My View: Notes from the Front Row (Opinion)
• The winds of change are here. For a community that often struggles with change, the past six months have given us a peek into some new realities. The COVID-19 pandemic, the protests of Black lives Matter, and the climate fires of California and the smoke we have experienced may all be precursors to what’s next. The question is, will we be ready to confront those changes or not?
• Depending on how you look at it, the COVID-19 pandemic has unleashed sone of the most significant changes the country and this community have ever experienced. Just the enabling technology of online capabilities like Zoom, Go to Meeting, and Web-Ex, once primarily tools of business and government but now adopted by just about everyone, will have a lasting impact.
Travel, healthcare and education will change here in South Lake. Business travel will diminish and it is not sure to what extent it will return. Will insurance companies be willing to ensure those who travel for group functions? Health care has already changed. The last time I saw my doctor was over the phone. That is not going away.
Even the community college will incorporate changes moving into the future. Online classes, which were already a big part of the offerings, will continue. How will that change their competitive environment if coming to South Lake Tahoe is negated, and a student can get a college course online?
Even the local school district will take good things it’s learning from an admittedly challenging experience today, and include those changes into the way it teaches kids in the future. What if kids can take classes at home when they’re sick and the district can get credit for their attendance. The forced use of theses technology platforms will increase change and innovation at a rate South Shore has not experienced.
• Perhaps the most significant change will be the increase in residents from the Bay Area and other parts of California, many of which will move here permanently and, in so doing so, bring about more changes.
According to the US Census, the population in the city of South Lake Tahoe is approximately 22,000. There are estimates that new residents could be as high as 5,000-6,000. Think about it; the possibility of adding 30% of new residents is staggering. Even half that would be huge.
The addition of these new residents will not only provide a boost to the local economy but will change South Shore politically and culturally for decades. Many of these residents will come from technology-based companies with salaries not dependent on tourism with higher expectations for local services and be willing to pay for them. Those businesses that can meet the expectations of these new residents will do well. But these newcomers will also accelerate the South Shore’s shift politically in a more liberal direction aligning with millennials already here.
We are seeing the last days of the old guard. That notion of “you’re not local unless you’ve been here 20 years, which I have never agreed with, forget it. That is over. This group will bring innovative ideas to art, culture, food, recreation, and more. These new residents will bring more than just themselves, their families and their non-tourism dependent salaries; they will bring change in a way that South Shore has not seen.
• The challenge confronting the community will be adapted to these changes. Will, there be a clash of cultures, or will both groups be able to adapt to each other? There is an old saying, “You can’t bend the wind, but you can bend the sails.” South Shore has been feeling the wind, now, can it bend its sails.
I appreciate the anger and sentiment of local residents out protesting visitors that trash the place. It really speaks to need for local government to aggressively step up and taking more aggressive action with these kinds of issues.
Friendly signs don’t matter to a segment of visitors, trash cans don’t matter, its time local agencies started significantly fining people that violate ordinances. How about the Forest Service and local municipalities starting with fining $20,000 for illegal fires? Just a suggestion. What we have is not working.
It is a Wrap
This will be the first pandemic fall in our lifetime and we can approach it from victim’s mindset or a survivors. Let’s look to the positive, embrace the opportunity and possibilities for change. Otherwise, it will be very long winter.
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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