Forum brings humility, testiness to campaign | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Forum brings humility, testiness to campaign

Susan Wood
Jim Grant / Tahoe Daily Tribune / City Council candidates, from left, Tom Wendell, Bill Crawford, Kathay Lovell, Jerry Birdwell, Tom Davis and Mike Phillips express their views on numerous issues at a forum on Wednesday night.
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With slices of emotion, entertainment and enterprise, six candidates running for three seats on the South Lake Tahoe City Council took up a variety of subjects that ranged from the professional to personal.

Featured were the roles of the Lake Tahoe Airport, support for medicinal marijuana and who the candidates most admire in life as 30 people at the Timber Cove Lodge Wednesday listened in to the first of two Tahoe Daily Tribune-sponsored debates. Action Editor Tim Parsons moderated.

Businessman Tom Davis chose Mother Teresa, Donald Trump and John F. Kennedy – “even though I’m not a Democrat,” he quipped.

Century 21 real estate agent Michael Phillips couldn’t select any one person but said he surrounds himself with many who make a difference in his life.

Recreation enthusiast Tom Wendell selected his mother because of “her ability to sacrifice” and people like Julia Butterfly Hill, who staged a nationally known tree sit to protect the redwoods in Humboldt County.

Lovell and Birdwell thought of their fathers. Lovell’s had polio, and despite the illness – “not one single day did he ever complain.” She recited his three-way mantra from memory: “Do the right thing. Do the best you can. And treat others the way you’d like to be treated.” She threw talk-show host Oprah Winfrey in for good measure.

Birdwell admired his father for his success, honesty and fairness that “he instilled in all his kids.”

Retired teacher Bill Crawford pointed to his wife, Jonnie – who was in the audience, because of her counseling ability and knitting skill.

“You know, I’m not always a nice man. I don’t look globally at things. I look at what’s in front of me,” he said. The audience laughed with him.

That may have been where the warm and fuzzy mood ended. A few rebuttals and questions later, the inquiry into how the mayor is selected got testy and led to a few verbal swipes.

Phillips asked the audience to look at the votes on the council of Lovell and Davis, with the latter wrapping up three terms two years ago. He also took aim at Birdwell’s support of the now-defunct, city-spawned Tourism Promotion Business Improvement District, calling it an appalling ordinance that “should not be forgotten.”

All the candidates agreed the city attorney should not be elected except Crawford, who called her job “a pressure cooker” in terms of having to follow the law and be under the domain of an ambitious council.

Birdwell, Davis, Crawford and Phillips thought raises of up to 30 percent for city department heads and employees were either excessive or unjustified to different degrees – since so many fees went up for citizens. Lovell explained how the city “made a lot of sacrifices” in the last three years to get the city to a more stable fiscal position.

Their stances on whether they’d support a city sanctioning medicinal marijuana provided another mixed reaction. Phillips, Lovell and Davis – who provided an emphatic no – chose not to. As one who has undergone the pain of 21 surgeries, Wendell explained nature has a better way than the medical industry’s lengthy list of pharmaceuticals. Crawford agreed, but followed up with how he would not support illegal activity.

The solution of reducing pollutants into Lake Tahoe off the road through use of the airport came up with Wendell pointing to cleaner jets, Crawford wanting the aviation facility to pay for itself, Lovell looking at Monterey as a case example, Birdwell believing the convention center project is tied to the airport’s success and Davis blaming its commercial service downfall on “mitigation hell.”

One could argue the candidates are in their own state of forum madness. Another one is scheduled by Soroptimist International next Wednesday. The Tribune follows up a week later at 5:30 p.m. with its second forum.


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