Sass Talk: Reflecting on Measure C, VHR vote and more
Mayor of South Lake Tahoe
Measure C, the ballot initiative to pass a ½ percent sales tax to fix our roads, is over and failed. Since then a lot of people have asked me why it did not pass and I don’t really know the answer.
The obvious reason is that our voters did not want to pay 5 cents for every $10 they spend on taxable items to fix the streets. The second most likely reason is that they don’t trust our local government. The third is they don’t see the streets as being in that bad of shape. Here are some of the most interesting reasons people shared with me:
Yeah the streets are terrible but I voted against it for political reasons. I want this council to look bad. (This from a former council member rumored to be seeking to run again.)
I don’t drive anymore. I get rides everywhere I go.
If everyone were smart like me they would drive a big truck. No problem then.
If you didn’t plow the roads when it snows, then the chains the tourist, trucks and buses use would not ruin the streets.
No one drives except the tourists, let them pay for it.
If you took the asphalt off the roads we would not have any more potholes or cracks and you could sell the asphalt you take up for big money because asphalt is made from oil.
I ride a bike. Not my problem.
I’m not going to be around much longer. I’ll let my kids worry about it.
All those rich lawyers ruin the roads on purpose so they have accidents and lawsuits to make more money from.
And yes, l actually did hear all of the above.
After the VHR vote several friends and locals asked if I was upset with the vote. Of course I was, as I wanted to reach a compromise that would keep it off the ballot.
However, with regard to every vote not being unanimous (or even being contentious), I offer the following: We (council) may not agree on everything and on occasion, we may even act human and not like polished politicians. But, that is probably a good thing. Diversity is healthy and with diversity comes different viewpoints. It brings healthy dialogue and often a multitude of ideas and input that fosters better governance and policy.
I do know this about my fellow council members; they sacrifice their time, their family, their friends, their privacy, their hobbies, and their recreation, because they care deeply about our city, the place we call our home. They want to make the future brighter and better for everyone, of this, I have no doubt. So, it’s OK to disagree especially if you’re doing so because you care about the city, rather than a personal agenda. As Bill Crawford used to say, “It’s OK to not go along, to just get along”.
Living within your means
There’s been a lot of talk lately about the city living within its means. Our city manager does a great job managing the long-term budget and is pretty adept at getting us quite a bit for the $40 million available for operations within the city. The staff performs at a high level and consistently delivers exceptional service, maintenance, repairs and new projects using the tools available to them. Let me give you a few examples of some of the thousands of things they do for our populace.
The fire department responded to over 3,200 incidents in 2017. The department secured a wonderful gift of a new fire rescue boat. In total the department logged 8,828.65 cumulative training hours.
On the airport side, there were 24,097 airport operations. This is the largest amount of airport operations since 1999 (for comparison, there were 7,782 operations in 2002). In addition, six Federal Aviation Administration grants closed out $120,000 in reimbursements realized with $137,000 in hangar repairs completed from winter storm damage.
The police department had over 30,000 events assigned by dispatch over the first nine months of the year. Almost 700 of those were violent crimes. Our police officers covered over 160,000 miles serving and protecting the city.
Last year our public works department plowed 8,029 miles of our roads. That is the equivalent of driving across the USA 2.7 times. It took 14,880 man hours of labor to do this. They also patched 1,153 potholes. Public works employees secured the following by applying for and receiving grants: two street sweepers at a value $596,000 and two sander plow trucks at a value of $760,000.
They also secured an additional $10.6 million in other grants for: The Al Tahoe mobility project; Lake Tahoe Boulevard Bike Trail project; the Sierra Boulevard project; the El Dorado Beach Bike Trail; phase 2 of the Pioneer Trail sidewalk and lighting project; and storm water treatment flood mitigation projects city wide.
They also completed: the El Dorado Beach to Ski Run Boulevard Bike Trail project; the community playfield project; and the installation of the “Spirit of Competition” sculpture at Champions Plaza.
In finance, between cash receipts, AR, AP, payroll and journal entries, the department performed in excess of 50,000 transactions per year. Their debt refinancing saved more than $10 million over the long term and over $1 million annually. Changing the health care program reduced our annual costs by $1 million a year — a direct financial benefit to the city.
In Development Services 1,372 permits were issued during building season with 8,139 inspections completed. Over 7,000 people were assisted at the permit counter and another 7,700 over the phone.
The Parks and Recreation team served approximately 297,000 people.
The staff does a lot. Kudos to all of them, their department heads and the city manager and city attorney for providing management and guidance.
Have a great holiday season. It’s been a privilege and honor to be your mayor during 2017.
South Lake Tahoe Mayor Austin Sass can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Facebook by searching Sasstalk.