South Lake Tahoe City Council candidate profile: Cody Lee Bass
Occupation: Founder & Executive Director, Tahoe Wellness Cooperative Property Manager – Green Bijou Properties
Why are you running for council?
I am running for City Council because of the serious need for new leadership. The level of dysfunction on the council has been detrimental to the city staff and most importantly to the citizens’ ability to trust our city leaders. We have seen so many issues that our current council has either failed to find compromise with both sides, or have even attempted to use their position to sell out locally owned established businesses to large corporate interest.
I will bring a fresh perspective with integrity, working to prioritize our budget so we have adequate fire protection and to ensure that public works is funded to begin fixing our roads. Work to create new venues in our city that we can host world class music, film, food and wine, and gem and mineral festivals that are organized and produced by our local community! Bringing sensible change from a local’s perspective!
What are your qualifications?
I have worked hard since I was a teenager elevating my position and dreams throughout my life. I have an understanding of the city from a decade of being engaged through hundreds of City Council meetings. I have employed over 500 people and never had a labor dispute or any type of serious employment problems. I have been elected twice by 1,600 of my peers to serve on the Board of the National Cannabis Industry Association. I fully understand what fiduciary responsibilities require, I believe strongly in the Brown Act, something for which our current council has little regard.
What is the No. 1 issue facing the city? How would you address it?
Housing. We must make reasonable opportunities for affordable housing to be developed. The process has become so costly that “affordable housing” doesn’t pencil out.
First work with every agency to first realize this is a crisis. Once we have established there is a crisis, there is no reason we can’t work quickly to lower these barriers. We must allow property owners to expand their residential coverage, through tiny homes and mother-in-law units.
When permitting new large commercial development’s, we must also require that developer to build affordable housing so those new jobs and labor force have housing opportunities. We must work with our largest employers and help them create workforce housing.
The other side of the coin is that we must work to ensure employers pay a living wage. This is the harder issue as the cost of doing business in California is outrageous; however, we must work with the chambers to find ways that business owners can increase their pay, it comes down to good business.
We need to be helping our current businesses understand why a living wage is the only way to have good employees. We must promote local businesses, which in turn supports our local community.
Yes or no on Measure T? Why or why not?
With the current council, if I truly thought the incumbents would be voted back in, which I don’t, I would say vote yes. I truly believe we will see a more responsible council in November. With a new council, I am more than confident we can reach a middle ground between both sides, which would have been the preferable outcome for everyone.
We have a dysfunctional council that does not represent the will of the voters proven by multiple efforts over the past four years from the voters, including measure T.
However the vote goes, I believe it will be close, which will call for compromise, the vote will guide us on what action we can take. I am in support of expanding the tourist core within boundaries that makes sense. If this does not pass, I am in support of finding compromise from our current ordinance.
The people will speak and we must pay attention, however the people’s law can only be changed by the people and this may be out of the hands of council come November. That is why this is one of the biggest failures of two of the incumbents, the third has to recuse.
What is your position on the Loop Road?
Loop Road needs a lot more work in my opinion. As I could see some benefit, I don’t see it benefiting the entire community at large. I think that with more thought to the project we could find very sensible solutions that the community could get behind.
The people have voted to say they want to approve this project through the vote. The fact that the council has taken this into the appellate court is appalling. Using technicalities of law to go against the will of the people. This is another issue that truly highlights our current council and the fact they do not follow the will of their constituents.
I think we must review looping north instead of south, to avoid destroying homes and businesses. I have a plan that outlines looping around the 56 acre recreation park, so we could enhance the goal of being a recreation destination, blending our largest park into Lakeview Commons, developing a lakefront venue that would benefit South Lake Tahoe, not just the casino corridor.
If we are going to spend this amount of money, we must see the entire community benefit, not just a few property owners’ value skyrocketing.
The city’s recently passed cannabis ordinance was the subject of a successful referendum. How should City Council proceed on this issue?
The City Council was led by the previous outsourced city attorney and consultants to draft an ordinance that created an auction for the six cannabis licenses available in the city. This was in line with the council’s priorities of allowing corporate interest to take part of our local economy. It’s wrong and a complete failure of the council to do what’s best for our community.
The council needs to draft a new ordinance that does not have an auction for selection, rather base the selection process purely off of merit.
As they presented to the public that this would grandfather TWC, they filed papers today in the appellate court to immediately shut down TWC, if they are successful, ordinance 1118 would have shut us down.
The council and staff have spun mass confusion around the facts of the issue, saying the zoning is not allowed, however, the zoning does not allow cannabis uses anywhere in Tahoe, due to the TRPA being a federal board, they allowed a staff member to pick or “shoehorn”! Creating huge winners and losers throughout the city.
The fact the council failed to put a cannabis tax on the ballot was to justify an auction.
How should the city address sustainable funding for roads?
By prioritizing the budget, realigning the priorities of administrative costs to the needs of our public works department. Since 2015, we have increased the Development Services Department, the City Manager’s Office, and the City Attorney’s Office by almost $3 million. These departments operated before these increases and we must go back to those operating budgets within city administration and shift that funding to public works.
