South Lake Tahoe City Council candidate profile: Wendy David
Occupation: Mayor, city of South Lake Tahoe
Why are you running for council?
I am seeking my second term on the council because I believe that my experience of learning and leading the city for the last four years has been an asset to the city. We have accomplished much, but there is much more to do.
I am a collaborative, consensus building leader, working with all others as a strong advocate for the future of our city. We are in a renaissance of redevelopment, with new entrepreneurial businesses and partners. We are working towards solutions on housing and roads, bringing public art and improving our recreation opportunities.
I want to continue this path, build our recreation center, create policies that support new housing, better, cleaner and more accessible transit and sustainable funding for our roads while protecting our community with adequate fire and police funding.
I care passionately for our city, and offer my public service for the next four years.
What are your qualifications?
I have over four decades of community service and leadership experience, including four elected terms on the LTUSD Board of Education, 13 as the president, one term on City Council, two years as the mayor. Council assignments include serving on the LTVA, Waste Management JPA, finance committee, Cal Fire JPA, City/County committee, Clean Tahoe, recreation center and affordable housing subcommittees.
Community leadership includes, being a founding member for Bread and Broth, Tahoe Magic, the Tahoe Women’s Community Fund, the SLT Cabinet of the El Dorado Community Foundation, and serving 16 years as the Lake Tahoe Collaborative Chair.
What is the No. 1 issue facing the city? How would you address it?
We have many No. 1 issues, with our roads as the top immediate priority. We desperately need $3 million to $4 million each year to be able to bring our 129 miles of roads up to an acceptable Pavement Condition Index (PCI) with ongoing funds to maintain an acceptable level thereafter. The council went to the voters twice in the last four years, first with a general tax initiative (50 percent +1) which failed. We listened to the community and came back with a designated ballot initiative (66.6 percent) with funds designated for road repair, including the creation of a Roads Management Authority (RMA).
While it received a majority vote, 56 percent, it failed the 66.6 percent threshold required. We must continue to educate, collaborate and work with our community to find a solution that will be supported by the voters. A tourist industry related tax that would mitigate the high use of our roads by our visitors and establishing a RMA immediately to begin looking at funding alternatives and initiatives that have been successful in other communities can lay the foundation for our approach.
The council has asked staff to identify short term, immediate funding for urgent needs, while we identify long term road repair solutions.
Yes, or no on Measure T? Why or why not?
No, with a “however.” I do not believe that banning VHRs in our residential neighborhoods is the long-term solution to the fatigue felt be many of our residents that live with saturated neighborhoods. I do, however, recognize that VHRs continue to have a negative impact on some and that our city can do more to lessen this negative impact.
I would entertain a plan where for each new VHR license granted in the tourist core area, two would be subtracted from our residential cap. A descending cap would incentivize VHRs in the TCA where visitors could walk and be encouraged to park once. We have always had VHRs, but not adequately enforced and regulated VHRs.
New, stricter enforcement and regulations are making a difference. I fear that with a ban, the same homes will still be rented, but without enforcement, without being taxed and without regulations. This will hurt our city and our neighbors.
All this being said, I believe in the democratic process. If Measure T passes, together we will look at how our city can work with our residents, businesses and guests to protect our tourist economy and vibrant tourist destination.
What is your position on the Loop Road?
Our city’s tourist core area was absolutely transformed through redevelopment years ago thanks to the vision of the City Council and staff at that time. Now people walk, shop, enjoy the dining and entertainment offerings and bookend their ski day at the gondola. I believe the “Loop Road” or Tahoe Community Revitalization Project can do the same.
I support this project because it will bring funds to transform our casino corridor from a highway into an additional, walking, eating and outdoor welcome for our visitors while diverting through traffic away from this gathering place for both the Nevada and California sides. This area has not been updated in decades.
In addition, the improvements will add positively to our city’s future economically and aesthetically as well. My preference would be to have the casino corridor completely closed and have a large plaza between the casinos.
This project is about revitalization, renewal and reducing traffic impact in our tourist area. I do not know if we will ever see it, but I think it is a positive for the future of our economy on the South Shore.
The city’s recently passed cannabis ordinance was the subject of a successful referendum. How should City Council proceed on this issue?
The referendum was on ordinance # 1118, one of two cannabis ordinances. Our council cannabis sub committee met and will be bringing forward recommendations to the council for any substantive changes to the ordinance. Barring this being successful, an additional option is to put the ordinance to the voters in a special election or the next election cycle.
As is true with all ordinances, the council must make decisions that follow our laws and represent the best interests of our community.
How should the city address sustainable funding for roads?
I addressed this earlier but will add some ideas for finding sustainable funding for our roads. I would first look to best practices and approaches of other comparable cities. Because our roads are so heavily impacted by our visitors, I would entertain looking at a tax or fee, restricted to our roads, that would be levied on our visitors primarily.
