The news that an Alaskan congressman could become the pivotal figure in a lightening rod issue pertaining strictly to the Santa Ynez Valley – taking 1,400 acres (Camp 4) out of local and state jurisdiction – is almost beyond belief.
According to letters of opposition written by grass roots citizen group POLO and Supervisor Doreen Farr to Alaska Congressman Don Young, the Chumash Casino Tribe has requested that he introduce special legislation that would allow the tribe to achieve their strategic objective of annexing the 1400-acre Camp Four property to their reservation. This would effectively create another, and particularly large, “sovereign country” on U.S. soils and in our valley.
Congressman Young’s office has yet to respond to my inquiry of whether he intends to accommodate this request. According to news reports of campaign finance filings, he has received substantial contributions from numerous out-of-state Indian tribes. All of this while he serves as head of the congressional sub-committee on Indian affairs – gross conflict of interest would be an understatement.
And this would not be the first time that Congressman Young has involved himself in a local matter in a state far from his own. As reported in the New York Times and other papers, in addition to federal investigations for alleged misuse of campaign funds, the Alaska congressman’s staff inserted a last minute earmark to an unrelated bill that provided funds for building a Florida road (opposed by the locals) that benefited a developer who contributed to Young’s campaign.
Is the Chumash Casino tribe’s request to the Alaskan Congressman a particularly egregious case of “politician shopping”? Either way, the sad fact is that an out of area politician has the ability to introduce “special” legislation that could completely change our valley and quality of lives and that it is a testament to how broken and corrupt our political system has become.
The Santa Ynez Valley (in the state of California) is three thousand miles from the capital of Alaska. Of all the things one can say about the Chumash expansion plan, it is, always has been, always will be, a local issue. It pertains to the Valley, impacts the Valley and should be decided by the people of the Valley. If politicians are involved, they should be from our area and should answer only to the locals. Nothing less is acceptable.
If this bill, or another like it, were introduced, it would be voted on by politicians from the other states that have no earthly idea of what they are voting for, or who we are, or what the issues or impacts are.
This type of abuse of power is not explainable, comprehensible or in any way defensible, but it is, at all levels completely reprehensible.
Unfortunately there is no level of government in this country that is immune to the temptations and influence of special interests. We have a phony democracy when elected officials grant special favors to rich, powerful and influential special interests, at the expense of the people. And even worse when out-of-state elected officials can introduce legislation involving local issues in other states that effect people that did not elect them and cannot vote them out of office.
Yet this insidious activity can be counteracted when it is exposed. In the frequently quoted words of Justice Brandeis – “Sunlight is the best disinfectant”. Lets work together to bring national sunlight to this issue.
Anyone and everyone who feels moral outrage and righteous indignation at this potential outcome should speak up and speak loudly. It is our Valley, and we should fight for it.
We can start by calling Congressman Young’s office (202) 225-5765) to demand that he abstain from any involvement in our local issues. And we can email or call our state politicians and ask them to intervene in this matter and insure that only the will of the Valley residents determines the outcome of this critical issue.
Is a government that represents the citizens who created it too much to ask?