Letter: The birdman of Tahoe | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Letter: The birdman of Tahoe

You've heard of the birdman of Alcatraz, right? Well, I guess you could call me the birdman of Tahoe. After all, in school everyone called me "birdboy," and it fit, as I love birds and have always sought them out. From pigeons to hawks and owls.

It started for me when I was 15 years old (I'm now 66 years young, Ha. Ha.) when I had a flock of about 80 pigeons, which would fly hundreds of feet high, then return to our house everyday. I loved to watch them fly. They are such colorful birds.

Anyway, after my time with pigeons I moved on to becoming a falconer and trained many birds, including red-tailed hawks, sparrow hawks and great horned owls, for the purpose of falconry. (Nowadays, though, you have to be a licensed falconer to have a bird) and at one point I raised two baby golden eagles to maturity (with government permission to do it) and released them on the Fallon Fish and Game Reserve. All in all, though, I've raised and trained many kinds of birds in my life, you see, including pigeons, hawks, owls and even a "steppe eagle," which I acquired while stationed in Germany. I named that eagle Mrs. Robinson after the Simon and Garfunkel song.

As you can see, birds have been a big part of my life ( I also draw and paint them frequently) and to this day I love to watch the wildlife of Tahoe, and especially all the gulls, ducks and geese you see down at Regan Beach. They're beautiful. Well my Tahoe Friends, keep rockin' the lake. I guess you could say I'm the birdman of Tahoe.

Theodore Harris III

South Lake Tahoe, California

Ask Tessie: How do I get my kids to go outside?

Dear Tessie,

My kids have turned into Netflix-binging, iPhone-obsessed blobs. If they're not checking out the latest Snapchat filters, they are scrolling through Instagram while simultaneously watching "Bob's Burgers." Any suggestions on how to get them out of the house and into nature?


Kids Might Have Been a Mistake

Dear Mistake,

One thing I've noticed about human nature is one's ability to take their natural surroundings for granted. Your kids live in one of the most spectacularly scenic places in the world, and from what it sounds like they may as well be living in Detroit.

First off, you should have never bought your kids that latest iPhone and you must accept blame for the monsters you created. Replace those smartphones with dumb phones. And when I say dumb phones I mean if the screen has more than one color and it doesn't have "Snake" built in, it's too new. Now it's going to take a delicate operation to get these new phones into your kids' hands.

Sneak into their room at night so you can pry their smartphones from their curled hands while they are asleep. You'll need to replace it immediately with the flip phone just like Indiana Jones did in "Raiders of the Lost Ark," lest they realize a phone is no longer in their hands and they wake up screaming at you.

Come morning they'll realize what happened and … the next three days will be filled with whining, tantrums and possibly vomiting as they detox from the lack of blue light from the screen. Eventually, though, they'll accept this new reality. Without the means of communicating with their friends solely by social media your kids now have a chance in life to actually form a personality and they'll be more likely to look around them and realize that Tahoe is a pretty cool place that they've been missing out on for years now.

They may embark on their adventures alone for a while, but that's when you share this advice with your fellow parents in the PTA. Good luck!

Dear Tessie,

I was wondering if you had any mountain biking tips for conquering the top of Mr. Toads. Specifically the waterfall portion. I can't seem to get my ex-flatlander self to even attempt it. I've tried things like getting pads. I've even started using the words bro, stoke and rad to, you know, pump myself up. Alas, I just can't seem to find the courage to do it.

Any recommendations would be appreciated.


Timid Tahoe Transplant

Dear Transplant,

To see if you are ready to tackle one of Tahoe's most iconic downhill trails, let's first take a look at your skiing preferences. Are you the type who finds solace skiing the trees in Jack's Bowl all day long or are you more content lapping those groomers?

You say you prefer Sugar N Spice? That's what I thought. In that case perhaps mountain biking in general just isn't for you. Trade in that full suspension for some spandex and a road bike, my friend, because that's more your style.

