Calling All Bloggers and Getting Involved

The More the Merrier

Well – you may have noticed it has been a few days since the last district profile, or perhaps you haven’t, which I suppose is worse.

AnyCraib TAI 2014way, I have spent the week chairing the Human Capital Institute Strategic Talent Acquisition conference in Boston (this photo is from an earlier conference but you get the idea.) I very much enjoy this part of the work I do for HCI. It allows me to step away from the computer, hear from some really interesting people about the work they are doing to make their companies more successful and share a few of my own observations about what’s happening in strategic talent management. It does not, however, leave much room for writing.  When Fast Company magazine co-founder and author  Bill Taylor, one of the conference speakers this week, shared with me that he has only about 2,500 words left to write on his new book I thought, wow – that’s only about the length of a district profile and then, actually that’s still quite a bit.

Thinking about that led me to an epiphany of sorts while sitting in Boston traffic on the way home yesterday afternoon. At my present pace, I will still be trying to introduce readers to the last of the districts when my son Alistair makes his run for Congress in 2038…I need to pick up the pace. The research and writing is time consuming and the time spent writing has also kept me from doing a better job of spreading the word about the Project to Find America and building momentum for change, which is really the point. The thing is, I don’t want to compromise what I hope has become an interesting and informative template we’ve established over the last few weeks. What to do?

And then I remembered a quotation my friend Dave Forman used in one of the HCI courses a few years back. It was from Satchel Paige; “Ain’t none of us as smart as all of us,” the former baseball great is known for saying. And he was right. Instead of writing all these district profiles myself, I need to find a network of people, ideally one in each district, willing to donate a bit of their time and writing skill to a good cause and share their version of a great day in their district and what matters to them and their neighbors. I am also hopeful that they will spread the word themselves about what we’re trying to accomplish.

I do not intend to stop writing the profiles myself. I’ve enjoyed writing this blog more than any writing I’ve done in my life and I will keep submitting new entries as often as I can (look for a new one this weekend). I also do not intend to change the tenor of the posts, these guest bloggers will need to have a positive outlook and be willing to share what they like about where they live and the issues that matter to their district in a positive and unbiased way. But having said that, the Project to Find America needs all the help and support it can get so if you know someone who likes to write and might be willing to help us all understand their congressional district better please pass this link along and ask them to contact me. In the meantime, I will begin an outreach campaign to recruit contributors starting next week.

Joining the Cause

On another front, I’ve been asked by several people what their next step should be after reading the early entries in the Project to Find America. In other words, what are we trying to accomplish? One of my wise older brothers said after reading a post awhile back, “okay, you’ve got my attention. What do you want me to do next?”

Good question and one I realize I haven’t done a very good job of answering thus far. In general, I think removing the foundations of gridlock that have immobilized Congress is going to take a lot of things from a lot of people, readers of this site and many others. It is also going to take some time, although I am very hopeful that we can have significant impact on the 2016 election cycle. But it is not too soon to get started and you can help us make progress in as few as 15 minutes. Here are some thoughts on how you can help and I have put them into three categories depending on how much time you are able to spend.

In 15 Minutes or Less Right Now:

  • Take the Pledge! At the bottom of the Take the Pledge page is a link to an online petition on the site Move On. Please add your name to the list. There’s nothing subversive here (at least I
    Craib HC Summit 15

    Say It With Me: Take the Pledge! Stop Partisanship in Congress!

    don’t think so – just common sense expectations for members of Congress) and when we’re at 50 “signatures” the petition to abide by the tenets of the pledge will be sent to every current member of Congress. When we have 1,000 then 10,000 then 100,000 then One Million signatories, we can begin to really change the conversation in time for the next election.

  • Find your representative and bookmark his or her site. This handy map will help you locate your district and on this page you can find your representative from a directory sorted by state. Once you will find the page about your representative, you will also find a link to their personal site there. Bookmark both.
  • Set up a Google News alert for your congressperson. Follow this link and type in his or her name (if it’s a common name you might want to add the word representative to the search box.) After you’ve done this click “show options” and you can set the frequency of updates – from as they happen to once per day or once per week.  As we know, Congress doesn’t move all that fast, once per day or once per week should be fine. Done – now you will get a regular e-mail update with the latest news involving your representative…that’s a big step
  • Spread the word. Take two minutes right now and send this link… https://projecttofindamerica.wordpress.com…to 5 people that might be interested in solving political gridlock in this country.

