How Sacramento's Capitol-to-Capitol delegation did what Washington, D.C., can't

Jeff vonKaenel

I was in a mob. A well-dressed Sacramento Metro Chamber mob, which descended on Washington, D.C., for the 43rd annual Capitol-to-Capitol event earlier this month.

We were 300 strong, and our mission was to go door-to-door in this nation’s capital, making the case that Sacramento should get significantly more federal dollars. To do this well, we had to have a plan. We had to be able to explain why our region deserved more aid and how we could do things better than all the other regions vying for federal money.

For months before our descent into D.C., local business, government and nonprofit leaders, among others, met to discuss a wide assortment of issues. There were committees on agriculture, air quality, civic amenities, clean technology, community development, flood protection, health care, homeland security, jobs, land use, transportation, water resources and, finally, workforce development.

Each committee developed position papers and identified priority issues. Some of these priorities were: more funding for flood protection, more support for building a health-care infrastructure and money for roads. Although our committee members came from all parts of the political spectrum, we were able to develop a plan to help our region move forward, with proposals that would result in more jobs, better health, cleaner air and a much-improved community.

Participating in the process, I was reminded of remarks made by President Dwight D. Eisenhower: that the purpose of developing a military plan is not the plan, but the planning. The planning enables one to adapt correctly to changing circumstances. I am proud of the Cap-to-Cap committee plans.

I thought that some aspects of our plans would please the Republicans and some would please the Democrats. I hoped that both parties in Washington could come together and do what we had done in our Cap-to-Cap committees—develop a plan to move our country forward.

But flood protection, a cleaner environment, improved health care, better transportation, more aid for our most needy—these just didn’t appeal to both sides of the aisle. The Republican views—that government does not work, that the rich need more and the poor need less, that we should increase military spending, and that the market will naturally solve our problems without regulation—did not bode well for our plan for Sacramento.

Our well-dressed mob was nonpartisan. Sacramento had worked together and come up with a plan. We wanted to see value on both sides of the aisle and had hoped to work with both sides.

But there was no one to work with on the Republican side.

I’m not very proud of what we saw in Washington. Both Democrats and Republicans have joined together to agree nothing significant will happen. The gridlock is solid and unmovable. It was so incredibly discouraging.

What will it take to change things in Washington?

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About the Author

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