Steve Lavagnino

Paul Wellman

Steve Lavagnino

Lavagnino Sends Letter to Congressman Sponsoring Camp 4 Annexation

S.B. Supervisor Says It’s Important Doug LaMalfa Know the ‘Whole Story’

Thursday, December 26, 2013
Article Tools
Print friendly
E-mail story
Tip Us Off
iPod friendly
Share Article

Supervisor Steve Lavagnino sent a letter earlier this week to Northern California Congressmember Doug LaMalfa, addressing his concerns with LaMalfa’s federal legislation to bring the Chumash tribe’s Camp 4 into trust while reminding the representative that the supervisors’ decision to oppose the tribe’s wishes was not a unanimous one.

On October 23, about a week after the tribe unsuccessfully argued its case for the fee-to-trust to the supervisors, LaMalfa introduced HR 3313, which would annex the 1,400-acre Camp 4 property into the existing Chumash reservation. The supervisors’ vote against annexation — which was opposed only by Lavagnino — came after public outcry and concern from board members that doing so would remove the property from the county’s tax rolls and land-use rules. The bill wouldn’t, however, permit the Chumash to build a casino or resort on the land; the tribe has long said it only intends to build housing.

Lavagnino has repeatedly argued, along with 1st District Supervisor Carbajal, that refusing to recognize the tribe as an equal government would leave them little choice but to seek legislative help, an option the tribe has long said was on the table. Lavagnino’s letter, dated December 16, reiterated that.

“While I cannot support HR 3313 in its current form, I understand why you have authored it and appreciate your inclusion of a non-gaming provision,” Lavagnino wrote. “During the hearings, I warned my colleagues that if we failed to recognize the tribe as a functioning government entity through official dialogue, it would lead to Congressional action such as HR 3313. At our most recent California State Association of Counties (CSAC) Conference, the governor’s expert on tribal relations indicated the best strategy in dealing with fee-to-trust applications is to ‘negotiate early in the process.’”

In his letter, Lavagnino took issue with a letter his colleagues sent to LaMalfa on October 30, after the legislation was introduced, announcing their disapproval of the legislation. In an interview Friday, Lavagnino said he “felt compelled” to send his own letter to the congressmember, given what he called the “one-sided opinion” presented in his colleagues’. “I thought it was important he know the whole story,” he said. “This is exactly what I was afraid was going to happen.”

“I would much rather see us sit down like adults and try to work something out,” he continued, adding that he didn’t like the idea of a politician from outside of the area making decisions that will affect Santa Barbara County.

A spokesman for LaMalfa did not return requests for comment. LaMalfa, a Republican who represents the state’s 1st Congressional District, received a $1,000 contribution from the tribe in the 2013-2014 campaign cycle.

Sam Cohen, the Chumash’s government affairs officer, said that although the tribe appreciated Lavagnino’s letter, it will not change the tribe’s current plans. “The only thing we’d prefer is for Supervisor Lavagnino to support the legislation as written,” Cohen said. “To date, the county refuses to talk, so we need to go forward with the legislation as is.”

Cohen also said that the tribe is “looking forward” to working with Lavagnino — a frequent Chumash supporter who has received several of their campaign donations — when he becomes the board’s chair in the new year, a veiled swipe at current chair Carbajal, who has also been a longtime ally of the tribe, minus his October vote to oppose the fee-to-trust.

The tribe, which purchased the Camp 4 property in 2010 from the late actor-winemaker Fess Parker, offered, in 2011, to pay the county $10 million instead of property taxes and also waive its sovereign immunity from lawsuits, but the supervisors didn’t go for it. “Instead of responding to the offer, our board decided that the tribe was not equal to other governments we commonly negotiate with, including local cities, Vandenberg Air Force Base, and the University of California at Santa Barbara,” Lavagnino wrote.

