Skip Harvey apologizes, places blame on airport, proposes new tax

Town Councilmember Skip Harvey may be running out of time but he’s not running out of punches.
At Tuesday’s special Town Council meeting that dealt entirely with the town’s fiscal crisis, the outgoing, two-term councilman went off.

“What a mess! What a total mess!” he said to people who squeezed into a crowded Suite Z. He then issued a public apology for the actions of the current Town Council as well as for Town Councils past.
“I’m sorry. I am truly sorry for what is going on here,” Harvey said.

Moreover, Harvey pointed the Finger of Blame for the town’s $42 million MLLA judgment directly at airport management. Without naming airport manager Bill Manning by name, it didn’t take a tea-leaf reader to know what he was saying.

Finally, Harvey proposed a new, entertainment/admission tax to help make up for the $2.8 million 2012-13 fiscal year budget shortfall and for the MLLA judgment.

“Myself, I think I owe everybody in this town an apology for not having had this thing—the lawsuit—wrapped up and finished before I leave office. It’s not something I hoped would happen; it doesn’t appear that it’s going to. It’s not good, and I apologize to you.

“I wish I could have done more to finish this thing off. I really do.

“The restructuring that we’re doing tonight is to deal with the financial realities of the times of what’s going on in our country and in our state. But I think what is on peoples’ mind is the lawsuit. What’s going to happen?”
But before looking forward, Harvey advised the town to look back.

“The people of this town want accountability for what has happened, why it happened, and they want to make sure we have taken steps to make sure that it doesn’t happen again—that we don’t have a repeat of what already has gone on,” he said.

“You know, you’ve got to ask yourself, who was down at the airport when all this development agreement started? They were supposed to making the best decisions for our town, looking after the town’s best interest, making sure that any information that we got, got to the right people, so that the right decisions would be made.

“It was about making sure that if they saw a letter that could be a deal-killer, it didn’t get buried, that it got to the right people, to the Town Council, got to the town manager, got to the people who have to know about this.

“Who was down there at that time doing it? Who made sure that we got the facts? It was missed somewhere along the line. That does not seem to be acceptable in my book.

“I don’t think we bought the airport with a plan of ‘Hey, let’s try to get air service in 12 years.’ I think we wanted it a lot sooner than that, but the airport has been mired in bad decisions, bad choices, lawsuits—be it our fault or environmental—and we’ve lost them all. I don’t think we’ve won a single lawsuit down there.

“Who is there? Who is watching after our best interests down at the airport? I don’t know about the rest of the community, but I for one am tired of watching our most important asset, the airport, being managed in a mediocre form.

“I’m tired, and it needs to change, and that’s what this is all about—it’s about changing what started all this to begin with. We can plan for the future, but if we don’t change what caused this to get into this position, then we’re going to be right back in it again.

“If you want an example, this lawsuit hadn’t even cooled off from the Supreme Court of California before the airport was trying to hire an unqualified person for a position because they had the future of being related to an important person.

“That could have been another lawsuit,” Harvey said. “Luckily, Marianna (Marysheva-Martinez) stepped in while she was the interim Town Manger and made a do-over. But to me, that says just ‘I-can-do-what-I-want, you-can’t-touch-me’ arrogance.

“It’s got to change, folks. We’ve got to make these changes.”

Finally, Harvey addressed the possibility of a new tax.

“I don’t want to see this town go backward,” he said. “We’re getting things moving, but I don’t think we can get out of this without the help of the people. I think it’s going to take some kind of tax on the people—an entertainment/admissions tax—something that will bring the people, that would bring Mammoth Mountain in on it, to help us get out of this.

“There’s only so much money. We need to generate some revenue. We can continue to cut, but we need to generate some revenue to help get us out of the mess that we’re in.”

When Harvey finished, he earned applause from about a third of the citizenry—the only applause anyone received in the entire evening.