Devin Middlebrook: Moving forward after South Lake Tahoe elections (opinion)
November 10, 2016
The craziness that was national and local elections has, at last, come to an end. And though the presidential election is one for the history books, I want to focus on local elections; this is where real change in our community comes from. As voter turnout data is released, it's clear that this election brought more people, and younger people, to the polls. And you don't need a report from the County Registrar's office to notice the fervor of this election being discussed online.
Although it wasn't until the end of this election season, things got pretty nasty in the comment sections of social media posts and in online media outlets. It's clear that there are issues this community begrudges and is not ready to move on from. As we review the outcomes from this election, let's reflect on how we can heal those wounds and move forward together, so we don't get in our own way.
In the race for city council, Brooke Laine and Jason Collin were elected by the voters to lead us over the next four years. In the last few weeks leading up to this election, there was a rash of negativity on both sides of the aisle (… or state line). It seemed that the tension between the old and new, and California and Nevada, came to a head in quite the dramatic fashion. Now that the election is over, the time for arguing, disagreements and lies is behind us. The community has spoken, and we are ready for progress and change at a local level.
Measure P, the two-percent transit occupancy tax, or TOT, increase passed with 67.7 percent of the vote. The money raised by this tax is dedicated to recreation and building a new recreation complex in town. The impact and benefit this will bring to our community are immense. The new recreation complex has the chance to be a centerpiece for our recreation-based economy, bringing with it events, tourism and jobs. Now that the money to build a recreation center is secured, the community needs to stay involved in the process. We need to make the new rec center ours, tell the city what we want to see and what services they should be offering.
Measure U, the proposed sales-tax increase in the city, did not pass. Many different factors could have influenced why this measure failed. For one, it is a strong indication of a lack of trust with the voters toward the city. How the sales tax money would have been spent — on roads, housing or facilities — was an advisory measure. This means the city council could vote to change how they wanted to spend that money.
Measure T, on the Loop Road, passed with 60 percent of the vote. This means that the voters in the city want to have the final decision on approving the Loop Road project, not city council. What does this mean? The legality of this measure is still in question and will soon be decided by the courts. No matter how the courts rule, the community has taken a stand. If city residents are asked to vote on the Loop Road, I urge everyone to learn more about the facts of the project, not just the slander, lies and conspiracy theories.
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Whether you agree with the local election results or not is moot. Our problems haven't magically disappeared; we still need to deal with them. We all know the challenges before us — housing affordability, jobs, climate change, mental health and the need for better infrastructure. This election saw a level of community engagement we have never seen before. Let's keep that momentum going and make the changes you have been fighting for.
Devin Middlebrook is the civic engagement committee chair for the Tahoe Regional Young Professionals. For comments, questions, or more information on how to get involved please email Devin at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.TahoeTryp.org.
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