Doolittle vs. Brown: A Tough Battle in Tahoe

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(Reno, NV)
Monday, November 6, 2006

Laurel Ames has lived on Lake Tahoe for nearly 60 years.  She’s a passionate advocate for the Tahoe Basin , having been involved with numerous environmental organizations over her long career. During her time, Ames says she’s worked with both Republican and Democratic representatives on Tahoe restoration.

Tahoe is not a partisan issue … people all over the entire country know Tahoe and are interested in its protection …

But when discussing incumbent Congressman John Doolittle, Ames ’ tone changes.

Well, in terms of the lake, I would say anybody but Doolittle would be a better representative … here we’ve had somebody representing us who not only doesn’t care about our issues but isn’t even around.

The Tahoe Basin is an anomaly in Doolittle’s district.  And Laurel Ames represents the challenge he faces in a region where the environment is of prime importance.  Ames supports Doolittle’s Democratic opponant Charlie Brown.

An analysis of the two major candidate’s campaign contribution lists finds that support is fairly even around the district, except in the Tahoe Basin .  O ut of 565 Doolittle sponsors, only 4 came from near Lake Tahoe .  On the other hand, his challenger, Charlie Brown, received 56 contributions from the Tahoe area out of a total of 1019.

 Doolittle declined to comment for this story. However, in the recent candidates’ debate, he mentioned an environmental accomplishment in the Tahoe basin; securing five million dollars in funding last year for research into the performance of hydrogen powered cars.  

One of the things I’ve done is gotten the Lake Tahoe basin designated as one of the test areas for the hydrogen fuel cell.  Hydrogen would completely eliminate pollution of any kind.

Doolittle is also an advocate for clearing unsafe amounts of fuel load from Tahoe forests, a universally recognized problem.  In the candidates’ debate, Doolittle blamed radical environmentalists for the dangerous amount of fuel build up in the forests around the lake.

The Sierra Club of course doesn’t want any money made from the harvesting of trees.  And I think that’s extremely unfortunate … and I’ve fought that approach and voted for the Healthy Forest Restoration Act, which helps communities protect themselves like Lake Tahoe or any community in a forested area.

Critics say Doolittle voted for what’s, in essence, a giveaway to the logging industry. They’ve also taken him to task for his support of development in the region.  Doolittle has said he’s attempting to preserve the rights of private property owners.  But his Democratic opponent, Charlie Brown, says the Congressman is in the pocket of developers. He cites an example that he says reveals Doolittle’s real motives.

Here you had a ski resort owner and the Forest Service had reached an agreement on selling the ski resort to the Forest Service, and he inserts a sentence in an appropriations bill to block any Forest Service funds being used to buy Homewood Ski Resort … and its like why? … well, look at the fec filings and you see that the developer that buys Homewood maxed out on his contributions to John Doolittle.

Because Doolittle declined to comment, it’s unclear what his vision is for the future of the Tahoe Basin .  Doolittle has made no campaign appearances in the area.  Brown is capitalizing on the absence and Doolittle’s low popularity.  He says, if elected, he’ll increase funding for future restoration efforts and he’ll work to be a mediator in a region that’s been polarized.

Sometimes we’ve gone too far on the side of development … sometimes too far on the side of environmentalism … it’s striking a balance between things.  We can protect our watersheds by logging a little farther back from the stream beds and the run off areas but we can still log economically.

The Tahoe Sierra is certainly not representative of the entire 4th congressional district, which stretches from Sacramento ’s eastern suburbs to the Nevada and Oregon borders.  The election won’t turn on issues such as logging and Lake Tahoe development, but residents like Laurel Ames say, the lake should be a priority for any candidate who wants her vote.

Brian Bahouth, KXJZ News …