We must immediately authorize the funding from our reserves of over $44 million so that work can begin in the spring. The real solution lies in creating this funding in perpetuity so that public works has a sustainable maintenance plan for our roads that does not end.
With the reality of CalPERS, and no state subsidy coming thru, something I believe is possible if we advocate, we may need to send a tax to the ballot. I believe voter’s will need to see action from the council before they will hand over more tax dollars. We have a few years to prove this to the voters, we also have a few years before CalPERS takes huge hits into our budget, giving us time to build trust and advocate before sending a tax to the voters.
How would you evaluate the current council’s handling of the previous city manager’s departure?
Terrible, the council has a duty to the public to be transparent, and to not create issues that divide the council and overall community. The hiring of a consultant that was clearly led by a member of the council, and was possibly supported by our outsourced previous city attorney was unconscionable.
Regardless if it was wrong or right to replace the city manager, keeping the facts from the public makes everyone involved seem guilty, losing the trust of the community, putting the city at risk with no leadership during the busiest time of year.
This could have been handled in so many better ways. The disregard of the financial implications involved was also highly irresponsible when you have a fire station closed and roads crumbling.
If Nancy Kerry was actually doing something wrong in her position, why did we pay her a severance? It brings the public to question if those on the council are also involved in what the problem was and are attempting to cover their own tracks by keeping the information from the public.
If the council was working together and unified, I do not believe this would have taken place — egos and arrogance must be replaced!
What can City Council do to address the lack of affordable housing?
We must work with the TRPA to allow for more coverage in residential zones, and support them creating a process that is not overburdensome and has reduced cost for affordable housing units. As I believe we must bring development services back to 2015 funding levels, this would require simplifying the process for city permitting, handing back the responsibility to TRPA.
When we can’t govern the code, we should not be attempting to permit it, TRPA has federal funding and holds the authority, why has the city taken on their job? The city’s TRPA representative needs to be working diligently to make these changes, and the council needs to be involved in supporting that member.
With Measure T on the ballot inventory could open up, not until 2021, and that will not fix our problem. If a builder would like to build a mega home, the city could create a permit that goes with the property for what it’s use is instead of the VHR process. To obtain that permit, the builder would have to also develop affordable housing. I believe many builders could make this pencil out, only if we can relax the fees and barriers for affordable housing.
Businesses frequently complain about a lack of talented employees. What, if anything, can City Council do to help solve this problem?
Housing is key, however,there are also other problems that I see need to be addressed. We need to make our community attractive to aspiring entrepreneurs, blossoming families and someone moving to South Lake Tahoe to live the dream! We have accepted that we are transient community and that is wrong.
The council needs to be involved in business development, educating our business owners around paying a living wage, training, and common business practices. We must improve our broadband to ensure a startup company could actually exist in South Lake Tahoe.
We have talented citizens in our community. We have a robust economy that is seasonal, these challenges are unique, as a business community we should be coming together and sharing what works, while also cross-promoting local businesses.
We have lowered the bar of customer service in South Lake Tahoe, it only takes a few to begin raising the bar and with unity in the community, the bar would raise across the city. Unity needs to start with council coming together and making actions that support our local citizens, we need to be leaders that understand our community will support positive change; we must stop looking outside for the answers.
Some members of the public have accused you of trying to influence cannabis policy in a way that would benefit your company rather than the community at large. How do you respond to those accusations?
The facts around ordinance 1118 and the reality of the law once understood, clearly illustrates that the referendum will benefit the community at large, and preserve the original dispensary in Lake Tahoe. I was appointed to draft the 2011 ordinance, however, I was completely ignored and left out of the conversation for ordinance 1118. I was told that no one with interest from the industry could be on the committee — oddly, a few of those appointed to that committee are now applying for the licenses, I see no problem with this except I question why was I left out of this process?
TWC was built around five uses that have been permitted multiple times since 2009. Ordinance 1118 would have allowed those uses to continue pending an appellate court ruling, yet, if we lost in the court over a lease being consent of a building I now own, we would be closed. The current council is spending a few hundred thousand dollars to take TWC to the appellate court in hopes they will win and can shut us down forever, at the last closed session they voted to continue paying the previous outsourced city attorney for this fight.
Some residents might be hesitant to vote for you given the felony tax charges by a grand jury earlier this year. How do you address those concerns?
I am innocent until proven guilty, and I am positive that I am not guilty of any of these charges. The sheriff’s office executed four search warrants encroaching upon every vehicle, business and property that I own from Tahoe to Mendocino. They never found one illegal item, yet they raided a fully licensed and operating business, robbing us of every computer, key, inventory item, plant, and dollar in my existence, essentially trying to destroy my livelihood. Having no crimes to report from the four executed search warrants, nearly three years passed.
I received a letter from the El Dorado County District Attorney in October of 2017 charging me with bogus tax crimes. The years in question by the district attorney and state of California are contrary to the opinion of the Internal Revenue Service, as I have completed full personal audits and corporate audits with the IRS for those same years with no criminal findings, yet the state of California has never audited my taxes.
The county is trying to create an explanation of why they raided a licensed business, when if they had evidence of illegal conduct, they could have used the city ordinance to shut down TWC.