My Turn: Homewood, the future and all of us
February 14, 2008
The current political dialogue in this country has, by some accounts, dropped to an all-time low with personal attacks and disinformation a matter of course.
Students of history may disagree, especially if one is familiar with the so-called “McCarthy Era” and any number of other periods in our history where self-interest and lack of personal ethics ruled political process. Be that as it may, actual democracy depends upon active participation and adequate and accurate information.
Of course, the global political climate is just one of our worries. Many believe that if we don’t solve the environmental climate problem, all other political issues will fade into oblivion. The challenge is how to address these climate issues, both political and environmental. Most of us would be hard pressed to link a redevelopment project to solving either of these climate issues, but in fact, that may be exactly how we might begin to address them.
First, I’d like to say that I believe open, honest, robust dialogue is critical to achieving a true democracy. It’s also important in helping to produce a good “built” project, whether it’s a restoration project, construction of a home or evolving true community.
The other critical underpinning of democracy and projects is adequate and accurate information. You don’t have to agree. But you must be honest in the dialog. The Homewood Resort redevelopment team has done more than I’ve ever witnessed in engaging the public, regulatory agencies and public interest groups.
Conversely, I’ve been amazed at the amount of mis- and disinformation put forth by a small but vocal group of opponents. Without going into details, the dialogue that has ensued has been, at the very least, muddied by all of this disinformation.
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Members of the public who have read opinion pieces in this very column have to wonder about the fantastic claims made by some opponents. No, we don’t want “huge,” “massive” development. We don’t want our watersheds to unravel. We don’t want the very fabric of our Tahoe lifestyle to disappear.
But if you check the facts, which are readily available, you might wonder where some of these claims come from. It’s understandable that some folks who are retired or soon to be retired may not welcome more people to their personal paradise. On the other hand, there are a great many of us who have made our living in the Tahoe region for many years, and others who would if there were jobs and living space to do so.
We call this lake home and care deeply about both the environment and the social elements of this fragile paradise. And of course, the economic health is critical to us.
I’d suggest that the linkage to both politics and environment is this: We must come to the table with our intentions clearly stated. We must be willing to engage in honest dialogue and we must be willing to find the elusive balance between economy, environment and social value.
Homewood Mountain Resort redevelopment program offers a rather unique model: 1) Political: Art Chapman has been more than forthcoming with information, making a substantive effort to engage in an open, transparent dialogue. Some of the details, of course, are speculative given the early stages of this project. 2) Environmental:
Unlike any other development or redevelopment projects I’ve seen, Mr. Chapman and Homewood Mountain Resort has been committed to addressing erosion and sediment from the Homewood Mountain area as part of his ownership responsibility before an environmental review was even begun (over 100,000 ft. of eroding roads have been fully restored). This effort is clearly unique and a model for how we can address our water quality issues: a willing landowner who has invested in sediment reduction and monitoring to directly quantify that reduction, not as a result of a “settlement agreement” but as a recognition of responsibility. Of course, these efforts are linked to being able to get a reasonable return on an investment.
If we are to achieve the sediment reduction we need in order to turn the Lake clarity around, I pose the question to all citizens of Lake Tahoe, full-time, part-time and visitors alike: Who will pay?
This is the foundation of the issue: Who pays? TRPA, Lahontan and the counties around the lake don’t have the funding. Other grant funding is extremely limited and the federal government is not in the position to substantially help. The Homewood model suggests one functional model.
If we are to truly create a sustainable future, we’ll never get there by spreading false, fear-based information or waiting for someone else to do our work for us. We need transparency, clarity, involvement.
I challenge all Tahoe citizens to look beyond the rhetoric, check the facts and then roll up your sleeves and ask what you can do. Perhaps then we’ll get a future that we can be proud to be part of.