Real estate: Units for sale are down but not prices

A South Lake Tahoe home for sale in the Tahoe Keys.
Provided/Elias Blood

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The number of housing units for sale in Lake Tahoe has dropped significantly but sale prices are not seeing the same drop.

According to Ken Bednar, Lake Tahoe Communities, the market is down compared to the first quarter of last year.

The number of units available in the basin is down 25% compared to last year, with Incline Village being down 37% and the South Shore being down 21%.

“The east shore currently has 33 houses and the South Shore has about 90,” Bednar said. “We would usually have about 100 more.”

Bednar added that he’s seeing an evening out of the market so that it is now closer to an even buyer/seller market instead of just a sellers market.

“The red hotness and fear buying we saw at the beginning of the pandemic has subsided a lot but the demand for Tahoe has not,” Bednar said.

A Lake Tahoe representative for Redfin, Joni Johnson, said they saw a slower than usual April, but new listings have picked up in May.

“We were getting only one or two new listings a day in April but in the last few weeks, we’re getting about 30 new listings a day,” Johnson said.

Johnson represents Truckee and Tahoe, so she added that Truckee, Squaw and Northstar are seeing more new listings than communities at lake level.

Despite the number of units dropping, the volume of sales has stayed about the same.

“Prices have started to level off but we’re not going to see a decrease anytime soon,” Johnson said.

Despite the federal government raising interest rates, the first quarter only saw a 2% drop in volume.

Bednar said in Nevada, 60% of the buyers are putting in cash offers, so the interest rates aren’t impacting them. He’s also seeing a greater demand in Nevada because of the lack of state income tax for primary residents.

In addition, he’s still seeing more 30-40-year-olds looking for homes.

“With the work from home movement, young buyers are settling in Tahoe,” Bednar said.

Johnson also hasn’t seen much of an impact from interest rates rising but she still sees an impact from the unstable stock market.

“I’m hearing a lot more from people that down payments are being held up in stocks,” Johnson said.

With the stock market rising and falling so dramtically day over day, buyers are nervous to pull out their investments to use as down payments.

Still, Johnson said summer is the best season for real estate in Tahoe, so Redfin anticipates this year to be pretty average.

North Lake Tahoe Fire officials analyze available resources

 

INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — As fire agencies prepare for the potential of another significant fire season, officials are assuring residents that there are enough resources available, especially water.

Chief Ryan Sommers of the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District took an in-depth look at the resources and infrastructure around Incline Village/Crystal Bay when it comes to a catastrophic event such as a wildland fire.

According to NLTFPD’s website, the identified goals and objectives as outlined in Incline Village/Crystal Bay’s strategic plan will guide the community into a more prepared future, however, it is important to acknowledge there will be unforeseeable issues that will arise and impact how the district operates and provides service to the community.

This plan states that “These issues will offer both challenge and opportunity to our Board of Directors, Fire District administrators, and personnel, who will need to review, assess, and work together to identify options and find solutions for problems faced during the Caldor Fire.”

One of the unforeseeable issues that Sommers addressed include how much traffic can Tahoe highways take and still allow people to get out in a safe, efficient manner. In recent events, the Caldor Fire and the evacuation of South Lake Tahoe offered insight to the NLTFPD.

“The strategic plan in place with collaborations between Nevada Department of Transportation, CalTrans, Washoe County Emergency Manager, and a third-party resource are actively working together to produce zoning plans to be released hopefully no later than mid-summer,” Sommers said.

Looking ahead to the water project recently discussed in local online forums, and an opinion piece in last week’s Tribune, asked the question of if Incline Village/Crystal Bay would be left high and dry with not enough water during a catastrophic wildfire.

To understand the resources available it is important to also understand there are a variety of fire engines that are used, depending on the situation.

“While it is true that Type I Engines pump 1,500 gallons per minute, these are used to fight structure fires and are intended to be hooked up to fire hydrants,” Sommers said. “The engine cannot be used to move the wheels because it is being used to pump the water. In turn, this puts the equipment and the crews in danger when used in wildland fire.”

Understanding the use of each of the water engines is a vital step when assessing what resources are available when making a wildfire plan for the Incline Village/Crystal Bay community. Type I Engines are used in situations that a crew member could safely post at the top of the engine where the nozzle is to fight structure fires while the Type III engine is used in more dynamic situations like wildland fires.

“The use of Type I Engines in wildland fire is unrealistic,” Sommers said. “Type 3 engines allow the crews to stay dynamic, they need to stay mobile. They fill up the tank and go do their jobs.”

The company Insurance Services Office, better known as ISO, provides ratings for fire departments and the communities that they serve. Over the history of the NLTFPD, there has been progress from an ISO of five in 1975 to the present-day ISO of One.

“In [an] evaluation from the ISO, agents come in and look at a variety of details within the department as a whole,” Sommers said. “Factors such as the placement of the fire stations, the equipment housed within the fire stations, the equipment on the engines, the amount of hose, what kind of nozzles we use, what the response level is to specific stations, how many engines respond to a structure fire or motor vehicle accident, how many chief officers are in the district, and most importantly, how we respond.”

The hot topic since the Caldor Fire has been focused on a limited resource and access to that resource — water.

“One of the major components is what water is available to a community in a catastrophic event, wildland fire for instance. In working with Incline Village General Improvement District, we were off the charts when it came to the amount of water needed for this community. That is precisely what pushed us from an ISO 3 to an ISO 1. Our equipment hadn’t changed since our last audit, no new fire stations had been built, and the staffing level has remained static. IVGID’s improvement to the water infrastructure is really what gave us enough points to become an ISO 1 rated community.” — North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District Chief Ryan Sommers

“One of the major components is what water is available to a community in a catastrophic event, wildland fire for instance,” Sommers said. “In working with Incline Village General Improvement District, we were off the charts when it came to the amount of water needed for this community. That is precisely what pushed us from an ISO 3 to an ISO 1. Our equipment hadn’t changed since our last audit, no new fire stations had been built, and the staffing level has remained static. IVGID’s improvement to the water infrastructure is really what gave us enough points to become an ISO 1 rated community.”

Community members inquiring about the Crystal Bay water pump can rest assured that the resource is a very realistic option if a wildfire were to bear down on the North Shore.

“The use of the Crystal Bay water pump is absolutely viable,” Sommers said. “After conferring with IVGID, it would not take much for the pump to be usable. We can get that pump up and running between IVGID and NLTFPD.”

Sommers also noted that the NLTFPD has millions of gallons in storage for water above the Incline Village/Crystal Bay area. Another backup is utilizing water from Placer County.

In unfortunate scenarios around the United States, it has become abundantly clear that regardless of the level of preparation, sometimes Mother Nature has other plans. Sommers echoes the Al Tahoe Firewise Community in that “you’re only as safe as your neighbors.”

NLTFPD is ready and willing to partner with community members to increase the number of Firewise communities on the North Shore.

