Oller to push for elected agency board | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Oller to push for elected agency board

Patrick McCartney

The California assemblyman who represents the Tahoe Basin has introduced a bill that would make each of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s board members subject to an election.

Thomas “Rico” Oller, R-San Andreas, introduced the measure, AB 567, last week, saying that a locally elected board would be more responsive to basin interests. The bill has not yet been assigned to a committee.

“Residents and property owners in the Tahoe area will make better decisions for their own communities than out-of-town appointees,” said Oller, who was elected to a first term in the Fourth Assembly District last fall. “After all, these are the people who call Tahoe ‘home’ and they have a personal stake in its future.”

The agency’s 15-member board is currently appointed, seven each by California and Nevada, with the 15th, non-voting member a presidential appointment. Of the California board members, three are appointed by local governments (El Dorado and Placer counties, and the city of South Lake Tahoe), two by the governor, one by the Assembly speaker and one by the Senate rules committee.

In introducing the bill, Oller is following in the footsteps of his Fourth District predecessor, David Knowles, who introduced a similar measure in 1995. That bill, AB 131, died in committee.

A similar bill was introduced in the Nevada Legislature in 1995 by Assemblyman Pete Ernaut, R-Reno. That bill also died in committee without a test of the full Legislature.

Opposition to the two bills came from legislators who said they would not give TRPA’s power away to locally elected officials so long as the agency’s funds were furnished by the states’ legislatures.

In the face of such opposition, Ernaut amended his Nevada bill two years ago, reducing the number of elected to a single board member, but he could not gain the necessary votes for the measure to move forward.

This week, South Lake Tahoe Mayor Tom Davis said he intends to solicit support for electing the TRPA board in the wake of an agency vote against Tahoe Queen owner Joe Thiemann. The City Council had voted to support a relocation of the Tahoe Queen after Thiemann’s lease expired, but the city’s appointee to the TRPA board, Hal Cole, was one of 12 TRPA board members to vote against a permit.

“TRPA is a government that affects people’s lives,” Davis said. “This is a democracy, and when decisions are made by a non-elected body, there’s something wrong with that.”

He said the TRPA’s levying of permit and license fees could be viewed as taxation without representation.

“The environmentalists aren’t going to like it, but do you want democracy or don’t you?” Davis asked. “If the City Council supports it or not, I’m still going to champion it.”

A number of lawsuits during the early years of the TRPA challenged the legality of the agency’s appointed board, according to Susan Scholley, a TRPA counsel. But suits filed by El Dorado and Douglas counties were ultimately rejected by each state’s supreme court, while a suit by a property owner in federal court was also dismissed by a federal judge, she said.

Tribune staff writer Jenifer Ragland contributed to this story.

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