Supervisors say November ballot initiative is about conducting a study, not seceding from state | News

San Bernardino County leaders caused quite a stir recently when they voted to place an initiative on the November ballot asking voters if they would like the county to secede from California.

But as it turns out, the initiative is not as concerned about the idea of secession as much as it is about commissioning a study that could lead to the county getting more help from the state.

In an op-ed, Supervisors Curt Hagman and Dawn Rowe said that the county gets less in return for the tax dollars it sends to Sacramento than the state’s major urban centers.

“On the Nov. 8 ballot, the Fair-Share Initiative will give San Bernardino County voters an opportunity to direct the Board of Supervisors to determine whether and to what degree our communities are not getting our fair share of state resources, and to pursue every available means of ensuring that our county gets the most for our tax dollars going forward,” Hagman and Rowe said.

One of the strategies for achieving this goal would be secession from California through the formation of a new state or by joining another state, they said.

However, “this possible option would be very difficult to achieve,” Hagman and Rowe acknowledged.

In fact, secession would be an extremely unlikely outcome, even though some county residents (including Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren) have spoken out in support of it.

“At its core, the San Bernardino County Fair-Share Initiative is about a study, and it is about effective engagement with state decision-makers,” Hagman and Rowe said. “Exploring secession would be a distant last resort. However, not having that in our toolbox signals that we are not as determined and committed as we must be in defense of our communities.

“A comprehensive study, endorsed by the voters, will allow the county to glean data that will help us develop more effective strategies for securing the appropriate return on our tax dollars and the right policies our residents deserve.”

The county does not yet know what such a study would cost, said San Bernardino County Public Information Officer David Wert.

“If the measure passes, the Board of Supervisors will provide direction to staff on the scope of the study. Some of the information might already be in the county’s possession, while some might have to be gathered and processed,” Wert said.

The county does not require voter approval to conduct this study. “However, the board believes it is important to engage the public on this subject and have their support,” Wert said.

A preliminary look at state data shows that although San Bernardino County has the fifth highest number of residents, it is in the bottom third of 58 counties when it comes to funding, Hagman and Rowe said.

“This inequity needs to be investigated,” they said.

They said that policies adopted at the state level often appear to reflect the specific priorities and needs of the state’s major urban centers more than they do the priorities and needs of San Bernardino County and the rest of California, and this is especially true in the area of public safety.

“The state’s emphasis on alternatives to incarceration without the necessary support to communities has created a violent crime wave in San Bernardino County perpetrated by people who should be in prison,” they said.

According to a recently-released report, violent crimes increased 13 percent in 2021 compared to 2020 in the cities and areas contracting the law enforcement services of the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department.

The supervisors are hoping that by expressing their concerns about issues in a detailed manner, they will receive a positive response — and will not need to begin the extraordinary task of seceding from the state.

“The San Bernardino County Fair-Share Initiative is a constructive way for the people of America’s largest county to be heard, not only by their local leaders, but by everyone in California and the nation,” Hagman and Rowe said.

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