Sommers concluded with reminders to prepare defensible space around your home and encourage neighboring lots to do the same, have your family’s evacuation plan dialed in, know what you’re going to grab and where you’re going to meet, and most importantly listen to the local authorities on when to evacuate.

View full NLTFPD strategic plan at https://nltfpd.org/strategic-plan

View full Emergency Preparedness Guide visit https://nltfpd.org/preparedness

North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District engines overlook the area they serve, including (from left) a ladder truck, squad truck and three Type I engines.
Provided

New trail looks to connect ‘Lost’ Sierra


“This is an economic driver,” said Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship Marketing and Strategic Business Consultant Mark Pecotich. “Trails are really a tool for economic resiliency in these communities.”

The Truckee and Lake Tahoe areas are linked to the history of the greater Sierra Nevada by hundreds of old trails and paths used by early miners, loggers and mail carriers.

That history will be made more available in the future as the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship inches closer to its ambitious plan of connecting 15 northern Sierra towns via a multi-use trail system.

“This is an economic driver,” said Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship Marketing and Strategic Business Consultant Mark Pecotich. “Trails are really a tool for economic resiliency in these communities. There are so many amazing places and so many really neat things to see out there.”

Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship is in the early stages of a 10-year process to build the Connected Communities Project, roughly 600 miles of multi-use trails with the aim of linking towns like Greenville, Quincy, Portola, and Truckee with one another. The connection would allow for all dirt travelers, including hikers, mountain bikers, moto riders, equestrians, hunters, and fishermen.

Pecotich said plans also involve programs to drive trail users toward communities’ downtown areas in order to help provide an economic benefit, especially for areas of the “Lost” Sierra impacted by wildfire.

Near Truckee, work is getting underway to build a connection to Loyalton. The “East Zone” of the project consists of roughly 73 miles. The Truckee part of the route will be 10.3 miles in the “East Zone” and will head out toward Boca and Stampede reservoirs.

“Out in the Boca, Stampede area there’s a lot of social trails out there that have just kind of appeared over time,” said Pecotich. “We’re going to decommission some of those things because of erosion issues, watershed protection, and things of that nature. They’re just not built well.”

Pecotich said trail builders and volunteers will begin by walking paths in order to identify watershed concerns, historical sites, and other potential environmental issues.

“This is all boots on the ground, laying out the route of these different segments to connect all these towns,” he said.

MAIN DIFFERENCE

A main difference between the 600 miles of trail that will connect Sierra communities between other large trails like the Pacific Crest Trail is the allowance of off-highway vehicles. Pecotich said grants for off-highway travel have been key in getting the project underway.

“We want everybody to be able to enjoy it, but those grant opportunities and OHV funds are pretty important to the success of this program,” he said.

While different segments of users have often clashed in the backcountry, Pecotich said an overwhelming amount of groups and organizations have come together in support of the project.

“We have all these different user types that have all come forward and say we support this,” he said. “It’s remarkable to see how many different organizations, such a broad spectrum, have offered these letters of support for this project because everyone seems to value what we’re trying to do.”

Partners include Sierra Nevada Conservancy, U.S. Forest Service, Truckee Donner Land Trust and dozens of others.

“We’re trying to rally folks,” added Pecotich. “There are a number of different trail organizations and volunteer groups that are interested in helping us out. So, we’re trying to get everyone mobilized and get started on this segment of it.”

Cost related to building the trail this year is estimated to be $450,000 and would mostly cover environmental work. Connections between Quincy and Taylorsville will be worked on this summer as well.

Additionally, Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship is working with communities to create recreation zones, which are intended to be stack-looped systems in communities for non-motorized travel.

“There’s the big 600-mile route, but as part of the planning we’re also being considerate of these local trail systems that these communities have asked for that they want to be non-motorized,” said Pecotich.

The 600-mile route will take users through historic areas.

“We’re going to use those footprints when possible,” said Pecotich. “You’re going to see these amazing old mining sites, and these relics and artifacts that exist out there.”

Pecotich also stressed the importance of leaving cultural heritage sites and artifacts undisturbed, and added that community involvement will be key in the creation of the new trail.

“We would just love people’s support at this point,” he said. “We’ve got events set up, weekend dig days, and so we’ll definitely want to have people from the community out there working side by side with us.”

To donate or volunteer, visit sierratrails.org. The organization will also host its annual Lost and Found Gravel Grinder bike ride on June 4.

CONNECTED COMMUNITIES

Chester

Westwood

Susanville

Jonesville

Greenville

Taylorsville

Quincy

Graeagle

Portola

Downieville

Sierra City

Sierraville

Loyalton

Reno

Truckee

Justin Scacco is a staff writer with the Sierra Sun, a sister publication of the Tribune. He can be reached at jscacco@sierrasun.com

California crises abound, but they won’t be debated (Opinion)

California voters will receive their mail ballots for the June 7 primary election this week and most will be surprised to learn that there are 25 candidates seeking to unseat Gov. Gavin Newsom.

Dan Walters

One of them will place second to Newsom in the primary ballot and, thanks to Calfiornia’s top-two election system, appear on the November ballot as Newsom’s official challenger.

Most likely that dubious honor will go to Republican state Sen. Brian Dahle, since he’s the only one of the 25 to be known outside their small circles of friends and supporters. Unless he makes some monumental blunder, Democrat Newsom will coast to re-election in November.

California hasn’t had a real two-party contest for governor since 2010, when Republican businesswoman Meg Whitman spent nearly $150 million in a vain campaign against former Gov. Jerry Brown.

Were California to have a real duel for the governorship, we might have a real debate about the state’s most pressing issues, including the nation’s highest poverty, its worst homelessness crisis, an immense shortage of housing, medicore — at best — public schools and looming shortfalls in water and electric energy supplies.

None of them is new. All have evolved over decades of inaction or counterproductive policymaking but the latter two — water and power — are biting particularly hard just as Californians decide who will occupy political positions for years to come.

Throughout the state, water agencies are telling Californians that they must seriously curtail lawn watering and other water uses. We can probably scrape through another dry year, but were drought to persist, its impacts would likely be widespread and permanent. And with climate change, longer dry periods are virtually certain.

We’ll always have enough water for ordinary human use, but the future of California’s largest-in-the-nation agricultural industry is clearly at risk, since farming consumes the vast majority of developed water supplies. As water allotments to farmers are reduced, in some instances to zero, thousands of acres of farmland are being taken out of production, affecting not only farmers but their workers and support services, such as farm equipment dealers.

It didn’t have to be this way. We could have built more storage to capture water during wet years, we could have encouraged more conservation, we could have more efficiently captured and treated wastewater for re-use and we could have embraced desalination. But we didn’t and even with a water crisis upon us we aren’t moving decisively on these defensive actions.

Drought also affects our electrical energy supply since depleted reservoirs are less capable of generating hydropower. It’s one of the factors in last week’s declaration by state energy managers that Californians could see blackouts this summer as supply falls short of demand on hot days when air conditioning units are running at maximum output.

