Guest column: South Lake Tahoe City Council must honor voters’ will on Measure T (opinion)
January 8, 2019
On Nov. 6, the vacation home rental (VHR) issue was finally decided. The status quo was voted out.
After years of failure by the City Council to meaningfully address the problems of VHRs in our residential neighborhoods, the voters passed Measure T, rejecting VHRs in residential neighborhoods, and removed all three incumbent council members from office.
The time has come for the current City Council members to take notice. The debate is over. The people have spoken. Measure T is law. The current council members, as the representatives of the people, have an unambiguous ethical obligation to do the people's bidding.
Moneyed interests now seek to subvert the will of the voters — to do by litigation what they could not do at the ballot box. The legality of zoning laws, restricting the commercialization of residential neighborhoods, has been upheld in court for nearly a century [Euclid v. Ambler, 1926].
The legality of restricting VHRs from residential zones has been upheld for decades by courts throughout California [Ewing v. City of Carmel-by-the-Sea, 1991]. Other cities have already restricted VHRs to primary residents [Denver code §33-48(f)].
Given the extensive legal and legislative precedent, the city has an obligation to defend Measure T — the expressed will of the people — in court.
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Council members who have in the past complained that the initiative process takes power away from elected officials are to be reminded that the initiative process exists precisely for that purpose, to bypass elected officials when they consistently fail to respect the will of the majority.
The initiative process is especially important against moneyed special interests such as the National Association of Realtors and the online VHR industry. Council members are also to be reminded of the other recourse afforded voters — the recall process.
Two years ago, then council candidate Jason Collin sought to stop the Loop Road initiative from reaching the ballot by suing the city. When that failed, he sued the city again to challenge the 60 percent passage of the Loop Road Measure T on the grounds that it was unconstitutional. That council chose to not defend the voters. That council was voted out.
City officials have failed the "test of trust" time and again. The past four elections involving parking meters, the Loop Road, a road tax and Measure T (three by citizen initiative) are indicators that elected officials have been out of touch with the voting electorate, consistently setting policies that ignore or contradict the will and mandate of the people they represent.
Can trust be restored between the city and the people of South Lake Tahoe? Will the city defend the will of the voters in court and demonstrate that they respect the decision made by the electorate, or will the citizens once again see that their votes don't count?
We'll know Jan. 8, when this new council meets to discuss Measure T in closed session.
Scott Robbins is a member of the Tahoe Neighborhoods Group.
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