Election: 10 candidates vying for 2 seats on city council
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The race is on for two open South Lake Tahoe City Council seats. Ten will compete for those two seats vacated by Mayor Jason Collin and Councilmember Brooke Laine.
The candidates sat down with the Tribune to discuss why they are running and their biggest issues.
Local artist and activist Stacey Ballard has lived in Tahoe for more than 20 years and has worked to bring more art to the region. She worked at Grassroots Books for almost 10 years, was an art teacher with the Bringing Arts to Schools program and taught art at the Boys and Girls Club Lake Tahoe. Recently she published her book, “The Fine Art of Waiting: Wellness Through Creativity,” which is meant to distract people from their pain and to help them explore their chronic illness through art.
Ballard is an organ donor recipient who has had multiple surgeries at Barton Memorial Hospital and was flown out of the local airport to receive life saving treatment when she was dying of organ failure.
“I went through my toughest years living in Tahoe, I experienced what it felt like to have the community rally around me and offer steadfast support,” Ballard said.
Ballard said Tahoe is now facing one of its toughest moments, with over tourism and an excess of trash and traffic.
“It was there for me at one of the most difficult times in my life and I am ready and able to give back,” Ballard said.
If elected, Ballard wants to improve quality of life by addressing the housing issue, providing police oversight and supporting local businesses.
To support local businesses, Ballard wants to introduce an ordinance that would limit the amount of big box stores or chains allowed in the area. She also wants to introduce an incentive program to encourage new businesses to come in, especially if those businesses are opened in older spaces.
Ballard said she is not in favor of Loop Road because not only does it displace low income families but it also diverts traffic away from local businesses.
When it comes to police oversight, Ballard believes addressing mental health care shortfalls in the city goes hand in hand with police oversight. Ballard supports Police Chief David Stevenson’s effort to start the South Tahoe Alternative Collaborative Services initiative which addresses homelessness and mental health.
Finally, Ballard wants to limit the number of day trippers allowed in Tahoe by issuing day passes and only allowing tour busses in, to help alleviate some of the stress the city is experiencing because of tourism.
To learn more about Ballard, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Daniel Browne has been actively involved as a citizen at city council meetings and now he wants a chance to represent South Lake Tahoe from the other side.
Browne, who has lived in South Lake for 48 years, believes he can bring a historical perspective and will listen to the will of the people.
Browne regularly attends and comments during council meetings and feels that his, and other members of the public’s concerns, fall on deaf ears.
“A good example of that is the cell tower on Ski Run Blvd.,” Browne said. “There was immense opposition to that … they ignored the will of the people and now we have a cell tower.”
Browne also said some of the infrastructure has been ignored for many years, including roads that desperately need improvement. He’s concerned that the 1% sales tax increase, which is earmarked for infrastructure, won’t actually be used to make those improvements.
“I think that we need to attack the budget, attack the priorities of this community and we need to adhere to the will of the people,” Browne said.
The first thing Browne would do in office is go line by line in the budget and see where cuts can be made.
Browne said he’s against the Loop Road project that would make access to the new events center in Nevada (a project that should’ve been in California) and fears this will be another failed project like the hole in the ground at Stateline. Not only that, Browne said Loop Road will also “decimate all of the last remaining low income housing.”
Overtourism is also top of mind for Browne. Although he knows tourism is important to the community, he’s concerned about the amount of trash, lack of parking and the wildfire danger with too many in the basin.
Browne has a history of making change happen in the community. As a member of the Tahoe Neighborhoods Group, he was instrumental in getting Measure T on the ballot in 2018 and getting vacation home rentals banned from outside the tourist core. He said he’s already seen some of those VHRs be sold to locals, making the community more stable.
“I’m all for putting locals first and I want to see our locals in our neighborhoods,” Browne said.
To learn more, email Browne at email@example.com.
Retired, 32-year resident Leonard Carter has termed himself, “the unpolitician.”
He has never run for office and avoids political committees and associations. Watching city council meetings for the last 30 years, he’s pleased with the progress the current council is making, saying that even if they make decisions he doesn’t agree with, they’ve always done it cordially and they are always kind to each other.
“The reason why I’m running is because I want to continue what I consider to be a forward movement of the city council,” Carter said.
While Carter said there will always be “perennial issues,” such as road repair, his main focus would be preparation for the future.
“I maintain the demand to be in Tahoe by tourists as well as people who want to live here is going to continue to grow,” Carter said. “I’m one of those that says, ‘let’s look at the past, it’s the best to tell us what’s going to happen in the future as far as demand.’”
