2018 will be a pivotal election year at all levels: local, state and federal. Primary elections in Nevada and California are just days away.

After careful deliberation at its May 17 meeting, the Board of the Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce (Tahoe Chamber) made its first endorsements of the 2018 election cycle.

Douglas County Commission

The Board voted unanimously to endorse candidates Wesley Rice for Douglas County Commission District 4 and incumbent Commissioner Steve Thaler for re-election to the District 2 seat.

These endorsements were based on consideration of each candidate's experience and ability to represent all of Douglas County. They were also based on two efforts Tahoe Chamber sees as vital to the economic sustainability of the county and the South Shore: maintaining the course on Redevelopment Area #2 in Stateline and development of the proposed Tahoe South Event Center.

In statements during candidate forums and other appearances, both Rice and Thaler have been consistent in expressing support for Redevelopment Area #2. As a commissioner, Thaler was one of the four votes to establish the area. He and Rice clearly understand the need for continuing work to reinvent the economic underpinnings of Stateline, moving away from a gaming-based focus to a more diversified set of year-round entertainment offerings as an enhancement to our reputation as a world-class recreation destination.

John Engels, Commissioner Thaler's opponent, has declared his intent to dissolve Redevelopment Area #2, flatly stating "it should be abolished." District 4 candidate Janet Murphy has equivocated on the question, apparently unable to make a definitive statement. Tahoe Chamber recognizes that Redevelopment Area # 2 is essential to fund the event center and other revitalization projects. There is no room for equivocation.

The proposed event center will be a new and unparalleled indoor venue for entertainment, special events, and conventions on Lake Tahoe's South Shore. It will complement local resort services and business by leveraging the existing hotel bed base, utilizing available parking, and concentrating activity near restaurant, retail and recreation areas. Again, Rice and Thaler are clear in their support for the event center, Engels is opposed, and Murphy has not directly answered the question.

California Proposition 69

The Tahoe Chamber Board has also unanimously endorsed Proposition 69 on the California June 5 primary election ballot. Prop 69 was part of the legislative package that included Senate Bill 1 (SB 1) and the Road Repair and Accountability Act of 2017. The passage of Prop 69 would require that revenue from the diesel sales tax and Transportation Improvement Fee (TIF) be dedicated solely to transportation purposes. A YES vote on Prop 69 requires that transportation funds be spent on priorities like fixing local roads, state highways, bridges, and other transportation projects.

No on SB 1 Repeal

It is important to understand that without California SB 1, Prop 69 would not affect anything. Accordingly, the Tahoe Chamber Board also voted to endorse a NO vote on the repeal of SB 1, a measure expected to qualify for the November General election ballot.

The passage of SB 1 marked the first significant increase in state transportation funding in more than two decades. The SB 1 package provides approximately $5.4 billion annually in long-term, dedicated transportation funding with the revenues shared between state and local projects. These funds will rehabilitate and maintain local streets, roads and state highways; make critical life-saving safety improvements; repair and replace bridges and culverts; and reduce congestion and increase mobility options, including bicycle and pedestrian facilities.

California Proposition 68

While it was not on the Board's agenda to formally consider, the endorsement of Prop 68 is consistent with Tahoe Chamber's long-standing support for sources of funding for projects identified in the Lake Tahoe's Environmental Improvement Program (EIP). Prop 68 is the California Drought, Water, Parks, Climate Coastal Protection, and Outdoor Access for All Act of 2018. It is designed to help make California communities more resilient to the impacts of climate change.

The measure was placed on the ballot to make much-needed investments to bolster the reliability of our water supply and the infrastructure we depend on to help us get through wet and dry years. Specific to Tahoe, if approved by voters, Prop 68 will provide a minimum of $27 million directly to Tahoe with the potential for more than $100 million in competitive grant opportunities for state and local parks and forest health projects in the Tahoe region.

Steve Teshara serves as CEO of the Lake Tahoe South Shore Chamber of Commerce (Tahoe Chamber).