More council candidates
Two incumbents plus one planning commissioner equals more combined years of experience than the town has been in existence.
They all believe in teamwork and public participation, but each has different ideas about how to approach different issues facing Truckee in the next couple of years.
One of the things Don McCormack has learned during his eight years in Truckee politics is that sometimes trade-offs are necessary.
If the town wants to provide affordable housing, he said, the trade off is often the decrease of Truckee’s “green character.”
“That is the trade off for providing housing and accommodating the growth to be a prosperous town,” he said.
“The town is a business and it’s a big business,” McCormack said. “[In a private business] your bottom line is that the corporation has to show a profit. Well, you don’t have that luxury in town government.”
The town needs to provide services, and sometimes it’s difficult to tell if people are satisfied with the job being done, McCormack said.
He said that each council member brings different priorities to the council, but sometimes those priorities have to be revised for the council to accomplish anything.
“You don’t have sole responsibility,” McCormack said. “You’re part of a five-member board that has to make decisions collectively. You don’t have to agree all the time and we don’t.”
Whether each member agrees or disagrees with the other council members, that town council must also listen to the public’s views before a decision can be made.
“I was a little surprised how long it took to get things done [on the council],” McCormack said about his first year in office. “It is because you have to have the public hearings, you have to have various steps.”
McCormack believes land use issues – often the most controversial in Truckee – are the most difficult to understand.
For those interested in getting involved in local politics, McCormack offered his advice.
“Be on the planning commission – it’s a marvelous step. It’s a lot of work.”
He also recommended getting involved in different organizations to meet new people and hear new ideas.
Besides affordable housing and economic diversity, McCormack said one of the most important issues the town will face in the next two years is the general plan update, which he encourages everyone to get involved in.
“The decisions we make are going to be bad if we don’t have public input.”
Incumbent Ted Owens feels there’s one thing the other eight candidates for town council have ignored.
“I am super concerned about the tax shift and no one wants to take a bite out of that apple,” he said.
In the early 90s, California started shifting taxes from small towns and cities, and it still hasn’t paid them back. Owens said he’s worried that with the downturn in the economy, the state will look to towns like Truckee for tax dollars.
His solution: “I think that it’s so important to personally make someone like your Congressman aware of regional issues.”
Owens believes Truckee needs an advocate, one that will bring Truckee to the attention of the state legislature and Congressmen.
“I believe that with more people moving to rural California, rural California’s political voice is going to grow and become a regional voice.”
Although making Truckee visible on a state level is crucial, Owens said one of the most important things about being a council member is to build a working relationship with other local government organizations.
Earlier this fall, Owens worked with Placer County Supervisor Rex Bloomfield to work out an agreement on wood stoves that cause much of Truckee’s winter air pollution. He also said he supports the Truckee River Watershed Council and their work with the Truckee River TMDL in the next couple of years.
All of the big issues – especially affordable housing – require partnerships, Owens said.
“Affordable housing is definitely a California problem. Truckee has actually weathered the storm quite well,” he said.
Owens hopes the town will ally itself with and organization like the Fannie Mae Corporation that can provide low-interest rates or zero down payment “funding vehicles for housing.”
Owens believes that the general plan update, land use decisions and increasing traffic problems will be important issues facing the next town council.
“I don’t like growth either,” he said. “This town has grown by 7,000 people since I’ve been here. I liked 1988, some people might have liked 1992 or 1995. This town’s arms were open wide when I moved here and we need to maintain that open persona.”
Craig Threshie has a list of things he wants to see changed in the town’s general plan.
He said portions of the 1996 general plan are too vague – and are often the parts of the general plan that cause the most controversy.
“Certainly the general plan update is probably the most important work we’re going to be tackling in the next couple of years,” Threshie said.
He believes there are parts that need to be clarified so Truckee “will achieve its vision much easier and much more accurately.”
In his eight years as a full-time resident of Truckee, Threshie has served on the Tahoe Donner architectural standards committee and as a town planning commissioner.
He believes these positions have prepared him for council, a position he sees as essentially different than other elected positions.
“You’re much more personally connected to the people of the town,” Threshie said.
Being involved in Rotary and the Tahoe Donner Association, as well as running his own architecture practice, Alpen Environs, has allowed him to meet and talk with many different Truckee residents.
“It gives me a very strong perspective on what people are thinking,” he said.
Besides being involved in drafting and creating town documents like the trails and bikeways aster plan, the development code, the 1996 general plan and the downtown specific plan, Threshie has portions of each memorized.
“I use them on a regular basis as a planning commissioner and in my practice,” he said.
As far as the hot issues – affordable housing and land use – go, Threshie has a couple of his own ideas.
“There are some solutions to affordable housing that can accommodate the need for open space,” he said.
One of his ideas is to create rental units that are attached to existing houses.
“It really gives us the ability to house workforce people without creating new infrastructure and disturbing land. It also gives a tremendous number of people the option to live in an apartment building or townhouse.”
Threshie also believes the town could create more incentives to make building affordable housing more attractive to developers.
“I know how tough it is to make the numbers work on affordable housing,” he said.