Recent naming of >Chumash Highway/ still controversial

Recent naming of >Chumash Highway/ still controversial

Weeks after the announcement that the Legislature had named Highway 154 the &#8220Chumash Highway,C the topic remains a hot button issue in the Santa Ynez Valley, and a group of residents is questioning the role of local elected officials in the process.

The highway naming and other Chumash tribe-related issues were the topics of discussion at a town hall meeting Tuesday night hosted by Preservation of Los Olivos (POLO) at St. Mark/s Church in Los Olivos.

The gathering of about 60 people included members of Santa Ynez Valley Concerned Citizens, Women's Environmental Watch of the Santa Ynez Valley and No More Slots.

POLO Secretary Kathy Cleary said the five members of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors and county Chief Executive Officer Mike Brown have said they didn/t know about the resolution before Vincent Armenta, chairman of the Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians, announced the naming on Sept. 19.

&#8220They/re not doing anything about it,C Cleary said. &#8220They/re telling us there/s nothing we can do about it. We can do something about it.C

Jim Marino, an attorney, said Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has yet to sign the resolution and it can still be challenged. POLO President Doug Herthel said the naming was &#8220done back-doorC without public notice or comment.

The resolution was written by Assemblyman Joe Coto, D-San Jose. It passed the Assembly Sept. 4 by a vote of 76-0, and the Senate on Sept. 12 by a vote of 38-0.

The scenic roadway that runs 32 miles from Santa Barbara to Highway 101 west of Los Olivos will remain Highway 154 but will also have commemorative signs, which the tribe will buy, to designate it as the Chumash Highway.

Highway 246 passes directly in front of the Chumash Casino Resort in Santa Ynez. Highway 154 connects with 246 a couple of miles to the east.

Democrat Pedro Nava, the Santa Ynez Valley/s representative in the Assembly, said in a statement the resolution was based on &#8220a peer reviewed study that demonstrated the profound historical significance of the 8,000-year-old Chumash trail networkC and based on the study/s findings, he joined every other legislators in voting for the naming.

&#8220While I respect that certain factions of the community support or oppose the renaming of this historic pathway, my vote indicates that I supported the renaming as did every other California legislator 7 whether Republican or Democrat," Nava said.

Herthel also gave the group an update on a federal appeal, filed in part by POLO and Preservation of Santa Ynez and other groups more than two years ago to block the tribe/s annexation of 6.9 acres across Highway 246 from the casino. The matter remains in federal court, he said.

&#8220We/ll hold it off forever,C Herthel said. &#8220It/s not going to happen. We/re going to get it back.C

The tribe has said it plans a cultural center, park and a retail building on the land. If the land is annexed, it would no longer be on the county/s tax rolls or subject to county planning regulations.

Cleary said the group was told by a source in the governor/s office that the tribe is in negotiations to add slot machines at its casino, but added, &#8220we don/t knowC if the tribe actually is.

Tribal spokeswoman Frances Snyder said that is not true.

&#8220They say that we are in negotiations with the governor. We/re not,C Snyder said. &#8220They say that we are in violation of our compact with our off-reservation properties. We/re not. POLO/POSY has the answers; they just don/t like them.

&#8220We assume that the purpose of their meeting is to spin their version of the truth. We sincerely hope that the community is on to their games by now,C Snyder said.

There may be another meeting held at the church in a month to six weeks, Cleary said.

Julian J. Ramos can be reached at 688-5522, Ext. 6008, or jramos@lompocrecord.com.

October 11, 2007

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