mono county – 2016 general election analysis

The Mono County Registrar’s Office has published the results from the November 8, 2016 general election. Breaking into the numbers a bit, there are some interesting facts.

Voter Turnout

With 79.64% voter turnout, Mono County has a very engaged voter base compared to the national average of 60% (in a general).

Mammoth is a Leftist Town

Looking at the State Assembly Race between conservative Frank Bigelow and liberal Robert Carabas , Mr. Bigelow won by 154 votes in Mono County as the incumbent with a much larger war chest (nearly 10:1 over Mr. Carabas).  Interesting but ultimately unsurprising was that Mammoth Lakes voted for Mr. Carabas with a 25% majority.

This echoes the Presidential results as well, where Mammoth Lakes had a total of 2,450 voters and nearly 2:1 voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump.

Prop 64 (legalizing marijuana) also lead with nearly 2:1 passage in Mammoth Lakes (1540 yes to 818 no).

The Mammoth Left Resembles the State Left

Looking at Mammoth Lakes with Prop 62 (repealing the death penalty) however didn’t go well, losing by 6% which closely echoes the 8% loss that the bill suffered overall in California.

it’s november 9th – what are you going to do about it?

(It’s 9:00pm west coast, and it looks like Donald Trump will win… results are coming in)

I’m taking a break from watching what seems to be more and more likely: President Elect Trump. Numerous states have not closed but the odds are increasing that in January of 2017 we will have a Trump executive branch, a GOP senate, and a GOP house. Coupled with GOP appointments to the Supreme Court.

For those opposed to Trump, there will be soul searching. There will be rage. There will be anger at Hillary Clinton: why couldn’t Sanders have run and possibly won? There will be a general hangover that will cloud the minds of anyone who did not support Donald Trump.

But tonight, before you go to sleep, I want you to think about this. Edman Vance Cook:

It’s nothing against you to fall down flat,
But to lie there — that’s disgrace.

By all means, feel like shit for a while. Be angry at the racists, misogynists, and bigots. Forget the long arc of American progress that by any measure has, over the long run, improved the outlook of every segment of our society. Believe that it’s all over and America as we know it is gone forever.

Then get up off the floor.

I try not to patronize as a general rule, but when someone prays for something, it’s hard for me to hold my tongue. You go pray for a sandwich and I’ll head to the kitchen and open the fridge: let’s see who eats first. Work is what fixes things, and nothing else.

I know decent and kind people who are Trump supporters. You may not want to handle that reality, but it’s true. It’s hard to square that with the anti-semites and xenophobes who also support him. Painting them all with a brush that spans half the country is much easier on the mind.

But a very large chunk of American society thinks that Donald Trump is the answer to their problems. Two things that won’t help the matter: (1) Your mockery of them and (2) you sitting on your ass.

I care about this country because I, like you, benefit from a long line of people of who put their nation first. Today is the day when you determine what you’ll spend your evenings on: Hulu, Facebook, or America.

Be mad. Feel let down. And when you’re done doing all of that please join me in putting this country back on the arc it has always managed to stay on: one that allows us to provide equality and opportunity moreso today than we did yesterday.

Our leaders are really our followers as they embrace ideas that have already come to fruition across our nation. We the people, as corny as that sounds, must now dig in for the long fight. There will be no trophies, and there will be no glory. While we work we will witness the bad ideas of others come to fruition that will hurt decent Americans.

And in this work is our opportunity to grab the helm and aim our nation towards a future we can be proud of. Together, we can do this. I’m starting tomorrow, and I hope you will join me.


mammoth lakes housing shortage

Skimming through the Mammoth For Rent group the telltale signs of housing shortages is readily apparent with posts like this guy, looking to sleep on a floor:


Or this couple with jobs who is willing to be split up to live in town:


These are not wealthy vacationers. Rather these are the folks working the chair lifts, the kitchens, the ski schools, and all other essential functions that people living in and coming to Mammoth rely upon. And it’s not that there isn’t space available to rent. Rather, a quick hop over on AirBnB shows that there are over 300 listings for Mammoth. For Mono County in total there are over 1,000 so the number in Mammoth is very likely closer to that 1k mark.

For the town coffers, more than half of which is supplied by a Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) the revenue derived from short term rentals is staggering: June of 2016 raised more than $1,000,000 alone (a 30% increase form the previous year).

As is often the case in life, decisions that hurt normal people aren’t a vast conspiracy crafted by money grubbing officials in smoke filled rooms. More boringly it’s a steady march down a path of self interest.

