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Measure Z opponents organize

Dan Thrift/Tahoe TribuneJohn Runnels is one of several people organizing an informal effort to sink ballot initiative Measure Z.
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A small, loose contingency that’s backed by outgoing South Lake Tahoe City Councilman Bill Crawford is taking its opposition to Measure Z to the streets in the 11th hour of the 2002 election season.

John Runnels, who runs a South Lake Tahoe automotive shop, is organizing an informal effort to sink the ballot initiative that seeks to raise the transient occupancy tax and double the business licensing fees for four years to fund city services.

“To me, Measure Z is not balanced government. I just want to see (the city) governed properly,” he said Monday.



Crawford said “Runnels is right,” declaring “the city’s financial bleeding is self-inflicted. The annual debt service is over $8 million. Z is a ruse because city subsidies are $500,000 greater than what Z will raise,” Crawford wrote in a letter to the editor submitted Monday.

There’s no formal argument against the city’s measure placed on the El Dorado County ballot. The plan, which projects to raise a combined $1.3 million, is supported by a wide coalition of groups ranging from senior citizens and the lodging association to police and fire unions.




Interim police chief Rich McGuffin and “Yes on Z” campaign chairman Dennis Crabb said they weren’t surprised by the “no” effort, both referring to it as part of the democratic process.

Runnels sees the “Yes on Z” campaign to “keep our city safe” — with thousands of dollars behind it — as a smoke screen to fund unnecessary subsidies and as a scare tactic to railroad people into believing city core services would be cut without it.

He said there’s no formal plan of this happening, and this year’s budget has already been approved.

“I think it should (say) ‘keep our subsidy safe,'” he said, taking aim at the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce and Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority.

To publicly dispute the proposal brought forth by what he calls “special interests,” Runnels said he plans to close his shop on the last week of October and first week of November to dedicate his time to his “No on Z” effort — handing out fliers and meeting with people.

Signs were already placed in a few locations around town, and fliers demanding accountability in the face of years of budget shortfalls were printed.

Runnels’ letter to the editor that ran in the Tahoe Tribune Friday prompted many people to call in support of his efforts, he said.

“These shortfalls are the result of years of overspending, robbing contingency funds for less-than-necessary projects, and the inability to say no to attractive projects,” he wrote.

Furthermore, Runnels called the proposal to raise the 10 percent room tax at non-redevelopment properties by at least $1, but no more than $1.50 in the event of catastrophic cuts inequitable to smaller motels. Redevelopment units charge 12 percent.

He also contends the city ignored the $15,000 Godbe survey when it chose to combine two different fee structures on the same initiative. Results of the community survey indicated the measure would have a better chance of passing if it was simple and split into dual initiatives.

Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at swood@tahoedailytribune.com.


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