There are two distinct issues surrounding the controversy over the county commissioners postponing a regularly scheduled meeting in order to play in a golf tournament at Edgewood. The first issue is the golf: is it right to postpone "the people's business" for golf? Is it right to deny Lake residents their only opportunity of the month to address commissioners locally? Most people would think that it was ill-advised and inappropriate. Of course, it was never voted on by commissioners, as it should have been - it was decided privately.
The ACC Celebrity Golf Tournament is a great event, and a credit to the community, but is it enhanced by commissioners Bonner, McDermid and Olson playing in it? Probably not. I would guess that more than 99 percent of the spectators had no idea that commissioners were playing, and couldn't have cared less had they known. Certainly none of the commissioners was invited because of their low handicap.
The real issue, however, isn't the golf: it's the undue influence of a special interest group. Most people are aware of the substantial influence of developers in Douglas County. In this particular case the concern centers around the Edgewood Companies (formerly Park Cattle Co.), the largest would-be developer in the Carson Valley, and the biggest campaign contributor to some candidates for commissioner, including Mike Olson and Nancy McDermid. Edgewood/Park is the second biggest campaign contributor to Lee Bonner, behind only the so-called "Coalition for Smart Growth," a pro-development group. But who is the coalition's biggest contributor? You guessed it - Edgewood/Park.
Why do companies contribute to political campaigns, whether they are local, state or national? They do it for two reasons: access and influence. Is this why Lee Bonner, chairman of the board of county commissioners, rushed to defend Edgewood in a recent letter to the editor? Is this part of the quid pro quo for accepting campaign contributions? It certainly seems so.
Chairman Bonner, in responding to citizen's concerns about postponing the meeting to play golf, stated that Edgewood was not a sponsor of the tournament. Yet anyone who picked up a program from the tournament, or looked at the website (tahoecelebritygolf.com), would see that Edgewood is a major sponsor, listed right behind the two biggest sponsors, NBC and the LTVA.
Chairman Bonner went so far as to accuse myself (and others) of having a "vendetta" against Edgewood. That's pretty strong language for someone who supposedly represents "the people." I have no "vendetta" against Edgewood whatsoever. I'm sure they do any number of good things for the community, particularly at the Lake.- But I am concerned - as every resident of Douglas County should be concerned - about their development plans for the Carson Valley. Just a few years ago they sought a master plan amendment to build 4,500 homes on land where they were entitled to build only 225. This would have been the most significant amendment in Douglas County history, and would have had serious negative effects on traffic, water, our rural character and the overall quality of life here.
Fortunately, their requested amendment was defeated, as it should have been, mainly because it failed to meet the required findings for a master plan amendment.- So what did the Edgewood Companies try to do last year? They tried to change the required findings for MPA's in the master plan itself, to make it easier to get their next amendment approved. Thankfully they again failed. Did Chairman Bonner bother to mention any of that while he was extolling the virtues of Edgewood? Of course not.
Residents should follow the money trail when assessing a candidate. This information is posted online at the Secretary of State's website (nvsos.gov), and is often reported in The Record-Courier. So, before you are swayed by the number of signs, mailings, or ads by a candidate, ask yourself: where is all the money coming from?
In this year's election cycle, the candidate to watch is Michael Olson.- Edgewood/Park has contributed more than 75 percent of his outside funding reported to date. Where do the rest of his campaign contributions come from? Next biggest donor is Don Miner, who acted as a spokesman for Edgewood in their attempt to get approval for 4,500 homes, and who was controversially appointed by Olson (and others) last year as a planning commissioner. Olson's only other contributor: former County Commissioner and current Assemblyman Kelly Kite, who was notoriously pro-development, and the only commissioner to vote in favor of the Park master plan amendment for 4,500 homes. Not too hard to follow Olson's money there, is it?
You'll have to wait two more years to vote on Bonner or McDermid, should they decide to run again. In the meantime, pay attention. And be concerned. Be very concerned.
Jim Slade is a Gardnerville resident.