GUEST COLUMN: It’s a jungle out there
Every morning in the jungles of Africa, the gazelle wakes up to the realization that he must run just a little faster than the mighty lion in order to survive that day. Every morning in the jungles of Africa, the lion wakes up hungry knowing that in order to survive he must run fast enough to catch the gazelle. What would they both do if the jungle was too thick to see through or to run?
Operating a small business in these challenging economic times brings to mind the saying, “it’s a jungle out there.” This is in reference to the overwhelming growth of regulations emanating from virtually every governmental agency in existence. It is the bureaucracy that engulfs us all. We have gone from the law of the jungle to a jungle of laws. This was recognized a decade ago. Peter Ueberroth, in his 1993 report for the California Council on Competitiveness, identified one of the key hurdles for business as “a permitting and regulatory quagmire that overwhelms small and medium business managers and, in some cases causes projects to take longer to get started than it took the United States to win World War II.” The report goes on to state that “small and medium-sized businesses, which are the real creators of new jobs, are being discouraged, harassed, shut down, and driven off.”
The effect of excessive regulations is greatly magnified here in Tahoe. There is probably no place else on Earth so heavily regulated. The end (protecting the environment) has led to a justification of the means (over-regulation). We have close to two dozen different regulators and agencies around the lake, including the cities, counties and regional agencies. The regulations often overlap and contradict each other, leading to stagnation, frustration and resignation. There has got to be a better way. Surely we can protect the environment without destroying the economy in the process.
Before any agency adds a regulation, a standard should be applied:
Necessity: Is the regulation needed?
Authority: Does the agency have the authority to adopt the regulation?
Clarity: Is the regulation understandable?
Consistency: Is the regulation consistent and in harmony with existing local, state and federal law?
Reference: Is it properly referenced to the original enabling statute or decision? Does it vary from the original intent?
Non-duplication: Does the regulation duplicate another statute or regulation already in existence at another agency?
Process: Is it fair, including input from those most affected?
Common sense: Has good science and logic been applied?
Cost: What will it cost us all in the long run? Almost every new law either creates more expense through paper work or in actual cost to a business. Will prices go up to the public? Will jobs be lost? Will the business leave for greener pastures or simply close? Lately the answer to all these questions is yes. The last question is how much more can our economy take? After all, it is the single mothers and minorities who suffer first and most as jobs disappear. People who were formerly the backbone of our community and business mix are out of work or going broke.
We citizens and business owners must, by necessity, add keeping an eye out for unnecessary regulations to the many other tasks we have to do. It is better to be aware and active in preventing the enactment of poorly conceived laws and regulations than to try to undo the harm after the fact.
We need to be involved in ongoing efforts to reduce and streamline regulations and taxes at all levels. Our hope for our new City Council should be that, rather than focus on new regulations and fees on business, they will set standards like the ones I’ve mentioned and seek to create a place where businesses that create jobs can not only survive but also thrive.
– Duane Wallace is a 35-year resident of South Lake Tahoe. He is the former CEO of the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce and South Lake Tahoe Public Utility District and School Board member.