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My First Cap-to-Cap: A Whirlwind 5 Days in D.C.

By Adrian Rehn

I’ve heard a lot about “Cap-to-Cap” from colleagues, friends, and others since moving to Sacramento nearly five years ago. I’ve heard that it’s a massive undertaking to secure funding and advance policy to improve our region. I’ve heard that it’s the best networking opportunity around. I’ve heard that it’s a rite of passage for Sacramento’s rising leaders. The reality is that it’s all of those things…and more.

The Metro Chamber’s annual “Capitol-to-Capitol” program is the premier opportunity for the Sacramento region to come together to inform federal investments and policy to benefit our communities. It’s been organized by the Metro Chamber every year since 1970. Next year happens to be the 50th Anniversary.

I served as one of four co-leaders of the Air Quality team (one of 11 issue-focused teams such as workforce development, food and agriculture, and more), which included 22 regional air pollution regulators, business leaders, environmental advocates, and elected officials. The Cleaner Air Partnership, the unique public-private coalition managed by Valley Vision in partnership with the Sacramento Metro Chamber and Breathe California Sacramento Region, has managed the Cap-to-Cap Air Quality team’s efforts since 2007 and helped us all make significant strides toward cleaner air. Our “asks” in 2019 were communicated through two comprehensive Issue Papers (on clean transportation and forest management/wildfire) which guided each of our appointments, and which can be accessed on the Valley Vision website.

The Cap-to-Cap Air Quality team had 20 advocacy appointments over 2.5 days

I am awed by the effort it must take to pull off Cap-to-Cap. The Metro Chamber staff scheduled hundreds of meetings beyond our team’s 20 advocacy appointments with federal elected officials, committee staff, and agency representatives. In the interest of giving Cap-to-Cap newbies and interested parties a glimpse of the day-to-day happenings of Cap-to-Cap, here’s an attempt to recap each day’s events as they unfolded. Here goes:

Saturday, May 4th: Saturday is the main departure date for most of the Cap-to-Cap participants. I had an early morning flight from Sacramento International Airport which must have had 100 Cap-to-Cappers on it! Flying to the East Coast is always strange because you lose hours of your day, but the Metro Chamber has a cleverly organized welcome reception that kicked off right as we arrived at the classy Mayflower Hotel from the Dulles Airport in Washington, D.C. Festivities ensued and there was much discussion of our anticipated events and meetings. A few of us younger folks went to a nearby shindig at a bar courtesy of the Metro Chamber’s young professionals group, Metro EDGE, which was also a blast.

Sunday, May 5th: Remember how a few of us went out for drinks the previous night? On Sunday, we had an 8:30 AM meeting of the Cap-to-Cap Steering Committee, made up of Metro Chamber leadership and the co-leads of each team. An 8:30 AM Eastern start time is equivalent to 5:30 AM Pacific, so suffice it to say, it was definitely a coffee morning! There was a FOX40 crew onsite to cover the program, and Air Quality team co-lead Meg Arnold filmed a TV spot about our wildfire and forest management efforts in 2019. Much of my day was spent running errands to prep for the following three days of advocacy – including multiple FedEx trips – before taking an all-delegation photo inside the Mayflower’s hallways. In past years this photo has been taken on Capitol Mall, but rain was a factor. Cap-to-Cap Chair Mac Clemmens of Digital Deployment then hosted a Chair’s Reception on the rooftop of the beautiful 101 Constitution building, with epic views of the Capitol.

Monday, May 6th: The first day of meetings on Capitol Hill kicked off with a welcome breakfast and remarks from Cap-to-Cap leadership, Congressman Ami Bera, and a very special guest in Amy Walters, National Editor of The Cook Political Report. Amy delivered some incredibly savvy political analysis, including Election 2020 predictions, before our 22-member Air Quality team departed for our first meetings via the legendary Washington, D.C., Metro transit system (thanks SacRT for those Metro passes!). Over the course of the whirlwind day, our team held 30-minute meetings with Congressman Ami Bera and his staff; the House Natural Resources Committee, Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests & Public Lands (Minority); the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change (Majority/Minority); the Office of Congressman Tom McClintock; Congressman John Garamendi; the Environmental Protection Agency – Office of Air and Radiation; the Office of Senator Ed Markey; and with Congresswoman Doris Matsui and her staff. Whew! From there, I booked it to the special Farm-to-Fork Live event at USDA, which was organized by Valley Vision and Honey Agency to elevate our region’s food and agriculture leadership at Cap-to-Cap. That evening, Woodland City Councilmember Tom Stallard led nearly 50 Cap-to-Cap delegates on a legendary 3.5 hour walking tour of Washington, D.C.’s monuments and war memorials. This tradition started at Cap-to-Cap 1996 when Tom and now-SMUD Board member Rob Kerth went on an evening stroll to talk through some confounding transportation funding issues, and ended up walking the entirety of the Mall past all of its various monuments. It has been a tradition ever since! I have to say the most powerful monuments to me are the Korean War Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial, but all are spectacular, especially when lit up at night.

