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Priorities

July 2, 2013

The Mammoth Town Council, in a stroke of uncharacteristic wisdom, declared earlier this week a pair of “strategic planning” meetings, designed to put the disparate, argumentative, and disgruntled citizenry on the same page with the town government.

It’s about time.

For years around here, the tail has wagged the dog; that is, crises, contingencies, and exigencies have been the basis of longstanding town policies.

Those policies in turn continue from one administration to the next, even when the causes of such policies have long evaporated.

Now is the time to command the dog to wag the tail, for a change.

We have our own ideas on this. At the same time, we are looking forward to the debates, scheduled for July 8 and 9. We are eager to learn where other people’s priorities lie, and hope we can be convinced of something we hadn’t quite thought through fully.

At the top of our list is, broadly speaking, finance.

We would like the Town Council to declare, once and for all, how we account for the money that comes into the town coffers. We want an aggressive collections unit to administer and enforce ordinances related to transient occupancy taxes. We want a clear idea of what single-family home rentals would look like, if such a program were to be installed.

Perhaps most of all, we would like to have a clear understanding of how Measure R and U monies are to be spent.

Second on our priorities is public works.

People today really can’t see the deterioration of our streets and sidewalks, much less the out-of-sight physical infrastructure.

That is because there is a quasi-genius quality about current Public Works Director Ray Jarvis, who makes things work, along with Dennis Rottner, the parks director, both of whom work crazy-quilt hours to mask their department’s shrunken budget.

Yet we know that one of these days, very shortly, a road that could have been fixed today will have to be entirely rebuilt tomorrow, at 10 times the cost, unless public works gets the money and manpower it needs.

Third on our list is public safety.

As Jarvis has done in public works, Police Chief Dan Watson has done a terrific job in shoring up his gutted police department, but that’s only going to get us to tomorrow.

Locals and visitors alike must feel that they are safe and protected from harm around here. If there is the slightest doubt of that, we’re thinking we might have people moving to places where they perceive public safety is somehow better than Mammoth: Inglewood, maybe, or Oakland.

Finally, our list includes free transit. We are not so large that we require tons of money for a vast transportation system.

We need it, though, so people who don’t know how to drive in snow have an alternative; so that the party crowd upon whom we depend does not have a need to climb behind the wheel of a rolling, two-ton deadly weapon after a night on the town; and so that our own people can get to and from work.

There are bound to be other priorities at the July 8-9 sessions, such as where municipal recreation fits in; where tourism and marketing fit; where low-income housing ends up, and so on.

We’re willing and eager to be convinced.

But for right now, we say: finance, public works, public safety and free transit should lead the list.

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