Bureaucrat Beat: Chinatown revisited, Cellphone spies, and Mammoth angst

“From city halls to county courthouses, from the State house to the White House – bureaucrats control our lives.  Public servants who often try to become our masters.  People whose salaries we pay, but what goods and services do we get?  On Sierra Wave’s Bureaucrat Beat, we’ll report what they’re up to.”  That’s the Bureaucrat Beat declaration of dissatisfaction, but as you may know, Bureaucrat Beat talks about  much more.

Christine Mulholland, great-grand daughter of William Mulholland, aqueduct creator.

Christine Mulholland, great-grand daughter of William Mulholland, aqueduct creator.

The real history of LADWP in the Owens Valley?  When the Bureaucrat Beat Newsroom went to work in 1975, there were still people alive who remembered LA’s land and water grab.  We heard their stories.  Friday, those who go to the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles will hear some stories from several Southland types.  Aqueduct engineer William Mulholland’s great-granddaughter, Christine Mulholland will speak. We met her when she came up for some celebratory speeches at the local museum.  Charming and warm person. We bonded over a cigarette outside the museum. She seemed mostly unaware of Owens Valley feelings about DWP.   Also invited to speak in LA are a USC history professor, an LA Times book editor and an actress and writer.

LADWP, the Natural History Museum and Metabolic Studio arranged for this happening which includes a screening of the film, Chinatown, and an analysis of its story.  The press release says this is in honor of the aqueduct’s 100th anniversary and a chance to “help dispel some of the myths about the history of water in Los Angeles.”   It’s no myth that people here are still angry and afraid.

Some anger still boils in Mammoth where the Town Council and their lawyer say they can not talk openly about the departure of their Town Manager.  The suspected scenario is that they were going to dismiss her but she resigned instead.  That’s over.  Now, the real question is why can’t the Council keep a steady deck?  The only department head they have is the Police Chief.  So, they take this time to force out the main manager?  It raises questions of timing and sensibility for a Town government that has suffered through the ringer of bad money problems, worse money problems, lost employees, huge debt and now one more loss.  Citizens want to know – When will it end?

We in the Bureaucrat Beat Newsroom want to know when our federal government will stop spying on us!!??  They’re bullying Google, Microsoft and others to give them access to our emails.  We read the other day that the Drug Enforcement Agency has bullied UPS and Fed-Ex to search packages.  We’re getting uncomfortable about what some are calling “Stop and Frisk” law enforcement against citizens who are minding their own business.  Watch it!

And, on that note, according to the Truthout website, police can search your cellphone without a warrant.  Several states other than California have voted in a ban on that practice.  Governor Jerry Brown recently vetoed the proposed SB1434 which would have protected Californians against warrantless government searches based on cell phone and other electronic device information.  Police say it’s a valuable crime solving tool.  Regular citizens say they might feel violated.

Lots are watching Earth, Wind & Fire.  The 70s extravaganza group that went silent for many years has resurrected.  Just performed at the Hollywood Bowl, was interviewed on CBS.  They sound pretty much the same.  It’s upbeat.

Meanwhile, the LA Mayor’s office is looking for a Film Czar to keep production in Hollywood and lobby for more movie tax credits in California.  That Czar can’t keep film crews away from the Eastern Sierra veryfrostychalet well.  After all, we’ve got the Sierra and the Alabama Hills and, well, the entire region that makes for spectacular movie back drops.  We also have the Frosty Chalet in Lone Pine.  Did you notice it in the current Subaru ad running on TV?  Yep.  The Frosty has re-opened and made it onto the small screen.  Unfortunately, the rest of the ad was not filmed in the gorgeous Eastern Sierra but, instead, somewhere in farmland, USA.

Back to DWP.  Seems Stan Matlick, long the protector of what’s called the Bishop Cone area, left word before he died that someone should make sure DWP turns off Well 406 by the beginning of October.  Stan relentlessly monitored DWP pumping in the Bishop area.  It was his family that won the Hillside Decree in 1940.  That ruling banned DWP export of groundwater from Bishop down nearly to Big Pine.  They can pump water and use it on the Bishop area.

