Housing, water quality and traffic aren’t just St. Helena problems – they’re regional issues that call for collaborative, regional solutions.
That’s why we’ve invited each of Napa County’s supervisors and mayors to talk to our editorial board over the next few months. We’re interested in hearing their ideas on how the county and the cities can work together to produce concrete, measurable solutions to problems that plague the entire county.
British biologist and Nobel laureate Sir Peter Medawar once said that the professional business of good scientists is “to solve problems, not merely to grapple with them.” Our elected officials share that same responsibility.
To a certain extent, words like “collaboration” and “dialogue” have become buzzwords that help politicians sound good but don’t have much concrete meaning behind them. We want to reclaim that meaning and highlight how those concepts can produce tangible improvements to ever-worsening traffic congestion, a critical shortage of workforce housing, and a troubling lack of trust in local government to solve these problems.
We started by meeting with District 3 Supervisor Diane Dillon, who outlined her plan to get the entire county talking about the concerns that led to Measure C. The initiative failed, but the vote was close enough to prove that a significant number of Napa County residents don’t feel like current regulations are sufficient to protect our water supply, oak woodlands and quality of life.
We followed up last week by meeting with District 4 Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza, whose take on the situation differs from Dillon’s.
Pedroza, who represents north Napa and rural eastern Napa County as far north as Lake Berryessa, wants to convene experts to assess whether current regulations are accomplishing the county’s goals and whether there are any gaps.
Despite their disagreement, he and Dillon have a good working relationship. They collaborated with the city of Napa to study the watersheds surrounding Napa’s reservoirs. He said that in hindsight he wishes the county’s other reservoirs had been analyzed as well.
We thank Pedroza for coming to St. Helena and sharing with us his vision for preserving a healthy, economically and environmentally sustainable county. We all share those common goals, the challenge lies on agreeing on how to accomplish them and produce tangible results.
As for transportation, Pedroza is optimistic that the county can develop an employee shuttle program by collaborating with large employers, providing incentives to employees, and using app-based technology to optimize the routes.
As for rebuilding trust in county government, Pedroza talked about the difficulty of communicating the county’s successes without making it feel like the county is tooting its own horn. That seems to be an eternal challenge for local governments, and we hope the county’s next public information officer has fresh ideas on how to communicate through email, newspaper columns, social media, public workshops and snail-mail newsletters.
We appreciated Pedroza’s commitment to working with the cities on housing, traffic and other challenges. That commitment will surely be tested as St. Helena and the county embark on what could be intense negotiations over changes proposed at the former Vineland Vista Mobile Home Park south of town.
That quasi-hotel project, which we discussed in our June 28 editorial, is another reminder that we can accomplish only so much by working in isolation. Our most formidable challenges can only be overcome if we work together.