MY TURN: Paying up the nose to live amongst the pines | SierraSun.com
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MY TURN: Paying up the nose to live amongst the pines

Keaven Van Lom

In a letter to the editor, “Local no more,” Sierra Sun, Nov. 29, 2006, the writer said he left Tahoe due to low wages while noting his frustration at small businesses being replaced by corporations, asking the City Council to build parks. You can build parks till the cows come home, but if people can’t afford the high cost of living here who will populate them?

I empathize with the letter writer but he missed the mark on something no one wants to talk about and its ousting the heart and soul of our communities. An atmosphere of greed and the practice of price gouging coupled with the low wages are what undermine the local’s ability to survive.

When the price of gas dropped, it took three weeks for this savings to reach our elevation, and still, gas remains higher than the average; so do oil changes. When I was exasperated that the cost of my chimney sweep was twice as high as in another state, Mr. Home Center sputtered that it was a “specialized” skill. (Apparently, chimneys here are “special”). Business is so good in construction, my plumber went from $65 an hour to $95 an hour. How nice for him but abysmal for me at my older cabin.

I once dined out regularly at restaurants but my friends and I finally got tired of getting ripped off and boycott those that penalize us for being vegetarians and insulting us with ridiculously overpriced vegetarian entrees. The message I get from them is that the second homeowner business is so flush, we can get away with this. Perhaps they feel Tahoe is in the same league as the Principality of Monaco, so too bad.

You know what’s too bad? We spend when we go out and order what we want, but they won’t see us anymore on a Wednesday night in January with no snow on the ground.

Conducting business in a tourist town means you get to jack-up prices because, well, you can. Don’t forget the biggest expenditure for working stiffs: rent. I’d need another column to discuss the topic of shelter here.

Writer Julian Edney sums it up well, “There is a glacial quietness on the topic of rent. Among people who benefit from this silence are landlords who consider themselves sensitive to social issues. They do not want to talk about rents.”

Indeed rents for businesses are high requiring them to charge more. I understand this and am happy most of the time to supportively shop local, however, it feels like nearly everywhere I turn I pay up the nose to live amongst the pines.

I’ve witnessed business owners struggle with finding good help. Until we address the high cost of living, atmosphere of greed and poor wages, nothing is going to change in attracting and retaining good help. I’m one of those good employees, but barely survive because my wage doesn’t meet the cost of living coupled with the constant price gouging I’m exposed to. As for the letter writer, I will probably be joining him as my community slowly forces me out.


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