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Supervisors respond to Placer County public health officer’s resignation

After supervisors declared the end of Placer County’s state of emergency last week, Public Health Director Aimee Sisson, appointed in October 2019, announced her resignation.

Since Gov. Newsom issued a stay-at-home order on March 19, 14,606 people have died in California. The national total of deaths is approaching 200,000 people.

As of Thursday morning, five Nevada County residents had died from COVID-19. Thirty-nine people have died in Placer County since the pandemic arrived on the West Coast in late February.

The number of cases will only get higher, Placer County District 1 Supervisor and Board Chair Bonnie Gore said, but the death rate, albeit tragic, is significantly more manageable than it was at the pandemic’s onset.

“The numbers of (additional) cases per day have been declining since mid-July,” Gore said. “Of course cases are increasing because it’s a virus, and people are still getting it.”

This slowing trend, combined with findings from Gore’s individual outreach to nonprofits providing social services in the area, are what inspired her vote in the board’s unanimous decision to end the state of emergency on Sept. 8, she said.

“Domestic violence calls have gone up,” Gore said. “Calls for the Mobile Crisis Hotline have gone up. Suicide attempts and suicides have gone up. The increase in isolation, anxiety and depression has increased, not to mention the economic impact the shutdown has had on individuals because they can’t work or their businesses aren’t surviving.”

Gore said she verified the trends with the county’s Health and Human Services Office. Adult System of Care Director Amy Ellis told her that calls to the mobile crisis hotline are up 40%, she said. Aside from government guidance, Gore said she contacted the sheriff and local nonprofits focused on providing social services to assess more complex damages of the virus.

District 5 Supervisor Cindy Gustafson, whose district includes eastern county, concurred. Gustafson said she voted in favor of lifting the emergency order after weighing the county’s current capacities — available PPE and hospital beds — with the secondary impact of the government-enforced shutdown on financial and mental health issues.

CRISES EXTEND BEYOND CORONAVIRUS

Until 2020, the national unemployment rate had not risen into the double digits since 1982, and before that — 1940. By mid-July, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 13.3% of Californians were unemployed and 12.4% of Californians underemployed. The United States as a whole’s unemployment rate is 8% — up from last month, still twice that of pre-pandemic.

In a May 2020 Sierra Sun article on the region’s financial health, Liz Bowling of the North Lake Tahoe Resort Association estimated 60% of the Truckee-Tahoe region was jobless at the time. The Employment Development Department records that March unemployment rate jumped from 4.1% to 13%. Placer County’s Business Development Manager Paul Griffith said the last hard unemployment numbers his office has are from July — at 9.8%.

According to the Washington Post, a $1,200 relief payment to 80 million people in April was part of the $2.2 trillion government subsidy via the CARES Act, which also offered relief to big corporations, small businesses, state and local governments and public health — in that order. The additional $600 unemployment benefits recipients got on top of their state’s unemployment insurance rates ended in July.

Today, that means the average registered unemployed Californian receives roughly $370 a week, or $1,480 a month. According to a Californian listing service, the average rent in the state is $1,420.

The financial tensions, combined with their mental impact in a new age devoid of regular human contact, have created a crisis of their own, Gustafson said. Operating and non-operating small business owners are struggling alike, and the state of emergency denied them their “livelihood.”

Gustafson said the board met with a panel of experts, including Sisson and Nobel laureates, over a month ago to determine the true cost of the emergency order-imposed restrictions.

“The board debated, because it’s a little bit like crying wolf,” Gustafson said, explaining that part of the motivation for lifting the emergency order was to be trusted and an act of trust. “It’s an emergency, but really, what are the factors? An emergency is different. It’s still a crisis.”

Gustafson said when used in a governmental context, an emergency implies a resource shortage. In any case, Gustafson added, the crisis has now expanded beyond the novel coronavirus.

“You declare an emergency so you can take extraordinary actions,” Gustafson said. “Maybe in the case of a fire or a flood. We’re seven months into this.”