In One Hour this Weekend

  • Register to vote if you aren’t already registered. Don’t wait until next year’s primaries, which will begin in just 7 months. This is the year we start to do something and going through this exercise, which should take just a few minutes, will set you on the path of action. Unfortunately the voter registration process is a bit different in every state but it isn’t hard anywhere. The site U.S. Vote Foundation is set up to allow online voter registration for all 50 states but if you are nervous about providing information online, a simple Google search for register to vote in should take you straight to the local office you need to go to and what you will need to bring for identification. Do it – you will be glad you did.
  • Visit your representative’s Web site (see above) and read the “issues page” and press releases. Ask yourself: Are these indeed the right issues? Does my representative offer specific ideas – better yet sponsor legislation, aimed at solving these issues?
  • Check out your rep’s partisanship score. The site Govtrack.us offers a “report card” for each member of congress. You will find the link from their individual page in this directory. Among rankings in a few important areas you will find a ranking of how your representative did in the last congress on: Joining Bipartisan Bills, Writing Bipartisan Bills and supporting Government Transparency (their support of 12 bills that would provide more access to the inner workings of Congress.)

In One Hour per Week This Year

  • Keep following the Project to Find America Blog. New district profiles will come out each week and we are going to pick up the pace soon with the addition of guest bloggers. Please read them, share the link with others and offer comments. Why the fixation on all these other districts? Because by design, Congress cannot be effective without compromise. Scientifically, one of the key elements of compromise is perspective taking and the ability to understand what the other person wants and find common ground. By knowing what matters to other districts we can find areas of mutual interest that will go far beyond simplistic political party views. We can also identify areas where compromise will be required and, most importantly, we can better encourage our representatives to do both.
  • Use your representative’s Web site to sign up for their e-newsletter and read it once per week.
  • This last one is going to be a bit uncomfortable at first but when you’ve done it you will know you’ve become part of the solution. Check for your representative’s votes on bills before Congress in the previous week. You will find them listed on the Govtrack profile page you bookmarked earlier. Pick one vote on an issue that looks important (the recent vote on Trade Promotion Authority would be an interesting one to start with) and use the “contact me” link on their Web site to ask your representative to explain why they voted the way they did. Don’t be confrontational but don’t be intimidated either, this person works for you.

It might look something like this:

“Dear Congressman/Congresswoman

I am a resident of the -<##> district and am trying to understand what Congress has been working on a little better.  I noticed you voted yes(or no) on the and was hoping you would be willing to share your perspective on this vote and why it is the right one for our district.

Thank you for your representation,

Did your representative respond? Did the reasoning make sense? For extra credit, take a minute and Google the bill name and see how people that voted the other way explained their vote. The important issues in Congress are complicated and there likely isn’t one right answer. But did your representative convince you that they were voting on your district’s behalf as opposed to serving the whims of a political party?

Thank you. Let’s Find America together!

Photos on this post: Beth Culver/Human Capital Institute

NY-19 About a Small Town

NY-19

The Sports Fan’s Trail

The New York-19th has been represented by Congressman Chris Gibson since 2013 when he was redistricted from New York-20, where he was first elected in 2010.

Cities & Towns in the New York-19th include:

  • Oneonta
  • Monticello
  • Rhinebeck

It happens every time I see the movie. I start to choke up a little with the first “people will come Ray.” I start brushing a bit of moisture away from eyes during “for its money they have and peace they lack.” And then 765px-Babe_Ruth_Plaque_commonsJames Earl Jones nears the end of his soliloquy:

“The one constant through all the years Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an Army of Steamrollers. It’s been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game, is a part of our past, Ray. It reminds us of all that once was good, and it could be again.”

