Tahoe’s Ted Lasso Lessons


By Heidi Hill Drum

“Be curious, not judgmental,”

~ Ted Lasso

For those who haven’t watched the Emmy Award winning show Ted Lasso on Apple TV, without giving away any spoilers, it is about an American college football coach going to England to coach a Premier League Football team (soccer to most of us). Ted is heartwarming, down to earth and flawed, but also deeply inspiring. That quote should be part of our Tahoe culture, but if social media is any indication — the opposite is true.


Suspending judgement is often easier said than done — don’t we all know best, after all? When others don’t agree with us, it can be easier to dismiss them rather than finding common ground. If you live in Tahoe, you’ve likely seen the graphics and posts about Kings Beach being turned into Miami. As tall tales often go, somehow what started as a five-story redevelopment project is now a 50-story high-rise. Those publicly commenting that they “support housing” often act in ways that seem to suggest the opposite.

Curiosity, collaboration, and community are the foundation of meaningful solutions, so why dwell on conflict and exclusion? Every one of the Envision Tahoe Prosperity Playbook housing recommendations is focused on how to add housing for the very low-income (below 60% of Area Median Income) to middle income (80% to 120% AMI). High school teachers, restaurant managers and pharmacy technicians are just some in our local workforce making 120% of our area median income and are critical to Tahoe’s wellbeing. So, yes, the Tahoe Prosperity Center focuses on meaningful solutions for housing in this range of income because we believe these workers should be able to live here too.

There have also been comments that “traffic is far worse and visitation is much higher.” This perception is very prevalent among the crowd that doesn’t want change. And while it does feel like this some days, the data suggests otherwise. A decade ago, less than half of our workforce commuted to their jobs in Tahoe. Now, over 60% of Tahoe’s workforce commutes. So, who is in traffic? Workers and visitors, as well as retired residents just trying to get to the beach or grocery store. Add in summer construction and of course it is easy to blame it all on tourists. But, if you’re curious, according to the Lake Tahoe Stewardship Plan released in June, we had higher visitation numbers in 2019 than we did in 2022. If we truly had a robust, year-round full-time resident community in the Tahoe basin, workers wouldn’t need to commute to their jobs from off the hill. A thriving, year-round resident population is good for the environment, community, and our economy.

The Tahoe Prosperity Center prioritizes community, collaboration, and connection. We did the largest, in at least the past decade, public opinion poll of Tahoe residents as part of gathering input for our Envision Tahoe work. And we plan to keep doing an annual poll to gather continuous feedback. Our entire focus is on full-time residents — higher wages for local workers, better broadband, more affordable housing, and fire cameras that protect our communities to tell us when we’re in danger. Full-time residents are what make a community thrive! They keep our restaurants open. They support our schools and youth sports. They contribute to the local tax base and nonprofit organizations. They are the heart of our community.

The Tahoe Prosperity Center’s work and the thoughtful discussion and implementation of the ideas presented in the Prosperity Playbook will result in higher wage jobs in our region and a more diverse economy which benefits all locals. One of the absolute best examples of this is Gear Lab — a Tahoe company based in Roundhill, Nevada, that pays its workers “house-buying” wages, supports quality of life with flexibility, good benefits, and connections to the outdoors. This doesn’t mean every new job will come with a house-buying wage, but if we have a thriving tourism economy and grow our other higher-wage sectors, then all in our community benefit.

Maintaining the status quo means employees keep struggling to make ends meet, parents keep working two jobs to pay 50% of their income on rent, and more and more workers commuting rather than living here. This is what the Playbook is all about — supporting programs in our region that allow all of us to have a high quality of life, not just those who already do. So, despite some of the social media negativity, happily, I’m a goldfish. You’ll just have to watch Ted Lasso to get that last one.

~ Heidi Hill Drum has more than 25 years’ experience in public policy, communications and collaboration with government agencies, nonprofit organizations, academia, and business associations. She is the CEO of the Tahoe Prosperity Center.


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