Letter to the editor: Air service, but…

Mono Supervisor Byng Hunt to Town Council: “I’m disappointed and embarrassed that this Town Council will use Measure U for air service although I am a full supporter of air service to Mammoth Lakes.”

Air service subsidies to major airlines may or may not be a reasonable and rational approach to air service.  It remains, in my mind, an open book for discussion.  Air service subsidies can bring convenience and economic value to us in the short term, but I worry about the sustainability of the effort in the long term.   Major airlines can “pull the plug” on us at most any time based on their business models, and things like bad weather, poor external economies, drought situations, airline operational problems, etc….things that we have very little control over…..could turn our short term investments into wasted efforts.   As a small resort town, we need to remain fiscally prudent and flexible, and this subsidy endeavor can place us at troublesome risk.   I suppose it is the conservative voice in me that questions whether public tax dollars should be used for these subsidies, when private financial support might be able to do the job.  I recognize the indirect economic benefits to the community as an argument to use public sector tax support, but I am also extremely aware of the financial straights that our local government agencies are facing over the near and long term.   It is because of this, that I would ask the players that stand to gain the most from air service subsidies to pony up and supply the funding needed for those subsidies, such as the Chambers (business community) and the lodging folks.  Asking the Town and the County to throw tax money into the mix is jeopardizing funding that may be needed for basic public services and obligations, and maintenance of sound financial reserves for hard times.

I want to make it abundantly clear that I recognize and support air service to Mammoth Yosemite Airport as a valuable tool for making our region more accessible and convenient for visitors and locals alike.  It is simply one more way to get here.  The economic value to local businesses and residents has been researched through recent studies and surveys, and we are presently reviewing the results.  While the purchase of the airport from the County back in the early 90’s has seemingly led to nothing but problems and frustrations, I have always supported the general idea of public airport access to Mono County.   I was a member of the Town Council that approved the airport development agreement with Terry Ballas in 1997, when I thought the economic potential that the airport development could bring to our struggling rural tourist economy was important.  While I always believed that the Bishop airport would be a better choice for a regional airport for a number of reasons, I supported Mammoth Yosemite’s development as an effort to make us a better and more competitive recreational resort.  Successive Town Councils and a few ambitious local business interests undermined the potential viability of that development agreement, and is another whole story that has unfortunately led to the potential bankruptcy of our little urban paradise.

But the value of air service to our Town and region still remains very important, and I will continue to work to sustain the effort as long as it is done in a reasonable and rational way.  Over the course of the next few weeks, several meetings will take place to consider the complicated issue of air service subsidies.  The Eastern Sierra Air Alliance meets this week to digest creative ideas on the situation, and later this month, the County will reconvene the Tourism Commission’s air service subsidy subcommittee to develop ideas to present to the full Board of Supervisors during our upcoming budget hearings in August.  My personal views, which I intend to discuss at these meetings, is that local businesses have to pony up funding to some degree, and that if County tax dollars are used for an airline subsidy, that the county get something for the public money expended (beyond the perceived regional economic benefits) – such as a series of airline seats available to local businesses and residents at reduced costs.  Also, when negotiating with the airlines, we will need more than just the Mountain at the table; the County, Town and business folks need to supply their input, which, hopefully, will be generated through the Eastern Sierra Air Alliance.  We can thank Rusty Gregory for “carrying most of the load” recently, and especially over the past winter seasons.  But, it cannot be forgotten that Mr. Gregory was an instrumental player in the airport development agreement fiasco that has played out over the last decade and has led to our Town bankruptcy, and that his current “financial crisis” was probably due in good part to poor management decisions as well as unforeseen weather problems and the general recession.  Closing June Mountain next winter will probably do more damage to our region than temporarily losing or reducing airline service.

I would also submit that finger pointing and insulting County Supervisors at public meetings is not the way to gain support for important business issues.  There is a certain civility and respect that needs to be maintained in the course of public dialogue.  It was truly a disappointing show of good character by both Rusty Gregory and Tom Cage at public meetings last week, but goes to show the stress that is currently being endured by our business community.

