Thursday, July 21, 2011


A new state of South California? It’s about as likely to happen as the current state of California is to balance this year’s budget without using smoke-and-mirrors.

Still, at the end of June Riverside County Supervisor Jeff Stone proposed a conference to consider forming a new state that would be carved out of 13 counties in Southern California--including Riverside, Orange and San Diego Counties but excluding Los Angeles.

Stone’s secessionist rhetoric was partly motivated by budgetary decisions in Sacramento that diverted around 14-million dollars in 2011-2012 vehicle license fee revenues from four cities in Riverside County: Eastvale, Jurupa Valley, Menifee and Wildomar.

Later at a Board of Supervisors meeting Stone modified his proposal and suggested a summit of city and county officials this fall to discuss problems local governments are facing due to state regulation and appropriation of taxes formerly directed to counties and municipalities.

The Board approved this modified proposal, which is to be funded privately and lacks any reference to Fort Sumter. Stone insisted, however, that secession would still be an option should the conferees fail to discover viable solutions to enduring problems like border security, chronic budget deficits, and economic stagnation.

Since any secessionist reorganization would need to be okayed by both Sacramento and Congress, the chances of it happening are infinitesimally small. But it’s midsummer, and folks can be forgiven for dreaming.

Currently California’s state motto is “eureka”—Greek for “I have found it.” The motto of our new imaginary state could be the Latin equivalent of one of the following: “The bigger the government, the smaller the citizen,” or “SoCal—where humans trump delta smelts,” or “Here ‘illegal’ really means ‘illegal.’”

Other contenders might be “Educating for life, not for interest groups,” or “Love LA? Take I-10 West.”

Stone’s own thoughts about his 13-county political dream are that it would have a part-time legislature, no term limits and strict limits on property taxes.

One wag suggested that the new state’s capital could be in Disneyland. But even the Magic Kingdom would have a hard time topping the fantasies that have emanated from Sacramento during the last two decades.

The same critic added that secession involves “major surgery where we need a Band-Aid”—an analogy whose tepid medical prescription demonstrates the kind of remoteness from economic and political reality that prompted Stone to float the secessionist idea in the first place.

Stone’s midsummer political dream might at least prompt realistic conversations about factors that have made the once Golden State largely ungovernable—factors like entrenched public-sector interest groups, hopelessly gerrymandered legislative districts, and excessive concentration of power in Sacramento.

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