South Lake Tahoe City Council candidate profile: Tom Davis
Occupation: Retired businessman and current City Council member
Why are you running for council?
South Lake Tahoe has been very good to me and my family; this is one of the best ways, in my opinion to give back to our community. My main motivation for running for City Council is to help finish the work I began eight years ago.
I was originally on the council from 1992-2004. In 2004, I decided not to run again and was ready to pass the torch onto another group of council members. I had a great 12 years run, I helped get many projects and policy changes accomplished and I was ready to focus on new and different endeavors.
In the six years that followed, I watched as the city and the city council became gridlocked, dysfunctional and how misguided decisions began to effect the city of South Lake Tahoe and its citizens as a whole. In 2010, I decided to run again…
What are your qualifications?
Four time mayor, five time mayor pro tem, former board member Lake Tahoe Wildlife Care, president Christmas Cheer, former president Lake Tahoe Kwanis club, four times chair South Lake Tahoe Redevelopment Agency, former chair and current board member El Dorado County Fair Board, former member and past president of South Lake Tahoe Lions Club, former chair and former member of Lake Tahoe visitors authority, board member, ambulance JPA.
What is the No. 1 issue facing the city? How would you address it?
I believe this is a two part priority issue, as there is a dire need for both road improvements and affordable workforce housing. A public private partnership with developers and provide incentives with deed restricted housing. I have been working with Dwane Wallace and South Lake Tahoe Public Utility District to provide sewer units and lower connection fees to developers and reduce or wave some fees with other public agencies. We need to look at land coverage, density and height issues, to make housing in South Lake Tahoe more affordable.
I am currently working on a pilot program with a developer to build some affordable housing providing incentives. If this process works we could expand it through the city.
The time is now!! We can do this. We can provide these incentives for a five year test period then review the results. At the same time the city of South Lake Tahoe needs to pursue any and all grants. Continue to work with other nonprofit groups and other jurisdictions to find other housing solutions.
Yes or no on Measure T? Why or why not?
No on Measure T. Measure T is to extreme, it’s not what our community is all about. The current ordinance and enforcement mechanisms put into place are working, which my company and I have supported. Regardless of the outcome, we need to come together and find some calibration and compromise so all parties involved.
This is as complex issue as it effects private property rights, a premise our county take great pride in, in addition to our neighborhood concerns. There is also a jobs factor, as the VHR industry allows for numerous people to be able to live, work and raise their families in Lake Tahoe. We will lose at a minimum $3 million per year to our city’s budget, this account for other spending that these visitors will not spend if they are unable to come to Lake Tahoe and rent a VHR, mind you these visitors spend money on food, recreation and entertainment.
We will also lose $450,000 annually in bonding capacity for our new recreation complex which was approved by the voters and desperately needed for our community. These cuts will not provide the recreation complex we promised to the voters when Measure P was passed.
What is your position on the Loop Road?
We are still waiting for the preferred alternative from the TTD. One of my biggest concerns was the removal of existing homes on the loop road right away. The TTD has agreed to find a solution and replacement for those houses, before this project moves forward. I lobbied for this and I’m happy they listened.
The loop road must show a benefit to both the city of South Lake Tahoe and the Nevada side of the project. I am in favor of putting this issue on the ballot in the city of South Lake Tahoe. This way, both sides can make their case and the community can make the decision as to what’s best for Lake Tahoe.
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 has already started a collaborative process on Monday Oct. 8, bringing both sides of this complex issue together. I am confident we will find a workable solution to this issue.
How should the city address sustainable funding for roads?
The key word here is “sustainable funding.” We have had two measures on the ballot to increase sales tax to provide funding for our roads. The last measure, was a ½ cent sales tax, which received 54 percent of the vote, but failed to meet the 2/3 required for it to pass.
For the past eight years, I have tried and tried and tried to look for sustainable funding for our roads. There is also competition on our general fund, for limited dollars available. Police and fire, make up over half of our city’s budget, which always has been and will always be my TOP priority.
We need $2.5-$3 million over the next 30 years for the repair and replacement of our roads. The only source that I see which is sustainable and a tough pill to swallow for me is a ½ sales tax increase which would provide $2.5-$3 million a year.
This is a sales tax, so the cost will be shared by not only locals but also our visitors who come and spend money in Lake Tahoe.
How would you evaluate the current council’s handling of the previous city manager’s departure?
The process that City Council used to review the city manager. I feel strongly that the agreement with the consultant Mary Eagan. The process should have been made public for the citizens to review and for the council to understand what criteria we were using to evaluate the city manager.
Somewhere along the process we were told one thing by then Mayor Austin Sass and as it turned out the consultant was told another thing by Mayor Austin Sass. His personal agenda tainted the process unfairly. This was not fair to the city manager the citizens of our city and of course the City Council.
In the future we need a more open evaluation process. If returned to the City Council I will never let this tainted process happen again. I stand by my comments at the City Council meeting and in the Mtn. News regarding this issue.
What can City Council do to address the lack of affordable housing?
See my above comments where I address affordable housing and my pilot program.
Businesses frequently complain about a lack of talented employees. What, if anything, can City Council do to help solve this problem?
This all comes back to workforce housing. My campaign motto is TAHOE in that HOUSING and OPPORTUNITY are some of my main priorities. HOUSING: I will continue to aggressively work to create affordable housing for our locals and workforce. We are losing the best and brightest due to a lack of affordable housing. I have helped develop a housing pilot program that has the potential to be highly successful. OPPORTUNITY: I will continue to work with locals, local business and governmental agencies to continue to create opportunities for our locals and workforce.
We live in the “Gem” of the Sierra and I want everyone possible to live the “Tahoe Dream.” Visit my Facebook page Tom Davis for City Council to learn more.
Some community members are critical of you because of your need to recuse yourself on VHR issues. Given your inability to vote on this critical issue, why should voters reelect you?
I have to follow the conflict of interest law and I have. I have always disclosed this conflict issue and the voters have understood this and still elected me to the City Council.
Trust me, this hasn’t been easy. However, I do agree with most of the City Councils ordinance, expect for being able to park on public streets. This issue will be decided by the voters, but our city has numerous issues facing it, to which I can vote on, we are not a “one issue” city.
Review my record, my leadership and my past accomplishments.
Given the length of your time on council, some community members were surprised to hear that you didn’t seem to know the ins and outs of the Brown Act. How can you assure voters that you are fully engaged and knowledgeable of the critical rules council must follow?
I do know the “in’s and out’s “of the Brown Act. At times, we wander into a Brown Act violation inadvertently. The Brown Act is defined as this: California’s open meeting law (better known as the Brown Act) prohibits any action or discussion on any item not listed on the posted agenda, expect that members of the City Council or its staff may briefly respond to statements made or questions posed by exercising their public testimony rights. I addition, on their own initiative or in response to questions posed by the public. City Council members or their staff may ask questions for clarification; provide a reference for factual information or request staff to report back to the City Council.
I asked for a refresher course for both staff and council, this is a good practice from time to time to keep new council members and staff up on current policies, laws and procedure.