Lavagnino ended his letter by repeating his request that the issue stay in-county and that “the only way to accomplish that is by pursuing a legally binding agreement with the tribe that would offset future property taxes and allow the County of Santa Barbara to challenge some land-use decisions.” He wrote that he “will continue to push for constructive conversation” on the matter. “Without further negotiations, we are destined to incur all of the impacts without any share of the revenue.”

The supervisors’ October 15 vote to oppose the fee-to-trust through a letter sent the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs could mean that appeals drag out a final decision for years, pending the fate of HR 3313.


Independent Discussion Guidelines

This was a 4-1 vote. Until there is another election and another and different vote, it was the will of Santa Barbara County. Mr. Lavagnino, an often thoughtful Supervisor, needs to remember that — there may be a time when he is on the 4 side of a 4-1 vote. No doubt then that he, along with the majority of the county residents, would resent the 1 speaking for the whole.

(And, indeed, the 53 or whatever member tribe is not equal to the US government re Vandenberg or the State of California re UCSB.)

at_large (anonymous profile)
December 26, 2013 at 7:49 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The North Fork tribe has.....secured 305 acres in Madera County that was part of its historical homeland for a new casino.

Cheryl Schmit, executive director of Stand Up for California, the group behind the voter referendum, said Californians should be worried that the North Fork project will enable the governor to allow Indian casinos essentially anywhere in the state.

Hemlockroid (anonymous profile)
December 26, 2013 at 8:42 a.m. (Suggest removal)

he North Fork tribe has.....secured 305 acres in Madera County that was part of its historical homeland for a new casino.

Cheryl Schmit, executive director of Stand Up for California, the group behind the voter referendum, said Californians should be worried that the North Fork project will enable the governor to allow Indian casinos essentially anywhere in the state.

Hemlockroid (anonymous profile)
December 26, 2013 at 8:51 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Why not allow anyone to open a casino? Santa Barbara would greatly benefit as long as the taxes collected were high enough to offset gambling addiction problems (how do the tribes pay for this?). The current prohibitions against casinos have led to this weird state of politics distorting our communities.

sbindyreader (anonymous profile)
December 26, 2013 at 9:10 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The Board of Supes needs to stay with their 4-1 near-unanimous decision against the Tribe's Camp 4 plans. Why the heck doesn't the NORTHERN CALIFORNIA U.S. Rep. La Malfa butt out of Capps's district? Why can't Lois's people find some bogus legislation, like HR3313, which messes in some way with LaMalfa's constituents and district, eh?! I am all for the Chumash, but I'm also even more for the fate of the beautiful, 1400 acre Camp 4 property and I do not trust Armenta, Cohen, or the Santa Ynez Tribe with stewardship over this parcel. Casinos here we come if they get the fee-to-trust. I am open to correction, but I believe the official number of Native Americans in the Santa Ynez Tribe is under 170.
What Steve Lavagnino has done here is cover his a** with the Chumash, hoping for more campaign $ help in the future, especially when he witnesses how savagely the Tribe has turned on their erstwhile toady, Carbajal.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
December 26, 2013 at 10:31 a.m. (Suggest removal)

sbindyreader, "Why not allow anyone to open a casino?" Are you serious? Rather, let's keep the ban going against casinos, and try to limit or close all the Native American casinos?

DrDan (anonymous profile)
December 26, 2013 at 10:48 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I just don't see the logic in the Chumash request to make non-contiguous ranch land part of their tribal holding - therefore exempt from SB County or state taxes. I could be more sympathetic if two conditions existed: the land was contiguous to their existing holdings; the tribal members needed assistance building personal residences. Last I heard, registered members of the tribe collect $25,000/month (or more) as their shares of casino profits - and I have to believe that that would afford them the ability to purchase a pretty nice spread in the Santa Ynez Valley. And there's another aspect of this that I fail to understand and appreciate: the Chumash are now a genetically blended people and homogenized with the dominant society. Are we to believe that their cultural traditions will be enhanced with small ranch estates on Camp Four property that could not be developed as residential under SB County regulations? Sorry - it just doesn't make sense.

