The 2024 Campaign
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Bill Hocker | Mar 5, 2024

Update 3/5/24 Preliminary Election Results
NVR 3/5/24: Election 2024 update: Alessio, Manfree, Ramos react to early Napa County election results

Full Napa County Election results are here

Update 2/20/24 KQED Podcast on election issues
Kelli Anderson sends along a link to the KQED Forum podcast on "The future of wine centers on Napa county supervisors election" (1 hr).

The moderator of the podcast, Guy Marzorati, in his questions, seemed to be very knowledgable on the issues at play, but the rambling answers by the panelists tended to obscure those issues. The Register editor, Dan Evans, seemed exceptionally off topic. Mr. Mazorati referenced this Wine-searcher article in one question and it is probably worth reading before listening to the podcast.

The lack of clarity in the participants answers is understandable: every side in Napa's land-use debate wants Napa to remain a rural county that can sustain, both economically and environmentally, the financial benefits desired by businesses (and the county) and the quality of life benefits desired by residents. But how is that achieved?

The business community wants policies that encourage growth, in vineyard acreage, in tourism in more housing and transport projects that induce growth, along with less restrictive and clearer regulation. Residents see the rural, small-town character of the county being eroded by that bottom-line approach and want to see government policies that seek sustainability rather than growth. While sometimes supportive of housing and transport solutions to solve existing problems, they are more concerned about conservation and preservation of the undeveloped environment, more restrictions on future growth in the wine and tourism industries, more attention to the environmental impacts of climate change.

Politics in Napa County has always been a contest between development and conservation interests. Napa is Napa because the conservationists have more often succeeded. But since 2000 the Board of Supervisors has had a development majority and the policies of the 2008 General Plan and subsequent ordinances have reflected that. The 2022 election brought two conservationists on to the board and the majority began to shift. The Le Colline vineyard project, referenced several times in the podcast, represented the first, though perhaps premature, reflection of that shift. The project was turned down on conservation grounds. Premature, because the county is still under the policies of the 2008 general plan and the applicants (and the county staff) felt they had done everything the law required.

That conservationist majority will probably be cemented in this coming election. And they will get to oversee the update to the Napa General Plan. It is for that reason that the pundits see this as such a generational shift and why the wine industry is so nervous. They needn't be. No one wants the wine industry to die.

Update 2/12/24
Press Democrat 2/11/24: Sam Chapman Opinion: Mapping a future for Napa Valley
NVR Sam Chapman LTE 1/16/24: Is Napa County experiencing strategic drift?

Former Supervisor Sam Chapman gives a clear-eyed and comprehensive assessment of the issues at stake for Napa's future as the economy drifts away from wine production and toward good-life tourism and more urban development. Is this the future Napa' s citizens, long protectors of Napa's agrarian heritage, wish for themselves. If not, now is the time to challenge that shifting reality.

NVR 11/29/23: Napa County Supervisor Ryan Gregory won't seek third term in 2024

With the departure of Sup. Gregory from the race, it is assured that a minimum of 4 Supervisors beginning in 2025 will be women. And Amber Manfree running in District 4, after a strong showing against Sup. Pedroza in her first ever election in 2020 ("a potential rising star" in the words of the NVR Editoral Board in 2020) with evermore land use, community and transportation experience since, is in a good position this time around.

Since, as shown in many studies, women seem to be more effective leaders than men, this bodes well for the County as it heads into the important task of updating the General Plan.

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