Good citizens of District 5, and the County at large, please let us know your honest feelings and insights regarding airline service and airline service subsidies.  I stand ready to represent what will hopefully benefit us all in the end.

Mono Supervisor Byng Hunt

Mammoth Lakes

 

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Tourbillon
Tourbillon
9 years ago

The letter in your link contains nothing about Rusty Gregory (of whom I am not excessively fond) except a re-hash of unsworn statements from The Sheet several months old. Nothing in the quoted portions of the court decision, i.e., the actual evidence in the letter as opposed to the gossip… Read more »

Big AL
Big AL
9 years ago
Reply to  Tourbillon

I agree Tourbillon, elected officials acted on this whether or not Gregory was involved, they could have said no.

Ken Warner
Ken Warner
9 years ago
Reply to  Tourbillon

I think the “court decision” was a suit by MLLA claiming damages for the town’s elected and unelected officials (i.e. the city managers) reneging on development contracts. How those people came to the decision to renege on those contracts was not part of the suit and certainly was not common… Read more »

Ken Warner
Ken Warner
9 years ago
MJA
MJA
9 years ago
Reply to  Ken Warner

Thanks Ken,

That is how I see it too.

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Ultimatum
Ultimatum
9 years ago

Sounds to me, the Chairman and CEO of Mammoth Mountain is holding the town hostage. “Cough up the dough (for air service) or I’ll close down everything!” Shouldn’t he and his rich partners be doing the coughing?

MJA
MJA
9 years ago

It is only folly that some would want to throw more money into the hole that sunk the ship.
But it is public money and rather than asking the captains, those responsible for running you aground, I think it best to ask everyone on board, don’t you?
Mutiny!

=

cat
cat
9 years ago

FED UP,

NO MONEY FOR FOR AIR SUBSIDIES! And I am planning a flight next week!

Fed Up
Fed Up
9 years ago
Reply to  cat

As I said typical hypocrite

Big AL
Big AL
9 years ago
Reply to  Fed Up

As I said .. fed up .. there you go throwing the word around.

Big AL
Big AL
9 years ago
Reply to  cat

LOL cat

Want to Vomit
Want to Vomit
9 years ago
Reply to  cat

I hope you paid the higher price so Mammoth won’t have to subsidize your fare.

Jay Wheaton
Jay Wheaton
9 years ago

Well put Mr Hunt. I have a home in north county our road does not get plowed all winter long, we do not complain because we are a minority in the county. Now to my point ! I would prefer my tax money go to infrastructure services that the county… Read more »

Fed Up
Fed Up
9 years ago
Reply to  Jay Wheaton

Air subsidies or guarantees are going to be a part of life for areas like ours. Someone is going to have to pay them. Those of You folks who do not want air subsidies and do not want to take a seat at the table to figure out how to… Read more »

hisierragal
hisierragal
9 years ago
Reply to  Fed Up

dear fed up, I don’t use the air service I don’t believe my tax money should go to a private company in order for them to operate in this area just so a few people can have the clientele they believe will make them rich….. sink or float like the… Read more »

Ken Warner
Ken Warner
9 years ago
Reply to  hisierragal

I’ve asked and asked for a full and complete cost/benefit analysis of the airport and what money it brings into Mammoth. Nobody seems to be able (or willing) to do that. All we get are “estimates” like those in Urdi’s presentation on Jul. 11. If you look at Urdi’s presentation,… Read more »

Big AL
Big AL
9 years ago
Reply to  Fed Up

Oh get over it already fed up .. lol … subsidies and guarantees are not a part of life here in our area, only if people let them be. You can keep your hypocritical comments, just because some people see the truth of the matter doesn’t make them hypocritical as… Read more »

Mark
Mark
9 years ago
Reply to  Big AL

(subsidies and guarantees are not a part of life here in our area,) The local economy is subsidies by the stocking lakes and streams with an invasive species, which guarantees tourist will come and spend their money in the Eastern Sierra. Eastern Sierra Transit is also subsidized by the Feds.… Read more »

Big AL
Big AL
9 years ago
Reply to  Mark

Mark .. Eastern Sierra Transit is a county run business if I am not mistaken? I’m not sure about the bus you rode in on, it most likely is some sort of government operated program, I could be wrong there .. but you comment about the stocking of fish (invasive… Read more »

JeanGenie
JeanGenie
9 years ago
Reply to  Fed Up

Fedup,
when I checked how much it cost to fly out of Mammoth I said no way. So count me out too.

