Sen. Dean Florezí(D-Shafter), authoring of Senate Bill 170 and behavior during public testimony brings to question, What is a public servant?

Because passage of S

Because passage of S.B. 170 would have jeopardized all agriculturally protected lands in California in favor of Indian tribal governments, there was tremendous opposition, which included Santa Barbara County, California Chamber of Commerce, California Farm Bureau Federation, California State Association of Counties, California State Grange, Regional Council of rural Counties, and a number of citizen groups and citizens.  Community members and representatives from many of these organizations traveled to Sacramento April 15 to participate in public testimony about S.B. 170.

The bill was sponsored by the local tribal government and supported only by tribal governments and tribal government organizations.


Florezí response to public testimony is to be noted, especially since he recently announced he is running for Lt. Governor.  During almost every one of about 15 objecting speakersí comments Florez rolled his eyes, shook his head and displayed other signs of irritation seemingly associated with the broad based concern regarding S.B. 170 and their pleas for continued agriculture land protection and conservation. 

By his behavior, you would think he became a senator entirely on his own accord, not that of the people who voted for him.

This made me wonder who public servants, such as Sen. Florez, really serve.

Tribal governments, also defining themselves as sovereign nations, are closed governments. They self-govern their members and business operations on federally designated land by self-determined tribal constitutions and tribally elected leadership. 

They are considered governments, yet they are allowed to contribute to political campaigns, something no other government is allowed to do.


Although they receive federal public taxpayer money, tribal governments are not responsible or accountable to the public, and neither are their businesses on the designated lands subject to taxation or local jurisdiction.

Yet, time and time again public servants ignore their accountability to the public. Instead of immediately rejecting actions of expansion by tribal governments, public servants willingly go forward with the requested action.

S.B. 170 is a great example. Florez and the local tribal government claimed the need to develop agricultural land for tribal housing, infrastructure and a cultural center.  During public testimony, representatives from the local tribe claimed the tribe needed land and infrastructure because 400 additional people wanted to move there.

However, if S.B. 170 had passed, regulation would be impossible; there would be no way to ensure and limit housing to 400 people.

It could be changed to 1,000 people or more and the surrounding communities that would be forced to absorb the growth would have no say if an increase occurred. Let alone, was there even any dialogue about how the communities would accommodate an additional 400 people? I think not.


The public has no recourse in tribal actions of expansion such as these. Under normal rules zoning and public participation determine development.  Under normal rules, the public is included in the process, which ensures that it is protected.

But normal rules do not apply to these self-governing ďsovereignĒ tribal governments.  They have expanded rights allowing them to impact the public but have no responsibility to the public.

Itís time to stop being distracted by all the assertions of entitlement.

Itís time to hold our public servants responsible to focus on actions, accountability and impact. 

What is the action?  Is there accountability to the public?  If, and only if there truly is accountability and recourse, should discussion begin about impact. 

If public servants are going to continue to ignore public accountability in favor of actions to expand tribal governments, then they are not public servants, they are tribal government servants.

Who are they going to serve?  They donít get to choose. If they donít serve us, we — the sovereign according to our Constitution — have the authority to take back the reins of power we bestowed upon them.