And  at this point I’m actively wiping tears from my cheeks. I am not ashamed of this and although the acting is quite good and Field of Dreams a great story, I don’t think it’s the movie that elicits this reaction. It is that, at the risk of being overly dramatic, that I think our national sport has become a metaphor for America itself.

So, although I seriously doubt that I represent a true majority of sports fans in the USA, the Sports Fan’s Trail for me, had to begin with baseball and it had to begin with the game’s history…in Cooperstown.

One Great Day in the New York-19th

A note about this section.  One day isn’t long enough to spend in any district – it’s not nearly long enough to really understand the place and everything that makes it unique. But time for both real and virtual expeditions is often limited so I’ve chosen a day to try to encapsulate what the district is like. If you go…and have longer to spend, you should.

Furthermore, these are just the things my family and I would find interesting, many of which I’ve never been to – you probably would find and suggest others. Let us know where it says Leave a Reply at the bottom of the page or better yet,  drop us a line if you’d like to write a guest post about any district. 

8 am:

Caneoing in Grafton Lake State Park

Because the Sports Fans Trail will be headed west from here, our great day in the sprawling New York 19th begins in the eastern side of the district and the state. As you will read below, my family has a long history with this region – more than any other place, it is where we are from. So we’ll begin the day at Grafton Lakes State Park .

The little village of Grafton, New York sits about halfway between Bennington, Vermont and Troy, New York. If those reference points leave you lacking, it is about 150 miles north of New York City. You can read a little more about the town in the next section and a lot more in a book referenced there, but for now, it is a little town, unremarkable in the same way as dozens of other little towns like it spread across the rural New York-19. “Don’t blink or you’ll miss it,” might aptly be said about 21st century Grafton.

But the town is home to a lovely park. Opened in 1971, Grafton Lakes State Park sits on 2,500 acres including a tract that had been in my family. It includes six ponds. Long Pond is the largest and has a very nice sandy beach but in my recollection, it was the colder and clearer Shaver Pond that was the favorite for swimming in my family. People fish all the ponds for multiple species including Trout, Pickerel, Perch and Bass and there are 25 miles of hiking and biking trails.

On this short stay we would head for the Granville Hicks trail – a nice little jaunt into Shaver Pond more or less along a path I think used to be informally known as King Henry’s Highway, named after our family friend Henry M. Christman who helped my grandfather cut the original trail. At one end of it in a long stand of towering pine trees my grandfather planted, are the gravesites of both men in a family burial plot that now includes my parents. It is a beautiful spot and although obviously personal, I couldn’t write about this place without writing about it.

11 am:

About 90 miles south of Grafton in the village of Hyde Park is the Home of Franklin D. Roosevelt National Historic Site. The Springwood Estate, which was the lifelong home of the four-term President, also now includes FDR’s Presidential Library, which was the first of its kind.

The area is also home to two other significant historic estates. The Eleanor Roosevelt National Historic Site at the house she called Val-Kill is the only historic site dedicated to a first lady. It was here that Mrs. Roosevelt spent most of the years after FDR’s death in 1945. A bit further up the river is the Vanderbilt Mansion National Historic Site is a well-preserved example of the country estates of industrialists like the Vanderbilts in the Gilded-Age.

The stop would be short since it would take about 2.5 hours through the Catskills to reach Cooperstown, but the guided tour, which is the only option to see the FDR home, lasts about an hour and we will do that 1280px-National_Baseball_Hall_of_Fame_and_Museumand check out as much as we can of the Presidential Library and Museum before heading northwest.

 3 pm:

It is strange, given a long preoccupation of mine with baseball and relative proximity to several places I’ve lived, that I’ve only been to “The Hall” once. I went for a few hours during the 1991 Excellent Adventure trip and remember it as being a place I could happily spend days. If you can – plan on at least a few hours.

I grew up wanting to be a baseball sportscaster and chose Syracuse University because it was well known for providing a gateway to that business (several of my college classmates are well-recognized sports broadcasters.) Thus, I’d want to spend some time in the section of the Museum devoted to “Scribes and Mikemen.” I would also head to a section on the 3rd floor titled Sacred Ground, which commemorates the ballpark cathedrals  of baseball’s past.  The place is magic, though, there is truly something for everyone with at least the smallest passing interest in baseball.

