Big bucks in council race |

Big bucks in council race

From the California governor to the South Lake Tahoe City Council to the ballot measures in between, this year’s races may make up a big-money election by most standards.

A testament to the importance of the race, the total amount of campaign contributions collected from five of the eight candidates running for three City Council seats has dwarfed any of the money raised in races over the last decade.

John Upton, Pete Mac Roberts, Hal Cole, Michael Phillips and Kathay Lovell have raised more than $56,000 collectively.

Only the 1994 race comes close, with five candidates raising more than $46,000.

In the last decade, individual campaigns have averaged about $7,900, according to City Clerk’s Office records.

Lovell leads the pack in this year’s race with $25,089 — $18,000 of that amount taken in at her Monte Carlo fund-raiser.

Lovell tries to put the new threshold into perspective, noting that at least $5,000 in expenses has gone to paying for the event, but she’s aware the amount has gained attention around town.

“I shouldn’t be penalized by those who feel challenged by it,” she said, adding she’s proud of the accomplishment attributed to her large, hard-working campaign committee.

Otherwise, contributions have ranged from Upton’s $13,087, Mac Roberts’ $8,542, Cole’s $7,523 and Phillips’ $3,240. Candidates Stephen Reinhard, Mark Cutright and Gunnar Henrioulle have reported no official campaign committee.

Candidates aren’t the only ones on the ballot receiving money and support.

Measure Z, a ballot initiative that seeks to raise the transient occupancy tax by at least $1 and doubles the business licensing fees to fund city services, has received $26,598 to help support its passage, according to City Clerk’s Office records.

The measure has collected money from a variety of sources, including city police officers and its union — a group that helped craft a grass-roots effort through a coalition of local organizations.

A dozen of the 17 contributors who donated money in October were recorded from post office boxes.

The measure’s largest contributor is the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce, providing $18,432 since the City Clerk’s Office started tracking the records July 1.

Chamber Executive Director Duane Wallace agrees that the business community heavily supporting a tax measure provides “an odd circumstance.”

“We’re almost always against larger government,” he said, adding this time there are reasons for the break in tradition.

“If we expect the city to run in a business-like manner, then what business has not raised its prices in the last 10 years? And what business has thrown away an entire marketing budget and survived?”

Wallace posed the questions that explain the 1,100-member organization’s support.

The chamber receives $153,281 in funding from the city under the 2002-03 budget.

He cited the chamber going through the same level of effort to grant the city its incorporation in 1965, calling this Nov. 5 proposition a stop-gap measure that’s a “sound business decision on the part of the community to keep the city afloat.”

“If the city goes out of business, which is possible, then we’ll have one (county) supervisor representing the Tahoe basin,” he said. “What do we stand to gain — only in that I don’t think we should cut marketing.”

Another organization has also thrown its weight behind Measure Z, as part of the community-based coalition that led to its formation.

The South Lake Tahoe Lodging Association — which has contributed $7,400 to the cause — will channel both types of funds from the two-tiered measure into city coffers.

So why would the industry penalize itself?

Charlie McDermid, the former president who sat in on months of budget committee meetings, said he’s convinced there’s no fat to trim in the city and the association is willing to do its part to ensure the city stays sound.

The $1 or $1.50 on top of the 10 percent standard properties already collect in motel tax from guests, and the 12 percent from those in the redevelopment zone, represents a compromise in hard negotiations over what the city wanted to collect from its visitors.

The city-funded Godbe community survey had indicated a 2 percent hike in the tax would have a two-thirds vote, but that idea didn’t fly in the face of opposition.

— Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at

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