In the off chance you ignore that sage advice, though, here's what you need to do to get ready to slay Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

First off, mountain biking can be dangerous even if you know what you're doing, which you obviously don't. So the first thing you need is peace of mind. You think the worst thing about wrecking spectacularly is the broken bones you'll get? Oh no, you'll be paying for that Care Flight ride in the helicopter LONG after those wounds have healed. Buy an annual membership to AirMedCare. It's only $65 and covers everyone in your household.

Now that you know your personal finances won't be utterly ruined for the rest of your life, buy even more padding. If you don't look like you're wearing a sumo fat suit going down the hill in a football helmet then you are doing it wrong.

Got the padding and the AirMedCare membership? Great! Go rub a bunch of dirt on your clothing and your face. Now you're ready to head to Divided Sky to tell everyone at the bar that you just finished Mr. Toads! They don't need to know that you wussed out. Congratulations!

Tahoe Tessie is a humorous take on the standard advice column. It is produced by the Tribune staff, and it is not meant to be taken literally. Have a question you want to ask Tessie? Send it to tahoetessie@tahoedailytribune.com.

Letter: The arts are vital to our community

According to Americans for the Arts, the nonprofit arts industry (museums, theater and dance companies, performing arts centers, orchestras, arts councils and others) generates $22.3 billion in federal, state and local tax revenues annually — a yield well beyond their collective $4 billion in arts allocations.

Because the National Endowment for the Arts supports artistic excellence and improves access to the arts by granting funds to nonprofit arts organizations, I call on our federal officials to support an increase in funding for the NEA beyond its 1993 funding level of $174 million. That funding figure equals $277 million in today's dollars.

Our schools need more arts education. Schools, especially those struggling, can retain their best teachers by becoming incubators for creativity and innovation; places where students want to learn and teachers want to teach. Students with an education rich in the arts have better grade point averages, score better on standardized tests in reading and math, and have lower dropout rates-findings that cut across all socio-economic categories.

Congress and state education leaders should support strong arts education programs in order for local school leaders to include the arts in all disciplines (dance, theater, music, visual and media arts) in their curriculum.

Our rural communities contain some of the greatest cultural assets of our country. Rural economic development should be strengthened to help these communities promote the richness of their heritage and assist local artists with their entrepreneurship.

Across the country, the role of the arts as an economic engine is growing in acceptance and strength. I call on all lawmakers to support funding and policies at the federal level that would recognize the growth potential and direct benefits of encouraging cities and states to strategically invest in the arts in order to drive economic development.


Elizabeth Vargas

Student and artist

South Lake Tahoe, California

Publisher’s Perspective: Tahoe Daily Tribune more than just a newspaper

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak at our local Kiwanis Club meeting. As I was debating on what it was I was going to talk about, the thing that I ultimately settled on was how the media landscape has changed and how we have had to change with it.

While I tried to cram as much into the time I had, it was evident that there was no way to be able to cover everything — which, coincidently, is an ongoing struggle that myself, and our staff, constantly deal with. Let me explain.

Whether you are new to Tahoe, have lived here 30 to 40 years, or are just visiting, when you think of the Tahoe Tribune the word association is "newspaper." That word has a stigma that is attached to it, for better or for worse.

The truth of the matter is, we see that word as a printed publication that contains our content and reaches a specific audience. Some people only read the printed version. Some people don't read the printed version at all and instead opt to read us online, either on their desktop or on their mobile device. Some people only read our content if it comes through their social feeds.

The point is the "newspaper" is only one way that we try to connect the content we produce with audiences that surround us — the key word here being "connect." Multi-platform media companies need to be nimble in today's society. People who want to connect with our content want to do so on their time and at their convenience, and that's fine.

But they also want an experience that's unique, which means creating content like video, which does not translate over to print. We are constantly creating content to try and connect with audiences in the ways in which they consume — and it's not just the "newspaper" anymore.

Even outside of the Tribune brand we produce things like Lake Tahoe Action (entertainment), Tahoe Summer/Winter (magazine), EAT Tahoe (restaurant/dining) and Tahoe HOME (lifestyle). I could add more but you get the point. People want content about their surroundings — whether it's specific to news or simply what there is to do.

And our local businesses want to connect with the specific audiences that our content reaches, whether it's more focused or broader-based. Because of this, we have an entire tool chest of digital options that can target all the way down to specific niche audiences — many not even through the Tribune brand.