However, reduced hydropower production is a relatively small part of the problem. The largest factor has been California’s rush to phase out nuclear and gas-fired power plants to reduce greenhouse gases without having sufficient renewable energy to replace their output.

While wind and solar generation has increased greatly in recent years, we have not constructed enough storage, such as battery banks, to keep juice flowing when the sun doesn’t shine and the wind doesn’t blow.

Belatedly acknowledging the shortfall, state officials now want to keep some gas-fired plants that had been ticketed for closure on line and perhaps delay the planned decommissioning of the state’s only remaining nuclear plant, Diablo Canyon.

Emergency actions, however, only underscore the policy and managerial lapses that allowed the crisis to develop.

Dan Walters is a journalist and author who writes for CALmatters.org, a nonprofit, nonpartisan media venture explaining California policies and politics.

City to consider affordable housing project that would change ‘Loop Road’ plan

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The South Lake Tahoe City Council will decide on Tuesday whether or not to use two parcels for affordable housing, a decision that could change the future of the controversial “Loop Road.”

Those parcels are currently included in the Tahoe Transportation District’s US 50 South Shore Community Revitalization Project. If council votes to use the parcels for affordable housing, TTD will be forced to change the “Loop Road” plan.

The US 50 South Shore Community Revitalization Project, which aims to reroute US 50, allowing for the casino corridor to turn into a Main Street, would require the demolition of several housing properties in the Rocky Point Neighborhood.

While this project has been in discussion for more than four decades, current city officials have expressed frustration that they’ve been left out of the decision making process which would greatly impact their constituents. In Feb. 2021, the council hired Wood Rodgers to conduct a traffic operations analysis along the existing roadways in the project area, to help develop a Loop Road alternative.

The city owns two prcels, 3900 and 3908 Lake Tahoe Boulevard, totaling 1.16 acres. Those properties were originally being considered to reroute Pioneer Trail but Wood Rodgers analysis led staff to conclude, “that there are no other feasible alternatives using the existing roadways to achieve the desired levels of service without adding a mobility alternative hub or transit mode shift.”

The staff report states, “the currently approved path of the “loop” road goes through the subject property, so advancing an affordable housing project in that location would impact that alignment and could effectively preclude its construction. This action, however, would be consistent with prior resolutions adopted by City Council, including Resolution 2021-005 (stating that the city “puts the utmost priority on the Rocky Point community” and “highly discourages the use of eminent domain by any agency involved with the project.”)

During the meeting, the council will also take a position on the U.S. House of Representatives Bill 6903, Wildfire Suppression Policy. The bill, introduced by Congressman Tom McClintock (R-California, 4th District), would require the Forest Service to suppress wildfires no later than 24 hours after a wildlife is detected and suppress prescribed burns that exceed the prescription.

The Boards of Supervisors for El Dorado, Alpine and Placer counties has sent letters to congress in support of the legislation.

Jim Drennan, South Lake Tahoe’s Fire Rescue interim fire chief has spoken with other fire chiefs and stakeholders and will be attending the council meeting in order to answer questions by the council.

The council will also be hearing the Public Works Department Annual Report 2021 and will be discussing an Electric Charger Vehicle Siting Plan.

The meeting will begin at 5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, May 17. The meeting can be viewed in person at 1901 Lisa Maloff Way or remotely on Channel 21, www.cityofslt.us, and via Zoom at https://us06web.zoom.us/j/81328804755.

El Dorado County assessor candidates quizzed

Eileen Burke-Trent, chapter president of the League of Women Voters of El Dorado County (far left) moderates the April 28 forum of El Dorado County Assessor candidates Daniel Tuning (center) and Jon DeVille at Placerville Town Hall.
Provided

 

Jon DeVille and Daniel Tuning are running to fill El Dorado County’s assessor role Karl Weiland will leave behind when he retires at the end of 2022. The two candidates answered questions April 28 at a non-partisan forum sponsored by the League of Women Voters of El Dorado County ahead of the June 7 election.

Tuning, who lives in Rescue, has been a licensed certified public accountant in California for more than 30 years after obtaining a master’s degree in taxation from Brigham Young University. Upon graduation he joined the accounting firm Ernest & Young.

DeVille is also a resident of Rescue and graduated from California State University, San Francisco’s business school before going to work for Fortune 100 companies Sony and Oracle. In 2013 he joined the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office as chief fiscal officer.

“I know it’s a very challenging job but with my background and many of the challenges I’ve had to face I believe it’s something that I can contribute to the county and do the best job I can to be a fair assessor,” Tuning said in his opening statement. “I feel like this is right down my wheelhouse and that I’ll be able to do a great job.”

In DeVille’s opening statement he said he “understand(s) El Dorado County” and is familiar with the residents, real estate market and business community. “I believe it’s vital for an assessor to have a deep understanding of the community they serve since the assessor is the authority on determining values of business property, real estate property and personal property,” he said.

Eileen Burke-Trent, chapter president of the League of Women Voters of El Dorado County moderated the in-person and live-streamed forum held at Placerville Town Hall and posed the evening’s questions for DeVille and Tuning.

The first question asked was if a taxpayer thinks their property taxes are too high, what can the Assessor’s Office do to help?

Tuning said he would find out what staff is working on that property and try to figure out why the taxpayer was disagreeing or if they had communicated what the issues were. He might then see if a reevaluation needed to take place. If he wasn’t able to get to the bottom of it, he would talk to the property owner personally.

“If there was still no reconciling or agreeing with the assessment, then I would make sure that the taxpayer was well aware of their appeal rights,” Tuning said.

DeVille said if he is elected, a property owner can meet with him personally.

“We would discuss the details of that appraisal assessment and if the property owner had valid arguments, we could possibly change that assessment and adjust it,” DeVille said. “If we couldn’t agree on any adjustment, the property owner would have the right to appeal.”

Burke-Trent then asked about the candidates’ experience and strategy in managing employees.

Tuning said he has management experience through his work at Ernst & Young, as an accounting manager or leading people in many spectrums of business.

“It’s important we maintain those relationships with the staff and help build a team and make sure they’re adequately rewarded,” Tuning said.

DeVille said he is proud of the team he manages at the Sheriff’s Office. He said many have been promoted and have key roles within the county.

“You have to make sure you set clear organizational goals that each staff member understands and that they make sure they put those organizational goals before themselves,” DeVille said. “You have to make sure you lead by example and make sure your staff understands that they matter as much as you matter.”

Burke-Trent asked how the candidates would work with the Board of Supervisors.

“Although it’s important to get along with the board, I report to the voters in El Dorado County,” DeVille said. “With that I think it’s important to have a good working relationship with the board and with the department heads and the staff that make up this county.”

He said he has experience as a liaison for the county in regards to FEMA disaster reimbursements.