Another thing Carter says he brings to the council is a pragmatic way of thinking. He thinks sometimes jurisdictional lines are blurred like the city not providing mental health care because it’s a county issue or the state forcing the city to build affordable housing. While he does believe affordable housing is an important issue for the city, it’s not the state’s jurisdiction.
For Carter, the city’s priorities include police, fire, roads and city planning.
Finally, Carter identifies as a fiscal conservative. Instead of the proposed sales tax increase being put on the November ballot, Carter is sure he could find cuts in the budget.
“I believe if we really get into the budget … under most circumstances I believe we can find places to cut,” Carter said.
To learn more, visit http://www.tahoeleonard.com.
Local businesswoman Cristi Creegan has decided that after 15 years of considering the decision, now is the time to run for council.
Between co-owning CoWork Tahoe and raising two daughters, she didn’t feel like it was the right time. But now, Creegan said, “demographics [of the community] are changing in ways we can’t predict,” and she is excited to move into the future with South Lake Tahoe.
Creegan moved to Tahoe in 1997 to work for Sierra Nevada Alliance. She met her husband and fell in love with Tahoe and hasn’t left since.
CoWork Tahoe has helped bring many new businesses into South lake, including many tech companies. Creegan believes that while it’s important to expand Tahoe’s economies it is also important to remember the most vulnerable populations who live in the region.
“We have to move forward and we need to focus on moving all of us together,” Creegan said.
While she admits that is hard to do, Creegan is solution-oriented and doesn’t shy away from a problem.
One of Creegan’s goals for the council is to tackle sustainable tourism, an issue that encompasses everything in Tahoe including environmental and economic solutions.
Creegan wants to see solutions like reservations for parking, development of walkable business districts like Harrison Ave., and expanded collaborations between the city and other agencies to address issues.
Another issue Creegan is passionate about is affordable housing. She said she’d like to focus on existing units that are empty or in disrepair. She wants to support the purchase and refurbishment of those homes.
“We don’t want sprawling buildings everywhere,” Creegan said. “We should focus on reasonably infilling along transportation routes.”
Finally, when it comes to police reform, Creegan is in favor of the South Tahoe Alternative Collaborative Services initiative that brings together the police and fire departments as well as the homeless coalition, mental health services and Barton to address mental health and homelessness.
“The police are being called to do things outside of their purview,” Creegan said. “The police need support, we are a small town and we have to do all we can to be in this together.”
To learn more about Creegan, visit http://www.cristi4council.com.
In 2005, John Friedrich moved to Tahoe for love and has started his family here. Friedrich and his wife had a daughter, who he says is part of the reason he decided to run.
“She certainly is an inspiration to me to do everything I can to make a better community for her and all kids and those who are to follow,” Friedrich said. “And I decided to run because I just see a lot of areas where we can take a great community and make it better.”
One of Friedrich’s goals as a council member would be diversification of the economy. He is currently serving on the city’s Transformative Change Committee which is looking at ways to do just that.
One of his ideas to do so is to build smaller homes using green materials. This would not only help in solving the affordable housing crisis but also help move the city to their goal of 100% renewable. After working as program director at the League to Save Lake Tahoe, and managing renewable energy, energy efficiency and electric vehicle programs at Liberty Utilities, Friedrich decided to open his own company last spring.
The Tahoe Green Jobs Coalition helps employ residents in green job sectors such as solar and electric vehicles so for Friedrich, providing more jobs for locals is top of mind.
Friedrich, as a council member, would focus on sustainable tourism.
“We’re always going to be welcoming visitors to our amazing place we’re fortunate enough to call home,” Friedrich said. “However, we need to better manage and reduce the impacts we’re seeing, whether its community COVID-19 spread or wildfire risk or traffic or noise … this has just become an issue we need to solve.”
One of the ways of addressing the problem would be to raise money from day visitors to offset the impacts.
Friedrich also supports projects like Loop Road which would make a walkable downtown area which would support businesses and get people out of their cars.
But one thing Freidrich believes is that the community needs to be involved in finding solutions to the problems.
“At the end of the day, I just really want to lift up opportunities for people to participate in our government, help you be a part of the solution,” Friedrich said.
To learn more, visit http://www.john4council.com.
Some people say you have to leave Tahoe to truly appreciate it but for lifelong resident Luca Genasci, he knew from a young age how special Tahoe was.
