New president foolish enough to launch first missile? | TahoeDailyTribune.com

New president foolish enough to launch first missile?

For over half a century the world has lived in fear of a nuclear conflagration, yet comforted to some extent by the belief that anyone would have to be a fool or insane to launch that first missile. By the afternoon of Jan. 20, 2017, I’m afraid that security blanket will have shrunk to the size of a postage stamp.

John O’Neill

Minden, Nevada

Opinion: How will Trump’s education pick affect your school?

As Inauguration Day approaches, the press has focused much attention on Donald Trump’s picks for cabinet posts, including Betsy DeVos for secretary of education. At a time like this, it’s worth reflecting on the past trends in public education and then asking: What will the new secretary (if approved) bring to the table?

First, remember we came into Barack Obama’s presidency with the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act in full swing. This re-authorization of an earlier federal education law was a bi-partisan effort, started under Bill Clinton and passed under George W. Bush, that emphasized school accountability. The idea that we hold schools accountable for public money has been politically persuasive over time: Make sure that taxpayers get their money’s worth in public education.

To do this, law has focused on making sure that all kids are able to have highly qualified teachers, states build and maintain academic standards and tests of those standards, and emphasizes quantifiable outcomes in the form of test scores and graduation rates in order to track school performance.

Note that this argument has always been hard for educators to embrace since the idea that test scores reflect the real work of teaching and learning is really flawed.

During most of Obama’s two terms, his secretaries of education focused on other means to make the same things happen. They put pressure on states to (1) adopt common “fewer, clearer, higher” curriculum standards, which took the form of the Common Core Standards, and (2) then test students to see if they have achieved those standards.

The idea here was that if we focus on “better” standards and we ask states to “work together” to build much better tests, we will do a better job at the NCLB goals. Arne Duncan rewarded states that used test scores to track student performance and then evaluate teachers with those scores. Again, educators balked, saying how could test scores for math and reading in third grade evaluate our second grade teachers, or gym teachers? (Good point, right?) Besides, do we even know how to measure student growth in achievement? Not reliably, the research shows convincingly.

This leads us to today. We are facing new Washington leadership, including at the Department of Education. Betsy DeVos comes from Michigan where she has been a vocal and influential voice for school choice and the privatization of education. She herself is a product of Christian, private schools and was the chairwoman of the American Federation for Children, an organization that, according to its website, is devoted to supporting all efforts to increase school choice.

DeVos believes that allowing parents choices in how they educate their children benefits the system as a whole and helps the individual child. She believes that competition between schools also helps provide better educational settings for everybody.

So in many ways, DeVos continues the trend toward holding schools accountable to public money, and (since NCLB was reauthorized into the Every Student Succeeds Act in late 2015) she will still have to use graduation rates, teacher quality and test scores as a means to understanding what good schools are.

However, she will bring a different set of solutions to the entrenched problems, namely school choice. By doing this, she will likely use what power and funding she can to encourage school options and parent choice in those options.

Critics have cried out that DeVos is keen on diverting funding from public schools already strapped for resources to help fund private or religious schools. Also, critics rightly cite evidence that the success of school choice depends on the quality of options. Without “good enough” options, there will continue to be disparities in student experience, disadvantaging those kids who have the least power in the system. There is the issue of separation of church and state, too. Should public funding really go to religious schools?

School choice can work. I would argue that elementary schools in South Lake Tahoe are evidence of this possibility. The fact that parents can pick a school program is appealing to many parents in town. Choice allows parents to take responsibility for their children’s direction and gives families investment and even identity in the schools they pick.

School choice also gives a different locus of accountability — from the government to the parents. By doing this, parents may have more reason to be involved. And parent involvement is known to be a huge predictor of student and school success.

All that said, I remain concerned about the relative success of all four elementary programs in town. The disparity in test sores between them does raise questions about whether programs are all getting what they each need uniquely to provide equitable opportunities for all our children.

When we have school choice, it doesn’t mean that any parent can pick any school — there are limits in enrollment and programming that will force some decisions.

DeVos will make the argument that we need good options for every child. It’s hard to argue with that. What’s worth questioning is: How do we make sure every option is “good enough,” especially when they all receive funding from taxpayers?

