Residents of San Bernardino county will cast ballots in November to choose school board members, water authorities, state lawmakers, and whether or not they support the county’s consideration of seceding from California. The vast county east of Los Angeles, which is home to 2 million people and some of the state’s famed Joshua trees, lacks the resources necessary to feed its citizens, according to county officials.
The county’s board of supervisors this week agreed to put a question on the November ballot asking voters if they support the county “studying all alternatives to achieve its fair share of state and federal resources, up to and including secession.” Supervisor Janice Rutherford stated at a meeting earlier this month that “people pay high taxes and they do not believe their dollars are flowing back to their neighborhoods to solve the issues they care about.
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And expressing anger over those things is not irrational, at all. With its ballot initiative, San Bernardino county continues a lengthy political tradition in California where local complaints and discontent lead to discussions about leaving the state altogether. Such attitudes are frequently connected to the opposite end of the state; in the far north of the state, there has long existed a vibrant breakaway movement that calls for independence from the liberal rule of the Golden State.
In California, “proposals like these have a long history, going back to the State of Jefferson notion in the 1940s, and the 1859 attempt to gain congressional authority to divide the state in two,” according to David A. Carrillo, executive director of Berkeley Law’s California Constitution Center. Experts like Carrillo caution that it would be nearly hard to leave California and create a new state without the support of both the state legislature and Congress.
Officials and proponents of the plan have nevertheless promised to move forward with it, describing it as a chance for the county to “stand up” to the state. Whether people believe we can secede or not doesn’t matter to me. The local real estate developer Jeff Burum, who initially brought up the proposal to officials earlier this summer, told the San Bernardino Sun that “that was never the objective of this.”
“We need to take a stand and demand our fair share,” At a meeting this week, the county sheriff and district attorney, who have both expressed support for the proposal, accused the state of not doing its fair share and failing to fund the prisons, state hospitals, and courthouses that they claim are required to keep up with one of the nation’s fastest-growing metro areas.
The length of the neglect, not the resources’ neglect, is what’s at issue, according to county district attorney Jason Anderson. Courthouses are not constructed by counties. States construct courthouses. A speaker at a board of supervisors meeting noted that San Bernardino county has a $8.4 billion budget and is bigger than nine states. However, a data analysis by local officials shows that the county is 36th out of 56 counties in terms of the amount of money the state and federal governments give per person.
Acquanetta Warren, the mayor of Fontana, told the board of supervisors last week that the area had a right to greater resources in order to support its expanding population. She stated, “We need our state lawmakers to consider the return they are supposed to provide to the people they serve. “It’s time to pay attention to the fact that we are one of the fastest-growing regions… We lack beaches and all the skyscrapers, but what we do have is a family. Our county values families.
State lawmakers have criticized the decision, calling it a waste of tax money despite the fact that they claim to have invested millions of dollars in the area. According to the Sun, lawmakers stated in a letter that it is unlikely to place such a measure on the ballot in November: “Public resources, including staff time being paid for with taxpayer dollars, are being used to not only write this item but to put it on the ballot in November.”
Political analysts agree with that conclusion, stating that while secession talk is frequently discussed in California politics and frequently covered by the media, it has essentially little possibility of becoming reality. “There is no true solution to this. To create San Bernardino as a new state, California’s legislature would have to seek approval from Congress, and the new state would need a federal constitutional amendment to secede from the union. None of that is happening, according to Carrillo.
“Although the specifics vary, the motivation and aim behind every attempt to partition California are the same: a group that is dissatisfied with local politics threatens to go their own way. However, these exploits are more about making headlines than actually succeeding.
The local leaders in San Bernardino who are supporting the resolution contend that its purpose is not secession but rather the gathering of information to help the county effectively fight for its fair share of resources. “The secession last-resort is an expression of our resolve, an illustration of the severity of the situation, and an acknowledgment of the deep concern of our people and the community leaders who have spoken out,” Supervisor Curt Hagman reportedly said, according to the Sun.