District 5 supervisor candidates participate in first candidate forum
SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — After a last minute venue change due to weather, the four candidates for El Dorado County Supervisor District 5 gathered remotely on Thursday for the first forum of the election.
The forum, which was hosted by the El Dorado League of Women Voters, was originally going to be held at the South Lake Tahoe Recreation Center but the late season snowstorm pushed the forum onto Zoom.
Candidate Kenny Curtzwiler participated in the meeting from his phone in front of the recreation center so he could let people who didn’t get the memo know about the venue change.
Moderator and Chapter President Eileen Burke-Trent felt that venue change was kind of a blessing in disguise because of easier access for viewers.
The Zoom meeting maxed out at 100 participants and there were people in the virtual waiting room who would be admitted as soon as some left the meeting.
Burke-Trent said she didn’t think they’d have gotten that kind of participation if it had been held in person.
Many of the questions focused on Tahoe specific issues such as vacation home rentals in Meyers and over-tourism while most of the questions focused on county-wide issues like housing and fire safety.
The four candidates, Curtzwiler, Brooke Laine, Jeffrey Spencer and Tamara Wallace, were all cordial with each other and were respectful of forum rules, such as the two-minute time limit for answers.
When asked about Tahoe becoming the playground for the wealthy and the needs of tourists being more important than the residents, both Laine and Wallace said there needs to be a way to balance between needs of both tourists and residents.
Laine, who was born and raised in South Lake, said she’s felt those concerns herself.
“There needs to be a strict balance between the tourist experience versus the quality of life of the residents,” Laine said.
Wallace echoed Laine’s sentiments, adding, “It’s a double-edged sword, many residents rely on tourists to survive.”
Spencer, who had been outspoken on traffic congestion in Meyers, said this issue was one of his main reasons for running. Residents will often sequester themselves at home during the tourist season and if they are stuck at home, they aren’t able to contribute to the local economy.
Curtzwiler said the over-tourism was something “we did to ourselves.” Adding that Tahoe overbuilt the neighborhoods and put a strain on resources.
Another question asked the candidates if they would support the city of South Lake Tahoe in annexing Meyers.
While all of the candidates said they would support the will of the voters, Curtzwiler said, as the only candidate who lives in Meyers, he knows that no Meyers residents would want that.
Laine on the other hand, said she’s talked to a few residents who would be interested in that and said she felt she could lead the way to making that happen if that’s what the voters wanted.
While Meyers was a large focus of the night’s conversation, Pollock Pines, Strawberry and Tahoma residents went to the meeting’s chat function to say they were feeling ignored.
One question asked what the candidates saw as the biggest county-wide issue.
Spencer said he felt it was growth pressure, adding there aren’t enough resources and there aren’t enough jobs.
Laine mentioned the critical need for housing throughout the whole county.
“The county is 4,000 units short in affordable housing, low income housing and elderly housing,” Laine said.
Wallace agreed that housing was a large issue but said they need to focus on putting housing in areas with the infrastructure to support growth or to focus on building more infrastructure.
To piggy-back off of that thought, Curtzwiler said he would force developers to put in the infrastructure before they were allowed to break ground on housing developments.
Another question was asked about workforce housing which led Curtzwiler to call out companies like Vail which he says aren’t doing enough to help solve the problem.
Spencer said that while lack of housing was an issue, low wages were also a huge part of the problem. He also pointed out that workers needing to commute into the basin have a negative impact on the environment which is in direct conflict with the basin’s environmental goals.
The forum went past the 8 p.m. end time because of the sheer number of questions that had been submitted, including questions about VHRs, homeless issues and uses of transient occupancy tax.
To watch the full forum, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R38dg5xmS14.
A second candidate forum will be held Thursday, April 28, and will be hosted by the Tahoe Chamber.
To register, visit https://tahoechamber.chambermaster.com/eventregistration/register/22748.
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