Annie Davidson, Ed.D., is the parent of two young children in the Lake Tahoe Unified School District. Her work in education has spanned the elementary classroom, testing industry and higher education. She currently teaches at Lake Tahoe Community College and volunteers as much as she can. She can be reached at annehdavidson@gmail.com.

Jim Porter: 898 new laws for California in 2017 (opinion)

As usual, our California Legislature has been busy passing new laws – 898 for 2017 (Governor Jerry vetoed 159 other bills). I’ll be cherry picking a few from time to time, here’s the first selection:

Powdered Alcohol: I wanted to get the most important new laws out first! You probably do not know there is such a thing, but booze in a powdered form, including spirits, wine and beer, is now illegal to possess, sell, make or use. It should be.

“Redskins”: California public schools are now banned from using the name “Redskins” for sports teams and mascots – for obvious reasons. Favorite replacements are the “Tribe” and the “Reds.” Tell that to the Washington Redskins football team.

Motorcycle Lane Splitting: California law requires vehicles on a multi-lane roadway to remain as practical as possible within a single lane. Apparently, following the European model, California is considering allowing motorcycles to “lane split,” meaning drive between rows of stopped or moving vehicles. As we all know, when traffic is blocked up, it’s not uncommon to see motorcycles threading their way between lanes. AB 51 merely authorizes the CHP to develop educational and safety guidelines for lane splitting, nothing more.

Gender-Neutral Bathrooms: Our Democrat-controlled Legislature in Sacramento has passed a law that requires all “single-user toilet facilities” in any business or public place to be all-gender with appropriate signage. I read new Health and Safety Code Section 118600 and can’t tell whether it requires single unisex toilets to be labeled “Gender Neutral” (which would make no sense) or whether it applies to the typical two-bathroom men’s and women’s and requires those bathrooms to be labeled “Gender Neutral” or “His or Hers, You Decide,” which doesn’t make sense either. I’ll let you know when the Legislature figures out what it meant.

Minimum Wage: You’ve all read about this new law, but California’s minimum wage will increase from $10 an hour to $10.50 an hour for businesses with 26 or more employees, gradually increasing to $15 an hour in 2022. SB 3 delays increases by one year for smaller employers. President-Elect Trump is tweeting he’d like to take the minimum wage back down to $1 an hour, or so I heard.

Ahwahne Hotel: In response to the Ahwahne Hotel in Yosemite being renamed, the Majestic Yosemite Hotel because a concessionaire somehow acquired the right to the name Ahwahne, AB 2249 prohibits that from happening again. When I find out who that concessionaire was, I’ll let you know so we can boycott.

Sexual Assault: In response to a minimal six-month jail sentence a Stanford student received for assaulting and having sex with a passed-out woman, AB 2888 mandates a prison term for sexually assaulting people who are unconscious. As the father of two daughters, I support this overdue law.

Bill Cosby Law: Senate Bill 813 responds to disgraced entertainer Bill Cosby who has been sued by dozens of accusers for his purported drugging and raping women. Effective prospectively only, SB 813 eliminates the Statute of Limitations (deadline) for prosecuting rape cases. The old law had a 10 year deadline; however, if the victim is a minor, the deadline to prosecute is her 40th birthday.

Dogs in Cars: AB 797 allows Good Samaritans to free animals who are showing signs of distress overheating in locked vehicles, provided they can’t find the owner; however, they must first contact law enforcement and wait for the authorities to show up before breaking in to free the animal.

Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee, Tahoe City and Reno. Jim’s practice areas include: development, construction, business, HOAs, contracts, personal injury, accidents, mediation and other transactional matters. He may be reached at porter@portersimon.com or http://www.portersimon.com.

Mom Talk: Plenty to do around Tahoe with the kids

Most of us live in Tahoe for our love of the mountains, the lake and the four seasons. There is probably no place more beautiful than Tahoe to grow up in. My husband was born and raised here and we feel very fortunate to bring up our sons in the great outdoors.

Me? I’m a southern California transplant who never experienced seasons and usually played at the beach year-round. Living in Tahoe with snow and rain (man oh man, have we had rain lately!) during the winter months, requires a little more planning ahead to make sure we don’t all go stir-crazy.

