Discussing the impact of climate change with a Planning Commissioner recently, I learned something interesting: climate change is not happening in St. Helena. Well it is, but not much, and not to the extent feared after a 2006 study concluded that the Napa Valley would soon be too warm to produce wine.

This prior study was apparently commissioned by the French, no doubt with nefarious intent and their thumbs on the thermometers, and measured only a few carefully selected hot spots, like the hood of my car in mid-July, and the foreheads of sunbathers sitting by the Meadowood pool in mid-August. So the Napa Valley Vintners rode to the rescue with a more comprehensive study, concluding that average temperatures had only increased by one or two degrees over the past several decades, mostly affecting the night rather than daytime, which is not only good for grapes, but great for those who like to venture out for dinner wearing only a light sweater.

I realize that this is old news to you grapies out there, but it struck me as further evidence of how St. Helena exists in an insulated bubble, climactic and otherwise. Nowhere is this truer than in the office of the Mayor, who reminds me more and more of the Stage Manager in a summer stock production of “Our Town.” There is something comforting about having someone at the helm of our city whom I think I may describe without fear of contradiction or offending as decidedly “old school.” He was kind enough to meet with me recently to discuss my views as a Main Street merchant, and I sincerely appreciated his taking that time. Things were going swimmingly until I mentioned the interest of a group of merchants in attracting stores to our shopping district that might be local-serving while updating our image, like a small department store, an established home furnishings store, or an Apple computer store.

At this suggestion the mayor became a human metronome, repeating “no, no, no” while shaking his head in rhythmic succession. “We will never allow an Apple Store in this town,” he pronounced, although he did suggest that the Council would look favorably on “Joe’s Electronics’ Shop.” I didn’t know how to break it to Hizzoner that Joe had probably been driven out of the electronics business by Amazon and Walmart, and his house seized by the California Board of Equalization after a sales tax audit revealed that the lady he shipped the adapter to in Schenectady owned a second home in Yountville. Mythical Joe was last seen wandering down the beach wearing baggy swim trunks collecting coins with a metal detector.

I realize that luring Apple here wouldn’t be easy, unless we trick them into thinking we are Aspen by coating the streets with shaved coconut, strapping skis to the top of our cars, and wearing furs when they do the site inspection. But the point is that, unlike our national Leader who ran on a platform of Change (whether it has been achieved or not), our local Leaders seemingly embrace a form of “If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It,” namely: “If We Ain’t Broke, Don’t Change It.” Unfortunately, we are broke and getting broker all the time, as our last-place finish in sales tax revenue recently revealed. Even absent recessions, the winter months can leave downtown sidewalks looking as empty as a Nader for President rally. So we must take action, and make choices. We could choose to keep bouncing along in our bubble, pretending that tastes haven’t changed and that mom and pop stores alone are sufficient to sustain a shopping district. Or we can gild our storefronts with glitzy galleries and glittering jewelry stores that threaten the market share of our neighbors’ long-standing businesses, ship purchases out-of-county generating no local tax revenue, and render our Main Street as irrelevant to the lives of locals as a bikini shop to a convent.

Or maybe we should just throw up our hands and sell our downtown to the Walt Disney Company. If our Leaders really want a slice of Americana, let’s let Disney’s Imagineers create a 100-percent artificial old-time Main Street shopping experience, complete with bubble gum-colored buildings, barber shop quartets and hitching posts. We might need to add Ye Olde Sex Shoppe to actually generate some tax revenue, but who cares so long as it appears to be a clean, shiny temple to non-change. Our Leaders don’t shop much downtown, anyway, so who’s to know. And that’s what I call living in a bubble.

(Laura Rafaty is the owner of Pennaluna on Main Street, a resident of St. Helena, a former attorney and Broadway theatrical producer and an author and columnist.)