Ribaudo column: Lots of unknowns heading into 2019 on Lake Tahoe South Shore (opinion)
“It’s the unanswered questions that make it worth getting up in the morning.” — Stephen King
As we close out 2018, perhaps at no other time has this community faced so many unanswered questions. There are always unanswered questions, but we have a few big ones, each of which can have a major impact on the future of South Shore.
Here are my top 5 for your consideration.
The impact of Measure T is unknown. Not by the proponents and not by the anti-T residents. The measure was voted in with a razor-thin margin and there are two big question marks.
The first: the outcome of the current court challenge. On Monday a judge issued a temporary stay on implementation of the measure. The real legal challenge will come when those against the measure challenge the constitutionality of it.
The second: what really happens if the measure is implemented? Both sides including myself have offered opinions but no one truly knows. Will implementation of T be smooth sailing or marked with expensive unintended consequence to the housing market? If T is sustained in the courts, we should have good data in six months to a year to understand the impact, or lack thereof.
A second unknown is the a newly-elected City Council. This past election the community swept out the incumbents and elected a whole new slate of council members. Can they get along beyond the first few meetings when real issues start showing up for real votes? Will they understand the strategic challenges that face the community? Will they grow into a strong deliberative body that can effectively balance the needs of the community?
To add another layer to the unanswered questions, newly-elected Council Member Cody Bass was indicted by a grand jury on tax-related issues earlier this year. The trial date is April 2. Bass maintains his innocence, but what happens if he is found guilty?
New city staff at the top. A whole new crew including the city manager, the city attorney and the public information officer, all from out of the area and all hired by the last council. New blood is good and hopefully these new hires all add value for the community. But it’s an unknown especially with an equally new city council. One hopes their fresh perspectives add another dimension in addressing the challenges we face.
The national and local economy. All business cycles go down and we are now in the 10th year of economic expansion. At some point it changes. The question is how and what will be the impact on the tourism economy and the resulting city budget.
Compounding this unknown is the fact that the community voted down parking fees, which would have gone to maintenance; and a small sales tax, which would have gone to road improvements; and the potential loss of Transient Occupancy Tax due to Measure T, all of which would have fallen significantly on visitors and not residents. Add to it the unknown in CalPERS costs and a reckoning with the city budget and services is coming — it’s just a matter of when.
Climate change is impacting the environment and the local economy. Not only is climate change impacting the environment and the costs associated with it, but it’s impacting the tourism economy both in winter and non-winter months.
With winter, it seems the only snow we can really count on is what Heavenly can make. Some years we get plenty of snow, some we don’t. Add to it, the impact climate change is having on California fires and resulting smoke that impacts South Shore and it’s a lot of unanswered questions.
I estimated we were impacted by 20-25 percent of the summer days with smoke. Visitors figured that out and headed for the coast. California fires are going to impact our community for the foreseeable future.
These unanswered questions are just my top five. There are plenty others: cannabis, Loop Road and so many more. But then again, that’s what makes it worthwhile to get up in the morning.
It’s a wrap
I was stunned to hear of Dr. Bannar and his passing. Like many he helped me several times with my knee.
My last conversation with him was about his vision to integrate the new orthopedic facility patients with Johnson Meadows for a more holistic approach to care. It would be nice if we could make that happen. So sad.
Carl Ribaudo is a columnist, consultant, speaker and writer who lives in South Lake Tahoe. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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This past year has been a rollercoaster for the Lake Tahoe region. As the coronavirus pandemic dragged on, undeterred visitors continued to flock to the area.