A favorite movie of mine is Tremors, a spoof of the 1950s science-fiction films in which giant worms eat people. At one point, the residents of the isolated desert town are all gathered in the town store trying to come to grips with the danger they're in. One of the lead characters grabs a map to point out the dilemma they face. In excited desperation, he tells the town folk that the valley they're in is nothing more than one long smorgasbord and they must get out now.
It appears that some people view Napa Valley in a similar way -- one long, gigantic factory that produces wine. The wine draws tourists. Tourists have money. Tourists stay in hotels. Hotels have money. Wineries market their wine. Tourists buy the wine. Wineries have money. Tourists enjoy fine dining. Restaurants have money.
The factory mindset sees Napa County’s agricultural assets as the single most important thing in the county. If anything interferes with the operation of the wine factory, that interference must give way. Thus, the factory system is our friend and savior.
Factory owners and their agents react when anything gets in the way of production, distribution, promotion and sales. The need to expand should be granted without question. Why? Because we all know the best thing for the factory system is the best thing for us. Marketing needs must be granted without question because the best thing for the factory is also the best thing for us. Any need the factory has must be granted. If we fail to meet the needs of the factory, the sky will fall. And if the sky falls, we all know what that means -- endless, treeless, featureless housing tracts.
The factory will save us from this fate only if we submit to them and meet their needs. And we must do so without question.
The wine factory's needs are critically important. Therefore, they must be met. This is what the factory owners and their agents argue, but they are ignoring something. The rest of us have needs, too. We need clean water. We need clean air. We need a place we can escape to and relax. We have needs, too. Judging from letters written by those supporting the factory mentality, however, the needs of the rest of us are subordinate to the needs of the factory. Their needs must be met first. If anything is left over, then the rest of us may use it -- until the factory needs it again. Whatever the factory needs, it must have. This must be done if we are to avoid those endless, featureless, treeless housing tracts.
Some of you will think this scenario is simply the whining of a NIMBY. That, too, is how the factory owners and their agents portray anyone that dares to question the needs of the factory. Owners apparently feel they have the absolute right to do as they please on their land, even if doing so causes problems or material harm to others. After all, the needs of the factory are superior to the needs of others.
My recent Letter to the Editor published in the Napa Valley Register ("The False Choice in Development Issues," Sept. 22) brought this response from a commenter, “Nobody buys a piece of land……(with) the altruistic ideal of 'doing nothing' ... You can make money from the wine industry today. When you fail to make a good return on investment, or it becomes too much of a hassle to do so; you will see the flood gates open.”
What constitutes a “good return?” How much money does one have to make? And at what expense is this “good return” achieved? The focus of the owner is the owner. Whatever the factory owner needs to make a good return must be supplied. If not, then the flood gates will open and we will have houses covering the valley floor. Thus, the owners of the factory must take your water, your air and your peace of mind to protect you from housing tracts. In the final analysis, the factory owners are doing us a favor by taking from us and giving to themselves; they are protecting us. It is an altruistic act after all. Is this what's called a win/win?