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I read with interest the recent remarks of the Chumash tribal government now that a misguided state law has opened the door for them and other “Indian tribal governments” to be allowed a seat on local joint powers agencies like the Santa Barbara County Association of Governments (SBCAG), if the agency would allow it. SBCAG’s primary function is to allocate state, local and federal funds for various transportation projects – including both repair of roadways, capital improvement and congestions relief projects. Included in their huge budget is the distribution of measure “A” funds (formerly measure “D”) which are sales taxes that run into tens, perhaps hundreds of millions of dollars over the life of the tax assessment.

In the most recent audacious move of the current Chumash tribal government, in order to advance its grandiose expansion plans in the Valley, they have actually claimed they should be allowed a voting position on the SBCAG Board to have a say in how these millions of taxpayers monies are allocated and distributed. If this were not so important an issue it would almost be laughable.

The SBCAG Board and its members consist of the following government officials. All of the 5 District supervisors seated on the county Board of Supervisors, each of which represents about 88,000 county residents, totaling more than 430,000 taxpaying residents. The other eight seated members on SBCAG are the City of Santa Barbara (88,000 + people) the City of Santa Maria (86,000 + people), the City of Lompoc (42,000 + people) the City of Goleta (30,000 + people) the City of Carpinteria (13,000 + people) the City of Guadalupe (7,000+ people), the City of Solvang (5,200 + people) and the smallest, The City of Buellton (4,800 + people). These are the constituent members who generate the millions in tax revenues needed by state and local government and boards like SBCAG.

The Chumash tribal “government” represents 143 enrolled members. They provide virtually nothing to non-enrolled members or so called fractional descendants in the area. In addition the Chumash lands and their businesses are already adequately represented on SBCAG by either the county 3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr and/or the cities of Solvang and Buellton where they own businesses.

But it is not just the fact they are a tiny so-called “government” and are already adequately represented on SBCAG that is a basis for denying this entity any formal voting seat on that body or even an advisory seat for that matter.

There are even more important reasons. Sales occurring on the land they call a reservation reflect an imposition of a “sales tax.” Many patrons are fooled into thinking the tribe is paying the state imposed sales tax like every other business. In fact this “sales tax” is simply an assessment collected by the tribe and put into a fund for members’ own discretionary use, which most recently was the purchase of an office building in Solvang for more than a million dollars.

Similarly at the hotel next to the casino, the tribe imposes a “bed tax” (Transient Occupancy Tax) again to make it appear they are collecting and remitting such taxes that most real non-Indian governments collect to fund the public infrastructure and public services they provide regularly, and the Chumash want to create the appearance they are collecting and remitting taxes just like every other genuine government.

So the real question is, why should the tiny Chumash “tribal government” be entitled to a seat on a regional board whose primary function is to allocate and make decisions on how to appropriate sales tax monies paid by their citizens, taxes the Chumash don’t pay? The non-Indian taxpayers have already spent millions of dollars on infrastructure improvements and for public services to accommodate the Chumash casino and its businesses. The tribe is making hundreds of millions of dollars in profit from the losses of gamblers at their casino, each enrolled tribal member receiving more than $40,000 every month on which they pay no state income tax.

The recent traffic and congestion improvements that were needed on SR 154 between the Santa Ynez River bridge crossing and the intersection of SR 246 cost millions, as do all of the projects along 154 and 246 to accommodate the traffic generated by the casino and the events held there. Even the suicide barrier on the Cold Spring Bridge is connected to the casino. Now, Caltrans is proposing a $3.5 million improvement to the 154 / 246 intersection by installing a roundabout there.

The only significant contribution made to road improvements on 246 by this “tribe” were those self-serving traffic signals and turn lanes installed for the new and larger casino a few years ago, so that gamblers and patrons and the “Ride to Riches” buses bringing gamblers from afar, could get in and out of there – and onto 246. Although the tribe makes an occasional “gift” or grant for local agencies and charities, the amount does not even equal the money they still collect in federal welfare and grant monies distributed under federal programs to all “Indians” including the Chumash, regardless of the millions they make from gambling losses and other businesses.

Why SBCAG would even consider giving a voting membership to the Chumash tribal government would be more than surprising, particularly since the so-called Chumash tribal government doesn’t faintly resemble any real government. The non-Indian taxpayers have no right to vote for any government officials there while they (the tribe) have all the rights to vote in all state, local and federal elections in this country. They have no transparency, are immune from the important laws every other government must abide by, routinely ignore the rights of their own members and they do not even recognize the state and federal Constitution – and claim to have their own “Constitution.”

There are hundreds of laws enacted over the decades to keep state and local governments honest and subject to public scrutiny which do not apply, not the least of which are those political, anti-corruption, conflict of interest and campaign contribution and ownership and interest disclosure regulations. Indian tribal governments not only claim they are exempt from such laws, but because of an outdated court created legal doctrine dating back to 1921, they are entitled to claim they cannot be sued for their misdeeds, no matter how bad they are, just as they claim they don’t have to pay the taxes needed to fund the public services and infrastructure that they – the tribal members and patrons of their businesses – use daily.

To allow the Chumash tribal government a seat on SBCAG so they can decide how to spend the non-Indian taxpayers’ money when they don’t pay those moneys themselves would turn history on its head. Our own revolution was fueled by the objection to being taxed without representation. The suggestion that the Chumash have a seat on SBCAG would constitute the opposite, unwarranted representation to control our money without the taxation that pays the bills!