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What Have the Chumash Negotiations Wrought?

Tribe Has Been Unbending


In 2015, a congressional subcommittee, acting at the behest of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, threatened county government into “negotiations.” During these negotiations, Chairman Vincent Armenta restated the threat that our community’s time was running out; that the tribe would eliminate the public and go directly to the federal government to get what it wants.

To date, what has been the result of these negotiations?

Clearly laid out in the Term Sheet Proposals & Reponses Worksheet are the county’s offers and the tribe’s responses. Beyond question, the county gave and gave, while the tribe did not bend on its demands: 1,400 acres into the reservation; no binding agreement with the county regarding future development, uses, taxes, or restriction on the tribe’s gambling ventures. The tribe did agree to pay a small percentage of property taxes for 10 years; far less than $1 million a year for 10 years the tribe asserts it offered back in 2012. In essence, negotiations led to a negative result for the county.

In a jaw-dropping pronouncement at the last negotiating session, the tribe flashed on the overhead projector its future land use plan for Camp 4’s 1,400 acres, plus the Triangle, 370 acres. Their plan calls for, among other things, millions of square feet of land devoted to commercial development! Clearly, it’s not about 143 houses for tribal members.

In light of this mega plan, if the Bureau of Indian Affairs or Congress, by fiat, decides to bypass the community, the courts will ultimately reverse their action.

Why? The Santa Ynez Valley Community plan was adopted by Santa Barbara County after years of community work. This plan, underlaid by an Environmental Impact Report, is recognized by federal and state governments as binding law. The tribe’s development agenda flies in the face of every aspect of this community plan. It is for commercial and gaming development.

The newly elected chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, Ken Kahn, recently stated, “A lot of people think we are going to build ugly buildings or another Foxwoods Resort and just upset the feel of the community, but what we really want is housing. The tribe knows the valley can’t support unnatural growth.”

So, if housing is the tribe’s goal;

• Why is it the tribe’s plan to develop millions of square feet of commercial area?

• Why hasn’t the tribe given up its quest for gambling on its newly acquired lands?

• Why does the tribe refuse to negotiate an agreement with the county that is enforceable?

Actions belie the tribe’s words.

The tribe’s tactics consist of 1) confusion and 2) disparaging attacks.

Confusion has been its consistent tactic. The tribe announces a goal and then switches it. What happened to 143 houses and a Tribal Center for needy elderly tribal members? But now, it’s a mega development. The casino was not going to have a hotel. But the tribe built a hotel. There was to be no alcohol in the casino. But the tribe now serves alcohol on the gaming floor. The new expansion of the casino and hotel makes it the largest commercial facility in Santa Barbara County. But the chairman says, “The tribe knows the valley can’t support unnatural growth.” The tribe said it would not increase the number of slot machines. But the tribe’s new gaming compact adds the ability to have 500 more machines.

The tribe’s tactic is to disparage, assault, and attempt to erase the voice of those who oppose their demands. It dismisses concern as being several malcontents and runs public relations campaigns spending hundreds of thousands of dollars with full-page $5,000-a-pop ads and TV commercials with handsome people extolling their virtues.

The tribe’s tactics are designed to make us, and our Board of Supervisors, feel all is lost. It wants us to believe we have to settle for getting what little the tribe offers. It preys on our sense of justice by promulgating false guilt. There is no guilt; our opposition stems from rejecting a government policy that has created an enrichment scheme for a small band of ultra-wealthy, less than 5 percent of all Chumash Indian descendants.

Congressmember LaMalfa is the sponsor of HR1157, the bill to annex Camp 4 into the Chumash Reservation. His district is 600 miles from the Central Coast. Tribes or Indian casino/gambling interests were 10 of his top 20 contributors and paid the second most in funds to his reelection campaign. Chairman Kahn told a national newspaper that pay-to-play accusations are “ludicrous.” Really? This is, once again, an example of the difference between the tribe’s propaganda spins and reality.

The county-tribe negotiations are to reconvene later this summer.

I plead with the new Chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, a very likable young man, to speak the truth.

I plead with the Board of Supervisors to stand firm and in unison. We must act with the knowledge we are right, that we have no need to apologize, and that the Chumash tribe has achieved success by being bestowed a gambling monopoly. Good for the tribe. It should be proud of its achievements. It shouldn’t expect handouts from us.



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