mitigate that degradation.

      Tally all those up and present us with your findings. Maybe you are right. Maybe there is a net positive cash flow for TOML. It is easy enough to prove with real numbers and those numbers are available in the town budgets that are published on the town web site.

      What I find suspect in these discussions is that the people who are most strongly in favor of public money spent on TOML marketing are the business owners who will directly benefit from that spending because they don’t have to spend their own money on marketing.

      NOTE: don’t expect “Bill” to reply. Asking for hard facts always drives the marketeers into hiding.

      • Bill May 10, 2012 at 2:15 pm #

        Thanks, Ken, I will reply. I’m not one to go into “hiding” when challenged on my opinion.

        But, I’m also NOT a professional marketeer like you suggested. Rather, I’m a business owner who values a thriving community and wants other local businesses to be as healthy as possible. Including, but not limited to MMSA.

        I do much of my own marketing and leg work to drive my business – I also value the efforts that ML Tourism contribute. Much of their work actually does not directly affect my personal business, but it SURELY benefits many of my neighbors, friends, and fellow community members such as other locals and other business owners and their many employees. You know, “private sector people” who we are supposed to cherish over those bad gov “taxeaters”… (LOL, read my other post under the Harrell Letter to the Editor)

        Anyway, like many optimistic, positive, smart and successful local business owners – I see the incredible value, effectiveness and productivity that we have in the current crew at ML Tourism.

        But to address your challenge… You bring up an interesting point, Ken, It would be neat to see what your formula suggests… I’m a “science guy” and like to see when the science, or the numbers pencil out.

        However, you bring so many unquantifiable factors/issues up w/ your suggested formula that I don’t see it solving our current issue: How much/should we cut the ML Tourism Dept (which is BTW, funded by TOT not directly from ToML operating budget).

        Further, to quote the article above, “13 people then stood up to support continued funding of marketing. Tourism Director John Urdi had offered compelling statistics earlier on the bad things that happen to resorts that don’t advertise themselves.” I’m pretty sure these people, who probably know more than me or you about marketing, have already answered your question.

        Lastly, I do appreciate your opinion – and I also appreciate my own. I guess we equal each other out if comes to cutting ML Tourism in a vote!! I also know John Urdi and I see how he and his staff work their butts off to market this Town/County. I know he would be very hard to replace. I’ve lived in this town for a while now – what has always cursed and held us back is our lack of a vision, too much skeptisim, complacency, laziness and general negativity. John Urdi & Michael Vandenhurst along w/ a just a handful of other local folks have none of these cursed traits.

        • Ken Warner May 10, 2012 at 5:11 pm #

          Hi Bill,

          But you didn’t answer with numbers — you just said more sales and marketing hype. It’s easy to get 13 people who favor spending public money on marketing in a Council meeting that is going to talk about marketing — they are not equivalent to the people who give the public money through taxes and have to suffer budget cut backs. And because your vote would cancel out my vote (if it came to that) doesn’t make public money spent on marketing justified. You are suggesting a false equivalence.

          Ask the city employees who have been laid off if they feel their livelihood is worth the money spent on marketing.

          And your point about unquantifiable elements of my “formula” is a concern but in the end, if money is spent, it can be counted and that’s what I’m trying to quantify. It just may be harder to obtain a realistic valuation of the degradation of the environment but there are real costs — clean up; air pollution mitigation; animal control (four legged and two legged); off highway vehicle damage from illegal use and many other less obvious costs. Those costs can be quantified. Just not easily.

          I agree with your comment about “lack of vision” I think the disagreement goes further and we should be talking about what kind of vision we should have. I think Education; Health Care; Renewable Energy should be the Three Pillars of our economy. Tourism should be the bonus element of our economy — not the one and only primary industry.

          Again, I challenge you to work the numbers and show us the money.

      • Rock of Ages May 10, 2012 at 6:06 pm #

        Thanks Ken for a wholeistic approach analysis of the marketing costs and yet, still unaccountable benefits of the Town’s use of taxpayer dollars spent on marketing a public resource. But you forgot possibly THE biggest element of this particular deficit problem…the cost of promoting and defending TOML’/Rusty’s marketing elephant…the AIRPORT!!! Let’s everybody, ALL of us,ask how much has been dumped into the airport project thus far, from day 1, all inclusive, attorneys, consultants, EIR’S, grant matches, FAA fees, EVERYTHING!!! And then, let’s see the check stubs! Shocker, you wanna bet?

