There is much to be learned from the June 4 election results. We believe in the value of public libraries. We prefer not to invest in our community through paid parking. Perhaps most importantly, the vast majority of voters, 71 percent, chose to sit out this election. Individually these facts are interesting. Combined, they are building blocks to advance our community.
Measure L proves once again that we can and do invest in what we believe gives value to our community and ourselves. Measure L succeeded because it was community-driven, there was a benefit (keeping library hours) and value (libraries are an important public asset). By contrast, Measure P shows a low tolerance to new funding ideas that are not tied to substantive investment. And this public debate is not engaging the average citizens.
The time is ripe to build on these lessons at the city’s budget discussion on June 17. What, if any, investments will our voters support? I am regularly asked, when will we start improving our city? Good question.
The city has documented that its capital improvement needs for roads alone require a funding stream of $3.5 million a year. A one percent TOT increase will generate about $500,000 a year, a half-cent sales tax increase about $2 million. These funds aren’t enough, but would go a long way toward fixing our city. What do you want fixed? Roads? The Rec center? Street lights? Better snow removal? Or nothing?
We must also look beyond these tools if we are to better South Lake Tahoe. Cutting the bottom line and using available public finance tools alone will never be enough. What Tahoe needs is to grow our top line by millions if we are to thrive. By thrive I mean create the economic engine that will provide living wage jobs, bring in capital development dedicated to rebuilding and refurbishing our commercial corridors, and draw new residents, full and part time, who will improve their homes and neighborhoods. In turn, these improvements increase property values, generate more sales tax, etc. Yes, we’ve said this before. But how to make it happen?
We need to form a public/private economic advisory council and recruitment team to identify the best opportunities to leverage outside capital into town. This group would identify the projects here then go into the marketplace to bring investors to town. What properties are ripe for redevelopment? The southwest corner of Lake Tahoe Boulevard and Ski Run jumps to mind. What commodities can be packaged into the property to make it desirable? What incentives do we place on it, to lure the right kind of investment? Wouldn’t we prefer to see a world class discovery/visitors center over another strip mall?
Let’s use the lessons of June 4 to make South Lake Tahoe a happier place to live. I ask you to start this dialogue with me at the June 17 city council meeting.
Angela Swanson is a member of the South Lake Tahoe City Council.