Paying the devil his due

With the settlement of the MLLA lawsuit all but done, Mammoth enters into a new phase.

Now we all get to see who walks the walk.

Since 1997, the year Terry Ballas proposed his idiotic airport condo project, our people have talked and talked. Then they talked some more. Along with all that talk-the-talk there were extended periods of finger pointing and blame gaming.

All that comes to an end right now, and over the course of the next three months.

By Dec. 31, Mammoth will have a plan in place to pay off $2 million a year in debt that it incurred in the Ballas/Mammoth Lakes Land Acquisition breach-of-trust fiasco. If it were to play out as it is now written, we’ll be paying that debt for the next 23 years or so, with no time off for good behavior.

Yet good behavior is now what we must show—individually and collectively.

At last night’s Town Council meeting, residents queried town leaders and administrators as to how we’re going to pull this off.

Town Manager Dave Wilbrecht said before the meeting that a lot of the shortfall of services would have to be balanced by we the people.

Here’s an example or two:

If the Police Department, say, is denuded, will citizens be prepared to organize neighborhood watch patrols, even in the dead of winter, even in the Sierra Valley sites or the North Village neighborhoods?

Will citizens volunteer to help the parks and recreation department keep playground equipment safe and up to date? If it comes to this, who’s willing to mow the grass and keep the tennis courts in decent shape?

Wilbrecht said it is going to take some self-imposed discipline to pull this off. We’re hoping we’re up to the challenge, but we don’t know how we’re going to fare.

For many years Mammoth has lived high on the hog. Our roads are smooth and safe, unlike those in towns and cities throughout California and in the United States. Our parks are in good condition. We have two golf courses, one of which uses recycled water.

The Whitmore pool somehow gets by, every single summer. There is a brand new running track at the Whitmore Ballfields, for heaven’s sake, and we have a commercial airport serving L.A., Orange County, San Diego, and San Francisco.

No small town ever had it so good.

Our water lines work; our sewer system works; the streetlights work. Our public safety system, even at less than full strength, works.

We’re pretty much used to a low crime rate, clean air, clean water and decent schools.

We have a ski area that generates money like a cash cow, employing hundreds and generating revenue for itself, the town, Mono County and the entire Eastside.

Given all that, we don’t blame people for whistling past the graveyard, even as Mammoth lost court battle after court battle in the ill-conceived, Ballas-inspired airport development that caused all the trouble to begin with.

But we’re not whistling now. The time has come to pay the devil his due—with discipline, hard work, cooperation and elbow grease.