Archive » June 12, 2008
By SYVJ Staff
My name is Jennifer Sorensen, and I was born and raised in Santa Barbara County.
In April of 2007 a group of citizens and I formed an organization called Citizens Against Casino Corruption. The goal was to educate the public about the corrupting influences that organized Indian gambling is having on our politicians, news media, law enforcement, and our government. We more recently changed our name to Citizens for Fair Government, since it is really our government that is the problem.
In the June 3 election, our group sent out an educational mailer that two local casino advocates have objected to. I am responding to those objections with the facts.
First, none of the members of this group was a donor to any of the five supervisorial campaigns in the 3rd District except Jim Marino, who had earlier donated to the Smyser campaign. This mailer was a result of the numerous articles, op-ed pieces, and letters to the editor that showed up in the local press during the months of April and May and which indicated that David Smyser was being funded by a few large out-of-county and out-of-state developers. The articles also brought out his dismal résumé of not keeping any job very long. This, combined with the facts that he refused to attend an important valley-wide debate and instead had the time the same week to be a guest of honor at the Chumash Casino, solidified my concern that he was the casino’s and developers’ candidate. Probably one of the most concerning positions Mr. Smyser promoted on a local talk radio show was that he wanted to put a member of the casino and tribe on the board of the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments. This amounted to putting a member of a secret sovereign government on the SBCAG board, which has the main authority to determine where our tax money is spent in the county.
The tribal government is funded by a casino that is netting approximately $750,000 per day and pays no local or state taxes and is not under the jurisdiction of the state or county governments. This tribal government is the same one that uses all of our county services and does not pay anything for those services. The tribal government wants to buy as much agricultural acreage and farmland as possible and annex them into the reservation. This would accommodate expanding the gambling operations by as much as two to three times the size it is right now and expanding and building more non-tax-paying retail business to compete against local non-reservation retail businesses.
The mailer that has been referred to by two Chumash Casino lobbyists was not a hit piece at all. It was a compilation of unedited newspaper op ed’s, letters to the editors, and media reported articles about the Smyser campaign. The public had already seen these articles during the months of April and May. The articles did not promote any of the 3rd District supervisor candidates. The copies of six different articles from the Nexus, Santa Ynez Valley News, Independent, and the Santa Ynez Valley Journal were sent to the voters after this mailer had been sent to the Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC) in Sacramento first and their legal staff signed off on it as being perfectly legal and fair.
At no time did the candidate Smyser ever dispute what had been written in these six local papers by six different unrelated authors.
The corruption of our government and excessive financial influence over our press, and local, state and national politicians, is a very serious problem that is not being covered in the news. The goal of Citizens for Fair Government is to fill the news blackout gap and educate the public and the lawmakers about this very destabilizing, dangerous situation, in which organized gambling is having way to much influence over our daily lives and businesses.
It is my pleasure to pass along great news — last night the school board of Santa Barbara School District approved hiring Norm Clevenger as principal of San Marcos High School.
While we are very happy for Norm, this event gives us cause to re-examine what has happened here in the Santa Ynez Valley. We’ve all been involved in the Clevenger issue for a while, so I don’t need to pontificate, but here are my thoughts:
• This further vindicates Clevenger from any suspicions of wrongdoing as a cause for being fired from Santa Ynez High.
• This reinforces the notion that Clevenger was fired out of vindictiveness, not for cause.
• This reinforces the notion that the Santa Ynez High school board was foolish to support Norm’s firing, and fiscally irresponsible by sending Norm home on full pay and, eventually, paying attorney’s fees and other costs for the bungled dismissal.
Actually, this is all even more embarrassing for our community than it seems. As you know, when SYVUHS was in the process of hiring a new principal, the selection committee conducted a site visit to Lompoc School District; for our new superintendent, a site visit was made to Santa Barbara School District. When the Superintendent of SB Schools talked to the Santa Ynez district administration about conducting a site visit to SYVUHS to talk to employees before hiring Norm, the Santa Ynez district administration strongly discouraged (if not outright denied) anyone from entering the campus to conduct interviews. (For the record, Van Leuven denies that he ever received a request for a visit, which would be a bit hard to believe.) This is an embarrassment to both our school and our entire community.
Again, our hardiest congratulations to Norm and Jan Clevenger.
P.S.: Just for the record, I reported to the school board our petition numbers so far: total 13,112 signatures, with more than 2,600 to recall each one of the members.
Sometime ago, a new newspaper was delivered to my home. I read it with interest, especially the back on the ranch section.
I thought that “at last a newspaper that will provide information that will help with knowing what is happening in the Valley.” Then in February, India Allen did a hit piece on Mr. Smyser, tying him to the dreaded developers and people out of the area. I waited for a piece on Farr and Pappas, but it never happened.
Then Nancy Crawford-Hall did a hit piece in her column that included info about Smyser quitting several jobs (have any successful people had this history?), then went on to detail why candidates were the wrong choice without naming her favorite, Steve Pappas; neither did she indicate that she had given $20,000 to Steve Pappas, which, by the way, was exposed in the Santa Barbara News Press.
Interestingly enough there was another hit piece in the publication on Mr. Smyser before the election.
We now know that the same piece was mailed to people in the 3rd District by Citizens for Fair Government, with a Post Office box in Goleta. We now know that this is a new name for Citizens Against Casino Corruption. Now we know the truth, and it wasn’t in the Valley Journal. I am opposed to the casino and everything that will cause people to use their money to gamble, however the Chumash-haters that supported Pappas have used dirty tricks and subterfuge to denigrate and defeat Mr. Smyser. I don’t know Mr. Smyser, but I sure smelled a rat when the hit pieces appeared in the Journal. I may not be able to stop receiving your paper, but I can and will put it in the recycle pile.