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AIR SERVICE FROM BOTH SIDES

March 12, 2011

MAMMOTH TIMES EDITORIAL, MARCH 11, 2011
Mono County is wise right now not to commit to more than the $45,000 in subsidies they already are contributing toward year-round air service.

The Town of Mammoth and the Mountain are asking to divide a $650,000 to $900,000 gap in air service costs equally between all three entities and the county is balking.

Mono County is mandated by the state to provide most of the services that make it possible to live here; road maintenance, snow plowing, social services such as health services, law enforcement and fire protection. They get money from the state to do so. If those services aren’t in place, would you want to live here?

The state is more than $25 billion in the hole, an unprecedented crisis. The Legislature, elected to solve such problems, or to not allow them to occur in the first place, has done neither. Far from it. Instead, they announced this week they are at a budget impasse with Governor Jerry Brown.

Mono County supervisors are thus justifiably nervous about how much money they might get from the state and when it might come, if at all. How many snow plows, fire engines, paramedics and deputies should they slash to cover the cost of subsidies?

Second, although all the supervisors clearly grasp that subsidizing summer air service is valuable, that it indeed does help stimulate the economy by bringing more people here to spend money, as well as act as another resource for locals, they aren’t so sure about how much benefit the outlying county areas are getting, versus Mammoth Lakes.

Though they asked for those numbers earlier this winter, as of Tuesday no one from the Mountain or the Town was ready. This classic dilemma – do they act to protect a longtime revenue stream or to meet immediate needs – is nowhere more obvious than in this issue.

Mono County is in better shape than almost any other county in the state, with a small emergency reserve fund and none of the looming deficits that plague other counties.

There’s a good reason for that. The county has consistently played it safe and conservative in its investments. It is tight fisted in its spending.

And, despite this, in less than two years, it will be broke if it doesn’t solve some serious solid waste and lost federal funding leaks, let alone adjust to whatever the state throws at it this year.
So, much as the county supervisors might wish to help, much as they see the value in funding their revenue stream, moving fast on this issue under these economic conditions would be nothing short of irresponsible.
All three entities agreed Tuesday to sit down and hash it out. That will take some time, time well spent.

ON THE OTHER HAND...
Mono County doesn’t get it.
In its effort to achieve a balanced budget, (as if the county budget were a family checkbook, which it isn’t) the county is on the verge of turning back an opportunity that few rural counties ever get.

An airport. Marketing. Tourism. Powerful partners. Moolah.
On Wednesday, Mammoth’s tourism director, John Urdi, was at the big-big-big Fred Hall outdoors show in Long Beach.

His booth at the show was elegant, prominently featuring Mono County as an outdoors summer paradise, which it is.

“There was good traffic at the fishing show in our Mammoth Lakes Tourism and Mono County Tourism booth,” he wrote in an e-mail. “People are psyched to get back to Mammoth and fish their way through the area.”
Think Mono County really had anything to do with this marketing push? Nope. The Board of Supervisors was back in Bridgeport, counting its precious pennies, oblivious to the riches that lie right in front of their noses.

Urdi gets it entirely. It’s not about Mammoth. It’s not about Mammoth Mountain.

All of us, from the Mono-Inyo line to the south all the way to the Nevada border, are one. Our fishing is equal to our skiing. Our summer hiking and outdoors activities are not created by political boundaries.
Bridgeport’s historic and annoying animosity toward Mammoth is getting in the way of that obvious fact, and the nexus of that inexcusable mental “Doh!” is the airport.

Eighty-seven percent of air visitors last year said they were “extremely/very satisfied” with the flight service. That’s higher than winter visitors, actually. With San Francisco potentially now in the mix in summer, that percentage will climb.

The airport puts Mono County in the national consciousness. It makes us accessible. It makes us a legitimate destination, instead of a rumor.
Urdi gets it. Mammoth Mountain marketer Howard Pickett gets it. Anyone with a brain gets it.

Mono County’s supervisors don’t.

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