Ski town news roundup: Clean water lawsuit could stop Lake Tahoe fireworks
March 31, 2014
Can a Clean Water Act lawsuit end the long-running Fourth of July and Labor Day fireworks shows at Lake Tahoe, one of the nation’s most heavily protected bodies of water?
At an emergency meeting Thursday, the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority decided to hold out hope for seven more days to see if a pending lawsuit against its fireworks shows can be settled.
If not, LTVA said it will have to pull the plug on the shows, starting with this year’s July 4 show. It’s one of the area’s biggest summer events and calculated to have an economic impact that runs into the millions of dollars.
Many people lined up to speak at Thursday’s meeting in a strong show of support for the fireworks shows. They ranged from local business owners and longtime residents to city, county and California and Nevada officials. They all encouraged LTVA to continue its fireworks shows, stressed the economic and community importance of the shows — which are a 35-year tradition at Lake Tahoe — and strongly and unanimously urged Joan and Joseph Truxler to drop their lawsuit.
The two residents of PineWild in Marla Bay filed their lawsuit last November, alleging large amounts of fireworks debris washed up on an area beach after last year’s shows.
Included in the debris after the July 4 show were seven ping-pong size balls found on the beach at Marla Bay and removed by public safety workers who confirmed they were filled with explosive powder. However, they posed no immediate threat because they were wet. A LTVA spokesman said at the time the devices weren’t from the professional show but were “consumer fireworks” used illegally by someone other than Pyro Spectaculars North, the fireworks show producer.
“We are not going to let this fireworks show go. We are going to fight like hell for it, whatever it takes,” said Tom Davis, a member of the LTVA board and the South Lake Tahoe City Council. “This goes out to the Truxlers: Drop that lawsuit. They need to tell their attorney that they want to settle this lawsuit, and that they want to settle it now.”
South Lake Tahoe Mayor Hal Cole called the lawsuit a “sad example” of a litigious society. “It’s amazing two people can bring a community to its knees like they have,” he said.
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Opening up on liquor laws
State Reps. Kraig Powell (R-Heber) and Gage Froerer (R-Huntsville) introduced and pushed for three different reforms of Utah’s unusual liquor laws during the legislative session that ended March 13 — HB 285, regarding the separate dispensing area requirement, HB 338, regarding limited club licenses, and HB 352, regarding sampling at distilleries.
None of the bills received a final vote on either the House or Senate floor.
The legislative session evidenced a breakdown in communication when it comes to liquor laws — the opposing sides often appeared to talk past each other. And Powell, whose district includes Park City, addressed the issue head on.
He hosted a community forum in Park City last November to discuss potential reforms to the intent to dine and separate dispensing area liquor laws, which are unpopular in the town. He named the forum “Through a Glass, Darkly,” a Bible reference he reiterated in his closing remarks at a House Revenue and Taxation Committee hearing on March 4 at which his separate dispensing area reform bill was debated.
“Paul says in First Corinthians that as we live this life we see through a glass darkly,” Powell said. “Because we don’t actually see what other people see because we’re not other people. And so as we here as non-drinkers make legislative policy for alcohol, I think we always need to do so with a large dose of reservation, wondering exactly if we really understand the implications of the policy we are passing.”
Many of Powell’s constituents do consume alcohol, so Powell pushed for changes to the laws that restaurateurs find the most onerous. The problem he ran into in his push for reforms — even in an arguably narrowly-tailored fashion — is that supporters of the liquor laws have no interest in amending them, period. And so the push for reform was destined for failure from the get-go.
Total reform or nothing
Rep. Jacob Anderegg (R-Lehi) provided, at no less than two hearings this past legislative session, the harshest criticism of some of the liquor laws.
He called the separate dispensing wall requirement, or “Zion curtain,” as it is often referred, “lunacy,” “absolutely stupid,” “ridiculous” and “the dumbest thing in the world.”
“I hate it,” he said at a hearing for HB 338.
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Steamboat mother could face homicide charge for 3-year-old’s death
Steamboat Springs police think the 3-year-old boy who died Thursday had been left home alone in a dangerous environment for nearly 20 hours.
The mother, Megan McKeon, 24, was arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor child abuse. Judge James Garrecht advised McKeon of her rights Friday and set bond at $50,000. The Routt County District Attorney’s Office on has filed two charges of child abuse, Class 2 misdemeanors, and reckless endangerment, a Class 3 misdemeanor. The investigation is ongoing, and Routt County Chief Deputy District Attorney Matt Karzen said McKeon could face a Class 1 or Class 2 felony homicide charge.
Steamboat Springs Coroner Rob Ryg on Friday identified the boy as Austin Davis.
An autopsy was performed Friday, and Detective Josh Carrell reported the medical examiner’s initial findings during court.
“There is no reason this child should be deceased,” Carrell said.
Toxicology tests will be done to help determine why Austin died. Carrell said those tests can take anywhere between 15 days to three months. Judge Garrecht said he hoped the lab could expedite the test.
An arrest affidavit filed in Routt County Court on Friday revealed more details about the investigation.
After the boy was brought to Yampa Valley Medical Center on Thursday, McKeon told police she had left the boy with a baby sitter at 1:45 p.m. Wednesday. She then went to work, stayed the night at her boyfriend’s house and returned home Thursday morning.
McKeon later told police there was no baby sitter, and she “instead would leave him food and put on a movie for him before leaving him alone when she went to work,” the affidavit states. McKeon said she had been leaving the boy home alone for at least a month while she was at work, the affidavit states.
“This would be at least 20 times that (the boy) was left alone in the cabin while McKeon went to work,” the affidavit states.
Police said the cabin smelled, and it contained partially eaten food and human waste. Among other things found were razors that were within reach of the child, and one of the razor heads was broken off.
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