“It’s a mental health crisis, it’s a food insecurity crisis, it’s an unemployment crisis.”

‘NO LONGER EFFECTIVELY SERVE’

“It is with a heavy heart that I submit this letter of resignation,” Sisson wrote on Sept. 8. “Today’s action by the Placer County Board of Supervisors made it clear that I can no longer effectively serve in my role as Placer County Health Officer and Public Health Director. I intend to remain in my current position until September 25 to facilitate a smooth leadership transition. I am grateful to have been granted the tremendous privilege and responsibility of protecting and promoting the health of Placer County’s 400,000 residents over the last 10 months.”

Gustafson said competing needs of the related crises caused by the pandemic puts public health officers in a horrible position.

Sisson’s resignation comes with a slew of resignations from public health officials statewide. Kaiser Health News and the Associated Press reported that 49 state and local public health leaders have resigned, retired or been fired since April across 23 states. Dr. Ken Cutler retired as Nevada County Public Health Official in July.

Gore said she appreciated Sisson’s guidance and steadfastness over the last six months.

“I respect the work Dr. Sisson has done for us, especially in the last six months,” Gore said. “I also respect her decision to resign. Our board took a position that she could not support, and she made that decision. I respect that.”

Gore said public health officers take direction from the California Department of Public Health, an overhead institution that is physically distant from a particular region’s varied and changing needs.

“My job, our board’s job, is to look at the health of our community as a whole,” Gore said. “That includes as a result of the shutdown the effect on the mental and emotional health of my constituents.”

Gustafson said Dr. Rob Oldham, who served in the county seat from 2014 to Sisson’s appointment in 2019, will return to the position after Sisson departs Sept. 23.

According to the Placer County website, Oldham’s return comes “after serving for the last year as chief medical executive for Sutter Center for Psychiatry in Sacramento and as medical director of acute psychiatric services across the Sutter Health system in California and Hawaii.”

Gustafson said she hopes the trust between government and state will go both ways. Gustafson said her constituents trust her to vote in their livelihood’s best interest and hopes they, in turn, mask up and sanitize.

Rebecca O’Neil is a staff writer with The Union. She can be reached at roneil@theunion.com.

Nevada County surpasses 500 COVID-19 cases, 31 active

UPDATE on Sept. 18, 2020

Nevada County has surpassed 500 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with Thursday afternoon’s update announcing a total of 503, 31 of which are active cases.

Five people have died, 467 are considered recovered. Three patients are currently hospitalized.

The reported number of tests conducted remained at 18,556 at the Nevada County coronavirus dashboard.

ORIGINALLY POSTED:

The total number of confirmed COVID-19 cases in Nevada County increased by less than 0.05% since last Thursday, Sept. 3, standing at 496 cases as of noon Wednesday.

Of those, 443 have recovered and 48 cases remain active. There have been five deaths in Nevada County, none of which took place in September.

According to Nevada County’s coronavirus dashboard, 196 cases are in eastern county area of Truckee and 300 in western Nevada County.

In Placer County, total case numbers have reached 3,353, up from 3,238 last week. There have been 39 deaths. Since the Sierra Sun’s report last week, Covid-19 has taken 3 more Placer County lives. There have been 3,025 likely recoveries.

Mid-Placer County did not experience any growth in cases this week.

Time for the fun election: Best Of North Lake Tahoe & Truckee kicks off

Year after year we’re amazed at the number of nominations we receive for the Best of North Lake Tahoe & Truckee contest. This year, even in the throes of pandemic, is no exception.

You have shown your support for the businesses and people you believe are the best in the business at what they do. We, and those you nominated, certainly appreciate the support.

While we received thousands (yes, thousands) of nominees, the hard truth is that not all of the nominees make it through to the finals. Unfortunately, only the top nominees make it through to the finals. Depending on the number of nominations, some categories were closer than others, which is why some may have more (or less) than others that made it through.

