Nonprofits help keep Napa Valley strong
#Napastrong became popular to give us strength during the troubled times of the wildfires, and I think it worked. But really, we have been Napa Strong for a long time thanks to the tapestry of people, business and nonprofit organizations that thrive in the valley.
A nonprofit organization uses its surplus revenues to further achieve its purpose or mission, rather than distributing its surplus income to the organization’s shareholders (or equivalents) as profit or dividends.
There are about 600 nonprofit organizations working in Napa County, all of them contributing to create a vibrant, thriving, and more equitable community through their hundreds of services. These organizations are also important drivers of the local economy, and they add broad social and community value.
Nonprofits are also a tool to channel the prosperity of the Valley, a conduit to share some of what we have with others, based on our particular interests.
The Napa Valley Give!Guide highlights 46 of these organizations. All of them have a trajectory of success and they are registered in the IRS to be able to provide acknowledgments for donations that you can deduct in your tax return.
I encourage you to visit napavalleygiveguide.org to learn more about them and consider sharing some of your own prosperity. I am sure you will find at least one organization that you can relate to. When we care and support each other we are definitely Napa Strong.
Upper Valley Girl Scouts
Support the watershed initiative
I am not a member of any local environmental organizations nor a grape grower, but I am a concerned resident of Napa County. I have lived in the county for 48 years, so I have had an opportunity to observe the many changes which have taken place during that period. Bit by bit, I have seen the vineyards, wineries and mansions creeping up the sides of the watersheds. This flagrant disregard for the protection of the watershed has to stop.
Some members of the wine community feel that maintaining the sustainability of our forests, watersheds, rivers and streams can be done voluntarily. This is a nice concept but unrealistic in the overall view.
What would Highway 29 be like if there were voluntary traffic regulations? A few of us have the common sense and self-discipline to voluntarily curb our natural impulses, but the majority of us would press the pedal more firmly verifying that old saying that speed kills. Hence the need for the boundaries set by the Napa County Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2018.
Other members of the wine community, as typified by the letters of Andy Beckstoffer and Patricia Damery, recognize the fragility of our natural resources and urge citizens to sign now and vote later for the Napa County Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2018.
It has been suggested by some members of the opposition that zoned for agriculture is and has been sufficient protection for our watersheds and forests. Consider the supervisor’s approval of the Walt Ranch proposition with 17,000 trees to be felled for yet another vineyard and its accompanying maintenance roads. Consider the approval of the extensions to the Mountain Peak Winery on Soda Canyon Road. I think the wildfire has tragically proven the opposition correct on that one.
In the 1970s, an ordinance called the Riparian Watercourse Ordinance was passed by the board of supervisors, establishing setbacks on the Napa River of 50 feet, with setbacks of 25 feet on 20-plus tributaries. Existing vineyards and orchards could be maintained as usual.
But that was not enough to satisfy the opposition. The hum of the chainsaw could be heard on a daily basis. A large percentage of trees and understory along the Napa River and designated tributaries disappeared. Sections of the Napa River began to erode, resulting in siltation and eutrophication.
Many of the banks of the river and streams were completely denuded. No longer did wild roses bloom on the banks of some tributaries, no longer did turtles bask in the sun, and no longer did great blue herons flap off with a fish in the beak. The Napa River was designated by the state as an endangered river — unsuitable for steelhead migration and other problems.
Since then restorative efforts have been made but the river and streams still bear the scars of previous abuse. It is often difficult to restore what human activity has altered or destroyed, though the RCD and Rutherford Dust Group should be commended for their efforts.
Some concern has been expressed about the 795-acre limit in the new initiative. This limit is based upon the 2008 general plan forecast that between 2005 and 2030 there will be 10,000 acres of new vineyards developed. It is felt that 14 percent of the remaining vineyard development will require the removal of oak woodlands.
After the 795-acre threshold is reached, watershed vineyards would be allowed only with special permits.
Assuming sufficient signatures have been gathered and the initiative makes it to the June ballot, our watersheds and oak forests can begin the recovery process, so that they will function as nature intended — helping to keep our air clean and our water pure.
Vote yes for the Napa County Oak Woodlands Protection Initiative of 2018.
Third NVC bond?
Napa Valley College is continuing on its path to place a $280 million bond tax on the June 2018 ballot. At their Nov. 9 board of trustees meeting, six of the seven trustees voted to spend $48,000 to hire a consultant to try again to convince Napa residents to vote for the bond.
The board of trustees voted to spend $48,000 knowing that the recent polling by another hired consultant showed that only 25.4 percent of the respondents stated they would vote ‘yes.’ The requirement to pass a bond tax is 55 percent.
And this year’s polling actually shows a decline in voter support from the bond election that failed in 2014. Has college administration failed to understand the messages of the last two bond elections or are they out to lunch and don’t care if they waste megabucks as they lose a third bond election in a row?
$280 million is a lot of money. Attempts by one of our Taxpayers Association directors to contact the individual involved in development of the college master facilities plan to discuss how this cost was developed have been unsuccessful. A trustee was recently asked if anyone at the college has ever managed the construction and financial administration of a $280 million project. Her response was she could think of no one with such experience.
