Placer County Supervisor Candidates Share Tahoe-Focused Thoughts

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Three weeks from today, on March 5, California’s Primary Election will take place. For Truckee/North Tahoe, a handful of candidates in addition to those for the U.S. President will appear on ballots. Of special note in Moonshine Ink’s coverage area are those seeking to represent Placer and Nevada counties.

Sans any incorporated towns on the North and West Shores of Lake Tahoe, the Placer County District 5 supervisor serves as the de facto elected official for many large decisions. Four candidates are vying for the seat. Current District 5 Supervisor Cindy Gustafson of Tahoe City is facing Rick Chowdry, Wayne Nader, and Jim Holmes. Holmes is currently supervisor for District 3, but with the 2022 realignment of supervisorial districts, is now zoned for District 5.

To help our readers decide between Placer County supervisor candidates, the Ink asked four questions with Tahoe in mind. The responses are below, followed by bios for each. Supervisor Holmes did not respond to Moonshine’s request for comment.

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Incumbent Nevada County District 5 Supervisor Hardy Bullock is seeking to retain his seat, which covers the Town of Truckee. Bullock is running unopposed.

Candidates running for other local offices, including special and general improvement districts, councils, and boards, will be on ballots later this year.

Do you want to share your thoughts on a March 5 candidate? We have two rounds of election-focused Readers Reflect coming up. Submit a letter (300 words or less) to the opinion editor by Feb. 16 for round one, or Feb. 23 for round two. The letters will be published online on Feb. 20 and Feb. 27. Email opinion@moonshineink.com to submit yours.

Placer County District 5 Candidate Q&A

More than 80,000 people reside in district 5, geographically expansive compared to the other four. How do you propose to balance contrasting priorities of the different parts of this district?

Rick Chowdry: The bottom line is that the priorities of all residents of the district are equally important. Both are concerned about fire, the cost of fire insurance, and the way different development and affordable housing concerns are prioritized. There may be differences in how these items are addressed, but both segments want similar outcomes. Because I am new to the political game, I would have to spend a great deal of time coming up the Tahoe area, getting to know people and hearing their concerns firsthand so that I could address them appropriately. The Tahoe residents deserve nothing less.

Cindy Gustafson: Balancing involves ensuring I am personally accessible throughout the district on a regular basis to meet with residents and understand their specific concerns. Meeting folks where they are is important to understanding and effectively representing them. I have done that for five years by spending three to four days per week travelling to Auburn and back which takes me through each of our District 5 communities, and they have common priorities versus contrasting priorities. They all want the county to protect the character of their specific community, they want protection from wildfire, strong law enforcement, sensible housing, and transportation solutions.

Wayne Nader: I believe it is critical to recognize the very diverse community needs and focuses of District 5. To remain current, I intend to be very available and responsive to the constituents in Tahoe and the foothill regions in gathering their input on critical issues. Recognizing and addressing common problems such as traffic congestion and fire risks [may take] different solutions. As supervisor I would commit to being in Tahoe a minimum of one day a week to engage with the community and encourage and enable residents to be in direct contact with me wherever necessary.

Economic revitalization in North Tahoe town centers is a critical conversation topic in light of recent Tahoe Basin Area Plan (TBAP) updates. What is most important when considering potential redevelopment opportunities in Eastern Placer County?

CG: Economic revitalization is critically important. We are fortunate to live in the Tahoe Basin, a place with some of the strictest growth controls in the state and country. Any redevelopment projects conform to these controls and must provide environmental improvements beyond their impacts. These conditions have enormous costs, so I have supported a number of incentive programs to assist commercial property owners in renovating and enhancing their properties. It is critical that redevelopment promotes infill vs. sprawl, reduces dependence on automobiles, and aligns with size and community character. To achieve economic revitalization, we must build trust through community involvement.

WN: Since redevelopment agencies were eliminated by the state, it has made efforts to rehabilitate the core areas of our communities much more difficult. I believe that Placer County has not handled the new approach to redevelopment well. They have been more receptive to larger, more challenging projects, rather than smaller more economically viable proposals. Those larger projects have historically failed to happen. Valuable time has been lost and significant taxpayer funds have been squandered. I would promote seeking out smaller infill developments that are a better fit for the Tahoe communities and also have a greater likelihood of success.

RC: I think the most important considerations are not to do any redevelopment in a fractured piece-meal fashion. Anything we do in the area needs to be looked at in the context of the whole so that all benefits or unintended consequences are identified before we proceed with any development or re-development of the area.