 

 6 pm:

A couple of miles north of Cooperstown we will wrap up a great day in the New York-19th at Blue Mingo Grill on the shores of Lake Otsego. The place bills itself as Creative Grill Cuisine and its website tells the story that the genesis of the restaurant is outdoor cooking, originally practiced at a weekend cabin in the woods without electricity. I love grilled food and cooking outside so entrees like grilled Filet Medallions and Black Florida Grouper served lakeside sound pretty good to me.

More Days?  – More Things to See and Know in the New York-19th

What Matters Here?

 

I stopped at an upscale grocery store/farmers market in the Berkshires a couple of years back and came across a sign that caught my eye. “Famous Berlin tomatoes,” or something like that. Around the sign were scattered several different varieties of lovely greenhouse grown tomatoes and I thought, well maybe this is it?

69 years ago my grandfather, Granville Hicks, wrote a book titled Small Town. It was a bit of a departure for a man who had spent most of the previous three decades writing about political ideology – mostly the selling points, then eventually shortcomings of the Communist Party. Small Town was as the name implies, about life in a small town. Specifically, the book is about the small town of Grafton, New York, though it was known by its original name – Roxborough in the book.  If I had to sum it up I’d call it equal parts love story and lament.

Snyder's Bridge

photo from Web collection of Warren Broderick

Granville (my brothers and I always referred to these grandparents, through their encouragement, by their given names) certainly loved the little village in which he chose to live with his wife and daughter. But although I was too young to talk with him about it (he died when I was a teenager,) in reading the book and remembering snippets of conversations, I believe he loved Grafton in the eyes-wide-open kind of way that old married couples love each other.  He was a serious man and not, often anyway, given to flowery prose. But there were certainly many things about the town he loved and quite a few he did not. These are parts of the last two paragraphs of the book,

“I have learned to moderate the optimism that once was so strong in me. I think it wholly likely that attempts at peaceful organization of the world may fail, with either anarchy or tyranny as the outcome of the resulting wars for world hegemony. I think it probable that democratic social planning will come, if it comes at all, only after further experiments in totalitarianism. But just as I no longer believe in the inevitable progress of mankind onward and upward forever, or in the operation of a dialectical materialism that guarantees the safe arrival of the classless society, so I do not believe in irresistible forces making for either chaos or despotism.”

“As I write this, I think of the meeting of the board of fire commissioners that I must attend in a few hours. The outcome may be good or bad; all I can predict is that a considerable amount of time will be wasted in unnecessary talk. However, it appears to be my job as much as any man’s. I know the board would be in bad shape if all the members had my particular limitations, but there are contributions that a person with my background can sometimes make. So I shall go to the meeting, and no doubt I’ll be  bored, and perhaps I’ll be displeased with the outcome, but I may learn something and I may do something. As a matter of fact, I expect to enjoy parts of the evening, as I have enjoyed parts – and rather large parts – of the whole experience with which this book has dealt.”

Why all this about a little town on the edge of New York State 70 years ago? Two reasons I guess. One is that little town, and the neighboring town of Berlin, are where my parents met, grew up, fell in love and got married. I spent parts of many summers visiting Grafton when I was young and my family – my uncle Bill Craib and Aunt Phyllis, daughters and grandchildren all still live in Berlin. The other is – neither town has, to an outsider’s view anyway, changed a lot in those 70 years. There is some charm to that, of course. But there is also a peril that threatens the kinds of small towns that dominate the New York 19th district and much of post rural America. On the dust jacket of a 2004 reprinting of Small Town spearheaded by local historian Warren Broderick, is this excerpt from a forward written by the Pulitzer Prize winning author Ron Powers.

“Granville Hicks saw it coming. ‘Has any small town a future in this age of industrialism, urbanism and specialization?’ he asks in his classic work of 1946, which examined a town caught in the decline of small-scale society that even back then was well underway. Nearly 60 years of ‘future’ later, the balefulness of Hicks’s question seems sadly to have been enlarged, transmuted, and emphatically justified.”