Genasci grew up taking advantage of all the activities Tahoe has to offer and said he wanted to find a career that would allow him to continue that lifestyle. So, Genasci opened Tahoe AleWorX at the Y, one of the first tenants to start moving back into that part of town.
He has since expanded to open a second location at Stateline and is currently working on opening a high class pour house next to the Y location.
“One of the main reasons I am running for city council is, I view it as one of the bigger positions you can have for a local in a small community to really give back,” Genasci said. “I feel slightly indebted to some extent because I really appreciate my childhood and I’m always looking to try to pay it forward.”
Genasci also said he’s running to make the community a better place for his kids and the generations to come.
One of Genasci’s priorities is to create and maintain a sustainable and thriving economy, which he sees as an overarching issue encompassing many issues such as affordable housing and environmentalism.
“If we don’t focus on protecting the lake and keeping Tahoe the gem that it is, people will not want to visit it and likewise, people won’t want to live here,” Genasci said. “If people don’t want to visit and people don’t want to live here, you’re not going to have any economy.”
Along the same lines, Genasci supports projects like Loop Road that redevelop blighted areas which would not only help economically but also help protect the lake.
“I’m all for healthy, sustainable redevelopment and I think we could put policies in place that make sure we are allowing for development or redevelopment in a way that actually benefits the town and all the while protects the lake,” Genasci said. As an example, redoing roads and adding in gutter systems and drainage systems that could diminish runoff to the lake and improve clarity.
Genasci also said there needs to be a balance when it comes to tourism.
“I think we can find a very healthy balance with incentives and regulations that keeps it sustainable so that we can have visitors and they do have places to stay but when they come here, they respect where they are, they pick up their trash, for instance,” Genasci said.
To learn more, email Genasci at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Former city councilmember and 53-year resident of South Lake Tahoe, Bruce Grego is vying for the chance to represent the city again.
Grego, who has been a practicing attorney for three decades was first appointed to council in 1989. Prior to being appointed, he was a member of the planning commission and now serves on the advisory planning committee for Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. He ran a successful council campaign in 2008 but ran and lost in 2012.
Grego said as a lawyer, he understands duty to clients. In this case, the voters are the client.
“What the city wants may be different from what the voters want,” Grego added.
The first thing Grego would do if elected would be to take back control of the meeting agenda, saying that the staff currently has too much control of what goes on the agenda and the issues the council addresses.
“I still see things in the city that need to be done,” Grego said. “I have concerns about the direction the city is going and I believe I have the experience and the know how to move us in the right direction.”
He has also been involved with Measure P, the measure that repealed paid parking in the city. He would like to see the Loop Road project put on the ballot, for voters to decide if they want it.
One of the things he’s concerned about is the One Tahoe initiative to connect public transportation throughout the basin.
While public transportation is not compelling for everyday travel, there are areas where Grego thinks it could be effective, such as a bus system from the Y to Emerald Bay or focusing on transportation for the workforce that lives in Carson City.
Another issue on Grego’s mind is affordable housing. Grego would like to engage the Tahoe Conservancy about using some of their lots in town to build affordable housing. Grego said one of the issues standing in the way of affordable housing is the amount of regulations.
The city should be able to allow permits for apartment complexes and allow existing homes to rent out their extra units.
“We need to get the government out of the way and reduce regulations,” Grego said.
Finally, Grego addressed the issue of racial injustice.
“If I find discrimination, I will act to stop such conduct but using law enforcement as the whipping boy is not appropriate,” Grego said.
To learn more, visit http://www.grego2020.com.
Four years ago, when Scott Robbins realized he could move anywhere in the country that he wanted, he chose South Lake Tahoe. While he moved here for the mountains and climbing and backcountry skiing opportunities, he instantly became involved with the community.
Robbins has volunteered with the Warm Room and with Search and Rescue and became actively involved with the Tahoe Neighborhoods Group in putting Measure T on the ballot.
For Robbins, who has centered his campaign around supporting locals, the issue with vacation home rentals wasn’t that they brought in noise or partying into residential neighborhoods. It was that VHRs diminished the housing inventory available to locals.
“I’m friends with brewers, bartenders and nurses,” Robbins said. “It isn’t the casinos that make the community, it’s the people who live and work here.”
While Robbins said he was lucky enough to be able to work remotely to live in Tahoe, he knows a lot of people don’t get that opportunity. He feels local government has put tourism above the wellbeing of locals.
