Could San Bernardino County secede from California? Voters may have a say in November

Could San Bernardino County secede from California? Voters may have a say in November
Photo by Paul Hanaoka / Unsplash

One measure that would allow San Bernardino County supervisors to explore secession from the state of California could be put to county voters in November.

The Board of Supervisors approved the ballot measure at a meeting Wednesday night after the issue had been raised at several board meetings.

Wednesday's vote was the first step in adding the measure to the ballot, to be followed by a second and final reading and vote scheduled for next week.

“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 proposed measure reads.

Voters would select yes or no. Even if approved by voters, the county's secession from California, whether to become its own state or to become a part of a neighboring state, is extremely unlikely.

The move would need to be approved by state legislators, Congress, the Senate and, eventually, the president.

At last week's board meeting, speakers and board members expressed frustration at the amount of funding San Bernardino County receives from the state, a point that made its way into the proposed ballot language.

“Our Sheriff’s Department, our judges, are constantly taxed with too much with not enough resources,” Jeff Burum, chairman of development firm National Community Renaissance, said at the meeting.

Burum urged the board to put a secession measure on the ballot and was backed by Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren and Upland Mayor Bill Velto.

"The last line is the most controversial because the rest of it's like a no-brainer," board Chairman Curt Hagman said Wednesday, referring to the clause about options "up to and including secession."

The measure would allow the board to expend staff resources to study the funding San Bernardino County receives from the state.

"Then we can look at options," Hagman said. "How do we lobby for more? How do we put our state representatives on notice that, hey, we're not getting our fair share?"

The threat of secession has long been a weapon for dissatisfied political minorities in California, the most populous state in the nation and one of the most liberal.

Conservative forces in far Northern California have tried repeatedly to create their own state with no success. A proposal to break up California into multiple states was also foundered. There is no indication this one would turn out any differently.

Hagman told The Times that a vote on the issue would show "the seriousness of the public."

Supervisor Dawn Rowe called secession an "extreme example" of an action that could be taken and expressed skepticism that splitting from the state would be feasible.

"I received an overwhelming support in favor of looking at all of our options, [and] several that told us that we were crazy for considering such a thing," Rowe said.

"They were interested in basically having a voice and having hope that their elected representatives were listening to them and that they were frustrated.

"I do have significant concerns about what it would mean if we were to look at going off on our own independently," she said, citing concerns about secession's effects on school and mental health funding.

Supervisor Joe Baca was blunter in his assessment.

"I am not in favor of secession," he said. "I just don't believe that we have the resources or wherewithal, the staff or ability to create our own state."

"I'm proud to be from California. I love California," he said.

Baca still voted in favor of putting the measure on the ballot, saying he supported looking at funding levels.

"It's clear that people are hurting; let's go out and get more [funding], and let's make sure we help them," he said.

Supervisor Janice Rutherford viewed the vote as a way for constituents to express "a growing palpable anger" at the state, while also adding that secession would be unfeasible.

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