Regardless, congratulations to everyone who squeezed through to the finals. Here is where it gets fun.

Some will run away with their category in a landslide, and others will be in a dogfight until the end. It all boils down to votes, which began Sept. 14 and runs through Monday, Sept. 28.

It’s important to note that you can come back and cast your vote every day (one per category). From here on out, it’s all about the number of votes. Even if your favorite didn’t make it through, maybe consider supporting your next favorite — because if we’ve learned anything this year it’s that these businesses deserve it.

From having to deal with complete shutdowns to changed business models to everything else under the sun that 2020 has rained down, or stood at risk of burning down, our locals and business community deserve a ton of credit for rolling with the punches.

This should be an exciting time. We should have fun with this. It’s meant to be a positive experience for the businesses and rewarding them for being the best at what they do. The last thing we want to have happen is to turn this into a negative experience — we’ve had plenty of that this year and nobody needs any more. Let’s keep the buzz upbeat and supportive.

Every year our technology gets better to help us prevent ballot stuffing (a.k.a. cheating). We want to ensure the winner is indeed the true winner. So if you are thinking that creating multiple ghost email accounts and voting will work, I assure you, it will not. Make our job easier and just don’t do it so we don’t have to go through the process of discounting that vote. OK, rant over.

To recap: support finalists/favorites by voting daily. If they win there are some benefits that come along with that so we’re certain they will be truly thankful. They’ve already gone through a lot this year, so if they can get a leg up by getting your vote, it could go a long way for the rest of the year and into 2021.

Once again, congratulations to our finalists and good luck!

To see the list of finalists and cast your vote, visit at https://tinyurl.com/bestofntahoetruckee

Sierra Sun Ad Director Rob Galloway can be reached at rgalloway@tahoedailytribune.com or 530-542-8046, Publisher Don Rogers at drogers@sierrasun.com or 530-477-4299.

Obi Kaufmann to host virtual walk of burned forest

As historic wildfires continue to burn across much of California, Oakland writer and naturalist Obi Kaufmann is hoping to shed light on fire ecology and fire history by hosting a virtual walk through a burned forest in the Sierra that is in the midst of recovery from a fire a few years ago.

On Friday, Sept. 25, Kaufmann and a small crew will take viewers on a live tour of a burned out area, offering his perspective on the history of fire in California while discussing fire behavior and other aspects of climate and human development.

“Throughout the walk, I’ll be balancing my presentation between an analysis of fire ecology with a cursory survey of fire-history in California and what fire means to our ever-evolving identity as Californians in the 21st century — a history that includes so many wrong, bad and terrible policy-truths that needed to be reckoned with, from ecological naivety to outright colonialist violence,” said Kaufmann.

The walk will serve as part of a virtual book tour for Kaufmann, who released his third book, “The Forests of California,” on Sept. 8.

The location of the walk has yet to be determined said Kaufmann, but will likely be somewhere on the west side of the Pacific Crest Trail or in the eastern Sierra. During the walk, which is being sponsored by the Shane McConkey Foundation, Sierra State Parks, and Word After Word Books, Kaufmann said he’ll review three tiers of fire at scale across the landscape, including flame, fire behavior, and fire regime — the general pattern in which fires naturally occur in a particular ecosystem over an extended period of time.

Through the walk Kaufmann said he hopes to showcase a unique environment and how it’s recovering from wildfire while also advocating for forest stewardship.

“The real value, the real gold in the California mountains is not the pretty rock that guy found in the river by our state’s capital, but the biodiversity, the intact habitat network that has a very different and unique relationship to fire that involves not only adaptability to it but dependency on it in regularized, normalized fire regimes,” added Kaufmann.

“What I’m very encouraged by is that fire ecology is in the popular mind as it has never been before, and there’s no sign that’s going to go away. California’s calamitous conflagration is of this year, of last year, of 2018, of 2017, and then looking forward 2021, 2022, perhaps for decades to come we’ll be dealing with fire in a way that we haven’t since American settlers. It will define so many aspects of our relationship to this wonderful resource mosaic that is California’s arboreal world.”

