Santiago and Long show differing styles, approaches to public office
Candidates for El Dorado County supervisor duked it out at Inn by the Lake on Tuesday and made clear their difference on issues from affordable housing and Tahoe’s planning agency to redevelopment and snow removal.
Both claim to be Democrats and in favor of protecting the environment. But the similarities stop there.
Incumbent Supervisor Norma Santiago and challenger Ted Long, a South Lake Tahoe City Councilman, differ in their philosophies about public office.
Santiago emphasized community consensus, saying the power is in the people’s hands to create a positive future. She said she offers her ear and a passion for making community-based ideas a reality.
Long said while officials need to be responsive to public opinion, they should also lead. He invited voters to choose someone who represents their view best and to make tough choices when 100 percent consensus is lacking.
Long’s oratory skills made him a stronger debater, while Santiago used her on-the-job experience to try to highlight holes in Long’s claims about what a supervisor can achieve.
For Long, the race comes down to a seat on the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s 15-member governing board. He contends he can change the agency’s rules to allow several proposed affordable housing projects to move forward.
Santiago said her experience is that the agency is moving toward being more flexible to Tahoe constituents.
When asked about changing TRPA regulations on construction coverage and height, Santiago said she is hopeful for the place-based planning process and a public forum called Pathway 2007, which will come up with the area’s next regional plan.
“I guarantee you there is green in keeping Lake Tahoe blue,” she said.
Long pointed to Santiago’s endorsements by the Sierra Club and Green Party as shortcomings, and said regulations are still in the way.
“The environment is well protected, I’m proud to say. What’s not protected is our middle class,” he said.
When asked whether TRPA officials should be elected only by people in Tahoe, Santiago said the current board structure allows the region to better attract critical state and federal funding.
“Lake Tahoe is a national treasure,” she said. “That representation needs to be there.”
But Long was staunchly against appointees from out of the region, which make up half the board.
“Do you think the governor is worried that the wrong TRPA appointment is not going to get him reelected?” he said. “I say we are the most trusted people to manage the lake.”
Because TRPA is a bi-state agency with a federally approved compact, any changes to its board structure must be approved by both state’s legislatures, Congress and the president. This happened once in 1980 to shift the board’s representation away from locally elected officials toward appointees.
When asked about redevelopment, Long was in full support.
“It’s our only choice” given limited available land, he said.
Santiago was more skeptical.
“If your plan is to create jobs, I’d ask what kind of quality jobs are you creating?” she said. “We need to make sure it’s fair and equitable and not a burden to the community in terms of costs.”
While Santiago contended the county stands to lose $30 million in tax revenue from redevelopment, Long said that money would never have gone to the county because it would come from the incremental tax increase that is part of redevelopment. He said redevelopment actually improves tax income to the county because properties in prime redevelopment areas are currently losing value.
A second debate, sponsored by the Soroptimists, is scheduled for today at noon at Harrah’s convention center.
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