Election season is upon us. While nationally, that means a shaking up of Congress in Washington D.C., and in Nevada and California, gubernatorial races are hot ticket items, voters’ decisions hyperlocally have an even more important outcome: Those elected guide how Truckee/North Tahoe operates and where funding is prioritized — factors that affect the day-to-day lives of you, our dear readers.
The following pages concentrate on the candidates for the Incline Village General Improvement District, Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, and Town of Truckee Town Council. These are the races of which Moonshine Ink didn’t ask questions at the Truckee Candidate Forums in early October.
It’s an important moment for Incline Village and Crystal Bay, which are considering incorporation into a city. IVGID candidates share their opinions on what such a move could mean. They also touch on what capital improvement projects they’d like to focus on during their potential trustee tenure.
The housing crisis and curriculum are addressed by candidates for the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District — housing because teachers and staff are being challenged by maintaining a liveable wage amid a median home price of $1 million; curriculum because schools across the country are facing outside pressure to change what is taught.
Keeping community members housed spills over into Truckee’s town council candidates — three of whom are incumbents, the other serving on the planning commission — who speak on what’s gone right and wrong with recent housing projects (and what could go better for future ones). Climate change, that ever-present gamechanger, is also addressed.
The Ink asked readers to vote on the topics they most wanted to hear about; the top categories, selected by readers, appear here in print. A bonus question for each race is online. Candidates were given up to 50 words for their intros and 200 words for each question. The answers are rotated.
Incline Village General Improvement District, 4 candidates for 2 seats
Yolanda Knaak, Incline Village: I want to make IVGID better by bringing residents together through positive and respectful communication and solving long-term problems that affect our environment. I have a master’s degree from UCLA. I’m a retired registered nurse with management and business experience. I’m transparent, reliable, and ethical. For more information, visit electyolandaknaak.com.
David Noble, Incline Village: As a former attorney and commissioner for the Nevada Public Utilities Commission, I regulated small water and wastewater facilities throughout Nevada. I am running to ensure that IVGID invests in our utility infrastructure and recreational facilities for the future benefit of families in Incline Village/Crystal Bay.
Gail Krolick, Incline Village: I am the only candidate who served as an IVGID trustee. I have the dedication, experience, and proven leadership to jump right in, as I served from 1999 to 2002, and as chairwoman in 2002. To understand where I stand on issues and additional personal information, please visit gailkrolick4ivgidtrustee.com.
Ray Tulloch, Incline Village: I am running to bring transparency, accountability, and value through open, independent, and honest board review of issues and proposals. I will listen to all stakeholder input, not just special interest groups, to ensure a sustainable future for our community and environment through effective stewardship, oversight, and governance.
1. Many capital and infrastructure projects/improvements are in the works, including repairing an effluent pipeline, expanding the recreation center, and more. If you’re elected to the board, what will you focus on within the current framework of infrastructure improvements? Or would you opt to focus on something different? Explain.
GK: For the past 20 years, we seem to get to the one-yard line and then fumble. As with the recent expansion of the recreation center vote with one sitting trustee voting “no” and the project is now dead. I do not understand how a $25.8 million grant given to our community was not given a unanimous vote. I will work hard to begin conversations again so our youth, seniors, and those in between will have a safe, enjoyable, and long-standing center to enjoy for years to come.
The effluent pipeline had past issues, however, it now appears to be on track and I will see to it this project is completed as it is long overdue.
We need to get serious about what direction we are taking Diamond Peak and need to be asking questions such as: Does the district begin with the reconstruction of Ski Way, a new high-speed quad, or a new Snowflake Lodge?
The above are my top three. However, I also want to focus on completing a strategic master plan, attracting and retaining exemplary IVGID employees, conducting a facility assessment, investigating covered tennis/pickleball courts, and advancing our dog park.
DN: I will focus on ensuring IVGID carries through on its commitments to upgrade our dilapidated utility infrastructure and recreational facilities. For too long, the IVGID BOT has kowtowed to the vocal minority of naysayers in our community that don’t want to invest in our future. During my five-year tenure as a commissioner at the Nevada Public Utilities Commission, my decisions saved Nevada ratepayers over $1.6 billion — all while ensuring the utility companies that I regulated kept contracting, building, and upgrading the necessary infrastructure. Those decisions were made in spite of often-times vocal opposition and intimidation tactics by naysayers. I made those decisions to ensure long-term reasonable and reliable service for the benefit of ratepayers in Nevada.
