We’ve been so busy pointing fingers at the people who caused the MLLA crisis here in Mammoth that we have hardly touched a couple of central questions.
What would it feel like to put a town of 7,000 people at risk? How does a person sleep comfortably, knowing that a little, small town in the mountains would have to reduce its resources to below bare-bones levels?
What would it be like to forge faux friendships and relationships in a small little town, only to figure out a way to con them into a $29.5 million grift and make them pay for 23 years?
Those are the questions we have for Terry Ballas and the Mammoth Lakes Land Acquisition lawyers. Does it feel good? Does it feel like it was the right thing to do?
It is not a legal question. It is, rather, a moral one.
There is no question that the MLLA lawyers badly outmaneuvered then-town attorney Peter Tracy in the Bridgeport courtroom, resulting in the astonishing judgment of $30 million in damages over Ballas’ hare-brained condo/hotel/retail airport project.
The Court of Appeals agreed and the Supreme Court rightfully turned the case away, such was our dreadful legal advice.
OK, so Mammoth lost the legal battle, fair and square, and we can live with that, probably. In retrospect, it was like sending the Little Sisters of the Poor up against the 1927 Yankees. But the question before us is not about a legal victory or loss. It is about greed.
Greed, by definition, is wanting and taking more than one morally deserves. Many people confuse greed with avarice. Avarice by itself does no harm, and may even do good by pumping fairly-earned money into the collective American economy.
But greed is different. Greed depends on the absence of sympathy. Greed also exploits ignorance—the kind of ignorance that informed the woefully hoodwinked jury in Bridgeport.
The real tragedy is that we’d like to believe that we don’t really think of ourselves as Gordon Gekko types up here in the mountains. Everybody knows everybody, and there is a collective effort to make things right for everyone and his or her neighbor.
Then along come the hardball players, playing smash-mouth capitalism, and all it’s going to cost us is a loss of seven police officers and six others on the town staff. Maybe Ballas himself should tell the families how it is that they are responsible for a lost job and income.
It means we lose the use of our swimming pool and a park; it means we put up for sale our open space (the Bell Shaped Parcel), and that our services will be reduced across the board. We’d like one of the MLLA lawyers to explain that to the kids on the Mammoth Sharks swim club and maybe even to the deer and bears that cross our open spaces.
The roads are not going to get needed ongoing maintenance. Over the next few years, they’ll likely deteriorate. Maybe Ballas should explain personally why it is such a good thing that he caused that to happen.
Had the town not reached the settlement that it did, U.S. Judge Elizabeth Perris suggested that Mammoth itself might have ceased to exist as a government.
We’d like to hear from the Gekkos at MLLA how any of this is fair.