City Council candidates square off on streets, dogs, buses and the TRPA |

City Council candidates square off on streets, dogs, buses and the TRPA

Susan Wood

With less than two weeks to go until Election Day, six candidates running for South Lake Tahoe City Council cranked up the forum circuit Wednesday night with responses and rebuttals on a dog’s life, beautiful streets, buses, an airport, a large regulatory agency and a place for small business.

The latter got real estate agent Michael Phillips to boldly pledge he would be open to repealing the business license fee in town, when asked how he would improve the small business environment here.

He was pitted in a Tahoe Daily Tribune-sponsored forum at the Timber Cove Lodge against retired teacher Bill Crawford, businessman Tom Davis, incumbent Kathay Lovell, recreation enthusiast Tom Wendell and innkeeper Jerry Birdwell for three seats now occupied by Lovell and Councilmen John Upton and Hal Cole. The latter two have decided not to run for new terms.

“I feel they’re doing nothing to help small business,” said Phillips, who points to the business license fee and now defunct Tourism Promotion Business Improvement District as two major failings in the city. He also stepped up the criticisms toward Davis and Lovell over the implied cutting of Clean Tahoe funds in the city budget when they were on the council together.

The claim prompted two rebuttals to moderator Skip Sayer, a longtime Stateline casino executive who’s the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce executive director.

Davis countered it was a staff recommendation he “did not support.”

Lovell explained the budget crisis the city was facing with “enormous state takeaways” that she tried to recommend combating with grant opportunities.

The candidates fielded a few questions they had not heard before.

For one, they were asked what to do about unleashed dogs.

Dog owner Birdwell suggested a canine park and for more animal control enforcement. Lovell and Davis reminded the audience of about 40 people that enforcement is a function of El Dorado County Animal Control, of which the city pays for support.

Crawford said he’d like to see enforcement spread over the city streets beyond the camping out an animal control officer at Cove East near the Tahoe Keys Marina.

Wendell spoke of how he has had dogs chase him on his bicycle.

“Many people who own dogs here are not that responsible,” he said.

Most of the candidates want to see the BlueGo bus management take responsibility for many complaints issued – but stopped short of suggesting the abolishing of the South Shore transportation system operated by contractor Area Transit Management.

Wendell had a difficult time himself arranging for rides for his mother, he said.

And Birdwell wants to see the service expand to 24 hours a day to help seniors and disabled.

Crawford believes “we need ground service transportation” but agreed it needs improvement because for one thing it doesn’t run on time.

Davis criticized spending $1 million on a global positioning system when the town has “only one road,” he said amid audience laughter. Davis used the opportunity to tout his proposal for a free bus service and an inventory of transportation funding the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency manages.

TRPA’s regional plan process called Pathway 2007 and its “Triple Bottom Line” mantra that balances the economy, environment and social aspects of life in Tahoe had come more than once from the candidates when asked about what they would do on the governing board.

Crawford promised to “put a human face on a very large bureaucracy” because it has a public image of “not being fair.” He took aim at it for the small business person and individual struggling to meet TRPA’s “cookie-cutter” answer to best management practices, which are erosion control policies due on more than 30,000 parcels in the area.

Birdwell wants to take the board seat to focus on a housing concern here.

Davis called the process “faith-based planning, instead of “place-based,” and complimented the agency for using sound science after 20 years.

Lovell would like to see no more delays in the Pathway process because many projects and plans are contingent on that blueprint for the lake’s future.

Phillips said he’d push for a streamlined permitting process, and Wendell agreed somewhat with an end to the “internal gridlock” of communication from the bi-state regulatory agency.

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