Measure U on air service – yes or no?

As the Mammoth Town Council got ready for more talk on use of utility users’ tax money for an air service subsidy, we talked to Mammoth Mountain CEO Rusty Gregory about the issue. He said that Alaska Air made it clear if there were not a fall subsidy, they would cancel all service for the year. Gregory said, “We let the Town Council know, and that’s what led to the discussion.”

Gregory explained that Mammoth Mountain pays for the entire winter air service subsidy. The winter air service guarantee will cost $3.5 million for the next season. Gregory said the Mountain will handle that but needs participation to pay for summer and fall guarantees. The CEO said, “That’s the time Mammoth Mountain gets significantly less value. It’s important that the Town is behind us on this.”

Asked if the Town’s bankruptcy were a game changer, Gregory said that the Town Council has to set priorities, even in adversity, and decide the important things to keep going. “Air service,” said Gregory, “is one of those things.” He said, “If the community is not behind this, the destination resort strategy won’t work.” Gregory called air service a fundamental element for a sustainable future and a way to make Mammoth Lakes a convenient place to live.

According to John Urdi, Mammoth Tourism Director, independent American Express research on air travel indicated that summer of 2011 saw an estimated economic impact to Mammoth Lakes of more than $4.6 million. That’s an estimated expenditure of $500 per passenger. More than half was spent on lodging and the rest on retail and food. Transient Occupancy Tax collected for summer of 2011 was around $316,000.

The special meeting to deal with this issue was scheduled for Wednesday at 5pm in Suite Z.



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47 Responses to Measure U on air service – yes or no?

  1. Fed Up! July 10, 2012 at 5:22 pm #

    What was the MMSA lodging,retail and food profits for summer 2011? The town council is suppose to do the peoples business promised with the measure U dollars , not socialize the cost of doing business for a few minimum wage jobs that the air service might generate!

  2. Bemused July 10, 2012 at 5:26 pm #

    Rather fuzzy math there. The $4.6mil estimated Summer economic impact figure little-doubt assumes most every “enplanement” is a customer that would otherwise not visit. This is pretty ridiculous, as anyone who’s flown on (at least) the LA flights knows that they tend to be packed with locals, 2nd home owners, and Mammoth enthusiasts who would surely get here by car if no air service was available. This figure also seems high when you consider the total amount of T.O.T. collected for the same period was only $316K.

    I’m pro air service, as I believe it is a loyalty-reinforcer, and ultimately an important economic component when you are an isolated resort town. And I think it needs to be sold to the local public simply as such…rather than the continued effort to sell the aforementioned pie-in-the-sky numbers to a public who has grown quite weary of having smoke blown up its a** at this point.

    • Benett Kessler July 10, 2012 at 5:34 pm #

      The figures provided by John Urdi indicated that the $316k of TOT was only on the lodging
      paid for by the air passengers, not the entire summer TOT.

  3. Observer July 10, 2012 at 5:41 pm #

    OK–so Gregory wants winter service, which he is prepared to back to $3.5M, but won’t get unless the TOML kicks in $400K for Fall service. Not mentioned is that in a good year MMSA makes the guarantee but doesn’t have to pay out much if anything to Alaska Air. Also not mentioned is that TOML will almost certainly have to pay out for any guarantee it provides in the Fall, as the subsidy will be needed to achieve the guarantee. Yes, MMSA ate it big last year, but not the year before that. And TOML will pay out year after year if they kick in for the slow seasons of fall and summer, if it follows Gregory’s lead. If TOML says ‘NO” does anyone really think that MMSA will walk away from Alaska Air? And if TOML says “YES” what will the Federal Bankruptcy judge make of TOML’s claim of being broke? Three cheers for Alaska Air.

  4. longtimesierralocal July 10, 2012 at 6:27 pm #

    That would be money well spent for air service, instead of a 43 million dollar mistake!

  5. Really Fed up July 10, 2012 at 6:43 pm #

    Fed Up why are you using my name?