If you want to reach a specific type of consumer in San Francisco — done. Someone who likes to travel and loves the outdoors in Chicago? Done. But people don't know this. In part because of the stigma that's attached to the word "newspaper" but also because we haven't done a very good job of telling this story.

Not only have newspapers changed, we're changing. Constantly. Our team here is always trying to find new and unique ways to create the content and experiences that our audiences want to engage with — our end goal being connecting that content to an audience and our advertisers to that audience. And if our advertisers want to connect with an audience that engages with other content outside of ours, we can help with that too.

I'm always eager to tell this story, but it's not a simple story to tell. If you ever want to chew the fat around this, let's talk — because the word "newspaper" shouldn't be thought of in the same way anymore. We have a much wider story to tell, and it all starts with connecting.

Publisher Rob Galloway can be reached at rgalloway@tahoedailytribune.com or 530-542-8046.

Banana Republic sued for ‘40% discount’ ads

My latest favorite new store to get a bargain is the Banana Republic Factory Outlet in the Legends Sparks Marina in Sparks, Nevada.

The last time the Porter family shopped at Banana Republic at Legends, we purchased a lot of clothing (at least for us) at a 40 percent discount, and on top of that my wife Marianne had a handful of 20 percent discount coupons. There's nothing like reading a sales receipt like this — "Thank you for shopping at Banana Republic, you spent X dollars, you saved 2X dollars."

Apparently not everyone is enamored with Banana Republic's seemingly perennial "40 percent off" sales.

40 percent Off

Several shoppers at Banana Republic stores were enticed by "40 percent off" store window advertising and interior signs advertising a 40 percent discount.

The shoppers, and this is my recollection at the Legends Outlet store, saw the "40 percent off" sign and did not see any fine print disclosure that the sale price was for "select items only."

The class-action plaintiffs didn't discover that the items they had purchased were not on sale until they were at the register where they were embarrassed — then it got ugly as they were given the surprise bad news.

Class Action

The plaintiffs sued Banana Republic under California's Unfair Competition Law, (UCL), False Advertising Law (FAL) and Consumer's Legal Remedies Act (CLRA).

The trial court ruled for Banana Republic, concluding the plaintiffs couldn't recover because at the moment they purchased the items at the cash register they knew the sale price was inapplicable.

The trial court wrote "lost shopping time" is not a sufficient basis to sue. The shoppers appealed.

Unfair Competition Laws

The UCL prohibits "any unlawful, unfair or fraudulent business act or practice and unfair, deceptive, untrue or misleading advertising … "

The FAL generally prohibits advertising that contains "any statement … which is untrue or misleading, and which is known, or should be known, to be untrue or misleading … "

The CLRA makes unlawful various "unfair methods of competition and unfair or deceptive acts or practices undertaken by any person in a transaction intended to result or which results in the sale or lease of goods or services to any consumer."

To sue under those laws a plaintiff must document that he/she lost money or property as a result of unfair competition.

Motorcycle Case

The Court of Appeal discussed a similar case where a buyer of a motorcycle was told a price by the salesperson. Then, when the contract was presented for signing, there were undisclosed dealer-added charges on the total price.

In fact, I remember buying a car and had the same experience: The price was agreed, but when the paperwork came, there were all sorts of crazy-named surprise charges that I was not happy about: "Dealer prep," "transportation fee," "detail charge," "boss bonus," "color preference," "steering wheel" and more.

The court in the motorcycle case ruled for the shopper/buyer. I should have hired a lawyer.

Banana Loses

In the end, the California Court of Appeal, Second District, found there was evidence that Banana Republic had advertised "40 percent" in large type without any other words or disclaimers in small type, and that had induced the plaintiff shoppers, whose claim that they had "lost money" was tenuous perhaps but adequate to keep the case going against Banana Republic.

I'm pretty sure the next time the Porters cruise by Banana Republic and see the "40 percent off" sign, it will either be a store-wide sale or there will be large-print disclaimers — "select items only."

Jim Porter is an attorney with Porter Simon licensed in California and Nevada, with offices in Truckee, Tahoe City and Reno, Nevada. 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.

