El Dorado supes candidates hash out the issues | SierraSun.com

El Dorado supes candidates hash out the issues

Candidates for El Dorado County supervisor duked it out at Inn by the Lake earlier this week and made clear their difference on issues from affordable housing and Tahoe’s planning agency to redevelopment and snow removal.

Incumbent Supervisor Norma Santiago and South Lake Tahoe City Councilman Ted Long are vying for the District 5 supervisor seat, which includes Tahoma.

Both candidates claim to be Democrats and in favor of protecting the environment. But the similarities stop there.

Santiago emphasized community consensus, saying the power is in the people’s hands to create a positive future. She said she offers her ear and a passion for making community-based ideas a reality.

Long said while officials need to be responsive to public opinion, they should also lead. He invited voters to choose someone who represents their view best and to make tough choices when 100 percent consensus is lacking.

Long’s oratory skills made him a stronger debater, while Santiago used her on-the-job experience to try to highlight holes in Long’s claims about what a supervisor can achieve.

For Long, the race comes down to a seat on the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s 15-member governing board. He contends he can change the agency’s rules to allow several proposed affordable housing projects to move forward.

Santiago said her experience is that the agency is moving toward being more flexible to Tahoe constituents.

When asked about changing TRPA regulations on construction coverage and height, Santiago said she is hopeful for the place-based planning process and a public forum called Pathway 2007, which will come up with the area’s next regional plan.

“I guarantee you there is green in keeping Lake Tahoe blue,” she said.

Long pointed to Santiago’s endorsements by the Sierra Club and Green Party as shortcomings, and said regulations are still in the way.

“The environment is well protected, I’m proud to say. What’s not protected is our middle class,” he said.

When asked whether TRPA officials should be elected only by people in Tahoe, Santiago said the current board structure allows the region to better attract critical state and federal funding.

“Lake Tahoe is a national treasure,” she said. “That representation needs to be there.”

But Long was staunchly against appointees from out of the region, which make up half the board.

“Do you think the governor is worried that the wrong TRPA appointment is not going to get him reelected?” he said. “I say we are the most trusted people to manage the lake.”

Because TRPA is a bi-state agency with a federally approved compact, any changes to its board structure must be approved by both state’s legislatures, Congress and the president. This happened once in 1980 to shift the board’s representation away from locally elected officials toward appointees.

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