“We received around $15 million from the 2017 storm disasters,” DeVille said. “I’m working on the Caldor Fire FEMA dealings as well. In that role I have to work with multiple departments so working with the board is going to be similar to that. I’m very confident I will be able to work with them.”

Tuning cited his board experience as a student trustee on the Los Rios Community College Board of Trustees in the 1984-85 academic year.

“I think the relationships have to be nurtured and they have to be fed,” Tuning said. “You have to care about those people on the board even though you may not agree with them on certain items. I think it’s a give and take relationship and I think it can be a very healthy one.”

Once the candidates wrapped up their answers they gave closing statements.

“If elected first and foremost I will provide fair and accurate assessments and will adopt concise organizational goals that will focus on being transparent and impartial,” DeVille said. “Secondly, I will run the Assessor’s Office with efficiency. Efficiency I learned working for two Fortune 100 companies.”

In Tuning’s closing statement he said his business experience will help him in the Assessor’s Office.

“I know I can do this job and I know I have the biggest toolbox of both of us,” Tuning said. “All my clients love me. I’ve had a lot of growth in the past few years. I know what it’s like to be able to solve financial problems and tax problems.”

To watch a video of the forum online go to fb.watch/cXYZgZbK84.

El Dorado County’s 1st cannabis farm OK’d to sprout

Cybele Holdings became the first cannabis cultivation farm to be approved in El Dorado County May 12.

After months waiting to get his application recommended by the El Dorado County Sheriff’s Office, Cybele Holdings CEO Lee Tannenbaum got the green light by a unanimous Planning Commission for his cannabis cultivation business.

“I am still feeling the weight come off my shoulders,” Tannenbaum told the Mountain Democrat. “We are pleased that the Planning Commission passed us and we are extremely pleased to be the first legal cultivators granted a conditional use permit in El Dorado County.”

Even though county cannabis operation was approved by voters in 2018, it took Cybele Holdings more than two years to get through a county-implemented interim background check process, which caused controversy among prospective growers, who said it was too invasive and extensive.

Now, the business can grow up to 2 acres of legal cannabis on the Freshwater Lane property in South County.

But for Tannenbaum, there is still work to be done.

During the hearing, Tannenbaum recommended reinstating the cannabis ad hoc Committee or sitting down with county counsel to go over the county cannabis ordinance to make the cultivation approval process simpler.

“I know these are things which we would like to make simpler and I want to help,” Tannenbaum said. “Because right now, the way the system is designed, there is no way for someone trying to get social equity to get a license in this county and that has a lot to do with the timing and background checks.”

Cybele Holdings will conduct outdoor cannabis cultivation for the first two years then will transition to greenhouse mixed-light cultivation by the third year.

The Planning Commission’s approval comes with a list of conditions.

One of them, which Tannanebaum said is a major concern, includes having a designated local contact available 24/7 in case the county needs to reach someone to solve any issues in a timely fashion.

“If we hire someone as the contact, it could jeopardize our license because they could make a bad call or decision and our license could be revoked, and they also have to go through background checks, which is a lengthy process here at the moment,” Tannenbaum said.

Cybele Holdings is also required to put a turnout near the farm, which would necessitate the property owner on another piece of land to give the business the right of way to make a 12-foot by 400-foot turnout for a fire truck. If the owner disagrees, Cybele Holdings will have to file a waiver.

The cultivation business will have to notify all property owners in the area within 1,000 feet of the farm within a week of commencing operations.

District 2 Planning Commissioner Kris Payne, who represents the district where the now-approved farm is located, told the Mountain Democrat any changes to those regulations will need to addressed with the county.

“You have to be able to meet all the obligations laid out in front of you and if the person doesn’t do an adequate job in terms of figuring out how they’re going to manage this, then these permits are in jeopardy,” Payne said. “But because it’s the first one, there may be some post-approval dialogue that has to go on between the county about these obligations.”

Residents living near the farm expressed concerns about the business during its California Environmental Quality Act and Planning Commission review, including issues of odor, noise, lighting and security.

To help address these problems, Tannenbaum said he is willing to cooperate with neighboring property owners.

“I have reached out multiple times to try to assuage the concerns that our neighbors have and I believe I am doing an OK job,” Tannenbaum said. “I want to be a good neighbor and if there are any issues, I want people to call me and I’ll fix it.”

There is a 10-day appeal window for residents wishing to challenge the Planning Commission’s approval of the cultivation farm.

Gas tax fight and memories of 1978 (Opinion)

With the state government of California sitting on a budget surplus that exceeds $50 billion, Sacramento politicians can’t bring themselves to return a few dollars to middle-class taxpayers.

Jon Coupal

While the cost of consumer goods and services is rising rapidly, due mostly to feckless government policies, it is the cost of gasoline that truly sticks in the craw of average Californians. Conservatives in the Legislature, mostly Republicans, have accused the Democrats of intentionally running out the clock on providing gas tax relief before an automatic increase goes into effect May 1.

That accusation is well-founded.

Nearly a year ago Republicans in the state Senate pushed for a “gas tax holiday,” including a full suspension on state gas tax collection for the current fiscal year. The suspension could have easily been backfilled by the state’s overflowing general fund, which would protect transportation funding.

Later, they offered amendments formally requesting the suspension of the state gas tax and postponing the pending increase.

In the Assembly, who can forget the Democrats’ ambush of Assembly Bill 1638 by Assemblyman Kevin Kiley, another gas tax suspension proposal?

Again, by refusing to even hear the bill the ruling political class is revealed as wholly disconnected to the concerns of average citizens.

That’s too bad because a one year suspension of the gas tax would have reduced the cost of fuel by 51.1 cents per gallon, providing instant tax relief.

It is also an elegantly simple solution that would have been easy for state bureaucrats to administer.

While the majority party in the Legislature has slow-walked gas tax relief, Gov. Gavin Newsom at least put the issue on the table by introducing some gas price relief in his original January budget as well as his March State of the State speech.

But legislative leaders in both houses rejected his proposal, falsely claiming that transportation projects wouldn’t be fully funded.

Rather, they said they would prefer some sort of direct payments to taxpayers but weren’t clear on who would get the money.

Which brings us to today, exactly where we were a year ago except that now, both the price of gas as well as the gas tax are higher.

It is no surprise that a recent PPIC poll reveals that record percentages of voters believe they are overtaxed. What is surprising, however, is why a majority of our elected representatives in Sacramento are turning a blind eye to the problem and not taking any meaningful action.

If past is prologue, political foot-dragging on tax relief can be very dangerous.

In the 1970s, the politicians refused to believe that taxpayers were serious about rising property taxes. Sure, a couple of yahoos named Jarvis and Gann put a strong tax measure on the ballot, Proposition 13, but, in their view, it went way too far and the voters would surely reject it, wouldn’t they?

But politicians back then, as now, underestimated the anger of the people.

By the time the Legislature comprehended the size of the tsunami coming at them, it was too late.

