2 TRPA board members refuse to listen to public

By Kathryn Reed

STATELINE – The two Tahoe Regional Planning Agency board members who have the most issues with the Regional Plan update chose not to listen to the 2½ hours of public testimony on Thursday.

Claire Fortier, who represents South Lake Tahoe on the Governing Board, called out Mara Bresnick and Byron Sher for not taking the time to hear what the locals had to say. It’s their job to listen — even if they don’t like what is being said. (Bresnick is the California Assembly speaker appointee and Sher is the California Senate Rules Committee appointee.) Bresnick attended the morning session Nov. 15.

“It should speak volumes to the community and the state that the two members who are most vocal are not here to hear the locals,” Fortier said at the end of public comment. “We need to stop catering to those who do not live here. Science has proven we can fix the environment. It is entirely doable. Let us do it.”

She told Lake Tahoe News afterward it was not a planned speech – she didn’t even have notes to read from. The room was eerily silent as she spoke.

And then Fortier’s impassioned tongue lashing of her colleagues was met with applause.

When it comes time to vote on the Regional Plan next month, it will take a minimum of four yes votes from each state for it to pass.

Before public comment was taken Thursday at Harveys, the Governing Board went over issues the Regional Plan Update Committee discussed the previous day. Bresnick and Sher, who are not on the committee, had seven points to make. They each mentioned how they were bringing forth concerns of the Tahoe Area Sierra Club.

While the League to Save Lake Tahoe has in the past been in lockstep with the Sierra Club, that is not the case with the Regional Plan update. No one from the League spoke either day this week. The League has been at the table as the conservation industry’s voice. A TRPA employee said Darcie Goodman-Collins, executive director of the League, has made positive contributions throughout the process.

The board, with Sher and Nancy McDermid not present for the vote, agreed to the committee’s recommendation to the Regional Plan update that parcel level best management practices will be required for any redevelopment or new construction until the area-wide BMP project is completed.

The committee was split as to whether a few words should be changed to bring clarity. The board voted to make the changes, with Fortier the lone dissenting vote.

Imperfect. That word was often used by people to describe the Regional Plan update. It’s because no one entity or person has gotten everything they want.

What is different from this plan compared to the one approved in 1987 that the basin is still governed by is that the next one will be updated as needed, not overhauled in 20 years.

Those who for the past two days advocated for the Governing Board to approve the document next month said it is time to adopt the plan and move forward – that the status quo would be worse. Those who have issues with the plan contend it does not protect lake clarity, it would increase development and would create high-rises – that more work is needed before it’s adopted.

Jennifer Quashnick with the Tahoe Area Sierra Club on Nov. 14 spoke about how there is no air quality monitoring going on. Regarding this, TRPA Executive Director Joanne Marchetta was visibly perturbed. She said her agency monitors the air at six sites in the basin at an annual cost of $165,000.

Earlier in the day fire officials spoke about the threat to prescribed fire operations if the Bresnick-Sher proposal were added to the Regional Plan update.

The committee voted not to adopt the Sher-Bresnick proposal.

Twenty-eight people spoke at the Nov. 14 meeting in Incline Village, while 50 people gave input a day later in Stateline.

While all the comments are recorded, no further study of any of them will be done. All the hours of talk were about swaying the Governing Board — at least those who chose to attend. No more meetings of the board or any committee involving the Regional Plan update are scheduled between now and the Dec. 12 vote of the Governing Board. (That meeting will be at Harveys in Stateline, though the time has not been set.)

People, including the economy, vs. the environment are in large part what continue to divide those who have not found consensus. Those for the plan believe the environment, economy and people are tied together. Those who are against or are wary of the plan believe the environment trumps everything else.