    Back to the issue at hand.
    I think Rusty needs to ask the question is He and the Mountain ( MMSA) willing to loose air travel? Is it worth another 400k to have air travel at all.
    That is the real question.
    The town does not have it right now!
    Quit playing games here.

  6. Tourbillon July 10, 2012 at 6:57 pm #

    If winter air is worthwhile, call Alaska’s bluff. They aren’t the state’s only airline. No fall subsidies. Let a competitor fly for the winter dollars. The airlines are hurting and cannot relinquish a profitable route even for a season. Game on.

  7. Tom July 10, 2012 at 7:38 pm #

    Many times I’ve ridden the ski lift with people from LA who have flown in, and all agree it beats driving. If there is one less option to get to Mammoth, then I believe there will likely be less visitors during the winter – and thus less revenue and fewer jobs. Air service is infrastructure that the town cannot afford to lose. However, I believe that there are numerous public services and public servants whose salary and benefits can be cut without significantly impacting private sector jobs, town revenue, or quality of life. This point has been made on numerous occasions, including most recently by Ruth Harrell’s comments posted on this blog on May 15th. Mammoth Lakes should pay the money to keep the infrastructure running, and cut the waste in local government first. I doubt the bankruptcy court will view a payment to Alaska Air to keep air service running as detrimental to Mammoth’s case if aggressive cuts are being made in other areas.

    • Ken Warner July 10, 2012 at 9:34 pm #

      Right! Take money out of public employee’s pockets to subsidize a convenient sales point for a multi-national property developer.

      “…there are numerous public services and public servants whose salary and benefits can be cut without significantly impacting private sector jobs…” What? Are you a Republican Congressman or something? That’s pure Tea Baggery. Take from the poor and give to the rich. Romney would love you.

      • kaat July 10, 2012 at 11:03 pm #

        Ken – when will you stop putting people in political boxes??? You think you have everyone pegged left or right, rep or dem….you must be the world’s greatest mind reader…..quit acting like you know everyone’s political side….you simply have no clue…and anyone you disagree with you call a “tea bagger”…. you just sound angry…your posts are always the same when someone gives an opinion that is different than yours….”tea bagger” this, “tea bagger” that..on and on and on….

        • upthecreek July 11, 2012 at 2:20 pm #

          Agree with Kaat

        • Political Boxes? July 12, 2012 at 5:53 am #

          “…putting people in political boxes”

          Are you referring to that in-group that believes it speaks for the only true America and listens to talk-radio 3 hours a day, 5 days a week and reruns on weekends whose entire show consists of bashing “liberals” (Conservative guru Rush Limbaugh) ?

          • SierraFan July 12, 2012 at 10:37 am #

            I’m pretty sure she didn’t mention that! It looks like you put everyone there as well by your post. We’re all Americans here and have the right to agree or disagree as we wish but at the same time I think we can stop political bashing anytime now. Let’s just say we disagree or perhaps agree on occasion.

      • Reality July 11, 2012 at 7:56 am #

        With politically driven comments such as these Ken, your credibility just got tossed.

        It is obvious from what political venue you come from. That says tons as to your level of open mindedness towards any issue regarding progress or change in any direction that does not meet your political view.

        Heard through the grapevine on Sunday that some Yellow Legged Mountain Frogs have been spotted up in Lake Mary/.

      • Tom July 11, 2012 at 11:08 am #

        You sound like a public employee, perhaps even one of the more successful looters that are employed at the higher pay grades. Most of them are on track to be millionaires if they can steal the funding for their pensions from the taxpayers of our state. If you’re stuck in one of the lower pay grades, my apologies…I fear your pension will have been looted by your bosses well before you can retire.

        Republicans and Democrats are both bought and paid for by corporate interests – there’s no difference between them. Both have spent far more than we, the taxpayers, can pay. At this point, only the math matters because both our town and our state are insolvent and heading for bankruptcy. In my opinion, this is largely due to out of control public employee benefits. My views are supported by real research from organizations like the California Center for Public Policy. Try reading some time!