RT: Our number one priority must be to expedite the overdue replacement of the effluent pipeline to minimize the risk of further leakage and environmental damage. This will also require substantial borrowings of over $40 million. Expansion of the recreation center for all age groups in accordance with the expressed wishes of the community must also be a priority. The withdrawal of the proposed Duffield Foundation funding was a blow, but it has highlighted the very high priority that the community places on proceeding more quickly with the improvements previously agreed in the Community Master Plan. The current discussions on replacement of the Incline Beach facilities also reflects a high community priority and value.
In parallel with expediting these projects, we should review our current backlog of capital projects to ensure priority is given to maintaining and improving our current infrastructure and facilities before considering any expansion to new facilities.
Soliciting and listening to input from all sectors of the community must be an integral part of this replanning process. We should also be realistic about what level of investment the district has the capacity and capability to physically manage and fund to ensure successful delivery on time and within budget.
YK: I am committed to maintaining and upgrading all local venues and infrastructure. The effluent pipeline, which carries treated sewer water, has been leaking on and off for 19 years; sections 1 and 3 have been replaced, now section 2 needs replacement. The last leak was February 2022. Each leak has costs associated with it, plus another cost when Highway 28 was damaged by the leak. Another holding tank for the wastewater is needed as well. Both projects are estimated at $38 million. It is still possible that federal and state grants could be obtained and IVGID is continuing to pursue those grants. Our CFO is attempting to obtain a loan with the least amount of interest. At this time, it looks like we may be able to get a low interest loan with the Nevada State Revolving Fund. Apparently, we qualify; no money is required up front and there are no costs to putting up the required bond that the revolving fund requires. This project needs to move forward as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the rec-center expansion has lost its funding — it is critical to look for alternate funding and move forward with this project.
2. There is discussion about incorporating Incline Village/Crystal Bay as a city. What do you see as the benefits and detriments to such an attempt?
DN: Incorporating Incline Village/Crystal Bay as a city allows for more local control of services to the community. However, until a thorough cost/benefit analysis is performed, I cannot provide an informed opinion as to whether incorporation makes sense from a cost perspective. For now, IVGID should stay focused on managing water/wastewater/trash services and all of the recreational facilities currently under its jurisdiction.
RT: This proposal has potential to improve many of the concerns raised in the community through restoring local control and accountability for community specific issues rather than being dictated by Washoe County policies. This is particularly important to address community needs in areas such as planning, short-term rentals, tourism, building permits, economic development, and housing options, among others.
However, it is still unclear what form the city would take and what functions it would provide. We also need to minimize duplication of functions, overheads, and costs with IVGID to avoid unnecessary tax increases. The more detailed financial plans currently being developed should help the community better understand and make their own value decisions on the benefits as well as the impact on service levels and taxes from taking more local control.
For residents, it is critical that our rights and facility access, particularly the beach access deed, are preserved should this be approved. The IVGID board must ensure this is a key priority, as well as facilitate a seamless transition for residents and staff. My significant professional experience in successfully developing and implementing transition plans makes me uniquely qualified among the candidates in this area.
YK: City of Incline benefits: Earlier this year, Washoe County commissioners voted to take away our elected constable. They did and his term ends Dec. 31. They are already planning a vote for this fall to eventually remove our judge and courthouse. They purchased the old elementary school and developed plans to put in a bus hub. Thousands of our residents opposed each of these, but it made no difference. Our taxes go to Reno and only a fraction are used to help our area. I have heard different numbers, but I believe it’s only 35% of our taxes that come back to us. The rest of our taxes are used in Reno. Another advantage to becoming a city will be that permits and other services can be obtained here in Incline Village. There will be a petition circulating first and then, if we get enough signatures, there will be a special election late next spring. For more updates or to volunteer, please go to cityofinclinevillage.com.
City of Incline detriments: If there is a problem in keeping the beach deed, then this endeavor will be dropped. I am not aware of any other detriments.
GK: While the discussion of incorporating Incline Village and Crystal Bay has been discussed many times during my 31-year full-time residency in Incline Village, this discussion, in my opinion, has too many unknowns. The biggest concern I have is in regard to Incline Village’s private beaches. If there is any possibility of the beaches not remaining private, I am against Incline Village/Crystal Bay incorporation. If, however, beaches will remain private, I am open in reviewing this option. There are many unknowns, such as the cost, what we would control, etc. However, I do like the idea of our money remaining in our community.
3. Does IVGID do a good job of balancing the needs of tourists and residents? Where is there room for improvement?
RT: IVGID does not have a remit for tourism and village infrastructure is not scaled to handle a doubling of population during peak seasons. This creates issues when facilities and venues become overcrowded and inaccessible to the community that has funded them. Changes made to Ordinance 7 this year to reduce beach overcrowding have significantly improved the experience and community access.
