Anti-Sass campaign rooted in loop road

By Kathryn Reed

Rare is the time when a campaign is visibly launched against a candidate. Welcome to South Lake Tahoe.

Signs began cropping up this week against Austin Sass who is running for the South Lake Tahoe City Council.

The man behind the signs is Mike McKeen, an ardent voice in the anti-loop road campaign. He has formally and legally created the committee called Opposition to Loop Road – 2012. This allows the group to post the political signs.

McKeen owns the Powder House property near Stateline that would be taken out under some loop road proposals. The signs are in this area as well on timeshare properties owned by big backers of Councilman Bruce Grego, who is up for re-election.

McKeen did not respond to an email inquiry from Lake Tahoe News.

However, he has posted comments on LTN. On Oct. 18 he wrote the following unedited comment, “Only funded Bruce Grego AFTER his vote and clarity with the loop road.. Do NOT need members with with strong financial backing from Nevada interests Park Cattle Co., South Shore Vision (former Gaming Alliance, etc.. We already have Claire and Angela, Sass would make the majority. Council members need to represent South Lake Tahoe residents first – we pay the taxes! Our community is not named “Tahoe South”.”

This is what Sass wrote about the loop road in his candidate Q&A for Lake Tahoe News: “If someone came to you and said they wanted to buy your house or business and had no money or financing prospects, how much time would you spend with them? For most of us, the answer would be none. That’s how I currently think about the loop road. There is no money and there are no funding sources to build now. We can all dream, but it’s time to focus on what’s real.

“There is no doubt that the TTD (Tahoe Transportation District) threw a bomb into our community without thinking about how people’s emotions would flare up and how they would answer everyone’s questions. Plain and simple, they messed up. On the other hand, there are a small number of people in our community who are politicizing the issue for their own political and future financial gain. They are just as much at fault in polarizing our community as the TTD was. We also need to remember that this project has been part of the plans in our community for many years and the city knew it was in the works.

“I am open to any ideas that would revitalize any part of the South Shore. I hope investment comes soon because that should improve the economy, the environment, and our transportation, which is key to achieving connectivity.”

In regards to McKeen’s signs, Sass told Lake Tahoe News, “It’s a free country. He can put whatever he wants on a sign within the guidelines of his committee. I will thank him for the free advertising later.”




Print Friendly, PDF & Email

About author

This article was written by admin


Comments (28)
  1. hmmmm.... says - Posted: November 3, 2012

    yeah….why aren’t we named “tahoe south?” it’s got that warm ‘come here, gamble, (try to)get laid, start a barfight’ sort of feel to it.

  2. Steve says - Posted: November 3, 2012

    Hopefully the day is not far off when all of these trashy, unsightly, unnecessary political campaign signs are illegal. Politicians should not be allowed to exempt themselves from laws that everyone else must abide by. The same goes for the annoying robo-telephone calls they have exempted themselves from that the law otherwise does not allow.

  3. 4-mer-usmc says - Posted: November 3, 2012

    On September 18, 2012, former City Manager David Jinkens speaking on behalf of Mike McKeen, and Mr. McKeen both addressed the SLT City Council on New Business Item (c), Update from the Tahoe Transportation District (TTD) on the US 50/South Shore Community Revitalization Project – aka The Loop Road. While I am not privy as to whether McKeen has hired the former City Manager in a consulting capacity Jinkens has addressed and written to the City Council on behalf of McKeen on numerous occasions regarding objection to the location of the proposed Loop Road and issues of eliminating affordable housing. McKeen at that meeting presented to the City Council a plan he had drawn in February 2012 that he calls “The Triangle Alternative”. This plan would move a proposed Loop Road approximately 500-yards from McKeen’s property and would take out other poorer businesses and move further into a poorer housing area of the community. It is apparent to me that Mr. McKeen’s objection is not to a Loop Road but to the location of the proposed Loop Road which would impact him. McKeen has no compunction regarding eliminating other businesses or other low income housing as demonstrated in the Triangle Alternative that he designed and presented.