Our sales tax roads initiative would have achieved this with about 70 percent of our sales tax generated from our visitors. It applied to our residents as well, so perhaps a consideration would be to find a funding source that excludes a residential tax burden. In the mean time, as stated earlier, we have asked staff to identify options, if they exist, for some immediate funding, knowing that it is one time, unsustainable funds.
For the future, ongoing, sustainable funding is imperative for long range repair, long term roadcontracts and ongoing upkeep of our 129 miles of city roads.
How would you evaluate the current council’s handling of the previous city manager’s departure?
The council has a resignation agreement with our former city manager that prohibits me from speaking to this personnel issue in any specific manner. However, I can speak to the contract we had with Mary Egan.
The council relied on legal advice from a former city attorney as to whether our contract with Mary Egan needed to be approved in open session of the City Council. He told us it did not need to go on the agenda. After his departure and with advice from subsequent legal counsel, we correctly brought the contract in open session for approval, but it was a delay.
The California Brown Act exists to ensure transparency for the public in government. It also has steps to cure and correct when a mistake has been made, which we did. Our council did request and participated in a Brown Act educational workshop. I can comment that Ms. Kerry brought her talents, her passions and her expertise to our city. We are fortunate to have had her leadership during a time of significant economic development. Her legacy can be seen throughout our community.
What can City Council do to address the lack of affordable housing?
The City Council’s role is to adopt codes and policies that allow greater flexibility to developers to build with increased density and more flexible policies. This past week, the housing policy sub-committee of the City Council, along with city staff, county, STPUD, TRPA, Tahoe Prosperity Center, Edgewood Tahoe, LTCC and other public and private housing partners discussed our current parking requirements for new development and their impact on developers to create a profitable bottom line for building affordable housing.
As a result of this discussion, this, the committee, through the leadership of the Tahoe Prosperity Center, will be bringing forward possible recommendations that help private developers of affordable housing to have us “out of the way” with more flexible policies.
The city is also updating our accessory dwelling unit (ADUs) policy, commonly referred to as granny units. Our housing needs require each agency to continue to bring ideas and solutions to the table. The council must also give priority to developing a long term strategic plan for workforce and affordable housing and align this with a reliable and sustainable public transit system.
Businesses frequently complain about a lack of talented employees. What, if anything, can City Council do to help solve this problem?
South Lake Tahoe has a very low median wage for our, primarily, service industry workers. As our tourist industry has grown, our housing availability and wages have not. Many issues are tied together. Providing more affordable housing, having a public transit system that is reliable and increasing the minimum wage should all be explored by our community as a whole.
Employees suffer when they do not have a minimum of guaranteed hours per week, leaving them with stress and uncertainty in paying for rent, food and utilities. The City Council should engage our local employers to discuss the roadblocks to securing and retaining employees. This is a community problem that we can all work together on along with our chambers as well.
Some community members have raised concerns about your ability to make tough decisions at the risk of angering segments of the community. How do you respond to that criticism and what is the hardest decision you’ve made during your time on council?
I believe this mislead comment is made by others in disagreement to my decision making process. I urge each and every person to watch the City Council meetings and to observe my demeanor and actions.
For each VHR discussion there was a tremendous stress on four council members to make decisions because one council member recused himself due to a conflict of interest. Each decision required a three majority vote to pass. As a council member, I deliberate seriously, listening to my fellow council members, their argument and position and I consider their reasoning and position on each action.
Some council members attend a council meeting with their mind made and regardless of input, they will not waver. I believe in the collaborative, open group process of decision making, where each council person’s views have value, each public speaker has value and my decision should be based on all of these factors. My ethical goal is to make a well educated, deliberative and reasoned decision. Leadership is not about pushing one’s own agenda but rather, making the very best decision for our global community. As a council member, I have found that all personnel decisions are the hardest.
Your current stint as mayor has paralleled some tumultuous times at the city. Why should voters trust in your abilities as a leader?
Many of you in this community have witnessed my leadership skills, abilities and experience for decades. I would say that my leadership abilities have become even more evident during the most tumultuous of times.
I am a steady, strong and professional leader. I do not bash or speak in disrespect from the dais, yet demonstrate by my presence, the expectation that others will act in a manner of respect. I have consistently treated each council member with professional respect, each community member who speaks before the council with the same respect, even when we differ in opinion or action.
I will always put the needs of the city before my personal needs or point of view. I am running to offer my long trusted leadership to the city for another four years because of these abilities. I am reasoned, rational and respected.
This is your vote and your choice for whom you would like on your council. Please choose wisely. Watch the council meetings and speak with your friends. Speak with me as well. Make the best decision for the future of our city. It is in your hands.