There are some very obvious winter activities to participate in with kids, like sledding, skiing and building a snowman. However, if you’re like me, a mom that has two rambunctious boys, then you’re likely to always be on the hunt for ways in which to keep your kiddos busy. Here are some of my favorite, less obvious, winter activities:

Snow Tubing: Sierra-at-Tahoe has an awesome tube terrain setup at Blizzard Mountain for kids. My oldest son loves it, especially the conveyor belt that brings him up to the top. Heavenly also has a tube hill and rollercoaster (!!), but we have yet to try those out.

Indoor fun: There are surprisingly a lot of indoor options here for kids, both young and old. The Tahoe Tot Spot is great for toddlers, my sons love the ball pit and mini-coaster. My boys aren’t quite old enough for the open play time at Inversion Gym but I know they will love that when they turn six (especially if their jumping on the couch is any indication!). A secret place (to me at least!) is the fun zone inside the Harrah’s Arcade. It’s gated off, which makes it ideal for winter birthday parties, and has a maze of “hamster tubes” for kids to crawl through and burn tons of energy. Another great option is the open-play at Kahle Community Center every Tuesday, affectionately known as “Twosday Mornings” —they have an indoor playground, crafts and group circle time.

The Classics: Don’t forget, we have an awesome movie theater that always plays family-friendly movies (isn’t it great that most kid movies have adult humor too?), a bowling alley which is fun for the whole family, and the library, which hosts a whole variety of activities throughout the week. Oh! And I would be remiss without mentioning the ice skating rink and the indoor pools for swim lessons. I, for one, am thrilled that our community passed Measure P so that we can look forward to a new, state-of-the-art rec center!

Of course, some of my favorite winter activities are staying in, watching the snow fall, baking, watching movies, and playing board games—all by the fire of course!

So…what did I miss? Are there any winter activities that you and your family love to take part in? I’d love to hear! And stay safe out there—this weather definitely makes for cozy days at home.

Natasha Schue is a mom of two boys, wife and a full-time working, young professional. You can read more about her family adventures on her blog schuelove.com or follow her on Instagram @schuelove. You can send questions or comments to: schuelove@gmail.com.

Letter: Tahoe Transportation District needs to take a stand on affordable housing

Dear editor,

I am writing about the ads that I see in the Tribune from the Tahoe Transportation District. The one that says “publishing these commitments demonstrates that the TTD board recognizes affordable housing as a critical piece in the revitalization project’s success.”

I can’t tell you how mad that makes me! Recognizing affordable housing? Well that’s great, but it does nothing for anybody! The problem is the overwhelming amount of vacation rentals by owners that are taking over this community. It’s like we are cheap selling the lake. We have residential areas being flooded by businesses (yes running a VRBO is a business). I can’t believe the city will allow advertisements on the front on these homes.

Multi family residential homes are now B&Bs. There’s no real regulation or thought to permits being issued and where they are being issued. People born here are becoming an endangered species. We are being told by the TTD in its ad that housing is its first priority, while they plan on ripping out 75 plus residential homes? Quit publishing a bunch of BS ads and do something. Your influence as TTD could help force City Council to put restrictions on vacation rentals by owner, like no multi-family homes or only certain percentages of certain neighborhoods can have permits.

It should be a privilege, not a right. I can’t rent a space at the Crescent Shopping area and decide to live there. The same should apply to residential areas. Otherwise it’s opening the flood gates for other home businesses. TTD, you would have more support from the community if you took a stand. I refuse to sit by another year and have choices made for myself and the lake — a lake I am madly in love with. If I hear one more time, “attend a City Council meeting,” well, unless the city moves the meeting to the center of town by the court house or library, it’s not a option. Having City Council meetings way out by the airport, where there isn’t any public transportation, is a crime. You wouldn’t need affordable housing if we didn’t have over 2,000 vacation rentals — 434 alone on VRBO. TTD, if your ads are true then please help with this growing cancer of AIRBB, VRBO.

Help move our City Council meetings to the middle of town, and give the people a voice again. In 2017, TTD, please help protect the integrity of our local population.

