Editor’s note: The St. Helena Star is a sister paper to The Weekly Calistogan.Based on preliminary election results, Diane Dillon will almost certainly win a fifth term representing the Upvalley District 3 on the Napa County Board of Supervisors.
When our board interviewed her last Friday, just days after the last ballots had been cast and with the fate of Measure C still uncertain, she was already in a back-to-work mindset.
We endorsed Dillon in May, but we urged her to heed the frustration that drove support for Measure C and her challenger, Cio Perez.
We’re pleased to report that she’s already doing so. She said her top priority for her next term is to bring all interested parties together with the help of an independent facilitator, identify those underlying concerns – oaks, water quality, winery growth, vineyard expansion, traffic, you name it – and try to build consensus.
The goal is to reach solutions that are based on facts and ultimately enacted through the county’s regular legislative process.
This undertaking will be independent of whether Measure C passes or fails. Dillon noted that C, with its 795-acre oak removal limit, won’t do much to address its supporters’ concerns in the short term.
New county regulations, however, could provide satisfactory results well before that 795-acre limit is reached.
Dillon acknowledged that this process won’t be easy or short – we’ll be surprised if it takes less than a year. But it is possible, she said, noting the precedent of the county flood project.
Dillon promised to lead this effort, but she won’t be able to do it without massive public participation. She noted that only three members of the public attended the first hearing on the county’s updated General Plan Circulation Element (that is, traffic) – a crucial document that will provide the factual basis for decisions on individual projects.
We’re going to have to do a lot better than that. Regardless of where we stood on Measure C or Dillon-Perez, we’ll all have to sit down with our opponents, set aside any lingering grudges, express our concerns without vitriol, listen to the facts, and find some common ground.
In other words, we’ll have to buck the national trend toward political polarization and ideological bubbles. With our shared future on the line, we’re optimistic that the people of this small county can work together.
Dillon’s second priority will be emergency preparedness, a tremendously important issue as we enter another dry season. A season of below-average rainfall will produce conditions that are unfortunately ideal for large, fast-moving wildfires like the ones we saw last October.
Dillon said Angwin has done a good job raising awareness and beefing up its Firewise program, but the cities still have some work to do. St. Helena was spared in 2017, but we become complacent at our peril.
Dillon also has a crucial role to play in the future of the Napa County Fairgrounds.
The county is negotiating to sell the property to the City of Calistoga. The county didn’t provide the bulk of the funds to purchase and develop the fairgrounds, so Dillon — who represents only one vote on the Board of Supervisors — doesn’t see it as a potential “cash cow” for the county. She wants to sell it to Calistoga at a reasonable price the city can afford, as long as the city doesn’t turn around and flip it to a developer.
Dillon ticked off other concerns in isolated regions of the vast District 3, like storm-damaged roads in the Dry Creek/Mount Veeder area and a Lake Berryessa community that’s still struggling to come to terms with the loss of its once-thriving resorts.
With so many micro-constituencies, Dillon has a lot on her plate. But she’s spent 16 years proving that she’s up to the task.
This board wishes her well in her next term and hopes that we can all move on after a divisive campaign and rededicate ourselves to the county’s traditional values of community, collaboration and compromise.