Budget fight next challenge for commissioners

Douglas County's new commissioners say the economy will shape policy for the next few years.

In the race for Douglas County commissioner, Republican Greg Lynn won over Democrat Anje de Knijf, 16,855 to 7,246. Incumbent Commissioner Doug Johnson defeated Independent American Eric Rieman, 15,872 to 7,506. District 5 commission candidate Republican Mike Olson defeated Democrat Nancy Epstein, 13,951-10,233.

"It doesn't stop now," Johnson said. "We've got a lot more work to do. Our No. 1 priority is going to be the budget. Whether we're playing offense or defense, the state is in such bad shape that we need to make sure it doesn't trickle down to the county and then to the citizens."

Johnson said he was pleased with the passage of the growth management ordinance and the school bond.

"Approval of the ordinance is a pretty good sign on where the community's feeling is at," he said. "Nobody can claim there was a low voter turnout this time."

Commissioner-elect Lynn was taking down his campaign signs on Wednesday morning.

"The landscape has altered dramatically since May, highlighted by the national tragedy we witnessed last night," Lynn said referring to the national election results. "The circumstances we're going to be dealing with are going to be different. When any of us started this campaign, we knew it was bad, but we had no idea the bottom would fall all the way out."

Lynn said the future focus for the county is going to have to move from growth to the county budget.

"We have some real challenges coming forward," he said. "We have employee negotiations, and the state may be coming after our assessment districts."

Lynn said one of the keys will be preparing the way for when the economy rebounds.

"Sooner or later things are going to turn around, and we need to position ourselves to welcome some sort of economic growth," he said. "That's not going to be easy with businesses closing left and right. I would like to focus on updating our development codes and sign ordinances. Those are the low-hanging fruit of economic development."

Lynn said he thinks there is still some adjustment needed to the flood ordinance.

"I'm a property rights guy and things like flood ordinances tend to have an impact on property rights," he said. "I do not have an encyclopedic knowledge of the master plan and I'm not a budget guy, but I do know how to make a bottom line match, and I think that's going to be the emphasis for us."

Olson said he plans to begin his tenure on the commission with two objectives.

"There are two things I would like to accomplish. The first is to stabilize our budget, to figure out exactly how much we are going to bring in each year that we can count on to provide services and raise stability. We can deal with the boom years as they come. It's hard when you look at the budget and have to cut it to bare bones and the next year, do it again.

"I believe the other commissioners want to all be working on this together.

"The second thing is I'd like to see us really support the Stateline-Tahoe core, and work with reinventing, rebuilding or redeveloping the area. Right now, we have properties going by the wayside. We've relied on California too long. We have to build some new things there to attract people., a neat facility people can go to like Heavenly Village."

Olson said the area needs to attract international tourists while the dollar is weak, "to allow them to have a Lake Tahoe experience. I would like to see us accomplish that goal."

Olson said he is working to become more educated about the issues.

"I don't want to spout off about things I can't accomplish. We need to talk to people up there. We have beautiful Lake Tahoe, there's no reason we can't have a five-star hotel. Of course, a couple of good winters wouldn't hurt."

Olson said campaigning didn't change him, but it was difficult to hear some of the labels attached to him in the process.

"I generally get along with people. I went into it with the feeling that, 'Wow, I am going to be able to work with everybody.' I came in as someone I thought could unite folks and work with people. When you start getting people labeling you and saying things about you that you just don't necessarily agree with, I had to say, 'Man. What am I giving off that people don't agree with?"

Olson will have to resign his planning commission post at the end of the year.


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