I'm also curious about the long term. Current tribal regulations require a certain minimum of Chumash "blood" to qualify for membership (1/8 ?), and with time, given the lack of "fuller-blood" Chumash, that percentage will very probablydecrease with future generations. What happens years from now when there are fewer and fewer qualifying Chumash? What would happen when there aren't enough "real" Chumash to whom to pass on the homes they propose to build on this tax-exempt property? What happens to the casino when there are no more qualifying Chumash to whom to distribute the profits?

My prediction: While the tribe has been reluctant to drop the already minimal percentage of Chumash heritage required to collect casino earnings, receive health care, and to live on the reservation, with time the percentage will be dropped lower and lower.

Which raises the question: when is a Chumash not a Chumash? Does 1/16th Irish heritage versus 15/16th German make someone an Irishman?

Pagurus (anonymous profile)
December 26, 2013 at 11:59 a.m. (Suggest removal)

@Hemlockroid ... how is your (double) post relevant? The Indy's article says this about HR3313:

"The bill wouldn’t, however, permit the Chumash to build a casino or resort on the land; the tribe has long said it only intends to build housing."

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
December 26, 2013 at 12:03 p.m. (Suggest removal)

@Pagurus ... try telling the people marching in New York's annual St. Patricks Day parade they're not really Irish.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
December 26, 2013 at 12:24 p.m. (Suggest removal)

A pox on Mr. LaMalfa for injecting his influence into a debate that is none of his business.

If he lived next door to the casino, sent his kids to the high school which is directly across the street from there, or even paid a modicum of attention to the huge increase in traffic accidents ( many fatal) that have occurred both on the 154 and near the casino since it opened, he might have a different opinion on the subject of indian gambling and the effects of it on our neighborhood.

As is, he is merely paying back a debt and probably hoping for another contribution from "the tribe" for his next campaign.

Most of us who actually live and work in the valley would love to see the casino in his district. As for expanding their little enterprise into as yet unspoiled areas of the valley: we will do all we can to stop it despite the cynical acts of persons like LaMalfa.

malenurse (anonymous profile)
December 26, 2013 at 12:46 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Lavigno: "Wait, I was about to make a point, I will come to me".

dolphinpod14 (anonymous profile)
December 26, 2013 at 2:44 p.m. (Suggest removal)

EB, it seems I recall that Susan Jordan and others have unearthed other, much more expansive, tribal plans for the 1400 acres. I really am supportive of the Chumash, and have taught a few Chumash students, but really feel SB County development rules would better protect this beautiful area. They have purchased this land, which is fine, but as good neighbors they need to follow the rules of others. I do not believe they would limit themselves to one home per 100 acres, or that they would avoid succumbing to the money thing and build more casinos on that pristine acreage.

DrDan (anonymous profile)
December 26, 2013 at 4:59 p.m. (Suggest removal)

@EastBeach: I appreciate that everyone is Irish on St. Patrick's Day, but proving Irish lineage is much easier that proving Chumash heritage. Here's an interesting and seemingly objective study on the subject:

I hope this subject receives the sort of consideration it deserves. Sympathy with any abused people, mistreated because of their origins, is fine and necessary, but at some point, as time increases the distance between the harm and a period of reparation, assumptions must be critically examined. It may not be an apt comparison, but even Reconstruction following the Civil War had an end point...

Pagurus (anonymous profile)
December 26, 2013 at 7:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

@Pagurus ... I assume you bring these issues up because you believe them to be substantial. So what fraction of local Chumash are, to use the label in your link, "Neo Chumash"? And what number does it need to be before you feel the move to trust needs to be, shall we say, "thrown out" on technicalities? Or perhaps you're looking for a different end game?

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
December 27, 2013 at 1:43 a.m. (Suggest removal)

@DrDan, I'm not a Native American. But if I were, I would find it ironic that everyone expects those on the reservation to "play nice" while the same courtesies aren't extended to them. Example:

That said, I'm no fan of Lavagnino but suspect he's correct in saying the County would have had more success by negotiating. As for Lavagnino possibly making political hay of this ... you win some and you lose some.

