After deciding that he didn’t want to be just another San Bernardino resident who would “sit around on a country club patio and complain about the way things are,” Jeff Burum took bold action at Tuesday night’s meeting of the county’s Board of Supervisors: he proposed that the county secede from the state of California.
A real estate developer, Burum has a name in mind for this 51st state—Empire—though he has offered little guidance on its potential government, structure, organization, or civic institutions, SiliconeValley reports.
The advisory proposal he’d like to see on the Nov 6 ballot is as follows: “Do you support having the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors and all federal and state elected officials representing citizens within San Bernardino County to seek the approval of Congress and the State Legislature to form a State Separate from California?”
The Rancho Cucamonga businessman is counting on local frustration to support the bold move. “With the way things are in California right now, I don’t know if there’s any hope for California,” Burum said at Tuesday’s meeting. “We’re the highest tax state in the entire union,” he continued. “You’d think that, with that, we’d have the highest level of services, but we don’t.”
Burum pointed to a state-level lack of concern for the needs of Inland Empire, which he says the state treats “like a slum.” In particular, he’d like to see fewer regulations on building new property in the county.
Local officials at the meeting endorsed the general sentiments Burum shared.
“We cannot continue to beg, and crawl and (grovel)… to get resources for our county,” said Fontana Mayor Acquanetta Warren. Board of Supervisors Chairman Curt Hagman, the former Republican California Assembly leader, said: “I’m frustrated, too. I’m frustrated with the state of California. It’s becoming, more and more, ‘one size fits all’ for the greatest state in the nation.”
If the measure passed, the nation would have a confusingly-named new addition to its current 50 states, the most recent of which, Hawaii, was established in 1959. (At the very least, New York would want to have a few words with this putative Empire state.)
Marcia Godwin, a professor of public administration at the University of La Verne, says this is unlikely. “There are infinitesimally small odds of a secession movement gaining traction,” she said in an email to SiliconValley. “The state Legislature would have to approve secession, then Congress would have to act. Even if such a movement went that far, U.S. senators have no reason to support diluting their influence by giving the most populous state additional senators,” Godwin wrote.
But Burum expressed hope that, were voters to approve his ballot measure, likeminded secessionists would be inspired, saying, “I’m sure that other counties that are being left behind in terms of entitlements might want to join in.”
Exactly what such counties would be joining, or how individual statehood would ease their pain, were among the issues unaddressed at Tuesday night’s meeting. After proposing that San Bernadino secede from California and form a new state, potentially named Empire, Burum derided California’s elected officials, saying that “they’re not serious about the issues.”
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