My Turn: TRPA’s dog and pony show
LAKE TAHOE – I was surprised last week to see no letters or columns in the Sierra Sun from local activists about the Regional Plan Update meeting and approval, so I’ll weigh in. A few weeks ago you published my column outlining concerted efforts by public and corporate entities to deny and discourage real local input into these processes, and TRPA’s meeting on December 12 to approve the RPU was a classic example. What a dog and pony show!
I had intended to speak at the meeting with others from the North Tahoe Preservation Alliance, and having worked day and night for many days to research and prepare my comments, I had to leave before uttering a word.
Here’s why. The concerned public had to listen to almost three hours of back-patting from every conceivable public and private entity approving the update. There were several speakers each from federal, state, county and local governments including the school board, fire district and, of course, private special interests (corporate ski groups, business, scientists, non-profits ad nauseum).
Each group was introduced separately, and after scheduled speakers finished, the board asked if any other teachers, scientists, firemen, etc. would like to comment. I’m surprised we didn’t hear from the dog catcher and the trash collector!
By the time the opposition was allowed to speak, many people in the audience, and even a few board members, had left. But that’s not the real problem. In a nutshell, they leave the opposition’s comments to the very last minute. This is even more egregious when you consider that most of the speakers before us approving the RPU likely make a nice salary, and therefore are getting paid while at these meetings.
The local activist grassroots not only aren’t getting paid, but many are losing money because they have to take time off work or hire babysitters and so on. This proves one simple fact: The grassroots faction is there motivated by love of our environment and our communities.
Real passion and concern causes us to make sacrifices to exercise our constitutional right to speak. Most of those there approving the RPU are doing so because it’s their job and/or they perhaps have ulterior motives that benefit themselves and their friends.
Moreover, we are not wacko, mindless tree-huggers as the powers-that-be would have you believe. We are serious, intelligent people. We are professional scientists, lawyers, small business owners, doctors, environmental policy experts, real estate experts and direct, honest, passionate folks who volunteer much of our spare time to protect Tahoe. And we have no intention of going away. So, seriously, think about it. Who do you trust?
Finally, what is happening to Tahoe and indeed, our entire country, is and always will be about the only real bottom line: money and massive profits. The “triple bottom line” is a myth and a fatally flawed master plan. You can measure profit, but you cannot put a monetary value on environment and community.
If a model does not have the same values in all variables, no comparisons can be made and no conclusions reached. It is a model that can’t possibly work. It is a green-washed smokescreen perpetrated by corporate greed.
Jacqui S. Grandfield is a wildlife biologist, environmental policy expert and 27-year resident of Carnelian Bay.