Editorial: Norma Santiago for county supervisor | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Editorial: Norma Santiago for county supervisor

If the El Dorado County District 5 Supervisor race was simply about ideas, engagement of the issues and community participation, then the contest between incumbent Norma Santiago and challenger South Lake Tahoe City Councilman Ted Long would give voters two strong, but different, options. Unfortunately, it’s not.

The race is also about attitude, perception and honesty. It’s about a supervisor who won a four-way race with less than 40 percent of the vote who has served only six months as Tahoe’s supervisor. It is about a City Council member who, during his 1 1/2-year tenure in that office, has made fantastic claims and perpetuated a rift among his constituents.

More than an election about political philosophy and local advocacy, this is an election about character. And when it comes down to this issue, we cast our vote for Norma Santiago, who appears to be the candidate striving to be inclusive and be converted by voters, while Ted Long appears to have a set agenda and a divisive style.

As in her first campaign for office, where she was running as underdog against local attorney Dennis Crabb, Norma Santiago has struggled to find her public voice – relying on weak catch phrases like “there is green in keeping Tahoe Blue,” and slogans that refer to Tahoe’s “eco-nomics.” And unfortunately, she has not engaged Ted Long about his campaign tactics, including his decision to write and send to voters his ego-stroking biography “Recycled.”

But despite her weak public presence, she has shown a willingness to learn from voters and keep their interests at heart. She has developed relationships with her colleagues from the West Slope that will benefit Tahoe, which does not have much political clout with only one of five seats in the Placerville power base. And we believe her when she says she loves her job. After only six months, Santiago’s accomplishments are few, but what can voters expect in such a short period? We believe she can be trusted in the office for four more years because of her commitment to the position. In his campaign, Long has not demonstrated that Santiago should be replaced.

This election is also about an all-important seat on the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s 15-member governing board.

Long’s vitriol about the TRPA and its heavy-handed bureaucracy is not totally misplaced, but his proposals to change the Tahoe agency seem extreme. He says the board should be locally elected – a reversal of a mid-’80s change that for good reason removed much of the local control – and even said that a bill asking for abolishment of the agency should be introduced in Congress to shake things up.

Santiago says Long is taking advantage of long-standing bad feelings about the agency, and that TRPA is changing. Through the Pathway 2007 planning process, we all have high hopes that this is true. And when TRPA removed from consideration its Alternative 6 shorezone plan last summer, it showed a responsiveness to negative public opinion.

Long rightly questions TRPA rules that prescribe a “one-size-fits-all” approach to local development, and would like to see restrictions eased for the creation of affordable housing. These are both good ideas, but surprisingly in line with Santiago’s. She also believes the concept of development “coverage” should be replaced by standards that are more relevant, like soil capacity. After Pathway 2007 is completed old ways of approaching development may be abolished anyway.

Ted Long is talented orator with a lawyerly instinct for debate, making him the stronger campaigner in this race. He has hit the streets, knocked on doors throughout the county, and busily placed signs. He can produce a good TV commercial, and he can even laugh at himself over the strong opinions he elicits. But as a member of City Council, he pushed for a roundabout when the public was obviously cool on the idea. He pushed for the unfair Business Improvement District despite its obvious poor construction, and he has a habit of taking credit when credit may not be totally due.

What Long cites as leadership, we would call an inability to listen. It is this quality that incites voters to choose the anti-Long vote, rather than the pro-Santiago vote. The Tahoe supervisor is the sole Lake Tahoe representative on the El Dorado County Board of Supervisors. It is vital we have a team player in that position.

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