The hike will conclude with a live question and answer session hosted by local skier Amie Engerbretson.

Tickets to the virtual event, Walk with Obi: Burned Forests of the Sierra, available at www.walkwithobi.eventbrite.com. Cost for the event ranges from $10 for general admission up to $145 for the event and Kaufmann’s three books.

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at jscacco@sierrasun.com or 530-550-2643.

Tahoe Film Fest plans for December

The 6th annual Tahoe Film Fest plans to take place Dec. 3-6.

Beginning over six months ago, movie production was halted, movie theaters were closed and film festivals were postponed.

On Sept. 2, Venice Film Festival brought together eight of the top film festival directors from Europe to the red carpet and opened their festival in Italy.

It was a celebration of films and a celebration to reopen movie theaters and film festivals. Many films are now back in production as well as several television series which have been given a greenlight to start their new season.

Tahoe Film Fest has begun to invite films and filmmakers for this year’s festival in December. While remaining vigilant, Tahoe Film Fest organizers are optimistic about the date.

The festival will be different with social-distancing, masks and other safety protocols.

For more information visit, www.tahoefilmfest.com.

It ends where it begins: The full-circle journey of Tahoe’s salmon

“I love swimming here because I can see everything on the bottom, and I don’t have to worry about accidentally touching a fish. I don’t think there are any,” I overhear a little girl say while splashing in the clear, teal waters of Skunk Harbor.

For many swimmers in Tahoe, the underwater world of the alpine lake that plummets to a maximum depth of 1,644 feet is a total mystery. In part, that’s because it’s rare to see fish swimming anywhere near the water’s surface.

But 60 to 100 feet below, there are massive schools of fish circling the lake — from lake trout and mountain whitefish to rainbow trout and Tahoe suckers. The life cycles of these fish, however, pale in comparison to the fascinating journey of the kokanee salmon.

From its questionable “accidental” introduction into Lake Tahoe to the fish’s return to its home creek for spawning, the kokanee salmon tells a story of the interconnectedness of Tahoe’s underwater ecosystem.

ACCIDENT OR EXPERIMENT?

Kokanee salmon were introduced into Lake Tahoe in 1944 by a fish hatchery in Tahoe City, but the circumstances surrounding their introduction are murky.

“We’ve heard two different versions,” says Jean Norman of the U.S. Forest Service Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit’s interpretive services department. “One is that a couple of employees were out cleaning the tanks and, oops, it overflowed and some of the fish rolled into the lake. The second version is that they decided to experiment and see if the kokanee would take to the lake and released fingerlings on purpose.”

And take to the lake they did. After a few years, the kokanee began to spawn in Taylor Creek, and annual stocking of salmon fingerlings began soon after, to the delight of sport fisherman (though that ceased just a few years ago).

At maturity, the blue-silver kokanee grow to roughly 12-16 inches in Lake Tahoe where they feed primarily on zooplankton.

“They swim in large schools, usually clockwise, circumnavigating the lake over and over throughout the year,” explains Norman.

HOME IS CALLING

In late September, the Forest Service increases the flow of water from the dam at Fallen Leaf Lake through Taylor Creek and into Tahoe.

“When fall rolls around, the fish sense the drop in temperature and the change in light due to shorter days,” says Norman.

Taylor Creek, a 2-mile tributary in South Lake Tahoe, is the ideal spawning ground for the kokanee due to the creekbed’s pea-sized pebbles that allow the fertilized eggs to be concealed while still receiving oxygen from the water’s flow.

“When a salmon is hatched, the smell of its birth place is imprinted. And after circling the lake over the years, the salmon knows all the distinct smells of the creeks and which one is home,” explains Norman.

While drought years have forced salmon to attempt to spawn in another of Tahoe’s 63 tributaries, Taylor Creek remains the primary spawning ground for the kokanee.

