My View: Notes from the Front Row (Opinion)
Outside events have a way of bringing to a point the issue that confronts a community.
The same is true with the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on the South Shore. The divide that exists in this community is exacerbated by the simple issue of wearing a mask.
Several weeks ago, there was a question posted on Facebook to the effect of how the community can come together and get along. Several people responded with suggestions that included events and activities that would bring people together and create a more positive feeling toward one another in the community. All good, I guess.
The issue of the community getting along is not so much about having events that bring everybody together, it’s much deeper than that. From my view, it’s about the inability of South Shore residents, the city and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency to effectively deal with the inevitability of change.
When you get down to it, resistance to change is really about economic security or insecurity and the prism with which different groups of people see that issue and cultural change. Add to it a one-dimensional tourism economy and it gets very complicated.
The amazing thing is as we bicker about different issues; the loop road, paid parking, marijuana, different tax proposals, vacation rentals, affordable housing, etc., the world around us continues to change.
Retirees who have homes and economic security see too many tourists as an anathema, while those trying to establish themselves see those visitors as money that put food on the table.
The government class with good salaries and benefits that outstrip the private sector value things very differently. Those that have had a business for years see things differently than those that are new and whose business models are very different. Generationally, old baby boomers clash with millennials on how they see the future of the South Shore.
Culturally we are divided; look at how the community is combative on SnowGlobe. How about Lime scooters? Some see it as an innovative new way to get around town, and others despise them for their green color and the way people ride them. Because we are unable to engage and compromise on issues constructively, we resort to extreme positions like a ballot measure which deepens the divide. In many cases, local government agencies are slow to respond.
From my view, it’s not about community events, or beer and pizza, though those things might help. It’s about finding the formula to deal with the inevitability of change and how not to fear it, but take advantage of it. We can’t seem to get it right.
One of the issues COVID-19 has done is laid bare the different cultures of visitors and residents. While so many places are on lockdown and because our case numbers have not hit the point of closing up, we have become an even bigger haven for those who want to escape the heat and the virus.
Visitors come, and while many are courteous and wear masks, many don’t. On the one hand, they appreciate that Tahoe is different from the place they came from. That’s why they are here.
They do not seem to appreciate that our hospital resources are much smaller than the resources where they live. They come for the beautiful place that Tahoe is and the outdoor experiences that it affords, but the disregard for parking and the trash many leave speaks differently.
To handle the crowds and their behavior, we are going to have to change how we communicate with visitors and to provide guidelines on how to behave. Remember the old skier’s code you got when you first started skiing? That effort has started with the Tahoe Fund’s Take Care program, but the message needs to be much more aggressive and it needs to come from everyone.
The city of South Lake Tahoe would do well to lay out guidelines as well, the lodging industry, local businesses, environmental groups, the chamber of commerce and the local community. It needs to be posted everywhere. It’s not rude; we won’t lose business. If we don’t start managing visitors by proactively laying out guidelines and expectations, this situation gets worse — what better way for them to understand and sample our culture.
Don’t slack off. Wear a mask and social distance. Protect yourself, protect the community, and protect the South Shore. Stay safe and healthy. Also check out Cuppa Tahoe down at the Y. It’s got a nice little vibe and a great place to hang out. Bring your mask.
It is a Wrap
Is it time for us to rethink spending a quarter-million dollars a year on the Fourth of July fireworks? Just asking.
Carl Ribaudo is a columnist, consultant, speaker, and writer who lives in South Lake Tahoe. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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