So, we contacted DWP about Well 406. They claim that they can’t pump more than they bring onto the cone during any given year.  So, the DWP says they bring 25,000 to 30,000 acre feet of surface water per year onto the Cone and are pumping 15,000 to 16,000 acre feet.  You guessed it.  They will not turn off Well 406.  What would Stan do?  We’re checking with the Inyo Water Department.  Many fear that with Bishop’s Champion now gone, DWP will try to take advantage.

With that, this is Benett Kessler signing off for Bureaucrat Beat where we await your word on our lives in the Eastern Sierra and beyond.


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25 Responses to Bureaucrat Beat: Chinatown revisited, Cellphone spies, and Mammoth angst

  1. salblaster September 24, 2013 at 9:58 pm #

    dt I don’t think you realize how many movies and commercials are filmed in the owens valley and specifically in the lone pine area. its a big plus for local business, and I’m pretty sure the film co’s pay inyo for a permit to film here. plus you could run into Quinton terantino, or leanardo decaprio. or demi more (she was in lp filming gi jane) and the list goes on. anyway I always thought it was cool seeing the local sights on the big screen and in commercials.

    • Mongo The Idiot September 26, 2013 at 12:35 pm #

      I hope the production companies don’t mind a few square miles of solar panels in the background.

      • Ken Warner September 26, 2013 at 3:46 pm #

        Have you seen a movie lately? You can’t tell what’s real and what’s computer generated.

  2. Spencer September 24, 2013 at 1:25 pm #

    The rest of the Subaru ad was filmed in Ventura…


  3. Desert Tortoise September 24, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

    My mother my sister, ho, ho, HO!

    The economic impact of the film industry is greatly over rated. Film accounts for less than 1% of employment statewide and their revenues account for less than 1% of the California GDP based on data from the California Employment Development Department, or Cal EDD. Even in Los Angeles County, film accounts for less than 5% of total employment and less than 5% of their economic output.

    The film industry is iconic, but in terms of it’s contribution to the economy of this state and it’s contribution to employment, it could disappear tomorrow and it would make no difference to the wealth of this state.

    • Benett Kessler September 24, 2013 at 3:07 pm #

      There is more the art of film making gives people than economic benefit.

      • Desert Tortoise September 24, 2013 at 4:18 pm #

        I do not dispute that one bit. However, the argument is too often made that the economic benefits from filming are so great that subsidies of public tax money are justified to keep film making in this or that locale, or to lure film making to some other place.

        My point is that contrary to the self serving propaganda coming from the film industry and too often believed by gullible politicians and too many taxpayers, the economic impacts of the film industry in terms of both employment and aggregate reveunes are small in comparison to the vastness of the overall economy. Any subsidies thrown their way are never repaid. It is an utter waste of tax money and worrying about whether or not filming comes to your locale is literally tripping over a dollar to pick up a penny.

        • Eastern Sierra Local September 25, 2013 at 11:13 am #

          Desert tortoise-
          I’m not sure where you’re getting your facts from but as someone who has a strong Hollywood connection (left the business and moved here) there’s a lot of money in “Hollywood” that isn’t directly related to movies- there’s motion pictures, video, sound recording/production, radio, tv, and cable, live entertainment/performing arts, agents, managers, and independent artists. There’s money in the food vendors, the hotels, the car rentals, travel, CUP’s, leasing, etc. While L.A.’s DIRECT film industry may only acct for 5% of the employment or output as you claim; there’s more than that- the “entertainment industry” in LA county actually accounts for over 17% of employment; this includes direct, indirect, and induced jobs. Since LA and LA county is a major economic hub of California ($558 Billion/year) and accounts for $6 billion in State taxes. Also I have a number of friends who have left Hollywood, CA for New Orleans, LA just because a number of movies and TV shows are being filmed there vs in Cali and Louisiana’s economy is growing steadily. I believe that the leaders of the State would be doing the State a disservice if they allow $6 billion in taxes go elsewhere.

          • Desert Tortoise September 25, 2013 at 9:23 pm #

            You have bad data. As I stated earlier, I use data from Cal EDD. This is seasonally adjusted employment by date. If you are familiar with Standard Industry Codes, you know that Motion Picture and Video production are a subset of Information.


            You can see that employment in California is on the order or 17 million jobs, and of these about 435.7 thousand are in the information industry. That is .0026 or 0.26% of total jobs in California.

