Upton ready to tackle city issues | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Upton ready to tackle city issues

When City Council candidate John Upton travels, he sees opportunity in his hometown of South Lake Tahoe.

The 58-year-old, who many consider to be a visionary thinker with a practical approach to issues, has tested this open-mindedness on the open road with his wife and traveling companion, Roxie.

For example, on his visit to the Buffalo Bill Historical Center in Cody, Wyo., he reaffirmed his desire to create a Lake Tahoe historical center.

If a town of 1,200 can do it, then why not one with 23,000 people?

The vision calls for a blend of the story through the eyes of the Historical Society and the environmental education gathered by the League to Save Lake Tahoe and Tahoe Regional Planning Agency. He would also like to bring up the sunken S.S. Tahoe from the lake to incorporate it into the exhibit that visitors could access while here — and more important — come to Tahoe for.

“What we don’t have right now is a grabber attraction,” said Upton, who jogs and reads in his leisure time.

He also shares an appreciation for the arts, which he’d like to build an economic program around.

Those wishing to know if the 42-year resident lives up to his ideas need only look at recent initiatives that have passed in the region.

A few years ago, he served as the campaign coordinator and funding liaison for Measure S, a parks and recreation facilities initiative that resulted in the building of the city ice arena.

Sometimes, it does help to know the right people.

He also used a source from Measure S to help spearhead the successful passage of Measure C, a school bond.

“We made a risky proposition that the community would embrace it at a level that wouldn’t be a (financial) burden to the city,” Upton said of Measure S.

Upton, a Stanford business school graduate, also put his negotiating skills to task as a former El Dorado County supervisor in laying the groundwork that led to the evolution of ambulance service — including the joint powers agreement between the city and El Dorado County

Upton, the property owner and manager of Chris Haven Mobile Home Park, has plenty of experience working in government. But the former city treasurer appears to refrain from taking that for granted.

He’s convinced the city has failed to reach its full potential and plans to use his knowledge of the issues to advance the lake’s largest incorporated region.

“I think it’s going to take everything I’m worth,” Upton said, adding he sees a sense of urgency to tackle the budget issue.

To Upton, what will temporarily help with that effort is Measure Z, an initiative that raises the transient occupancy tax guests pay motels by at least $1 and doubles the business licensing fees.

Upton said he’s been disillusioned by the “punitive” nature of an “ill-informed” group that’s recently formed to sink Measure Z.

He feels the anti-Z effort only shoots itself in the foot because the money goes into the city’s general fund coffers, meaning it helps residents.

He also has been offended by the level of animosity toward the South Lake Tahoe Chamber, of which he’s a member, because of the city’s funding channeled into it.

“The chamber is a generic term. When people visit the community, they expect to get information from the chamber,” he said. “It’s incredible how friendly people can be to answer the same questions.”

Upton hears a variety of responses from the community along the interview circuit and during his coffee chats. Some examples include street sweeping, problems with cable television and intersections with no controls.

“Now that’s a safety issue,” he said.

He’s also getting an earful from residents frustrated with traffic and bothered by housing costs. He agrees the talk of the budget has hit “a financially responsive chord.”

For long-range planning — which Upton advocates — the TRPA planning area statement is up for review in four years, causing a need to look at the document’s validity, he said.

“It’s vitally important that we as a city come down to look at what things on the plan did not work well,” he said.

The city is at a crossroads, prompting Upton to run Nov. 5 — especially since his business is settled and his children have grown.

“I think people know me, and I hope they know me in a positive sense. I am honored and humbled by people who have known me for years, who I’ve asked for support, and they’ve been more than generous,” he said.

His campaign has raised $9,037 in contributions, according to the City Clerk’s Office.

Susan Wood can be reached at (530) 542-8009 or via e-mail at swood@tahoedailytribune.com

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