Thursday, February 9, 2023

Major county to formally consider seceding from California

Last November’s polls showed how Californians continue to support progressive leaders, but voters in the state’s most populous county are so disenchanted with this political direction that they voted to consider creating their own state.

San Bernardino County – home to 2.2 million people – narrowly approved the ballot proposition. With this, the local authorities received a mandate to study the possibility of a secession. The narrow margin of victory is the latest sign of political tensions and economic woes in California.

This effort to create a new state — which would be the first since Hawaii in 1959 — is really a long shot for this county east of Los Angeles that has seen a sharp rise in the cost of living. A secession would depend on a green signal from the California Legislature and Congress, which is highly unlikely.

Still, it is significant that the vote comes from a racially and ethnically diverse county that is politically mixed, the fifth most populous in the state and the largest in the nation by area. San Bernardino’s 51,800 square kilometers (20,000 sq mi) covers more land than the country’s nine states.

Votes speak to the separation some voters feel from a legislature long dominated by Democrats, which has made little progress on a growing homelessness crisis, rising housing costs and rising crime rates. , while residents pay some of the highest taxes in the country.

There is “a lot of frustration in general” with state government and how public dollars are being spent and how little is coming into the county, said Kurt Hagman, chairman of the Board of Supervisors, who put the proposal on the ballot. The county will consider whether billions of dollars in state and federal funds were shared fairly with the local governments of the so-called “Inland Empire.”

“It’s been a tough few years” for residents, Hagman says, from record inflation to friction over state policies in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kristin Washington, the Democratic Party representative for San Bernardino County, dismissed the measure as a political maneuver to appeal to conservative voters rather than a barometer of popular mood.

“Putting it on the ballot was a waste of time for voters,” he says. “The real option of secession of the state is not even realistic because of all the steps that actually need to be taken.”

In San Bernardino County, Democratic voters now outnumber Republicans by 12 percentage points. Nevertheless, in November, Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom lost the county by 5 points. He easily defeated an opposition-led effort last year to sue him for revoking his mandate and removing him from office over his pandemic health orders that closed schools and businesses. California was one of the first states to close schools and turn to online teaching, and one of the last to bring students back to face-to-face classrooms.

Democrats dominate the California legislature and the federal congressional delegation, and the state is known as an incubator for center-left politics on climate, health care, labor issues and immigration, so voting for secession was seen as a response. Can be seen in State preferences. Once solidly Republican ground, San Bernardino County has become more diverse and Democratic as have San Diego and Orange County with recent population growth.

Nation World News Desk
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