Erica Eng: Uniting toward a sustainable vision for South Shore (opinion)
Tribune Guest Columnist
It is an exciting time to live on the South Shore — during a critical point in our region’s evolution and potential. It is time to set our course: moving away from bickering and blaming, exclusionary special interests and single-industry dominance to consensus-building and proactively choosing progress.
Whether we live in Nevada or California, everyone benefits from uniting toward a sustainable vision for the South Shore. We can work together to tackle community issues and expand our economy through supporting start-ups and new ideas; wellness, recreation and green business; and local arts and culture. To usher this in, we each must play our unique role and vote Nov. 8 for leaders and initiatives supporting this vision.
Let’s build on recent local momentum and positive change. We can look to Colorado for sustainability measures and developing the green economy, and Reno for incubating start-ups and arts to catalyze local culture and attract business. I would like to see a Community Action Plan created to make this vision a reality, beginning with the South Lake Tahoe Community Economic Development Task Force’s recommendations. The plan should set measureable benchmarks for all key areas (housing and homelessness, education, transportation, public health, economic vitality, and environmental stewardship) and identify stakeholders to accomplish tasks, including segments of the population often ignored in local conversations (elders, youth, and minority populations).
Inclusive and effective leaders are needed to facilitate this process — Jason Collin and Brooke Laine will bring this to the city council. Nick Exline for SLTPUD is committed to reducing rates by increasing renewable energy.
An inviting built environment and updated infrastructure is one way to attract and retain locals and visitors. It is time to stop stalling and arguing about needed improvements like the Loop Road. Find facts about the Loop Road/US 50 Revitalization at tahoetransportation.org/us50:
Rerouting 1.1 miles of US 50 to Lake Parkway would create a local, three-lane road between the casinos (one alternative) with bike paths, larger sidewalks, landscaping and possible art. A local road could be easily shut down for New Years and other events, allow sidewalk dining and most importantly, improve safety for bikers and the multitude of pedestrians. The project improves the environment by reducing vehicle emissions and sediment entering the lake and would beautify downtown and make it more inviting and safe; primarily federal highway and state sources will fund the project (with some local construction match). An economic study of the project indicated potential for increased retail sales up to $25 million annually, and a greater potential for more business investment from improving downtown aesthetically. The project also would relocate about 75 residential units and three businesses — however, this provides a solution for one of our biggest issues, which is new affordable housing. The affected residents’ current housing is aging and not meant for the large number of people living there. A priority for the US 50 revitalization project is building a larger, multi-use housing complex(es), with 58 of the 76 units deed-restricted to remain affordable.
In 2013 and many other times, extensive outreach and community input was conducted for the project, reviewing five alternatives, one of which was non-action. The reroute idea was first proposed in 1980 and, since then, countless opportunities have been provided for feedback and changing the project’s course; yet we are still debating about this 30-plus years later, leaving all of the issues for why the road is needed not addressed.
I recently spoke with someone who helped get Measure T on the ballot. This person is concerned about speculated special interests (Edgewood and Harrah’s) behind the Loop Road and the potential height of the new housing complex. It’s important to transparently examine concerns like these and address them, and I encourage these discussions in upcoming public hearings. When I asked for this person’s recommended alternative for more affordable housing and improved safety on US 50, I was told “nothing.”
Saying no but providing no other options or ways to solve long-standing issues is not productive, and I think this obstructionist attitude is particularly damaging to our ability to resolve issues and come together for community development. Additionally, supporting Measure T does not stop this federal transportation project; it just prevents the city from providing input.
I urge you to vote No on Measure T, to protect our city’s voice on this important project.
This issue is a microcosm of the larger macrocosm voters are facing in electing our next president. We must honestly ask ourselves, is antagonism and obstructionism serving our community and nation? Remember: taking no action is an action — it is choosing the status quo and business as usual. As Albert Einstein said, “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking used to create them.” How can we fix tough problems if we rigidly hold to one idea and blame the “other” without opening to a possibility for compromise?
Let us choose to hold our elected officials accountable while simultaneously stopping overly critical voices based in fear and divisiveness. This doesn’t mean an absence of conflict. Disagreement and different perspectives have their role, but rigidness cuts off paths to communication, and adaptability and resiliency can no longer occur.
It is time for each of us to step up and step forward. Let us come together and focus our efforts on workable solutions. We all must share our unique talents and voices to play a piece in the long-term sustainability and brighter future for our beloved Tahoe and the larger world.
What will you decide and how will you show up as the solution in our community and world?
Erica Eng is a freelance business and communications consultant. She also is a performance artist, teaches yoga and Qigong and strives to be a community activator and connector.