Voters in San Bernardino County will be asked in November to decide whether they support potential secession as an option for the vast Southern California county.
The county's Board of Supervisors voted 4-0 on Wednesday to place the measure, asking voters whether secession should be considered as a possibility, on the November election ballot. One supervisor was absent.
The board will take up the measure again next Tuesday for final adoption.
Voters will not be asked whether San Bernardino County should secede from the nation's most populous state. They are being asked whether secession should be an option the county could consider to obtain what the measure calls San Bernardino County's s fair share of state and federal resources.
Here's what the draft version read at Wednesday's meeting would place on the Nov. 8 ballot.
"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?"
Secession would require approvals by the California Legislature and U.S. Congress.
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"Now, that last line is the most controversial," said Supervisor Curt Hagman. The rest of its kind of a no-brainer.
"It's a question we're going to put to our residents. Do they want to include all options to go after fight for their fair share of taxpayer dollars?"
At more than 20,000 square miles, San Bernardino County is the largest county by area in the contiguous United States, home to 2.1 million people and larger than Connecticut, Delaware, New Jersey and Rhode Island combined. It includes the cities of San Bernardino, Fontana, home to Auto Club Speedway, Hesperia, Victorville and lightly populated mountains, including the community of Big Bear Lake, and deserts.
Not all supervisors who voted for the option did so as an ringing endorsement of secession. Supervisor Joe Baca Jr. said he's against splitting from the state but interested in studying whether the county and its residents are owed more state and federal funds than they currently receive.
“I do think we have to look at anything we can do to enhance services for our residents,” Baca said, according to the The Sun. “I’m not in favor of seceding. I’m proud to be from California. I love California.”
The secession idea was initially proposed by real estate developer Jeff Burum at the board’s July 26 meeting.
According to county spokesman David Wert, a finance team conducted a per-capita comparison of federal and state revenue received by California counties based on data from the state controller. The data show San Bernardino County ranks 36th out of 56 counties for per-capita revenue received from the state and federal governments, Wert said.
“If the worst thing that comes out of this is a study that will be ammunition for our state representatives to fight for more money for us” that would be acceptable, said board Chairman Curt Hagman.
It's far from the first foray into talk of secession in California, where a proposal to split the state into three entities qualified for the November 2018 ballot. The three states initiative was removed from the ballot by the California Supreme Court. There also have been efforts pushing for the entire state to break off from the United States.
Northern California counties have repeatedly floated the idea of secession to form the state of Jefferson.