Manageable levels of visitors bring important economic benefits to the community and our retailers. Conversely, the increasing number of visitors and rentals has generated complaints of excessive noise, parking, and trash issues, negatively impacting the environment that attracted residents here and reducing availability of long-term rentals for the workforce. While rentals are outside IVGID control, we can support enforcement in areas such as trash management.
IVGID should focus on improved balance through prioritizing community access to facilities and venues. Where we have additional capacity for visitors, we should ensure that this not only makes an equitable revenue contribution but that it does not negatively impact the resident experience. We should also initiate an honest and open community discussion on how to better educate visitors, landlords, and short-term renters on appreciating and respecting our unique environment and community.
YK: Incline Village is a general improvement district. Property owners pay a yearly fee on their property taxes, specifically for IVGID. IVGID amenities are primarily for residents and their guests, especially the beaches (according to the deed). The focus of the GID isn’t necessarily to provide services for visitors. Although visitors are welcome, there are free beaches like Hidden Beach or Chimney Beach. There is Sand Harbor, which is a state park nearby, and a variety of local free parks and hiking trails, including East Shore Trail. At a higher cost than residents pay, one can ski at Diamond Peak, golf on our courses, or visit the rec center. Here in town, we have High Altitude Fitness and the recently the refurbished Bowl Incline. The Hyatt here in Incline Village has a variety of amenities as well. Locally in the summer there are opportunities to rent bicycles, e-bikes, SUPs, and kayaks. We also have a variety of excellent restaurants in the area. There are great places to stay, although please don’t feed the bears and please respect our residents by limiting noise. Please pick up your trash; we love Tahoe and want to keep it beautiful for your next visit. Another venue I’d love to see in Incline Village, which could very well be started by a small business owner, is an ice-skating rink.
GK: IVGID’s responsibilities are water, sewer, and trash, and protecting our private beaches. IVGID’s only control when speaking of tourists and residents is in Ordinance 7, which I applaud the current board of trustees for tackling this past year. IVGID staff and the board of trustees will be reviewing the changes that took place June 1, 2022, and will be discussing at a future meeting date.
DN: The needs of residents should be priority number one for IVGID. However, providing some services to tourists is necessary in order to bring in revenue and properly manage the costs of maintaining the utility infrastructure and recreational facilities under IVGID’s jurisdiction. IVGID has done an adequate job of managing that balance. In particular, I look forward to a follow-up review of the recent revisions to Ordinance No. 7 and whether or not those revisions have had their intended effect, especially regarding access to the deed-restricted beaches during the summer months.
Tahoe Truckee Unified School District, six candidates, two each for three trustee areas
Dianna “Deedee” Driller, Timberland, Trustee Area 5: I wish to continue my work, which transformed our schools and district to this amazing level of success. I understand our district policies, providing me with the insight and ability to make accurate, fiduciary sound, meaningful, and timely decisions, putting all students first.
Richard Ludke, Downtown Truckee, Trustee Area 1:
I’m running to represent students and parents in our community. I’d like to work with our educators to encourage higher academic achievement for our students and foster more transparency and accountability with their families.
Denyelle Nishimori, Truckee, Trustee Area 4: Now more than ever our schools need positive leadership based on core values. I am running to put my positive leadership skills to work in support of student academic, social, and emotional well-being and to refocus back to the basics of reading, math, science, college prep, and life skills.
Shannon Hansen, Tahoma, Trustee Area 5: My husband and I are raising four third-generation children in the district. I’m committed to making sure all stakeholders’ voices are heard and valued as part of the sometimes-tough conversations to ensure all children feel safe and have access to the highest quality education. Parents on the school board.
Patrick Mooney, Truckee, Trustee Area 1: As a teacher of 33 years in TTUSD, I have served in many capacities of education and have seen firsthand how the results of school board policy decisions affect student success, progress, and well-being. I will use this unique experience to drive policies resulting in positive outcomes for all students.
Heather Whitney, Truckee, Trustee Area 4: I live with my husband, Shawn, and my 8-year-old son, who attends Glenshire Elementary. Wouldn’t it be amazing for our school district to be a leader in educational growth? That’s what I’d like for my child, and I know all of you who have children feel the same. Visit heatherw4schools.com.
1. Amid a housing crisis that is pushing out those in the middle-income bracket, including teachers and school district staff, how might you balance the pressure to raise benefits and salaries with the need to continue programs and keep people employed year after year?
SH: As a long-time local and mom of four kids, three in the district, I know full well the pressure and stress of finding affordable housing in our area. Housing costs have soared over the past few years, but thankfully there seems to be some relief in sight.
