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The Choices for Napa County Supervisor
JANUARY 25, 2020
When it comes to incumbents being challenged in local elections, it has been our tradition to give the benefit of the doubt to those incumbents.
Barring a scandal or some major policy failure, we figure, the burden is heavy on a challenger to say why change is necessary. This is especially true for the board of supervisors, which handles a vast array of issues that are largely invisible to the public, including a huge health and human services infrastructure and extensive public safety system. The learning curve for a new supervisor is steep and even the best members of the board will admit that they had little idea how big the job was when they started.
This year, two of the three incumbents on the ballot face challengers. In District Four, which sprawls from downtown Napa eastward over Atlas Peak and Lake Berryessa, Supervisor Alfredo Pedroza is challenged by environmental scientist Amber Manfree. In District Five, which includes American Canyon and points north to the airport and Coombsville, Supervisor Belia Ramos is challenged by American Canyon City Council member Mariam Aboudamous.
The two races present different challenges in deciding how to proceed. In District Four, the story is fairly conventional: A well-funded incumbent with ties to well-heeled segments of the wine industry is challenged by a candidate who is critical of the county’s land use policies and has the backing of the slow-growth coalition represented by Vision 2050. We’ve seen this story play out in every election since 2016.
In this case, we find Manfree to be intelligent, personable, and passionate about her work. There is a certain whimsy and refreshing authenticity to her. Meeting her, as we did earlier this month, helps explain why she has a playful cartoon of a running quail on all her campaign literature.
She is a scientist by training and a mapmaker by profession, and has therefore been involved in many regional studies and land use decisions. She seems to understand the issues at stake in development of wild lands as well as anyone on the board. But land use is just a small part of what the supervisors do, and on questions of other services and policies, she was hazy.
Pedroza on the other hand, relishes those details. He is a fountain of ideas and policy points, particularly on traffic issues. He sits on the regional Metropolitan Transportation Commission and has been successful in getting unusual attention – and money — for Napa at the MTC. Pedroza argues convincingly that after six years on the board, he is now at a level of knowledge and relationship building that puts him at the peak of his game.
We agree and therefore endorse him for another term, though we encourage Manfree to remain active in politics and believe she is a potential rising star. And we caution Pedroza, who is an increasingly polished politician with a bright potential future, to be wary of the danger of coming to love the game of politics too much lest he lose an authentic connection to his voters.
The Fifth District presents a different picture.
There appear to be a variety of personal and policy agendas playing out here, the outlines of which are very difficult to discern from the outside. The race has warped the normal fabric of the county’s political establishment and created some strange bedfellows.
For example, the conservative Farm Bureau finds itself on the same team with Vision 2050 in endorsing Aboudamous. This is an alliance that seemed unimaginable after the acrimonious clash between the two organizations over Measure C in 2018.
Also, both Third District Supervisor Diane Dillon and State Sen. Bill Dodd have pointedly withdrawn their endorsements of Ramos, who otherwise enjoys solid endorsements from most of the county establishment, and thrown their weight behind the challenger. They have said little publicly beyond the fact that they believe the challenger is a better candidate.
We met with both candidates earlier this month.
We found Aboudamous bright, aggressive, and policy-oriented. We were impressed by her accomplishments on the city council, particularly her efforts to bring the endless negotiations over the Watson Ranch development to a successful conclusion. It was clear, however, that she is a reluctant politician who remained equivocal about running right up to the filing deadline.
Ramos, meanwhile, had difficulty articulating clearly why she needed a second term. She seemed subdued and distracted in our meeting, almost morose. Her recitation of her accomplishments had a funereal air, like a candidate delivering her final speech on a job she was departing.
We were perplexed by her presentation and concerned that much of the discussion of her accomplishments was framed in terms of how the experience shaped her character rather than how it had shaped the county. This, to us, supported her critics’ contention that she tends to be self-centered and aloof.
What’s going on here? It’s difficult to say for certain, but it is quite clear that Ramos is a polarizing person and has made powerful enemies. While having a dissenting voice on a governing board is not a bad thing, having a divisive figure on there can be quite destructive.
At the same time, Ramos has not committed any egregious errors, at least publicly, and she does have the benefit of four years of experience on the board, which would be a shame to lose.
In the end, our board came away from our meetings cautiously impressed by Aboudamous and disappointed by Ramos.
