City needs a few good volunteers
Leave it to a former Peace Corps volunteer to become active in his community through involvement in the anti-war movement.
South Lake Tahoe Planning Commissioner Ted Long, 65, reflects fondly on a time in the Bay Area in the 1960s when people felt their voices could make a difference.
Long, one year on the job for city planning and considering the parks and recreation commission, thinks people have lost that belief. The recent lack of applications for a slew of city commission appointments appears as evidence, he cites.
The city was forced to extend the application period to give interested parties a chance to apply. The City Council was only able to fill the Lake Tahoe Airport Commission opening at its last meeting, and the others failed to generate the minimum number of applicants.
“I don’t think people think they can make a difference,” Long said, adding a comparison to voter apathy. “Everybody complains about the status quo, but they keep electing the same people.”
The retired lawyer, who’s worked on all types of law from criminal to real estate, believes other reasons exist for commission apathy.
Before joining the Peace Corps in 1995, Long served on at least 20 committees relative to Bay Area government — ranging from the formation of Bay Area Rapid Transit system to student housing.
This was a time when the planning commission, for example, came with political payoffs and served as a stepping stone to higher office. In the last 20 years, the role has changed.
“Today, the planning commission is more advisory. It doesn’t have the notoriety and clout it used to have,” he said. “I think that’s why not many people are interested — at least from a political standpoint.”
He cites planning Commissioner Michael Phillips deciding to opt out of the panel after losing two City Council elections.
However, more people should feel less intimidated by the scaled-down political aspect, he said.
“What’s needed right now is a perspective,” he said. “It’s not a great skill people need to have. It’s just an interest.”
Case in point, “a good parent makes a good representative on the parks and recreation commission,” he said. Another example — someone outside a wheelchair who uses the facilities may offer a varying point of view on the Affirmative Action/Americans with Disabilities Act Commission.
Some think a planning commissioner requires a construction background. This is not true, he said.
Long takes ideas from others off the golf course.
“It’s really about serving and coming up with something that works,” he said.
He stressed the minimal demands of meeting once a month and allowing for enough time to read about a subject.
The city has openings for volunteers on the ADA, Latino Affairs, Parks and Planning commissions as well as the Building Board of Appeals. It will accept applications through Feb. 14 at the Administrative Offices at 1052 Tata Lane, via fax at (530) 542-7411 or e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Beyond notifying the local media, the city has extended its reach to the South Lake Tahoe Senior Center, Women’s Center, El Dorado County Library, Lake Tahoe Community College and the Lake Tahoe Unified School District.
— Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at email@example.com
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