As inflation continues to rise, we will keep salaries on track, to make sure that our teachers and staff are paid properly and fairly. We do not want to lose any more teachers or staff, and we do not want all of our workforce moving down the hill to escape high housing costs.
While there is a time and place to be fiscally conservative, we are currently seeing booming property taxes from all the second homeowners who have moved into our area, and the district really has the ability to do it all: by raising wages for our bus drivers, janitors, teacher aides, and other staff to attract them to the district; by continuing to increase funding for the excellent programs the district offers for our students; and by finding new ways to increase the education of our students — all while using the tax dollars we have already been allocated.
RL: Affordable housing is a concern in our area that many local government organizations are already trying to address with their public tax dollars. The school board’s role in the community is to educate children and to serve families. I will always prioritize the needs of students and families. I will work to provide a good working environment and competitive benefits for teachers and support staff. I believe in a quality education for our children and transparency for our parents and families.
PM: We want our teachers to be able to live in the community where they teach. If we want to retain the exemplary teachers and staff we currently have, and attract the same, then we must be willing to provide competitive salaries and benefits. The most recent TTUSD wage increase (5%) fell painfully short of the inflation rate. But according to the TTUSD Unaudited Actuals Report, dated Sept. 21, 2022, TTUSD is enjoying a robust reserve of approximately $13.2 million which is an increase of $1.64 million from 2020/21. In addition, county assessor tax rolls (which fund the school district) increased 9.5%, approximately 4% higher than what the district budgeted. That is an additional $2.3 million. Today, the funding is there for significant change. However, the district cannot spend every penny of increased funding on teacher salaries alone. Some of it must be set aside for programs, improvements, and site needs. We don’t want to lose ground on the work the current board has accomplished. But during these times of skyrocketing home prices and high inflation, we must make supporting our teachers a priority or we will lose them.
DN: Attracting and retaining quality employees is one of my top priorities. I support increased teacher and school district staff pay, and as a board member I would take actions to support our incredibly talented and hard-working district staff.
The lack of affordable workforce housing, lack of available and affordable childcare, and increased cost of living are some of the many issues facing local employers, including the district. Now is the time to strengthen community partnerships to tackle these issues to ensure our students and teachers have the resources they need for success. The district is a founding member of the Truckee Tahoe Workforce Housing Agency, which is an excellent example of collaboration to find housing opportunities for workers. As a board member, I would work to expand existing partnerships for new innovative solutions.
I am a mom, multiple business owner, and community leader who has over 20 years of extensive experience in problem-solving challenges and finding ways to meet needs. I work hard, face challenges head on, and push for the best. These are critical skills for finding the right balance among retaining high quality employees, supporting student-focused programming, and addressing the district’s basic aid funding.
HW: Due to record property tax collections, TTUSD currently has revenue that is far higher than other districts with similar housing costs. The top end of the pay scale for tenured teachers and administrative staff is high, with many teachers receiving over $120,000 a year in base pay, overage pay, and benefits, with large inflation-adjusted increases in wages compared to 2019, and poses no issue when it comes to affordability of housing.
In contrast, the bottom end of the pay scale is not a living wage. Certificated staff are offered as little as $16.46 an hour — a wage lower than what is offered by our local fast-food restaurants. Many of these staff now live in Reno and have huge commute costs.
Turnover of employees at TTUSD is primarily amongst the workers at the bottom of the pay scale — the solution to the issue is to raise the bottom of the pay scale, instead of raising the top of the pay scale as the current board has repeatedly done.
DD: TTUSD is working hard with various local entities to come up with housing solutions and has had great successes with some of these new state and local programs, which is encouraging. I understand the importance of quality teachers and the need to keep pay rates and benefits comparable. I also understand that our teachers and classified staff are the lifeline to our educational system and without them, we would not survive. The current board has worked hard on our fiduciary oversight to provide available funds to our staff whenever we can to address this issue.
Communication and clarity of understanding about the budget are important, but it is a very complicated and involved concept. Sadly, the way our economy is now, these increases are not matching the increasing costs caused by the recent inflation, but we are doing our best to keep our teachers and staff employed and living in Tahoe.
The TTUSD has been fortunate that the Tahoe/Truckee community is so involved with our schools and has continually supported Measure AA, which provides for a large portion of our program offerings. By having this support, the TTUSD can continue to offer amazing programs.
2. Do you believe board members should have a say in restricting curriculum? Why or why not?
RL: I believe that our school board members are ultimately accountable to the parents and the families for the curriculum that is taught in our school district. A board member has a legal obligation to review any curriculum that is taught in the district which they represent. Parents deserve to know the curriculum that is being taught to their children and the review process should be more transparent in our district. I do not believe in banning books. Various beliefs and thought diversity empower the American future.
