Candidates square off on housing, small business
The six South Lake Tahoe City Council candidates fielded another round of questions on Monday ranging from motel conversion and the South Shore chamber merger to councilman Ted Long for mayor and retaining commercial business in town.
The last issue has turned near and dear to recreational advocate Tom Wendell, who works for Tahoe Sports Ltd. The outdoor gear shop at the “Y” closed temporarily, with employees saying they’re unaware of a re-opening date.
“People don’t want to come up here to go to another Starbucks,” Wendell declared before a dozen people at the South Tahoe Board of Realtors-sponsored forum at the El Dorado County library.
But Century 21 agent Barbara Childs blurted out: “Use another example.”
In making his point, Wendell lamented over unique shops closing on the South Shore. Six Starbucks now exist in town.
Black Bear innkeeper Jerry Birdwell said recommendations go a long way from one business to the next.
“People come to Tahoe for an experience. I want my guests to have local flavor. We encourage our guests to go to privately-owned restaurants,” he said.
Businessman Tom Davis pledged to use two economic studies to get commerce on a roll. Incumbent Kathay Lovell advocated getting redevelopment going to revitalize the “Y,” despite retired teacher Bill Crawford’s assertion the city’s tool of redevelopment isn’t the end-all solution to the ails of the community. He suggested lower commercial rents and taxes may be the answer. Real estate agent Michael Phillips told his Century 21 colleague, moderator Doug Rosner, that he agreed rent could be the obstacle.
As for residential rentals, Aspen Realty’s David Kurtzman submitted a question whether the candidates would support modifying the rules to accommodate converting motel rooms to households.
“Certainly, that may solve the housing issue,” Crawford said.
Davis disagreed this use would be considered appropriate housing and pointed to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency for the guidance. Birdwell concurred.
Lovell said she’s open to the discussion of converting condominiums, and Phillips added he’s already wrestled with the subject on the city Planning Commission.
This topic became close to home for Wendell again.
“I lived in one of those when I was a 20-year-old ski bum in Europe. They didn’t even allow a hot plate. Of course, we used one anyway. I know what it’s like, and it isn’t fun,” he said, supporting community rooms.
The candidates have honed the art of relating to the issues at hand while on the forum circuit. Some questions have recirculated, while new ones have popped up.
Five of the candidates declined to support a roundabout. Wendell couldn’t say one way or another.
In addition, Wendell joined Phillips in not being able to declare whether they’d support Councilman Ted Long for mayor, a post appointed at the time of the council swearing in.
Long has been accused of being opinionated, but the city has faced more pressing issues.
“Let’s face it. We chose a cocaine dealer as mayor,” Phillips said, referring to former Mayor Terry Trupp’s conviction on drug trafficking in the 1980s.
Davis, Lovell and Crawford said no.
Though mostly diplomatic, politics has taken center stage in this candidate season leading to the Nov. 7 election.
The candidates were asked if they would fund the merged South Shore chamber and the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, a hot-button issue that has arisen with the Nov. 1 deadline of the Tahoe Douglas and South Lake Tahoe chambers coming together on Nevada soil.
Birdwell offered yes to both. Wendell sided with Crawford in insisting the city’s job is not to market the area. Lovell, who voted to lump the marketing groups’ subsidies in a community marketing fund, said the chamber is too much in a state of flux.
Marketing advocate Davis gave the nod to LTVA but said he’d withhold support for the merged chamber. Phillips stayed on the fence, saying the council “should support funding some sort of chamber – new or merged.”
Democrats meet and greet today
A meet-and-greet session with two Democrat candidates is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. today at Sierra House Elementary.
Robert Haswell, a Democrat campaigning for the state Assembly seat vacated by Tim Leslie, R-Tahoe City, and possibly Charlie Brown, a Democrat vying for a spot in the House of Representatives held by John Doolittle, R-Rocklin, will appear at the school in a two-hour session sponsored by the South Tahoe Educators Association.
Brown might not make it due to a scheduling conflict, but someone from his camp will appear, according to Mike Patterson, vice president of the association.
The forum is open to the public. The election is Nov. 7.
A season of candidate forums
South Lake Tahoe City Council candidate forums
— Timber Cove Lodge
5:30 p.m., Oct. 11 & 25
— Harrah’s Lake Tahoe
noon, Oct. 18