Heller’s chairmanship of TRPA board up for grabs | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Heller’s chairmanship of TRPA board up for grabs

Selection of a new Governing Board chairman is slated for Wednesday’s meeting of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

If tradition is followed, Vice Chairman Dave Solaro, an El Dorado County supervisor, will serve as chair in 2003 and 2004.

But this is not a requirement, according to TRPA spokeswoman Pam Drum, and it is conceivable that current Chairman Dean Heller could be installed for another two-year stint in the powerful position.

Heller, the Nevada secretary of state, has in recent months used his position to pass the Threshold Evaluation Report, TRPA’s five-year prescription for environmental repair, and to advocate for a contentious set of scenic ordinances that pitted him against property rights and real estate interests in the Lake Tahoe Basin.

Heller serves on the board by virtue of his state position, to which he was just re-elected. Term limits will force him out in four years.

In recent comments, Heller said his position on the scenic issue is based on simple economics.

“As a Republican and, frankly, a capitalist, people have asked why I’ve spent so much effort supporting this,” Heller said. “Attaining the scenic threshold is essential to attaining economic health, especially on the Nevada side of the lake. They didn’t change the name of Reno’s airport to Reno/Tahoe because it sounded nice. They did it because people want to see the lake’s natural beauty.”

Heller acknowledges the substantial opposition he faces in the basin, but says it’s worth it.

“Sometimes it’s a lonely position to hold, because, as someone put it to me, ‘Water doesn’t vote,'” he said. “And therein lies the problem. Money always wins at Lake Tahoe. People are more interested in getting campaign donations and re-elected, than in the welfare of the area.

“But there has to be some long-term vision for what this lake means. It’s finished if we ignore the scenic problem.”

Heller said Las Vegas can weather whatever the economy throws at it, but Northern Nevada will have a rougher time of it.

“Northern Nevada continues to struggle with its slower economy, in part from Indian gaming competing with gaming at the lake and in Washoe County,” Heller said. “I think the lake needs to move toward year-round recreational activity, and that requires protecting the area’s natural beauty.”

Heller said that whatever higher office he seeks in Nevada, Tahoe will continue to be a high priority for him.

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