Sass Talk: Support possible South Lake Tahoe sales tax; much to learn about legal recreational marijuana |

Sass Talk: Support possible South Lake Tahoe sales tax; much to learn about legal recreational marijuana

This past City Council meeting, all five council members agreed to have staff present us a ballot measure that would increase the city sales tax by ½ a percent. This came after a survey was completed and results were presented by the outside independent company contracted by the city. The results indicated that almost 68 percent of respondents supported the increase as long as the funds would be dedicated by law to roads.

If the ballot measure is approved by council it will require 66.6 percent of all voters to approve the measure. If it passes, the funds will be bound to road improvement and will be overseen by a Roads Management Authority. In addition, a citizens oversight committee is being considered, too, thus protecting the taxpayers and ensuring it is only used for the purpose it was intended for.

As we all know the roads are in terrible shape. They were never built correctly and with our harsh winter weather they take a beating. The city needs a long-term funding source so we can coordinate with the utility companies, apply for grants that require matching funds and enter into contracts that offer us the best bang for our buck. Those long-term funds do not exist in the budget and with the demands from the state to up our funding for the state pension fund the situation is not going to get better.

Fixing potholes and cracks in our roads will improve safety for all of our vehicles and our bike riders, will improve water quality, and make our town look a heck of a lot better. Please join City Council and city staff in supporting this effort. Again, if passed, the money by law can only be used for roads.

A quick update on some other city issues:

Councilmember Brooke Laine and I will be traveling to Sacramento to attend an all-day cannabis workshop that focuses on everything related to the new law, including how we might allow and manage retail sales, production of edibles, testing and grow operations. We will also hear about successes and failures and discuss what an ordinance or tax might look like. Additionally, I recently met with the mayor of Breckenridge and their city manager. We had a hardy discussion (details to follow next month) on how they are doing with legalized sales.

Finally, as you might have heard, the state of California has not finalized the regulations for recreational or medicinal sales and won’t finalize them till the fall at the earliest. Coupled with some new revisions to Proposition 64 that are being proposed by the California Legislature, there is no rush to do anything because of the changing environment. We still have a lot to learn.

The vacation home rental (VHR) study has been completed and I expect that during May the VHR subcommittee of Mayor Pro-Tem Wendy David, city staff and myself will pore through the metrics, results and suggested options to begin the process of proposing more permanent changes to the ordinance. I live in a VHR heavy part of town and I have no doubt that the VHR properties surrounding me are much less of an issue than 18 months ago. Things have improved. However, further expansion of VHRs in areas outside of the Tourist Core area is very concerning to me and several other members of council.

As a member of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board and an appointee to the development rights working group, our mission is to explore solutions to the commodities that are hampering redevelopment and new development. Initially we looked at eliminating all commodities and examined what the outcome might be. After seeing the research, we all agreed elimination of commodities as we know them today is not an option. There would be rampant over-development. We are now examining approximately three options and staff will be coming back with some more detailed policies associated with the subcommittee’s thoughts. There seems to be some traction that converting all commodities to a single currency like square footage and focusing on redevelopment projects versus new development could be part of the solution. More to report in months to come.

The current City Council is working very well together. The pettiness and rude behavior of the past is gone. I believe this council is committed to doing what is best for the city and not what will get them re-elected or serve their personal agendas. I believe the voters got it right. I am proud to be serving with Wendy David, Brooke Laine, Tom Davis and Jason Collin. I hope you have seen the difference too.

Spring is here. Whether its getting some recreational play time in, getting the garden in shape, or working on your project list, the important thing is to get outside and enjoy South Lake Tahoe, Outdoor Capital of Your World. Have fun and I hope the sun, brilliant blue Tahoe sky and our crystal blue water set against our snow capped mountains puts a smile on your face. Don’t you just love living here!

South Lake Tahoe Mayor Austin Sass can be reached at and on Facebook by searching Sasstalk.

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