    It is of no surprise to me that McKeen would spearhead a committee that would enable him to post anti-Sass signs while simultaneously posting pro-Grego signs. As one of Mr. Grego’s largest campaign contributors (along with Angie Watson, another vocal opponent to the proposed Loop Road Project who is also a large contributor to Mr. Grego), McKeen is certainly entitled to throw his support behind Grego, but Grego’s acceptance of those contributions causes me to question if his loyalty is to the community of South Lake Tahoe or merely to those individuals he believes can help him get re-elected.

    Personally, I think that McKeen, Grego and Angie Watson, and possibly David Jinkens, would have no problem throwing someone else under the bus in an effort to advance their own financial and/or political gains.

  4. John says - Posted: November 3, 2012

    McKeen is not stupid. McKeen will accept net present value plus $1 for his business. He is now trying to influence the calculation of that number.

  5. 4-mer-usmc says - Posted: November 3, 2012


    I 100% concur.

  6. Careaboutthecommunity says - Posted: November 3, 2012

    I don’t know McKeen well enough to make a call on whether he truly wants to save his business, or is just trying to drive up the price he could be cashed out for, but not even being a business owner, I see how critical a popular location, and longevity is. Many businesses do not survive a move, how is Scusa doing at it’s new location? and we all know locations in town, that nothing seems to be successful in, and they just become a revolving door of business ideas.

    I would think, that unless I was ready to get out of the business, I would rather take the yearly income, than a cash payout; which I will eventually burn through, and have to come up with a new unproven money making idea.

  7. lou pierini says - Posted: November 3, 2012

    Over 75 businesses were displaced by redevelopment fron 1989 to present and only one remains. Relocation does not work for many.

  8. fromform says - Posted: November 3, 2012

    4 MER :: i have come to the same conclusions, mckeen-wise. in addition,i support austin sass for city council. we need vision, passion, and intelligence now.

  9. lou pierini says - Posted: November 3, 2012

    Nevada money funded 60% plus of Sass run for council.

  10. Bob says - Posted: November 3, 2012

    Rather have Sass than a hole – I mean Cole.

  11. Dogula says - Posted: November 3, 2012

    Yeah, after reading interviews with Sass in the 4 local papers, I don’t think I’d vote for him. He was vague if not actually evasive about his answers to specific questions.
    But I live in the county, so have no say over what goes on in the city; I just get to pay the taxes.

  12. Boycott Naked Fish says - Posted: November 3, 2012

    I used to eat at Naked Fish at least once a week but now haven’t been in months. I have multiple friends that are doing the same. It’s unfortunate because Mr. McKeen just leases the building to the restaurant owner, but I refuse to spend money at a place where it might ultimately go to the anti-Loop Road faction (not to mention the Bruce Greggo campaign. I mean… seriously, people.) I frankly believe that Mr. McKeen is leading the opposition to increase the price for his own personal gain (a view shared by many), but I’m sure he’d claim otherwise. We’ll see in the end if he sells out for the right price.

    Anyway, the same First Amendment rights that allow Mr. McKeen to plaster his property with signs promoting his political agenda allow me to stop spending my hard-earned money at his businesses. That’s why this country is great!

  13. 4-mer-usmc says - Posted: November 3, 2012

    Boycott Naked Fish:

    I completely agree with your comments and feel encouraged that many share your view. This local election is very important for the future of our community.

  14. fromform says - Posted: November 3, 2012

    as a fan of the naked fish for ‘let me count the reasons’, i find it tragic that this wonderful example of what is great about our country has fallen into the crosshairs of the fight between mr. mckeen’s self-absorbed agenda and the movement to actually take some positive action to improve our community.

  15. 4-mer-usmc says - Posted: November 3, 2012

    I’ve heard numerous positive comments about the Naked Fish Restaurant and would venture to guess that if they would ever need to relocate they would likely have the same or greater success elsewhere, just like Scusa has had since they moved from Ski Run. Location alone is not what dictates success.

  16. politics as usual says - Posted: November 3, 2012

    An elevated glass skywalk mall above Hwy 50 from Mont Bleu to the Naked Fish would not require any homes or businesses to be purchased and removed. No loop highway would have to be built. No rebuild of Hwy 50 for a pedestrian friendly area would have to undertaken.
    The cost should be half of the loop road and Hwy 50 rebuild and result in an attractive draw for tourists summer and winter.

