Progress equals success for county, tribe
After taking the last six months off from direct discussions, the ad hoc subcommittee meetings between leaders of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians and members of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors have resumed.
The subcommittee consists of myself, Business Committee member Mike Lopez, and Supervisors Peter Adam and Doreen Farr.
Prior to this hiatus, our group had met seven times to engage in government-to-government negotiations — a first for our two communities in many years.
While having been a part of these negotiations from their inception, our most recent meeting was my first since having been elected tribal chairman in April. While I wish we could have accomplished more, taxpayers of our community and the county should know progress is being made and their concerns are being addressed — all the while the historic and cultural obligations to the Chumash people are respected.
During our negotiations, the Board of Supervisors requested the tribe waive its sovereign immunity to make certain the Camp 4 agreement remains enforceable. Our tribe has been willing to provide the county with such an assurance since we presented our initial term-sheet for Camp 4 in 2011.
We worked with county counsel during our recent break to agree on waiver language based upon the tribe's new gaming compact signed by Gov. Jerry Brown and ratified last fall. The board voted 5-0 in August to add this new waiver language to an agreement between the Sheriff's Department and our tribe. Securing an agreement on this element was critical for allowing negotiations on remaining lesser items to move forward, and we appreciate the county's vote.
Even though our tribe has already received the Department of Interior's notice stating that Camp 4 will be taken into trust in its entirety, we remain committed to working with the county to reach an agreement on several remaining issues. We look forward to securing the county's support for federal legislation concerning Camp 4 that guarantees no gaming will take place on the Camp 4 lands.
Both sides believe any agreement should continue during the term of the new tribal/state gaming compact, which expires in December 2040.
To address taxpayer concerns, we have been working on a payments-in-lieu-of-taxes plan. Recognizing that tribal trust lands are not generally subject to local property taxes, we proposed offsetting the county's future loss of tax revenue applied to Camp 4 — $87,000 under the Williamson Act and gradually increasing over the nine-year, non-renewal period — with $1 million a year for 10 years.
The county wants such payments in lieu of taxes to be more closely modeled on county property tax assessments. The tribe would also like the county to consider the positive impacts of tribal educational and health services to hundreds of tribal community members living in the county.
Finally, there has been much speculation over the intent of our tribe's use of the lands. We have indicated a willingness to voluntarily comply with applicable provisions of the Santa Ynez Valley Community Plan as a form of Tribal Community Plan under tribal law.
Our tribe retains the authority to govern its own affairs, as guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and numerous federal statutes. We are a proud, contributing member of this community and it is our desire to meet the needs of our members while embracing the desires of the Santa Ynez Valley.
Now that we have restarted the subcommittee meetings, I am personally committed to working with the county to continue to make progress.
The next ad hoc subcommittee meeting is Friday, Oct. 21, at 9 a.m. at the Chumash Employee Resource Center, 585 McMurray Road in Buellton.
Kenneth Kahn is tribal chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.