We the people (Opinion)

John Friedrich
Guest column

It’s been a year since the new City Council took office on December 1, 2020. I’m proud of what we have accomplished so far. By we, I mean we the people, the residents of South Lake Tahoe.

John Friedrich

While politics at the national level for many has become a spectator sport, where we cheer or jeer our team or yours, local government is still a place where people come together to solve problems. It’s a place where the ideal of democracy – of, by, and for the people – is possible.

Teddy Roosevelt once said, “It is not the critic who counts, the credit belongs to the person who is actually in the arena.” In that spirit, I’m grateful for all the people in our community who have stepped forward over the past year into the city arena to champion an idea, bring forward a solution, or speak out and take action for something they believe in.

People like the 5804 South Lake Tahoe residents who voted Yes on Measure S, which will help to sustain seven firefighters at Station 2, and helped pay for nearly $3 million in road repairs, along with an updated communication system for police, fire and public works, a new computer aided police and fire dispatch system, and creation of a new Fire Prevention Bureau. Investments like these will be possible year after year, thanks to voter support.

People like the nearly 1,000 south shore residents who voted on how the city should spend $5.3 million in federal COVID recovery dollars (American Rescue Plan Act), the first time in history the city has used a participatory budgeting process to give residents a direct vote in how we spend your money. The City Council went down the line to fund the people’s top budget choices, including a big investment in affordable housing. That in turn helped create support for the more than $8 million the city has allocated over the past year, or is currently considering, to help make it possible for locals to afford to live here.

People like David Reichel, Pete Fink and all the members of the Bicycle Advisory Committee, who spent an afternoon touring on two wheels before deliberating on their recommendations for how the city should spend the $250,000 people voted to give to bicycle infrastructure, including extending the Greenway trail further through town.

People like Scott Forrest, Stacey Ballard, David Hamilton, Eleanor Brenann, and Bryan Yerian for bringing their diverse experiences in visual and performance arts to the newly formed Arts, Culture and Tourism Commission. One of their first projects will be making recommendations on how the City should allocate $100,000 for local arts projects, another top people’s budget vote getter.

People like Tere Tibbetts, Laura Salinas, Joanie San Agustin, Sal Lopez, Jessica Wackenhut and Mario Guerrero, who helped form and shape the Multicultural Alliance Subcommittee to give a voice to South Lake Tahoe’s Latino and Filipino communities, who for too long have not been heard. Tere and former City Councilmember Brooke Laine have also been working to start a new foundation to support our sister city, Ameca, Mexico.

People like the hundreds of locals, mostly under 30, who turned out last summer to say black and brown lives matter too, and should be treated equally to all. That led to the formation of the City’s Police Advisory Commission, on which South Lake Tahoe residents Claudia Anderson, Tom Davis, Justin Zunino, Ayana Morali, and Erika Gonzales are serving.

People like Gie Ledesma and his father, who told me that their apartment in the Rocky Point neighborhood near Stateline is home to three generations of their family, and they don’t want a 5-lane highway to demolish it. They said they while they might have gotten a new apartment out of the deal, their neighborhood couldn’t be moved or replaced. In February, the Council voted to oppose running the Loop Road through Gie’s neighborhood, and we’re working to help find an alternative solution.

People like David Gregorich and his colleagues on the Parks & Recreation Commission, who volunteer their time along with other members of all city commissions and committees to make our community more livable and enjoyable.

People like Brandi Brown, who kept showing up at City Council and TRPA meetings to share her passion for mobile, tiny homes. We listened, and City planning staff is now working on an ordinance to permit this option for affordable Tahoe living.

People like elite Freeride skier Molly Armanino, who called into an emergency Council meeting during the Covid evacuation to ask what the city is doing about the climate emergency. Rather than casting stones from the sidelines, Molly jumped into the arena, and is rallying her friends and Instagram network to support a carbon-free electricity by 2030 resolution that the city is scheduled to consider on Tuesday, Dec. 7. If the resolution is adopted to have all of our electricity generated from renewable energy sources, 24/7, the city will have the most ambitious renewable energy goal of any municipal government in the country.

Finally, I’m grateful for the City staff, led by the innovative and productive City Manager Joe Irvin, and City Attorney Heather Stroud, who work their tails off out of the limelight to translate public sentiment and requests into concrete action. I’m also grateful for my fellow council members, who ceaselessly take their cues from the public we were elected to represent. They are all public servants in the truest sense.

Thanks to all who are in the arena, and those who will enter the arena in the months to come, for acting on your passion and ideas to make South Lake Tahoe a better place to live for all.

John Friedrich is a member of the South Lake Tahoe City Council.

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