Sincerely frustrated,

Jade Hemsley

Stateline, Nevada

Letter: SnowGlobe ‘a lot of loud confusing fun’

I drove home the other night and passed several groups of happy Snow Globers who wore less reflective clothing than a bear with its eyes closed. As I waited for a light to turn green, the leader of one division looked both ways before he walked straight into the path of an oncoming car. Had it not been for the driver’s cat-like reflexes, along with an unseasonable lack of snow and ice on the road, the spiderman-suit-clad teenager with a raccoon hat would have been whisked away to Barton’s emergency room.

As a curmudgeon outsider, I have no idea what this SnowGlobe thing is about. Yet the annual event has afforded me the opportunity to stay up late at night and surmise what a fantastic place it must be for the youth of today.

The SnowGlobe reminds me of my own misspent youth, when Lake Tahoe was the place to be on New Year’s Eve. We came to Tahoe in great waves, piled into willing driver’s vehicles. Not much forethought or consideration was given to snow chains, four-wheel-drive, warm clothing, food, money or where to spend the night. We came to party.

Years before smart phones and prior to the installation of the sidewalk railings that now make their inexorable presence, we migrated to Stateline like lost cattle. An hour or so before midnight, U.S. 50 was closed to make way for the unrelenting stampedes of drunken youth, and yours truly — now a curmudgeon. The crowd was crammed with happy faces, and the loud profusion of voices that was punctuated by a multitude of steamy breaths that rose up in the cold night air.

Many found new warm friends of the opposite sex. A few of the more inebriated may not remember that they climbed up poles and on top of statues and got into arguments and fights. But they did — I saw them. Horse-mounted policemen with helmets and nightsticks added to all the excitement.

Ten, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one … happy New Year! Overcome with jubilation, people hugged and kissed, and personal items, including a few champagne bottles — that luckily didn’t hurt anyone — were thrown high in the air. It was the place to be. And before you knew it, it was time to figure out how to get back home.

Although I do not attempt to understand the SnowGlobe, I have a keen sense of what it is — a lot of loud confusing fun. For me, now a South Lake Tahoe resident, perhaps payback is a ####.

Andrew Homan

South Lake Tahoe, California

Guest column: Tahoe storms that nostalgia are made of

I was lucky enough to be born and raised in the tiny and beautiful little town of South Lake Tahoe, a mountain utopia that never fails to thrill and delight me to my core.

Well, this little sleepy town of ours is slowly emerging from a four-day blizzard event that brought over 10 feet of snow into our mountains and followed some of the craziest flooding I have ever seen in my 31 years of living here.

Our town was shut down, and every single home around the entire lake was absolutely clobbered with a river of rain and then a mountain of relentless snow. Very few businesses remained open, ski resorts closed from the danger of high wind and avalanche threat (one of them did experience a massive avalanche), our kids’ schools have been closed four days in a row and have yet to open.

Roadways in and out of town closed over mountain passes at certain times.

And so we all cozied up and hunkered down with our families. The power outages and wind were truly awesome and humbling to behold (I was sure the snow falling from the trees was bombing my roof at night), and the snow … oh man, the snow.

The rate of snowfall has been gorgeous and nostalgia-inducing as we watched our children experience the true “snow days” from the good ole’ days of winter’s past.

For me, it was like re-living a sweet and pleasant dream from my own childhood: town is completely closed, no one enters or exits, no school for days at a time. You jump out of bed in awe at the glorious sight out your window, light as a feather with no school in sight, and you find these magical pockets of time to go outside.

You play in your yard and build a snowman on your deck. You go sledding down your driveway and the snowballs are so easy to make that when you throw them they explode like little bombs of fluffy confetti.

Snowflakes flutter from the sky and they collect on your eyelashes and melt on your tongue like the softest pieces of fluff with a hint of the most perfect water you have ever tasted.

Everything is blanketed in glistening white and the flakes are swirling like a little universe of falling stars. The air is perfectly silent and thick with … what is that magical silence that saturates the air in between the snowflakes?

There is no word for it, but I think as a child it feels more intense. Then that lonely car drives by your house with chains on and it sounds exactly like sleigh bells cutting through the air and echoing down the road. Then the deafening and delicious silence is back again and you don’t have a single care or worry in this simple and beautiful world.