Woodland City Councilmember Tom Stallard’s nighttime monuments tour was truly outstanding

Tuesday, May 7th: Tuesday morning began with the Congressional Leadership Forum hosted by Congresswoman Doris Matsui. The keynote speaker was a true icon – Madeleine K. Albright, the first female Secretary of State under President Clinton. She was razor-sharp as she took on topics such as globalism, international trade, defense, and more and answered audience questions. From there, we departed for the Hill (again on public transit) for a series of impactful meetings with the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (Majority); the Office of Senator Kamala Harris; the Office of Congressman Doug LaMalfa; the Office of Senator Dianne Feinstein; the House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests & Public Lands (Majority); and the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry, Subcommittee on Conservation, Forestry & Natural Resources. A highlight was in the hallway of the lively Dirksen Senate Office Building, where political nerds like me geek out. Senator Mitt Romney and company apparently walked right behind me as I was fumbling around with my smartphone, and less than 10 minutes later Senator Tim Kaine sped past me as he talked to reporters. It’s really cool to see these people in action, and I got a solid video of the brief encounter. After a long second day of meetings the team headed back to the Mayflower Hotel to get ready for the Delegation Gala, the classiest event of the program. By this time, my nicest suit was getting a workout! The gala itself was held at the International Spy Museum’s slick new location, which was not yet open to the public and had breathtaking views of D.C.’s utilitarian skyline. I would be remiss not to include the excellent video from Presenting Sponsor Western Health Advantage, with a nice cameo by Valley Vision CEO Bill Mueller toward the end. Eating, drinking, dancing, and chatting ensued and it was a great way to ‘cap’ the program.

Wednesday, May 8th: Wednesday at Cap-to-Cap is generally the short day for meetings on the Hill. Most folks fly home on this day, with a few staying in D.C. to do more exploring, visit friends and family, or hold additional meetings. Program Chair Mac Clemmens hosted a Cybersecurity Briefing in the morning with prominent defense experts as well as Congressman John Garamendi in his capacity as Chairman of the aptly-named ‘Readiness Subcommittee.’ A key takeaway – your smartphone is likely your least protected device, so you should do everything you can to secure it! The Air Quality team had meetings with the nonprofit Center for Climate and Energy Solutions as well as the U.S. Forest Service Office of Legislative Affairs later in the morning. Both went very well and generated a great deal of follow-up activity, as with our other meetings. I had some precious downtime between our last meeting and my departure flight back to the West Coast, which was used for some much-needed email catch-up and honestly a nice nap.

Reflecting on the whirlwind five days I spent in D.C., I am thankful to Valley Vision for giving me this opportunity not just to attend Cap-to-Cap, but to co-lead a high-performing team in my first year participating. It is experiences like these – connecting with new people, navigating a new geography, and being faced with entirely new situations that fosters personal growth and self-awareness.

The Mayflower Hotel’s downstairs bar was the scene of much late-night planning and networking

2019 Cap-to-Cap Chair Mac Clemmens did an outstanding job and set the stage for 2020 Co-Chairs Kierstan DeLong and Brian King to be successful in leading the program’s 50th Anniversary, with Sutter Health leading the sponsorship charge. I’d also like to thank Michael Faust, Susan Harris-Brazelton, and the amazing Metro Chamber staff who put in so much work to ensure a successful program – CEO Amanda Blackwood, Khaim Morton, John Jacobs, Andrea Ellinghouse, and particularly Chloe Park for scheduling meetings across all of the teams. You guys rock! If you’re interested in attending next year, I hope to see you there!

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Adrian Rehn is a Valley Vision Project Manager overseeing the Cleaner Air Partnership and Valley Vision’s online communications.