Sacramentans make their case in D.C.

Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno.

I am writing this column on Saturday afternoon, on an airplane flying to Washington, D.C. This weekend, there are 360 Sacramentans making their way to the 47th annual Sacramento Metro Chamber Cap-to-Cap. While I have taken numerous Cap-to-Cap trips before, this year I will be landing in a very different D.C.

The point of Cap-to-Cap is to tell Sacramento’s story to federal officials. In the months before the trip, people from our six-county region divided themselves into 12 policy teams focusing on issues “important to economic growth and quality of life” for our growing and diverse region.

The teams are composed of business leaders, elected officials, nonprofit staff, employees of government agencies, college administrators, Republicans, Democrats, independents and young people as well as some old folks like me. The teams discuss and argue and eventually agree upon a few critical things that the federal government could and should do to make Sacramento a better place.

There are requests for more funding of key needs such as housing, education and infrastructure repair. There is a request for regulatory reform to speed “the maintenance and repair of existing public infrastructure” such as the Oroville Dam spillway repairs.

This list of priorities is an extraordinary document, and the process of arriving at agreement was remarkably nonpartisan. It was democracy at its finest—concerned citizens, working together with government officials, to improve their community.

In a few hours, I will be landing in our nation’s capital, where democracy is not functioning at its finest. In the previous week, the president released a one-page tax plan. This plan was clearly not well thought out, and the departments that would oversee its implementation had not been consulted. It’s crazy, but the chamber’s Cap-to-Cap policy recommendations were better reviewed and had more detail than the president’s trillion-dollar tax plan.

I am arriving at the end of a week when the federal government could have been shut down due to silly partisan gamesmanship. And the Republicans, who for years have tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act, now cannot figure out what to replace it with.

My plane is soon to land in a bizarre, Alice in Wonderland Washington, D.C., where I have no confidence that our well-considered policy recommendations will be heard by anyone who can actually make them happen. After all, it is hard for a staff to develop or articulate their agency’s policies when they are getting their information from presidential tweets at the same time as everyone else.

Cap-to-Cap is a great concept: having people from the capital city of the country and the capital city of the biggest state in the union get together every year to discuss policy. But the planes are flying in the wrong direction. Instead, 360 citizens from inside the D.C. Beltway need to come out to the City of Trees to see how government policy should be created.

Also on that plane should be members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, who could learn from our local chapter about how they could bring people together instead of increasing political polarization.

And the City of Trees, now known as the Farm-to-Fork Capital, would be happy to provide them all with some delicious, locally grown food and craft beer.