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Santa Ynez Valley
Concerned Citizens
P.O. Box 244
Santa Ynez, CA 93460

Letters : Opinion: THE ECONOMICS OF CAMP 4 ANNEXATION

Bob Field

January 26, 2014 12:06 AM


In a recent Los Angeles Times story, Chumash Tribal Chairman Vincent Armenta made the point that the community's resistance to the annexation of Camp 4 was not about money or building houses, it was about race.

An unfortunate statement, but a great demonstration of the chairman's need to divert attention from the economic aspects of this legal issue. Here's why:

First, since annexation comes at huge cost to everyone else in the community, the annexation law requires the tribe to have an "immediate need" or "necessity" for housing or economic development purposes.

But, according to tribal documents, the casino generates profit of about $1 million per year per tribal member, of which about $600,000 is distributed to each member annually. This is more than 30 times the average personal income in the state and the county. In America, this places Chumash tribal members in the top 10 percent of the top 1 percent income group.

Even if all 1,300 alleged descendants were admitted to the tribe (highly unlikely) the individual income still would be over $100,000 per year each, nearly four times the personal income in the state and county. The tribe would remain one of the highest income communities in the entire United States. (Source: U.S. Census data)

The above income is just good fortune, and not a problem — until the tribe pushes for additional annexation privileges.

Obviously, the tribe has achieved far more than necessary to obtain housing. The market-rate purchase by the tribe of the two largest hotels in Solvang, as well as numerous other commercial properties, proves there is no necessity for economic development reasons, either.

The second economic issue is the financial impact to the surrounding community from the resulting tax-free development and unfunded demands for government services. The Santa Barbara County CEO conservatively projected the cost to be hundreds of millions of dollars just for the minimal development currently proposed — many times more for the long-term potential development of the 2.2-square-mile Camp 4 property.

To balance budgets in the face of these unfunded demands, the county and the schools will be forced to cut services to others. Ironically, most government services are provided to the less fortunate members of the community, who can least afford the cuts. The outcome would be reverse socialism, in which the poor subsidize the un-taxed rich.

In addition are the financial impacts on the state. There is a legal requirement to treat tribes equally, so with more than 100 recognized tribes in California and nearly as many seeking recognition, the cumulative impacts of setting this precedent are monumental.

Given these adverse economic impacts and the impossibility to demonstrate necessity, the chairman's problem is that approval of annexation of Camp 4 would violate the clear purpose and intent of the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act, which was to help tribes reach self-sufficiency. Hence, the race card is thrown in a transparent attempt to change the subject.

The Indian Reorganization Act continues to be a good law with a great purpose. But it was never meant to provide eternal, massive economic subsidies to tribes no matter how wealthy they became. Common sense and law say there must be rational limits to the granting of annexation requests.

The Chumash tribe has literally spent millions of dollars on lobbying, political contributions and even the payment of BIA officials' salaries in its attempt to make this annexation happen. Both Congress and the Bureau of Indian Affairs should recognize these expenditures as further demonstration that this tribe's spectacular economic success has taken them way beyond the rational limits for approval of the annexation of Camp 4.

The author is former chair of the Valley Planning Advisory Committee. He lives in Santa Ynez.