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Hispanic community, police, shake hands at Mammoth Town Hall

May 27, 2011

It was unprecedented for Mammoth.

More than 100 Hispanic citizens showed up to meet and greet Mammoth’s police Wednesday night at the Village Lodge, creating a bridge between the officers and the community.

They also heard from about a dozen other people, from recreation director Stuart Brown to Alejandro Celorio Alacantara, who made the trip from Sacramento and represented the Mexican Consulate.

“To be honest, I didn’t think any of you would show up,” said Wildlife Specialist Steve Searles, a resident of the so-called Sierra Valley Sites, where many of the Spanish-speaking community also live.
“I think you all know who I am. You’ve seen me in the neighborhood.”

Searles paused, put his hands on his breast and said, “You fill my heart. Thank you for showing up.”

Searles’ brief remarks were in English, as were others’. But a nifty headphone device allowed many to hear via translators. It worked both ways. Throw a switch and the headphone device went from Spanish to English.

The meeting was the culmination of months of work by Police Chief Dan Watson and a group of officers that included Reuben Ramos and Art Torres.

Asked it he expected such a big turnout on a windy, blustery evening, Torres was about as succinct as anyone could get.

idea what to expect at the gathering.

“I thought it could be anywhere from 10 to 100,” he said. “I really didn’t know.”

Watson said that as early as Wednesday morning, police intelligence in the community had indicated that many thought the meeting was a set-up – that in the crowd would be agents from ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement).

He was, therefore, grateful for the big attendance.

“I’m thrilled with the turnout we got. This community wants to get engaged.”

In his remarks before the audience, he stressed that everyone there was a Mammoth Local – that it is one community – but that everyone in a town like Mammoth needs communication and trust.

Many of the speakers, including Alacantara, delivered their remarks in Spanish.

Alacantara said he was surprised by the number of people at the meeting, and even more so by the efforts by Watson and the MLPD.

“What Chief Watson is doing here in Mammoth Lakes is different from what I’m seeing in California,” he said.

Longtime resident and Town Councilman John Eastman did not speak, but sat in front and used the front part of the meeting to do a head count.

He counted between 100 and 110, and when asked if he’d ever seen anything like it in Mammoth he shook his head. “Nope. This is a first for us.”

Among other speakers were representatives of Wild Iris, Mono County Health Services and Mammoth Lakes Housing.

Luis Villanova, the manager of the hotel and a member of Watson’s Committee, facilitated the event.
Most of the food was donated by local restaurants and residents.

The first part of the meeting was given over to the aforesaid presentations, and after a break that featured food and treats, the crowd got into the act with an energetic question-and-answer period.

It was billed as a “Town Hall” meeting and Watson said that there will be more of them, given Wednesday’s success.

“No,” he said.

Watson himself said he had no idea what to expect at the gathering.

“I thought it could be anywhere from 10 to 100,” he said. “I really didn’t know.”

Watson said that as early as Wednesday morning, police intelligence in the community had indicated that many thought the meeting was a set-up – that in the crowd would be agents from ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement).

He was, therefore, grateful for the big attendance.

“I’m thrilled with the turnout we got. This community wants to get engaged.”

In his remarks before the audience, he stressed that everyone there was a Mammoth Local – that it is one community – but that everyone in a town like Mammoth needs communication and trust.

Many of the speakers, including Alacantara, delivered their remarks in Spanish.

Alacantara said he was surprised by the number of people at the meeting, and even more so by the efforts by Watson and the MLPD.

“What Chief Watson is doing here in Mammoth Lakes is different from what I’m seeing in California,” he said.

Longtime resident and Town Councilman John Eastman did not speak, but sat in front and used the front part of the meeting to do a head count.

He counted between 100 and 110, and when asked if he’d ever seen anything like it in Mammoth he shook his head. “Nope. This is a first for us.”

Among other speakers were representatives of Wild Iris, Mono County Health Services and Mammoth Lakes Housing.

Luis Villanova, the manager of the hotel and a member of Watson’s Committee, facilitated the event.
Most of the food was donated by local restaurants and residents.

The first part of the meeting was given over to the aforesaid presentations, and after a break that featured food and treats, the crowd got into the act with an energetic question-and-answer period.

It was billed as a “Town Hall” meeting and Watson said that there will be more of them, given Wednesday’s success.

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