Not even an alternative property tax initiative that was viewed as too little too late could save them. Prop. 13 passed by over 66%.

Yogi Berra said it’s déjà vu all over again. We have a strange feeling that inaction on tax relief could inflict serious damage on the ruling party come November. Just like it did in June of 1978.

Jon Coupal is president of the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association.

Pet of the Week: Puppy adoption event on Tuesday

Let the countdown to the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe’s Spring Giving Tuesday Celebration begin. If you’re a fan of puppies, the English countryside, gingham, and tents, you’ll savor the sweet theme of HSTT’s Spring Giving Tuesday – puppies named for the sweet treats featured on The Great British Baking Show.

Mousse, the largest puppy in the litter, and his brothers and sisters (an entire baker’s dozen, in fact) will be available for adoption through HSTT’s online adoption process beginning at 8 a.m. Tuesday, May 17. To make that day even more delectable, all donations to HSTT will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $100,000.

The Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe’s intention on Giving Tuesday, and every other day of the year, is to make the world a better place for pets and for people. The only way the Humane Society of Truckee-Tahoe can accomplish this lofty goal is through the generosity of their donors, the kindness of their adopters and volunteers and the support of their animal-loving community.

* HSTT doesn’t know precisely what these puppies are, but their mom weighs 65 pounds. Based on their size and their mom’s size, HSTT’s best guess is that these pups will be on the large side once fully grown. However, there’s no way to know for sure. For more information, email givingtuesday@hstt.org.

To find out more about the adorable adoptables for Giving Tuesday, to find a pet to adopt anytime, or to donate, visit Hstt.org.

Healthy Tahoe: Depression screenings as preventative care

Our mood is influenced by many factors, including stress, illness, and even the weather. But what’s the difference between a bad case of the blues and the mental disorder known as depression? Addressing mental health issues is a high priority for our community, as it is frequently identified as a top-three need in the triannual Community Health Needs Assessment.

Depression affects many adults, adolescents and children. In 2017, The National Institute of Health found the prevalence of Major Depressive Episodes in the United States to be 7.1% among adults and 13.3% among adolescents.

Depression screening is an important tool, and it is often the first step to connecting patients to care. People are routinely screened for heart disease, diabetes and cancers, as a way to detect serious illness early and start treatment as needed. Similarly, depression screenings are becoming a normal part of preventive care.

Over the past two years, providers at Barton Community Health Center, Barton Pediatrics, and Barton Primary Care at Stateline Medical Center worked to increase adult and adolescent depression screening and have screened nearly 61% of their patients over the age of 12.

Who should get screened?

All people, age six and older, can be screened for depression. People suffering from depression may experience the following symptoms:

— A persistent sad, anxious or “empty” mood

— Sleeping too little, early morning awakening, or sleeping too much

— Reduced appetite and weight loss, or increased appetite and weight gain

— Loss of interest or pleasure in activities once enjoyed

— Restlessness or irritability

— Difficulty concentrating, remembering or making decisions

— Fatigue or loss of energy

— Thoughts of death or suicide

Barton providers understand the importance of depression screening as a first step for patients and providers to begin to address mental health together as a care team. For patients who screen positive, a provider may work with the patient or patient’s family to discuss treatment options and a plan for recovery and stability, including a referral to a mental health professional or community resource.

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Robert Randolph is the operations manager of population health and wellness, behavioral health and telehealth at Barton Health. For a list of area resources and crisis lines, or to learn more visit BartonHealth.org/MentalHealth.

Market Pulse: The road ahead

April was a brutal month for both stock and bond investors and so far May is down, too. Seldom do stocks and bonds move the same direction. Almost never. They are both falling now.

David Vomund

There have been few places to hide. I expected volatility, but not like this. As always, there are stocks and there are stocks. Some move with the market, others don’t. Energy stocks are up 40% year-to-date and utilities and consumer staples stocks are unchanged. Everything else is down to one extent or another. Nasdaq suffered the most.

On the income side prospects for rate increases have weighed on bonds and income vehicles. All are off. Those that have held best are positioned to benefit as interest rates rise, as they surely will.

Just how far rates will rise is another matter. Economists think they know. A recent survey of more than 50 economists showed a mixed outlook. They see the “end” or “terminal” rate for Fed funds being 3.08% next summer. The terminal rate is where it would be when the rate-increasing cycle ends. It is now close to 1%. To reach 3.08% would require a series of increases and the bond crowd has already priced them in.

For stock investors the road ahead will be bumpy. With interest rates rising economic growth will be slower than had been expected. Profit growth will slow, too, and valuations will be under pressure. One-third of economists expect a recession.

I am hearing that R word more and more. Whether we’ll have one a year from now or sooner is anyone’s guess. Some day, yes, there will be another recession. Count on it. But likely not this year. A few reasons.

First, people are out shopping. They are in stores and restaurants. Consumer spending is strong. Visa and Mastercard see it. People are traveling or making plans to travel soon. Business travel is picking up, too. Those are not signs you would see ahead of a recession.

Until some of the unknowns become clearer — including the war and global Covid and growth problems — stocks will have a hard time making much headway. Still, I’ll give an upbeat note. The Fed has raised rates by 50 basis points before, several times since the 1960s. In all cases, while the market usually fell initially the S&P was higher 12 months after the first 50 BP boost by an average 7.2%. Some comfort.

David Vomund is an Incline Village-based Independent Investment Advisor. Information is found at www.VomundInvestments.com or by calling 775-832-8555. Clients hold the positions mentioned in this article. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Consult your financial advisor before purchasing any security.

Local company solves growing need for EV chargers

As more and more of the population drives electric vehicles (EVs), locations with EV charging stations become attractive destinations. EV Range, an EV charging software and installation services company with Tahoe roots, provides fast-charging stations at commercial locations.

Photo courtesy of EV Range
Photo courtesy of EV Range

Addressing an expanding need
Tahoe residents and visitors are more likely to drive EVs than much of the nation, because they appreciate the impact climate change can have on the Tahoe Basin, and the overall environment. As Tahoe continues to grow and attract guests, the need for EV chargers increases.

“Creating a network of charging stations across commercial locations is not only nice to have, but also critical to sustain the Tahoe environment,” said Carl Pancutt, EV Range CEO. “EV drivers generally want to make a positive impact on the environment.”

That’s why EV Range is fast at work in Tahoe, providing charging solutions to Vail Resort’s Northstar resort, as well as Tahoe restaurants, shops and hotels. The company provides both DC fast chargers (DCFC) and Level 2 EV chargers.

EV Range is on track to install 26 high-powered EV charging stations across California and Nevada this year.

“Although California and neighboring states have been at the forefront of the shift toward eMobility, the mass adoption of EVs requires a significant investment in public charging infrastructure,” said Pancutt.

Providing opportunity for business owners
CNBC reported that General Motors has received 65,000 reservations of their Hummer EVs, and they’re not the only company experiencing skyrocketing demand.

