Paper carrier wants City Council seat
It’s now or never for South Lake Tahoe City Council candidate Stephen Reinhard, he said Tuesday.
The 35-year-old South Tahoe Newspaper Agency carrier ran for the public office two years ago, but Reinhard feels he’s come a long way since then.
“I have the common sense, intelligence and good ideas to run for council,” he said, as one in eight candidates vying for one of three seats.
He’s served on the city parks and recreation commission and taken classes in public speaking to work in groups and grant writing to seize the vast opportunities in federal and state grant funds.
“It taught me it shouldn’t be left up to (city staff) department heads,” he said, adding it’s something they’re not trained for and may find tedious.
However, Reinhard said the city business has been run by staff, with the council buying into most of the departments’ recommendations.
Reinhard pledged to vote his convictions, without remaining closed-minded about important issues facing the city.
The most pressing issue and the reason Reinhard chose to run Nov. 5 is government spending in a city where “you come to find yourself.”
He finds himself the happiest on his snowboard in the mornings. He also swims three times a week and competes in triathlons, adding he feels settled in his life.
His reason for running is fairly simple.
“The council has been spending money on the wrong things,” he said, emphasizing core services to the residents as the right reasons.
The 12-year Tahoe resident, who came up the hill from Sacramento and grew up in Alaska, thinks the city should replace the money used to subsidize the South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce and Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority with funds to overlay city streets. Many of the roads are paved on a 20- to 30-year cycle.
“The city needs to provide for its residents and not be a funded project for special interests,” he said, taking aim at the power structure in town.
Reinhard is probably best known for challenging the city in March when it proposed $450,000 in budget cuts.
An outspoken Reinhard brought forth a diatribe and his own plan to balance the budget with a 3 percent raise in the transient occupancy tax. Redevelopment properties currently charge 12 percent in motel room tax, while the majority of the units in the non-redevelopment zone tack on 10 percent that the city collects in revenue.
Reinhard chose to run for the council as he collected signatures for his own ballot measure. A fluke in the timeline killed his petition, but he remained committed to the plan to raise the TOT by a simple percentage.
He cites results of a Godbe community survey that indicated a 2 percent raise in the tax rate would garner at least a two-thirds vote.
Reinhard considers himself “a fiscal watchdog,” who’s been compared to Councilman Bill Crawford, he said.
Although both often provide opposing views, Reinhard reminded voters he’s a separate person.
“I’ll join him in a 4-1 vote,” he said of his anticipated council service.
Along the campaign trail, Reinhard has heard from citizens who recognize his name from his unique signs adorned with smiley faces. The signs were made by his son, Brandon.
“Someone told me, ‘I can’t tell if you’re running for City Council or student council,'” he said.
Some people have cited buying into parts of his platform, which includes the formation of a city-managed Department of Tourism and Commerce to oversee visitor marketing campaigns.
“Nobody’s in favor of everything. They’ll hate Measure Z but like the (Lake Tahoe) Airport,” he said.
He adamantly opposes Measure Z, which seeks to raise the motel tax by at least $1 and doubles the business licensing fees.
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