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Our View — For Whom the Bell Tolls

July 27, 2012

Mammoth has one more week of wiggle room before heading back into bankruptcy proceedings. Pardon us if we’re not on the sidelines waving our maroon and gold pom-poms. We are on a losing streak. You are not going to hear “Win one for the Gipper” from us.

Losing streaks dampen emotions and harden doubts. Mammoth is nearing the end in its bankruptcy battle with Mammoth Lakes Land Acquisition’s team of crack lawyers, who are riding an impressive winning streak.

The fourth quarter will look like this:

Mammoth’s bankruptcy lawyers will go tête-à-tête in mediation hearings with MLLA in Los Angeles on Monday and Tuesday, Aug. 6 and 7—a little more than a week away.

On Friday, Aug. 24, there is a deadline for filing objections to Mammoth’s plea to enter into bankruptcy.
Assuming no deal is struck, events will carry onward to Wednesday, Aug. 29, when a full-blown bankruptcy hearing, a so-called “status conference” is scheduled in Sacramento. That hearing will determine if the court will handle the case or leave Mammoth to twist slowly in the wind.

To hear Mammoth tell it, there is no way that MLLA wants to send this to court, but the town has been so wrong, so often, and with such consistency, that it’s hard to buy whatever the Town Fathers are selling.
Thus we assume nothing and expect the worse. Losing streaks are like that. After a while, they seem to be hard-wired.

Notable losing streaks include Germany in World Wars (0-2 in the 20th century); political pollsters in general (Lincoln vs. McClellan in 1864, Dewey vs. Truman in 1948, Gore vs. Bush in 2000); the Chicago Cubs (102 years without a championship); Caltech basketball (207 games, 1996-2000) and the Argentine economy (ongoing).

For Mammoth, the losing streak looks like this:

A refusal to settle with developer Terry Ballas, believing that its agreement for his hotel development at the airport was somehow no good; a resounding butt-whipping in Superior Court for breach of contract; a belittling and harsh loss before the State Appeals Panel, which took the town to the woodshed in a strident affirmation of the lower court’s decision; a disdainful Supreme Court refusal to even hear the case; and repeated failed attempts to mediate a settlement with MLLA (racking up nearly $13 million in legal fees along the way). The capper on the streak—so far—was the announcement of the town’s intent to enter into bankruptcy.

Along the way there have been a half-dozen Town Councils, a turnstile serving as a door in the Town Manager’s office, department heads called to task for such things as “phony loans,” lax TOT enforcement—the list goes on and on.

That is a losing streak if we’ve ever seen one.

By the end of August, the end game will be in place. The midnight bell will chime, and we’re not about to be fooled into putting on our happy faces, no more than was John Donne, the English metaphysical poet whose words in Meditation 13 (1624) ring true today:

“Never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”

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