Back to the tomatoes. The question I was asking myself as I looked at the brightly colored fruit that day was, Is this the future of Berlin and Grafton and the other towns like them and then, what kind of future will that be? It doesn’t seem bad, farms producing local food seems like a win in all kinds of ways from better scenery to better food. But although I found a few references to “Berlin’s Best” tomatoes on the Web, none looked particularly recent and I can’t help wondering, can a family sustain itself in this way – let alone other families in the community?  What if no one in the area can afford to buy these, undeniably better, local crops?

Hard questions I do not know the answers to, but I feel confident they represent a large part of what matters to this district and lots of others like it around the country…where will good jobs come from, and when.

Congressman Chris Gibson, though he will not run for reelection in 2016 (Gibson is said to be thinking about a run for Governor or the U.S. Senate in 2018) says on his website that job growth in the district has three keys: “driving down healthcare costs and expanding access,” lowering energy costs and enacting pro growth tax reform. “ Perhaps.

As noted in Finding America, Congress has been pushing for something better than the Affordable Care Act since the law was passed five years ago but relatively few specifics on how to do this in a meaningful way have surfaced and Congressman Gibson’s website seems more focused on the “repeal” vs “replace” side of that issue. However, Rep. Gibson has recently sponsored a bill aimed at helping expand the number of young people that take up careers as farmers. The Young Farmers Success Act of 2015 would help new and beginning farmers manage their student loan debt by adding them to the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.

Congressman Gibson has also recently been lauded for an important distinction in an era of polarized politics. Finding America covered the state of partisanship in Congress at some length and just last month, the Lugar Center and Georgetown University added new data to the case showing that the last two congresses have been the least cooperative in decades. However, the organization also ranked each member of the 114th congress (which ended last year) on their ability to work across the aisle in a bipartisan way and Congressman Gibson ranked first among House members.

That’s a good start. Bipartisanship will not solve any of these issues by itself but it will be a necessary ingredient in helping any substantive solution to the decline of the small town become real.

Live in NY-19 or another district made up of Small Towns? What do you think?

 Next Up:

The Arts & Culture Trail continues in VA-10 on Tuesday.

The Sports Fan’s Trail rolls on next week in the NY-24

 

CA-5 Champagne for Breakfast

CA-5

Restaurants & Food Trail

The California-5th has been represented by Congressman Mike Thompson since 2013 when he was redistricted from California-1, where he was first elected in 1998.

Cities & Towns in the California-5th include:

  • Santa Rosa
  • Napa
  • Vallejo

Let me say at the start of this that I am not particularly fond of the word “foodie.” First, it sounds a bit dismissive. People that like wine aren’t called winey, though it would often be an apt, albeit misspelled description. People that like sports aren’t called sportie. In fact, to paraphrase the movie Office Space I daresay you’d get you’re a*s kicked calling a hockey fan that. But more importantly, I don’t like all that the word foodie implies.

My wife and I have a term, melon squeezers, we use to describe the people who frequent our local farmers markets – pinching all the turnips and commenting loudly on how fresh the dairy is. She makes fun of me for this, though and calls me a “self loathing melon squeezer,” and I guess I have to own up to it. You see, as much as I try to avoid handling food other people are expected to buy (you hear that corn peelers?) I actually like going to farmers markets. I like grocery stores, I like…good…food. I also like to cook and I think I’m considered by most of my friends and family as a pretty good and very enthusiastic cook. I like to go to restaurants and have something good and then come home and try to recreate it. But what I really love best when I go to restaurants is to have something that is so spectacularly good and so different that I have no idea where I’d begin in trying to replicate it.

The_French_Laundry

“The French Laundry” by Peter Merholz – Flickr. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The French Laundry has been around long enough now (Thomas Keller began running it in 1994) that many people, those that probably like the F word, have been there, done that and moved on. The restaurant has been on dozens of best-restaurant- in-the-world lists for the last two decades and while I have not been yet, it isn’t that I expect to tell people about a place they haven’t heard of before that has me lead off the Food & Restaurant Trail with this iconic restaurant in Yountville, California – it is that to me, it represents what truly makes every great restaurant great…the food.

