Economic issues step up to the Summit platform |

Economic issues step up to the Summit platform

Sally J. Taylor

Tourism and the Tahoe economy will have their own time in the spotlight during this week’s Presidential Summit on Lake Tahoe.

Tom Tuchmann, the western director and special assistant to the Secretary of Agriculture and a coordinator of the summit, made this reassurance to business representatives Tuesday during a Business Community Briefing at Harrah’s Lake Tahoe.

“It was intended that tourism and the economy be part of the other three discussions but I’m hearing from the business community that it has not been highlighted enough,” Tuchmann said.

A panel on tourism and recreation will present separate briefs to Vice President Al Gore on Friday along with panels on transportation, forest health and water quality.

Kathleen Farrell, the executive director of the Tahoe-Douglas Chamber of Commerce, will serve as presenter for the panel, which also includes Duane Wallace, the executive director of the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce and Julie Mauer, marketing department at North Star. Assisting the panel to develop its presentation are Ron Spellecy, the executive director of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, Collin West from the USFS and Ray Lacey from the Tahoe Conservancy.

During Tuesday’s discussion, business leaders expressed a number of concerns to Tuchmann, especially how Tahoe’s issues were being portrayed to media.

Carl Ribaudo, president of the Strategic Marketing Group, wondered if Tahoe was being represented as “a disaster area running to the Federal government for funds or for it’s accomplishments (in reaching consensus).”

Recent broadcasts emphasized disaster, he said.

Though the slant chosen could not be controlled, Tuchmann said that the administration considers Tahoe a positive model of bringing together environmental and economic interests at the same table even if there wasn’t always agreement.

“Our first goal is to highlight the successes and partnerships. The second goal is to actually assist in helping implement the programs,” Tuchmann said. “We’re trying to make it positive. Trying to.”

The business leaders hoped there would be more than positive talk, saying Tahoe’s relatively small population and the loss of taxes due to federally owned lands increase the need for federal money to ease the impact of tourism.

“The local area has reached its limit,” said Wallace, asking for financial assistance for Tahoe infrastructures.

“It’s not as specific as that,” Tuchmann said. “But it is recognized as a rural area with urban-type problems.”

Steve Yonkers, president of the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce, expressed concern that discussions on recreation seemed to focus on hiking and boating while local needs for playgrounds and soccer fields were left out of the picture even though federal land ownership limited space for those needs.

Though at a loss of what solutions could be offered, Tuchmann suggested the those types of issues could be addressed by institutions after the Summit.

The long-term benefit is not in the elected officials, Tuchmann said but in the institutions and career people that remain “to make sure the solutions of the partnerships are instituted over time.

“We’re not looking at a new layer of government. We’re not looking at new regulations.”

To which the business leaders laughed in relief.

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