Letter: Lake Tahoe protectors asleep on the job

I would like to extend a big THANK YOU to the city of South Lake Tahoe, El Dorado County, TRPA, Keep Tahoe Blue and all the other government and non-government agencies that are so dedicated to protecting Lake Tahoe. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching the boat slowly sink into the lake at Lake View Commons.

The four week plus spectacle of the sinking was truly amazing. Now watching just the mast protrude is a great reminder that our lake protectors missed an important part of their job. I can see their total dedication to protecting the lake.

Very Respectfully,

Timothy Durkin

South Lake Tahoe, California

TRPA column: Working together to improve Tahoe’s transportation system

As a national treasure offering world-class recreation opportunities, Lake Tahoe is one of the most popular outdoor destinations in Northern California and Nevada. And sometimes, being popular has its challenges.

Tahoe's limited roadways become congested during times of peak visitation, when thousands of people who live in nearby metropolitan areas get in their cars to drive up to our small mountain communities. Suddenly, a road system designed for 55,000 residents must handle four to five times that many cars on an average busy day.

The strong winter storm earlier this March helped illustrate this congestion challenge. Heavy snow brought thousands of people to Lake Tahoe to enjoy a weekend of skiing. But that same snow closed Interstate 80 and U.S. 50 on Sunday, when thousands of people were trying to drive home to Reno, Sacramento or the San Francisco Bay Area. That large wave of simultaneous departures caused traffic to back up for hours in all directions, a situation made worse by the weather and road closures.

Traffic congestion is not a constant problem at Tahoe. But it is a challenge we must work together to solve, and one that cannot be solved simply by building bigger roads to handle more cars.

This congestion impacts more than the millions of annual visitors who want to come enjoy and appreciate the 'Jewel of the Sierra,' and the quality of their experience. It impacts Tahoe's residents, their quality of life and ability to get to and from work and basic services, and the health of our environment.

The draft 2017 Regional Transportation Plan that TRPA has released for public comment identifies those times of peak visitation and the most heavily-visited destinations, and lays out strategies to improve our transportation system and better manage congestion. The plan builds upon the ongoing work by TRPA and many partners around the lake to create walkable, bikeable, transit-served communities; work that is starting to pay off as more people use trails and transit for shorter trips around town.

The plan focuses on three broad action categories — transit, trails and technology — that can work together to provide new travel options from our community centers to popular recreation areas. We are focusing on this recreation travel because travel to recreation sites makes up nearly half of the vehicle trips made on any given day at Lake Tahoe.

By filling connectivity gaps in Lake Tahoe's network of bike and pedestrian trails, expanding transit service and frequency, and launching new applications and tools to provide people with real-time information about congestion, parking availability, and non-automotive travel options, we can make the transportation system more efficient, give people more convenient options to get to their destinations, and help inform and promote better travel decisions.

We cannot solve Lake Tahoe's traffic congestion challenges overnight, or with any one agency or local government working on its own. TRPA, local governments and road departments are working together to improve the transportation system and transit services here at Lake Tahoe. We are also working with neighboring metropolitan areas to improve inter-regional travel options, and with communities throughout the Sierra Nevada to address the impacts of recreational travel.

If we all join forces, Lake Tahoe can make real, continued progress over the next five years. By working together carefully to make maximum use of reasonably foreseeable funding, we think that partners around the lake can provide free-to-the-user transit service; increase transit frequency from 60-minute to 30-minute intervals on all main routes; seamlessly connect transit services on the North and South shores; provide new or enhanced transit service to Meyers and Truckee; provide new transit service to heavily-visited recreation sites at Emerald Bay, Echo Summit, and Zephyr Cove; enhance limited inter-regional transit services to and from Reno and Sacramento; and build at least 20 miles of new shared use paths for bicyclists and pedestrians.

These improvements will not solve our congestion problem. But they will be a major step forward and make it much easier for people to travel around Lake Tahoe without driving a personal car.

And with seamless, frequent and reliable transit service and a well-connected trail network throughout the Lake Tahoe Region, we will be in a much better position to pursue new funding needed to work with Reno, Sacramento, and the Bay Area to provide new transit services to Lake Tahoe from those growing metropolitan areas. Work on that front is already well underway.

