August 3, 2012 | Back to: News

My Turn: A tale of two meetings

LAKE TAHOE — I’m a meeting junkie. Two meetings, one on July 24 and one on July 25, were a meeting junkie’s dream ... and nightmare! This is a tale of two meetings.

“WHAT TRPA ISN’T TELLING YOU ABOUT THE NEW REGIONAL PLAN” was the title of last Tuesday evening’s workshop at the North Tahoe Event Center. Hosted by North Tahoe Preservation Alliance, Tahoe Area Sierra Club, Mountain Area Preservation Foundation, Friends of the West Shore, North Tahoe Citizens Action Alliance and the Friends of Lake Tahoe, I noted attendance was robust and looked forward to learning what TRPA wasn’t telling me. Would the workshop content live up to its provocative title? “What the TRPA isn’t telling you” is a bit inciting — how nefarious is TRPA, I wondered?

After a few minutes, I realized the room was a “fact-free zone,” or at least a “partial-facts-are-probably-good-enough-to-rile-the-audience-zone.” And stimulate the audience they did! However, I was appalled when inappropriate behavior by audience members was not stopped either by the moderator or panelists. Since when is demanding in your outside voice that someone sit down appropriate, I wondered? I saw no facilitation skills, no reining in bad behavior. The meeting was high theater; too bad it was at the expense of community manners.

I support lively dialogue and diverse opinions, but when one of the panelists declared smart growth and its proponents green washers, well that was over the top for me. So you can appreciate my outrage — I worked at Sierra Business Council with Lucy Blake, founding SBC Director, when she won a MacArthur Fellowship, certifying her a “genius” for her work on smart growth principles. I was insulted and it stung. Was the MacArthur Foundation green washed?

Panelists commented that less than 30 percent of property owners in the Basin have BMPs installed. I wonder if panelists’ homes and/or businesses are in compliance? I wanted to ask how many in the room had their BMPs done. Are we practicing what we preach? That’s action we can all take to keep Tahoe blue.

In my experience with the TRPA (I have 12+ years on the KBCCIP, so I know process) all input is welcome. In the 18-month Place-Based Planning process, more than 5,000 hours of public input was recorded, and more than 1,800 residents, second homeowners and tourists commented. To suggest as this panel did that Alternative 1 of the Regional Plan Update (the no action alternative) is preferred is absurd. Certainly there are opportunities in the RPU to fine tune and tweaks to make the plan better. It takes hard work, it takes thoughtful ideas, it takes time. I would like to hear ideas leading to a hybrid alternative. Use the good ideas; drop the bad. It worked for Kings Beach, but we’ll have to come together to make it happen.

On Wednesday, July 25, another meeting was held, same location, different topic: “This Week’s Speakers’ Series: Creating Livable, Walkable, Bikeable communities in Lake Tahoe.” OK, good lead in. Would we learn what TRPA is really trying to tell us?

Wednesday’s workshop, with two speakers, self-identified as people who aren’t necessarily experts (they’ve just done the work for 30 years) was outstanding. The information was wonderfully presented, clearly defined, easily understood with well-planned, active, colorful Power Point presentations. They were professional, organized, charming, fact-filled and had examples and stories of success and frustration; they were as eager to share information about successful experiences and blunders.

Both speakers (from other resort areas) commented that it’s the community that makes the place, that “if it’s a great place to live, it’s a great place to visit” (my favorite tag line). They recognize the community as the experts. They offered great planning tips that work in other resort areas. They had photos of good ideas implemented. We saw before and after shots telling a story vividly. It was refreshing. It was fun. It was uplifting.

Attendees on Wednesday evening were engaged, asked great questions, offered ideas to improve bike, pedestrian, and mountain experiences. They shared ideas and exchanged stories of success and frustration.

It could not have been a more stark contrast in experiences.

Do you think it was the snacks and lemonade TRPA served on Wednesday evening?

Theresa May Duggan is a Tahoe Vista resident.

Theresa May Duggan
Special to the Sun

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Tahoe Daily Tribune Updated Aug 3, 2012 11:37AM Published Aug 3, 2012 11:35AM Copyright 2012 Tahoe Daily Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.