Kenny Curtzwiler and Sue Novasel, two candidates running for the El Dorado County District 5 Supervisor seat, kicked off the campaign season for the November general election with a forum in Meyers Tuesday night.
Both candidates live in Meyers. They emerged as the top vote-getters from a six-way primary election in June. The forum was organized by the Tahoe Regional Young Professionals, TahoeChamber and Tahoe Daily Tribune, and moderated by the Tahoe Regional Young Professionals group.
One question asked the candidates about their positions on the Meyers Area Plan, a comprehensive land use and zoning plan nearly two years in the making and a point of contention for some people in the Meyers community.
In a letter published online, Curtzwiler stated the Tahoe Regional Young Professionals is “behind” the area plan, a statement the group strongly opposed and asked Curtzwiler to retract in the run up to the forum.
Novasel and Curtzwiler seemed to agree the planning process needs to be improved.
“What we have right now is a process not working. We need to go back, ask the community to get involved and decide what we want,” said Novasel, who helped draft a 1993 community plan for the Meyers area.
“I don’t want to stop the process, but there needs to be another heart to heart with the community. I would like to see it take a step back, have at least a couple more sessions. Maybe an email survey, some sort of survey,” Novasel said. “I don’t have a problem with 75 percent of the plan. There’s still some tweaking that needs to happen. That said, we should be moving forward with this plan.”
Curtzwiler said he would do the same thing he has for 37 years, reach out to the community and to groups such as the Tahoe Regional Young Professions to try to find middle ground, “which I have,” he said.
“The perception in this town is there is a wall between the agencies and the community itself. That needs to be taken into context to work it out,” Curtzwiler said. “Does the community know what’s going on? Not really. Do the agencies know what’s going on with the community? Not really. Everyone is pushing their own agenda. Agendas need to get together. Just getting together is the basic thing,” Curtzwiler said. “It’s not hard. We just need to get together, break down walls and talk.”
One question asked Curtzwiler about a Ski Bum column he penned for the Tahoe Mountain News, in which he wrote “that contracts are meant to be broken.”
Curtzwiler said he was referring to a contract between the city of South Lake Tahoe and Heavenly Mountain Resort, which is not paying its fair share in taxes. Novasel countered that government has a moral obligation to stand behind its contracts. “If something needs changed you do that through legal channels,” she said.
Asked about priorities for infrastructure and recreation, Novasel said roads and high-speed Internet are two priorities that should emerge with the tax base and local economy coming out of recession.
“Will business locate in Tahoe? If there’s no infrastructure, probably not,” Novasel said, calling infrastructure incredibly important to business and quality of life and recreation the area’s “lifeblood.”
Curtzwiler said recreation should be the area’s top infrastructure priority. “In every survey, every questionnaire on what do you want to do, recreation has come out number one,” he said.
Other questions focused on whether the Lake Tahoe Basin and District 5, which includes South Lake Tahoe and Meyers and extends down to Pollock Pines, is getting a fair amount of revenue back from county coffers.
“The infrastructure is here. It has been for years,” Curtzwiler said. “The only thing we have lost is personnel. What they are doing is shuffling money off hill, and not getting us our fair share. I think they’re cheating us.”
Novasel said she’s not sure how well treated District 5 is compared to other parts of the county, but said it’s a question that deserves an answer.
“Should we get our fair share? Absolutely. Do we? We’re one of the only spots in the county with our own jail, our own court system, and that does add a bit more money up here,” Novasel said. “Probably most important to me is to make sure we get our fair voices heard. I think I can be that strong voice. That’s how we get respect and more money up here.”
Novasel is a 12-year school board member for the Lake Tahoe Unified School District and vice president of Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care. She said her many ties to organizations including Soroptomist International of South Lake Tahoe, the Tahoe Chamber and the Barton Hospital Foundation position her well to represent District 5 on the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors in Placerville.
“There’s no ‘I’ in board. It’s about we. How do you establish relationships with other board members. I’ve been doing that 20 years,” Novasel said. “That means I take all that experience to Placerville to work to make sure your voice counts. That has to be through collaboration and teamwork.”
Curtzwiler said he’s also been involved with nearly every organization in the community, and as someone who has been in the community a long time, is someone that people can call when they need help or something done.
“I want to be the first person you call. I won’t be going in as supervisor, I will be going in as a representative for the community, and hopefully a loud voice for what the community wants,” he said.