City council appears to be a ship without a rudder (Opinion)
Tuesday’s city council meeting was tough to watch. After several hours of comments that ranged from masks should not be worn to the many comments expressing concern over the seeming increased tourism during the pandemic. Of special concern was the recent invasion of our town by street racers.
After this flood of comments, council members started their discussion and opened with Mayor Jason Collin largely dismissing many of the comments the public made, specifically the governor’s order to not travel. This was hard to take given the recent county supervisors meeting which included a slide specifically on that subject that stated that order was still in place, at least according to health official Dr. Nancy Williams.
Despite several attempts to steer the council to first define their goals by the most experienced Councilmember Brooke Laine, they largely spoke to their immediate individual concerns. Like a boat without a rudder, that discussion continued for some time. After several subtle repeated attempts to get the group to first decide on their shared goals before focusing on action items, they agreed to speak to a subset of topics after Councilmember Laine was pushed for her chief concerns. After a little further discussion they agreed to give our local police the option to fine individuals for not wearing a mask. That was the only outcome for the evening.
Given we are months into a pandemic and we are just now addressing fines for people not wearing masks, you will forgive me if I am underwhelmed. What this meeting highlighted for me was the council’s complete incomprehension of the two hours of comments they received.
I felt the comments were intended to get the council to address the increased traffic we are seeing in town, especially on the weekends, for them to address the large street racing event and for some action to reduce visitation in our town. There was recognition for our concern over trash and that discussion actually provided the key facts of the evening.
When the South Tahoe Refuse representative spoke she stated that they are seeing consistent garbage throughout the week, with little let up during the weekdays. This fact combined with the earlier report that room rentals are running steady at 60% plainly suggests that day-use visits are the culprit for our seemingly extra tourism. Unfortunately, our council members seemed to miss these facts and focused almost aimlessly on passing something, anything to show that they were responding to residents.
I appreciate the interest in addressing resident concerns but to do so in a mission to simply pass a resolution missed the point of the many comments given entirely. Yes, the police now have a tool to fine people for not wearing masks and a discussion on dealing with trash at least was started. What we did not get was a clearly defined direction as to what they want to address going forward or any action that would either reduce visitation or address the large group gatherings, like we saw this past weekend.
We did not get leadership on how to move forward. I must compliment Brooke Laine for attempting to subtly guide the group but her efforts were not understood and fell flat. Without defined goals, their efforts were less than productive. We can only hope that they regroup and define what they want to do and act to address those goals, as Brooke tried to get them to do. I imagine she left as frustrated as those of us watching.
The council appears to be a ship without a rudder.
Scott Ramirez is a South Lake Tahoe resident
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