But like the county establishment itself, the board was split and was unable to reach a strong consensus about an endorsement. Therefore, we have no recommendation for the voters of District Five.
Editor’s Note: Board member Ed Shenk did not participate in the interviews or drafting process related to District Five since he had previously endorsed the challenger.
NEW YEAR, NEW SUPERVISOR
JANUARY 16, 2020
2020 is the year for new visions and for a variety of new things to come. I would like to begin by introducing a new name to the 5th District Napa County Board of Supervisor race, Mariam Aboudamous.
Although Mariam is a new candidate for this election, she is not new to us who live in American Canyon. Mariam moved to American Canyon when she was 2 years old, and attended all the local schools, and is a 2004 graduate of Vintage High School.
At the age of 13, she began volunteering for the Parks and Recreation Department and was hired with them at the age of 16. In 2016, Mariam was elected to the American Canyon City Council after unseating an incumbent and also finished as the top vote-getter in the race.
Although her name was not well-known politically, Mariam was by the virtue of all of her involvement in our city. Not new to the political scene, Mariam was a member of the Napa County Democratic Central Committee, and served tenures with the United Nations in the Netherlands, and with Congressman Mike Thompson in his Washington, D.C. office.
She is an attorney practicing in Napa and specializes in immigration and real estate law. She is currently the vice mayor for the city of American Canyon and focused on issues such as affordable housing, traffic relief, water and economic opportunity. Her key issues on the Napa County Board of Supervisors will continue to be housing, traffic, and economic development.
Although these have been subjects that have confronted Napa County for many years, her determination, energy, and support of her endorsers will prove to be a great benefit in her challenge to accomplish her goals and those of her colleagues.
As a City Council member in American Canyon, she has kept an open mind, listens to her constituents, and is very approachable. I encourage anyone who would like to meet with Mariam, to please reach out to her. You will soon become a supporter, and she will work hard for our needs and the needs of Napa County.
NAPA COUNTY FARM BUREAU 2020 SUPERVISOR ENDORSEMENTS
December 20, 2019
The Napa County Farm Bureau Board of Directors has voted on endorsements for the upcoming March 2020 election in Supervisorial races in Napa County. As the public policy and political leader for agriculture in Napa County, the Napa County Farm Bureau takes this responsability seriously and undergoes an extensive process for making political endorsements. All candidates are sent a questionnaire and asked to submit written responses. Candidate are then asked to participate in an interview process with an elections committee comprised of members of the Farm Bureau's Board of Directors. The Farm Bureay Board of Directors subsequently votes on endorsements and all endorsements must receive a minimum of 60% support of the Board of Directors.
The Farm Bureau understands that public policy and political decisions have a direct impact on our membership and its ability to love, work, and thrive in Napa County. The Napa County election for Supervisors will occur on March 3, 2020. The Farm Bureau Board of Directors therefore urges its members to vote for the following candidates for Supervisor.
District 4 Supervisor
District 5 Supervisor
MARIAM J. ABOUDAMOUS
AMERICAN CANYON VICE MAYOR MARIAM ABOUDAMOUS ANNOUNCES BID FOR 5TH DISTRICT NAPA COUNTY SUPERVISOR
December 5, 2019
American Canyon, CA – American Canyon Vice Mayor Mariam Aboudamous today announced her candidacy for District 5 Napa County Supervisor.
“After much thought and consideration, I am excited to announce my candidacy for Napa County Supervisor in the March 2020 election,” Aboudamous said upon launching her campaign. “There are too many residents in our community who have approached me and are eager for change in representation on the Board of Supervisors. By listening to and engaging with voters, I hope to enlarge the grassroots support base that my supporters and I cultivated in 2016 and keep the needs and desires of residents close to heart to better deliver for Napa County,” Aboudamous added.
Supervisor Diane Dillon, the 2nd-longest tenured County Supervisor, enthusiastically endorsed Aboudamous’ candidacy, noting “Mariam has proven her ability to build partnerships and collaborate to get things done for her constituents. She listens, keeps an open mind and puts the needs of our community first. I believe she will provide the positive change we need for the benefit of the entire county.”
Aboudamous, who was elected to the City Council in 2016 after unseating an incumbent and finishing as the top vote-getter in the American Canyon race, notes her accomplishments serving on the American Canyon City Council related to issues of affordable housing, traffic relief, water security and economic opportunity. She hopes to bring a similar approach to collaborative, responsive government as a member of the Napa County Board of Supervisors.