PM: Trustees set the tone for how the district operates; they do not micromanage. The board hires district leaders who are fully vetted, highly qualified, and broadly experienced. They in turn hire staff that are highly educated and highly trained. It is not the school board’s (or anyone outside of the educational community’s) function to dictate curriculum. Parents and community members, though, must always be welcome to provide input. Curriculum, as well as curriculum materials, go through a stringent vetting process by educational professionals before they are adopted. They are researched by curriculum directors; they are piloted by teachers; they are studied by the school board; and they are publicly displayed in the district office for the public to view and comment on in subsequent meetings. Parents trust this process and know that TTUSD curriculum and materials are appropriate to the state adopted standards being taught, are diverse, and inclusive. Parents and voters understand that the biggest challenges we face today are not the culture wars of division but whether our kids are getting the rigorous education that prepares them for college, career, and life.
DN: School curriculum should be based on teaching truth through integrity, freedom, honesty, and sense of belonging. Restricting or omitting important aspects of history, literature, civics, and equality negatively impacts the value of education and students’ rights to equal access and education excellence.
TTUSD board members should continue to support the State of California’s curriculum. It is developed by educators with expertise in age-appropriate content that supports child growth and development in preparation for life, college, and vocational interests.
HW: No. The TTUSD board is required by the board bylaws to approve the curriculum used in the schools.
The curriculum itself is chosen from options put forth by organizations such as the California Department of Education, which gives thousands of different options for books and electronic resources, from dozens of different vendors that a board can choose from. These options are chosen based on their ability to meet Common Core standards, as required by law. As such there is no ability to “restrict” curriculum to less than Common Core standards without breaking the law.
When I am elected to the board, my goal will be to keep the current curriculum intact, and to ensure that my other board members continue to vote for curriculum that meets the necessary educational standards.
DD: The school board hires the educational leader, the chief learning officer, who then oversees the educational experts to review and recommend the curriculum. The role of the school board is not to manage the process, though it is involved in the process. At TTUSD, we have a very thorough curriculum review process which allows for review and input from our highly qualified and expert educators, and then before final adoption, the curriculum is piloted. Input is provided to the review committees as well as the board throughout this process, and the board can ask questions such as: Does it align with the California state standards? Is it financially feasible to adopt? Does it align with our district goals? Is it engaging for students and support all learners? The school board may have to make the final decision to adopt the curriculum choice, but the decision is based on the findings and decisions from the team of experts: the teachers and staff.
Before adoption of any curriculum, the public is given the opportunity to also review and make comments on the curriculum.
SH: No, school boards need to stick to the assignment. The curriculum in our schools shouldn’t be something people are fighting over. The students are our priority, and we need to push them forward with the proper curriculum.
As a board member, I will fight to keep the curriculum on track and in the best interest of our students. The books our teachers need should be available to them. Our teachers are fantastic, and I have been overwhelmingly happy with the curriculum they teach, and the way they are educating my children.
If our teachers have a need or an idea, I will find a way to make that happen. I trust our teachers, and the board should be a resource to them. We need to provide our teachers with all the support they need, all the tools they need, and we need to find every possible way to help them do their job.
3. While TTUSD isn’t experiencing a teacher shortage like many districts are nationally, there is a shortage in bus drivers, instructional aides, and custodians. How do you see the school district enticing applicants for these roles?
PM: The district has taken a step in the right direction by offering hiring bonuses to support staff, but we must do more by researching what other districts are doing successfully to attract employees. An Arizona school district made a recruitment video that highlighted the positive impact bus drivers have on kids and making their day a little better. Another district highlighted that parents who become support staff will have a schedule that works with their child’s and may have weekends off. That includes snow days when daycare is limited. It should be made clear to prospective employees that they will be fully supported — especially those who become bus drivers. People may be intimidated by the idea of driving a very big bus full of small children — or cleaning up after them and we must publicize that training and support will be provided. Highlighting the added benefits and support of these positions will make these critically important jobs more attractive. And finally, there’s nothing like being appreciated for the work you do. We must show our staff some love with rewards and appreciation. Unfortunately, love and appreciation will not pay the bills, so competitive compensation must also be provided.
DN: The district is in a unique position to revisit its marketing and branding. To look at enhancing its organizational culture, to highlight the quality of mountain life living, and to seek out candidates looking for new opportunities. Now more than ever, people are reassessing what is important to them. They are looking for jobs with flexible schedules and benefits. They want high quality work environments and jobs with purpose. The district will need to find new ways to highlight the benefits of being part of their team and offer navigator services to get people started. This should include linking to housing support services such as those offered by the Truckee Tahoe Workforce Housing Agency, identifying childcare options, and sharing information about our amazing community.