“There’s an onslaught coming. The OEMs can’t produce EVs fast enough,” Kevin Schifrin, Chief Business Officer of EV Range and Zephyr Cove, Nevada resident, said. “Once these EVs are delivered, the problem becomes where to charge them when people go out. We’re here to solve that problem.”

Business owners have the unique ability to profit from installing EV chargers at their stores, restaurants and hotels: EV drivers are attracted to locations with chargers, and, as they spend more time in the store or restaurant, it likely translates to more sales. And, people who have invested in EVs often want to support companies that are actively committed to environmental sustainability, because they share a common value.

“Environmental and community sustainability are at the core of our foundational values at Vail Resorts,” said General Manager of Northstar California Resort, Deirdra Walsh. “Northstar is always looking for new and additional ways to serve our guests and make a positive impact on our world. We partnered with EV Range because they have the expertise and the technology tools to quickly install and run the charging stations with maximum up-time.”

EV Range helps companies profit from the charging stations by providing real-time usage data and summary reports.

“We help make the installation and management of charging stations a viable project,” Schifrin said.

Photo courtesy of EV Range
Photo courtesy of EV Range

Providing superior support
EV Range can send alerts to businesses that own charging stations when a vehicle overstays its time limit. It provides revenue, statistics about charging timeframes and alerts if the system stops running. If the station goes offline, EV Range contacts the business and can send a technician to repair it.

“We’re involved in the planning, consulting and construction phases,” Schifrin said. “We have the software platform that runs the charger, so we have full reports, driver interface and excellent support.”

While some competitors’ level 2 chargers have earned a bad reputation for breaking or not being well managed, EV Range ensures continuous quality.

“We lean hard into taking care of chargers. We know when something is offline, and we provide 24/7 support,” Schifrin said.

The company also helps business owners obtain grants and maximize tax incentives so it costs owners a fraction of the regular installation fee.

“EV Range’s expertise makes it simple for Liberty Utilities to bring electric vehicle charging to our customers,” said Matt Newberry, Manager III – Electric, Business and Community Development from Liberty Utilities.

Simply the best
Pancutt and his team helped build the first DC fast charger for EVs in California, and as EV Range’s CEO, he’s looking toward future needs.

“A lot of people sell chargers, but we find out what customers need and future proof the equipment so if greater electricity or solar power becomes available, we can always tie that in,” Pancutt said. “Our software management system is built to enable the operator of a charger to optimize for a variety of goals such as energy cost, charging speed and prioritizing one charger over another. The software to operate the charger is extremely flexible and is no more complicated than setting up your home wifi router.” As EV Range continues to partner with leading businesses and utility providers in Tahoe, it sets Tahoe apart as one of the nation’s leading destinations in sustainability. “Lake Tahoe is known as the jewel of the Sierra,” Pancutt said, “and we are proud to work with partners in the region to actively take climate action by helping visitors and residents in the area to adopt zero-emission vehicles.”

South Tahoe’s Gilpin chosen to compete at Special Olympics USA Games

Jacqui Gilpin was chosen to compete at the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games next month in Orlando, Florida.
Provided

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — A local woman will be representing South Lake Tahoe next month in the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games in Orlando, Florida.

Jacqui Gilpin, 34, who was born at Barton Memorial Hospital, broke down into tears when it was announced that she would be competing in bowling at the prestigious national event that takes place on June 5-12.

Gilpin was waiting on a Zoom call when former Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Marcus Mariota appeared and announced the athletes that were chosen to compete for gold medals.

When Gilpin heard her name, she covered her face and was brought to tears. Gilpin also received a signed Mariota jersey.

“It was the luck of the draw,” said her proud parents David and Donna Gilpin.

Gilpin has been involved in Special Olympics for 25 years and, other than bowling, has competed in skiing, which is no longer offered, and swimming.

Jacqui Gilpin broke down into tears when it was announced on Zoom that she would be competing in bowling at the 2022 Special Olympics USA Games.
Provided

Molesworth leads Viking golfers, headed to state tourney

Liam Molesworth teeing off at Sierra Sage Golf Course on March 28.
Provided

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — South Tahoe High School finished it regular season golf schedule last week and Liam Molesworth ended as the No. 2-ranked player in Class 3a for Northern Nevada.

Molesworth’s average round score was 81.7 and he will participate in the state tournament on May 17-18 in Pahrump. Molesworth finished second to the top player from defending state champ Truckee, Gabe Smith. Truckee is again the top team this year followed by Fernley and Elko.

The Vikings next best player this season was Blaise Broadhurst who finished in ninth place in the individual standings.

The top six individuals who are not on a qualifying team also participate in the state tournament. Broadhurst finished with a scoring average of 96.1, just two strokes behind the final individual qualifier.

The final two top scores for the Vikings were Hayden Cannon, with an average of 98.8, and Jaxon King, who averaged 100.7.

The Vikings had 15 players on the golf team this season, with four graduating seniors and eleven underclassmen.

El Dorado County Judge candidates make their case

Eileen Burke-Trent, chapter president of the League of Women Voters of El Dorado County (far left) moderates the April 28 forum of El Dorado County Superior judge candidates Gary Slossberg (center) and Lesley Gomes Barlow at Placerville Town Hall.
Provided

 

Two candidates in a race to be an El Dorado County Superior Court judge told voters at an April 28 forum why they should be elected to the Office 7 seat.

Vying for that seat are Gary Slossberg and Lesley Gomes Barlow.

Barlow has been practicing law for more than 20 years and has worked as a deputy county attorney for El Dorado County and currently serves as such in Amador. She lives in Placerville. Slossberg has been in the law field 17 years, 7 of those in El Dorado County, including serving as a family law facilitator and superior court commissioner. He is a resident of Folsom.

The county’s next judge will be decided at the polls June 7.

“I know we both share a long-term commitment to El Dorado County and desire to do all we can for the residents,” Slossberg said.

The pair gave opening and closing statements and in between answered several questions thrown their way by Eileen Burke-Trent, chapter president of the League of Women Voters of El Dorado County. The league held the non-partisan forum in person at Placerville Town Hall and also streamed a live video of the event on Facebook.

Burke-Trent asked the candidates about their experience with people from different social, economic and political backgrounds.

Barlow spoke about spending two summers on a church mission in Tijuana, Mexico. She said the mission involved families who built their homes out of garbage.

“You’re faced directly with what it is like for someone else in another country who doesn’t have the same resources you have. They’re put in very difficult circumstances,” Barlow said. “I just wanted to pray with those people, care about those people and understand their circumstances and life.”

Slossberg said while he didn’t come from a wealthy family, they weren’t worried about where the next meal was coming from.

“I started my legal career in Los Angeles as a legal services attorney and the clients I served didn’t have that experience,” Slossberg said. “They had issues affording rent month to month and making sure they could feed their children. That certainly was an experience of dealing with people who had a different upbringing than I had and I built bridges and connections with them.”

