Our View: TRPA’s decision-making process must be examined | SierraSun.com

Our View: TRPA’s decision-making process must be examined

Wednesday’s vote by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency board reminded Tahoe Basin residents of the enormous downsides of being governed by an unaccountable agency governed by un-elected board members.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency has been wandering toward this crisis for years. But so many times in the past when the agency’s decisions were criticized, at least the rationale of the board was clear: to uphold the agency’s mission of protecting Lake Tahoe.

Last Wednesday’s vote to overturn the recommendations of two advisory committees and, more importantly, the opinion of hundreds of local residents on the Kings Beach Commercial Core project was a signal that the agency’s board has veered dangerously off course.

The agency effectively told the residents of Kings Beach that the board knew better than they did. And looking at the pros and cons behind each alternative, the decision was made with no clear-cut environmental benefits attached to it.

In effect, the decision showed that no matter the public will, the thousands of hours of public comment or the planning process, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency board (composed of un-elected representatives from places as far away as Las Vegas, Carson City, Reno, Carmichael, Placerville and San Francisco) can decide whatever it wants.

The sentiment that the public process means little to nothing, something that is being expressed by supporters of the three-lane alternative, is something that the agency must now deal with.

How will community leaders rally public involvement in future projects now that residents know their effort can be disregarded by a vote at the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency board.

It’s a unique political paradigm, neither representative nor democratic, that is now, more than ever, blatantly apparent to anyone who took notice of the Kings Beach Commercial Core project.

Perhaps Tim Leslie, a recent appointment to the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency board, said it best in a 2005 guest column in the Sierra Sun where he lambasted the agency as a California assemblyman.

“It boils down to accountability and responsibility of government to the people versus the arbitrary abuse of power. When we ignore the establishment of checks and balances, arrogant and abusive government is sure to follow. Honest criticism is stifled because of the fear of retribution. It is the stuff that dictators are made of, and it fully violates our American system of government.

The Tahoe Regional Planning Agency is a prime example of this type of abusive government,” said Leslie.

“TRPA is a bi-state agency with a massive blanket of unaccountable bureaucracy layered over the top of otherwise elected and accountable units of government, with the objective of ‘protecting’ Lake Tahoe,” Leslie continued.

On Wednesday, Leslie voted to scuttle the three-lane plan that was endorsed by area residents, the Placer County Planning Commission and the TRPA’s Advisory Planning Commission.

In doing so he became part of the problem he railed so vociferously against, and showed the flaws in the decision-making process in the Tahoe Basin that could cause many local residents to lose faith in their local government.

If Tahoe residents truly desire democracy, accountability and representation in their government, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency decision-making process must be examined.