My first job out of college was canvassing door-to-door in Los Angeles building a new membership base for the national Sierra Club. It was a tough job - especially when actress Holly Hunter slammed the door in my face. I still consider myself an environmentalist and care deeply for our lake, the forest and trails as well as our mountains in Tahoe. My wife even helped start the Tahoe Area Sierra Club many years ago with a good friend, but now I wish they hadn't. They felt a local chapter of the national organization would be good to add another voice to support protection of this important lake. It was a long process and a lot of great folks worked hard to make it happen. Over the years, the Tahoe chapter has been a constructive voice adding to the deliberations about growth in our community and its impacts on the lake - until this past week.
It now appears a few, strong-willed people have made it their mission to stop everything in our community. Instead of sitting down together with other stakeholders and members of the public to talk about solutions, discuss differences of opinions and try to find common ground, these same people have sabotaged the Regional Plan Update in order to meet their demands. What is ironic is that both the League to Save Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Club were invited to participate in a multiple work groups to help work through some of the tough issues before final adoption of the RPU. The League chose to offer solutions and its new executive director realized that no Bi-state Compact and no regional plan would be much worse for our environment and our lake in the end. I am glad the League chose to collaborate - that is the way things should be.
The fact that the Sierra Club was invited to participate and chose not to, but now choses to sue (through Earthjustice) the very agency that asked them to be a part of the solution is incredulous and truly unfair to the rest of our community.
Unfortunately, the Sierra Club and this newly formed West Shore homeowners group seem to have taken up the old ways of adversarial politics. Instead of working together and finding solutions, it's "if we don't get what we want, we'll sue." I thought those days were long over. My wife makes her living helping communities come together to find solutions and collaborate. She has seen success over and over again when folks try to understand their differences and work together. Why is Tahoe not able to do this? Why are we still stuck in the 1980s - literally and figuratively in many cases? Why has our community seen such little progress, both toward environmental and economic improvements? In my opinion, it is because of the adversarial style of a few people, rather than a collaborative community working together for the betterment of all.
This RPU has protocols and protections in place and no one will be developing behemoth Vegas-style buildings on the lake. The plan isn't perfect - no plan truly is as it is impossible to know the future. But this is why our governmental agencies have strived very hard to include the public in their planning efforts. The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency just held two workshops for the public, contractors, planners and others to review the new regulations in an open, transparent way. Because of the Sierra Club/Friends of the West Shore/Earthjustice lawsuit - all that is up in the air.
Lake Tahoe needs responsible progress. We have to move beyond the trenches of warring positions and sit around the same table discussing options to make our community better. There may be some out there who feel no Compact is a good idea, (which is now a possibility because of this lawsuit) but I never thought the Tahoe Area Sierra Club would be one of them.
- John Drum is a professional firefighter/paramedic and has lived in Tahoe 19 years. He promoted the start of the Bijou Immersion program, recently helped re-organize the Tahoe Area Mountain Bike Association and enjoys all the recreational activities a Tahoe lifestyle affords - skiing, biking and paddling with his wife and two boys.