The title of the No. 1 story of 2016 ought to have been: Local Governments Under Fire, as it highlighted many issues: watershed destruction, public health, campaign finance and a lack of stewardship by the Board of Supervisors. As such, we, the members of Napa Vision 2050, think the title of the article, “Wine Industry Under Fire,” (Dec. 31) is somewhat misleading.
We participated in each of the stories mentioned in this article: Napa Vision 2050 has been the leader in raising awareness of the out-of-control growth of the wine and wine tourism industries. However, our focus is not the industries nor the associations and institutions whose mission is to promote their expansion. We welcome responsible winery development, which enriches the life of every Napa Valley resident and contributes to its brand in the best possible way.
At the same time, there are the problems that stem from lack of oversight by our government officials. Too often, there is little or no consequence when wineries violate their use permits or escape environmental review. As the valley floor becomes increasingly planted out, wineries bully themselves into hillsides, destroy neighborhoods, build in inappropriate locations that need to truck soil and water and export sewage in order to operate, and mow down tens of thousands of mature trees to plant vineyards. This all contributes to an overgrowth of wineries whose visitors and workers flood our streets.
When such enterprises are promoted to the detriment of a healthy infrastructure, our common resources and the environment, something is dangerously out of balance. And it is not just the wine industry that is responsible for such offenses. The proliferation of hotels and resorts and the expansion of carcinogen-spewing mining operations contribute to conditions that increasingly make our home county inhospitable to those of us who live and work here.
Who is watching out for the interests of the general public?
We are supposed to have “a sheriff” in town who has been elected to safeguard our collective quality of life. Unfortunately, our Board of Supervisors seems to have become beholden to the interests of these industries, neglecting the commons. Our supervisors accept campaign contributions from these industries, then consistently vote 5 to 0 in favor of their projects. We suffer from the lack independent leadership.
This is the void Napa Vision 2050 fills. Our mission is to promote the health and environmental sustainability of our community and to inform the public and raise awareness of these circumstances that affect us all.