Author James Conaway said he talked this week for about an hour before the 2017-18 Napa County grand jury on various wine country issues.
Conaway recently released the book “Napa at Last Light,” the third in his Napa trilogy, which looks at how multinational corporations are changing the wine industry and Napa Valley. He said the grand jury asked him for his thoughts and impressions.
One topic Conaway raised was the county’s definition of agriculture. The county last year changed the zoning code agriculture definition to include marketing and sales. That proved controversial, even though proponents said the uses were labeled as subordinate.
He also brought up the topics of county elections that he said are kind of stacked against the common person because there is no campaign contribution limit. Money is important in politics, he added.
He brought up information from his new book. Among them was an attorney's statement on a legal battles over a previous version of the watershed protection initiative opposed by the wine industry. The attorney compared the situation to Southern California's water wars portrayed in the movie "Chinatown."
The grand jury didn’t indicate how it might use the information, Conaway said.
“I was quite honored to be asked and they seemed satisfied,” he said.
Grand jury officials said Conaway's appearance was part of their guest speaker program and not part of any investigation.
The grand jury operates under the authority of Napa County Superior Court and is to serve a watchdog role regarding local government. It is made up of 19 citizens who are selected annually by the court. Its usual function is to operate confidentially, then release annual reports on its various investigations and make recommendations to the county and its cities.