My Turn TRPA: There oughta be an oath
January 28, 2007
Early this month a multitude of newly elected and appointed officials were sworn into office, avowing by means of oaths to uphold and safeguard the responsibilities and obligations they have been given. The swearing-in of officials is widespread and such oaths have been taken this month by the governors of Nevada and California, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the new legislators and many, many others. The only governing body of which I am aware that evades such a public and solemn commitment is the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency board of governors. This body, which has extraordinary powers while serving as both the judicial and legislative branches of government for many of the regulatory areas impacting the Tahoe Basin, are appointed by various bureaucratic agencies and individuals from Sacramento to Washington, D.C. In the absence of a swearing-in oath by the TRPA board members, the electorate has no clue as to whether any given board member is committed to upholding the intent and precepts of the TRPA Compact, the agenda of those appointing him or her, or, even in some cases, the members personal aspirations. I am sure many members of the board have privately and personally clarified their priorities relating their commitments, but I also believe the public has a right to know what these are.This onerous situation is compounded by the fact that the board of governors is made up entirely of appointed members who are effectively insulated from punitive action by those most severely impacted by actions of the board. Clearly, this is government without representation, a rallying cry that ultimately led to our countrys independence. This sort of a governing body has no legitimate justification in our democracy.To correct the problems cited above, I suggest two solutions, both of which are bound to be somewhat imperfect in implementation. First, I suggest the board of governors institute a swearing-in of members with an oath that would be something like this: I swear that I will faithfully execute and uphold the concepts and precepts of the TRPA Compact and the ordinances derived therefrom, and to hold these responsibilities paramount to any responsibilities imposed by the agendas of those appointing me and by my personal interests. Secondly, I propose steps be taken by the appropriate state and federal legislators to amend the TRPA Compact so that at least one half of the members of the board of governors are elected by the residents and appropriate property owners of the Lake Tahoe Basin.I believe the implementation of these two proposals will serve to improve greatly the relations between TRPA and the residents and property owners of the Lake Tahoe Basin. These changes are sorely needed at a time when TRPA is held in disrespect by so many people.Incidentally, the idea of the oath for board members is not new. According to the Tahoe Daily Tribune, both Michael Donahoe of the Tahoe Area Sierra Club and John Frederick of the League to Save Lake Tahoe have indicated the need for the board members to take an oath to uphold the intent and precepts of the TRPA Compact. Myron B Mike Hawkins is a Tahoe City resident.