Sensing the change in seasons and the smell of its birthplace, the salmon congregate at the mouth of Taylor Creek as they slowly begin to transform in anticipation of spawning. The females turn to pink with green tinges, while the males take on a deep red and develop a hump on their back, a hooked jaw and sharp teeth. It’s all about attracting a mate and fending off aggressors that may try to interfere with procreation.

“The male is trying to attract the female, and when he heads up Taylor Creek in the fall, he is the one that has to be a smart fish to find the right location to have their rocky nest known as a redd,” says Norman. “If it has small pebbles, it’s a good location, and he’s going to stake it out and patrol it and not let any other males take it.”

If a female deems the male attractive and the redd well-selected, she turns on her side and uses her tail to dig a 4- to 6-inch deep hole where she deposits her eggs. Depending on her age, between 2 to 4 years old, she lays anywhere from 400 to 1,200 eggs, sometimes in multiple redds.

During this time, Taylor Creek is flush with bright red salmon, and it’s a sight to behold. The Taylor Creek Visitor Center has a boardwalk that follows the creek with educational information for all ages. Though a rarity, some visitors may catch a glimpse of a black bear taking advantage of the ample food source.

October is the month for peak viewing, with the Forest Service’s family-friendly Fall Fish Festival slated for Oct. 3 and 4; however, there are still fish to be seen in late September and November.

CIRCLE OF LIFE

After fertilization, the male covers and guards the redd. Both mother and father begin to decompose during this process — a sad but necessarily truth that contributes to the survival of their offspring. Having stopped eating, the female dies a couple of days after laying her eggs, while the male can live up to two weeks to protect the redd.

The roughly 1% of eggs that do survive will hatch three to five months later and remain hidden under the gravel for another two to three weeks before emerging into Taylor Creek as a “fry.” During this time the fry must avoid predators like brown trout and ducks.

Facing upstream, the fry eats nutrients in the creek created, in large part, by the decomposition of the spawning salmon, who have made the ultimate sacrifice for the survival of their offspring. Soon the fry will grow to a fingerling size and head out to the lake.

And in a couple of years, as the leaves begin to change, the days shorten and the temperatures drop, these very salmon will begin to feel the draw of home — they know the smell well — and return to Taylor Creek to begin the cycle all over again. The circle of life, indeed.

This article was originally published in the summer edition of Tahoe Magazine.

Four candidates vie for three seats on NTPUD board

On Nov. 3, four candidates will vie for a trio of seats on the North Tahoe Public Utility District Board of Directors.

Current board president Sarah Coolidge is running for reelection along with two other current board members, Phil Thompson and Tim Ferrell, while Danielle Hughes is seeking a place on the board for the first time.

Three of the candidates engaged in a forum last week, offering their views on the future of the district.

A longtime North Tahoe resident, Thompson is seeking his third term on the board and opened the forum by speaking on the importance of fiscal responsibility.

“It’s our job on the board of directors … to figure out how to spend our money wisely, and I use a common-sense approach of experiences I have as a general building contractor and general engineering contractor,” said Thompson, who has more than 40 years experience as a contractor.

Coolidge, the current board president, was first elected in 2016, and talked on some of the accomplishments the district has made during the past four years.

“We’ve accomplished a lot in the last four years and there is still a lot to do,” said Coolidge, who, according to her campaign website, has been a part of establishing numerous community partnerships, along with other partnerships with Truckee Tahoe Airport District to fund multi-use trail improvements at North Tahoe Regional Park. “The NTPUD has been through some big changes and I’ve been honored to serve during that time, however, much of this is foundational work that requires consistently to see it come to full fruition for the district and all of its members.”

Hughes is the lone candidate not running for reelection, and brings experience as a previous board member for the Tahoe Resource Conservation District and Sugar Pine Foundation. She also previously worked on water quality, restoration, recreation, technology, and transportation projects in the Tahoe Basin during the past 15 years.

