It has been reported that the large-business driven South Shore Vision Plan is a key to economic success. I cannot agree more that physical improvements are needed in the South Shore and improving the local economy is essential. I am proud of the work that our fine Nevada neighbors have done as well to articulate a vision for their area near Stateline.
I understand that the loop road is part of that vision plan. Building the loop road in its current alignment will result in the loss of existing businesses in South Lake Tahoe, confiscating 93 private properties and displacing hundreds of city residents near Stateline. This is not on its face going to grow the economy in South Lake Tahoe.
Let me offer a few thoughts on the cause of the existing economic problem in the South Shore.
The loss of gaming revenue since 2001 was due in part to the opening of Indian gaming such as Red Hawk in California with a state constitution that prohibits such gaming. For us living in South Lake Tahoe, California state government and the federal government undercut gaming in Nevada and the benefits of it in South Lake Tahoe by supporting gaming all over California. Even before the Red Hawk Casino was built, gaming revenues were declining.
Tourism remains the primary economic engine for the South Shore and creating a more attractive and diverse tourist venue should be a priority for us all. The built environment in the South Lake Tahoe needs new private-sector and public investment and improvement so that the built environment is attractive and inviting and still remains affordable for those who live and work here. The recently completed Lakeview Commons is an example of transparent planning, collaboration, and revitalization of the core of our city and a model for gaining community support.
The Tahoe basin, even with the much-heralded and well-intended TRPA Regional Plan Update, may create more opportunities for existing big businesses to grow; but its over-regulated, expensive, time-consuming and restrictive rules and regulations discourage small business-sector investment and growth throughout the city limits. Big business in the South Shore can afford laboriously going through the new TRPA planning process, acquiring land, paying for the cost of study after study, but as important as they are, big businesses are not the only businesses in our City and the South Shore. TRPA and city rules must encourage and nurture the prosperity of existing smaller businesses throughout South Lake Tahoe.
South Lake Tahoe needs more in its future than a minimum-wage economy. We need a local economy that supports families, creates job opportunities and hires trained and skilled local young people getting out of high school and college. The current economic vision must be good for the entire community, not just big business interests.
Good economics for whom?
There is no credible and unbiased evidence in the record that confiscating private property (for the loop road), closing down local businesses and displacing hundreds of city residents to build a road is good for the South Lake Tahoe economy. The loop road hires no one and pays neither property nor sales tax.
More business friendly
TRPA regulatory reform, encouragement to existing businesses to remain open and prosper in their current location, and incentives to attract new businesses to town that local residents want, is desperately needed. A return to a serious look at creating real prosperity for all is needed in the region and the city.
I want to see existing large and small businesses in South Lake Tahoe and Nevada prosper and see developed a more diverse local economy in the city limits. A South Shore revitalization plan and South Shore Vision Plan can be achieved if benefits to South Lake Tahoe and Nevada interests are equal. A transparent, inclusive and responsive planning process is vital to gain public support. Developing plans that respect the rights of property owners, business owners and operators and residents living in South Lake Tahoe is also an essential ingredient for success. We need a broader perspective to give better vision to the vision plan so that it benefits all parties.
Yes, we can do it if all of us who care and are in responsible government positions are motivated to do so.
- David M. Jinkens, M.P.A., is a retired city manager and community advocate.