Tahoe is known as a tourist destination, but there are also roughly 10,000 people who live in eastern Placer and are your constituents. What does the county have to work on with respect to Tahoe-area residents at this moment in time to ensure a good quality of life?

WN: What I hear from Tahoe residents is that the area has become less livable. Just doing basic daily activities is challenging due to the frequent traffic congestion throughout the area. They also often mention that Placer County is working as a counterforce against the desire to maintain and enhance the unique Tahoe character, as evidenced by the proposed Tahoe Basin Area Plan amendments. Residents are reluctantly listened to, but not heard. As a result, the community’s trust with the officials of the county is broken. A commitment to value and regard the community’s concerns must be a top priority.

RC: I think the main concerns are fire danger, the cost of fire insurance, and all items associated with development or re-development. I would work tirelessly to get in front of the right people beyond Placer County to address the first two items and my construction background gives me good insight on strategies to deal with the other two issues appropriately. The fire issue boils down to making people at the state and federal level listen to us. Our issues with development, infrastructure, workforce housing, and the like are connected to a holistic approach to solving the issues in their totality.

CG: While tourism is our primary economic driver, I have worked to improve our Tahoe-area quality of life for decades. Many of the public improvements made have benefited residents and been paid by visitor revenue. As growth in surrounding regions drives visitation, we must continue to expand efforts to mitigate impacts. I have initiated and supported micro-mass transit services, additional trash services, trails, parking management, and STR regulations and enforcement. I support further efforts on STR reductions based on the community stakeholder committee recommendations. I initiated and support further investments in rental and for-sale local workforce housing programs.

Fire insurance is becoming increasingly expensive for residents in the Tahoe region — this at the same time wildfire intensity grows in size and catastrophic impacts. How can Placer County best support its residents living in rural, forested communities in terms of wildfire protection and education?

RC: We certainly must address all the items that are under our control, including robust education about defensible space and management of the areas in our control including chipping programs. Beyond that, I am very passionate about making myself a nuisance to the people at the state and federal level who are not listening until we get movement from them on assistance as well as good stewardship of the areas they control.

CG: I have strongly encouraged state/federal entities to adequately fund fuels management on their lands. I am fighting to have insurance companies further recognize reduced risks in Firewise communities and home-hardened properties. I communicate directly with the state insurance commissioner on solutions for our residents and the state as a whole. Education is paramount. I personally initiated community meetings on wildfire and evacuation with all local experts in attendance to answer questions. I have supported expanded programs on defensible space and grants available to low-income/disabled/seniors for defensible space work. I will continue to seek more funding, investments, and educational efforts.

WN: These are both top issues throughout District 5. Federal and state forest lands have for many decades been neglected and as a result the fuel loads have increased substantially. The state’s insurance commissioner and the legislature’s inactions have only compounded the insurance crisis. I would be a constant and loud voice to the leadership of these agencies and governing bodies demanding creditable action on these urgent issues. In the meantime, I would use all local resources available to help owners harden their properties. I would also make sure that evacuation plans are effective and well communicated.


Rick Chowdry | rickchowdry.com

I started my career as a plumber/pipefitter when I was 18 years old and learned very quickly that talk and good intentions do not equal success. I have spent three decades delivering results for clients and now employ 200 people at my Placer County business, Intech Mechanical Company.

Cindy Gustafson | cindygustafson.com

A 41-year resident, my career includes 26 years at [Tahoe City Public Utility District], election to the board of [Tahoe Truckee Unified School District], service on [the Placer County] Transportation Planning, and State Fish and Game Commission, founding board member of Excellence in Education, Tahoe Fund, and Tahoe City Beautification Committee. I have served five years as county supervisor.

Jim Holmes | jimholmesforsupervisor.com

None submitted.

 

Wayne Nader | wayneforsupervisor.com

I am a passionate Placer County community advocate. During my long career in the financial industry, I also served in various appointed and elected public service positions that gave me the opportunity to provide insightful input on critical county-wide decisions related to planning, development, transportation, finance, agriculture, and fire service.

Author

  • Alex Hoeft

    Alex Hoeft joined Moonshine staff in May 2019, happy to return to the world of journalism after a few years in community outreach. She has both her bachelor's and Master's in journalism, from Brigham Young University and University of Nevada, Reno, respectively. When she's not journalism-ing, she's wrangling her toddler or reading a book — or doing both at the same time.

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