“My experience serving as a director, working for a board of directors, and my professional experience in water quality, resource protection, land use, transportation, and recreation will assist the district in bringing creative solutions forward into executable actions,” said Hughes.

Current board member, Ferrell, wasn’t at Thursday’s candidate forum.

The North Tahoe Public Utility District is responsible for water quality and sewer systems while also providing recreational facilities like those at North Tahoe Regional Park, North Tahoe Event Center, and Tahoe Vista Recreational Area. For more information, visit www.ntpud.org.

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at jscacco@sierrasun.com or 530-550-2643.

NIAA ratifies changes for 2020-21 sports calendar

The Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association voted unanimously Wednesday to ratify changes to the 2020-21 high school sports seasons.

Each season will last six competitive weeks, and will begin in early January as follows:

Winter Season Sports

(6 competitive weeks)

Practice begins Saturday, Jan. 2, 2021

First contest may be held Friday, Jan. 14, 2021

Last contest Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021

Fall Season Sports (6 competitive weeks)

Practice begins Saturday, Feb. 13, 2021 (Football)

Practice begins Saturday, Feb. 20, 2021 (all sports except Football)

First contest may be held Friday, March 4, 2021

Last contest Saturday, April 10, 2021

Spring Season Sports (6 competitive weeks)

Practice begins Saturday, April 3, 2021

First contest may be held Friday, April 15, 2021

Last contest Saturday, May 22, 2021

Leading up to the first organized practice dates, out of season regulations will be in place through Jan. 1.

Executive Director Bart Thompson spoke of the possibility of holding fall sports in the coming weeks, but indicated that due to the National Federation of State High School Associations Sports Medicine Advisory Committee’s transmission risk assessment, higher risk sports like football and soccer would ultimately lose their season.

When high school sports resume, there are plans for potentially requiring face coverings in baseball, softball, and volleyball. Track and field, and cross-country will utilize staggered starts when possible.

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at jscacco@sierrasun.com or 530-550-2643.

Pandemic lessons: What Tahoe officials are learning from COVID-19

When the pandemic began to take hold in the U.S. six months ago, it was hard to imagine the implications this would have for the communities surrounding the Jewel of the Sierra.

In the ensuing months, we’ve seen our health-care workers around the lake go above and beyond the call of duty. We’ve watched businesses close, pivot and (sometimes) reopen, while employees adapt to working from home or, worse, not working at all. We’ve seen restaurants and bars struggling to keep up with ever-changing guidelines and diminished capacity. We’ve felt angered and confused as our public lands are littered with trash as our land managers are stretched thin. We’ve fretted over school reopenings and virtual learning. We’ve pondered questions of overtourism and the blessing and curse that is a visitor-dependent economy.

We may not be through with the devastation caused by COVID-19, but there are undoubtedly lessons we can glean from these chaotic months thus far — and Lake Tahoe’s leaders and organizations agree.

“A lot of the issues that we’ve faced pre-pandemic were just exacerbated during — the economy and tourism, transportation and housing, fire risk — all of the things that folks who live here worry about,” said Claudia Andersen, CEO of Parasol Tahoe Community Foundation. “Since in this current state of the world we are all learning to pivot and do things differently, maybe it’s an opportunity to look at our chronic problems differently.”

As an organization that promotes nonprofit collaboration, Andersen has seen more than ever the importance of partnerships during the pandemic — a sentiment echoed by the Jeff Cowen, public information officer at the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.

“The basin-wide partnerships we have been building for decades are paying huge dividends in recreation site management, sharing resources, approaches, and information,” said Cowen.

‘OUT OF BALANCE’

As California and Nevada prepared to reopen for travel, a steering committee comprised of the TRPA, agencies from around the lake and regional tourism boards met multiple times a week to address issues like overcrowding, litter and parking.

“Tourism is out of balance with the finite resources and with the infrastructure we have. It is a problem that we’ve been working on,” said Cowen, pointing to the SR 89 Corridor Plan, which proposes parking reservations and reserved public transit as a solution to dispersing visitation at high-pressure areas along the highway like Emerald Bay.

