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Urdi’s World

May 15, 2013

We can hardly remember what it was like around here before John Urdi arrived almost three years ago. Now, it’s hard for us to imagine what Mammoth would be if he were to somehow disappear.


Two major pieces of progress happened this week under the wand of the Mammoth Lakes Tourism Executive Director.

First, Mammoth took its first steps toward establishing a Tourism Business Incentive District, a TBID, joining about 75 other California cities in such a revenue-generating scheme.

Urdi, who concocted the proposal, didn’t just take a cookie-cutter approach to the TBID, though. This one is unlike any other in California in that it assesses restaurants, retail stores, and attractions (Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, to name one) that are wholly dependent on tourism dollars.

Those dollars then are plowed back into a grand plan to benefit everyone, in real dollars on real bottom lines.

We were baffled last week when Grumpy’s owner Greg Simas characterized it as a tax.

Simas, speaking before the town council (see story, P.1) also said many business owners had no clue about any of this.

That, to us, is utter nonsense.

The TBID proposal has been in the works for months. It has been written about, some would argue ad infinitum, and has been a big topic of conversation among business owners, political leaders, and the busy bees at Chamber of Commerce.

Any merchant who says he or she is clueless about the TBID is either living in a cave or has been on vacation to, say, Jupiter.

The bottom line is that the most expensive item on Simas’ menu, his top-of-the-line steak, would add a whopping 45 cents to the price of the steak.

The other thing that happened in Urdi’s World this week was the proposed merger between the Chamber of Commerce and Mammoth Lakes Tourism.

We have a hunch there are going be some grumpy, old malcontents out there because of this. Then again, if someone lives in Mammoth long enough, say, a week, they can sense that some people just aren’t truly happy unless they’re flat-out miserable. Sadly, we actually have quite a few of those unhappy louses around here.

At the heart of the matter is the tearing down of a wall that never should have been there. 

Honestly, we can’t think of another tourist town that has had such a weird, ongoing battle between the tourism people and the business people over the years.  It’s as if we’ve been living in Berlin.

In Urdi’s World, things have a way of making sense. The old battle cries become silenced by the cold, hard logic that the man brings to our little mountain burg.

No doubt there are people around here who think of the new kid in town as an Empire Builder, but we don’t see it.

Thus, to the TBID critics, we say Phooey. To the Chamber-Tourism critics, we say Double-Phooey.

We say let the guy do his job. He’s on the front line of brainstorming and implementing ways in increasing everyone’s bottom line.

It’s about time every tourist-dependent business contributes to the success of the town as a whole.

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