Candidate: Community plan needs attention
August 16, 2004
Restaurant owner Mike Weber wants to step up to the plate at a critical time in South Lake Tahoe’s future.
The businessman has thrown his hat in the ring for one of two seats to be vacated from the Nov. 2 election by Mayor Tom Davis and Councilwoman Judy Brown. This is Weber’s first time running for council.
Beyond being a former Harrah’s Lake Tahoe casino host, Weber, 52, is widely known around town for running Camp Richardson Resort before moving over three years ago to the Lake Tahoe Airport. There, he opened Chase’s, a Cajun-style restaurant based on the cooking of New Orleans where he’s originally from.
Weber said he is selling the restaurant to focus on the council race.
The 28-year South Shore resident, who has served on many boards including the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce and Lodging Association, plans to cook up something for the city’s economic growth. He’d like to start with a long-term vision that affects the entire community, not pockets of it.
“We don’t have a well thought out community plan. Part of that focus is the economy,” he said Monday. “One man can make a difference.”
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That means bringing all the parties to the table when difficult decisions must be made.
“I just think people tend to make emotional decisions. We need to base them on good science, not political science,” he said.
The time is now for retaining the environment and building the economy – especially with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency developing Pathway 2007, he said. The comprehensive blueprint for planning defines the outlook of Tahoe – from building allocations to transportation.
Part of the plan involves the progression of the Lake Tahoe Airport – with less talk and more action.
He cited the airport’s strategic plan as an example of a ball being dropped.
“Things haven’t happened,” he said.
Aside from leaving the city’s proposed half-percent sales tax increase up to the voters, Weber listed a number of issues he believes need to be addressed. These include supporting school and athletic programs, creating affordable housing options and alleviating traffic problems.
“There are simple things we can do about congestion,” he said, suggesting a dedicated lane for public transportation.
In addition, Weber would like to develop more recreational options around the lake – with a special emphasis on promoting hiking and cycling. But he recognized it’s tough to get people out of their vehicles once they drive here.
“We’ve been saying ‘it’s the lake’ for 20 years,” he said.
He supports maintaining a level of marketing money from the city but with a condition.
“We need to look carefully at what we’re getting for marketing,” he said.
His answer is having an Internet site strategy, which he says is underutilized. To bring it up to speed he would triple the spending resources to run such a program.
He points to brides looking for wedding options on the Internet more than they do in magazines like “Bride.”
However, he would keep the image campaign called the Blue World because it “creates an emotional attachment” to the region.
“I know some people think we don’t need marketing – that the lake sells itself. I would say: ‘If you were the president of Coca-Cola, would you stop advertising?'” he asked.
At the same time, expenses should not come at the expense of core services like police and fire.
He points out that the Public Works department also serves an important function to the city because it evaluates the decision on resurfacing city streets and fixing potholes. He calls the failure to keep up with maintenance as a “dead end street.”
“Anything that diminishes the experience makes a difference,” he said.
Weber likes living in South Lake Tahoe because of the seasons, changes and being in the mountains – although he enjoys visiting his daughter Nicole in San Diego and grandson Zach in Arizona.
When he’s not working, Weber hikes, works out at a gym, boats, socializes and barbecues with the zeal of an executive chef.
Weber will run against recreation advocate Stephen Reinhard, retired lawyer Ted Long, El Dorado County boat officer Jeff Williams, attorney Bruce Grego and city Planning Commissioner Pat Frega.
– Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org