TRPA trying to bridge gap with public
Few members of the public were in attendance at a MontBleu conference Room on Wednesday, as the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s Governing Board discussed ways to improve the organization’s communication with residents of the Lake Tahoe Basin.
Fewer than a dozen public comments were issued after presentations by several agencies charged with firefighting and recovery efforts arising from the Angora fire.
The sparse public commentary was unusual for an agency whose policies have come under increased scrutiny since the start of the blaze on June 24.
While an unprecedented level of cooperation between agencies in response to the Angora fire was reiterated by several agency officials during the meeting, much of the board’s discussion centered around alleviating the “disconnect” between the planning agency and the public.
“When it is all said and done, a lot more gets said then done. Where is the disconnect and how can we fix it?” asked Mike Weber, the city of South Lake Tahoe’s representative on the board.
Televising or webcasting the board’s public meetings was suggested by Weber and was quickly supported by Nancy McDermid, a representative of Douglas County.
A handbook spelling out TRPA codes in “plain language” could also be helpful in bridging the gap between people’s perception of the agency and the agency’s perception of itself, according to Jim Galloway, Washoe County’s board member.
Many board members felt TRPA policies had been widely misinterpreted or misunderstood in the weeks following the blaze.
“We have to do a better job communicating with our people,” said Bruce Kranz, Placer County’s representative on the board. “This is only the beginning — we could be back next month talking about another fire.”
Public outreach and education will be “critically important” in the coming weeks, according to Shelly Aldean, Carson City’s representative on the board.
No action was taken by the board regarding the Angora fire on Wednesday, but several board members requested transcripts of statements made by fire professionals during the meeting.
The move looked to be part of an effort to include the voice of those who understand fire the best in the re-examination of policies relating to fire prevention in the basin.
“The greatest threat to clarity is clear — it’s fire,” said South Lake Tahoe resident Jim Weinberg, during the meeting. “If you can’t reduce the risk of fire … you’ve failed.”
If Weinberg’s warning didn’t impart a sense of urgency to the board, the two bright overhead lights that began to flash soon after he finished speaking may have done the trick — it was the fire alarm.