Two incumbents are facing three challengers in this year's City Council race.
Although there have been some signs of improvement in the national and local economy, the city remains in a difficult spot. We have infrastructure in desperate need of improvement, ballooning employee health care and retirement costs, an unemployment rate just below 13 percent and, of course, the stalled development project at the Stateline. So who is going to help us move forward?
All of the City Council candidates have made it clear they love Lake Tahoe and want to be part of the city's decision-making process at this critical time in its history, but two stood out.
We endorse Hal Cole and Austin Sass, the same two candidates who won our endorsement in the 2008 election.
Hal Cole has been a councilman for four terms, a background that has given him a wealth of institutional knowledge about the city during a time of relentless turnover. We believe this understanding of the past will help the city make long-needed positive changes in our community.
Lakeview Commons is an example. While the project saw its fair share of struggles, the end result is one of the most positive improvements in the city in recent memory, and each City Council member who had a hand in progressing the project deserves some credit for the accomplishment.
But Lakeview Commons is just a small step in what Cole has referred to as Lake Tahoe's potential as a "recreational mecca."
We agree with Cole that the city needs to develop more public-private partnerships to drive further improvements. Development of a recreation master plan to effectively harness the potential of the recreational possibilities at Tahoe is also good first step in making the transition from a gaming-centric economy to a recreation-centric economy more than a just an oft-discussed idea.
Cole has also kept a needed focus on improving near shore water quality and has a measured view on local politics.
Like many of us at the Tribune, Austin Sass is a self-proclaimed recreational enthusiast, listing hiking, biking and skiing among his pursuits. This firsthand knowledge of the recreation that is supposedly Lake Tahoe's economic future add credence to his statements about things like improving connectivity within the community through bike and walking paths.
He has spoke of coming up with a plan for community development and finding a viable way to bring more business to the local economy, including attracting investors to develop Tahoe's reputation as a tourist area and bringing in more events that will attract visitors. All good ideas. Sass' background has also given him experience with budgeting, staffing and managing an organization, something that should be an asset to managing the city.
Austin Sass raised more than $12,000 for his campaign so far, more than any other candidate in the race. Five thousand dollars of that money came from the South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association and $3,000 was from the South Tahoe Alliance of Resorts. While tourism is an undeniably important part of South Lake Tahoe's economy, the large chunks of change from these groups do give us pause because the best decisions for tourists are not always the best decision for residents.
In Wednesday's City Council candidates' forum, Sass assured voters he would not be beholden to the interests of those parties, so we'll keep an eye on that.
In a recent interview, he also said he doesn't think the current council has led the city. So, Mr. Sass, show us what you've got.