Among a variety of other things on the menu at The French Laundry last night (they only do prix fixe multi course tasting menus) was a dish called Wolfe Ranch White Quail. Here’s the subhead description.

“Creamed Cauliflower, Celery Branch Salad, Poached Blueberries and Black Muscat Jus.”

I have two of Thomas Keller’s cookbooks and have practiced with them enough to believe that the Creamed Cauliflower alone, which probably consisted of a mouthful-sized serving, would take several hours to make. I’ll bet it was sublime and paired with the Celery Branch salad (what’s a Celery Branch?) and the rest of the things on the small plate (this was one of 10 courses) would have led me to say “wow.” And then try to describe the layers of flavors and the way they work together. I do not know how to cook like this (and with all due respect the cookbooks don’t help that much) but I am glad that people like Thomas Keller and his team of chefs do.

One Great Day in the California-5th

A note about this section.  One day isn’t long enough to spend in any district – it’s not nearly long enough to really understand the place and everything that makes it unique. But time for both real and virtual expeditions is often limited so I’ve chosen a day to try to encapsulate what the district is like. If you go…and have longer to spend, you should.

Furthermore, these are just the things my family and I would find interesting, many of which I’ve never been to – you probably would find and suggest others. Let us know where it says Leave a Reply at the bottom of the page or better yet,  drop us a line if you’d like to write a guest post about any district. 

9 am:

sonoma racewayWe’re not going to have breakfast at the French Laundry, though – our great day in the California 5th – aka Wine Country, will begin with a quite different experience. NASCAR is a big part of our national sports fabric. The races are among the biggest spectator events in many states around the country and they generate huge television ratings. We will look at several of the tracks as we make our virtual way around the congressional districts. But most of them, which are enormous ovals (2-2.5 miles,) don’t look anything like the Sonoma Raceway. The winding course, all 12 turns of it, was literally carved into the hills of wine country and is thus a much different viewing experience than many venues. It is also unusual in that it hosts not only NASCAR but IndyCar series races as well as regular NHRA drag racing. According to its website, the track hosts activity an average of 350 days per year. Some days racing starts as early as 8 am but you can check the full schedule here.

11 am:

On the Domaine Carneros website is an anonymous quote, “Why do I drink Champagne for breakfast? Doesn’t everyone?” I wish I had said it myself.  Domaine Carneros is the domestic cousin of Taittinger Champagne, founded in 1987 on the primary route between Sonoma And Napa. It is readily available even in the hills of Vermont and its also relatively inexpensive so it has become one of Elizabeth and my favorites. We’ll stop here for a glass of bubbly and a tour if we have enough time .

 1 pm:

Years ago now, while plotting a new talent management course I think, my friend and colleague Mike Foster and I drove through the wine country while we chatted and he introduced me to1024px-Stags_Leap_Winery,_Napa_Valley,_California,_USA_(6199529950) the Oakville Grocery.  They made good sandwiches as I recall, and it looks like they still do but the striking thing about this grocery store  -not much bigger than the one that is probably in your neighborhood,  is that they carry some of the best wines in the world and you can imagine the winemakers who made it stopping here to pick up a carton of milk on the way home.

After a sandwich, it’s time for some more wine touring. There are two primary roads that lead through Napa Wine Country – the St. Helena Highway (Route 29,) which passes through the town of Oakville and the Silverado Trail a few miles east and there are several places to cross between them. You can’t go far without running across a tasting room. All the big name wine makers are here from the iconic names and brands like Mondavi and Stags Leap to the cult phenoms Harlan and Screaming Eagle. This is where wine became big business in the United States but more on that below. We’ll try what we can (if you want to make a day of it by all means join a tour and leave the driving to someone else) and then head for a different kind of experience to round out the afternoon.

