I've had occasion recently to be present at several very interesting events that say a lot, and not all of it positive, about our community.
Last Saturday the Parasol Community Foundation hosted its annual awards (they really should give these a name – all the best awards have names – Oscar, Emmy, Toni – maybe the Parrys). A couple of hundred people were there and many awards were given to agencies and individuals, and this was one of those occasions where the cliché "it's an honor just to be nominated" really does apply. The judges must have had an awful time deciding on the winners, but they did a good job. Particularly notable was the acknowledgement of the Integrated Services Team – this is a collaboration within the Collaboration designed to find and meet the needs of families in need, and demonstrates the best of what is possible when bureaucracy is eliminated in favor of doing what is needed. Also, I can't think of a better selection for Volunteer of the Year than Bill Horn. This is a guy who could, if he chose, put in an 8 or 10 hour day at IVGID and then go home. Instead, he is part of every major volunteer effort in a village he doesn't even live in and has made a huge difference in his two years as PCC Chair.
I also had occasion to attend the presentation by Boulder Bay, LLC of their plans for the Biltmore and Mariner properties in Crystal Bay. Contrary to my expectations, it was not a slick, all-questions-answered dog and pony show, it was an admittedly preliminary plan and the presenters seemed genuinely interested in getting input from those present. More importantly, they seemed to be taking the input seriously. I was left with a lot of hope that this project would be carried out with a real commitment to collaborating with the community rather than the "public be damned" attitude we have sometimes seen with major developments. There are serious questions and issues to be resolved. With a development of this size, the state line at Crystal Bay could be a real traffic bottleneck in the event of an emergency evacuation of Incline, particularly if Mt. Rose Highway isn't usable. The developers project a seven year phased construction program, with the construction along the road being done first so that subsequent building is masked by the roadside buildings. Still, seven to ten years (remember, seven is ten in Tahoe construction years) of construction is not a pleasant prospect, and one wonders about what Crystal Bay will be like with a beautiful new development on the east side of the road and the same 1930's architecture on the west side.
The last event was at the Bonanza Tuesday morning meeting a few weeks ago. A discussion arose about the possibilities of attracting younger families, businesses, etc. to Incline Village/Crystal Bay in the face of our declining younger population and the declining enrollment in the elementary and middle schools. Much was made of the supposed fact that our schools are a large part of the problem – that we have such terrible schools that young families don't want to move here. As I've pointed out before, there is an unfortunate tendency among those of us for whom World War II is a memory, not a history lesson to state our opinions as if they were proven fact, and there was a lot of this in the conversation about the schools. The following week a number of the younger attendees at the meeting rightly raised the question "who says?" and I have to say I agree with them. I work each year as much as I can with the We the People Program at IHS and am continually impressed with the quality of the education our kids are getting. Last year we had IHS grads go to Harvard, Yale, and Cornell as well as a host of other good schools. Where is the evidence that our schools are so bad, and in the absence of that evidence (and ignoring evidence to the contrary) when people talk about our "lousy schools" as if that were a fact, what damage are they doing? I work with some arguably lousy schools around the US – schools where the kids are in serious trouble and where by any measure they're not getting an education. Compared to those schools, the Incline schools are top-notch, and as a matter of community pride, if nothing else, we should stop bad-mouthing them out of opinion and ignorance.
Finally, a shout-out to Cory Farley of the Reno Gazette-Journal who is retiring after 28 years. Having written this column for three years I have a certain appreciation for being a progressive voice crying in a conservative desert. I've been fortunate in having the support of an open-minded paper, while Farley was a lone voice in a very conservative writing environment. Well done, Farley. You've earned your retirement.