This is what Tahoe winter means to those of us who were lucky enough to grow up here. To those of us who have lived here for 20, 30 years, it lives in our souls and it is part of who we are. In that string of five winter-less years, it was so easy to forget or just wonder if you dreamed the entire thing. But now we wake up to these storms and we can vividly remember again.

Now we can look into the simple and sheer joy of our children’s fresh, rosy faces covered in snow and smiles, and just like that, it comes back to us.

Building a snowman with my 2-year-old daughter on the same deck where I used to build them with my sister when we were very little … and it comes back to me.

Seeing her eyes twinkle and hearing that laugh as she fearlessly sleds down my own childhood sledding hill … and it comes back to me.

I suddenly realize it wasn’t a pleasant dream in the back of my subconscious — it was real, it was my beautiful childhood. After living this storm I suddenly know in my heart of hearts that we used to have winters like this all the time — snowstorms that wreaked havoc on our driveways and feet upon feet of snow that brought our snow berms towering over our wondrous little 3-foot-tall heads like a mountain.

I think the raddest feeling to come out of this storm, for me, was the feeling of watching my daughter experience the quality of snow that I vividly remember in my childhood soul.

And then I had this life-changing realization: From now on, I get to relive every single thing through her. I get to start over again, and grow up in Tahoe one more time.

I have never felt more blessed in any period of my life as I do right now.

Kalotina Reilly is a South Lake Tahoe native and owner of Sunrise Ski & Snowboard Rental in Meyers. When she is not spending time with her daughter she can be reached at kalotinamarie@gmail.com.

League to Save Lake Tahoe opinion: The road to a healthier Lake Tahoe

Have you heard the analogy between climate change and steroids? The major league slugger Barry Bonds had been a great hitter before he used steroids. Steroids caused him to hit more home runs, often farther out of the park.

Climate change can make Lake Tahoe’s weather act like it’s on steroids. Tahoe has always had occasional odd, intense weather events, like torrential rain storms in the middle of winter. Global warming will make big rain events like Sunday’s more common.

Protecting Lake Tahoe today requires improving the resiliency of the lake to the effects of our warming climate, which will include more frequent torrential rains like Sunday’s storm or those we saw in October — causing more fine sediment pollution to flow into the lake — and warmer lake water, providing a more hospitable summer environment to algae and invasive species.

So how are we doing at improving the lake’s resiliency? Here’s a rundown of the 2016 milestones:

The California Tahoe Conservancy’s commitment to restore a major portion of the Upper Truckee Marsh is big. They plan to return the vast wetland where the Upper Truckee River meets Lake Tahoe to a more natural state. Wetlands act as a sponge during torrential rain storms and serve as natural pollution filters. Projects like this will be essential in preparing Tahoe for climate change.

President Barack Obama’s visit at last summer’s 20th annual Lake Tahoe Summit put a national spotlight on the threats to one of America’s most iconic lakes. Federal agencies manage the majority of the land in the basin. His commitment to Keep Tahoe Blue renewed the federal government’s commitment to Tahoe.

Another notable win for the lake was the cancellation of the ill-conceived Brockway camping resort. The enormous resort would have concentrated thousands of visitors on a relatively remote and forested ridgeline. Brockway would have set a terrible precedent, adding significant traffic and associated pollution to the Tahoe Basin.

Congress passed the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act in December, following years of advocacy by a coalition representing Tahoe’s businesses, local governments and the League to Save Lake Tahoe. The legislation authorizes $415 million over seven years for projects to reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfire, tackle aquatic invasive species and drive environmental restoration to protect the lake’s clarity.

The road to a healthy Tahoe also had bumps in 2016. Placer County approved two developments that would add thousands of car trips to Tahoe: Martis Valley West and the Village at Squaw Valley. How we handle traffic has become pivotal to Tahoe’s health: auto traffic is now a dominant cause of clarity-degrading pollution.

There are two key connections between auto traffic and lake clarity. One, fine sediment pollution — caused when cars crush winter road abrasives — washes off our roads and parking lots into the lake, clouding the water. And two, pollutants in tailpipe emissions feeding excessive algae growth. Global warming will exacerbate such threats.