3 pm:

Before they were known to anyone but locals for their beautiful wines, Napa and Sonoma counties were known for  just being beautiful, not far from either the surf of the Pacific or the hilly streets of San Francisco. Jack London State Historic Park is that Sonoma County. The famed author of the Call of the Wild, White Fang and John Barleycorn lived here in several periods of his life and called this property Beauty Ranch. The park’s web site quotes him:


home-wolf-house
“All I wanted was a quiet place in the country to write and loaf and get out of Nature that something which we all need, only the most of us don’t know it.”

There are 26 miles of trails in the 1400 acres of the park but a couple of them look particularly interesting and probably fit into the time we have before dinner. The Gravesite and Wolf House trail goes past the spot where London and his second wife Charmain are buried to the ruins of Wolf House (pictured), a house that was to become their dream home until it burned in a fire before they were able to move in.

6 pm:

The French Laundry. Enough already said but two things to know before you show up. Make reservations…far in advance and bring your wallet. Black Muscat Jus doesn’t come cheap.

More Days?  – More Things to See and Know in the California-5th

What Matters Here?

This snippet from an op-ed on traffic congestion in the Napa Valley Register sums it up, “We must also consider the effects in our precious grapegrowing microclimate of thousands of slow moving cars and trucks idling in our narrow valley, as well as water limitations.”

That is a sentence you are not likely to read about many, if any, other districts in the country. Wine matters here…a lot. Taken together, the wine manufacturing industry and the tourism industry it has spawned comprise the bulk of the economy in Napa and neighboring Sonoma counties. Congressman Thompson’s menu of issues on his site confirms this – he lists Wine and Agriculture among the usual laundry list of issues he is focused on and he was the founder and remains a Co-Chair of the Congressional Wine Caucus, although this group’s web site does not seem to have been updated in several years.

So what matters to Wine Country? As the Napa Valley Register article entitled Napa Valley to explore the price of wine success indicates, balancing the need for wider roads and other infrastructure improvements 1280px-Clos_du_Val_Winery,_Napa_Valley,_California,_USA_(7218842154)with the desire to maintain the bucolic sensibility that makes the area charming in the first place is a key issue. The improvements are deemed necessary by supporters to help move more tourists and the people that work in the service industry to the area. On the other hand, supporters of the area’s agricultural roots say unchecked growth threatens the rural nature of the area and the natural resources, most notably water, that allow the grapes to grow, or to put it another way-allow this place to remain an area that Jack London would recognize.

A key element in this issue, according to the article, is the changing nature of the wine business. In the past, selling wine to vacationers visiting Wine Country was a nice source of secondary revenue. Now, according to industry experts quoted in the article, selling wine direct to consumers has become the primary source of revenue rather than selling to distributors. The question seems to be – are they in the wine business or in the selling things (primarily wine but also the experience) to visitors business.

Energy is another prime focus for Rep. Thompson who last month, authored a bill entitled the New Energy for America Act, which would extend investment tax credits for energy-efficient residential and commercial property through 2021. In a press release announcing the legislation, Thompson said, “The ITC is one of the most important tools we have that supports the development of solar energy in the United States. Since 2006, when the residential and commercial ITCs first took effect, employment in the U.S. solar industry has grown to 175,000 jobs at more than 8,000 solar companies.”

Though there are not many articles on Google News  (I count less than 10 – mostly from industry ezines) covering this piece of legislation and although it has 21 cosponsors, the site govtrack.us gives the bill zero chance and just a three percent chance of even getting out of the Ways & Means Committee. Why? There is a belief among many in Congress that the market should dictate the mix of energy chosen by individual consumers and businesses rather than federal tax subsidies. President Obama, on the other hand, has included an extension of the tax credit in his 2016 budget. A discussion of this position and a lengthy, but quite interesting review of the current issues in the energy industry are available here.  But the question of whether the Solar ITCs will continue beyond next year’s deadline will certainly have impact on the Solar industry as a whole as described in this article from the Sacramento Bee and this one from Forbes. Live in the CA-5th? Do you want to see this tax credit continued?

 Next Up:

The Sports Fan’s Trail begins in New York-19

The Restaurant & Food Trail continues next week in the Oregon-3rd