HW: TTUSD is experiencing a teacher shortage. Teachers are “adding a period” to their schedule and have also been using their prep time to teach additional classes, at a far higher rate than before Covid.
There is also a shortage of substitute teachers. Teachers are taking far more sick days than before Covid, both due to the illness itself, as well as out of a necessary abundance of caution.
Teachers have also fallen behind on professional development training, due to it not being available during the 2020/21 calendar years. Teachers are missing far more school than before to catch up on this training.
This has led to the district utilizing considerably more, up to five to 10 times the number of subs compared to the period prior to Covid — and there is a widespread shortage of subs as well.
DD: Obviously, offering more money would entice people to apply, but finding a place to live has been a game changer. I know we have had many applicants that apply, interview, get a job offer, and then fail to find a place to live, so decline the job.
TTUSD was one of the original stakeholders with the community foundation that started Mountain Housing Council of Tahoe Truckee when the housing crisis began to explode. We then supported the Mountain Housing Coalition. We are continually working with these amazing teams to be creative with this crisis to find affordable housing.
TTUSD has an active and involved communication team that has been pounding the pavement to sell our schools and our supportive culture. Many parents state that they are in Tahoe for the environment, and they stay because of the school culture, offerings, and support.
I would like to see a continuation of the programs at our high schools and colleges that prepare students for careers and jobs within our district. We have several esteemed alumni already part of our workforce. I believe in supporting the community in which we all live.
SH: All of our workforce is essential, and without them our schools can’t function.
We need to raise our workforce from the ground up — through recruitment programs, partnerships with community organizations, and by taking a thorough look at some of the high turnover jobs in our district, such as bus drivers, and finding new ways to make those jobs enticing.
One tool that the district can offer which is mutually beneficial is advancement. Someone is going to be far more likely to take on a job as an instructional aide if they know that by being hired on by the district, they are going to be starting a career, not a job, and will one day end up teaching.
As a school district, TTUSD has many partnerships and other resources that can advance these people and get them the resources they need, through scholarships, grants, etc.
Our schools are a community in and of themselves, and the sooner we start treating them that way, the sooner we will bear the fruits of that labor.
RL: I see the district enticing applicants for all positions by focusing on our core educational values and by exceeding state educational requirements. Competitive benefits for all positions must be in line with other comparable California school districts. Providing a top-quality education to our students and families only enhances the appeal of our community.
Truckee Town Council, 4 candidates for 3 seats
Anna Klovstad, Donner Lake: After four years of service, my knowledge has expanded, my passion deepened, and my commitment became stronger. I am proud of the work we have done in housing, the general plan update, climate initiatives, and protecting our neighborhoods. I will leverage my experience to find win-win solutions for Truckee.
Suzie Tarnay, Truckee: Local, school bus driver, and planning commission vice chair. She is deeply enthusiastic about new solutions to our town challenges, from wildfire safety to workforce housing. Suzie can’t wait to collaborate on building a stronger, more caring, and equitable community while crafting joyful sustainability.
David Polivy, Glenshire: I’ve enjoyed serving this community for the last four years and I’m ready to tackle four more. As the 2020 mayor, I led Truckee through the most challenging circumstances of our generation, Covid-19. I want to build on the momentum we created and continue to refine the programs in place
Jan Zabriskie, Prosser Lakeview: I am running for re-election to use my professional, volunteer, and governmental experiences to complete the programs our town council initiated over the last two years. We need to strengthen the social fabric of our community and protect our natural environment.
1. What are the successes and failures of the affordable housing projects on the ground in Truckee? How would you adjust future projects to serve housing needs?
DP: Any new housing project on the ground is a success. In addition to the projects on the ground, I have helped develop, fund, and implement a variety of housing programs to utilize our existing housing stock instead of building everything new. We cannot simply build our way out of our housing crisis; we need to find ways to utilize the houses and condos that we already have but sit empty a majority of the time. I helped to successfully pass Measure K to fund these initiatives, supported the Lease to Locals long-term rental program, developed successful short-term rental strategies, and I have recently approved a town-wide deed restriction program to get more locals housed now.
The future adjustments should focus on achievable housing for our working population, greater public/private investment to make more projects “pencil” and a fast-track planning process that prioritizes workforce housing objectives.
