Election 2000: Hospital, airport, town council and PUD candidates meet at forum
Nearly all of the candidates for local office introduced themselves to the rest of the town Monday in a live, three-hour debate aired on Channel 6.
Held at the Truckee Donner Public Utility District boardroom, the debate featured candidates for the Tahoe Forest Hospital District, Truckee Donner Public Utility District, Truckee Tahoe Airport District and Town Council.
The debate will be replayed on Channel 6 every Thursday at 8 p.m. until Nov. 2.
The debate was sponsored by Tahoe Sierra Board of Realtors. Mark Schaller moderated the debate, and Kappy Mann served as the timer.
John R. Falk, MaryLou Sullivan, Karen Sessler and Anthony G. Zissimos were the first candidates to take to the floor Monday night.
There is only one vacant seat on the Tahoe Forest Hospital District, which is held by incumbent and current board president MaryLou Sullivan.
Falk, who has been on the hospital board before, opened the debate by expressing his intention to pursue aggressive community outreach.
“Community outreach should not be confined by four walls,” he said. “I believe we need to promote wellness and community understanding.”
Sullivan directed her opening statement to financial reform. Sullivan presented statistics of net earnings within the hospital budget in previous years. She stated the need for a new billing system and revamping employee benefit packages.
Karen Sessler, who retired as an active physician after 15 years of practice, said she felt strong leadership would be required for the Tahoe Forest Hospital Board.
“The board needs to address [affordable housing] now. We need to look to the future as well,” she said.
An orthopedic surgeon at Tahoe Forest Hospital, Anthony “Tony” G. Zissimos cited the employee crunch at the hospital and added that efforts need to be made to retain staff the hospital has today.
“Outreach – I’m all for it, but without compromising available help,” he said.
Questions such as the role of the manager, representation and potential conflicts were raised.
“You can’t divide the physician from the hospital, the two are inseparable,” Zissimos said.
Falk, however, added that the conflicts of interest were real.
In their closing statements Sessler stressed the need for supervision, policy and setting priorities, and Sullivan categorized the role of hospital board members as moral trustees.
Four candidates for the Truckee Donner Public Utility District were present for the debate. Three seats are vacant. Incumbent candidate Joseph R. Aguera was not present.
Patrick “Pat” McDonough, a former Command Master Chief for U.S. Navy Intelligence who holds degrees in business and engineering, said he has always believed in public service.
Incumbent candidate James A. Maass, who has been with the Tahoe-Truckee Unified School District for 32 years, addressed four issues in his opening statement: electric restructuring, water sources, acquisition of Donner Lake Water Company, and telecommunications.
Paul Klein, an engineer by trade, expressed interest in restricting utility district expansion.
Nelson Van Gundy, who was recently appointed to the board to replace Bob Jones, said bridging the digital divide was one of his priorities.
“Truckee has not kept up with the area’s revolution, and we need to change that,” Van Gundy said.
Truckee Tahoe Airport District candidates Ken “K.B.” Foster, Constance “Connie” Stevens, F. Robert Marshall, Bruce Kuecker, Lynne R. Larson, Parvin Darabi and Don Starbard were present for the debate. Candidate George Simmons did not attend.
Only three seats are vacant on the airport board.
Current airport board president Ken Foster announced he does not support new runways, or expanding existing runways. He does support maintaining and modifying the facilities, improving the terminal building and increasing safety. Foster supports the noise abatement committee.
Stevens, a private pilot, said she supports responsible noise control, environmental issues and neighbors’ rights.
Stevens added she would work to make the noise abatement committee permanent, and feels the interest of pilots and non-pilots should be present on the committee.
In his opening remarks, incumbent candidate Bob Marshall stated he is the only board member on the noise abatement committee. A board member for six years, Marshall added that the board must keep the social, economic and physical environment surrounding the airport in mind but without losing the best interest of airport operations.
A resident of the Tahoe basin since 1978, Bruce Kuecker stated improved public relations as one of the cornerstones for his campaign.
Lynne Larson, one of three candidates without a pilot’s license, said she wanted to maintain the first class airport the community has today but would like to see responsible, controlled growth.
Also a non pilot candidate, Parvin Darabi stated she disagrees with the airport’s mission and wants more community input into the airport operations. Darabi also stated she has never flown out of the Truckee airport and that she hopes she never has to.
“Why is bigger always better?” she added.
Candidates for town council took the debate floor toward the evening’s end.
Incumbent candidate Ron Florian was the first speaker.
One of the issues Florian addressed was the need to aggressively pursue affordable housing without compromising the value of mountain living.
Incumbent candidate Josh Susman, a Truckee resident for 18 years, concurred with Florian on the need for affordable housing. Both Susman and Florian made references to some of the current developments in town council, as well as previous accomplishments by the town.
Kenn Rieders expressed his desire to protect the environment and continue research when any environmental issue was at stake.
One of five planning commissioners for the Town of Truckee, Ted Owens presented his desire to serve the community and mentioned the development and contributions he has made to the Contractors Association of Truckee Tahoe, an organization he co-founded.
Mayor Maia Schneider asked the candidates how they would react to a staff recommendation that contradicted how they felt on a particular issue.
Rieder responded he would instruct the staff to go back and study the issue again.
Owens said council members or commissioners don’t have to go with staff’s recommendation.
“I would follow my heart,” he said, “and take a long look at the issue.”
Look for the Sierra Sun’s special election section, featuring in-depth profiles and questions of all the candidates, in our Nov. 2 issue.
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