Then the candidates were asked to tell the audience why they chose a career in law.

“I wanted to help out children in crisis,” Slossberg said. “It’s nice the way my career developed. I’m dealing with the juvenile dependency and delinquency system so I get to assist kids who are in crisis.”

His opponent was also driven to help youth.

“Ultimately when I found my way to civil service with the county, I fell in love with child welfare,” Barlow said. “And that’s when the light went on. Being in the courtroom is something I fell in love with.”

She said she learned a valuable lesson in the courtroom that will hold true if she is elected.

“You can’t make assumptions about things and you can’t assume that you know something,” Barlow said. “You always have to be asking the right questions and you have to be thorough in your inquiries.”

One of the more difficult questions of the night, Burke-Trent asked the candidates how they differ from their opponent.

They spoke of their own experience.

Slossberg told of how his current role as superior court commissioner wouldn’t be too much of a transition.

“As a court commissioner I do the job essentially of the judge right now,” Slossberg said. “There’s not too many differences. I’ve made orders in every type of case in this county aside from maybe one or two. There’s no learning curve. I’m ready to go on day one.”

Barlow spoke about how her experience in the courtroom as an advocate and practitioner has given her a unique point of view.

“I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t work,” Barlow said. “I’ve been in front of so many judges who I’ve learned from and that’s something I think will help me be a good judge.”

Watch a video of the forum online at fb.watch/cWoGOoqUHJ.

‘We’re not done’: Sierra-at-Tahoe looks to future post-Caldor

Sierra-at-Tahoe General Manager John Rice addresses the crowd at the resort’s annual Subaru WinterFest on the weekend of April 9-10 — just eight months after the Caldor Fire decimated the resort.
Provided/Matt Bombino

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — It was an emotional day in April when Sierra-at-Tahoe employees and passholders returned to the mountain to celebrate what would have been the resort’s 75th season. Eight months after the Caldor Fire burned its way up the Western Slope into the Tahoe Basin, scorching 221,835 acres, the resort wanted to convey to its stakeholders an important message: It’s not over.

“A lot of people saw it for the first time. There were a lot of tears,” said John Rice, general manager of Sierra-at-Tahoe. “When the fire came through, I was one of the last people there before we were told we had to leave. With a heavy heart, I knew something was going to happen.”

After sparking on Aug. 14, 2021, near Grizzly Flats, the Caldor Fire moved swiftly up the foothills, spurred by high winds and dry vegetation. Fire crews were stationed at the resort, where employees blasted buildings with snowmaking equipment and the resort’s insurance company covered the lodge and other offices with fire retardant.

Despite these efforts, over 70% of the vegetation spanning the resort’s 2,000 acres were burned, along with the maintenance facility, containing expensive snow equipment and tools. Five of the nine ski lifts and a magic carpet were damaged. Assessment of the fire’s destruction at Sierra-at-Tahoe is still underway, but it’s estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars.

“We wanted to make sure people know that we’re not done. It’s a beautiful place. We get a great amount of snow. The landscape is going to be different, but it’s still going to be awesome.” — John Rice, Sierra-at-Tahoe general manager

“We wanted to make sure people know that we’re not done,” explained Rice. “It’s a beautiful place. We get a great amount of snow. The landscape is going to be different, but it’s still going to be awesome.”

Unable to open for the 2021-2022 season, Sierra-at-Tahoe gave passholders the option of a refund or an extension to the following winter.

Sierra-at-Tahoe was set to celebrate its 75th season, but was unable to open for the winter of 2021-2022 due to the damage from the Caldor Fire. Restoration of the resort is underway.
Provided/Matt Bombino

“More than half of people kept their passes,” said Rice. “We were very honored that we have a loyal community that still believes in us.”

Sierra-at-Tahoe is located on land leased out by the U.S. Forest Service, so restoration work is a collaborative process with the agency. Removal of scorched, hazard trees has taken place near chairlifts, building and roads for worker safety, and additional felling is happening along the resort’s 46 ski trails.

The next phase of restoration, a vegetation management plan, is currently under review by the USFS.

“Our goal is to save every possible tree that could survive this. They will remove those that can’t, chip all the limbs and use that chipped wood as erosion control means,” said Rice. “When revegetation happens, they will come in and talk about replanting and putting native plants back in place to stabilize the soil and allow for regrowth.”

With funding through the USFS, donations facilitated through the El Dorado Community Foundation, and work from the El Dorado Resource Conservation District for the entire fire footprint, the restoration work will continue through 2022.

The final phase of restoration, yet to be submitted for evaluation to the USFS, is reimagining Sierra-at-Tahoe in light of its new reality.

“What can the future of Sierra-at-Tahoe look like given the new landscape? What new trails, lifts, buildings, or services can we look at now that the landscape is forever changed?” asks Rice. “It would include things like snowmaking, trail widening, and some new lifts. We’re no longer dealing with a pristine forest. We’ve got a burnt landscape, so how do we utilize the terrain and the natural resources to create a ski product that will be next level for people?”

With work ongoing through the spring, summer and fall, the goal is get skis on snow this winter.

“All of our energy is going toward getting all lifts and trails reopened this winter,” said Rice. “It’s an aggressive goal, but we have the support of our employees and our landlord and the El Dorado Resource Conservation District to get the resort open.”

To donate to the Caldor Fire restoration, visit eldoradocf.org.

Meet El Dorado County judge candidate Barlow

For the first time in eight years residents of El Dorado County will choose who they want to serve as their judge. Vacant judicial seats are commonly filled by appointment by the governor but on June 7 voters will decide between Lesley Gomes Barlow and Gary Slossberg for Superior Court Office 7.

Lesley Gomes Barlow

Barlow is a 15-year resident of Placerville who has worked as a deputy county attorney for El Dorado County and currently serves as such in Amador. She’s a single mother of three and an active member of the local faith community.

An honors graduate from McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento, Barlow has more than 20 years of legal practice inside and outside the courtroom, including a clerkship in the U.S. District Court, Eastern District of California. She has also appeared before the California Court of Appeal, Third District. Barlow’s legal experience includes private practice in established law firms in Silicon Valley and Sacramento before dedicating her career to public service in El Dorado and Amador counties.

“Barlow is aware that what happens inside the courtroom affects the community outside the courtroom,” reads a campaign statement. “She is nonpartisan with a faith-filled heart who is dedicated to building trust within her community.”

According to campaign organizers, among those endorsing Barlow is Placerville Police Chief Joseph Wren. In a letter to Barlow, Wren states, “I believe that once elected you will exercise a prudent judicial temperament and apply the law in a fair and balanced way, staying clear of judicial activism.”

Other local leaders supporting Barlow include District 2 Supervisor George Turnboo, District 3 Supervisor Wendy Thomas, El Dorado Irrigation District Director Brian Veerkamp, South Lake Tahoe city councilmember Tamara Wallace and El Dorado County District Attorney Vern Pierson.

