Sen. Boxer hosts discussion on Tahoe/Truckee issues
TRUCKEE – U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer met with elected officials last week to discuss what the federal government could do to help the region.
Boxer was presented with a laundry list of requests, though most boiled down to appeals for increased funding and policy changes.
The roundtable discussion at Town Hall focused on three areas: the need for more affordable housing, transportation and how to address declining water quality in Lake Tahoe and surrounding watersheds.
Boxer took notes and asked questions while listening to close to a dozen presentations from representatives of agencies in Placer and Nevada counties.
“I’m here today to pledge to work closely with you to meet (local) needs,” she said. “I think this area has been neglected, and that’s why I’m here.”
But twice, Boxer referred to constraints she felt had been placed on the federal budget by President Bush’s tax cut.
“The money we thought we had seems to be dissipating. It is related to this meeting, because, I will fight (for more funding), but our hands are tied,” she said. “I can’t tell you how it disturbs me to sit here and listen to these issues and not be able to do anything about it (because of the tax cut).”
Several officials, including Truckee Mayor Don McCormack, Town Manager Stephen L. Wright and Placer County CEO Richard Colwell, cited the lack of affordable housing as the most pressing issue facing the region.
McCormack said the “Aspen-ization of Truckee” is driving middle-class people out of the area. He explained why Truckee had to return a $500,000 federal home grant for first-time home buyers: “We weren’t able to use it because real estate prices skyrocketed.”
Colwell said policy changes by the federal Housing and Urban Development Department could allow HUD money to be used for building employee housing. That idea drew a lukewarm response from Boxer, who said employers bore that responsibility.
“If the commercial interest wanted to, they could (build) it,” Boxer told Colwell. “But it would preclude the use of federal funds.”
Colwell also asked Boxer to look into relaxing the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s environmental regulations and bans on subdividing land if the parcel is going to be used for affordable housing.
Boxer was briefed on water quality issues by Lisa Wallace of the Truckee River Water Council, Nevada County Supervisor Elizabeth Martin and TRPA Executive Director Juan Palma.
“Scientists tell us we have about 10 years to arrest the decline of clarity in Lake Tahoe. After that, it won’t happen again in our lifetime,” Palma said.
In her closing comments, Boxer encouraged agencies and officials to work together and pursue regional solutions.
“If (issues) are fleshed out on the local level, it’s easier for me to advocate on your behalf.”
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