EastBeach (anonymous profile)
December 27, 2013 at 1:51 a.m. (Suggest removal)

great food for thought, pagurus, when you write "at some point, as time increases the distance between the harm and a period of reparation, assumptions must be critically examined." Does the modern German state still owe reparations to Israel for the Holocaust?? Since the illegal Israeli West Bank colonies (they call them euphemistically "settlements") have grown enormously since the '80s, and that over 30 years, are they now in? If we cannot determine who these "Neo Chumash" (thanks EB) are, or it's an endless litigation over percentages and proof, why do the 170 official Santa Ynez Band members (and their many dependents, of course) get all the Casino monies and the coastal band and Ventureno band and others get nada?
@EB, well, yes, "ironic" works but I also like "irritating" -- and in other posts I've also railed vs. the insane growth of viticulture in the same region, I'm with BC on this, and hell 8000 acres of grapes is enough!!

DrDan (anonymous profile)
December 27, 2013 at 9:15 a.m. (Suggest removal)

The fact the Chumash had to "pay off" some legislator from out of the county of SB is absolutely horrible!

Talk about buying what you want with essentially unlimited cash. This is certainly not going to win the rez any points with the citizens of the Santa Ynez Valley!


I say it's time for every entity in the county to stop accepting one more dime from this group of indians.

Barron (anonymous profile)
December 27, 2013 at 4:14 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Although a part of the north " colony" ( Caldwell/COLAB term) of S.B. County , Lavagnino seems to have more on the ball than his fellow Supervisor Adam. I would at least give Lavagnino my ear , which I won't do for the Tea Party dude Adam.
A guy that escapes scrutiny commensurate with his oversized opinions is Andy Caldwell. Why does this guy get so much free ink from the SBNP ? He is characterized as a " guest commentator" . What is that? Seems to me that his is the de facto editorial writer for Wendy.
As the lead mouthpiece for COLAB , why is there no daylight shone on the Chumash bucks being lavished upon Caldwell and his extremist Tea Party front group? Come on Poodle , you're not afraid of a snake oil salesman with pockets full of dough skinned off the backs of unfortunate folks addicted to gambling are you?

geeber (anonymous profile)
December 28, 2013 at 2:29 a.m. (Suggest removal)

(part 1 of 2)
I see a lot of conflict here.

dolphinpod14 (anonymous profile)
December 28, 2013 at 2:58 a.m. (Suggest removal)

(part 2 of 2)
I don't think it will resolve anytime soon.

dolphinpod14 (anonymous profile)
December 28, 2013 at 3 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I am the author of the study to which pagurus posted a link. It is not relevant to the Santa Ynez Band Chumash. The Santa Ynez Chumash are not the "neo-Chumash" described in our research. Your concerns about how much Chumash ancestry or culture Santa Ynez Band has will have no legal bearing on your political goals. The Santa Ynez Band has a government-to-government relationship with the United States as a sovereign nation. Like any nation, they establish their own rules of membership. No other Chumash groups have such a relationship with the government, and neo-Chumash groups can't even qualify for one, so neither of them qualifies for casinos under the Indian Gaming Act.

bdhaley (anonymous profile)
December 28, 2013 at 9:58 a.m. (Suggest removal)

@bdhaley - thank you for the clarification of your study on the complicated question of Chumash heritage - it seems that I missed the fact that members of the Santa Ynez band were not included in your definition of "Neo-Chumash". My curiosity about the political realities of recognized Native American tribes, including Chumash, is not based on hostility or ill-will toward any of them - but simply interest in the question about how genetic identity, already substantially "diluted," can be maintained under increasing heterogeneity. Ultimately, the question becomes: when do we become a nation of a blended people, rather than an admixture of different immigrant and original resident groups?

Pagurus (anonymous profile)
December 30, 2013 at 6:15 p.m. (Suggest removal)

event calendar sponsored by: