One million registered voters in California’s fifth most populous county have the chance in the midterm elections later this year to potentially secede from the state.
The San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 on Wednesday, with one supervisor absent, to add the secession measure to the 2022 ballot in November.
The measure would ask San Bernardino residents: “Do the citizens of San Bernardino County want the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors to study all options to obtain its fair share of state and federal resources, up to and including secession?”
“The last line is the most controversial,” Curt Hagman, the county’s chair supervisor, said during the meeting.
While Hagman called the first portion of the question a “no-brainer,” assuming almost every resident would want to fight for state and federal resources for the county, he also recognized Californians have repeatedly attempted to split up the state as long as it’s existed.
David Wert, a county spokesperson, told the Associated Press a finance team conducted a per-capita comparison of federal and state revenue received by California counties based on data from the state controller, which showed San Bernardino County ranks 36th out of 56 counties for per-capita revenue.
But given the current climate, which many residents up and down the Golden State have experienced recently, the supervisors said last week that “a lot” of speakers came forward to express their desire to either join Arizona, Nevada, or even form their own state.
“I was surprised by the idea, and I don’t believe it’s feasible politically or financially to secede from California,” Supervisor Janie Rutherford said. “However, I absolutely joined with my constituents who have a growing palpable anger about everything.”
Rutherford listed a catalog of California residents’ daily issues, from high gas prices and burdensome taxes to the growing homelessness crisis flooding the streets.
She also noted the state’s “ineffective justice system, broken schools, [and] the state’s overreaching counterproductive regulatory schemes, housing and affordability to the ineptness of the state’s preparation for this drought.”
“People pay high taxes, and they do not believe those taxes are coming back to their neighborhoods to address the problems they’re most concerned about,” Rutherford said. “That’s what we heard from our public last week, and there is nothing crazy at all about being angry about those things.”
Resident Jose Gonzalez echoed the supervisor’s sentiments during the public comments, saying he doesn’t “like the way things are going here.”
“It feels like our money is not being used … and it’s not helping us,” Gonzalez said. “So, if it’s a better thing to separate from California — a liberal state — then it’s gonna be better cause that money is not coming to our city.”
“We got to do something about it,” he added.
As extreme as a state divorce sounds, constitutional law governs provisions for a state to separate, join, or create a new form either on its own, with a county, or a portion of another state, county officials said.
State or county officials would need approval from all state legislatures involved, followed by Congress, the Senate, and eventually signed off by the President of the United States before secession occurs.
However, if the county goes through the process, the supervisors expressed concerns about declaring independence from California, such as health and social services, funding for schools, and forming its own National Guard.
But considering San Bernardino County holds a population of 2.1 million people and is larger than 16 other states in the Union, the statistic caught the supervisors’ curiosity about how the county could operate as an economy apart from California.
According to Forbes’ “2019 Best Places for Business and Careers” list, Riverside-San Bernardino Metro ranked as 5th for job growth out of 200 locations analyzed. The region was the only California metro area included in the top 10.
The Associated Press reports San Bernardino County has more land than Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey, and Rhode Island combined.
County supervisors must hold another meeting to vote on the secession measure before its final adoption.