For home owners in Mammoth, short term rentals are great. They allow you have a more affordable second home, being able to subsidize a mortgage. And instead of a long term rental you have a place you or your friends can drop in pretty much whenever. Even if you don’t do short term rentals you you benefit from others that do. Having homes in Mammoth be more affordable reduces home inventory and keeps property values up.

For the town, they rake in the TOT tax of 13% on short term (AirBnB, VRBO, etc) stuff but not a dime on typical long term rentals. My hopefully reasonable question:

Exactly how motivated is the Town of Mammoth Lakes to reduce short term rentals, thereby lowering home prices, lowering property taxes, and lowering the revenue of the Transient Occupancy Tax?

Everyone cares about affordable housing. Whether or not you do anything to materially impact the situation in a positive way is a whole different bag of potatoes. And really, when was the last time you saw an organization do something that wasn’t in its fiscal interests?

skip the burger unless you really want it

I was walking to work one day and a young man standing in front of a community college handed me a flier. It, and I assume he, was full of vegan propaganda. Perhaps you haven’t heard the joke before:

How do you know someone is vegan [and/or into crossfit]? Don’t worry, they’ll tell you.

I said “thanks” and kept walking, thumbing through the papers looking for typical arguments that meat is murder and I will enjoy tofu as much as an In-n-Out burger: obviously a lie, peddled by anti-Americans raised in some communist country.


First result on Google image search for “vegan”.

But instead I encountered a rather balanced and realistic approach. “Cows are hard on our environment and health. Consider minimizing your use of them.” I was taken aback.

Rather than be confronted with zealotry, the statement was honest and reasonable. After all, I think most of us know that if we’re not going to absolutely reduce less-than-terrific habits like alcohol consumption that we learn how to achieve a sustainable balance.

Whether you get your news from NPR or Breitbart, you’ll face the hard reality that cows actually beat out cars for greenhouse gas emissions. Breaking news today shows promise that by adding a tiny amount of seaweed to a cow’s diet, methane emissions can be cut by 99%.

Skipping over to more immediate concerns, antibiotics used in cattle are definitively linked to human diseases that are antibiotic resistant. Put bluntly, the contemporary way our society raises cattle is killing people. From the WHO:

…there is clear evidence of adverse human health consequences due to resistant organisms resulting from non-human usage of antimicrobials.

And let’s unpack “adverse human health” a bit of clarity from the CDC:

Each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections. Many more people die from other conditions that were complicated by an antibiotic-resistant infection.

Now of course we can’t lay 100% of the blame of antibiotic resistant deaths at the hooves of cattle production. But it’s clearly a significant cause as outlined in this Frontline documentary.


Sorry planet, but I’m eating my 5×5 protein style. I’m not squatting 315×5 by eating tofu, bro.

Tracing this all back to the nice vegan man handing out fliers, I’ve found that like alcohol, pot, and staying up late watching shitty movies the point is not to remove these things entirely from your life (less you become an absolute bore).

I’ve removed most of the beef from my diet by asking a simple question:

Do I actually want to eat beef right now or am I just hungry?

If I’m going to In-N-Out, I’m happily participating in the wholesale murder of cows with a smile on my face. But if I’m just scarfing some food down in a hurry, I’ll toss some Boca spicy “chicken” patties in a pan.

Before I grab a beer, I ask myself if I really want a beer or if I’m actually just thirsty and want some water. Trust me: most of the time I want the beer.

I would posit that most of our daily habits are not consciously planned out. They look mysteriously like what we did yesterday and the week before, and also echo how our parents raised us. But it’s a brave new world out there and there’s new information to contend with.

If you want to do things that aren’t so great for you, me, or the environment that’s fine: we all do things like that. But perhaps consider regulating it a bit. It’s one thing to be a little selfish because you’re too lazy to stock your shopping cart with something better. It’s entirely different to be selfish when your teeth sink into a wonderful juicy burger. in the latter example, selfishness never tasted so good.

rush limbaugh is right

Somehow I stumbled onto Rush Limbaugh’s site, and read the partial transcripts from his October 18th, 2016 show. Much to the fury of partisans on both sides, I actually try to read and watch those who I generally don’t agree with. I’m probably one of the few people who’s read the autobiographies of Hillary Clinton, George W Bush, George H W Bush, Bill Clinton, and Barack Obama. From Mr. Limbaugh regarding Trump’s narrowing chances for victory:

…it doesn’t matter who the Republicans nominate, this is always gonna happen. … There isn’t a Republican nominee that they are not gonna demonize.