            You also may wish to read this:


          • Pedro September 26, 2013 at 3:03 pm #

            DT & ESL, don’t you think the numbers are somewhere in between? I have met caterers and rented LAPD officers who received most all of their work from the studios for example.

      • Attracting Hollywood September 24, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

        The construction of a small studio (for interior shots) in the town of Mammoth Lakes might attract the film industry. The exterior shots are numerous and already exist.

  4. Deb September 24, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

    I am worried that no one is watching the southern end of the valley. DWP has drilled wells all around Owens Lake in the last couple of months. They have been doing big stuff with lots of equipment, trucks and a drill rig (?) right next to the aquaduct on Fall Road in Olancha. Do they have permits for all of this? Who watches them? Water table is dropping and our Supervisors do nothing. Who can we tell? Who will do anything? It is very frustrating to continue seeing, reading and hearing about DWP taking ever increasing amounts of the valley’s water over the last 50+ years that I have been here. Thankful for you, Benett

    • Desert Tortoise September 24, 2013 at 4:20 pm #

      Is not the DWP planning to pump water from beneath the lake to water the bed?

      • Benett Kessler September 24, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

        That’s what they want to do, but it’s not a done deal.

    • Benett Kessler September 24, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

      Deb, We contacted Water Director Bob Harrington, who provided this response:

      LADWP is currently installing fourteen monitoring wells around the perimeter of Owens Lake. I suspect that your commenter saw one of these installations underway (though it’s possible is was a non-LADWP contractor). They applied for and received well permits from the County. It’s essential to be able to monitor whatever impacts LADWP’s groundwater pumping may have on the aquifer system, so the Water Department supports these wells going in. I emphasize that these are monitoring wells, not production wells.

      I take it that the commenter is mainly worried about water issues in the southern part of the Valley. The Water Department is involved a number of activities in the southern part of the Valley, both as part of our ongoing monitoring program and activities related to specific projects. We annually monitor vegetation throughout the Valley from Laws to Lone Pine in the areas where LADWP’s groundwater pumping may negatively affect groundwater dependent vegetation. We also maintain a data base of groundwater conditions and surface water flow measurements. These monitoring efforts are reported in the Water Department’s Annual Report (http://www.inyowater.org/documents/reports/inyo-county-water-dept-annual-report/). Management and monitoring of the LORP is an ongoing effort, reported on each year in the LORP Annual Report prepared jointly by the Water Department and LADWP (http://www.inyowater.org/projects/lorp/). Regarding project-specific efforts, extensive groundwater studies were done as part of the recently completed CEQA analysis of the recent CG Roxane expansion (http://inyoplanning.org/projects.htm); the County as a whole, including the Water Department, has devoted a lot of resources to participating in the Owens Lake planning process convened by LADWP as well as an Owens Lake groundwater study; we’re working with LADWP to make changes to a mitigation project in Lone Pine to provide water to the Lone Pine High School’s farm; we recently implemented a better way to supply water to Diaz Lake that will not require groundwater pumping, unlike the previous arrangement; in Rose Valley we’re actively monitoring and managing Coso Operating Company’s groundwater transfer project to prevent negative impacts to groundwater-dependent habitat (http://www.inyowater.org/projects/groundwater/coso-hay-ranch-project/); and LADWP recently circulated a CEQA document concerning equipping and operating a well in Rose Valley, which I submitted extensive comments on. There’s always more to do, but we certainly aren’t neglecting the south part of the Valley.

      Bob Harrington, Water Director
      Inyo County Water Department

      • Deb September 25, 2013 at 10:45 am #

        Thank you for your reply….what about Olancha? Are they not part of Owens Valley? Their water table is dropping..they all have wells and DWP owns the Lacey Ranch now and there is a big production well with a huge pump near the aquaduct. Are they pumping from there? Are you aware of the artisian well, that is capped off for the moment, on Owens Lake? And it doesn’t take much, with the city’s resources, to put those monitoring wells to production wells. I know that Inyo Co. Water Dept has all it can do to monitor LADWP. I applaud your efforts and am glad to have a Water Dept. for Inyo Co. but Inyo County is the second largest county in the state and I am sure you are understaffed, It must be almost impossible to watch everywhere DWP can stick a straw in our aquafer.

