Austin, Texas – much on the Eastern Sierra radar recently. Inyo County Administrator Kevin Carunchio reportedly headed to the big T for a Stewards of the Range conference on a kind of “we’ll keep our guns and our land, too” strategy with a cooperative bent. We’ll have more later from Carunchil. Meanwhile, in Mammoth Lakes Austin came to town.

Kevin Baum, founder of InCentergy, motivates bureaucrats, basically. Baum worked in government and as an assistant fire chief and fire marshal for the City of Austin Fire Department. He lights fires under government workers to get the job done right. His company offers a strategy for what he calls accountable government. Sounds good. Number one on his agenda – “Develop a sense of urgency for government performance accountability.” Yeah! We like that.

Baum names mistakes government makes – overcomplicates the process, measures the wrong things, doesn’t involve the workforce, declares victory at the wrong time and doesn’t institutionalize the initiative. Back in July, Town Manager Rob Clark recommended that town staff use a $7,000 fellowship to pay for a session with Incentergy. He pointed to “difficult decisions” and “limited resources.” He called for a “logical strategy for providing public services.” We will eagerly await the results of the Austin, Texas guru.

Not so eager are we to note that on top of all the other economic insults hurled at middle Americans and others, we have Thanksgiving dinner to add to our woes. According to the Los Angeles Times, the price of a turkey dinner with all the fixings will cost more this year. They quoted the American Farm Bureau Federation’s informal survey which added up the average cost of this year’s holiday dinner at $44.61 for ten people. That’s up $2.35 from last year. The survey blames the high cost of gasoline for transport and other energy costs. Okay. It’s not an enormous amount of money, it’s just more. Just like everything else. At some point, there just won’t be any more to fork out.

As one commentator, A.C. Grayling, put it – “Greedy speculators and bankers, wild fear-driven stock-market fluctuations and insufficient regulation have combined to create a dismaying mess which is depriving ordinary folk of their homes and jobs.”

Back on the local scene. Surprise. Surprise. Mammoth’s bear issue has headed back to controversy. In the face of a unanimous Town Council vote and community support to re-hire Steve Searles, three non-sworn Mammoth Police Department employees wrote a letter to oppose the Town’s hiring of Searles or any wildlife officer.

Councilman John Eastman, who went on the line to help the Town’s serious bear problems with a renewed effort to hire Searles, shot back with a response.

We will read both letters. First, the memo from the three police department workers to the Town Council, Town Manager and Town Attorney:

We are full time, non-sworn employees of the Mammoth Lakes Police Department. We would like you to know that we are 100% against the rehiring of Steve Searles or any person for a wildlife position. Our police offices can and have handled any calls concerning wildlife 24 hours a day. WE are shorthanded here and we need help other than someone who has no training in anything but bears and coyotes. Right now we do not have anyone who can concentrate on writing parking citations, doing traffic control, handling code enforcement problems and many other jobs inside and outside the police department that a community service officer could help us with.

We are bewildered by the talk that there is a freeze on hiring, a hold on car pooling benefits and we cannot have our fulltime positions filled, yet you are willing to hire someone that cannot help any department in their shortages. It would affect our morale negatively if you were to do something this unnecessary and unhelpful. We have already had Steve Searles try and work out of this office and it does not work and has no benefits to us, to the Town or to the community.

Councilman John Eastman wrote back to the non-sworn employees. He writes:

First, you have my sympathy for your individual and collective “bewilderment”, at the Town Council consideration of the possible hiring of an individual to help manage the wildlife that lives and visits our town.

Second, as a Town Council member representing the people who live and recreate in our community, I am personally “bewildered” that you, as Town employees, would consider the possible re-hiring of Steve Searles as something “unnecessary and unhelpful.” I am stymied by the thought that the hiring of a wildlife specialist would “affect” your “morale negatively”, adversely impact your “car pooling Benefits” and prevent you from “writing parking tickets.”

Finally, because of the current financial conditions within the Town of Mammoth Lakes, it may not be financially responsible for the Town Council to hire someone into our wildlife management position. But let me assure you, very clearly, that I will be basing my individual decision, not on employees who don’t have their “car-pooling benefits” or the ability to “write tickets.” Rather, I will be making my decision on the input from my constituents. And, so far, the people I am hearing from are more concerned with addressing their concerns over the local wildlife, and the public safety benefits that a wildlife specialist would provide, than on “car pooling benefits”, or ticket writing capability.

John Eastman

Stay tuned for the Bear Wars.

And, finally, the magazine New Scientist printed a story on the secret to a longer life. They quoted studies that conclude people who are conscientious live longer. Howard Friedman and Margaret Kern at the University of California at Riverside found in their studies that longevity goes to people who are hard-working, resourceful, confident and ambitious. Their study concluded that these people are “more stable and less stressful.”

We in the Bureaucrat Beat Newsroom have also vowed to remain hard-working and cheerful as we hope for the chance to tell our stories for many years to come.

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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