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Alliance looks to increase influence

Adam Jensen

Following gains in last month’s elections, a group of South Shore residents frustrated with local agencies’ decision-making has set its sights on two city council seats up for grabs next November.

South Lake Tahoe’s Citizens Alliance for Responsible Government came together in 2005 to oppose the formation of a business improvement district (BID) throughout the city. Such a district would have taxed local businesses to market the area to tourists.

Under legal pressure, city leadership abandoned the BID in 2006, but the alliance continues to meet regularly to examine issues they feel could be detrimental to local business owners and residents.

Fifty-seven residents have paid dues to the alliance, but “well over 200” people can show up to a meeting depending on the level of interest in a particular issue, according to the group’s president, John Runnels.

Members of the Citizens Alliance currently are examining Tahoe Regional Planning Agency and city plans for development at the “Y” but hope to make deeper inroads into South Shore decision-making processes in the near future.

“Our thrust needs to be at the leadership in this city that (doesn’t) understand what the people of this city want,” alliance member John Cefalu said at a regular meeting of the group last Wednesday.

City council members Ted Long and Mike Weber are up for re-election in November, and the alliance plans to back candidates who share the group’s concerns, according to Runnels.

“We don’t have candidates yet,” Runnels said. “We are looking for concerned people in the community that have the will to represent the people.”

Weber plans on running for re-election to the city council and was welcoming of any competition that candidates supported by the alliance would provide.

“I hope we get 100 percent voter turnout,” Weber said. “Competition creates excellence.”

Long is undecided about whether he will run for re-election next year.

The alliance already has one supporter on the council – Councilman Bill Crawford.

“I’m sympathetic to them being organized to try to serve the interest of small businesses and serve the interest of the citizens in general,” Crawford said Monday. “We need a spokesman for small business.”

Last month, the Citizens Alliance gained a supporter on the South Tahoe Public Utility District Board (STPUD) with the election of alliance member Ernie Claudio.

Mary Lou Mosbacher also is active in the Citizens Alliance and was re-elected to the STPUD board in November, but she has been on the board since before the alliance was formed.

Although Dale Rise, who won the third open seat on the board, donated $100 to the alliance during its opposition to the BID, he distanced himself from the group during his campaign.

South Lake Tahoe’s position as the only incorporated city in the Lake Tahoe Basin makes the South Lake Tahoe Citizens Alliance unique, but comparable groups have formed in the area because of similar frustrations with regional leadership.

The Tahoe Vista-based North Tahoe Citizen’s Action Alliance was incorporated as a nonprofit organization in May and has 142 paid members, according to Jerry Wotel, the group’s president.

There also have been discussions about creating a similar group in Incline Village.

“There was a number of issues we had become involved in,” Wotel said. “Basically, we formed because we thought we needed to be more recognized by what we represented. We formed as a citizen’s voice.”


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