Believe me, it was not my idea of how I want to be spending any morning of the week! Badger-like, I have defended morning time forever. It is when I write, walk, muse. There is always some competing, worthy cause or project to fight off. Work all too often impinges. So what am I doing?— spending some these precious hours at the APAC meetings (Agricultural Protection Advisory Committee)(every other Monday), the Board of Supervisors meetings (some Tuesdays), and the Planning Commission meetings (Wednesdays)?
It was panic that got me started. Our county officials have become eclipsed by business interests, for whatever reasons: campaign contributions, their own self interests, ignorance as to the conditions on, and literally, in the ground. But the environment— and water— have changed the conversation. This was brought home to me by the threat of what is being termed an event center next door.
We fight for what we love. My husband and I have lived on this ridge for 22 years now on the edge of one of the few remaining oak savannas. Two hundred-plus year old trees skirt the edges of a beautiful meadow. Sadly, we do not own it most of it. Our neighbor, who valued it, had to sell it in the economic downturn of 2008 to new neighbors who view this oak savanna as an opportunity for a superior Cab, and the land as a site for an expensive winery. Water? almost an afterthought, at least until the drought. This ridge is a story of dry and low preforming wells.
When our neighborhood discovered what this neighbor had in mind, we quickly gathered, and then educated ourselves to the much larger and similar picture in our county. It seemed any project proposed, however egregious, was being approved. This is when I got serious about attending some of these meetings with the Board of Supervisors, Planning Commission, and then APAC.
But what I learned surprised me. I have enjoyed attending! I have to confess how little I knew about how county government works: how these rules and regulations we abide by get made and, hopefully, changed. What is the relationship of the Planning Commission to the Board of Supervisors? Who is elected and who is appointed? How does change happen? Who holds power, and what kind of power? And last, but certainly not least, where does the environment stand in all this?
I am surprised that despite (in my opinion) some very bad decisions continuing to be made, I feel more a part of our local government. I have enjoyed meeting with my local neighborhood group, Dry Creek Road Alliance, and I have met some incredible people that I never would have under other circumstances. Many are retired and using their various areas of expertise in support of citizens' voices being heard around land use and the environment. It is the best use of older citizens' talents— for the common good.
We are in for the long haul, for almost certainly, it will be that! But our presence is critically important. So if you haven't yet attended one of these meetings, consider doing so, if even for a portion of the meeting, if only occasionally as you can. Pick up a Vision 2050 button, pin it over your heart, and join the citizens' voice. A schedule and agenda for the various meetings can be found on the County of Napa site where you can even sign up for emailed meeting announcements at My Napa County.