        It is time to reform public employee compensation in California. Public employee compensation is out of line with the private sector in every area. There are thousands of individual government agencies in the state, employing almost 2 million individuals. Whether the standard is salary, working conditions, benefits, or especially pensions, public employees in California receive compensation far in excess of what workers in the private sector do. It is illiberal and unjust, and no true liberal or progressive should support current public employee compensation.

        Tens of thousands of public employees in the area of public safety are among the highest paid individuals in any occupation. The $2 to $5 million in annuity value that these employees may receive through pension programs in their early to middle fifties makes these employees’ comprehensive career compensation among the highest in America.

        The $1 million to $2 million in annuity value that more than a million non-public safety employees in California will receive through their pension programs in their middle fifties to early sixties similarly makes most California public employees de facto millionaires by their middle to late fifties. Frequently, California public employees, particularly in public safety, pay less than half or even nothing toward the employee’s portion of retirement programs for the benefits they will receive.

        The California public employee compensation crisis will continue to cripple the state in the years ahead–and more so and sooner than most now recognize. As a result of inaccurate actuarial assumptions concerning a) long-term return on investment, b) the number of government employees in the future, and c) longevity, both the short-term and long-term fiscal crises at the state and local government levels require change immediately. The status quo is unsustainable.

        Taxes are not too low in California, and public services should not be cut continually and further. Rather, the answer is to pay public employees fair salaries, benefits, and pensions–not salaries, benefits, and pensions greatly in excess of those in the private sector.

        • Tom July 11, 2012 at 12:07 pm #

          I can’t see the comparison between cutting public salaries and benefits and “taking from the poor to give to the rich”. You’re defending people who make in taxpayer-funded salary and benefits almost THREE TIMES the average income of the people they are supposed to be serving!!!

          From the April 2, 2012 post on this blog below…

          Submitted by Mono Supervisor Larry Johnston

          This past Tuesday, the Mono County Board of Supervisors approved renewal of seven management employee contracts costing $1,372,220 (average $196,031 each). The lowest cost contract is $158,193, the highest is $241,667. The salary portion of these contracts is $809,868 (average $115,695 or $9,641/mo.). The benefits/retirement cost is $562,352 (average $80,336 each). Two of these seven contracts received raises, five had no increase.

          The Board vote was 4 to 1 with me being the dissenting vote. The principal reason for my dissent is the same as it has been for the last year regarding management contracts when they have come before the Board, and that is, the contracts are out of touch with the reality of the economy. As an example, the non-salary portion of the contract ($80,336) is by itself higher than Mono County’s Area Median Income ($74,500 for a family of four).

          • do as I say - not as I do July 11, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

            Interesting how Larry Johnston was not whining when both he and his wife were on the public salary payroll. When Larry gives back what he felt was too much money when he was flying high and dry, then perhaps I’ll pay closer attention to his political noise regarding so-and-so making too much money as a public employee.

          • Out of touch salaries? July 13, 2012 at 6:19 am #

            Dear Mr. Johnston,
            I understand you were elected by a mere 5 votes and represent a constituency that rarely if ever attends any public meetings – but that is another matter. Since you have painstakingly submitted employee salary contract figures complaining “the contracts are out of touch with reality of the economy” could you please also furnish the salary contracts both you and your wife received as public employees?
            Or do you feel your salaries were completely in touch with the reality of the economy two years ago?
            We await your submission.

          • upthecreek July 13, 2012 at 10:30 am #

            @ Out of Touch.

            It is not the salaries they are after…

            It is the Pensions after retiring at 52 and the benefits they want…

            This is when the fun starts for them

            Govt gone wild

        • JeanGenie July 11, 2012 at 4:19 pm #

          Many rank and file public employees actually make less than private sector, and in the beginning, it was the benefits that made it worthwhile. As Whatisname says, its GGW, Government Gone Wild, and if you look at the pay scales, its the upper and middle managers (who in reality don’t do much work) that get the ridiculous benefits and big money. I bet if you look at any Dept. Head in Inyo County, they make 4 to 5 times as much as their employees who actually do all the work. I’d bet again that a lot of those rank and file make less then median income. I’ll also bet you that a lot of the rank and file know how to do their jobs just fine without the overpaid managers breathing down their necks
          Yet, every time the managers want a raise the Board gives it to them, while they quibble with the employees association over peanuts. So we the voters are obviously not making the right choices when we elect these people.

