History repeats itself


After the “Great Debacle,” the “Settlement That Ate Mammoth,” whatever you want to call it, both George Shirk, news editor of the Mammoth Times and Jack Lunch, editor of the Sheet News, wrote articles about that settlement.

George, a thoughtful individual and nice guy, opined that now the litigation was settled, we should put it behind us, and move on. An end to the finger pointing is a good thing, he said, the blame game and negative thinking. It’s counterproductive and won’t get us anywhere.

Jack Lunch, on the other hand, suggested that perhaps a little “oops” on the part of the council might have been helpful; after all, he wrote, 13 people are going to lose their jobs, the Whitmore Park and Pool will be closed, etc.

It would be nice to have someone own up, even a little bit.

Well, notwithstanding that George is an intelligent and well-intentioned individual, I think I have to give Lunch the nod on this one, except maybe he didn’t go far enough.

Is finger pointing and blame gaming helpful? Maybe not. But, on the other hand, Mammoth Lakes has just suffered a stunning cataclysm that will not be resolved for decades.

A child born today will have graduated from college, and will have time to get married and have his/her own children before this $2 million per year debt is paid off.

It is entirely likely that many more than 13 people will lose their jobs, but even if it is no more than that, these 13 people are not perpetrators of this disaster, they are the innocent bystanders who had nothing to do with it.

“Why don’t the people responsible lose their jobs instead of us,” they ask? Not an unreasonable question.

Part of the answer is that we don’t know for sure who is responsible. As Lunch pointed out, no civic servant has come forward and said, “mea culpa, I was in charge, I made the decision, it was my fault, I really am sorry.”

Nor has any civic organization or group been empanelled to affix blame or determine responsibility. 

Giving credit where credit is due, at least Rick Wood had the fortitude to allow the question on the table. But why is it important to ask the question?

The first, and perhaps most significant, answer is because if we don’t affix blame, we almost guarantee that it will happen again.

Those who don’t learn the lessons of history, the saying goes, are sure to repeat it.

In Mammoth’s case, this is not unfamiliar ground. Previously, the town went to war with Andrea Lawrence over redevelopment. The outcome? Andrea won, the town paid its own attorneys $5 million or so for its losing effort, and the court required the town to pay a similar sum to Andrea’s lawyers.

There went $10 million down the drain with no civic benefit, and no responsibility for this disaster was never fixed.

To no one’s surprise, here we are again. History, sadly, repeats itself.

Perhaps this time we should look closer. After all, one more of these terrific settlements and there won’t be any town left to point fingers over. 

Paul Rudder

Mammoth Lakes