It is shaping up to be an odd political season in Mammoth. Even as eight candidates are scrambling for three seats on the Mono County Board of Supervisors, the Town of Mammoth Lakes is eerily quiet.
With just one non-incumbent (restaurant owner Michael Raimondo) having filed nomination papers, the Town Council on Wednesday cancelled the June municipal election. Instead, the council appointed Raimondo and current Mayor Jo Bacon to fill the two spots in June.
Why did this happen?
It used to be that Mammoth was a vibrant political arena, and not just at the council level.
The Planning Commission at one time was a tumultuous free-for-all. The Airport Commission had so many items on its agendas that it was a something of an achievement to get all the way through a regular meeting.
This week, the Planning Commission, having scaled back its meetings to once a month, canceled due to “lack of agenda items.” The same went for the airport commissioners, who canceled their meeting next week for the same reasons.
We asked longtime councilmember John Eastman if he had a theory as to the noiselessness.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I haven’t really even thought about it.”
Meanwhile, councilman Skip Harvey filed nomination papers and then withdrew them. He said in apparent jest, “I think you’d be foolish to run for office right now.” We tend to think it wasn’t so much in jest at all.
Let’s face it: Mammoth is in a funk.
The specter of the impending $42 million judgment hangs over the town, and if there is no settlement, there will be a bankruptcy. The game is up, and anyone running for a four-year term has to deal with that. Bacon is in. Raimondo is in. There is no one else.
There is something more at work, though.
Mammoth has almost always had one very serious issue that served as a fulcrum in all out political dealings.
That issue was all about development, and you could almost split the town into two political parties: one pro-development, the other anti-development. That single issue was the reason why such passion emerged in our municipal elections and our subsequent council and planning meetings.
Nowadays, there is no such incendiary issue. No one’s building, no one’s taking that risk right now—what with the unsettled settlement, a drought year, layoffs at Mammoth Mountain and silent cash registers all over town.
Those are the ingredients for a big-time funk, and it’s not just we who think that.
The would-be candidates think like that, too, which is why they’re not running.