We are in this together

Cap-to-Cap trip illuminates similarities, not differences

To read more about the priorities of this year’s Cap-to-Cap participants, go to this website, and scroll to the bottom of the page.

Jeff vonKaenel is the president, CEO and majority owner of the News & Review newspapers in Sacramento, Chico and Reno. His column, Greenlight, appears weekly in this space.

The stated goal of the Sacramento Metro Chamber Cap-to-Cap trip is to make the case for Sacramento in Washington, D.C. This is the 42nd year that about 300 Sacramento-area residents went door-to-door in Washington, D.C., for five days in April.

The goal is, of course, to bring back additional federal funding for our region. You name it, we are asking for it—flood protection, educational-research grants, homeless relief, energy grants and support for the arts, to name just a few general areas.

Specifically, we discussed a wide range of agenda items—from policies that could promote electric-vehicle readiness, to the cyber security of the electric grid, and strategies for rural-urban connections. Every year, we have some wins. There will be fewer victories this year because of federal cutbacks, but I’m sure there will be some increased funding somewhere because of the chamber’s efforts.

But for me, one of the biggest wins of the chamber trip this year was not dollars, but rather, hope. Yes, hope.

On Saturday April 21, I left the capital of a state government where political gridlock was firmly entrenched, and where defaming one’s political opponent seems often more important than solving problems. I arrived in the capital of the federal government whose problems are even greater and whose gridlock is even more pronounced.

But then for five days, I worked with: Republicans and Democrats, business leaders and poverty advocates, some elected and some unelectable, senior leaders and 20- to 30-year-olds. We took plane flights together, made presentations together, ate and drank together. All of these activities made our differences seem smaller.

The main thing that made our differences diminish was that we focused on the big picture. Thinking about the challenges of flood protection, our educational system, and the regional economy brought home the fact that we are all in this together.

After all, your personal tax rate matters little if your house is submerged under floodwaters. Without a healthy educational system our children will not have a chance for a bright future. And, for many of the business owners in the group, whether our companies succeed or fail is directly influenced by the health of the local economy.

So while I’m clearly a partisan on political issues—hoping that President Barack Obama is re-elected, that somehow the House of Representatives turns blue, and that a bolt of enlightenment strikes the Supreme Court—nevertheless, I enjoyed working side by side with those whose beliefs are 180 degrees from my perspective.

Maybe someday people working in the two capitol buildings will take a lesson from Cap-to-Cap.