My Turn: Just what is quality of life?
The work of the Pathways 2007 Forum members and the sponsors of the program is rapidly approaching a critical period during which key conclusions and decisions will be made that will impact Lake Tahoe and the basin forever. Understandably, much of the effort is being directed toward preserving and restoring the natural environment which has been over-stressed by the past (and present) use and development of the area.Much less attention is being directed toward the socio-economic problems of the Basin, of which the quality of life of the residents and visitors is extremely important. In this modern age the mantra of “growth is necessary” is widely held by the movers and shakers. Unfortunately, while growth may be good for some organizations and individuals, it surely affects the quality of life for many others. In North Lake Tahoe, where I have been assured by many residents that they prefer the “mountain village” character and ambiance of the local communities, others feel that growth is personified by the Aspen-like developments in Squaw Valley, North Star, South Lake Tahoe and many other resort-oriented communities. In my opinion most of the local residents and many of the visitors like the one- or two-story buildings, the less-jammed-together feeling and the open areas as exemplified by Tahoe City, Kings Beach/Tahoe Vista, Homewood, Tahoma and perhaps Incline Village. These communities, while needing some restoration, seem to better fulfill the quality of life needs and aspirations than the Disneyland-like, make-believe high-rise urban developments.Unfortunately, the forces of growth are busy. Besides the local retail businesses, the existing tourism industry, the developers, and the ubiquitous government (which reviews every proposal relative to the taxation opportunities it may provide), there are others who view the lake and basin as resources to be exploited. Examples of major proposals that are being explored are 1) the commercial development of the Tahoe City Golf Course, 2) the “suggested” redevelopment of downtown areas of Tahoe City and Kings Beach, which includes four four-story hotels, and 3) the aspirations of the group for the Reno-Tahoe Winter Olympic Games in 2014 or 2018. Any of these proposed developments, which would improve the economic viability of some entrepreneurs, would require revision in the zoning and ordinances that presently preserve the “mountain village” ambiance. Such changes will not only greatly impact the appearance and character of the communities but they will alter the quality of life for the residents and visitors alike. Whether such developments will improve or deter the long-range vitality of North Lake Tahoe for the residents is not known.In reality, the future character of North Lake Tahoe is largely in the hands of the residents. The movers and shakers have already decided on their vision. If the residents have a different vision, they, i.e., you, are going to have to fight for it. The first step is for each individual to decide what you want North Lake Tahoe, the lake and the basin to be like in the future. The second step is to make your wishes and needs known to the decision makers, not only through any Forum members, but through attendance and participation at meetings, through letters to editors and to the movers and shakers, etc. However, you will be most effective if you form local action groups that present unified stands on the issue. Be aware that politicians and bureaucrats prefer to listen, and perhaps heed, one person officially speaking for 50 concerned citizens rather than 50 people each talking for three minutes.Let’s face it, the choice is yours: Is it the beginning of a better quality of life, or the end of an era.Mike Hawkins is a retired research, environmental and mechanical engineer, a 15-year full-time Tahoe City resident, and a member (North Lake Tahoe At-Large) of the Pathway 2007 Forum and a member of its Socio-Economic Technical Working Group.
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