Assemblyman Kevin Kiley and Amador County Superior Court Judge Renee C. Day are also backing Barlow, according to campaign officials. “Lesley has been appearing in my courtroom regularly since September of 2017,” Day states. “I know her abilities well. As an advocate, she is strong and effective. She is respectful of all the parties and exercises her role with care. These are qualities you want in a judicial officer.”

Slossberg, Barlow’s challenger, has been a superior court commissioner for the county since November 2020. He previously served as the family law facilitator and self-help attorney for the court and as the attorney for Live Violence Free.

Find more information about Barlow’s campaign at lesleybarlowforsuperiorcourt.com.

Genoa town manager resigns after interfering with firefighters

With the resignation of Genoa Town Manager Matt Bruback, Douglas County has selected Community Services Manager Amanda Reid to fill in until the town board can hire a new manager.

Matt Bruback

“I am pleased to accept Douglas County’s offer of support on behalf of the Town,” said Town Board Chairman Gordon Pasley. “We are thankful for the collaboration and support from the County as we move through this critical transition with a positive outlook and vision for the future.”

Effective Wednesday, Reid will serve in this acting capacity and be in the Genoa Town Office full time with further support from the Douglas County Community Services Department.

An agenda item will be drafted and placed on the next Genoa Town Board agenda where the Board will have the opportunity to discuss and take appropriate action.

Bruback was hired in May 2021 by the town board, which is elected and has its own tax base.

He was convicted at a trial last month of misdemeanor interfering with firefighters during an Oct. 22 power pole fire north of town.

Bruback was previously director of Main Street Gardnerville, having arrived in August 2019.

Publisher’s Perspective: Mental health and our children (Opinion)

If memory serves me correct, this is the sixth year that the Tribune has turned our logo green in support of Mental Health Awareness Month. As I’ve written over the years, this is a cause that I feel is one of the most important, yet maybe also one of the most overlooked (or at least underserved).

Rob Galloway

While there are many types of mental health illnesses worthy of discussion, I wanted to touch on the mental health of children in this column. It’s one that I experienced directly during the pandemic and probably became my single most challenging moment as a parent.

In a recent article in the New York Times, it noted that mental health in adolescents began to deteriorate sometime around 2009, which not coincidentally, falls in line with when social media and the iPhone started their stranglehold on our lives.

These things have not only changed behaviors in our children (and ourselves), but also how we parent. We all were learning in real-time what it was like to have all of this information and access at our fingertips and how it could help, but not necessarily how much it could hurt us. I believe the pandemic exacerbated the effects it has had on all of us and it’s these effects that are beginning to shout from the rooftops.

I’m sure we could make an enormous list of pros and cons that things like technology and social media have had on our lives but at the end of the list, I’m not sure which one outweighs the other — and if one does, to what degree?

I don’t think it is news to anyone that we have seen less time spent on in-person activities and more time spent with technology. Less time with people can eventually put a strain on things like exercise and sleep and eventually lead into isolation, loneliness, and depression — all things that can lead to mental health illness.

As with any identification of a mental health issue, it starts with paying attention. Of course every instance is unique and different, but I believe for the most part that talking to the individual if you feel or see that something might be wrong, is a pretty good first step.

Often times people suffering can feel that no one will listen, or perhaps if they do speak out, they fear the repercussions. Social media has intensified people’s ability to say mean and demeaning things that can only worsen this type of situation – especially if it occurs amongst their peers or in a school setting.

That’s why it’s important to be present for the initial discussion. Having this discussion face to face with your child, I believe, is critical. You have to read body language and let them read yours. They have to know you are there to help and not to judge or criticize. It’s only then when the lines of communication can open up and the process towards healing can begin.

Granted, I am not a doctor. And, like I said, every situation is distinctive. But, speaking from my own experience, once that initial conversation happened, and we both could be open and honest about what was happening and how we might go about making it better, everything changed — including our relationship, which was strengthened by the process.

On a bigger scale, that’s why the Tribune turns the logo green. For everyone that asks why it is green, hopefully there is an answer that elicits a response, which drives awareness, or better yet, action.

Whether it is through awareness, advocacy, support, or volunteering, the more people that can help spread the word about the services that are offered, or simply understand the symptoms, the better.

Please join us in bringing awareness during the month of May (and beyond). Even if the effort helps only one person, the effort will be worth it — especially if it is someone you love.

Publisher Rob Galloway can be reached at rgalloway@tahoedailytribune.com or 530-542-8046.

Chief’s Corner: Red flag warnings, what they mean

As I sit writing this article, I am watching the wind relentlessly attack the trees outside my office. Besides being an annoyance to our outdoor activities, the above-average winds we have had this winter add to the potential for an extreme fire season by drying out the vegetation in the Tahoe Basin.

Sean Bailey

With the potential for another significant fire season looming, I’d like to bring attention to the weather warnings that typically precede some of California’s largest catastrophic wildfires.

The United States National Weather Service issues “Red Flag Warnings” for certain areas of our country to inform firefighting and land management agencies that the predicted weather conditions are ideal for wildland fire ignition and propagation. The issuance of red flag warnings is based on low relative humidity, gusty winds, and low fuel moisture. The combination of these factors will lead to an elevated risk for explosive fire growth.

Starting with the 2021 high fire season, NWS weather forecast offices serving California will have the option to use the phrase “Particularly Dangerous Situation” within red flag warnings. The objective is to heighten public and fire agency awareness for fire weather situations considered exceptionally rare or impactful to the public and firefighting community.

A PDS red flag warning will only be used for higher-tier weather events. In order for it to occur, there must be a combination of exceptional winds, very low relative humidity, and unusually dry fuels.

Red flag warnings are most common throughout California and in the Tahoe Basin between May and October. History shows most severe wildfires in California have occurred during red flag warnings.

What does this mean to the residents and visitors to the Lake Tahoe area?

Here are a few simple examples of what not to do on a red flag warning day. Some local fire districts even have ordinances that make many of them illegal and subject to heavy penalties:

— Do not burn brush or trash.

— Do not mow or trim dry grass.

— Do not have solid fuel burning fires in your outdoor fire pits (portable or fixed).

— Do not use fireworks.

— Do not fire live ammunition.

— Do not park your vehicle on dry vegetation.

What should you do:

— Check with the local fire department on specific regulations regarding fire safety.

— Understand and follow your local ordinances.

— Use common sense to avoid situations that could lead to accidental wildfire ignition.

Most of the local fire agencies increase staffing and awareness during Red Flag Warnings. Local fire agencies respectfully ask that you do your part. When a Red Flag Warning is in effect, please increase your diligence in practicing the basic fire safety tips that were taught to us at an early age, as well as those mentioned in this article. Thanks for doing your part to help protect the Lake Tahoe region and its citizens and visitors.

Sean Bailey is the fire chief for the Northstar Fire Department.