Business alliance forming | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Business alliance forming

Susan Wood

A small group of South Lake Tahoe businessmen led by plaintiffs in a lawsuit against a city-enacted fee has decided to take the next step in forming its own community alliance.

The newly forming Business and Professional Alliance will meet Oct. 13 at the South Lake Tahoe branch of the El Dorado County Library on Rufus Allen Boulevard. The interest marks one of a few stirrings in the local business community.

The BPA has no board of officers, non-profit status or agenda yet – just the desire from 10 to 15 citizens seeking representation other than what exists in South Lake Tahoe. The business collective has met about a handful of times informally. The meeting slated for Oct. 13 will mark the first, formal public gathering, organizer John Cefalu indicated.

Cefalu is one of three plaintiffs in a pending lawsuit against the city over the formation of a tourism-based business improvement district that imposes an across-the-board fee on companies within the city limits. The other two men include Dr. Pat Martin – another board – member and Lou Pierini, who’s running for the District 5 seat of the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors.

The BID fee structure, which ranges from $30 to $3,000 annually, was put into place to make up for lost marketing subsidies amounting to $753,000 for the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce and Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority in the last two years.

Cefalu, a BID board member, said the group is not forming as an alternative to the chamber of commerce as some people have noted. It also was not a sole response to the TPBID, which some in the group oppose. The controversial BID sparked outrage in the community over its formation and payment structure.

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“There’s been a discontent with the BID, but our focus is more on the people who have become disenchanted. We find the city not paying attention,” Cefalu said.

He characterized the BPA as the last straw of sorts in an environment where the community is split on how to market business in town.

Martin agreed with Cefalu’s characterization of the alliance, but he added the group is an open book.

“We’re having this meeting to get people together to see what members of the community want to make of it,” he said, further asking residents beyond members of the business community to attend.

Kathy Farrell, executive director of the Tahoe Douglas Chamber of Commerce, said she views the proposed group as an indication the chambers may not be serving all the needs of the community.

“We cannot be all things to all people, but we don’t see it as a threat,” she said.

Neither does South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Duane Wallace. He pointed out how other start-up groups have formed and eventually failed such as the one in the 1990s – ABLE, the Alliance of Business, Lodging Enterprises.