We can safely assume that “they” is the main stream media, which effectively includes anyone critical of a Republican. Mr. Limbaugh goes on further to explain why steadfast Trump supporters are indeed sticking with the real estate developer:

The Republican primary voters had grown weary of nominating and electing people that were not gonna fight back against any of this defamation and slander and libel against all of us, and Trump is, and that’s why his supporters are not abandoning him.

This feeds nicely into Trump’s attempt to explain how everyone not supporting him is part of a vast and complex conspiracy. From the guy who charges him too much at the coffee shop to the FBI to the Clinton Foundation to the Federal Reserve to reporters to Paul Ryan: they’re all meeting in smoke filled rooms comparing notes on how to take down Donald Trump and his supporters.

The reality is a bit different. If you compare Secretary Clinton’s campaign challenges, they generally rely on reporters to sift through mountains of data and interpret second hand sources (like John Podesta). Trump on the other hand has dumped piles of data on the table and is his own worst enemy. Combing through the Podesta Wikileaks emails takes serious journalism and there’s a lot of room for selection bias and interpretation. Compare that with Donald Trump for which the below video was probably stitched together over the course of an evening, using only Trump’s own words.

More to the point, the very nature of many Trump supporters is deplorable. With slogans like “Trump that Bitch” and xenophobia concealed like an elephant in saran wrap, a candidate who appeals to people like that should be slandered by their own words.


If you have this sticker, you are a low life shit kicker with no manners.

Regarding Mr. Limbaugh’s claim of demonizing, I would object to that practice in general, because demonizing puts you on a path whereby you automatically distrust someone and mold every statement and action into your pre-shaped concepts. As an example, any independent thinker should be able to rightly acknowledge and support Trump’s plan for tough lobbying restrictions announced in mid October. You still don’t need to vote for the person, but if you find yourself blindly hating any person or party you had better not get upset when someone paints you with a massive brush as you’re doing it yourself to them.

The alt/far right of our country is shrinking, and to steal from Christopher Hitchens, is ratcheting its voice up to a screaming volume to ward off the growing silence. I once had an opossum in my yard, and it ran into the corner of a building. Cornered, knowing somewhere deep in its mind that death was imminent, it pulled out all the stops and was prepared to kill or be killed.

What’s missing from Mr. Limbaugh’s assessment is exactly that: the alt/far right is embracing views farther and further out of league with what the majority of Americans want in this country. As such, opponents of them must simply turn on a camera, record their vitriol, and sit back as the country alternates between shocks and groans.


social media in mammoth lakes

Before I moved up here, I did what any Internet savvy citizen would do: tried to creep on Mammoth Lakes and learn everything I could. Confusingly, Mammoth denied Internet norms: there is no Craiglist, just Reno, “Gold Country“, and even some junk on Bakersfield. The messageboard is broken and doesn’t allow new members. The subreddit is a digital ghost town.


What’s the point of doing anything if you can’t post a photo of it on social media to get recognition from others?

Paul Oster has a blog that’s somewhat current, and there’s a lot of info on there especially for anyone who’s looking at buying real estate.

But in general I had to learn all this the hard way, so with no further ado let me key you into Mammoth’s social media:

  • Mammoth Buy Sell Trade. This is the facebook group that nearly everyone with a phone or computer uses to buy and sell in Mammoth or Bishop. I’ve bought bikes, furniture, and tires from here. Likewise we’ve sold a car seat, storage racks, and housewares. Also, this is where up-to-the-minute town drama happens. Did you hear an explosion? Did a bear get into someone’s house? Did the police cite a guy for picking up trash? It’s all on Mammoth Buy Sell Trade.
  • Mammoth For Rent. Unable to figure out where the hell the rentals are? Well, here you go. Before the snow season starts, this is 10% listings and 90% people with $500 a month looking for a place slopeside that will take them and their dog.
  • Butt Hurt Owens Valley. This is primarily for folks who love along the 395 as there is a distinct difference between Mono residents and those down in Inyo/Kern/wherever. In general this is full of people from Bishop complaining about homeless people the Vons parking lot sleeping in their cars.

As an interesting note, I believe social media allows us to connect with each other (big shocker!). When you live in a small town, however, you end up being really connected. Very quickly you end up knowing everyone and everyone knows you. This also forces a large degree of civility because you either will get along with neighbors who are on different ends of the political and religious spectrum from you or you will shut off half the town and retreat to a very small group of like-minded individuals.

In Manhattan, you can easily fill a high school auditorium with raw-food vegans whose favorite color is green and share the first name of Ben. In Mammoth, just finding some folks who like the same movies as you might take a lifetime to discover. As such, there’s a lot of getting along going on. Not the echo chamber kind, but the kind where civility and neighborliness is prized. There’s just not enough people around here for you to only associate with the kind you agree with. Honestly I find it a refreshing change of pace from the larger city life.