  4. Jake May 10, 2012 at 8:23 am #

    It is not the Town’s job to market Mammoth, it is the business owners of Mammoth that should take on that burden. As a marketer I ask myself why is the town running ads that compete with Mammoth Mtn.

    What a waste of $$$.

    MLT Why do you spend all that money on a Facebook page that posts the same exact thing that 115,000 people already see from Mammoth Mtn. And why do you send AD dollars OUT OF TOWN? Shamefull

    • Bill May 10, 2012 at 9:52 am #


      Let me be more concise.

      1. Business owners are too busy running their business and doing their own strategic marketing. Many of them are not pros at marketing the Town’s collective amenities.
      2. Ads that compete w/ MMSA? All ads act to promote Mammoth Lakes – the more the better. There is a lot more to offer in Town than MMSA!!!!
      3. Send ad dollars out of town? That’s where our tourists comes from.

      • Rock of Ages May 10, 2012 at 8:31 pm #

        What’s your business, Bill? How long have been established? What has been your business marketing strategy? We’re about to draw the line here between private and public funds, and the accountability of those dollars. Prove to me that those dollars were well spent. If you are long term as you say, then you know our economy is cyclical with many , many issues. Can we not factor in the economic desparity of our nation as well as our low snow tally for the deason 2011/2012? Let’s bring these issues to light, not shaded by the current marketing hype of Mammoth’s profitibility. This is what nobody gets …and I’ve said before… if it is hard to give up Town trash bags on Clean-Up day, imagine what it will be like $43 Million dollars from now. C”mon, people with the money, stop being manipulative and divisesive and take care of your OWN business! Let us small people control our own Govt. decisions.

    • Rob May 10, 2012 at 10:12 am #

      TOML markets the town to increase TOT. The last thing they should do right now is stop advertising.

      • upthecreek May 10, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

        TOML markets the town to increase TOT== which in turn increases their public Pensions.


    • Ken Warner May 10, 2012 at 10:29 am #

      Exactly — with all the FREE social media available to anybody with a keyboard, the idea of spending money for advertising is silly.

      Everybody is looking for the next viral video. So put some up for free almost every where.

  5. MJA May 10, 2012 at 8:09 am #

    Take the offensive Mammoth,
    Don’t give MLLA a dime!


  6. upthecreek May 9, 2012 at 10:15 pm #


  7. jose chavez May 9, 2012 at 7:26 pm #

    the town i proudly call home………what a mess!!!!

  8. Memory refresher May 9, 2012 at 4:58 pm #

    The court’s 66-page decision tells the story, one of:
    • Bollixed communications by the Town with the Federal Aviation Administration and the project developers over a 13-year span.
    • Unclear motives by the Town as it shifted its focus from private side development to creating an airport for commercial aircraft service.
    • A change in direction by the FAA, which along the way, laid down tougher requirements for the airport in mid-stream.
    • An unwillingness of the Town to seriously negotiate a settlement, believing it had the right to simply walk away from a signed agreement.

    Only a few players remained start-to-finish. Among them were Town Attorney Tracy, Airport Manager Manning and Councilman John Eastman. Some were in-and-out players, such as Councilman Rick Wood, who served eight years on the council, four as mayor, before leaving. Wood was re-elected to the council.

  9. What the ...? May 9, 2012 at 4:30 pm #

    And where does Rusty Gregory fit into this nasty little quotient?

  10. What the ...? May 9, 2012 at 3:59 pm #

    Why doesn’t John Eastman be a man and resign immediately?
    He makes the entire council appear corrupt.

    Bravo, Skip Harvey!

  11. Ken Warner May 9, 2012 at 3:41 pm #

    Great Skip — first denial for 8 years then start pointing fingers at everybody else and you get applause. Skip you are just as much to blame as all the rest and making employees and other agencies take the burden of paying for a few particular people’s bad judgment is wrong.

    The town should sue all those people — Council members, town managers, lawyers, airport managers, planners and yes the management at MMSA to get the money back that they cost the town by manipulation and flat out lies about the way forward for the airport and it’s supposed economic benefit.

    The town was sold snake oil and some of those who bought it knew it was snake oil.

    Hold the responsible people responsible ….


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