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Skip Harvey to town: Straighten up and fly right

May 6, 2011

Mayor Skip Harvey

If there’s one thing that drives Mayor Skip Harvey nuts, it’s inefficiency.

He says he doesn’t allow it in his restaurant business (Base Camp Café), which operates – like most small businesses around here – with a razor-thin margin.

But when he looks over the landscape of the way the Town of Mammoth Lakes goes about its business, he said he sees unproductive, time-wasting practices everywhere.

“It’s part of being efficient, part of being a better town,” he said last week.

“You have to look at everything your town does in operations.

“I’m a believer that a lot of teeny-weeny things add up to one big thing down the road.”

Harvey said he is on a collaborative offensive; certainly as a town council man and Mayor, he is no position to mandate to either public commissions or town staff.

Rather, his offensive has taken the form of visiting each commission as it meets, and asking the members – begging is more like it – to examine their practices.

For example, does the Mobility Commission really need to meet monthly, taking staff time along with it? Or could it be a quarterly affair?

(Coincidentally, mobility commis-sioner John Vereuck raised the very same question two months ago, but the discussion, such as it was, went nowhere. Meanwhile, Public Works Director Ray Jarvis was compelled to sit in, taking a two-hour chunk out of his day.)

In all, there are 47 commissions and/or committees currently in Mammoth, not counting sub-committees, special steady groups, etc.

They include such things as

• The Local Agency Formation Commission
• The State 203 Relinquishment Committee
• USFS Wildlife Signage Committee

And so on.

And then there are the workshops, often held quarterly (or less) per commission, frequently before town council meetings.

“Maybe we could have a commission report once a month instead of workshops,” Harvey said.

“You’d have 10-15 minutes before council. If you don’t have anything, you don’t have to attend. We (the council) doesn’t expect you to come and say that you have nothing to report.

“It could be the first meeting of each month. We can still do workshops for bigger items.

“But we can be more efficient with staff time and commissioners who volunteer their time to help us be a better town.”

He said the council itself should step in line, too, eliminating hour-long PowerPoint presentations when the slides themselves are contained in the council’s packets, for example.

Perhaps most of all is that planning commission and council agree on code modifications that are impregnable by those who are seeking variances – a common time waster in the Town Offices and at planning commission meetings.

“After all our codes and we get everything in place,” Harvey said, “we should be at a point in the future that we respect our codes, we live by our codes and that we don’t have to have long debates about someone who should be able to exceed them.

“We should be able to have people come to our planning staff and have the staff look at a plan and just simply say ‘you’re to code, this will work.’”

If the staff has a problem, they can say,

“By law, you can bring this before the commission or the town council, but they’re probably not going to approve it because they respect our codes. And we really don’t recommend you spend your time this way.’”

Finally, Harvey said the town needs to understand that its staff just ain’t what it used to be.

“The bottom line is that we have far less staff that we ever had before and we need to make good use of their time.”

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