Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Column 138 – Town (again)

The late Tip O'Neill famously said that "all politics is local." Here in Incline Village/Crystal Bay we could broaden that to "all politics is personal."

The campaign to change IV/CB from a GID to a Town seemed innocuous enough when we started. The Independent Incline group has studied the issue of how to gain a greater degree of local control and how to retain more of our county tax dollars for years – I've lived here 13 years and been part of it that long, and it was already going on when I got here. Some really smart people have put in hours of study and analysis and it's generally agreed (by those folks at least) that (a) becoming a county is the only real way to gain autonomy and (b) becoming a county is not politically feasible. We studied the option of incorporating as a city and found that it was not economically feasible, and so settled on the town possibility as a decent compromise. Not ideal, but better than what we have. The argument is simple – a GID is a limited form of government and IVGID has for years been straining at those limits. A Town is a general purpose government – it can do everything a GID can do, can choose to do more, e.g. planning, but is not required to do more the way a City is. Seems like an improvement to me.

This being IV/CB we knew there would be opposition – there are people here who will oppose any change at all – what we didn't foresee was the degree to which that opposition would have little or nothing to do with the facts of the situation or what was good for the town. Rather, there has been a strain of opposition that has attempted to use the town question to further their own political and personal agendas. To wit:

The conversion to a Town, according to a variety of legal opinions, is very unlikely to affect the beach access issue one way or the other, but those for whom that issue is a hot button have jumped all over it as a platform from which to mount arguments that, while they are relevant to the beach issue, have nothing to do with the Town issue.

From the beginning those of us behind the town effort have made it clear – in those areas that are working well, mentioning specifically the Sheriff's Department, the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District, and the County Highway Department, we had no intention or desire to bring these under the town, and the final formation of the town was contingent on changing the wording of the 1881 town statute to ensure that we did not have to do this. Nonetheless the town issue became a (phony) issue in a turf war between the Fire Board and IVGID.

One of the advantages we see to local control of planning, nuisance abatement, etc., is the ability to affect how our community looks. The Orbit station has been considered an eyesore completely independent of the town effort, but when we used pictures of less-than-attractive commercial buildings and lots in a presentation, the owner of one of those establishments took umbrage and has used an organization that was formed and funded for a completely different public purpose to attack us. Why? Because here in IV/CB politics isn't just local, it's personal.

You should have received your sample ballot this week. Take a look on page 40 (English) or 87 (Spanish): This question is advisory only – Esta pregunta es Ăºnicamente consultiva. What it will allow us to do is get the law changed, get all the ducks in a row, and, if it all works as we expect it to, then convert to a town on June 30, 2009. How about it – care to give it a chance? By the way, there is not likely to be a second chance. Term limits will leave us without the legislators who are supporting the changes we need, county reimbursement will almost certainly go down with budget cuts, etc. For those concerned about the current law making the Fire District vulnerable to takeover, if the advisory is voted down, there is no reason for the legislature to take up changing that law. It's now or never.

No comments: