Another in a series of Santa Barbara County Ad Hoc Subcommittee meetings with the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians with Tribal Chairman Vincent Armenta and Vice Chair Kenneth Khan meeting with Supervisors Doreen Farr and Peter Adam meet (Dec. 10, 2015)
Paul Wellman

This week’s meeting in the series of talks to smooth over relations between county officials and Chumash leaders left most people in the large conference room unhappy. Thursday’s plan was to dissect a proposed agreement issued by county personnel seven days prior. But tribal chair Vincent Armenta said his board had not reviewed the document because they do not meet in December.

“It kind of puts us in a weird spot,” said Supervisor Peter Adam, who is in the subcommittee regarding county-Chumash relations with Supervisor Doreen Farr. “We’re here and we’re not going to do anything.” Armenta said he could give his personal comments. “But they carry no weight,” he said. “I don’t make these decisions on my own.”

Under the proposed agreement, the county would support the Chumash’s effort to annex Camp 4 — revoking its appeal submitted to the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) earlier this year. In exchange, the tribe would waive its sovereign immunity, make an ongoing payment of 38 percent of 1 percent of the market price (annexed land does not have to pay the 1 percent property tax), comply with environmental mitigation measures, and other agreements.

Tribal Chairman Vincent Armenta and Vice Chair Kenneth Khan
Paul Wellman

The tribe previously asked to formally sit down with county leaders for years; these four talks since September are the first to occur in a decade. In 2013, the supervisors voted not to engage in such conversations with the tribe. (Supervisors Salud Carbajal and Steve Lavagnino dissented.) That all changed in June at a heated hearing in Washington D.C. where congressmembers threatened to move forward a federal bill that would immediately place Camp 4 into trust, bypassing the BIA process.

From the get-go, Armenta argued the tribe offered $1 million each year for a decade in 2011, but their proposition was ignored. County officials, meanwhile, said they never received the offer. Former CEO Chandra Waller was at the helm at the time, and it is still unclear what happened to the document.

On Thursday, a couple dozen audience members, most whom were valley residents, attended the meeting. A few spoke. One expressed frustration that a “robust” conversation did not take place about the terms. Another speaker argued the Chumash said in 2008 and again as recently 2013 that they did not plan to sell alcohol on their casino’s gaming floor. But the tribe recently received a temporary permit from the Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) to do so for the time being. (Sheriff Bill Brown and Supervisor Doreen Farr are contesting the permit.) Armenta did not address the issue.

Armenta did say he would like to take a comprehensive look at the tribe’s future plans, “what the county would accept” and “what would those terms look like.”

“If we could all get on the same page about the goals, maybe we could help you achieve it,” said Adam. The group will meet again on January 14.


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