Candidate profile: Bruce Grego
October 5, 2012
Bruce Grego, 60, is an attorney who has practiced law for 32 years. He has lived at the South Shore since 1967. Voters elected Grego to the City Council in 2008. He was also appointed to the council in August 1989 and served until July 1990.
I need to continue what I started four years ago. There’s a lot of issues. Four years ago I said we had to do something with (the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency). You know, I was behind (Nevada SB 271). Not that I created 271, but I went to the Nevada legislature to protest TRPA and I was the first California elected official to support it. And because of 271, TRPA started to focus on the Regional Plan Update that they’ve been sitting on since 2007. Pathway 2007, remember that? And, we’ve had a lot of negotiation in the last six months or so, maybe a year. We’re hoping that the Area Plans will allow us to have greater flexibility locally, because land use is so essential to our existence. So, I want to follow through with that, OK? Four years ago, I promised roads. We’re seeing roads, OK? We’re seeing more sidewalks. Lakeview Commons was completed in the past couple of years. We’ve seen Bonanza Park. It takes awhile to learn the ropes and I’m seasoned now and I think I can continue what I started four years ago. You know, I’ve said this before, maybe you’ve heard this speech. The first strategic conference the council had, I think which was 2009, early ’10, I called for a foreign policy for the city. And I didn’t mean having foreign policy with France, but to reach out and we have. We have lobbyists in Sacramento. We have connections in Carson City. We’ve had meetings with Douglas County. Most recently Placer, El Dorado counties and us, we joined together and opposed the (Lahontan Regional Water Quality Control Board) proposals regarding water quality issues. So, we’ve done a lot in that area. I want to see more of what we’ve been doing to try and improve the city. And the only way to invite businesses and do things in our community, to see progress, is to have flexible land use policies. I don’t know if you overheard about T.J. Maxx, when they were trying to build, TRPA wanted like $50,000 in air mitigation fees. We pushed back against that. And TRPA has now changed their rules from two years to five years when a building is not being occupied. So, we’re making progress. You know, (the Americans with Disabilities Act), I talked about drive-up windows. The Regional Plan Update now wants to experiment with drive-up windows for pharmacies. Also, I understand that if you want to do something regarding ADA – a ramp, an elevator – that that additional land coverage will not be considered by TRPA. So, I think we’ve made some progress in a lot of different areas, and I want to continue to try to work to see if we can have more special events. There’s a lot of different things I want to see done. But I also want to continue with the right trend. And we have to keep an eye on TRPA. We want them to reform. I’ve never been against bi-state planning, but I am against the restrictive land use policies that they have been proposing and we’ve been saddled with for 40 years.
Most permits are issued by local government, that’s number one. Number two, greater flexibility in land coverage. Area-wide (Best Management Practices) and those kind of issues. We need to let TRPA, if they want to do anything, is to be more regional, more conceptual, maybe deal with the huge projects. But anybody that wants to put in a deck, or expand a business, or tear something down and rebuild it, we should have that authority.
A high priority.
We have a lot of issues dealing with city labor unions and we need to see further reforms in that area to make sure in the long term we’re solvent. So that’s a focus. We’ve experimented resurfacing roads this year. Pioneer Village is all resurfaced. Highland Woods is all resurfaced. A couple of other areas have seen resurfaced. Glenwood has been resurfaced. And I want to see more than that. I want to make sure that we maintain our lobbyists in Sacramento and that we continue to interact with elected officials at that level. I even met resource secretary Laird and was able to talk to him about concerns. But we want the system to work, OK? You know, I didn’t say this at the meeting. I didn’t think about it until afterwards. Allowing replacement development is environmentally sound because when we build new we have all those elements like erosion control issues and things being addressed that the old development never had or didn’t have to do. So, I think those are really good. I want to just continue what we’ve been doing because four years is not enough to accomplish all these goals.
Don’t know. Frankly, we’re still struggling with our budget. But we might look for some other means to try and do it. So, I still want to make a commitment to roads. I think, not only does it improve property values, but it gives our community a better face that may be more inviting to businesses, for example.
