Letters to the Editor: VHRs in Douglas County; Scott Robbins; EDCEA Local 1

VHR initiative in Douglas County is misleading
A guest column in the October 27, 2023 Tahoe Tribune presented, in my opinion, incorrect information and misleading assertions about Vacation Home Rentals in Tahoe.

As the Mark Twain quote goes, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you in trouble. Its what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

The Vacation Home Rental petition currently being circulated deserves careful examination before citizens consider signing. The initiative is both misleading and may have an adverse effect on Douglas County finances.

The petition’s title, “Amending Douglas County Development Code Title 20, Section 20.622”, is deceptive. Could anyone determine what it actually does? A more accurate title would be “Eliminate Vacation Home Rentals (VHRs) in Tahoe, but allow more than 150 in the Carson Valley.”

Residents should study this matter carefully before deciding whether to sign the petition or not. Unfortunately not only is the title of the petition vague, but the statement of effect is materially misleading.

Materials prepared by the circulators offer the supposition that the cost to the County would be $0. But the Douglas County Board of Commissioners determined the direct cost of passing the initiative would be $2.1 million — annually. Subsidiary costs bring the total to over $5 million. And the tourist spending lost from visitors, which adds to our sales tax income, could mean millions more in lost revenue.

The $2.1 million cost estimate was required by Nevada state law, and was not done to scare residents or support any lawsuit. And it is faulty for those preparing the initiative to make any comparisons to Measure T, a 2018 proposal in the city of South Lake Tahoe. That measure still allows over 500 VHRs. The one proposed for Tahoe Township would eliminate all but one VHR. And those that use fiscal years 2019-20 or 2020-21 to compare revenue from VHR taxes don’t account for the loss of revenue in those years from the COVID shutdown or the Caldor Fire.

If there will be revenue offsets by increased hotel occupancy, they certainly will not replace the loss of VHR revenues. First, a recent survey of VHR users showed the overwhelming majority won’t stay in hotels. Second, hotels on weekends during peak tourist times both charge high rates and are often fully booked. Using an annual occupancy rate for hotels fails to understand the realities of tourist behavior. Additionally, hotel tax revenue in South Lake Tahoe may have gone up since passage of Measure T, but data shows the number of rooms rented has stayed about the same. Since taxes are imposed on the room rate, and average room rates have gone up from $153 in 2019 to $282 in 2023, it follows that tax revenue has gone up. But not from VHR visitors increasing their stays in hotels.

I support the initiative process, but only when it is used constructively, and the petition information fully and accurately describes the initiative. A 2006 court case, Nevadans for Nevada v Beers, clearly set this standard. This and other cases are fair warning that the current petition is flawed. Those that have already signed may withdraw their support by completing the form on the Douglas County Clerk’s website.

While I’m a member of the Planning Commission, these are my individual views.
Kirk Walder, Zephyr Cove

Scott Robbins’ behavior

I am writing to express my deep concern over the lack of civility displayed by South Lake Tahoe Councilmember Scott Robbins during yesterday’s City Council meeting. His aggressive questioning of invited guest speakers, aggressive reactions to public comments, and dominating presence throughout the discussion were disruptive and hindered productive dialogue on important issues.

As an elected official, Councilmember Robbins should be held to a higher standard of conduct; one that promotes respectful and constructive discourse. Unfortunately, his abrasive tactics overshadow the policies he wishes to implement, making it difficult for the City Council to effectively address the challenges facing South Lake Tahoe.

During the meeting, Councilmember Robbins was the first to interject with clarifying questions and consistently dominated the discussion on virtually every item, even ones where there was no action to be taken. Oftentimes, he acted like an aggressive lawyer cross-examining a hostile witness. While it is important for elected officials to actively participate in the decision-making process, this should be done in a manner that allows for a diversity of voices to be heard and considered.

Furthermore, Councilmember Robbins’ proposed policies, such as a $23 minimum wage and a cap on vacation homes, are already generating controversy in the community. His aggressive approach to advocating for these policies only serves to further polarize the public and hinder the City Council’s ability to find common ground.

I urge Councilmember Robbins to reflect on his conduct and consider the impact it has on the community he serves. Disagreement on an issue does not call for disrespectful behavior. Aggression will not lead to building the coalitions you need to advance your agenda. It is essential that our elected officials prioritize respectful and inclusive dialogue to effectively address the challenges facing South Lake Tahoe.

Seth Dallob, South Lake Tahoe

EDCEA Local 1 shines light on toll of staffing shortages for vital public services

The dedicated members of El Dorado County Employees Association (EDCEA) Local 1 have been the unsung heroes of our community, providing essential services to the residents of El Dorado County every single day. What sets them apart is that they are not just employees; they are our neighbors, friends, and fellow residents who also call El Dorado County home.

However, a growing crisis threatens to compromise the services that our community relies upon. Today, EDCEA Local 1 is raising its voice to bring attention to the urgent issue of staffing shortages, vague contract language, and uncompetitive wages that are already causing tangible hardships for the people we serve.

The backbone of our community services is at risk as the county grapples with a staffing crisis that shows no signs of abating. The consequences are felt by our fellow residents on a daily basis:
1. Longer Wait Times for Vital Services at HHSA
2. Extended Delays in the Building Department
3. Longer Waits for Checking Scales and Gas Pumps
4. Delayed Property Assessments and Transfers
5. Delayed Snow Plowing Services

EDCEA Local 1 is unwavering in its commitment to advocating for fair contracts and competitive wages that will not only attract and retain top-tier staff but also benefit the very residents of El Dorado County who make up the majority of our dedicated workforce. By doing so, we ensure that our community receives the services it deserves from those who understand its unique needs best. We passionately implore the county to recognize the urgent need for change and to invest in our dedicated public servants, many of whom also call El Dorado County their home, and have tirelessly served our community with unwavering dedication.

Our members, who reside right here in El Dorado County, are the heart and soul of our community. They are your neighbors, friends, and fellow residents who deeply care about the well-being of this beautiful county we all call home.

EDCEA Local 1 Negotiating Team

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