  17. Tom Wendell says - Posted: November 3, 2012

    It’s clear that the nastiness and innuendo that currently dominate the national political debate have seeped into our local politics. Someones assumptions about another persons motivations are repeated often enough until they become “common knowledge”. While questioning and second-guessing another persons motivations has become somewhat of a national political sport,
    I humbly submit that conducting a data-driven, solution-oriented debate far better serves the community.

    Let’s see what we CAN agree on before this gets out of hand:

    Our economy, infrastructure and image need a serious makeover
    agree / disagree

    Creating a more pedestrian oriented, shopping friendly, transit served ‘village center’ atmosphere is an important step.
    agree / disagree

    Drive-trough traffic does not translate to walk-in customers.
    agree / disagree

    Re-routing Hwy. 50 east and west of the state line is the best way to transform the core.
    agree / disagree

    The mountain side only Loop Road option should be scrapped and other alternatives should be community-sourced, vetted and approved.
    agree / disagree

    The Hole MUST be simultaneously rebuilt along with any Loop Road alternative.
    agree / disagree

    Old, dilapidated, under-prefoming properties should be identified and bought out to make room for new, green-constructed businesses and housing.
    agree / disagree

    If we can find general consensus on these core issues then a productive, solution oriented can ensue.

    A word on business location. I believe like 4-mer that while location is a contributing factor in a businesses success, it’s the business itself that will insure or doom it’s success. Freshies is a great example. That location was death for restaurants that preceded Freshies there. It was Eric and Melodies’ formula that worked to make it one of South Shores most beloved eateries. Any business that has a loyal following will bring that following with them. In that vein, any thriving business that might be moved a couple of blocks into a new, green-constructed, walk-in friendly location for Hwy. re-routing would thrive in it’s new location.

    Boycotting a restaurant because the PROPERTY (not business) owner has political views that differ from yours only serves to hurt the owner and the employees….our neighbors…and further divide the community.

  18. John says - Posted: November 3, 2012

    I cannot believe I hear people talking of a boycott of Naked Fish what do they have to do with this. That is just misguided foolishness as for your comments Lou can you prove that any candidate has received 60% of their campaign funds from Nevada businesses,If so present the facts and not just rumor. In addition what was the one business that survived since the 1989 redevelopment projects started.

  19. lou pierini says - Posted: November 3, 2012

    John, His last reported filing, in LTN by the way, list his funding sources which can be obtained from the city clerk. That filing, the funding from Nv. sources was way more than 60%, check it out. The last filing before the election is today I think so my est. could be low. Business in the redevelopment zones, i.e. stateline to wildwood are where these business were that went out of business. Lake Tahoe Coin Jewelry and Loan Inc. is the snswer to your second question.

  20. thing fish says - Posted: November 3, 2012

    “Boycotting a restaurant because the PROPERTY (not business) owner has political views that differ from yours only serves to hurt the owner and the employees….our neighbors…and further divide the community.”

    And it is highly illogical.
    Kind of like the time that this one commenter thought that occupy protesters were protesting Raley’s because they chose to meet at Raley’s for convenience, parking and breakfast options.

    And I have a few new ideas for the hole:
    Jai-alai arena, shooting range, large greenhouse for community garden, free speech zone for graffiti on the subject of corruption.

  21. Americans Betrayed says - Posted: November 4, 2012

    Boycott South Lake Tahoe… The boycott of Naked Fish is miss guided, the entire community of South Lake Tahoe/ El Dorado County should be boycotted.

    I am part of a group that sees the area of South Lake Tahoe and El Dorado County as the poster child of all that is wrong with America. There is even a video out about it.

    If you want a free society with growing wealth and opportunities for all than study what they do in El Dorado County, and then do the opposite.

    This dire situation was predicted for many years the choices made in the community are reflective of how poorly the tax payers understand their situation, it is going to get worse and you have no one to blame but yourselves.

    Save America, boycott socialist crony regions like El Dorado County and all of Northern California. IT IS A FAILURE, LETS JUST GET ER DONE! Let it collapse and then we can rebuild it.