I think this current council has done great. You know, I’ve said this a couple of times now, that we can disagree without being disagreeable, OK? I think there’s trust between the members of the council that we try to vote together when we can, but even when we can’t, there’s no question that the majority rules and that the council will go in the same direction. I think the criticisms that were made the first two years are no longer valid. But, you know what it is? It’s not that we decided to play better, we had better players, OK? And that’s what made the difference. So, I think this council has done a lot. All the things I wanted to do were accomplished these last two years. You remember how I was trying to do something with TRPA and no one would even second me? Well, we have a different view now. You know, Claire for example, she was resistant about 271 at the beginning and she finally jumped on board and has been quite active in seeking reforms. And so I’m hopeful that we can see changes in that area. Again, it’s a nicer council to deal with and, again, you can disagree without being disagreeable. So, I think we’ve done a good job.
OK. I reread the strategic plan to kind of pull out some points. The strategic plan called to stimulate the economic recovery and vitality, financial viability, improvement of our infrastructure, enhance public trust and accountability and to build partnerships private and public. And I think we’ve done these things and I agree with them. Now remember, the strategic plan is a living document. Tomorrow, if circumstances change, we can change it. We’re not bound to it, but these goals are viable and I agree with them and I support the strategic plan because of that.
Not off hand, no.
It’s not the right direction of the city. I do not support a plan that is going to demolish 80 properties, commercial and residential. I do not support use of eminent domain and I think there must be a better way. There’s a lot of issues here. Number one, do we really need it? Many people have said that to me. We don’t have the traffic congestion we had 30 years ago. Our economy is not as strong as it used to be. Do we really need that? And is that the best way to do it. You know, Hal Cole was suggesting that if we put pedestrian overpasses on Highway 50 in the state line area we achieve the same result. But, you’ve seen pictures of their vision of the loop road. Interview Harrah’s. Do they go along with this? Do they support the narrowing of Highway 50? Are they going to beautify the fronts of their property and make it more pedestrian-friendly? I don’t think they’ve made that commitment at all. And so here we are, we don’t have all the interested parties together on the issue, but the (Tahoe Transportation District) is still moving to try and have this loop road alternative that they favor be implemented. I oppose it.
Yeah, I do. I think that some pedestrian use should be expanded. Bicycle trails should find there way, somehow through the system, but I don’t think the loop road is the solution for that. I think, frankly, that the loop road is designed to benefit future retail development on the Nevada side. Cause you’ve got to understand one thing, not only do I not support the loop road because of the damage to all those properties, removal of like 80 properties, but I’m also opposed to it because it reroutes traffic away from our, the City of South Lake Tahoe, vendors – Crescent V Shopping Center and all the other places. The impacts are severe. And, our we really that delayed in going through Stateline? How many times can you think in the last year that you’ve tried to go through Stateline and you were seriously delayed? Not many. And so, again, I don’t know if it’s needed. And I think we can try and do some of these other issues, like pedestrian access and stuff, in different ways. For example, Project 3 is still not to be built. Maybe, if something gets proposed there, maybe some of that property can be used for a pedestrian experience.
Well, we wrote a letter (in September). We just simply said that we want them to drop that one specific alternative and go back to the drawing board. I think so much pressure has been used to try to adopt that alternative there’s never going to be a fair review of all the alternatives until that one is off the table.
When I first moved to Lake Tahoe in 1967, my parents bought a motel up here. And there were three places to gamble in the United States –Reno, Tahoe and Vegas – OK? That’s no longer the fact. We have to look at other ways to encourage the business climate. Everywhere I see, everywhere I go, there’s communities having –whether it’s the artichoke festival – some other kind of event. We need to have more of those. We have the area. It’s a beautiful lake. We have a beautiful environment. But we need to do more of those. Do you ever go to the Candy Dance in Genoa? They said 70,000 people visited that in one day. I mean the whole region visits the Candy Dance. We need to do something more like that. We need to have special events that people come up. One of the things that I didn’t mention earlier that I’d like to squeeze in here is I’d like to see some more community parks. I’m very proud of what we did with Bonanza, the park. Certainly Lakeview Commons has been a success. But those are the things we should be doing to encourage people to use the natural environment.
