Last Week

A number of amazing things have happened this past week. There have been a lot of questions from the community regarding the bill that Pedro Nava is carrying pertaining to our water district here in the valley. Communications between residents and officials about what the groundwater recharge means as far as exactly how one determines whose water is being drawn out of the basin have been fast and furious. Most of the answers have satisfied most of the concerns expressed by the residents.

 

Two major questions remain that have significant impacts on the future of our water supply. The first question is about the effect of having Santa Barbara Local Agency Formation Commission as a partner in the decision-making when the majority of that board doesn’t live in the valley and therefore will not be affected by the decisions they make. The second question is related to the new item of some sort of tribal sphere of influence over the Santa Ynez township and others due to the reservation now being proposed to be included in the district. This is a topic that is not at all understood and has not been adequately discussed in public.

Numerous people in the community have asked that this bill either be slowed down or withdrawn pending the community’s further discussion. The topic was to have been taken up at the July 15 board of supervisors meeting, but I hear that Mr. Nava has now delayed the bill. I also hear that he has given credit to Doreen Farr and Joni Gray for the move, although it is unfortunate that he does not give credit to the valley residents, including myself, who have worked hard to get some information to the public about what is happening. Do you think it could be political expediency?

 

If you would like to familiarize yourself with the actual document, please go to: http://www.legisweb.com/calm/model/Retrieve.asp?ref=:calm:2007:ab2686:doc.

Another astounding happening this past week was the July 9 evening meeting about the Santa Ynez Valley Community Plan Environmental Impact Report at Solvang’s Veterans Hall. The first thing I noticed that was odd was that the chairs in the room had been arranged from side to side rather than facing the stage as they usually are. It occurred to me that perhaps staff wasn’t expecting very many people. That, of course, would not have been unusual because not even landowners who would be affected by this plan were notified of the meeting. In fact, if it were not for a couple of residents using e-mail and automated phone calls with their own money, the majority of the people would not have been there. Thank goodness for those people dedicated to making sure the rest of us know what’s going on.

 

Having been a part of the process since the beginning of the General Plan Advisory Committee, although I was not invited and was unaware of the Valley Blueprint until long after it had been published, I was a member of valley Plan Advisory Committee and therefore was quite familiar with the topics and documents discussed. I was also familiar with the people who had followed the process along with me.

I was pleased to see many of them in the audience, such as the former 3rd District supervisor, representatives of every valley group, water district representatives, and many GPAC and VPAC members as well. There were some new faces as well, showing how interested people are in the future of the valley.

 

After a long introduction by staff telling us why we were there, which we already understood, the public finally was allowed to speak. Although it was made very clear to us that staff would rather we submitted written comments, presumably so they wouldn’t have to listen to our verbal comments as well, speaker after speaker asked that the comment period be extended beyond the July 24 deadline.

Apparently the document, which included appendices and maps for a total of 1,788 pages, had been released sometime in June — although no one knew it. Thus, responses on the EIR were due in two weeks. As speaker after speaker pointed out, this document bore no resemblance to the 245-page document that had been the focus of GPAC and VPAC discussions and therefore could not be properly read and understood in such a short period of time. New policies were included that had never been seen before, and whole sections clearly were new additions.

 

After members of the audience had finished speaking, including both supervisorial candidates, the current supervisor got up to speak. What he proceeded to say left everyone in the remaining audience with their mouths hanging open. He stated that if he thought that the evening’s speakers were representative of the valley, he would consider slowing the schedule and leaving the decision to his successor. HUH? Just who are these nameless and faceless people to whom he was referring as “the Valley people?” I think I might know, and I don’t believe for a minute that you would think they represent you.

Amazingly, the very next day, word came down that the comment period had been extended to September 22, along with an extended hearing schedule. Why this happened is unclear, because the obvious reason cannot be it. Our supervisor was bound and determined to put his signature on this current plan no matter what. That now is not to be — and it is the right outcome in my opinion.

 

 

Historic News

You may or may not remember all of the meetings regarding the fee-to-trust effort on the part of the Chumash Tribe over a 6.9-acre parcel in Santa Ynez. Concerns arose in the community regarding the environmental and economic impacts to the area that had not been studied very well. When the community asked the board of supervisors for help, it was not forthcoming. Thus the two local groups Preservation of Los Olivos and Preservation of Santa Ynez wrote to the United States Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs.

This issue ultimately ended up at the Interior Board of Indian Appeals, where P.O.L.O. and POSY were turned down for lack of standing, i.e. their opinion didn’t count. So they went to court and sued for standing, among other things. The decision came back this week, and it was historic. The court vacated IBIA’s dismissal of P.O.L.O.’s and POSY’s standing. The court noted the enormous economic and environmental impacts that fee-to-trust decisions can have on surrounding communities. Judge A. Howard Matz said that IBIA made an error in dismissing P.O.L.O.’s and POSY’s appeal and that it not only ignored its own regulations on standing but has never properly exercised its regulations with regard to other, similar cases over the years.

 

Thus P.O.L.O. and POSY become the voice for their community to express the impacts of losing state and local taxing and regulatory authority.

Many people across this country have been watching this case to see whether the impact of casinos on rural communities will ever be seriously looked at, as we all know what those impacts are. Residents of the area just need to know that proper infrastructure will be in place to remediate those impacts and that the taxpayers are not the only ones paying for it.

Many injustices have been promoted over the years to make up for previous ones, but it does not make sense to continue the pattern of abuse — only, now, to abuse some other group. Current policies allow for that, and it must stop. The cited case here and others are now beginning that long road to equality for all that is promised in the Constitution under which we all live.

 

 

Coming Issues

Just in case you thought Santa Barbara County was the only government agency going overboard on the environment legislation, guess again. I thought you might give some thought to some of the new proposals from California’s Democratically-controlled legislature. First, there’s the proposed Private Fleet Rule by the California Air Resources Board called the truck replacement rule.

 

This would require the replacement of all trucks over 14,000 lbs. Gross Vehicle Weight, whether registered in California or not. This would affect about 1.5 million trucks and would certainly be passed on to the consumers, you and me. Thank you to the reader who saw my term of ecofascism last week and let me know about the California Trucking Association website, which was very informative about impacts to truckers, farmers and the rest of us.

Two other proposed nightmares include the greenhouse mitigation fee, in the form of either a new fuel tax of up to $90 or 3 percent of retail sale price added to your vehicle registration. This would apply first to the Los Angeles and Bay Area parts of the state, but I am sure that, with the massive ability the legislators have to spend our money, it would soon be expanded to include the entire state.

 

 

Life Goes On

Lest I leave you with a bad taste in your mouth with all the government bad behavior, I offer another of my husband’s terrific photos. This time it is of an agave that we retrieved from a friend who wanted it moved. It has thrived for several years at our horse facility and now has grown the most amazing flower stalk that is now beginning to bloom. I am told that this means the mother plant will soon die, which makes me sad because she is really magnificent, but she has left us a number of babies that will surely grow large and beautiful as well.