Interest high in supe race: Candidates square off over District 5 seat |

Interest high in supe race: Candidates square off over District 5 seat

Susan Wood

Julie Sullivan / Tahoe Daily Tribune / District 5 Supervisor candidate Lou Pierini, right, answers questions, along with other candidates, from left, Dennis Crabb, Stephen Reinhard and Norma Santiago at the El Dorado Supervisor Candidate Forum on Wednesday night at the South Lake Tahoe City Council Chambers.

From the economy to natural disasters, the four candidates hoping to steer Tahoe’s District 5 on the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors fielded a lengthy list of questions at their first forum Wednesday night.

Civic involvement seemed to be at an all-time high – with the 157-seat South Lake Tahoe City Council Chambers filled to capacity and then some. Providing more questions than could be asked, the eager constituents received a Tahoe-specific view of the candidates: South Shore attorney Dennis Crabb, businessman Lou Pierini, mobile notary Stephen Reinhard and health care worker Norma Santiago.

All the candidates are longtime residents with varying degrees of community involvement but differing opinions on how to represent the district vacated by Dave Solaro, who retired and moved to South Carolina.

The topics included the lack of transportation in the county, relocating and combining offices with the city at the Lake Tahoe Airport, the aviation facility’s use, affordable housing, traffic gridlock, snow removal and natural disaster plans.

Moderator Paula Lee of the League of Women Voters of El Dorado County lumped many of the questions together in the interest of time. For instance, issues relative to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency occupied six separate questions – from its role in the community to whether development restrictions should be stronger or weaker.

The elected county supervisor will serve on that board as well, upping the ante in a high stakes game of strategy and planning for a region in transition. All the candidates agreed on that role’s critical importance, and some provided a few criticisms of the basin’s regulatory agency.

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“They’ve gotten into too many missions and strayed from the principle mission,” Crabb said, adding the agency is operating on “a broken system.”

Crabb, who said he’s attended at least 100 meetings through his 30 years of government experience, will rely heavily on the input given in the Pathway 2007 to lay the groundwork for planning in the future.

To run the “$319 million corporation” called the county, Crabb had also advocated implementing the general plan since the voters approved the ballot measure a year ago.

To that, Santiago fired back a few times – cautioning citizens of flaws with the plan. She’s concerned the interests of West Slope developers will overrule the needs of District 5, and Tahoe will pay the price – with battered roads and gridlock, topics that arose during the forum.

“We don’t have the infrastructure to support it,” said Santiago, who pointed out the environment, housing and a stable economy including environmental education as major issues on her agenda if she’s elected. Santiago did agree with Crabb on building an economy based on the environment – whether it be alternative energy sources to science centers.

Reinhard selected a fire plan, infrastructure and compliance of best management practices as pressing issues county residents will have to face. He was steadfast on the division between the county and city in terms of sharing space and cost at the airport.

“They are two separate entities,” he said, adding instead the city should have used the land donated by the Johnson family to construct a city hall.

Reinhard wants to lay the groundwork for making Tahoe an athletic center, given its recreational influence. He’s a youth coach and former city parks and recreation commissioner.

Pierini would like to see a dual-purpose mission of building an economy of government jobs and ensuring Tahoe get its piece of the county pie.

“I want to make sure the Tahoe people get their fair share of services and jobs,” he said. “Maybe we’d reverse the tide of declining school enrollment. We can’t look at the motel industry to create more jobs anymore.”

At the same time, Pierini adamantly opposed the process of eminent domain, a government practice used in the redevelopment of blighted property. He also promised to never support a countywide business improvement district, a sore spot in a city that approved one to fund tourism ventures. Pierini is one of three plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the city on the TPBID.

El Dorado County Election Day: Nov. 8

Last day to register to vote: Oct. 24

Next District 5 county supervisor candidate forum:

Oct. 24, 7-9 p.m.; Lake Tahoe Community College Theater