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Hannah-Beth Jackson, Monique Limón Lash Out Over Crackdown of Confetti Egg Vendors

The lawmakers say the state Department of Tax and Free Administration plans to issue an apology after threatening those selling 'cascarones'

cascarones vendors Click to view larger
Fiesta vendors of confetti-filled eggs, known as “cascarones,” were targeted Wednesday by agents from the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration, who threatened they would return Thursday to take “enforcement action.” (Tom Bolton / Noozhawk photo)

Two prominent state officials representing Santa Barbara have lashed out against the agents who threatened to crack down and take enforcement action against hundreds of mostly Latino sellers of confetti-filled eggs, known as "cascarones."

State Sen. Hannah-Beth Jackson, D-Santa Barbara, and Assemblywoman Monique Limón, D-Santa Barbara, said they were equally surprised and outraged when they learned that the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration approached and threatened unlicensed vendors selling confetti-filled eggs during Santa Barbara's annual Old Spanish Days Fiesta, which began Wednesday and runs through Sunday.

"I found it ridiculous, preposterous and totally inappropriate," Jackson told Noozhawk. "It made no sense to me what they were trying to do."

Jackson said the department plans to issue an imminent apology to the vendors and the people of Santa Barbara. 

"Given today's world and concerns of our Latino community over the behavior of ICE, and the fear that these folks have experienced, this was a total bonehead decision," Jackson said.

She said there are cases of longer-term vendors statewide who don't play by the rules, but "not the family on the corner that is just trying to make a few bucks engaging in a longstanding Fiesta tradition."

Jackson on Friday said she spoke with two representatives from the department. She was told not only that the department would issue an apology, but that it would launch an internal investigation to make sure that the situation never happens again. 

Limón said she also was appalled. 

"These are cascarones. These are confetti eggs," Limon said. "They are 25 cents. I know some families who do this as a way for kids to learn and make money. It was very perplexing the way the state aggressively targeted the confetti egg vendors."

Limón said the practice was akin to those who set up a lemonade stand in the neighborhood.

"Most of the people are not doing this for a living," Limón said. "This is so specific to this really temporary time."

Limón commended the Santa Barbara Police Department for the way it handled the situation and for working with the state agents to put up a temporary block on enforcement. 

Limón said she plans to work with state Sen. Ricardo Lara, who has proposed Senate Bill 946, the Safe Sidewalk Vending Act, which would end criminal penalties for sidewalk vendors statewide and put them on a path to having a safe and legal business. Limón said she already has contacted Lara to set up a meeting to make sure that Santa Barbara's cascarone sellers are provided protections. 

"This will absolutely generate some conversation with the department," Limón said. "Those making $200 or $300 a day (during Fiesta), that is not who we want to target."

On Wednesday, seven enforcement agents swarmed downtown unexpectedly, approached hundreds of egg vendors and informed them that they were breaking the law and facing stiff fines, potential misdemeanors and a seizure of the eggs. The bilingual agents directed the vendors to fill out an online form in order to comply with the law, or to drive to a Ventura office to apply for a termporary permit for the rest of the week.

The agents told the vendors that they would be back Thursday to take "enforcement action."

Many of the vendors said the agents were rude. Some vendors said they were so scared that they didn't return Thursday or Friday.

The making of confetti-filled eggs, or cascarones, is a decades-long Santa Barbara tradition during Old Spanish Days Fiesta. Vendors, typically Latinos, save eggshells throughout the year, decorate them and then sell them on State Street during the citywide celebration.

It's a cultural tradition for many Latinos, who enlist their friends and family members to partake in the activity, which involves carefully breaking each egg at the top to keep the shell mostly intact, then stuffing the shell with confetti. After the eggs are filled, the vendors decorate them, with paints, glitter, freehand-drawings or other artistic features. 

The Santa Barbara Police Department on Wednesday encouraged the state agents not to take swift action. 

 "The Santa Barbara Police Department informed the agents that most of the egg vendors were members of our Latino community, predominantly Spanish-speaking, potentially lower socio-economically, possibly marginalized immigrants, and any heavy-handed enforcement action could alarm and upset a pre-existing, stable and positive relationship with some of the most vulnerable members of the fabric of our community, not to mention any future intelligence gathering partnerships to solve crime," police spokesman Anthony Wagner said.

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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