Dramatic theater breaks out at Planning Commission
Klassen dons boxing gloves, challenges Hertzog to fight
If they’d known what was coming, the members of the Mammoth Lakes Planning Commission might have wanted to sell tickets to their meeting Wednesday afternoon, Jan. 23.
The meeting provided a forum for some of the best improvisational theater of the season, when Wave Rave Snowboard Shop owner Steve Klassen donned boxing gloves and a protective mouthpiece, then turned from the podium and challenged Mammoth Outdoor Sports owner Philip Hertzog to a fight.
Speaking directly to Hertzog following his raucous testimony, Klassen said,
“I hope you accept. It looks like you outweigh me by about 20 or 30 pounds so it should be pretty fair.”
From the dais, acting commission chair Mickey Brown repeatedly warned Klassen that he was out of order and to stick to the issue at hand.
The issue was whether to grant Hertzog a special events extension to his Old Mammoth Rail Jam, which the planning commission in November approved for the Christmas-New Year holiday.
In the application before the commission on Tuesday, Hertzog asked to extend the event through May 30, with a special rail jam event over the upcoming Presidents Day holiday weekend.
The commission, after hearing testimony from the floor, eventually turned down the request with a unanimous vote, for a variety of reasons, all wrapped around the interpretation of what qualifies as “a special event.”
Klassen, however, stole the show along the way.
A longtime critic of Hertzog and of his event, Klassen waited until the end of the testimony to ratchet up the heat.
He approached the podium, holding a small, athletic bag.
In the audience, Police Chief Dan Watson, in full uniform, leaned forward slightly and paid close attention. Earlier in the day, he said, the town staff had alerted him that the meeting might turn confrontational.
“This is not the first time we’ve been given that kind of notice,” he said. “I just wanted to make sure there was an officer in the room, that’s all. It’s not really that big of a deal.”
Klassen moved right to point.
“Everybody in here pretty much knows how I feel about this,” he said. “I think I’m a pretty kind and generous guy most of the time, but I’ve got to tell you, with Phil, it’s very difficult to maintain that, because Phil, what I’ve realized, is a blatant liar. Lying is one of his business tactics to get things done.”
From the dais, Brown jumped in.
“Please just address the issues,” she said.
Klassen plowed on.
“Given the fact that I feel that the applicant is disingenuous about what his intentions are, I believe that you should vote no in renewing this permit.
“I’m also going to say that there’s a real interesting event that’s going on at a Ski and Snowboard trade show that we’re going to in about a week’s time. It’s a charity event that helps underprivileged kids get on the snow, and this event raises a lot of money for it, and I’d like to ask Mr. Hertzog to be involved in this event.”
At that point, Klassen unzipped the bag and brought out a pair of boxing gloves, then laced them up.
Said Brown: “This is really important because this is a public meeting and we have to feel the rules of order.”
Klassen: “This is a boxing event. I’m challenging Mr. Hertzog to a boxing event in one week’s time.
Brown: “Really, out of respect to your fellow commissioners, Mr. Klassen, can you stick to the issue at hand please?
Klassen inserted a protective mouthpiece and continued: “I think this is completely appropriate. He’s a liar, I think of him as a thief now, and really a coward, also.”
Brown: “You’re out of order and this public comment period is over. Could you please sit down?”
“Are there any other public comments?”
Through the whole time, Hertzog sat silent and unperturbed in the audience next to his newly wedded wife, Robin Stater.
Later that evening, at the Town Council meeting in the very same chambers, both councilmembers Rick Wood and John Eastman recalled the last time boxing gloves came into play among town officials.
That was in 1999, he said, when a particularly contentious town council donned boxing gloves and squared off against each other inside a ring.
The difference was that incident was on a float, in the Fourth of July Parade.
On Wednesday, it was for real.