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Opinion

Readers React: Why Gov. Pete Wilson is wrong about the Santa Ynez Chumash ‘bigfooting’ local residents

SANTA YNEZ, CA-NOVEMBER 21, 2013: A sign indicates that Highway 154 in Santa Ynez has been renamed
A view of the Santa Ynez Valley from Highway 154 in 2013.
(Los Angeles Times)

To the editor: Former Gov. Pete Wilson failed to make himself aware of the hard work our communities put into the local agreement before criticizing HR 1491, the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians Land Affirmation Act.

Over three years, the tribe and the Santa Barbara County government held 22 public meetings to receive input on the agreement and the fee-to-trust application. The legislation pending in the Senate demonstrates that two sides with very different goals can reach an agreement that works to everyone’s benefit.

The Santa Ynez Valley is a serene, bucolic area that the county and the tribe have a shared interest in preserving. For that reason, our agreement protects more than 75% of the property from development. The tribe’s project has undergone federal environmental reviews, is consistent with the density of surrounding neighborhoods and will meet the same strict California building codes as other construction in the area.

Finally, Wilson knows that the U.S. Constitution provides Congress with plenary authority over activities on Indian lands. As such, congressional consideration of this bill is not so much “bigfooting” as it is just doing its job.

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Das Williams, Santa Barbara

Kenneth Kahn, Santa Ynez

Williams is a member of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors. Kahn is chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians.

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