ST: Unfortunately, many of our new and existing affordable housing projects, like Coldstream Commons and Truckee Artist Lofts, require rent to be 30% of resident gross income. This burden creates a precarious balancing act, where residents can barely afford the basics, but can’t work extra hours for fear of losing their housing. Additionally, basing eligibility for housing on 80% of the Nevada County Area Median Income ends up disqualifying most of our workforce. To qualify, two caregivers in a family of four must make below $78,700 annually, or less than $19 per hour each. We are fortunate that most of our employers are paying slightly higher wages than this, but not enough for market rate rent.
I seek to clarify the town definition of workforce housing and separate it from housing linked to commercial development. I’m exploring an alternative equivalent for our workforce that would require a lower percentage of employee income. Additionally, I am excited about the possibility of using a town-specific AMI, allowing more full-time employees to qualify. Finally, if we can engineer the town to allow car-free or single-car households to thrive, we can take a slice out of the monthly budget for all residents.
JZ: I am proud of the housing programs that the town council and staff initiated in the last two years. They include the Lease to Locals Program for renters, the Home Access Program for those qualifying for homeownership, and an ADU program to spur the construction of smaller units. We have yet to feel the impact of these nascent programs, but they put us on the right track.
Prior town councils were instrumental in bringing multiple low-income housing projects to our community. The most recently completed projects provide housing for a range of income levels, averaging up to $21.50 per hour for a single occupant at Coldstream Commons and $27.50 per hour at the Artist Lofts.
We have heard complaints about service workers earning too much to qualify for low-income housing. It is correct that the range of income caps at federally subsidized projects cap some units at less than California’s minimum wage. In order to adjust future projects to better match the income levels of our own community, the town is now looking at becoming more directly involved in developing our own low-income projects. This will be a heavy lift, but we have a crying need for more workforce housing.
AK: A major success was opening 194 units of housing for our regional workforce in 2021. Nearly all of these units housed existing local workers. As one example, the Coburn Crossing housing model is successfully serving a portion of our regional workforce.
Another key success was passing Measure K to create a sustainable, continuous funding source. Connecting this tax to tourism as a transient occupancy tax is particularly effective because our visitors help us provide tourist-serving workforce housing.
One problem was that we did not adequately anticipate the needs of some of our new residents. We now understand this better and have set up a system to engage Nevada County, Health and Human Services, the property managers, Truckee police, town staff, and all the agencies that are available to provide services to facilitate a better transition to life in Truckee.
Another problem is that our average median income levels are really hurting our local workforce as they earn a higher wage than the rest of Nevada County. This prohibits them from accessing many of these low-cost AMI units. The Town of Truckee is working to change that.
2. Which climate change vulnerability that Truckee faces is top of mind for you and how would you address it?
ST: In the next two decades, Truckee will become hotter and will experience multi-year snow droughts. We have focused for so long on adequate snow removal and keeping warm that this new way of life will require a big adjustment. We need to start our adaptation process now. The heat mitigation measures that will keep our town liveable take time to mature. Our unshaded streets will hold heat later into the evening, eliminating the cool nights that we currently enjoy even on the warmest days. This same baking pavement will become hostile to pedestrians and cyclists alike, driving even the hardiest into the climate-control of their cars. We must look to the past and traditional fire-adapted forest structures that were lost through decades of absolute fire suppression. Our new future will require a combined understanding of the old and new to produce timely climate resilience measures and shade infrastructure for the next generation Truckee residents. We must act now to ensure their future.
JZ: We know well that we face a grim climatic future, more extreme weather events, shorter snow seasons, and more severe droughts. Our greatest and most immediate vulnerability is the heightened risk of wildfires. Protecting our community against this risk was a pillar of my platform when I was first elected to the town council.
Since then, the town council unanimously and successfully supported the passage of a property assessment that is already achieving results through the fuel reductions occurring throughout and around our town. We have made the town’s office of emergency operations a full-time position, completed the right-of-way fuel-reduction program, and are updating our emergency operations program. The town has strengthened interagency development of a more seamless response to emergencies, switched over to the CodeRED warning system, and improved our emergency communication program.
The National Fire Protection Association recently recognized my neighborhood as a Firewise Community. Obtaining that recognition drove home that we need to continue addressing the wildfire threat by becoming better educated and prepared for emergency evacuations, and by taking it upon ourselves to harden our homes and reduce the fuels on our properties.
AK: Working on just one of the many climate vulnerabilities will not serve Truckee. We need to be working on several areas at once. As the Tahoe Truckee Unified School District sustainability manager, I recognized the need for a collaborative, multi-faceted approach to addressing our biggest climate threats.
This need sparked the creation of the Climate Transformation Alliance over a year ago. More than 30 agencies, businesses, and nonprofits have already joined the CTA, and I continue to work to recruit more members.
