It’s great that the voters of Mammoth have eight candidates for Town Council.
It’s not so great that hardly any of them know what they’re talking about.
In their first public forum of the campaign season this past week, many of the candidates offered solid vision-type of answers to tough questions that were offered by the Chamber of Commerce and the moderator, Brent Truax.
Mostly, though, the candidates came up short on detailed explanations as to how these visions are to be put in place.
It is not entirely their fault.
In this year’s municipal elections on June 3, there are no incumbents among the eight who are vying for three open seats.
None of them have had access to the real nitty-gritty of policy making, such as employee negotiations (a closed session process), pending litigation (also closed sessions), or the hard give-and-take of compromising on tough budget questions.
None of them have been a part of the ancillary commissions, committees and ad hoc collaborative teams involving other agencies, whether it be with state, federal or Mono County representatives.
A few of the candidates have a better inside track on this kind of political jawboning, such as Deb Pierrel and Colin Fernie, both of whom have served on citizen advisory commissions, and two others, Karen Sibert and Elena Holmgren, who have worked at the town staff level.
John Wentworth has been a constant meeting wonk, and has done solid work in the field in building collaborations and forming partnerships, while Shields Richardson also has extensive experience on various commissions and committees over the years.
Even so, none of them have occupied an elective office. Therefore, neither we, nor they for that matter, know exactly if they can translate their talk-the-talk campaigns into a walk-the-walk reality.
What we do know is that hardly any of them had the courage to say these three simple, golden words: “I don’t know.”
To us, it is entirely all right if some of the candidates don’t know answers to everything that may come up.
There is a flip side to this.
The beauty of an eight-way race with no incumbents is that it offers the candidates a chance to offer a forward-thinking set of ideas. No one is encumbered by the council’s mistakes of the near or distant past. It is a refreshing, clean slate for them and the voters alike.
The sky is the limit in that regard, and afterward, that’s the biggest take-away we heard among the audience members who stayed behind to chat, or to extend the evening even further over pizza at Giovanni’s.
Perhaps the format of the evening prevented the candidates from going into more detail. Perhaps the restrictive time limits on their responses was at work, too.
But for us, the take-away was in how little most of the candidates could articulate their step-by-step approaches they might take in areas such as shoring up the town’s finance department; creating a thoughtful economic development program; how to expand the airport (or not); how to implement single-family home rentals (or not); whether (or not) to increase the town staff (and how much that might cost); and so on.
Fortunately, they are in the early-early stages of the campaign, with more candidate forums to come (next up, May 6 at Cerro Coso College), and with more meet-and-greets on the horizon.
We trust the candidates can use this time to add some more meat to the bones of their campaign ideas.
We think this election, with a brand new majority coming in, will be as critical an election as Mammoth has had in recent years, and we’d hope the candidates can use this time to hone their knowledge a bit—actually, a lot—better.