October 19, 2020
Four candidates pursuing two seats on Mammoth Lakes Town Council participated in a Zoom forum hosted by the Mammoth Chamber of Commerce last week. Here’s the abbreviated version:
First, the intros. Cindi Myrold, a 20-year resident currently working in the Town’s Finance Department, wants to stay involved. At 37, Sarah Rea is the youngest candidate. She covered town council for The Sheet, has a degree in print journalism from USC and currently is an administrative assistant at Mammoth Hospital. Incumbent Bill Sauser, a business owner and long-time resident, feels his job’s not done yet and wants to continue to serve. Heidi Steenstra moved to Mammoth in 1999, is an on-site condo manager and works part-time at a sporting goods store. She will “represent young families and move housing forward.”
What role does the Council play in helping businesses grow a stable economic base?
Steenstra: The economic relief helped but the real issue is housing. There can be no growth for businesses without housing for permanent and seasonal workers.
Sauser: Again, housing. The Council should work collaboratively with businesses as well as looking at development fees and expanding summer programs.
Rea: The Town has to invest in each other. Workforce housing is a priority. While tourism is the Town’s bread and butter, the residents were the ones that kept businesses alive during the pandemic.
Myrold: The Council sets the priorities. Stable housing is important. The Council can provide help to businesses with façade improvement and other programs.
How would you communicate with businesses on issues that impact them?
Sauser: Talk to them, one-on-one. Urge businesses to contact councilmembers. The Town should retain some of the COVID programs.
Steenstra: The Town can host coffees and power lunches. Councilmembers can go to the businesses. There could be a liaison between the Chamber and the Council.
Myrold: The Chamber is doing a good job with round table discussions. The best thing Councilmembers can do is be available.
Rea: She wants to see an inclusive, interactive government. It’s important to meet people where they are, use social media and be available.
What can the Town do to support Mammoth Lakes Tourism?
Rea: MLT is fulfilling its mission and has clearly been successful. But, how to we balance tourism and our quality of life. She is supportive of the Eastern Sierra Sustainable Recreation Project as a way to create the community we want.
Myrold: The Town sets the budget for the non-government organizations (NGOs).
Steenstra: MLT is doing a good job. The Town doesn’t do the marketing but MLT should be transparent. The Council needs to know where the money is going.
Sauser: A better question would be what can MLT do to help the town. It should look at improving way-finding, host programs, use the money for more than marketing.
How should the Town spend the $2.5 million left over from the TOT budget?
Myrold: It’s already been allocated or spent. Put the money in reserves. That’s how we survived COVID. Reduce our long term debt and use for road maintenance.
Rea: Don’t spend the money now and hold off on the Multi-Use Facility. Reduce the Town’s dept.
Sauser: Infrastructure improvements, including the Parcel at Shady Rest.
Steenstra: Housing and reserves for fire emergencies and the possible return of COVID. Look at rental assistance, parking issues, town transit.
Studies have been completed, how do we complete the plans?
Steentra: Support each group, hold them accountable and move forward.
Bill: We’ve accepted but not adopted these plans. They’re not shovel-ready. We need to see these plans end up with a process to move forward.
Myrold: The Council sets priorities and how the budget is adjusted. It serves as a roadmap for policy and budget decisions.
Rea: We’re overpaying consultants to tell us what we already know. Get the Parcel built, businesses will be built up around it.
Over the next five years, what infrastructure projects do we need to focus on?
Rea: The Parcel, sidewalks, multi-use paths, parks. The community is what makes Mammoth great
Myrold: The Parcel, the Community Recreation Center to provide indoor recreation for our children and tourists. Finish the Mammoth Arts Center, but maybe smaller, the trail system and road maintenance.
Steenstra: The Parcel, roads, facilities and amenities. We need to work with what we’ve got.
Sauser: The Town needs to proceed with caution. We don’t know what COVID will do to the economy. The Recreation Center is funded from Measure R. The Airport capital improvement, roads, sidewalks, signage, downtown beautification.
Candidates were given the opportunity to rebut or question their rivals’ answers. No one did.
If you haven’t already, vote by November 3.