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Something will have to give

October 12, 2012

 

Two millions dollars a year for 23 years in a town of barely 8,000 people is going to cause inevitable heartache.

Don’t expect to be happy—regardless of the outcome.

The first round of potential cuts drafted by the Town of Mammoth Lakes and presented at the Sept. 27 Town Council meeting caused an explosion of emotions across town.

The most drastic of the proposed cuts is the elimination of seven sworn officers from the Mammoth Lakes Police Department.

After reading the two Letters to the Editor regarding these proposed cuts (see Letters to the right of this column), it doesn’t look as if there will be any Police Department at all.

Long-time Mammoth Lakes Police Officer Jesse Gorham and a letter from the Mammoth Lakes Police Officers Association indicate that they are through consistently landing on the chopping block, year after year.

Even though this first draft is only a proposal, the damage has been afflicted and the town now risks losing the entire department.

You can look at it as a good thing: with the entire department finding greener pastures in cities that will pay them what they’re worth and enforce contracts, the town could save almost $5 million a year.

You can look at is as a bad thing: that our town will see an increase in meth labs, smashed windows in cars (not just by bears), and uncontrollable drunken debacles across town—not to mention the likely increase of cars in snowbanks by those not accustomed to driving in snowy and icy conditions.

We think running the police officers out of town is a bad thing. Not only are town officials giving the finger to those who swore to protect us, they are leaving a bad taste in the mouth of all officers and rendering the Town of Mammoth Lakes as a “stay away” zone for any future police members. And that is a bad thing.

But something will have to give.

Another proposal that received widespread community attention is the potential defunding of Whitmore pool.

The pool is currently funded by the town and Mono County and both entities share the cost 50/50. The town is proposing to eliminate its share.

The county could pick up the full cost of the pool, or it could follow suit and also relinquish its funding obligation, closing the pool.

In a town (and county) that thrives on recreational activities, we question what message that sends to community members and visitors.

We are a recreational-dependent community. People move here for the recreation opportunities. People visit to experience what we have to offer. Whitmore pool was particularly special for those who have kids on swim teams, and those who train for triathlons at high altitudes.

But something will have to give.

Using funds from Measure R, Measure U, Transit, Housing, and Tourism were not touched in this first draft.

But that doesn’t mean they are safe.

In a recent survey to gauge the community’s opinions on the town’s options, the survey asked what the community thinks about dipping into some of these funds.

We say no.

Tourism, Transit, Measure U and Measure R should not be touched.

Tourism brings in tourists who spend money. Transit keeps tourists (and locals) happy so they don’t have to spend the time, effort, or money driving in conditions they might not be accustomed to. Community members voted to tax themselves with Measure U and Measure R—if these funds are touched, there will be hell to pay.

We need less government, not cuts to existing funds and functional departments.

More importantly, we need new sources of revenue.

How about raising TOT by allowing single-family homeowners to rent their homes?

How about bolstering the General Fund by changing the language in Measure R and U ordinances by removing the supplanting language?

No matter how you look at it, no matter what the ultimate outcome will be, something will have to give.

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