Watching the Olympics and cheering on our many local athletes (Go Jamie!) helps us appreciate the exceptional place we call home. Out of this love for South Lake Tahoe and increasing economic pressures comes a desire to see it succeed and advance. In making local changes, we must recognize how long-standing, limiting paradigms block our community’s potential to realize progress. Through my work with the South Tahoe Drug Free Coalition, I have seen the community’s willingness to work together to create positive change for youth, but have also directly confronted the paradigm of maintaining the status quo.
Certain systems reinforce conventions rather than encourage innovative and informed thinking. These include defending a personal or single business’ agenda instead of what is beneficial for most; buying into the ‘that’s Tahoe’ mindset that issues are conditions of living here rather than perpetuated beliefs and habits; lack of participation in democracy so the same vocal naysayers are the primary voices heard; maintaining the same executives and board of trustees/directors for decades without transparently addressing feedback or providing opportunities for new ideas; lack of honest and constructive analysis of community assets and issues in local media and community discussions; same method of addressing or ignoring problems and insular thinking — other successful case studies are not considered; and the lack of engagement with people that would offer different opinions including minority populations, the many seasonal and transition-age youth, seniors, and the disabled.
These beliefs and systems limit our community’s growth and well-being because they do not challenge us to view issues differently to yield more effective results. Fortunately, there is positive momentum happening locally. The chamber’s economy forums, trainings and ambassador program; the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency plan update; the local planning and City Council meetings in both Nevada and California; young entrepreneurs and professionals in TRYP who share resources and give back; our coalition’s work to change local policies, increase education, and support youth programs; business and resort investments (summer activities on the mountains, enhancing Tahoe as a sports medicine destination, and small business upgrades); and city improvements like Lakeview Commons, new bus shelters, Pioneer Trail upgrades and downtown redevelopment.
I hope this article serves as a call to action. Let us each reflect on our own beliefs, conversations and actions that contribute to perpetuating negative structures, and the changes we will commit to making personally and together to tackle these major challenges. Be positive and constructive in how you talk about the town and industry. Take advantage of available information and opportunities to give feedback on the future vision for South Lake Tahoe. Also vote and run! Get involved in ways that are meaningful to you, even if you are just here for a season. Join a service or activity club or create one you want, share a skill you are passionate about, and/or volunteer. Together, let’s help our beloved area advance in a positive direction!
— Erica Eng is the Grant Development, Evaluation and Data Coordinator at Tahoe Youth & Family Services and is an active member of the Tahoe Regional Young Professionals and can be reached for volunteer opportunities at firstname.lastname@example.org.