        • Big AL July 12, 2012 at 12:01 am #

          I don’t think you know what you’re talking about either Tom. .. Yeah you should really look at who is actually making all of the money … it isn’t the average public employee, that’s for damn sure!

          Most pensions cover at the most … 60 – 75% of one’s salary while working, they get a break when you separate .. they don’t have to pay union dues, social security or retirement, so you might be lucky to get 85% of your salary.

          That’s living fat … especially since they have not had a pay raise in 13 years, and have had to endure recent pay cuts on top of that. 5%, last go around … %4.6% this time. That’s living fat .. while the legislature and other bureaucrats vote themselves a pay raise right at the time of the first pay cuts.

          But people like you only see how all public employees are looting the system, it must suck to be miserable and rant about things you really do not know what you’re ranting about, it would be fine if you were right about what your saying.

          You’ve taken a partial truth and added a whole lot of bad rap on a lot of people who do not deserve it. People in civil service are loosing their livelihoods in this mess of an economy as well as people in private sectors just as much, losing homes, jobs.

          And all the time, the fat cats and carpet baggers and corrupt politicians are getting richer.

    • Fed Up! July 10, 2012 at 10:45 pm #

      I agree on a good weather day flying it beats driving. On the days you have to return to the airport of origin because bad weather prevents you from landing in Mammoth or the flight is cancelled outside of MMH, you’ll wish you would have driven.

      The bankruptcy judge will likely see that the subsidy money issue different than the town profiteers, the town subsidy is requested for the period of time when there is least demand for flights. The shoulder season is most likely the time when a subsidy will have to be paid. The judge will know exactly why the town finds themselves is in his courtroom.

      I’m sure MLLA has documented the bonuses paid to the MSSA management in 2011. That cash could have been used for the summer/fall subsidy if the CEO had concerned himself about the poor start of the 2011/12 ski season and the possible need of a larger subsidy during a poor ski season or for year round air service. I’ll be surprised if a judge allows this red-herring to slide.

      The last comments I remember Ruth Harrell posting were in favor of disincorporating the town of Mammoth. If my memory serves me correctly she stated the town would have been more prosperous under county jurisdiction because of property taxes vs TOT revenues, this information was relayed to her by a former town attorney while she was in on official town business in Whistler B.C. nearest I can remember.

      I agree with aggressive cuts, starting with repealing measure R & U. Mammoth needs to learn to honor its revenue commitments to it’s citizens, creditors and employee’s. Let the strong businesses survive and the weak go the way that capitalism intended.

      ( To Really fed up,I believe I posted as “Fed Up” before you did, but if it’s that important to you to mention here you can be Fed Up too.)

    • Ken Warner July 11, 2012 at 4:59 pm #

      Tom,kaat,Rick and all the rest of the Tea Baggers —

      Cut your salary and set an example we all can admire.

      It’s easy to demand cuts in someone else’s pay — put your money where your mouth is.

      • Ken Warner July 11, 2012 at 5:04 pm #

        …oh, and if the box fits — wear it.

      • tourbillon July 11, 2012 at 8:16 pm #

        Just so everyone knows, “teabagger” in its origin was a pejorative term for homosexuals in reference to a putative sexual act. It is now used by vulgarians to refer to those of their fellow citizens concerned with authoritarian and unaffordable government because so many on the Left confuse crudity with wit. Since these folks like to flatter themselves with possessing an imagined higher intelligence, they regularly resort to such uncouth coarseness, believing it proves their cognitive superiority. Hence the repeated and gleeful use of this anti-gay slur, now appearing for degraded political purposes on unedited or uninformed websites.

        • Ken Warner July 12, 2012 at 11:11 am #

          Strawman, strawman, strawman…

          T(axed) E(nough) A(lready) that’s the name they gave themselves and when they first showed themselves — THEY WORE TEA BAGS!!!!