No, because we would be using properties that are either public properties already or something abandoned. Like Bonanza Park, what do you think the property taxes would have been on that demolished building? It was an eyesore. It was an attractive nuisance. If you want to talk about the impact of loss of property taxes, look at the (California Tahoe Conservancy). How many lots do they own inside the basin that pay no property tax any more?
Well, first of all, I think your criticism is somewhat leading. We have had balanced budgets. We’ve cut staff by 30 percent over the last few years. Last year, for example, we felt we were going to be short by $500,000. We turned out to be only short $100,000. And the only thing I can say to you is we’re starting to see threads of recovery. During these hard times we have to hold fast, OK? I think everybody would agree that we’ve cut staff down to the minimum. At this point we can’t cut any more. So, we just got to hold pat. And I think that we’ll start seeing a reversal of the trend in the coming years. I think that, I won’t predict this, but I think we’ve pretty much hit bottom of the recession. So, yes, we’ve had to go and use some of our reserve, but our excess reserve – we have never touched the 25 percent reserve of the operating budget. So, with all that said, I think we’re in good shape. Compared to cities filing bankruptcy and having severe – how many cities have a reserve whatsoever? So, I think we’ve done a good job in trying to control expenses and still maintain adequate services like snow removal, police and fire.
Well, I don’t think that is going to happen. I don’t know how else to say that to you. Clearly, if the economy takes another dump on us, we’re going to have some more struggles in front of us, OK? And we’ll have to deal with it when it arises. I think it’s speculation. But we feel, and I haven’t seen the hard figures on this, but this summer was a lot better than the year before. And because of that we’re going to start seeing an upswing in revenue. Not by dramatic amounts, but enough to bring stability to our situation. I think we’ve held together pretty good. You know, a lot of people refer to this as the Great Recession, it’s unprecedented how terrible it’s been and we’ve held together and we’ve not touched our basic reserves. And we’ve been careful how we’ve spent and I think that shows in our budget.
To provide flexibility in land use, OK? You know, we’ve got to remember that Project 3 is owned by private people. We don’t own that property. If you get a permit to build a house in the basin and we issue the permit and you don’t build the house, whose problem is that? Obviously the error by the earlier council was to allow this project to be built without the proper financial guarantees. And I say this to you, that I will not just rubber stamp a revised project unless the safeguards are in place. No more cutting corners. We’ve suffered too much because of that. So our role is maybe try to facilitate solutions, maybe to see if we have to make adjustments in zoning or land use, maybe working with TRPA to give them a little bit more flexibility in dealing with the proposed developers. Time will solve this problem, but we can only do so much. There’s something like $55 million of secured liens against that property. Somebody has to make an adjustment in their position before this will work.
I think people should vote for me because I think I’ve demonstrated independence. I’ve not been tied to any special interest groups. I think there are some candidates running now that are tied to the Stateline interests. And I think I’ve, when problems have come in front of the council, I’ve looked at them objectively and decided on the merits. And I think I’ve been fair. If you know anything about me – you’ve seen me on TV, you’ve seen how I made decisions – I think I’ve been thoughtful and careful. I’ve always tried to be concerned about the underdog and the small businesses in our community and I think those are reasons I should be supported. Plus, I think, except for Project 3, you know, (Oct. 2) there was discussion about that. Hal Cole and I have been a subcommittee trying to deal with these people, talk to these people, trying to encourage them to go the right direction. And, despite all the conversation, we haven’t been able to get them moving. We’ve even talked to possible new developers for the site, but trying to get everyone together on this fragmented ownership is really difficult. So, I think I’ve been independent and fair and not tied to special interests and I think I’ve made careful decisions and that’s why I think you should vote for me.