Former Councilmember Stapp blasts town survey


Says move is “to provide political cover”

Former councilmember Kirk Stapp this week locked horns with the town staff over the publication of an online “residents survey.”

The survey, published last week on the town’s website, is designed to take the pulse of Mammothites over its proposed austerity cuts.

“I assume the purpose for the survey is to provide political cover for Council now that it has reneged on decades of political commitments,” wrote Stapp in an email to each of the five councilmembers.

Town Manager Dave Wilbrecht declined to comment on Stapp’s letter.

The survey is in advance of a crucial Dec. 5 Town Council meeting, at which the council will approve an austerity package designed to make up for a $2 million-a-year shortfall as a result of its $29.5 million, 23-year breach-of-contract settlement with Mammoth Lakes Land Acquisition (MLLA).

Last night (Thursday), the council resumed a discussion with the public as to how that shortfall will be met. It was the second of three such meetings, the first one dealing with proposed cuts to the police department force.

It was not known what weight the town survey would have in the final outcome of the eventual decisions.

It is a rather brief survey, but Stapp, who sat on the council for 22 years (1986-2008), said too many questions about the very nature of the survey itself were unclear.

“Last week I completed the Town’s ‘Resident Survey,’ he wrote in his long email. “I shook my head in disbelief. A survey is not a vote.

“The survey asks residents for feedback. Are individuals who work and vote in Mammoth but live in Crowley precluded from participating?

“The ‘Resident Survey’ includes a box where a resident can identify themselves as a visitor. It makes no sense. What happens if a thousand elementary and middle school students (residents or visitors) complete the survey? Will their opinions count?”

Getting down to specifics, Stapp addressed the question as to whether residents should give the council permission to: ‘Further reduce support for … Measure A marketing and 2002 A housing.”

Said Stapp: “The question clearly acknowledges that council has already reneged on these two measures. How much ‘further’ is the council anticipating reducing these voter-approved measures or is the council simply asking for carte blanche?

“The facts are that the Town has already reneged on its political commitments by 1) using marketing dollars to subsidize air service ($250,000), and 2) diverting 18 percent of transit funds (Measure T) and 58 percent of housing funds to the Town’s General Fund.

“There is also the dispute with Parks and Rec over the use of Measure R monies to fund Whitmore Pool,” Stapp continued in his email.

“The survey also appears to be designed to frighten people into supporting an Admission Tax in lieu of cuts (a three percent surcharge on all lift tickets generates in excess of $2,000,000).

“According to the survey’s “CONTROVERSIAL CUTS,” one cut is to eliminate seven sworn officer positions from the Police Department.

“It has been suggested that the Police Officers Association, POA, give up salaries and benefits in exchange for reducing the number of staff cuts from seven to five or four.

“This approach shifts the public safety levels of service to the POA. In other words, levels of public safety, an essential council responsibility, will be established by the POA.”

Stapp also took on the question of raising revenue, but, he said, the options omit “per resident” and “per visitor” estimates.

“Withholding this information invalidates the survey,” Stapp charged, “to wit: Very few property owners are going to vote for a $150 annual parcel tax.”

Ultimately, Stapp said new revenue should be decided in upcoming elections.

“As a Mammoth resident and someone who cares deeply about Mammoth’s future, I would strongly suggest that Town Council scrap the ‘Resident Survey’ and the staff’s ‘Five Year Plan’ and instead, focus on the next twenty months and the 2014 election.

“First, the Council should candidly identify the revenues being shifted from Measures A, 2002A, T and R, which are being used for other purposes or shifted to the General Fund to fund the MLLA/Ballas settlement.

“Secondly, the Council needs to adopt a 20-month austerity budget using the revenues taken from the (tax) measures to bridge the 20-month budget.

“Third, the council needs to commit to putting on the 2014 ballot (or sooner) measures to raise revenues, or measures that memorialize shifting of monies from Measures A, 2002A, T and R.”