Tahoe Prosperity Center column: A tale of two Tahoes
December 17, 2017
'Tis the season. I hope that all of you are able to enjoy the holidays with your friends and families and that you have a prosperous new year.
Sadly, not everyone in our community has that privilege. Did you know there are two Tahoes?
Surely you see the beauty all around you: the lake, snowcapped mountains and Christmas tree forests. There also are lots of happy, smiling tourists visiting for their first time or on their annual Christmas trip. And you probably see restaurants, resorts and retail stores full of customers this time of year, which you likely assume, makes them happy. And it most likely does.
But, what about the Tahoe you don't see? The families living in old motels or trailers with duct-taped windows. Are the dishwashers in the restaurants having a wonderful holiday or are they working two jobs to afford their Tahoe rental?
We are working to bring cell phone coverage and higher speed internet to our communities, expanding higher wage job options and diversifying our heavily dependent tourism economy. And, our AlertTahoe program is keeping our communities safe from fire
— an important reminder when so many California communities have seen such recent devastation.
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How about the lift operators and other seasonal staff working on holidays? Are they jammed four people to a room in a small apartment? Did you know that half our workers have to drive more than an hour each day to get to and from their Tahoe job? And that only 18 percent of locals can afford the median priced home?
Yes, those are some depressing statistics and since I am a positive person, it isn't easy for me to share them with you — especially at the time of year when most of us are happy. But, the work of the Tahoe Prosperity Center is directly related to turning those statistics around; to create a thriving, prosperous region for all who live and work here. Our work may not be "saving fuzzy puppies" but our projects will positively impact the lives of those who live and work in Lake Tahoe.
We are working to bring cell phone coverage and higher speed internet to our communities, expanding higher-wage job options and diversifying our tourism-dependent economy. And, our AlertTahoe program is keeping our communities safe from fire — an important reminder when so many California communities have seen such recent devastation.
In 2018, we will take on our new priority challenge: a Workforce Tahoe Housing project. We will work with many local partners to add housing for local workers in our town centers. One of those non-profit partners is the Saint Joseph Community Land Trust. They have been around since 2002 when the initial housing crisis began in Lake Tahoe.
One of their most recent and largest successful projects is the acquisition and rehabilitation of Sierra Gardens Apartments. This 76-unit apartment complex is a great example of healthy, quality affordable housing in our community.
But, did you know that you can make an end-of-year tax-deductible donation to St. Joseph's and the Tahoe Prosperity Center? Both organizations are nonprofits. Both organizations are working on the housing crisis from different angles. Both organizations are very small and mostly volunteer driven. And both organizations are working for the entire region of Lake Tahoe to improve the quality of life for local Tahoe residents.
If you have the means to contribute this holiday season, we sincerely hope you will consider supporting these two organizations with a tax-deductible donation by visiting saintjosephclt.org/contribute/ and tahoeprosperity.org/investment-campaign/, respectively.
Our work may not be as visible as the Toys for Tots collection bins you see around town, but our work will have a long-lasting, positive impact for so many locals in our communities. We hope you agree that improving opportunities for quality housing for local workers, better wages and job opportunities and higher speed internet is worthwhile.
We will keep working to ensure that Tahoe is a happy, thriving, prosperous place for everyone who lives and works here.
Heidi Hill Drum is the CEO of the Tahoe Prosperity Center, a Tahoe Basin-wide organization dedicated to uniting Tahoe's communities to strengthen regional prosperity. She has expertise in collaborative governance and is a 21-year resident. Heidi and her husband John are happily raising their two boys in Lake Tahoe.