A recent editorial asserted that the Chumash tribe's willingness to negotiate with Santa Barbara County regarding future land uses "was at minimum a show of good faith. …” However, it is evident the Chumash are acting in remarkably bad faith.
Let us first be clear about one thing — the Santa Ynez Valley Coalition, which represents residents across the valley, supports addressing the housing and community facility needs of the tribe's 143 members.
As required of every other property owner in the Santa Ynez Valley, we believe the tribe's development plans on Camp 4 should comply with the county's land-use plan. Doing so protects the quality of life and pocketbooks for all residents, including the Chumash.
According to the tribe, its goals for the 1,400-acre Camp 4 parcel are not limited to just housing. In a public meeting last year, Chumash leadership presented a plan for potentially millions of square feet of commercial and residential development on Camp 4 property.
It is bad faith and disingenuous for the tribe to assert that its sole motivation for adding Camp 4 to its reservation through the fee-to-trust process is only about providing tribal housing. The fact is that under the pending federal legislation pushed by the tribe, it will retain the option to build anything it chooses on Camp 4, which might include a massive shopping center, auto race track, high-rise apartments/condos or even another casino.
Another key reason for the widespread citizen opposition to providing the Chumash with a fee-to-trust blank check is that it will result in the loss of millions of dollars in tax revenue to state and local governments. This lost tax revenue will be needed to pay for public services and infrastructure, revenue that must be made up by non-Indian taxpayers. This fact bears repeating — non-Indian taxpayers will be required to bear all of the costs of public services and infrastructure.
We believe it is bad faith for the tribe to lobby Congress for HR 1491, while in negotiations with the county. That bill renders those negotiations irrelevant and meaningless. The tribe's generous campaign contributions have lubricated the process to the degree that the leading advocate for the bill is a congressman whose constituents live approximately 600 miles from the Santa Ynez Valley.
The most offensive aspect of the pending Chumash legislation is that it will deny residents and local government their constitutional right to go before a federal judge to challenge the illegal Camp 4 decision. This legislation is a denial of due process and justice.
If Congress, on behalf of the Chumash, can deny the rights of citizens to access the legal system, where does it stop? Who will be the next wealthy special interest seeking to enrich itself at the expense of the constitutional values we hold so dearly? The Chumash attempting to pass this bill is undeniably bad faith.
Previous efforts to pass similar federal legislation benefitting the Chumash have failed. We are not aware of the poll referenced in a recent article showing that it "will win in both Houses." In fact, we are confident there are enough members of both houses of Congress who are more deeply concerned about the dangerous precedent that will be set by the Chumash bill than they are about funding their campaign coffers with Chumash cash.
We wholeheartedly agree that a locally-approved agreement between the county and the Chumash is the best course. While the Chumash say it is what they want, their actions tell an entirely different story.