Building the world-class transportation system Lake Tahoe deserves will take time, collaboration and carefully phased improvements. It will also take a change in everyone's behavior and a willingness to embrace non-automotive travel. As one of the many locals stuck on U.S. 50 a few Sundays ago, I found myself remembering the old saying: "We are not stuck in traffic, we are traffic."

Joanne S. Marchetta is executive director of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

Ask Tessie: What tips do you have for a wine tasting newbie?

Dear Tessie,

I'm headed down to El Dorado County for some wine tasting next weekend, and I don't want to look like a total newb. Do I swirl it? Do I smell it? Should I spit it out? WHAT DO I DO WITH MY HANDS?! Since you're such a classy broad, I figured you'd have some tips on how to look and act the part while I'm sipping vino in the Sierra Foothills.


My Wine Normally Comes Out of a Box

If you can use your hands to pick up a glass, place it to your lips, and drink without spilling, you'll be fine, rookie. But, in the case that you run into some cellar snobs and don't want to seem out of place, I've got your back.

In my not-so-humble opinion, wine tasting really boils down to sight, smell and taste.

Swirling. A light swirl opens it up to oxygen, which helps to unleash the aromas. Yeah, that's right — I'm the kind of cryptozoological creature that knows the difference between a 1998 Beaurenard Chateauneuf du Pape and a 2000 Pichon Baron.

Don't be obnoxious with your swirl, though. If you slosh it around like you're churning butter, then you will look like an idiot.

Smelling. Once the swirl has calmed down, give the wine a smell. Quite simply, if you think it smells good, you'll probably like it. To look like a real pro, you should stick your whole beak in the glass, breathe in and out like you're in labor, then come up for air saying something like, "Oh, there's just the faintest soupçon of asparagus and just a flutter of a nutty Edam cheese." ("Sideways?" Anyone? Anyone?)

Taste. First, take a microscopic sip of wine and stare off into the distance as if lost in thought. After an uncomfortably long silence, you should exclaim, "This wine is delightful, but hardly compares to the superb small-batch Bordeaux I had while gallivanting across the French countryside last summer."

As to whether or not to spit out the wine, I say, why the hell would you do that? I mean you're going wine tasting and that slight buzz after you've had a few glasses of vino — plus the air of superiority you are likely feeling for conducting your life in such a classy way — is what it's all about!

Dear Tessie,

The other day I was out walking my dog on a leash through Rabe Meadows when an aggressive dog came charging at us and proceeded to try and pick a fight with my little angel. The owner didn't even try and stop it, nor did he apologize. I was so flabbergasted by the whole situation I didn't say anything to the dog owner. What would you have done in that situation?


No Bad Dogs, Just Bad Owners

I would have just eaten them both.

Tahoe Prosperity Center column: Making life in Tahoe attainable

Why did you come to Tahoe? For me, it was to snowboard for one winter. I'm originally from Florida, so beaches, not mountains typically call to me.

But, in February 1995, I made the move from Santa Barbara to Tahoe. That was an awesome winter. Snowboarding every day, working with fun people at Sierra-at-Tahoe, hanging out at Rojo's and Lakeside Inn at night. Pretty perfect days for a 26-year-old in between so-called "real" jobs. And then what? Well, as is the story for many of us, the summer was even better (in my opinion) so I stayed.

Yes, I had to work two jobs, but they were both fun and one was outdoors at Camp Richardson. Fun times for sure. Eventually a "real job" became my reality again, but I found one here, so that was good. Marriage, two kids and a house payment followed. Working your way into a "real job" was doable 20 years ago if you worked hard.

Times have changed, though. The Tahoe Prosperity Center's Measuring for Prosperity report (in essence a "state of the lake" community and economic data source) shows that over the past 20 years, wages have not kept pace with other communities. Combine that with a double digit percentage increase in housing costs and you've gone from the "sure I can see staying here, buying a house and raising a family" to the "maybe commuting to Tahoe for work won't be so bad" idea. And why is that a problem? Because, our community shouldn't have half of its workforce driving over an hour to get to their job. As a regional economic and community development organization, our goal is to find ways to ensure that residents who want to live and work in Tahoe can do so.

