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Mammoth, Mono voters create a ‘do-over’

June 12, 2014

Thirty years after Mammoth broke away from Bridgeport and incorporated, the town has reached a do-over point.

As the dust settles over the 2014 elections in Mammoth and Mono County, residents and visitors are looking at what is essentially a blank canvas.

There have been great advances and there have been serious setbacks. The town’s short history is heavy on family division, boom-and-bust cycles, great snow years and bad snow years.

Now, as the town moves toward its 30th birthday later this summer, voters in Mono County and Mammoth have given residents a road map that is essentially uncharted.

There is a new sheriff in town, literally. Ingrid Braun’s 64 percent landslide victory over sitting Sheriff Ralph Obenberger signaled a rejection of Obenberger’s tough, by-the-book policies.

What Braun will bring is unknown.

There is a Town Council that has replaced three incumbents, none of whom ran for re-election, with three rookies on the dais.

What the three new policy makers—John Wentworth, Shields Richardson, and Colin Fernie—will create is unknown.

There is a Board of Supervisors minus one 73-year-old policy veteran, Byng Hunt, replaced by 43-year-old Stacy Corless, as of January. Corless, untested as an elected official, won a majority in a three-way race for the Mammoth-only seat in District 5. What she will bring to Bridgeport is unknown.

It is not just elective offices that are loaded with mystery.

The relatively new town manager, Dan Holler (the town’s fourth town manger in four years), will have to create a role for himself with the new council; Mammoth Lakes Recreation (MLR) has yet to form under its NGO mandate; the Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID), approved last autumn, is still finding its legs and working under a five-year term limit, its ultimate fate unknown as well.

The list goes on and on.

No one knows what changes are in store for the Mammoth Recreation Commission, the distribution of Measure R and Measure U tax monies, or the plan for making MLR a break-even proposition within five years.

There is a new Public Works Director in Mammoth.

There is a new Finance Director in Mammoth—the first one in four years.

In the “addition-by-subtraction” category goes everything and anyone who was associated with the disastrous Mammoth Lakes Land Acquisition/Terry Ballas legal settlement, which saddled the town with a $2 million-a-year payment schedule for the next two decades.

In Bridgeport, the county administrator, Jim Leddy, is hard at work trying to solve a vexing number of budget issues, having inherited a bucketful of problems from the previous Jim Arkens regime.

There are major issues dead ahead, such as finding a solution to a new solid waste facility that will meet state standards.

Even so, a couple of years ago the current Town Council’s first official vote was to sign a document asking for permission to enter municipal bankruptcy court.

That seems like a long time ago now.

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