My column two weeks ago on the International Baccalaureate Program (IB) has drawn a lot of response from people who are for IB, people who have reservations about IB, and people who aren't sure. I've had a number of meetings and will have more and have been given a lot to read. I'll be writing a follow-up column (or maybe two) after I've had a chance to study all this – my goal is next week, but we'll see. Meanwhile to anyone who took offense, I did not mean to imply that UNR or community colleges are not good schools – just that, rightly or wrongly, there are levels of prestige in Academe – in my experience differences in quality of education are much smaller than differences in prestige (or tuition levels).
For this week though, it seems to me that much of our experience in 2009 has shown that voting down the proposal to become a town was a mistake. I know, I was one of the early and vocal proponents of the town idea (and the County idea) and so I may be biased. Heck, I am biased. Notwithstanding that, let's look at the evidence.
It is a simple fact that, with the exception of water, sewer, recreation, and trash, the only place we have to go to find recourse for anything that a majority of people in the community might want is to the County or possibly TRPA, both of which have much wider constituencies than IV/CB. I have not found anyone except maybe the owner of the property, who has anything good to say about the Orbit Station, but we have no way to change the fact that it's there – IVGID can't do anything about it, neither can TRPA, and the County shows little indication of giving a hoot.
We have "our" County Commissioner, and I think John Breternitz is a good person who really cares about the part of his constituency that is here at the Lake, but the key word here is "part." Even John has a wider constituency to consider and I probably don't need to remind you that there are people down the hill who have a less than stellar view of us up here, and with all due respect to John, no County Commissioner has ever lost his seat over an IV/CB issue.
I suggest that the problem is one of political will here, and as I pointed out last week it's going to get worse. The County Office of Community Development has issued the report I alluded to last week and it's online if you want to see it. It confirms what I reported in last week's column – that we have become a community where the majority (about 60%) of properties are second homes, that the average income for working people is far below what it takes to live here, and that, as we know, our school population is declining, and as it declines we will lose teachers and services.
The question for me is how do we address these issues, but really that question presupposes that there is something to address – maybe we, as a community, want to go in this direction, maybe we don't. There is no coherent way to answer that question.
And by the way, if you think IVGID should be addressing them, think again. There is a persistent (but erroneous) view that IVGID is a representative government – they're not. The GID in IVGID stands for General Improvement District, and the Trustees are just that – those entrusted with managing (not governing) the aforementioned areas of water, sewer, recreation, and trash. As Trustees they certainly need to pay attention to community opinion, but they are under no obligation to represent that opinion if, in their judgment, following it would go against good management of the District's assets.
That was the whole point of the town proposal – a Town Board would, in fact, be a representative government with broader responsibility for the community and with an obligation to represent community interests. I realize that, politically, a lot of people here have a knee-jerk reaction to the idea of government in any form (though I don't see any of them refusing their Social Security or Medicare benefits), but the current rudderless condition of this community with regard to any coherent plan for our future demonstrates that there is a role for government in some form. Personally, I prefer the direct democracy we practiced in the town meeting system in Vermont, but I'll settle for a representative body that can take on the question of what do we want the community to be in ten or twenty years.