“‘Tahoe needs tourists’ has been used as a get out of responsibility free card,” Robbins said. “Tahoe will always be a tourism community but that need not be all we are.”
One of the ways the city could address this problem is with affordable housing. Measure T was a step in opening up inventory but Robbins thinks the city should require that auxiliary dwelling units, i.e. mother-in-law units or extra cabins, be used only for local housing and not for VHRs.
He also thinks the city should implement a vacancy or second home tax that would raise revenue or encourage those homeowners to make their homes long-term rentals.
Robbins was also active in the Black Lives Matter protests that took place in South Lake and is proud that they remained peaceful protests.
“It’s exceptionally easy, comforting and untrue to believe these problems are exclusive to other places,” Robbins said. “Loop Road won’t make a viral video but we are planning on plowing a highway through a majority hispanic neighborhood. That’s structural racism.”
To learn more about Robbins, visit http://www.scottforslt.com.
Executive Chef Keith Roberts has seen some decisions made by the city lately that he wouldn’t necessarily call corrupt but has been worrying for him.
“I just wanted to be part of the city, and make sure the city grows in the right direction and with a little more integrity,” Roberts said.
Roberts has been an award-winning restaurant owner in Florida and in Los Angeles. He bought a house in Tahoe 10 years ago, and has lived here full-time for five years. The Round Hill Pines Resort Executive Chef said he has no plans of leaving Tahoe.
As a restaurant owner and chef, Roberts said he has skills that translate well to city council such as financial knowhow, motivational skills, management and dealing with health and safety issues.
One of the first issues Roberts wants to address is the needs of Tahoe’s labor force. As someone who employs many labor force members, he’s seen firsthand the struggles they have living in the community.
“If our city wants to grow the way it’s growing, attracting a more affluent crowd and having more high end boutique type shops and restaurants, I think they’re going to need a more qualified and better trained labor staff, including managers,” Roberts said.
Providing more training and a higher minimum wage will go a long way to address those concerns. Tackling affordable housing is another way to help.
Roberts believes if new developers come in, like the developers of the Whole Foods shopping center, they need to be part of the solution. Roberts said the city should require developers to contribute to building new affordable housing.
He also would like to see employers taking more responsibility in placing their employees and being accountable for the housing they place their employees in. For example, an employee could lose their job if they damage their housing unit, which would minimize the risk to landlords in providing that kind of housing.
When it comes to Loop Road, Roberts would like to see the displaced families get housing before their current housing is destroyed. While he supports the idea conceptually, he thinks there are still a lot of details that need to be worked out. He’s concerned about traffic being diverted to Pioneer Trail which is already a highly trafficked road.
Roberts believes the fact that he hasn’t been politically involved with the city in the past is an asset.
“I’m not coming in with an agenda, I’m not the head of an association that needs to be protected,” Roberts said. “I’m just a fresh set of eyes who will look at each issue from the standpoint of what’s best for our city and for the community.”
To learn more, visit http://www.facebook.com/kroberts2020.
Doug Williams moved to South Lake Tahoe a little over 10 years ago and soon became involved with the community.
He started going to chamber of commerce meetings and as the owner of Cedar Pines Resort, got involved with the lodging associations.
He’s on the board of the Tahoe Home Connections, and combined with his experience in the lodging industry, he believes he’s the man to tackle affordable housing.
Williams wants to reach out to homeowners of properties that are empty or not being used and connect them with nonprofits to purchase those homes. Those nonprofits would ensure those homes are then sold or rented to locals at an affordable price.
The city could provide micro loans to homebuyers to purchase or fix-up the homes using the federal housing money the city has.
Williams is also interested in fire safety in the community. He would like to expand the number of FireWise communities in South Lake. As homes and neighborhoods become FireWise certified, they become eligible for grant funding that is used to hire people to help other people fireproof their properties who might not be able to do it themselves.
He also wants to reinstate the Fire Safety Council which provided services such as low-cost chipping, fire safety education in schools and created fuel breaks.
Williams also wants to reprioitize the budget and stop spending money on “stupid stuff” like trips to Mexico and the endless amount of studies the city pays for.
“That money should have been put into roads not spent on feel good things,” Williams said.
To learn more, visit /www.facebook.com/douglaswilliamscitycouncil.
Residents can vote at California Conservation Corp 1949 Apache Ln., or Lake Tahoe Community College, 1 College Dr., from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Oct. 31 to Nov. 2 and from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Nov. 3.
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