It’s a balancing act that residents of Incline Village are familiar with, according to Tim Callicrate, chairman of the Incline Village General Improvement District Board of Trustees. With COVID-19 necessitating social distancing, IVGID took extra steps to ensure the private community beaches were reserved for residents and their guests.

“This summer, despite all of the other craziness, the residents of Incline and their guests have had a much more enjoyable experience at our beaches because of the restrictions that have always been there, but through the years have been taken advantage of by some individuals,” explained Callicrate.

“We are up here in an economy that is heavily dependent on tourism … we have to find that fine line of how much of what we do we gear towards tourists and what we need to do for our full-time, year-round residents. We’ve been coming up to that critical point in Incline and Crystal Bay over the last 10 years; COVID just really amped it up.”

That dependency on tourism has gone too far, to the detriment of our communities, asserts Heidi Hill Drum, CEO of Tahoe Prosperity Center, and the pandemic has only made that clearer.

“We need to diversify our economy so it provides year-round, house-buying jobs,” said Hill Drum. “What we need to learn is how to become more resilient so that our families and residents that are struggling with two or three tourism jobs don’t need those tourism jobs in the future because they have one job that sustains them or only one family member works in the tourism industry and the other works in a non-tourism industry. That supports our local residents.”

LOSING LOCAL BUSINESSES

Using data from TPC’s Measuring for Prosperity reports, Hill Drum points to a jump from 42% of the basin’s jobs stemming from tourism in 2017 to 62% in just three years. And according to the soon-to-be-released 2020 report, based on regional data, an estimated 5,500–7,500 local workers were laid off between February and April — roughly the same number of jobs lost during the entire Great Recession in the basin.

Since 2007, local-serving businesses, which used to be the second largest industry in Tahoe, have dropped to fourth.

“We became much more tourism dependent in those 10 years, which has put us in this vulnerable position with the pandemic. The pandemic could be a wildfire. It could be Echo Summit closing for two weeks for road repair,” said Hill Drum. “There are a whole set of external factors beyond our control, and we need to take this time to really think creatively about how we pivot our business and serve more full-time residents and not just rely on tourism.”

For Tahoe Chamber CEO Steve Teshara, the uncertainty of the future caused by COVID-19 has underscored the importance of long-term planning for local businesses.

“It’s great to have these emergency government programs, but the world is a very fickle place these days. Things could happen, whether it be weather, fire, or lots of different scenarios,” notes Teshara.

Teshara points to the newly formed The Resilience Fund – Sierra, in partnership with Sierra Business Council, which not only provides loans to Tahoe businesses, but coaching to help businesses better position themselves for the future.

“The challenges are going to continue in one form on another,” says Teshara. “A lot of businesses are living on the edge — payroll to payroll, rent to rent — and this encourages people to think in terms of being sturdier in your positioning, given what may come.”

Claire McArthur is a freelance writer and frequent contributor to the Tahoe Daily Tribune, a sister publication of the Sierra Sun based in South Lake Tahoe.

Truckee man pleas guilty of rape, agrees to 6-year, 8-month prison term

John Melvin Carson, 48, of Truckee, entered a guilty plea during a Sept. 8 felony hearing following accusations of raping a teen at his home last March.

Carson pleaded guilty to five different felonies, including lewd act upon a child, multiple counts of oral copulation of a minor, and a count of statutory rape.

Carson pleaded to a term of 6 years, 8 months in prison.

“As prosecutors we have to be careful to follow the evidence and ethically make our decisions based on the evidence,” said Christopher Walsh, assistant district attorney. “But in this case the defendant is guilty of rape, the victim was 15 years old, could not legally consent, and we felt it was important for the defendant to be held accountable for his actions.”

Carson will be sentenced by a judge Oct. 8, in Truckee.

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at jscacco@sierrasun.com or 530-550-2643.