(not) getting your mail delivered in mammoth lakes

From the US Postal Service’s Comprehensive Statement on Postal Operations (2001):

And neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, nor the winds of change, nor a nation challenged, will stay us from the swift completion of our appointed rounds. Ever.

They even tout their “rain/sleet/snow” delivery on Twitter, so it’s not like I’m picking some dated notion of delivery services from the pony express era.


Yeah, and maybe I’m a Chinese jet pilot.

Well, down here in Mammoth Lakes, CA, we don’t get mail delivery. Why? Well, the snow of course! To be fair it’s not just the USPS. Being the middle class white American that I am, I ordered a package on my Amazon Prime subscription. A different delivery truck service rolled up and the driver had a conversation with me as I grabbed my box:

“So, you’re the new owners here?”

I looked back at the house, and failing to deliver a funny joke I replied, “Yeah, either that or I’m going to get arrested I suppose.”

She just stared at me with that townie-who-hates-everyone-else look and said, “Well just so you know, I won’t go up this hill in the winter. So consider that.”

There was a part of me who wanted to fire back: “Look, pal. I ferried a god damn $15 fridge part across the Sea of Cortez for some dude I never met and have smuggled more shit across the border than a low level narco trafficker. Sure, it was generally blue masking tape and watermaker membranes, but that’s not the point.”

But instead I thanked her for the advice, realized this was one of those times when I should probably holster my opinion until I have more information on the subject, and have proceeded to try to secure all my winter belongings from the Internet before the snow starts dumping. To be clear though, I’m not the only person to notice the third-world-nature of package deliveries in Mammoth: here’s a good article from June 2016 in The Sheet News.


The Mammoth Lakes Post Office: a place where you will spend a lot of your time getting to know “yellow cards”.

So off we went to secure our new PO Box. Because the USPS doesn’t deliver, after proving that indeed we are residents in Mammoth Lakes, we got a cigar-box sized box for free. There are a couple of rules. First, every year we need to prove that we’re residents.

Second, and perhaps most hilarious, we need to check our box every three days. Mind you, these are the same people saying that they (as a professional delivery service) lack the ability to get to you six days a week, but they do require 8,000 people (+/- a few) to schlep their asses to the post office 100 days a year. Some old lady in a Civic apparently has better chops to getting her mail than the USPS can get it to her.

My suspicion is that the real reason for the lack of residential (and business) delivery is because this is first and foremost a chilled-out-mountain-town. I’ve noted before that Mammoth gets regarded as “a mountain with a town, rather than a town with a mountain.” Recently there was a good article in The Sheet News about whether Mammoth is “.. a Town? a Resort? a Resort Town?

If you look at Long Island, New York, even in the middle of Hurricane Sandy delivery workers still showed up. Hell, even after 9/11 mail delivery was back on schedule less than 24 hours later in downtown Manhattan. From the linked article above:

All Postal Service employees reported to work on Monday morning [following Hurricane Sandy], according to USPS spokeswoman Darleen Reid, and while certain routes will be disrupted (such as evacuated areas of New York City), and a handful of coastal offices are closed, everywhere mail can be safely delivered, it will be. As far as Reid knows, the Postal Service has never failed to deliver mail to an area for a 24-hour period in its entire 237-year history, unless there were physical obstacles — mounds of snow, flooded streets — that made it impossible.

Sure, in some areas of Mammoth Lakes there will be “mounds of snow”, but for plenty of the town the roads are cleared quite quickly. Indeed, the entire snow-spots thing only works if in the midst of the gnarliest conditions visitors can get into town, do some shopping, hit the slopes, grab dinner, and get to their hotels. Mammoth Lakes’ Public Works Department even has a rather well thought out snow removal policy, and bolsters its ranks with part time drivers to supplement the full time staff.

And taking it an obvious step forward, it’s only “dumping snow” typically ~5 months a year, leaving the other 7 safe enough to ride a unicycle through town.

The real reason as I see it is because of the obvious difference between Mammoth Lakes and Long Island: one has the New York attitude towards functioning, somehow, every day, regardless of what the hell is going on. Terrorism, heat waves, blizzards, hurricanes: everyone has a job and needs to get to work.

Mammoth, on the other hand, is a place visitors (and most residents) go to on vacation, for retirement, or to spend more time in a relaxed setting. The amount of people who need their mail delivered on time up here is small. Yes, I know the winter weather is brutal. But I posit that if everyone up here needed to work a 9-5 and get their mail on time in order to pay the bills (including property taxes), this would have been resolved a while ago.