          Give it a rest. You’ve posted this same vacuous argument more than enough times. It’s as meaningless as using liberal as a pejorative.

          • Tourbillon July 12, 2012 at 7:18 pm #

            You lost this debate Warner.

        • Big AL July 12, 2012 at 8:54 pm #

          c’mon tourbillon, we know what other meanings it has and how people can use it .. but is it really what everyone who uses the term really mean it to be? It’s like carpet baggers .. what can you come up with for that to liken it to?

      • upthecreek July 12, 2012 at 5:33 pm #


  8. H July 10, 2012 at 7:50 pm #

    Here we are having a discussion over how to spend tax generated dollars. At the same time our Town leaders have plead insolvency with respect to the filing of bankruptcy. This is the best legal advice money can buy? This is the best our political leaders can come up with? Time to get spanked once again. Our community deserves more than the arrogance of our political leaders.

  9. Jan Simpson July 10, 2012 at 8:41 pm #

    What’s the point of having air service when Alaska/Horizon Air frequently cancels the flights?
    Such as today, July 10, 2012. (Cancellations do happen in summer as well as winter.)
    I’d rather ride the Crest Bus to and from Reno Airport because it’s RELIABLE, even though it takes longer!

    • kaat July 10, 2012 at 11:07 pm #

      yup, 7/10 flight was indeed canceled due to “mechanical issues” – hmmmmmmm…..

    • SierraFan July 11, 2012 at 12:14 pm #


      You have a valid argument for you but travelers from So Cal won’t take the same approach. We nee air service here even if it takes from the transit fund.

  10. Ken Warner July 10, 2012 at 9:27 pm #

    “According to John Urdi, Mammoth Tourism Director, independent American Express research on air travel indicated that summer of 2011 saw an estimated economic impact to Mammoth Lakes of blah blah blah…”

    I can make estimates too — in fact, I’ve got your estimate right here.

    I mean really, does anybody believe these people anymore?

  11. Dingo July 11, 2012 at 6:51 am #

    Theodore Roosevelt once said “Far better it is to dare mighty things, even though checkered by failure, than to live in that gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat”

  12. Old Adage July 11, 2012 at 9:25 am #

    When the going gets tough – the greedy in power turn genius.

    The Great Depression had a record number of people in dire straits and consequently a record number of millionaires. Those with all the dough exercised their capitalistic rights and were now in the position to buy and manipulate everything – and they did

    • One born every minute July 12, 2012 at 8:20 am #

      There is a political movement today that has brilliantly convinced some people that the answer to America’s problems lies in the hands of the wealthy. While having their legions focus on how evil the government is again and again and again and – they are accumulating more and more wealth. And all this movement has to do is wag the flag at their legions until it becomes a blur.

      “When fascism comes to America – it will be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross”
      – Sinclair Lewis, “It Can’t Happen Here” 1935

  13. Ken Warner July 11, 2012 at 12:45 pm #

    I’m sending the following to all the council members.


    The intent of Prop. R and Measure U was to allow the people of Mammoth Lakes to reinvest in their town to make it a better place to live.

    I opposed both bills not because I think it’s a bad idea for the town’s people to reinvest in their town but because the wording of the bills was vague and the monies generated by those taxes were not directed toward a specific, concrete goal. I suspected that sooner or later, the town council would try to subvert the intentions of those bills and use those monies for purposes contrary to the intention of those bills.

    And now we come to the time where you all are trying to twist and interpret the language of Measure U so that you can use the money that we all pay as tax on our utility bills for the purpose of improving our town. You want to use those monies as a subsidy for air service. That was never and intended use of those monies. You should not take the people’s money from their pockets to subsidize specially selected business interests.

    If you do, the people of Mammoth Lakes do have the recourse to repeal both Prop R and Measure U. And I will encourage all to do so.

    Ken Warner
    Mammoth Lakes, CA 93546

    • longhaul July 11, 2012 at 5:37 pm #

      Keep spouting Warner and you will help kill Mammoth faster than MLLA. As I have said to you before, “Why aren’t you on the Town Council?” You seem to have all the answers as long as it’s coming from your peanut gallery.

