Measure H aims to bring first-class education to Truckee
The Tahoe-Truckee region, like many other rural and suburban areas across Northern California, is currently coping with enormous growth pressures that have the potential to profoundly change the character of our community. How we direct the current and projected growth of the region is an issue that is being vigorously debated in the town chambers, at dinner parties, and on street corners everywhere as people share differing perspectives on specific proposals. It is encouraging to witness these discussions of growth-related issues – even though they become heated at times – because they reveal a community that is determined to shape its own future. Tahoe-Truckee residents are clearly not the type of people who are inclined to passively observe change unfold around them. One of the things I love most about our community is all the independent, free-thinking citizens who are not timid about expressing their views on local issues. Amid all the healthy debate, though, sometimes an issue comes along that unites all of us. I believe Measure H, which will fund a permanent Sierra College campus serving the Tahoe-Truckee region, is just such an issue. No one can seriously question the benefit of higher education in modern society. Likewise, we probably all agree that it has been difficult for residents of our region to acquire those advantages locally. Whether we seek college-level training for job skills, to launch professional careers, to pursue formal degrees, or to expand our personal intellectual horizons, such opportunities have not been easy to acquire in our region. The high cost of attending out-of-state, private, or distant public institutions has for too long presented formidable barriers to higher education in our area. Two years ago, when the Sierra College facilities in the Pioneer Commerce Center opened, that situation began to change. Measure H will open the doors to a whole new era of educational opportunity by establishing the first permanent public college campus in the Tahoe-Truckee region. Measure H would provide $35 million in funding for the acquisition of 73 acres in downtown Truckee and the construction of a small, state-of-art college campus on the McIver Hill site. The new campus will provide the space needed to meet the rapidly growing demand for college-level instruction in our community. At an average annual cost of about $32 in property taxes, I believe Measure H is one of the best investments local citizens could make in our collective future. In partnership with the Truckee Donner Land Trust, Sierra College will develop the campus on a small footprint, leaving most of the property as open space accessible to the public. Trails and paths winding through the campus and the surrounding forest will link downtown Truckee with the Highway 89 corridor. By approving Measure H, voters will be simultaneously supporting open space preservation, higher education, and the development of trails for non-motorized transportation. The multiple benefits from this single affordable bond measure would significantly, and permanently, enhance the quality of life for everyone in the Tahoe-Truckee region.However beneficial the college-community partnerships may be, the most compelling reason to support Measure H is the opportunities it will create for the development of the full human potential of current and future residents. Everyone is better off when learning becomes a community priority and when we nourish high aspirations through expanded educational services. Sierra College has an excellent reputation for providing diverse, high-quality, and low-cost educational programs accessible to everyone. Regardless of our differences in political orientation, occupation, personal resources, neighborhood affiliation, or attitudes about local issues, it’s hard to imagine anyone in our mountain community who will not benefit in some way from a permanent college campus. That’s why Measure H is a unifying proposition on the November ballot – it’s an issue we can all agree on.Frank DeCourten is the dean of the Sierra College Truckee Center.