By LEIGH HOLGATE

Funny thing, the Los Angeles area has always been a place to escape from. The people escaping usually are looking for a small, rural town to settle in, a town where you know everyone. The sheriff, the grocer, road department, the hardware store employees, the post office, all know each other, and their kids and relatives. The town takes care of its own.

What a lot of people don’t understand is the Los Angeles area is a vast conglomerate of small towns that fit that description perfectly.

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Pick any town down there and you will find the grocery store employs people who are related to the local cops, the accountant, the judge, and everyone else. They take care of their own quite well. An outsider won’t see this until they move there.

So what does this have to do with the Truckee/Tahoe area? Plenty, actually, and I think we have somehow lost our way.

When the recession hit us, we bought local, we took care of our neighbors, and, up until recently, hired local. Truckee started Truckee Thursdays to drum up business and attract tourists. And it saved this town. I feel that this great success has left our locals, their children, and grandchildren out in the cold.

Now we have large corporations who, in the interest of saving money, hire foreign nationals instead of these kids, pay them sub-livable wages, and give them temporary work for what used to be good career positions with a future.

Then these internationals, after not making much, leave the area to do a little sightseeing and return home. Meanwhile, our local young people must find gainful employment in Reno and we have lost an important source of expertise and stability for this area.

I suppose the corporate number crunchers could say that the savings are worth it, but what they can’t say is that they helped the town that gave them their business in the first place.

And, I suppose these same number crunchers would tell me that some of those jobs are seasonal, anyway. I can’t argue with a basic fact of life in a resort area, but I question the logic of always hiring and training new people every year.

Nobody expects to make a fortune at a ski resort, but certainly the money saved not training rookies every year could translate into a better wage for returning employees. This is true for other seasonal business as well.

When I first moved here in the 1970s, there was no such thing as the working poor. Now we have the working homeless. I used to never have to worry about locking my car or my house. Now we have gangs in Incline Village, one of the wealthiest communities in the western United States. And I don’t dare leave my car or house unlocked.

Finding a longtime local is not impossible, but you can bet more of us just lay low these days. Who can you trust anymore? Not the fly-by-nights, because they don’t care if they burn a bridge in this town, they’re leaving anyway, just as soon as that low-paying job ends. Then we get a whole new group.

The local kids? They’ve been driven off the hill, and another opportunity to hire stable people has been lost. Is this the town we all escaped to?

Maybe we should go back to Los Angeles and find the answer.

~ Leigh Holgate has been a resident of Lake Tahoe and Truckee since 1978.

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