It appears that Anne Cottrell and Joelle Gallagher have substantial leads in their respective districts, which is good news for the preservationist faction of the county. It still remains to be seen if either reaches the 50% needed to avoid a runoff in November.
In each election we get an accounting of the power of Napa's wine oligarchy and the weight of their patronage in Napa county politics. The patronage seems to be spreading into elected office beyond the Supervisor's chambers. It is also interesting that Sup. Pedroza, the prime conduit for development interests in the county since taking over Bill Dodd's seat 8 years ago, is raking in substantial campaign contributions two years away from his next run for political office, whatever office that might be.
Partisan politics, of the red and blue variety, barely raises its head in Napa County. The real political division is between development interests, who built or tapped into a thriving agriculture-tourism economy over the last 50 years and who feel that the process can be expanded indefinitely, and preservation interests, including members of the wine industry, who see the process as beginning to exceed sustainable limits in urban growth and resource depletion that threatens the continuation of the county's rural legacy.
In 2016, the loss by Mark Luce to Ryan Gregory for District 2 Supervisor created a majority on the Napa County Board of Supervisors that marked a shift from the Ag Preserve agenda that began in 1968, concerned with the constraint of urban development to allow agriculture to survive, to a board majority more receptive to the "growth" concerns of most governments - how to create ever more jobs, housing, infrastructure and the mirage of more government revenue. (The movement toward an urban growth agenda in Napa County took off with the election of of Bill Dodd in 2000, replacing preservationist Kathryn Winter.)
The two Napa County supervisors retiring after the coming 2022 election, District 3 Supervisor Diane Dillon and District 1 Supervisor Brad Wagenknecht, are the vestiges of the preservation agenda. Un-coincidentally their districts contain the vast bulk of vineyard acreage in the county. From the standpoint of the many people concerned about development pressure in the county, and who have shown up at Planning Commission and BOS meetings over the last 7 years, they have become the main voices weighing development decisions against the desire to preserve an economy based on agriculture. That concern is now seldom the highest consideration in board decisions.
Unfortunately, even with the election of "preservationists" to replace the two supervisors, it will only maintain the status quo, and the level of development now being approved will continue. But if their replacements are "growth" minded supervisors, it will probably usher in the end of the Ag Preserve experiment as the new board aggressively pushes more development as a solution to the traffic, housing and tight-budget problems caused by the Board's previous development decisions and more tourism as a solution to the declining value of wine to a younger generation more interested in winery experiences than the wine itself. If there is any hope of regaining a majority that will support the low-growth ideals of the Ag Preserve heritage, these two seats must be retained in the preservationist camp.
The planning commissioners appointed by Sups. Dillon and Wagenknecht, Anne Cottrell and Joelle Gallagher are both running in their respective districts, and both have made herculean efforts at moderating the scale of development proposals before them at the commission. But tourism, real estate and construction interests are now dominant forces in the county, as well as a wine industry that continues to embrace ever increasing tourism as its salvation, and the battle will be hard fought and costly.
During this campaign season, Beth Nelson has been following up on her tenacious pursuit of Sup. Alfredo Pedroza's questionable self-dealing over Walt Ranch with a breakdown of the money behind the 2022 Napa election. She has provided financial analysis and 460 funding documents for every candidate in the 2022 campaign here:
Napa County politics has always centered around the conflict between preservationists and developers. The Napa County Farm Bureau, formerly a bastion of agricultural protection and now promoter of tourism and real estate development in the name of protecting agriculture, recently cast the preservationists as a "small vocal minority". Every political movement has stalwarts leading the charge, but some are easier to see than others. We know where the passion of preservationists come from: they wear their hearts on their sleeves. When it comes to the passion of developers you need to follow the money. The money shows that a small wealthy minority is in fact bankrolling candidates who they know will enable their development plans, and napacountycash.com shows who they are.
A Draft Map is being shown on the redistricting calendar for Nov 16: Draft Map (districtr format) Draft Map (pdf format)
(The Draft Map is good in that it allocates more vineyard land to District 2, and the disection of Napa City seems more straightforward than before.)