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Summer of '13

September 16, 2013

The summer events schedule is over for this year, and we’re not the only ones trying to make sense of it.

The Mammoth Lakes Recreation Commission finds itself at the center of the dissection.

In a sparsely attended meeting on Tuesday afternoon, the commission moved forward in the hopes of forming a policy as to the use of Measure U tax.

It is a critically important discussion, since the town now leans so heavily on generating sales, TBID revenue and Transient Occupancy Taxes (TOT) as its summer economic platform.

Taxpayers should not have to shoulder the burden of the costs associated with producing big-time events. On the one hand, Measure U tax funds should help the community in tangible ways, particularly in the smaller, more arts-oriented productions such as theater, classical music, dance, kids’ sports programs, and so on.

It is a complex issue, made more so when the commission received back a report from a special task force comprised of representatives of Mammoth Lakes Tourism (John Urdi), the Rec Commission (Pat Agnitch), the Measure U Application Committee (Joyce Turner), the Chamber of Commerce (Sandra DiDomizio), and the Mammoth Lakes Events Coalition (Juliana Olinka).

The results of the task force’s work, not etched in stone, included a fascinating set of guidelines for what types of events would not receive Measure U funding under any circumstances.

Ineligible for Measure U taxpayer assisted funding would be first-year events; one-time events; events not open to the public; capital improvements for a specific event; debt and deficit reduction; salaries and employee benefits; business travel and entertainment; lobbying any public agency or office; organizations that receive line-item budget support from the town; events that expect to receive a majority of event funding from Measure U; and, finally, events hosted outside the town limits.

That set of guidelines, in our opinion, is overly strict, particularly in putting the brakes on one-time events that might, in time, mature into winners. We like long-shot bets from time to time.

The task force also came up with funding matrixes for both nonprofit and for-profit events; metrics to be used in assessing the success of an event; and accountability standards of the funding applicant.

But the most significant bit in the recommendation was a consensus in a willingness to hire a “seasonal special event coordinator.”

That person, at a probable cost of about $10,000 a year, would oversee the town’s commitment to supporting special events, including the coordination with special event organizers and Mammoth Lakes Tourism.

Currently, this position resides as a responsibility of Recreation Manager Stuart Brown and ubiquitous Parks Superintendent Dennis Rottner.

What with the permitting process and the sheer time consumption of managing Measure R and Measure U funds, we need an additional hand.

We loved this past summer’s events, starting with the Mammoth Half Marathon; Bluesapalooza; the Mammoth Margarita Festival; the Jazz Jubilee; Mammoth Rocks; the Mammoth Festival, the Food & Wine Experience; and most of all, the finishing events of the year in the Kamikaze Bike Games.

We’re not sure if events like the Mammoth-to-Bishop bike ride will be back—its leader, Lloyd Cearly, died earlier this summer—or the Mammoth Bluegrass Festival, hit hard this year by the closure of Tioga Road because of the Rim Fire.

We’re also hoping Mother Nature next summer will not be as cantankerous as she was this year, with wildfires, nuclear winters and road closures.

But most of all, we’re hoping that the Recreation Commission and Town Council can agree on a set of rules for spending tax money on any event’s behalf. That’s where the long-term future lies.

At the October meeting of the Recreation Commission, the final report is to be adopted and sent up to Town Council for approval or not.

It is a good, solid point of discussion, with implications that go way beyond any discussion of the Summer of ’13.

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