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Comments (17)
  1. 4-mer-usmc says - Posted: November 16, 2012

    Anyone unhappy about TRPA Board Member Mara Bresnick, California Assembly speaker appointee, and Board Member Byron Sher, California Senate Rules Committee appointee, should contact the California Secretary for Natural Resources John Laird and indicate their opinion. Secretary Laird’s mailing address, telephone number, fax number, email address, and a direct link to the California Natural Resources Agency is as follows:

    John Laird, California Secretary for Natural Resources
    California Natural Resources Agency
    1416 Ninth Street, Suite 1311
    Sacramento, CA 95814
    (916) 653-5656
    (916) 653-8102 fax

    Laird’s email address: [email protected]

    California Natural Resources Agency: http://www.resources.ca.gov/contacts.html

  2. 30yrlocal says - Posted: November 16, 2012

    Thank you for speaking up Claire! I think the plan is actually the best thing to come out of TRPA so far. It seems more reasonable, fair to all users, and trying to keep all sides happier. I don’t think people will take as much issue with this as anything in the past. They’ve been putting this together for a very long time, and it shows.

    Nothing is perfect, but we need the best plan in place and just do it. Controls have worked in the past…look at our beautiful area. Without any sort of TRPA around we’d have high rises and development around all shores, dirty water, tacky looks and then what would have happened? No visitors, no jobs.

  3. Mark Smith says - Posted: November 16, 2012

    Claire Fortier is absolutely correct – it’s their job to listen to public comment!! This is another example of why Nevada wants out of TRPA. The arrogance and incompetence of the board is both mind boggling and endless.

  4. earl zitts says - Posted: November 16, 2012

    The inmates continue to rule the asylum.
    The sow’s ear into a silk purse crowd persists because they have the faith.
    And no Claire, science has proven no such thing.

  5. Tom Wendell says - Posted: November 16, 2012

    “Come mothers and fathers
    Throughout the land
    And don’t criticize
    What you can’t understand
    Your sons and your daughters
    Are beyond your command
    Your old road is
    Rapidly agin’.
    Please get out of the new one
    If you can’t lend your hand
    For the times they are a-changin’.”

    Bob Dylan

    Clearly, a lack of cooperation and understanding the issues and science is hampering forward movement here. While “proven” may be a bit too strong of a word to describe the science referred to here, the trend is crystal clear…evolve or you will be selected for extinction.

  6. tahoehiker412 says - Posted: November 16, 2012

    The TRPA is about to pass a new Plan that will forever change the Tahoe Basin. Ski villages and high rise buildings will be the new norm. The new plan caters to the wealthy casino, Edgewood and ski industry developers and not Tahoe’s local middle class. It is not supported by science. It’s also not a sustainable economic model – check out Vail, Aspen, and see how the middle class is doing there.
    Claire has personally attacked Mara Bresnick at Board meetings because Mara is trying to do her job – protect the environment that our economy relies on, rather than keep quiet and let the wealthiest rule. Same for Byron Sher. And yet THIS is the story you report on, Kae? Did you ASK either board member why they were not there? How about asking those groups that keep raising concerns about the environment why? Also, please stop encouraging Claire’s inappropriate outbursts at the Board meetings by not giving her the attention for it!

  7. Buck says - Posted: November 16, 2012

    I called John Laird office and knows nothing about Bresnick and Sher. Give them a call. They should at least listen!!

  8. earl zitts says - Posted: November 16, 2012

    Car or bicycle. Which is the evolved one and which is the devolved one?
    Zillions of species are still here from zillions of years ago. I do feel bad for the dinosaurs and saber tooth tigers though the grasshoppers and lizards seem to be surviving just fine.
    Those Asian clams are taking over the beach at the Truckee Marsh. Now that is evolution and adaptability.

  9. WQ says - Posted: November 16, 2012

    I couldn’t even get through this “article,” it is so bad. It is not journalism, not a news article, but an opinion piece. Are you sure the byline is correct? It starts out as a press release for Claire and her opinions.

    Maybe there is some reporting further down. I don’t know, I tend not to read swill.

  10. Bob Hedley says - Posted: November 16, 2012


    What is your definition of swill?

    Kathryn Reed’s article was excellent.

    Claire Fortier’s comments regarding political appointees who don’t do their jobs was refreshing.

    Let the locals rule themselves. They know best what needs to be done.

  11. Hang Ups From Way Back says - Posted: November 16, 2012

    Been this way for years,where you all been?

    Take a look back in the old comments from years past,same old stuff, just few different people who flat butt don’t care!

