Focus, not feuding, is moving our city forward
“Destiny,” said William Jennings Bryan, “is not a matter of chance, but a matter of choice.”
A year ago, the city of South Lake Tahoe made some choices that resulted in a clear and methodical business plan. We chose to focus on five core missions. That sounds simple enough, but how many times are the words “government” and “focus” used in the same sentence?
But it is amazing what a little focus can accomplish. In less than a year, our city is making real progress in pulling ourselves out of the morass that was so scathingly profiled in the 2009-10 Grand Jury Report.
First and foremost, the city council is playing together very nicely. Each of us is engaged, communicative, cooperative and pleased with the direction our city is going, despite the enormous economic barriers we face. In our sandbox, we are building the castle together, not throwing sand at each other.
Second, the goals are clear: fiscal sustainability, economic development, improved built environment, public trust and accountability, and partnership development.
After a very difficult year, we are starting to see black, not red, on our balance sheets. While the future is far from rosy, it is not the financial black hole that almost swallowed us. With the help of the business community and financial experts that comprise the city’s Fiscal Sustainability Commission, we are developing a more open budget process. We have also turned some money drains, like the South Tahoe Ice Arena, into moneymakers.
While economic development has been a real challenge and will continue to be for some time to come, we have had some successes. Our business-coaching program has assisted 47 entrepreneurs and local businesses on a plan for prosperity. Our Tata Lane staff has established a one-stop shop to assist local businesses and contractors. And then there was SnowGlobe … enough said.
The key issue for the vast majority of South Lake Tahoe citizens is the appearance of our town. While Lake Tahoe may be inspiring, much of South Lake Tahoe isn’t pretty. But we are working on a facelift. We are on the verge of adopting a Capital Improvements Plan that will improve some of our main roads, as well as the Linear Park and Harrison Avenue areas. We have tightened our sign ordinances and have rolled out our “Fixin’ 50” program to help improve business facades with financial assistance from the City. Our new Neighborhood Services Teams have been established in six neighborhoods and held three clean up days.
As for public trust and accountability, there is not much you don’t know about us if you follow our tweets, Facebook and new website. Judging by the number of phone calls I get daily, I am reassured that you know how to reach your city council members. Most heartening is the surge in volunteers willing to give their time for our town. Our volunteer coordinator, Tracy Franklin, got a number of phone calls in the last week alone from people willing to volunteer at the Senior Center. To stay in touch, make sure you sign up at http://www.cityofslt.us/signup; it’s that easy.
Our fifth priority was to strengthen and develop partnerships with other jurisdictions, state and local agencies, and to have a more active role on a state level in advocating on behalf of our city. And that we are accomplishing in spades. From the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency regional plan to the regional transportation plan, from water clarity standards to economic prosperity development, the city has a seat at the table – in many cases for the first time. We are now planning our second joint meeting with Douglas County and hopefully will be able to do the same with El Dorado County soon. Both in Carson City and Sacramento, it’s no longer “who are those guys?” it’s Bruce, Angela, Tom, Hal and Claire.
Finally, the crowning achievement of our city is our city staff. The old adage of government workers sitting around, building up their pensions, is outdated. The city’s staff is working so hard, and so much more innovatively, that we could give Google a run for its money. After the city took a major hit in terms of layoffs, early retirements and reorganizing, these folks are doing much more with less. They have revitalized the very definition of public service. And for that, they deserve your respect and praise.
– Claire Fortier is the mayor of South Lake Tahoe
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