Sunday, March 29, 2009

More thoughts from the NY Wine boss

Followers of this blog have frequently read the weekly thoughts and opinions of executive director Jim Trezise of the New York Wine & Grape Foundation. Sharing a couple other that seem to me to have some relevency no matter what state you live in.

FLOWER SHOPS may sell wine in Iowa for an annual license of only $25, and Iowa wineries report brisk sales along with the bouquets. This is one of many ways in which that supposedly conservative midwestern state is far more liberal than the “Empire State,” and as far as we know Iowa doesn’t have major problems with underage purchase, drunken driving or related issues. At this week’s WineAmerica meeting in Washington, North Carolina’s Margo Metzger made the great suggestion that a summary of all states’ laws and regulations be compiled for the sake of comparison so enlightened public policy could be proposed. This will take some time, but it will happen.

POLITICS is a fascinating game, as I was reminded last week shuttling between Albany (final budget negotiations) and Washington (federal issues) and meeting with the game’s “players”—politicians who for some reason subject themselves to hard decisions, media scrutiny, and voter outrage. For most people, “March Madness” means basketball, but in Albany it’s the annual drama of negotiating a State budget by the April 1 deadline, a process commonly known as “three men in a room”—the Governor, Senate Majority Leader, and Speaker of the Assembly—shaping roughly a $126 billion budget, this year in the face of a $16 billion deficit. To his credit, Governor David Paterson raised a red flag about the impending fiscal crisis last August and presented his budget proposal a month early in mid-December to get the process going, yet has received widespread criticism in the months since then. Among the issues affecting the grape and wine industry are his proposals to allow the sales of wine in grocery stores, a tripling of the wine excise tax, and funding for the New York Wine & Grape Foundation. The first issue has been particularly nasty—World War III, as I predicted in the Wine Press last December—with the liquor lobby and wholesalers pitted against the grocery store lobby, while New York wineries are caught uncomfortably in the middle. On the federal level, immigration reform (AgJobs) has long been an equally inflammatory issue rarely mentioned during the Presidential campaign and still treated like a hot potato because of the “A” word (Amnesty), a red herring. These are not simple issues, nor are they fun for our elected officials to tackle. But fortunately they do, and to the best of their ability in shaping policies for the greatest good, for which we should be grateful. Over the years, I have come to know many public officials on many levels and on both sides of the aisle, and most are truly fine human beings doing a tough job under a microscope. Yes, there are exceptions, and the occasional scandal, but “public servant” describes well who they are. This was reinforced for me on Thursday when I flew on the same plane home from Washington with Congresswoman Louise Slaughter, who sponsored the New York Wine & Grape Foundation legislation 25 years ago and now chairs the powerful House Rules Committee. She is one of the most dedicated, intelligent, and hard-working people I’ve ever known, and even when technically off the job was asking people how they felt about key issues and what she could do to help them. It wasn’t about her, it was about them. She wasn’t looking for votes, she was looking to help. These are tough times, and politicians get bashed a lot. Maybe we should consider saying “Thank you” instead.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

To call Mr. Trezise the "NY Wine Boss" is insulting to those in the industry who actually do things to advance it.

Many in the industry HOPE that the NYWGF disappears and that he can go play with his riesling foundation.