  12. Steven Frisch says - Posted: November 17, 2012

    I consider myself a dyed in the wool environmentalist. I have spent most of my last 15 years trying to engage businesses to do their part to improve our environment and improve the conditions of our communities for the very middle class and working people mentioned above. This debate highlights what is an increasingly widening divide between old school environmentalism, anchored in ‘command and control’ and regulatory policy to achieve its ends, and a new school that seeks to change the on-the-ground behaviors and practices that actually damage our environment by harnessing market forces.

    For all the benefit regulation has brought–and make no mistake regulation coupled with more than $1.6 billion in public investment, is responsible for much of the improvement at the Lake in the last 20 years–it is at best a holding action, merely slowing the rate of decline, or maintaining stasis in environmental conditions.

    For the environmental and community conditions at the Lake to actually restore the resource, we are going to need a lot more investment. Investment in things like public transportation, fair and achievable housing for working families, good jobs, new technologies, energy efficiency (or zero net energy) and renewables, adaptation to a changing climate, and replacing antiquated infrastructure. The financial resources necessary to create a SOLUTION on the ground cannot come solely from the public sector; private capital needs to be a partner.

    I am saddened by the fact that our local Sierra Club leadership does seem to understand this dynamic. They seem stuck in a 1987 mindset, kind of a Tahoe version of Groundhog Day, where there is no connection between ecology, economy and people. By not understanding this they are actually removing a tool from their kit, and acting against the long term best interest of Lake Tahoe’s environmental resources.

    In the end, environmental improvement comes when you can harness the good will and personal actions of the tens of thousands of people living in the region and simultaneously raise the standards applied to the investment of capital in a region. Sure government plays a role, but time and again history proves the most environmentally advanced regions are the ones where capital partners with government to act differently. All one has to do is look to Vancouver BC, Copenhagen, Portland, and Seattle, they are making real progress partnering with capital investors. What makes Tahoe different?

    Byron Sher, Mara Bresnick and the local Sierra Clubs needs to wake up and break the clock–we don’t want to hear another rendition of “I got You Babe”. It is the 21st Century and we want REAL progress.

  13. David says - Posted: November 17, 2012

    “Science has proven we can fix the environment.” Hmmmm. I think “mitigate the damage” is more accurate. It seems BMP’s are presented as some miracle solution that justifies unlimited development.

  14. Tom Wendell says - Posted: November 17, 2012

    I think you said it rather well Steven F. Thank you for sharing your insight on how a schism in the environmental community is yet another hurdle in the effort to find consensus on how we move our region forward. I seem to remember a catch phrase from some years ago: ‘the project is the fix’ which is a recognition of the need to upgrade our infrastructure to modern environmental standards. Is there not consensus among all parties that 70+% of particulate matter entering the lake is from urban runoff? Is rebuilding that infrastructure with region wide runoff treatment not the best way to change that? How does the “old school environmentalism, anchored in ‘command and control’ ” faction not get this??
    Who belongs to the new school you refer to and how can we engage them to talk some sense into their chronologically challenged brethren?

  15. Steven Frisch says - Posted: November 18, 2012

    Well clearly I think that rebuilding out Tahoe infrastructure (and by infrastructure I mean almost all of our built environment over the next 50 years–which is doable since the average home lasts about 50 years and average commercial building about 35 years in California) and incorporating new design and technology elements.

    Do a Google search for “bright green environmentalism” and take a look at the theories and approaches you find. I think the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense and Architecture for Humanity may be the best known national organizations in the new school. Regionally Sustainable Conservation, Rocky Mountain Institute, Sonoran Institute, Sustainable Northwest are some working outside our region. IN the Sierra the organization I work for, Sierra Business Council, is probably the best example, but the Sierra Green Building Association, perhaps even the Lake Tahoe Sustainability Collaborative (although I doubt they are that aware of the ‘bright green’ framing).

  16. Tom Wendell says - Posted: November 19, 2012

    Thank you Steven. I am an advisor with the Sustainability Collaborative, founding member of Sustainable Tahoe and a member of the SLT Sustainability Commission. I have shared your comments with some of my colleagues and on my blog at transformingtahoe.blogspot.com

    I hope this will generate some discussion within the environmental community, especially the local chapter of the Sierra Club and TRPA board so that we can work toward finding consensus on a plan for a critical overhaul of our infrastructure.