Five best moments from TRYP’s candidate forum
Tahoe Regional Young Professionals (TRYP) shook things up at its latest Town Hall on Wednesday, Oct. 19, when all 10 South Lake Tahoe city council candidates faced a mix of rapid fire and multi-faceted questions composed by the organization and audience. The event touched on topics from culture and political experience, to development and the environment — but a few moments stuck out more than others. Here are Tahoe Daily Tribune’s picks for the five best moments of the election event.
It’s rare for a group of 10 politically-minded people to all agree on something — but when it comes to Measure P, the council candidates found common ground. It was a sea of Facebook “Like” thumbs up when TRYP’s civic engagement chair and event moderator Devin Middlebrook asked the candidates if they supported the ballot measure that, if passed, would increase Transient Occupancy Tax by two percent. The earnings are earmarked for the construction, operation and maintenance of a recreational complex in South Lake Tahoe.
A question, posed to candidates Brooke Laine, JoAnn Conner, Jason Collin and Tamara Wallace, asked — given Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s (TRPA) three-year plan to reexamine the commodity system that controls development in the Basin, what is the biggest problem with that system?
The responses were varied, but all agreed that change was necessary.
Laine focused on how the commodity system plays into the development of more vacation home rentals.
“What has happened is that in this town it is very expensive to build a hotel or motel. It’s $40,000 to purchase just one transient occupancy unit and you need one per hotel room,” explained Laine.
“How much do you have to pay for a commodity to build a VHR? You just have to have a residential unit and a development right. That is where I see a big loophole right off the top.”
Conner said the commodity system is “contradictory” because it inhibits greener construction.
“How can we have green building, which is already more expensive, if they have to pay more for permits and they have to pay more for commodities or work this dance to get them?” she added.
Collin noted that it’s important to appreciate why TRPA created the commodities system — to protect the environment — and that the role of the city representative for TRPA is to help find solutions to amending this code.
“We know that redevelopment improves the environmental safeguards that we have, so that’s a huge piece that they know they need to address because we can have a much greater impact on the lake by reducing the runoff and sediment that goes in there,” said Collin. “It’s about partnering with all the stakeholders and figuring out what that best solution is.”
In a more drastic approach, Wallace stated that if it were up to her, she would “do away with the commodities system.”
“We now know that there is a difference between science and political science. What we were modeling our activities under in the past was political science,” she explained.
“Now we have actual science that tells us what is causing the lake clarity issues and those commodities, I believe, are absolutely not necessary anymore.”
Recreational marijuana sold inside the city limits — yay or nay? It was a 5-5 tie in this rapid fire round with Danny McLaughlin, John Shearer, Ted Long, Patrick Jarrett and Robert Topel in support, and Trey Riddle, Laine, Wallace, Conner and Collin in opposition.
Collin was asked who funded his lawsuit again the city and Measure T — the citizen-generated ballot measure that, if passed, would prohibit the city from “approving or supporting” the Loop Road Project.
“I had a consortium of people — of business owners, property owners, community concerned citizens. A lot of them that would be affected by the Loop Road,” said Collin.
“I had a lot of support behind me for the lawsuit, but it’s just like a political campaign. You get $99 checks and people support you, but they don’t want to put a sign up in their business because they are afraid of the ramifications.”
A question from an audience member for incumbent councilwoman Conner asked how she could ensure that voters can trust her and her ability to work with city staff given the “very recent and public disagreements with city staff and local entrepreneurs.”
“I think there are a large number of voters in this city that already believe I can work with them in and out of the city and into the county,” said Conner. “They have contributed to my campaign, they’ve taken my signs, they’ve supported me by using their names in endorsements. I feel like the majority of the people in this town already have faith and trust in me.”
When prompted by Middlebrook to elaborate on her ability to work with city staff, Conner responded, “I think everything is open to interpretation.”