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Survey says keep trying

Jenifer Ragland

A majority of Lake Tahoe residents are dissatisfied with Douglas County services and support another movement for autonomy, according to the results of a recent survey.

The poll, mailed by the Tahoe Citizens Committee to about 6,000 boxholders, was to help the group determine its direction following the defeat of “Tahoe County” in the Nevada Legislature.

While the TCC only received 152 – 2.5 percent – of the surveys back, chairman Mike Jabara said a 2 percent return on a blind mailing is, statistically, considered favorable.

Of the residents who responded, 54 percent indicated they were not satisfied with overall Douglas County services.

Regarding what focus the TCC should take in the future, the largest response was for continuing to work on a separate Tahoe County. In that question, 59 percent said yes, 5 percent said no and 36 percent had no comment.

“I think the first thing this says is there is significant interest by Tahoe citizens in self government,” Jabara said. “The second thing it shows is that people are not satisfied with the delivery of certain services that people everywhere else take for granted.”

To gain further public comment on the issue, the TCC is holding a Town Hall meeting at 6 p.m. Nov. 4 at Lakeside Inn & Casino.

Jabara said the group will likely have a panel discussion on the pros and cons of self-government and possibly establish a direction that will lead them into the 1998 elections and legislative session.

New county or city?

“It’s clear everybody still wants a county, but it’s not clear that is politically achievable,” Jabara said. “Other alternatives, including incorporation or consolidation of GIDs, will be looked at most seriously. If there is still strong support for the county, we will go back to the 1999 Legislature with that message.”

Vic Beelik, a member of the TCC executive board, agreed.

“At this time, the main thing we’ve got to do is go for a city, see how it is going and maybe try for the county again two years from now,” he said. “As a city we would have more political clout. As a Tahoe citizens organization, we really don’t.”

In the written surveys, the TCC asked residents to rate nine specific programs and services, including schools, road maintenance, snow removal and parks and recreation. The questionnaire also had space for additional comments, where many residents voiced opinions – both positive and negative – about the TCC and its campaign.

Some of the comments urged the TCC to take a watchdog role of the Douglas County Board of Commissioners – to ensure the county comes up with a plan to replace the room tax revenue stream and to encourage new business in the Carson Valley.

Others asked the TCC to continue working within Douglas County to provide more equitable treatment to Lake Tahoe residents.

“Thanks to the TCC, it seems Douglas County is to some degree more responsive,” wrote one Zephyr Cove resident.

Active involvement in the upcoming Douglas County Redevelopment Agency was also strongly encouraged by many residents who responded. About 28 percent said working on redevelopment should be the TCC’s focus.

“From an economic point of view, redevelopment is absolutely crucial to the survival of our way of living,” wrote one Skyland resident.

Comments were mixed on the issue of General Improvement District consolidation. The lake consists of 16 different GIDs, all of them providing individual services to neighborhoods. While some advocated combining the governments, most Round Hill residents pleaded for the GIDs to stay intact.

There was also a significant amount of negative comment directed at the TCC.

“It certainly appears that people were used to obtain casino related goals,” wrote a Zephyr Cove resident. “The TCC lost a great deal of credibility because of this.”

A resident of the Kingsbury General Improvement District wrote, “I felt the committee was sneaky in the way it took money from libraries and Parks and Recreation and was never upfront to the members. The main focus shifted from the schools and the separate county to how much money can we get for promotions.”

At the end of the Tahoe County movement, Tahoe got more room tax money for tourism promotion and local control over those dollars in AB616. Jabara said the reason the county idea failed was primarily because Douglas County officials fought it.

“We went in with three objectives – control the schools, more tourism promotion and better infrastructure,” he said. “In the end, the Legislature made the decision that of all the issues we presented to them, the one they wanted to take action on was the tourism dollars.”

Jabara said the TCC has so far been disappointed with the Board of Commissioners’ willingness to accept the legislative decision.

“Rather than take the county movement as a wake-up call, the commission appears to be using it as a divisive issue with the valley,” he said.


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