Despite the seemingly endless election coverage, little attention has been paid to what is perhaps St. Helena’s most time-sensitive initiative on the local ballot: MEASURE TM. Here’s an analysis that I hope my fellow St. Helena voters will find helpful on Election Day:

yes-on-tmAbout MEASURE TM:

MEASURE TM would levy a 1% sales tax to be used to fund the development and construction of a city-owned Time Machine. This Time Machine would allow St. Helena locals to collectively travel back to a happier, simpler time before the tourists came, before certain hiring, compensation, contractual, zoning and permit commitments were made, and before we ever agreed to become an incorporated city within the county of Napa. The tax would apply to all purchases made within the city limits, construed as including: V Sattui, Meadowood, and Dean & Deluca because, seriously, we’ve got to have some source of tax revenue here. It applies to purchases of all prescription, non-prescription, legal and illegal drugs, to groceries, fireworks and pantyhose, and to otherwise tax-free swap-a-doo’s of cases of cabernet exchanged by winking locals gainfully employed in the wine industry (and you know who you are).

Argument In Favor of MEASURE TM:

St. Helena faces serious problems that only a working Time Machine can solve. We must seize this opportunity for a municipal “do-over” to ensure that we never again grant anyone a permit to do anything, ever. We can then buy up all the available houses and rent them exclusively to (a) people we like and (b) people who work here, which we admit comprise two very different groups. We can design a more classic City Hall that won’t soon resemble the set from a re-run episode of Starsky & Hutch shot on location in Glendale during a particularly dusty summer. We will interview people who bequeathed land to the city to confirm their future wishes, and we will remember to write down what they tell us (and where we put the piece of paper we wrote it on). Plus — if we travel back 100 years — we can elect a precocious teenage Alan Galbraith to start negotiating savvy water contracts, flood control grants, and favorable easements on our behalf. Sure, we will miss our cellphones and laptops for a while, but the ability to afford our water bills, fix potholes and borrow library books in the new millennium will more than compensate. Vote Yes on MEASURE TM.

Argument In Opposition to MEASURE TM:

Let’s get real – the chance of our actually developing this Time Machine is about as likely as our achieving consensus on a General Plan, extending the Vine Trail through St. Helena, or identifying the meat inside the pot stickers at Golden Harvest. We all know that Mr. Peabody has been working on his invention of a WABAC machine since 1960, but neither he, nor Sherman, nor H.G. Wells, nor any Shark Tank contestant, nor that guy who invented the super-sucking-vacuum, have brought such a product to market. A 1% sales tax will disproportionately impact certain already disadvantaged locals, although those who are purchasing large amounts of prescription or non-prescription and illegal drugs won’t care as much. We urge our neighbors not to dwell in the past but to instead embrace change, both societal and technological, with the possible exception of those new chipped credit cards. And we fear the risk posed by certain members of our community (and you know who you are), who might set the dial for the year 1950, then sabotage our Time Machine and strand us all there, in an effort to make time stand still forever and consign St. Helena to the modern-day equivalent of Brigadoon. Vote No on MEASURE TM.

In related legislation, a group of locals is gathering signatures to add MEASURE B2F to the 2018 ballot. MEASURE B2F would levy a .50% sales tax to fund construction of a DeLorean, with Flux Capacitor, for travelling back to the future. They can’t wait to find out how it all turns out for the citizens of our timeless city of St. Helena.

– Laura Rafaty,,
(for another blast from the past, read the author’s Up the Valley column on Donald Trump from 2011 in the Star: Up the Valley: I Like Mike).

Published in the St Helena Star Newspaper, October 26, 2016


In today’s column in the Star, I explain how America’s single women can teach voters a thing or two about settling for less…

Out here in the untelevised world, where presidential voters lack the blissful certainty of lockstep party unity, things are looking grim. My friends shake their heads, sigh deeply, and decry the absence of an exhilarating choice for the highest job in the land. “Of all the people in the country,” they ask, “is this really the best we can do?”

Welcome, I say, to the world straight single women inhabit every day.

Imagine that a lovelorn single female friend said to you: “I’m waiting to meet the perfect man; one who is handsome, rich, funny, attentive, sensitive, loving, single and straight.” Your response would be: “No wonder you are a 47-year-old spinster.”

In other words, waiting for a presidential candidate who is capable of soaring rhetoric, brilliant thinking and decisive action; one who shares all of your beliefs, embodies your hopes and dreams for America, and possesses the leadership and political skills necessary to forge consensus, is like waiting for George Clooney to ring your doorbell offering an engagement ring.

And while dating and marriage can be delayed or rebuffed, we must cast our presidential votes every four years, so how to decide?

Frustrated voters should consider the straight single woman’s solution: strategic settling. Likely developed as part of some survival-of-the-species evolutionary scheme, this skill enables women to tick off long mental lists of things they can’t live without and things they can’t live with, then swiftly process, calculate and commit — sometimes for life.

I know women who can make this evaluation in under five minutes, usually settling for someone fairly uninspiring but “good on paper.” I imagine the Democrats went through a similar process before landing on John Kerry.

Optimal strategic settling requires keeping your list of deal-killers as short as possible. We all start out saying that we could never vote for someone who does not share our views on environmental protection, reproductive rights, tax policy, national security, immigration, the death penalty or gun control. But just as many straight single women have whittled down their lists of dating deal-killers to “married, gay or certifiably insane,” voters might have to reduce their short lists of non-starters to things like: conspicuously corrupt, too dumb to read, and highly likely to provoke global thermonuclear war.

I used to be a one-issue voter, choosing based on a candidate’s likelihood to appoint an agenda-pushing extremist to the Supreme Court. But I’ve since learned that predicting how any one justice may vote on a particular issue is as difficult as predicting which man will pick up the dinner check on a particular evening.

Assuming neither candidate is deal-killer-disqualified, strategic settling then compels you to determine what’s most important to you.

Are you seriously worried about fiscal stability? Then the candidate touting entitlement reform, spending cuts and tax reduction, or that newly divorced estate planner who owns his own practice but is often seen sleeping at public concerts, might be your man. Are social issues your focus? Then by all means vote for the pro-choice, pro–immigration reform, pro-gay-marriage candidate. And let me introduce you to a nice never-married artist from Berkeley who is a brilliant liberal thinker, although he can get a bit gamey and will want to sleep in your car.

Kingmakers and husband-seekers occasionally rebel against the idea of settling — choosing instead the Hail Mary pass to a wild-card candidate — then close their eyes and hope for the best. The cronies who took a flier propelling Harry Truman to national office must have been pleased, and perhaps surprised, that it turned out so well. And this approach was successful for Rosalynn Carter, who married a peanut farmer and ended up sleeping with the president of the United States. But such stories are rare.

One thing is certain: The pool of available candidates would be much better if there were more women in it. Few female contenders seem to rise to the top of anything except the deal-killer list, and those who succeed often occupy one uncomfortably extreme end of the political spectrum or another.

This is perplexing, both politically and mathematically, because there is no shortage of exceptional women. Every straight single woman knows a hundred other women who are single, attractive, rich, funny, attentive, sensitive and loving, and would gladly marry them if they did not share the heavy burden of female heterosexuality. Since we can’t date these superwomen, it would be satisfying to at least vote for them on occasion.

If strategic settling is not for you, there is another option: Focus on the future. I’ve heard wise women say that you shouldn’t leave your existing husband until you’ve lined up the next. So let this less-than-perfect lot have their day, while you start scoping out more attractive options to embrace four years from now. Surely there is someone, somewhere, better out there in this vast great country of ours.

Isn’t there?