The benefits to a strong, robust, local workforce are tremendous. Here are just a few pulled from the International Economic Development Corporation Guide to Economic Development:

Affordable housing that is developed in urban centers, ensures that key workers are not priced out of the local real estate market, and forced to commute from outside the area.

Talented youth, the new key to any truly successful economy, look for high-grade natural environments and places with real urban charm: sociable and walk-able places with restaurants, cafes, bars, night clubs, health clubs and public spaces.

Mixed-use developments include office space, shopping, entertainment and residential uses. Mixed-use projects should include more market-rate and low-income housing to meet demand for housing closer to the workplace.

Eco-tourism, a nature-based form of tourism, has seen large growth. The main motivation of the tourists is the observation and appreciation of nature as well as the traditional cultures prevailing in natural areas. The benefit for host communities is that along with generating economic benefits, it enables natural areas to be conserved and provides alternative employment and income opportunities.

Sound like good ideas to you? These are mutually beneficial — meaning they benefit residents and businesses. These ideas also benefit the economy and the environment. With these plans implemented, we would see growth of wages, investment in the region and new housing for locals.

The Tahoe Prosperity Center vision is simple: revitalize our towns, ensure a strong local workforce and improve quality of life for residents. The road to get there may be bumpy with lots of potholes (to use a current and familiar analogy), but our hope is to smooth out the bumps by keeping a focus on the end result. As a region, let's prioritize these goals and see the benefits realized for our local residents and those who want to be here, but aren't yet able to make that their reality.

Heidi Hill Drum is the CEO of the Tahoe Prosperity Center, a Tahoe Basin-wide organization dedicated to uniting Tahoe's communities to strengthen regional prosperity. She has expertise in collaborative governance and is a 21-year resident. Heidi and her husband John are happily raising their two boys in Lake Tahoe.

Jim Porter: Feel comfortable helping someone as a ‘Good Samaritan’ (opinion)

California has several Good Samaritan laws protecting volunteer rescuers from lawsuits. The public policy behind the laws is to encourage others to assist victims, rather than have them refuse to get involved for fear of being sued.


I want to encourage rescuers and bystanders to help those in need, so if you have a short attention span and don't want to read all of this award-winning column, here's the bottom line:

No one has the duty to come to the aid of another in California, unless there is a special relationship between the rescuer and the rescued, however if someone volunteers to assist another, that rescuer is not liable unless they are grossly negligent or act willfully or with wanton misconduct – even if they inadvertently or negligently increase the risk of the injured person's harm or they increase the injury.

Bottom line, help out if you think you can do so safely.


You may remember reading a column several years ago about Lisa Torti who came upon a car crash and helped extricate the injured passenger from the damaged vehicle.

The victim ended up permanently paralyzed — perhaps compounded by Torti.

The Good Samaritan law at the time immunized any person "who…renders emergency care at the scene of an emergency … from liability for civil damages."

For whatever reason, the California Supreme Court determined that "emergency care" meant "medical care," and as Torti did not render emergency medical care, she just pulled the victim out of the vehicle, Torti faced liability. I was critical of the Court's decision.


The California Legislature apparently reads "The Law Review," and it took swift action, passing a new Good Samaritan law amending Health and Safety Code §1799.102, which now reads in part:

"No person who in good faith, and not for compensation, renders emergency medical or non-medical care or assistance at the scene of an emergency shall be liable for any civil damages resulting from any act or omission other than an act or omission constituting gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct. The scene of an emergency shall not include emergency departments or other places where medical care is usually offered."

That means if you make a mistake or even if you negligently assist at the scene, you are not responsible unless you are seriously negligent (grossly negligent), which is a high bar. A very favorable Good Samaritan law in California.


Other Good Samaritan laws provide immunity from liability, such as for anyone with first aid training who is asked by authorities to assist in a search and rescue operation and who renders emergency services to a victim which includes merely transporting the victim.

Plus the Harbors and Navigation code immunizes any person who provides assistance "at the scene of a vessel collision, accident, or other casualty."

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.