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TBID’d into oblivion

May 29, 2013

Those who know me would tell you that I harbor no love for government, town or otherwise. When an entity such as the Town of Mammoth Lakes decides to circumvent the democratic process by passing measures of taxation that have otherwise failed to garner approval from voters in the past, I can only assume they missed a valuable lesson from history that revolved around the simple idea of no taxation without representation.

History lessons aside, it is apparent now that the oligarchical structure and corruption of our federal government has now trickled down to our local town government in the form of the TBID—a program of taxation which will take additional money from local businesses, tourists, and residents to subsidize the marketing efforts of the largest businesses in town.

At last week’s town council meeting, I watched in disbelief as town council voted 5-0 to move forward with the business improvement district. This vote followed another marathon sales pitch from local snake oil salesman Rusty Gregory, during which time town council members, seemingly awestruck with Mr. Gregory’s allusion to “too much tourism” as a result of passing the TBID, lapped up every word like the rats they are.

Then, in a move that shows their desperation for money, TOML wasted no time by sending out a notice to “tourism” businesses the following day telling them to be prepared to cough up their share of the payment by Aug. 1.

Also included, only because they [TOML] are legally required to, was the prescribed period to petition the establishment of the TBID.

My disgust for our local town government aside, the TBID will go down as a massive stimulus package for Mammoth Mountain Ski Area. It’s no wonder Rusty came to support it.

John Urdi put together a marketing pyramid scheme that places MMSA at the top. Those in support of the TBID argue that we’re losing business to other resorts because we’re not saturating the market with advertising.

Rusty went so far as to correlate data they’ve collected from the new RFID passes, showing that the majority of skiers only come once a season because we’re not spending enough on marketing.

Perhaps he should have looked at TripAdvisers December 2012 study which ranked North America’s most expensive places to ski. In this study, Mammoth ranked number 10. Why do people only ski here once a season?

The last two lousy seasons aside, it’s because that’s all they can afford.

So congratulations in making the already barely affordable ski vacation a little less affordable with the TBID, at least we’ll be higher on next year’s list.

While I am angered when corrupt government in collusion with big business costs me money, I am saddened when it destroys a community.

The ski industry has been for years not about skiing, but making money from real estate. So it was with Mammoth Mountain and Mammoth Lakes once Intrawest stepped in. Dave McCoy’s departure from the business and Starwood’s involvement only accelerated our plight.

In our haste to become like so many other resorts around the country, we have encumbered ourselves with legal expenses from negligent development decisions, stifled our local economy with taxes and fees, and sold off just about every piece of our town to the highest bidder.

Where as Mammoth Lakes was once a unique and colorful community, our race to become so much like other resorts has left us without an identity of our own. Instead we are being told that although we’ve already sold our soul and spent a generations worth of money, tourists are going elsewhere and we all need to chip in a bit more money to bring them back with a new marketing campaign.

It’s just one more tax, right? If it brings the tourists back it will be worth it, right?

The problem is it’s never just one more tax, and I promise you, now that the Town of Mammoth Lakes has discovered they can raise taxes without voters consent, it certainly won’t be the last.

The sad truth is that the majority of tourists who visit us probably won’t care about this 1 to 2 percent cost increase—they’re wealthy and on vacation.

Local residents and business owners are the ones who will feel it the most. For the local family, it will become yet again more expensive to continue living here.

For the qualified professional, the cost of living will be one less reason to take a job here.

For the local business, they’ll struggle even more to capture the local dollar from out of state and online merchants.

And for all of us who live here, our community will be worse off because of it.

Clayton Mendel

Owner, Eastern Sierra Armory

Mammoth Lakes

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