    • SierraFan July 12, 2012 at 10:56 am #


      I think you’ve missed the “Tea Party” message! They’re great Americans from both the left, the right and the Independents that are looking to revert to what our founding fathers wanted for us. The numbers may not show this because most folks won’t stand up in public but the “Tea Partier’s” Are what’s great about this country. And I’m not talking about all the politicians (Michelle Backman, Sarah Palin, etc.) that were band wagoning, I’m talking about the regular every day caring Americans.

  14. Sean F July 11, 2012 at 11:06 pm #

    I say do whatever it takes including using the U money to keep the flights coming. Limiting customers options in any way always hurts revenue in every business I have been a part of. The 6 hour drive from LA to Mammoth blows and I would always fly if I have the option.

    Mammoth losing air service would be a bigger blow than the BK. BK’s are common and no longer carries the stigma it used to. Companies and individuals do it all the time. Losing air service would be a big blow to the “Mammoth brand” and image. The BK will be forgotten about. Losing air service makes me think the town is dying. Maybe it is..?

    Remember most people in LA or anywhere do not care about small town infighting or town politics. They care about coming up here and having a good time. No flights would not be a plus for them.

    To the keyboard commandos out there if you feel you have good ideas or can do a better job than current management you need to get involved. Seriously. Wasting time bashing everything and everyone here is useless.

    • Jerry C. July 12, 2012 at 11:15 am #

      Ok, lets break it down… flying vs. driving.

      You be judge – does it really beat driving?

      So what’s it now, approx. $70 per person one way – on the weekday, (and if you hunt around for a sale)? So… let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and call it $70 (even though it’s much more during the winter and on weekends). When I fly out of Mammoth Lakes with my girlfriend we have to get to the airport about 45min before the flight (it takes about 15 minutes to get to the airport). The flight to LAX is about 1 hour 20 minutes + (by the time we land, taxi all around, and grab our bags). Then we have to wait around for the shuttle bus that takes us to the car rental area – 20 minutes… then we stand in line and talk to the rental car moron for another 20 minutes to get our rental car. For some reason this always takes forever, and I’m pretty pissed at the end of it – probably because of the crazy madness that is LAX. By the time we get our tiny little compact rental car on the 405 north, it’s crazy thick with traffic because it’s about 6:00 (we’re driving to the San Fernando Valley) – and it’ll take another good 45 minutes + to make it to our final destination (North Hollywood)…

      So, let’s do the math. The both of us just paid $280.00 (I won’t even add in the rental car cost) for the round trip flight, and it takes us about 3:45 for one way travel time (from door to door). It takes us about the same for return trip. So that’s 7.5 total travel time for the whole trip.

      Well, if we drive our Toyota truck, it’ll cost us about $120.00 in gas round trip, and it’ll take us exactly 5 hours for one way travel time (door to door). 10 hours total travel time for the whole trip.

      So basically, we’re paying about 180.00 to save 2.5 hours in travel time for the whole trip – and it’s much more during weekends and/or winter!

      WOW WHAT A BARGAN! HAHAHAH! Yeah, lets keep the airport open!!! LOL!

    • Ken Warner July 12, 2012 at 11:36 am #

      Have you read this?

  15. John Starts July 12, 2012 at 10:16 am #

    Council FINALLY did the right thing last night and voted in favor 5-0 to take a loan against Measure U funds to keep air service going and growing! WAY TO GO, to go against the “special interest” groups on these boards that have the Measure U spent for their own cause.

  16. Andrea August 10, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

    Look I am 48 years old and drive from ORANGE COUNTY (an hour past LA) 3-4 times a year. My friend have for the last 15 years. This idea that Air Service is going to save Mammoth and June mountain is BS. We drive over 6 hours to get there and we love it. People who love to ski and snowboard don’t squabble about it either. The flights are not all they are cracked up to be by the time all is said and done. OPEN the friggen mountain and we will be there.


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