GUEST COLUMN: What it takes
July 20, 2010
With another local election for city council open seats just around the corner, I’ve thought long and hard on what it takes to be a good council member. My past eight years of experience on the council has educated me well, and while I’ve never written a guest column to the Tahoe Daily Tribune before, it seems like this would be a good opportunity to pass my thoughts on to the community.
Good council members must work hard for the community and play by the rules, obey the law, have vision, listen and educate themselves. The hours are long and on many occasions city business will take top priority over family and friends. In every decision that is rendered, there will be someone who is unhappy with the outcome and trying to please everyone is a recipe to disaster. Knowing these things, a good council member has to develop “thick skin” and believe in what decisions are made by the whole of the council will be in the best interest of the community. Even in disagreement, the rules of democracy must prevail and the majority opinion supported, once the votes are cast.
In reflecting back through my two terms as a city council member, including three selections as the city’s mayor, I’m proud to have taken a leading role in our community. I initially ran for office on a platform of fiscal responsibility and public safety. In the past eight years, the City of South Lake Tahoe has gone from nearly zero in budget reserves to the 25 percent we have today. These reserve funds will be critical in responding to emergency events during the tough fiscal times we currently face and in strategically planning for subsequent budget years. Public safety and providing for essential services are concerns for all of us. I championed with my fellow council committee member the 911 revenue stream that has brought in nearly $2.6 million so far and continues to bring in $530,000 annually. These funds are dedicated to police and fire dispatch operations here at South Lake Tahoe. Additionally we championed Measure Q that the voters approved that brings in about on average $2,200,000 annually to the city general fund. I’m proud, we as a council, have been able to work through challenging contract negotiations with city employees who still maintain a safe environment for our residents, work force, and visitors. Additional projects I’ve championed include, but are not limited to:
• The stop light and cross walk at Heavenly Village
• The South Tahoe Middle School Track
• Kelly Ridge housing complex
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• The upgrade of our Emergency Operations Center and reverse 911 system
• The move of city offices to the airport (a huge taxpayer savings annually)
• Live streaming video of council meetings so the public can better follow the actions of their elected officials
• Explore Tahoe Visitor’s Center (services about 100,000 locals and visitors each year)
• Sustainability Vision Statement and Commission
• And, the two I’m most proud of, the Lakeview Commons Project (scheduled to break ground Aug. 4) and our Dog Parks (Bijou Park and Regan Beach)
Of course, these accomplishments didn’t happen in a vacuum or without support from fellow council members, city staff, other government agencies, service organizations, and the community at large. I’m very proud to have been a part of making a difference in areas we could affect positive change. There are still challenges ahead, including the convention center, for the next council to overcome, but when the decision makers work in a positive manner, successes come easier. Conflict for the simple purpose of disruption is ineffective and reflects poorly on us all.
In conclusion, I hope my words will help those who will be seeking city council election this November. I’m counting on those people to genuinely care about our community, be able to commit to the challenges ahead, and work together toward common goals. I truly love this community and am proud to say four generations of my family call South Lake Tahoe home.
I will not be seeking re-election this year for reasons I choose to keep personal. And, in a final comment, I would like to thank everyone that I’ve had the pleasure to work with as a City of South Lake Tahoe council member. I’ve lived my life and served the city by the goals of my father: “do what’s right, do the best you can, and treat others the way you would like to be treated along the way.”
Kathay Lovell is the mayor of South Lake Tahoe.