"Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories. "
- Thomas Jefferson
Whom is our local government representing? Our elected and appointed county officials seem to be effectively bought by special interest groups. Planning Commissioners say they lack direction from the Board of Supervisors on limiting development in our Ag Watersheds. The Board of Supervisors claim the Commissioners are not using their authority to regulate.
Time after time we citizens witness projects approved because the projects meet the standards— of course, after mitigation by granted variances and road exceptions. Too often blatant code violation histories are overlooked. Projects have become so expensive to permit and build that only those individuals and corporations wealthy enough to purchase Napa land and endure the expense of the process are able to prevail. It appears that if you have enough money, you can do anything. A quote from a local land-use attorney: If you have 100 million dollars, you think you can do anything.
But what is the impact of this process on the citizens of Napa County and on the Commons? What about our roads and air quality? Our watersheds and water supply? Why would the County approve a project such as the Walt Ranch project that potentially downgrades the water quality and supply for the City of Napa and the Circle Oaks community, despite objections from City officials?
Residents' concerns are too often dismissed as those of NIMBY's, and even by Alfredo Pedrosa, Chair of the Board of Supervisors, in a recent panel discussion at the annual North Bay Business Journal conference.
In a recent Napa Register article
, Pedrosa stated that he's confident the county and the wine and farming sectors will have whatever discussions need to be had on watershed issues.
Why doesn’t he include the 6300 citizens who felt the need for the initiative precisely because the county and the wine sectors did not hold these discussions?
Napa County has tried to manage its resources and the challenges posed by its success, doing such things forming the Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee and addressing groundwater issues, Pedroza said. It has shown a commitment to the community that it does the right thing, he said. Napa Valley Register, August 12, 2016
It did form the APAC, but it has not followed up on its recommendations. The county has studied groundwater in the AP. The initiative deals with watershed health in the AWOS.
The wine industry has done such things as help form the Napa Green environmental certification program for land and wineries. Multi-generational farmers are thinking about the next generation, Pedroza said. Napa Valley Register, August 12, 2016
The Napa Green program is good but it is voluntary.
“We don’t need an initiative hanging over our heads,” Pedroza said. “We have people who want to make sure the future of our community isn’t worse, it’s better.” Napa Valley Register, August 12, 2016
Who is this “we” he refers to? We have we the people
who feel that our government is not listening to us. Almost 6300 people signed the petition to get the Initiative on the ballot. Not one of the supervisorial candidates, including Pedroza, Luce, Gregory and Ramos, received as many votes as initiative signers.
Do citizens matter?
We are confronting a moral issue. The question is not Can it be done
, but Should it?
Climate change and shrinking available land for vineyards are forcing this question. Do we leave it to those who have the money to finesse almost any project regardless of the cumulative impact on our environment and the community, now and into the future?
“Why do we choose to do so little about this problem, when we know so much about it and when so much is at stake? Why do we resist the facts about this issue? ”
- Facing Climate Change: An Integrated Path to the Future, Jeffrey T. Kiehl, Senior Scientist, The National Center for Atmospheric Research
What is frighteningly missing from almost all conversations is the specter of climate change, which we are already experiencing. None of these plans take into account the importance of the remaining forests and oak woodlands on our hillsides to watershed health, on future projections of temperature rise and the impact of this rise on the wine industry, of the diminishing quality of life for local citizens. Napa County has the highest rate of childhood cancer in the state, but this concern was too dismissed in a recent comment by the Chair of the Board of Supervisors.
When the economics of the wealthy few is the meristem of decision making by county and city officials and planners, when the glitz of wealth blinds even those elected and appointed to act on the behalf of all citizens, what is our recourse?
In times like these, it appears that we must take to the streets, the courts, and the voting booth. There is so much at stake and so little time left to act. As senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research Jeffrey Kiehl states, “Why do we choose to do so little about this problem, when we know so much about it and when so much is at stake? Why do we resist the facts about this issue? ”
This issue updates the progress of various projects that we citizens of Napa Valley are working to have voice in. Please join us.