        • Bob Harrington September 26, 2013 at 6:09 pm #

          Thanks Deb. We appreciate the vigilance of people such as you, because, as you say, we can’t watch everywhere all the time. The monitoring wells being installed around Owens Lake should give us a better handle on what the groundwater is doing in that area. At present, we don’t have much monitoring in the Olancha area.

  5. Watching the Bureaucrats September 24, 2013 at 1:15 pm #

    Well said, Benett. There is a major distrust in those whose only criteria for calling the shots (supposedly for all of us) is that they received the most votes. We are witnessing more and more secret meetings and more and more self-serving decisions. From not-so-secretly trying to gain economically on town purchases to personal vendettas waged against entire groups of people deemed to be “making too much money.”

    What ever happened to our leaders of the past? How did the wrong people get into these power-positions? Where are our leaders interested in teamwork and harmony?

    • Benett Kessler September 24, 2013 at 3:04 pm #

      I disagree with your allegations of vendettas. Where’s your evidence that someone has tried to gain economically on town purchases?
      Benett Kessler

      • Desert Tortoise September 24, 2013 at 4:22 pm #

        Sssshhh, be quiet so he can listen to the voices in his head.

      • Height of hypocrisy September 24, 2013 at 4:38 pm #

        Okay, perhaps a vendetta is too strong a word. So here are strictly the facts on this matter:

        Supervisor Johnston and his wife were both on the local government payroll at one time. Mrs. Johnston for one reason or another was ousted from her position.
        Granted, this must have forced the Johnstons to review their economic situation (as we all would do). Since then, Mr. Johnston likes to express himself with 4th of July floats that represent local government as a sinking ship, etc. and has been relentless at this.
        A quick study of Mono County meetings, (it is all on record) for the duration of Mr. Johnston’s tenure as supervisor will show Mr. Johnston is preoccupied with his demand of lowering every single salary of every single non-union employee, knowing full well he better not mess around with those who are represented by collective bargaining in the County.

        The interesting thing is the non-union staff, some years ago, in the spirit of cooperation, agreed to the condition of non-union representation and a salary freeze and now find themselves in the crosshairs of Mr. Johnston’s non-stop ideological demands that all non-union staff (indeed all government employees) are all making too much money.

        It is unknown if Mr. Johnston plans on reimbursing any of the money that he and his wife were “overpaid” as public servants. Perhaps the Sierra Wave can find this information out.

        This in my mind is the apex of hypocrisy with perhaps at least a hint of “getting even” with somebody or some group.

        • Benett Kessler September 24, 2013 at 4:42 pm #

          You seem to be overly fixated on Supervisor Johnson. Did he cut your salary? There are more than a few who see local governments as sinking ships because of lack of money and growing bureaucratic demands. You have drawn conclusions (more times than necessary) based on your own imaginings of the Johnsons. Let’s move on.
          Benett Kessler

          • Watching the Bureaucrats September 25, 2013 at 6:32 am #

            As a resident of the Sierra since I was 14 years old, you get to know a lot of people in your small, rural community. This includes people who make a living employed by the county and the town. You know them, their children, you grow up with them. Such is the nature of the Sierra.
            It bothers me greatly to hear that there are some elected officials who seem to have lost their civility by publicly demeaning our long-time friends, neighbors and even relatives employed by the counties and towns at meetings by publicly insisting they make too much money. I hope somebody can put a stop to this demeaning and ugly practice.

        • sugar magnolia September 24, 2013 at 5:41 pm #

          methinks you have the vendetta!

          • A weird American citizen September 25, 2013 at 10:28 am #

            I must be one of those weird Americans today that have nothing but the highest respect and gratitude for our public servants and administrators who have not grown bitter with bureaucratic processes and government headaches that include self-serving agendas, and whose hard work and dedication make our lives easier. Many thanks to our police, our firefighters, our teachers, our school superintendents our mail service, our water departments, our libraries, our public works departments, our recreation departments, our transportation services, and many others, plus the professional administrators who have dedicated their lives to maintaining the finest quality of life for us.

            It saddens me to see some of our elected officials in lofty positions callously making arbitrary comments and decisions in the public arena that are tantamount to insisting that everyone is overqualified and overpaid.

            This public incivility must be put to rest especially in these precarious times if any sense of citizens harmony is to be achieved.


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