  22. 4-mer-usmc says - Posted: November 4, 2012


    Lance DiSilva, head chef and manager of the Naked Fish appeared at the September 18th City Council meeting requesting that the City Council discontinue pursuit of the current alignment of the proposed Loop Road. At every City Council meeting where Mr. McKeen and/or Former City Manager David Jinkens was present and addressing the Council in opposition to the proposed Loop Road realignment, Mr. DiSilva has also appeared and publically stated for the record his opposition, which is certainly within his rights. Freedom of speech provides the right to legally and publically state one’s opinion and stance, but with that public declaration come the consequence of alienating other individuals having conflicting opinions. Taking a stance to boycott a business may be one of those potential consequences. Conversely, individuals with the same opinion of a business owner publicizing their political position may serve to attract patrons with a like mind. For every action there is a reaction.

    Personally, I don’t think it’s wise for a business to post a sign referencing their personal political affiliations.

    And FYI, the owner of Lake Tahoe Coin Jewelry and Loan Inc. is Lou Pierini.

  23. Chief Slowroller says - Posted: November 4, 2012

    the last time that I saw Sass he was hanging out with Ted Long

  24. Old Long Skiis says - Posted: November 4, 2012

    thing fish,
    I don’t know if you were being facetious about your idea for a community greenhouse/garden at the “hole” but it sounds like a good idea to me!
    I met several good people this past summer because of my garden. It sits close to the road so people walking by, if I was out front, always stopped by to visit and I’d invite them to pick some snow peas, green beans or snip some leaves of lettuce or spinach for a salad that could take home with them.
    As far as the hole goes, a community garden would be the cheapest option. That property gets good sun, fill it with dirt, add some compost and there is water right there.
    I met a lady this summer from the bay area who was part of a community garden group. She pays $35 a year for a tiny portion of soil. Can you imagine how many small gardens you could fit into the hole?
    So before winter hits pull up your annuals and start a compost pile and of course leave your perenials. Old Long Skiis

  25. thing fish says - Posted: November 4, 2012

    All of those ideas are real. That garden one being the best, and more likely.
    Although Jai-alai would be the most spectacular.

  26. Tom Wendell says - Posted: November 4, 2012

    Thing Fish, Ole’Long Skiis,

    Community gardens have been on the radar screen for some time. The geodesic dome (Bio Dome) greenhouse near Truckee has generated huge interest and two TTUSD schools are preparing to erect one. There is a movement here in SLT to do the same. The domes are are capable of year-round growing up here without the need for external heat sources. In August 2009, I and a small group of advocates formed Compost Tahoe, a collaboration between several South Shore restaurants, South Tahoe Refuse and Full Circle Compost. The project diverts food waste from the landfill and turns it into valuable compost (see video below). To close the loop, we intend to use the resulting compost in local community gardens (food waste = compost = more food). With several domes, we could offer absolutely fresh, organic produce at local restaurants. This is one component of the health and wellness / green innovation strategy for reinventing our economy.

    The idea of a community garden at the Hole is fantastic. On Sept 15, LTN ran an article about how TTD and staff are looking for public input on the Loop Road. I’ve always maintained that the Hole and Loop Road projects MUST be combined. As such, I posted the following about what a multi-purpose building (conventions, music events, seminars, etc.) might look like:

    “Imagine a HUGE building..much of it below ground level built to high environmental standards…perhaps even a living roof with a geodesic dome greenhouse in a park-like setting.”

    It’s up to us as a community to take theses visions and push for their inclusion in projects and plans that will define our future. Again, I invite all to share ideas for how to reinvent our region at:

  27. John says - Posted: November 4, 2012

    Thanks Lou for providing the facts in reference to your earlier statement.

  28. dj short flo says - Posted: November 4, 2012

    I’ve seen this anti Sass sign in front of the two of the crappiest businesses on 50 – The Powderhouse which is anything but a sporting goods store and the ridiculously overpriced tourist trap Tahoe Bottle Shop.

    These signs actually reaffirmed my vote for Sass.

    I would personally try to avoid any business that has such a sign in front, rather than endorsing a cannidate they beleive in they ask you not to vote for someone, weak sauce. My guess is McKeen couldn’t convince anyone to keep a Grego sign in the store front so No Sass was the only other option. lol