More than 2,000 attend forum at Sierra Nevada College |

More than 2,000 attend forum at Sierra Nevada College

Photo by Jen Schmidt/Sierra Sun news service

When former President Bill Clinton began his speech Friday, he took his time to thank the various political dignitaries sitting behind him.

Then he took time to acknowledge Sierra Nevada College ” and poke a little fun at its president.

“What a name for a college president ” Larry Large,” Clinton said. “Just imagine if his name was ‘Small.'”

After a chorus of laughs and applause rang out from the audience, Clinton complimented Large and the college for the Tahoe Center for Environmental Sciences Building, which officially declared its Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum level certification two weeks ago.

The certification, conferred by the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), is the highest LEED ranking, demanding excellence in criteria ranging from water efficiency to indoor environmental quality. The center currently is the only building in Nevada to achieve the platinum level of certification.

“Thank you for this beautiful campus. Thank you for this Platinum LEED-certified building,” Clinton said. “For those that don’t know … (the platinum certification) is really a big deal.”

Clinton was among many current and former politicians who attended the forum, which marked the 10th anniversary since former President Bill Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore established the Lake Tahoe Federal Advisory Committee following the initial Lake Tahoe Presidential Forum in 1997.

Cynthia McClelland, director of marketing and community relations at Sierra Nevada College, said about 2,000 to 2,200 spectators were on hand for Friday’s forum.

With 600 seats being provided for the public, anywhere from about 1,400 to 1,600 spectators formed an umbrella around the chairs to hear passionate speeches from California Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Nevada Sen. Harry Reid and U.S. Secretary of Interior Dirk Kempthorne, among others.

“We’re thrilled everyone came out. Everyone got a real interpersonal relationship today,” McClelland said. “Pretty much everyone was no farther than 200 feet away from (the stage). That really doesn’t happen, but we got it done here.”

Most speakers Friday referred to the recent Angora fire to remind spectators that another “catastrophic fire” is waiting to be sparked.

They warned spectators that they are responsible for “keeping Tahoe blue.”

“All of you carry the responsibility to maintain this place for the whole world,” Clinton said.

After the forum, California Lt. Gov. John Garamendi commended Clinton for his speech, reiterating the importance of an increased responsibility.

“President Clinton hit upon the most important development in the last 10 years,” said California Lt. Gov. John Garamendi. “And that is that the business community and the environmental community understand that their future is tied to the health of the lake.

Dignitaries stressed better fuels management and defensible space awareness, as well as the importance of making decisions for the entire Lake Tahoe basin.

“I’m starting to hear talk more and more about integrating the issues that face the lake,” said Dr. Zach Hymanson, Tahoe Science Consortium director at the UC Davis Tahoe Environmental Research Center. “It’s clear that the officials are realizing we can’t just pick on one idea or another, but we’ve got to think about the basin as a whole. They talked about balance, which is critical.”

Throughout Friday’s forum, spectators battled hot sun rays throughout the forum speeches, which lasted about two hours.

Many could be seen with newspapers over their heads, while others cupped hands above foreheads, straining to see the stage.

“Obviously you can’t control the sun,” said Michelle Filippini, public relations coordinator at the college. “But I don’t think people cared; it was a great event.”

Despite a very large turnout, Filippini said she was impressed with the crowd’s demeanor.

“To be honest, I really didn’t know what to expect. We were thinking around 1,000 people,” she said. “But one thing I thought went well ” everyone was well-behaved.”

McClelland said it was a struggle to plan everything leading up to Friday.

“To be able to coordinate everything with all the constraints placed on us with all these political dignitaries here, it was tough,” McClelland said. “Considering the logistics, I can’t complain.”

Debi Noonan, executive assistant to the president and volunteer coordinator at Sierra Nevada College, said 20 volunteers helped coordinate the event.

“They were here for the college today,” Noonan said. “They did everything from directing seats to checking in people to putting up the chairs. They made it work.”

Bonanza Intern Evan Schladow contributed to this report.

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