This should concern all taxpayers because past fears were proven correct when it was learned through local news reports that Measure N, the last approved college bond, lost $70 million due to cost overruns in 2007. As you may suspect, cost overruns in a construction context are properly called mismanagement. And, we are still paying for that mismanagement and will continue paying for at least another 10 years in the taxes on our homes.
The Napa County Taxpayers Association will oppose this new bond tax. Actions by a paid consultant to promote a new bond measure only raises ethical questions and will not alter our vigorous opposition to a new bond proposal. I believe Napa Valley College administration should demonstrate a willingness to learn from past bond failures. This would seem to be necessary before actions can be taken to develop meaningful detailed specifics and control measures which can be clearly communicated to the voters considering any new bond tax.
Jack Gray, Director
Napa County Taxpayers Association
Editor’s Note: The Register asked the college about the issues raised in the author’s letter. Spokesman Doug Ernst said the Napa Valley Community College District’s Board of Trustees has not decided to place a bond measure before voters. He said “As reported, the district is engaging the community, faculty, staff and students through polling and other means to identify needs. It would be inappropriate for the college to speculate about what the public wants, except to say that up to 57.4 percent indicated potential support for a local bond. Over the coming months the college will continue to gather community feedback, provide the public with plans to address needs, and estimate the cost before any decision is made regarding a potential measure for voter consideration. Details about the survey can be found at www.napavalley.edu under ‘Community Survey Results Press Release’ and ‘Highlights of the 2017 Community Survey.’”
Loving the police and first responders
The Napa fires left me with a feeling of gratitude for the first responders. Though I didn’t have property damage and didn’t have to evacuate, this was still my closest experience with that population of people who feel the need to invest so much of their lives in responding to the needs, the safety of others.
I found myself glued to the TV, to the stories of where all these people came from—the Carolinas, Tennessee, neighboring states, neighboring cities, Australia, Canada, as well as our day-in, day-out first responders in Napa.
And here is where it led me. I began to think of the police department differently. They have been the rule enforcers in my mind, the ones looking for me to slip up, to issue a citation or speeding ticket to me.
But I shifted my perception as a result of the fires to see them as the all too often unsung heroes and heroines. They have become, in my mind, the arms, legs, and wheels of the Spirit of Napa, mainly young men and women who, day in and day out, night after night, season after season show up to protect, take care of, respond on my behalf while I go my merry way, oblivious mostly of all they do in a single shift to make my life easier, safer, and to assist my neighbors to and for us all.
An interesting thing has come with this shift, this going from not particularly liking the organization they stand for to embracing it. I love them now. No really, I love them. They — those nameless, faceless uniformed beings with their own quirks and flaws, their lessons not completely learned, their ego issues, their humanity — THEM. I love them like family. Because somehow, I believe they feel the same way about me.
Let’s come together for our watersheds
We came together to respond to fire, let’s do it again for our watershed.
We have to say that we are so very proud and thankful that we have so many citizens with open hearts during and after the devastating fires. We will never forget the first responders’ generosity and warmth of spirit. We saw people looking out for each other, helping evacuate animals, and sharing time and goods to the displaced. People were doing for others because we are one community. This proves how strong we can be when we come together for the common good.
In contrast, we should be coming together to protect our common asset and resource, the watersheds. We are all dependent upon a healthy watershed, including the agriculture in the valley and those who live in town. We need to protect it to ensure clean water and a stable environment.
In Jason Abbot’s Letter to the Editor on Nov. 3 (“Read the initiative before you sign”, Napa Valley Register), he misstated the intent of the Watershed and Oak Woodland Protection Initiative of 2018, and accused the signature gatherers of being liars. I am a signature gatherer and resent his accusation. I have no reason to misrepresent the intent or the specifics of the initiative.
I’m proud to support it and put my own time into ensuring the citizens get to vote on it. Napa Valley citizens deserve their say in how we manage this important shared resource. We signature gatherers represent it as best we can in the short moments we encounter each person.
As signature gatherers, we will inform you as much as you wish and will seek accurate answers to questions, if you allow us the time or let us get back to you. We encourage you to read the whole initiative; it is quite readable and addresses concerns that those opposed claim it does not. The core purpose is to prevent deforestation of key parts of our watershed, and to stop clear-cutting of stands of oak that are key to our ecosystems, resupply of aquifers and protect our supply of clean water.
It specifically allows clearing around structures and driveways for fire safety, allows clearing out of dead wood and debris, respectful of laws and zoning. We know the the citizens of Napa Valley support this by a large majority; we want to see it on the ballot so that the citizens can voice that opinion. I suspect the maligning posts and letters are from those who fear that the voice of the community might prevail over the clear-cutters.
Please come together and protect our watershed with as much heart as we came together to protect each other during the fires. We do it for our collective future and our children’s futures in the hope that we will have this beautiful valley to share for a very long time.