Ken Warner
Ken Warner
9 years ago

The people of Mono County do support air service at MMH in the American Capitalist way — by buying tickets. Urdi’s Measure U Test Application stated that 14% of sold seats was for resident use. That based, “…on independent research conducted by C.A. Walker Research Solutions.” Fourteen percent of the… Read more »

Trouble
Trouble
9 years ago
Reply to  Ken Warner

Ken-I like your thoughts on the route you suggest.

John Starts
John Starts
9 years ago
Reply to  Ken Warner

Wow……we had a Reno flight ….it was empty, so it got canceled, Reno to Mammoth was and is a stupid thought, however did you ever use it once to support it? We also HAVE a San Diego flight in the winter , have you ever used it once to support… Read more »

Ken Warner
Ken Warner
9 years ago
Reply to  John Starts

Right, there was a flight to Reno in 2009-2010. 115 flights during that Winter. I can find no data as to the utilized capacity of that flight and I can recall no particular need to go to Reno between Dec. and April of that Winter I also have no reason… Read more »

cat
cat
9 years ago

1. Tom Cage is vested at the Airport with his rental car business. I honestly take his word with a grain of sand. 2. The TOML is supposed to be insolvent (unable to pay debts/services), how then are they able to come up with 300+k at a meeting for the… Read more »

lou1@yahoo.com
9 years ago

Thanks Tom.

Fed Up
Fed Up
9 years ago

Gotta love the rights of free expression. Thank you Supervisor Hunt for stating your real intentions. Let me tell you some real facts as you seem to have a disconnect. First this county survives on tourism correct? The major boom we had was aided along because a major company came… Read more »

Somethings will never change
Somethings will never change
9 years ago
Reply to  Fed Up

It seems to me what made this ski town (anybody know the prediction for snowfall next season?) is the willingness of Californians from the South to hop in their cars and drive to their ski mecca every winter. This will never change. In a bad economy only the wealthiest can… Read more »

Trouble
Trouble
9 years ago

Somethings will never change- focusing on art, theatre and whatever you consider culture to be sounds like another waste of money to me. Try offering special packages to bring the skiers here. Stop focusing on the top 2 %.

Pander to the money
Pander to the money
9 years ago
Reply to  Trouble

Trouble,

But its the top % that has all the money today. The other more established mountain communities have figured the problem out. Snowboarders don’t feed the overall economy. The rich do.
Why do think Deer Valley (that prohibits snowboards) is always rated #1?

Smart business
Smart business
9 years ago

Each year Deer Valley, a high-end resort located just outside Park City, conducts a survey that includes questions about allowing snowboarders on the mountain. This year approximately 1,500 Deer Valley guests were asked to rate on a scale of one to ten “To what extent would a decision by Deer… Read more »

Trouble
Trouble
9 years ago

Pander- your comment sounds like a trickle down theorist in denial.

JeanGenie
JeanGenie
9 years ago

Perhaps bears performing in an Opera House? Where are you going to get this culture? Import it from France? We are too isolated, and that is not why people go skiing, that is why rich people go on trips that may include skiing.

Business venture
Business venture
9 years ago
Reply to  JeanGenie

The vast majority of skiiers that prefer Deer Valley are from … you guessed it … California not “imported from France”. Find a way for wealthy Californians to ski here and the problem is solved. But I don’t think Gregory would ever change anything. He’s making dough. And if he… Read more »

You be the judge
You be the judge
9 years ago

Well put Byng. Reasonable people have understood your position from the beginning.
I wish everyone in local government and the business community had the honesty and integrity of Byng Hunt.
But watch for the usual government-haters to rear their ugly and unreasonable heads anyway.
Lots of judgement going down today.