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Dear Town of Mammoth Lakes council members

May 29, 2013

I spoke at the council meeting last week against the TBID. I am certainly no public speaker, as was evident. And I am certainly no lawyer, as was also evident.

However, my dad practiced law for several counties and cities in the Bay Area and was the town attorney for multiple towns for many decades.  

He was well known in municipal law circles statewide, and was thus retained many times by Mono and other rural counties for his unique expertise—in taxation, among other things.

He was a champion of good government, good law, and good outcomes for the people, business, as well as the public sector.

I was fortunate to witness a fair amount of his work in public forums, council meetings, hearings, and trials, and in doing so, I came to trust the U.S. legal and political process. 

That may be one reason I am so deeply shaken by what I have witnessed in the past few days in Mammoth regarding the TBID.

I have a lot of objections to it, some of which I mentioned last week.

Some I did not. I would like to address the most distressing fundamental flaw of the TBID structure with you here, and I will most likely write and speak with you all again about several other flaws later.   

Here is the one central sticky point I can’t seem to make sense of.

Can any of you help me with this, since it is clear you all already support the TBID?

How can the following be OK with you?

1.) A small handful of Mammoth businesses essentially has created a new tax that most of us businesses in Mammoth will have to pay, or be punished under the law if we refuse. 

2.) That same small handful of businesses got to choose their own tax rates as well as the tax rates paid by all of the other businesses, and they chose which businesses would face the tax, when it would begin, and how it would be managed. 

3.) Each year from here on out, that same small handful of businesses gets to change their own tax rates along with everyone else’s tax rates as they like.

And they also get to add or subtract from the list of businesses that must pay the tax. 

4.) That same small handful of businesses has the dominant influence on how not just theirs but everyone’s else’s TBID taxes are spent. 

5.) And perhaps most shocking and troubling of all: 80 percent of the required businesses it takes to impose and manage this new perpetual taxing and spending juggernaut that the rest of us will be run by is just ONE huge business!

That’s right. Eighty percent of the power needed to do all of this to all of us is in the hands of just ONE business.

Do you know how weird that sounds to anyone that doesn’t live in Mammoth?!

Interestingly,  the lawmakers that came up with the BID law itself were very concerned about one company having 90 percent or 100 percent control over everyone else in a town, but apparently they weren’t the least bit concerned about one company having 80 percent control!

And a few other large businesses having the other 20 percent. You have to admit that would be hilarious if it weren’t sort of sickening. 

It simply boggles my mind that this can happen in the U.S.

This is what defines a third world banana republic where individuals and small businesses effectively pay taxes to the large corporations.

But in the America? It makes my stomach hurt.

Yes, I know the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area has always had outsized influence on how TOML taxes and spends.

But this is different. This effectively sets MMSA as its own taxing authority.

It cuts out the “middle man,” as in WE THE PEOPLE.

It is ingenious. But it is wickedly corrupt.

Surely you must acknowledge that at best this structure smells foul, and at worst it IS terribly, terribly foul. 

Please consider the long-term legacy of this very cynical and destructive way of running this town.

I beseech you not to just rubber stamp what surely must be a violation of the very pledge of allegiance you recite at each meeting—as well as the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment to the U.S. Constitution. 

Please don’t let this be done in your name and on your watch. Dig deep and be courageous, and have some vision about where this will lead.

It may seem benign to you now, but this is a deeply flawed proposal with scary implications.

How can any reasonable, open-minded person read numbers one through five above and disagree that TBID is deeply flawed? 

Again, if any of you has reconciled my points with our deepest held democratic values in your own mind, please explain it to me and relieve me of my anguish. 

Thank you. 

Derek Johnson

Mammoth Lakes

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