SodaCanyonRoad | The Forgotten Man

The Forgotten Man

George Caloyannidis | Sep 7, 2015 on: Napa Vision 2050

Who is she? Who is he?

They are the people who live in this valley, who go about their work and daily activities, the ones who support our schools, support businesses day in and day out in summer and in winter. They are the ones who go to sleep at night trusting that the officials they elected act in their own interest, which simply put is to safeguard their quality of life. Because of this trust, they have not organized, do not lobby and don’t have a financial interest to support candidates with large campaign contributions.

But if increased public participation at county hearings, the flood of letters to the editors, the forming of neighborhood coalitions (I attended one such meeting of 98 participants at the county library at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 18, 2015), and the willingness of residents to devote so much time and energy away from their homes at dinnertime is any indication, they are the ones who feel marginalized by their government when they ought to count the most. They are the forgotten ones.

Whether it is the ever-increasing traffic congestion, the accelerated use and deterioration of the infrastructure on their dime and the depletion of resources by a disproportionate number of outsiders, the gentrification and its associated rise in the cost of living, the erosion of our agricultural identity and natural habitat, they all contribute to an unsustainable loss in the forgotten man’s quality of life.

For those who dispute the government’s cold shoulder to the forgotten man, when was the last time a use permit for a new winery or the rampant legalization of winery violations were denied in the face of local opposition?

Residents spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars on research, lawyers and consultants, to formulate legitimate concerns, yet none makes a difference. The moneyed lobbying malaise that has poisoned the entire country’s political process has found fertile ground — infinitely more destructive than the manageable winged sharpshooter — in our heretofore innocent wine country, systematically chipping away use permit by use permit at our quality of life, each masquerading behind the deceitful language of “less than significant impacts,” refusing to acknowledge the profound cumulative ones.

As a result, what has been a beneficial symbiosis between development, tourism and residents for many decades, even the very impartiality and trust in government have reached the tipping point of moneyed influence and any sense of proportionality.

The supervisors’ arguments are disingenuous to say the least:

They tell us that much of the traffic and the overuse of resources is due to development in the cities. But how many come to this valley not attracted by wineries? This is where it all starts. They tell us that traffic increases regardless of what they do but this is not true either; only 9 percent of all traffic is pass-through traffic, the rest is controlled or fueled by policy. Should other communities be so lucky to be similarly positioned!

They tell us that wineries can no longer exist without “the new reality,” meaning the massive inflow of tourism. Yet none of that is true in such concentration in any other premium wine country in the world. The truth is that one can find thousands of international wines in this country, but Napa wines are conspicuously absent around the world.

Under the guise of “the new reality,” we have created the model of lazy winery owners who are no longer willing to put up with the travel around the country, let alone the world in order to sell their wine. Much easier to keep visitors piling in on their way to the 23,000 approved events in a continuous assault on our agricultural character and quality of life.

An even more disingenuous fact is that the disastrous traffic conditions we are experiencing have been predicted by the county’s own 2007 Traffic Environmental Impact Report, where in order to maintain acceptable service level “C,” our arteries will have to expand to six and four lanes up and down the valley by the year 2030. In the meantime we have to deal with bumper-to-bumper traffic. But the deception continues. They tell us this will never happen, fully aware that it is not they, but Caltrans who has control over state highway service levels. When traffic conditions become substandard, one more Caltrans lane next to another will destroy what little we still have of our charming rural roads such as the still-clinging-to-life Highway 29 from St. Helena to Calistoga.

To make matters even more unfair, while arguing the issue of compliance, the supervisors are setting their sights on the small homeowners on Imola and Solano Streets who happen to have a tarp-covered boat on their driveway, considering to cite them, even place a cloud on the title of their properties as means to compel them to remove it. All the while they are willing to accommodate, without imposing a single penalty, scandalous winery violations that circumvent the very California Environmental Quality Act in a systemic way through the selective application of the law on the forgotten man.

What can the forgotten man do? Get informed, organize, lobby, vote for those who will commit to respecting their quality of life.

Napa Valley Register version: The Forgotten Man