Council candidates discuss their priorities |

Council candidates discuss their priorities

Susan Wood
Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / Soroptimist member Del Laine, center, poses questions to city council candidates at a forum on Wednesday. Seated, from left, are candidates Tom Davis, Jerry Birdwell, Bill Crawford, Soroptimist board president Lucie King, candidates Tom Wendell, Kathay Lovell and Mike Phillips.

Six South Lake Tahoe City Council candidates may have called the audience at its latest forum a target-rich environment given Soroptimist’s history of civic duty.

About 50 members of the service club led by moderator Del Laine gathered at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe Wednesday to hear businessman Tom Davis, innkeeper Jerry Birdwell, retired teacher Bill Crawford, real estate agent Michael Phillips, recreation enthusiast Tom Wendell and incumbent Kathay Lovell cover the topics – from workforce housing and traffic congestion to annexation and their priorities.

The half dozen candidates are vying for three seats occupied by council members Lovell, John Upton and Hal Cole, with the men deciding not to run in the Nov. 7 election.

The candidates have been on a whirlwind of candidate forums – each one with a different flavor.

How are they different?

When asked how they differentiate from one another, Lovell launched into being the only woman, mother, grandmother and incumbent in the candidates.

Birdwell noted his experience as a trial judge gives him the experience and the “wherewithal to understand and listen” to the problems facing the community.

And given the conversations around town, there are many.

With that, Davis stood firm in telling the club he listens and “gets things done.”

“There’s not too much substitution for experience,” he said.

Crawford, who served on the council for one four-year term, reminded the crowd has no plans of taking money and will not get hooked on “big dreams.”

“If you do, you start sleepwalking,” he said.

Wendell countered with having big dreams and believes his experience working as a service employee at Tahoe Sports Ltd. gives him a front-line view of what visitors and locals are seeking from Tahoe.

Phillips positioned himself as a problem solver who has also logged years in the service industry. Beyond real estate, he was the service manager at the former Lake Tahoe Auto Village.

Priorities vary

When it comes to what the candidates see as their top priorities, Crawford, Wendell and Davis all mentioned transportation, with Crawford wanting a bus system overhaul. Wendell wants bike paths. Through the entire campaign season, Davis has pushed for a free bus system created by an inventory of transportation funds – the first stop being the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

Phillips wants to bring the community together and eliminate the egos associated with divisive issues like the now-defunct Tourism Promotion Business Improvement District and the chambers of commerce merger.

With Lovell acknowledging she’s worked on a number of the city’s many pressing issues, she indicated there are too many to point to one. She listed workforce housing, ongoing public safety support and implementing the Tahoe Valley Community Plan, as did Birdwell.

The idea of supporting enlarging the incorporated area of the city to annex sections of El Dorado County fizzled out a bit as a question. All the candidates didn’t call that a high priority, with Phillips and Lovell indicating the city should get its own house in order.

Does that mean subsidies?

Funding for the area Chamber of Commerce and Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority drew a variety of responses. Davis split his support with no to the former and yes to the latter. Birdwell provided an adamant yes on both, while Crawford was just as diligent with his nos.

Wendell qualified his answer with no “until the dust settles” on the controversial merged chamber issue that has divided the business community. Lovell gave an update on what the council has decided with marketing money, which is to pool it in an account that groups must bid on.

Tahoe Daily Tribune-sponsored candidate forum

5:30 p.m., Oct. 25

Timber Cove Lodge

3411 Lake Tahoe Blvd., South Lake Tahoe

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