The CTA is an information-sharing network that offers a centralized platform to set a common regional agenda. Through this, we can share resources to help speed climate adaptation and mitigation-focused projects, leverage funding opportunities, offer peer-to-peer technical assistance to meet goals, measure outcomes, and report successes.
I believe that we have the knowledge, skills, and motivation to make transformational changes to our greenhouse gas emissions, reduce our fire risk, and protect our precious Donner Lake and Truckee River — if we work together.
DP: Climate change profoundly affects California, which has experienced increasingly severe wildfire seasons, drought, and heat waves. The climate crisis is not at our front door, it’s in our living room. It is imperative that the town’s leadership work in developing cross-jurisdiction collaboration with our neighboring towns, counties, states, land managers, and elected officials on deepening our commitment to mitigate the climate crisis.
Increasing snowfall elevation levels coupled with less precipitation in general is a significant vulnerability to Truckee’s outdoor recreation economy and many of our tourism-based businesses.
Our resilience depends on how we react and if we take action effectively. For higher elevation snow levels, this means people will seek out the snow and look to recreate in fewer places due to access. So, we need to plan infrastructure like restrooms and trash receptacles in places that historically saw low visitation or are now more accessible due to our changing climate. We need to prepare our business community through education, diversification, and independence from smoke and weather-related impacts. All of these programs and initiatives will take funding and leadership and I am prepared to be a champion for a climate-ready, resilient economy and community.
3. List three to five traits that define Truckee’s community character that you as a council member will keep as your guiding light.
JZ: As a member of our town’s ad hoc subcommittee on community character, I found out how difficult it is to define our character in a few simple terms. What stands out for me is the extent to which our character reflects our town’s storied past and the rugged Sierra that seduced us into coming and remaining here. Cold and harsh winters, combined with nature’s attractions, have bred a communal sense of self-reliance, interdependence, and a love of nature. We reach out to care for one another, whether it is digging out of snowstorms, enduring power outages, or helping each other through tough times. In looking to the future, my main concern is strengthening our human connections and preserving the natural environment that inspires and renews us.
AK: Culture-History-Scenic: As a council member, I will preserve the town’s established cultural resources, historic character, and scenic corridors.
Authentic Mountain Town: I will work to maintain Truckee’s authenticity and sense of place as a mountain town through its services, built environment, and community connectivity.
Natural and Built Environment: Enhancing the visual and physical connection between the town’s natural and built environments is key to our character. Therefore, I will emphasize the development of a stronger connection and better access to the Truckee River.
Community: A top focus of mine is supporting land use patterns, standards, and densities that are appropriate for our community and support the needs of our community.
Human Scale: I will advocate for higher standards of planning, architecture, and community-based design to create new and inviting human-scaled environments.
DP: Physical building scale and mass that fits with our natural landscapes
Feeling a sense of place so you know when you are in or experiencing Truckee
Retention of our night sky
Supportive of locally owned businesses
Hardening the community to combat the climate crisis by influencing thoughtful policies.
Encouraging fun and exciting physical spaces
ST: Truckee is the home of my heart, where there are friends from the decades, and strangers who just click. What we all share is a deep and abiding integrity. We are down-to-earth people who want to work hard and play hard. We fulfill our commitments and admit our mistakes. Truckee’s honesty will always be a guiding force. After honesty, comes our grit and determination. With high housing, gas, and grocery costs, winter snow shoveling, summer wildfire clearing, and semi-annual seasonal traffic, Truckee citizens exercise dogged determination on a daily basis. We are Truckee Tough, but with a kind and fuzzy underbelly. Our last, but not least, guiding character trait is our passion for the outdoors. Many of us derive our strength from this place, whether the fast-paced and adventurous, or the quiet and contemplative. We live here for access to a wilder landscape where our daily worries can take a back seat, at least for a few hours. With these characteristics and our cooperative spirit, we help each other through the tough times and jointly celebrate our successes. And it would not be Truckee if it were any other way.
Moonshine Ink participated in the Truckee Candidate Forums on Oct. 4 and 6, questioning hopefuls for the Truckee Tahoe Airport District, Tahoe Forest Hospital District, and Truckee Sanitary District. We also asked parties to comment for and against Nevada County’s Measure V, which proposes a half-cent sales tax for critical emergency services and other general government services. View the lively and informative forums, sponsored by the Truckee Chamber of Commerce, the Contractors Association of Truckee Tahoe Political Action Committee, and the Tahoe Sierra Board of Realtors, for which we collaborated with the Sierra Sun and Channel 6, at ttctv.org.