I had the good fortune to take a long motorcycle trip up through Oregon, Washington, up to British Columbia and down the coast to California - 3,000 miles in total. I came away with the deep appreciation for vastness of the country and all the people that live in the far corners in the little towns and communities that periodically dot the land scape. I am also taken by the warmth and friendliness many of these people showed me, asking where I was from or where I was going, giving you the thumbs up. But along with the richness of the land and the people I saw a country with big problems, poverty, unemployment and a feeling the county is adrift. While politicians and pundits may say the economy and the country is improving and it may well be in some area "out there" it doesn't seem so.
Interesting to note another legal loss for the Environmental Industrial Complex. U.S. District Judge Garland E. Burrell Jr. tossed out a lawsuit in which Earth Island Institute and the Center for Biological Diversity that claimed the Forest Service ignored the law when it "failed to take a hard look" at the impact of the Angora Fire Restoration Project on a bird species, future fire behavior and climate change. The environmental industry has lost a number of lawsuits related to Lake Tahoe including the League to Save Lake Tahoe's challenge to the city's general plan, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency shorezone plan and Sierra Colina Village. Maybe, just maybe, the courts are figuring out what many of us have long known - that a lot of these issues are about ideology and not science and facts. There is no reason why we can't protect the environment and have a good local economy and strong community. So many other areas are able to do it; we can, too.
It was so sad to hear of the tragic Himalayan avalanche that killed at least eight people. Glen Plake survived the incredible disaster but watching his interview on CNN the other night you could see this local legend was visibly shaken. Godspeed to those who were lost.
Perhaps at no time in the past several decades have local elections come at time of turmoil. A weak tourism economy, budget shortfalls, a fractured community, the TRPA Regional Plan Update all put the city at a tipping point. Judging from the comments I have seen so far, I am not sure some of those running have a clear understanding of the economic revenue and employment challenges facing the local community. It is important that those running provide voters with specific solutions. Hopefully those running will have thought deep and hard about what policies they support. If they haven't, you will know.
If you get a chance, take a look at Author Victor Davis Hanson's recent essay "Two Californias" in which I think he frames up the current state of affairs in California perfectly. A sample: "What is happening to a state that has the highest sales and income taxes, the most lavish entitlements, the near-worst public schools (based on federal test scores), and the largest number of illegal aliens in the nation, along with an overregulated private sector, a stagnant and shrinking manufacturing base, and an elite environmental ethos that restricts commerce and productivity without curbing consumption?" It's a great read.
I spoke to soon. Last month in this column I mentioned that the California Legislature would consider updating to the outmoded California Environmental Quality Act, but it didn't get done. As I mentioned last month, CEQA was enacted more than 40 years ago had good intentions but, since then, it has been misused by development, environmentalists and unions alike. One place to look for modernization is Oregon, which places a much greater emphasis on strong planning up front, reducing the need for lawsuits. Despite legislature inaction, CEQA needs modernizing.
If you have not yet done so, check out the new bypass on the way to Reno. Driving from the onramp at the Reno Tahoe International Airport to Stateline took an hour the other night with no speeding. At least I think there was no speeding involved.
For fans of Neil Young, who played here with his band Crazy Horse this past summer, don't miss his new biography "Waging Heavy Peace." Already the first couple of chapters have been great offering insights to a very private singer/songwriter/ entrepreneur. Dig in.
Thanks to all of you who sent me condolences about my mother passing. Your thoughts of support were very much appreciated.
- Carl Ribaudo is a contributing columnist to the Tahoe Daily Tribune. He is also a consultant, speaker and writer who lives in South Shore. He can be reached at email@example.com.