Where there are challenges, there are often opportunities, and 2017 provides plenty of opportunities to curb the amplifying effects of climate change.

First, it’s time we do something meaningful about traffic. As anyone who got stuck in the New Year’s gridlock knows, Tahoe traffic is a problem. Recent analysis found Tahoe welcomes 24 million visitors each year, in more than 9 million vehicles. That’s about the same number of people who travel to the top five most-visited national parks combined.

Addressing our traffic woes requires resolve by Tahoe public officials, who must demand developers choose 21st century traffic management tools to reduce car trips. A current example is the new Tahoe City Lodge, which will implement innovative parking management, transit and bike solutions — cumulatively, the project is expected to decrease the number of local car trips. This must become the model for how Tahoe projects are designed.

We must also secure sustainable funds for on-the-ground transportation options that allow residents and visitors attractive alternatives to being trapped in their car. We can learn from Zion National Park, where visitors enjoy convenient shuttles, and Steamboat Springs, whose bike trail network earned it gold level recognition as a bicycle friendly community. (Our own South Lake Tahoe was recently awarded silver status for bike friendliness.)

We must also advance more projects like the Upper Truckee River Marsh restoration. Decades of unchecked development destroyed much of Tahoe’s wetlands and meadows. Restoring these sensitive lands will enhance the lake’s resiliency to future storm events like Sunday’s, while trapping more of the fine sediment pollution from our paved areas.

Much like Bonds’ injections made home runs more likely, we now face weather on steroids and other new pressures on Tahoe’s fragile ecology. There is a role for everyone in advancing the protections the lake will need. Speak out in support of stronger environmental protections and better transit and transportation solutions. Get involved in the League’s citizen science and community programs: our Pipe Keepers volunteers monitor stormwater to help reduce fine sediment pollution and our trained Eyes on the Lake volunteers are helping the Conservancy ensure aquatic invasive species don’t spread during the Upper Truckee Marsh restoration. Whether you’re a long-time resident or a first-time visitor, there is a role for you in the decades-long effort to Keep Tahoe Blue.

Darcie Goodman Collins, PhD, is the executive director of the League to Save Lake Tahoe. Email her at darciecollins@keeptahoeblue.org.

TRPA opinion: Let’s keep progress going at Lake Tahoe

Lake Tahoe is in the midst of a small renaissance. And 2016 saw another year of progress with more redevelopment projects, bike trails and environmental restoration projects taking shape all around the lake.

Redevelopment at the Y and on Harrison Avenue is breathing new life into those areas and helping realize the progress the city of South Lake Tahoe envisions in its area plans. The same goes for the new state of the art health and sports performance center that Barton Health started to build last summer on its medical campus.

Edgewood Tahoe’s new lakeshore lodge will rival the world’s finest resorts when it opens this summer. The project also includes major wildlife habitat and water quality improvements for Edgewood Creek, showing how economic revitalization and environmental improvement work together at Lake Tahoe.

President Barack Obama’s visit in August put a national spotlight on two decades of progress our region has made conserving and restoring the environment and enhancing recreation opportunities through the Lake Tahoe Environmental Improvement Program.

As the president said, environmental conservation goes hand in hand with fighting climate change, and, “Our healing of Lake Tahoe proves it’s within our power to pass on the incredible bounty of this country to a next generation.”

President Obama’s visit for the 20th annual summit also set the stage for Congress’s passage of the Lake Tahoe Restoration Act in December.

The legislation authorizes up to $415 million in future federal funding appropriations for projects that clean up stormwater pollution to improve water quality and lake clarity, clear hazardous fuels to improve forest health and reduce wildfire risk, and stop the spread and harmful impacts of aquatic invasive species.

This federal investment will be matched by local, state, nonprofit and private sector partners, and help ensure our progress continues over the next decade.

2016 was a year of progress and major milestones, but the Lake Tahoe region faces many challenges.

While we continue to invest in and revitalize our communities, we must also make them more walkable and bikeable and enhance our transit services to seamlessly connect our region. We must continue to plan and implement projects that conserve and restore the natural environment that forms the bedrock of our quality of life and recreation-based economy, and make our environment and communities more resilient against the threats posed by more severe cycles of both drought and flooding storms.

We are making steady progress in the face of these challenges. By staying committed to work together to achieve our common goals, Lake Tahoe’s progress will continue for years to come.

Joanne S. Marchetta is executive director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. Email her at jmarchetta@trpa.org.

Here’s to Lake Tahoe beer: Top 3 reasons to drink a beer in 2017

If you’re anything like me, you could probably use a beer right now. The emotional ragdoll all started back in early November when I started puzzling how our next president’s hair works (still haven’t figured it out). Then came the excitement of the holidays and the unavoidable sheer ecstasy/crushing disappointment of stealing the best gift/having the best gift stolen from me at the annual office Christmas party.

Finally, the frenzy of New Year’s Eve reached a crescendo with the traditional donning of a panda costume and pilgrimage to the Mecca known as SnowGlobe, or, as I like to celebrate, the traditional donning of earplugs and going to sleep at 9 p.m.

So, now that the embers of 2016 are dying, it’s time for that beer — and 2017 looks to be the best year ever to drink a beer in our city by the lake. Here are my top three reasons why.

1. Breweries Within Walking Distance

Right now you and I are living in an unprecedented time in the history of beer in and around our fine city. If things go as planned, 2017 will see at least three new breweries open in South Tahoe to give us a total of at least seven places where the magic of fermentation occurs at the professional level.

We will have options near the casinos with the already established Stateline Brewery and Desolation Brewing planned to open in Basecamp Hotel. The Bijou area is flanked by The Brewery and Sidellis Brewery, which just celebrated its one-year anniversary. Cold Water is holding it down at Midtown, and the Y will finally catch up with two brand-new breweries in South Lake Brewing and Lake Tahoe AleWorX.

Regionally, we are also experiencing exciting new projects with places like Alibi Ale Works in Incline Village and a whole crop of new and established breweries in the Reno area. Take a moment to reflect on it all. The planning and building of a brewery is a lengthy process that in some cases takes years. These pioneers deserve our praise and patronage, so get out there and get to know your local neighborhood brewery.

2. Variety and Innovation

The Beer Judge Certification Program (www.bjcp.org) identifies over 100 different styles and sub-styles for amateur and professional brewing competitions held all over the United States. One of these styles is called “experimental beer,” which means that brewers continue to push the limits of how we define beer.

The act of brewing beer now incorporates not only innovative ingredients, but also creative concepts and artistry. Modern brewers are using new hop varietals, alternative grains, and yeast and bacteria strains that were not available less than a decade ago. Conceptually, beer has pushed the limits as well. What if you could drink a beer that was made with some of the season’s first snowfall, “hopped” with pine or fir and fermented with yeast collected from the forest?

I’d try it, and I’d also be willing to bet that our local breweries are already working on some really creative and unique beers for us. One of the greatest qualities of a small local brewery is that a one-off brew showcasing a rare beer style or incorporating an interesting ingredient is not only feasible, but actually quite common.

So, whether you are looking for a cutting edge experimental example of an American Wild Ale, a huge barrel-aged stout or an example of a 500-year-old nearly forgotten style, 2017 might be your year!

3. The Culture of Craft

Certain industries tend to attract a particular type of person, and although each individual doesn’t usually match up perfectly to the stereotype, it’s worth noting that there are some high-quality women and men in craft brewing. There is a culture of inclusion, education, sharing and collaboration within the craft brewing industry that is matched by few other fields of business.

A local example of this in action is in Lake Tahoe AleWorX and Alibi Ale Works. The gentlemen up north at Alibi will be brewing beer for AleWorX while the guys down south get their facility up and running. Cooperation like that can only be good for a community where it sometimes seems like everybody is trying to secure their own piece of the pie rather than making sure that there is enough for everyone.

Six years ago this month, the Discovery Channel released a documentary which you can still watch online called “How Beer Saved the World.” It describes the huge positive impact that beer has had on many societies throughout history. I don’t know if beer can save the world today, but my hope is that it can at least make it a better place. Cheers to beer in 2017!

Nathan Bergner is a South Lake Tahoe resident, local business owner and fan of beer.