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San Bernardino County expected to sell parts to neighbors


Dear San Bernardino County,

I understand your desire to leave California.

If you’re a California resident or California entity and haven’t thought of leaving, then you probably don’t belong in the Golden State.

What I don’t understand is why you’re asking your constituents to approve secession on the November ballot and make San Bernardino County its own state.

Because your biggest problem is that you look too much like an American state.

You already have the size of one. You are the largest county in the United States by land area, as large as West Virginia and occupying more land than New Jersey, Connecticut, Delaware and Rhode Island combined. With nearly 2.2 million people, you have more people than New Mexico and 14 other states.

You have a lot of the problems of an American state. You are politically polarized and therefore difficult to govern, without a clear majority party. You are plagued by economic inequalities that match those of Venezuela. And you are geographically divided into regions that have little in common with each other.

Most of your people are crammed into densely urbanized areas in your southwest corner, of which I am a part of suburban, metro Los Angeles. Another 400,000 people live on the outskirts of the Victor Valley Desert. The rest occupies your inner mountains and your deserts.

Now, I know the people running your secession campaign — county supervisors, real estate developers — imagine statehood will free you from Sacramento edicts. But don’t they read the newspapers? American states, and California in particular, are increasingly at the mercy of a massively powerful and ever-expanding federal government.

It’s surprising that you don’t understand this, because you, San Bernardino County, have lived under federal rule for a long time. Indeed, with all your wild areas, more than 80% of your land is owned by the US government. So statehood will only make you closer to the DC colony, since you won’t have California to fight the feds on your behalf.

If you really want independence and greater prosperity, you have to think bigger: why not become your own nation? In this way, all these federal lands would become yours to be developed. And you could invest more in yourself if you could print your own money, which I guess would be called the ‘dino’.

Such a country could attract new residents, including this columnist. Considering America’s decline and the fact that my mother is from the county and her family – from retired teachers in Redlands to truck drivers in Apple Valley – remain resident, I could imagine immigrating to Loma Linda and apply for citizenship in your new nation.

Sadly, that will never happen – the policy of secession requires the endorsement of too many divided American institutions. So, you will need this second option:

Don’t separate yourself from the state of California. Instead, split up.

Since you hate being a county, why not sell yourself, in pieces, to your neighbors?

Many of your communities could do better under different management. Your towns near your western border, from Chino Hills to Victorville, should move back to Los Angeles, where they can be more easily connected to the growing public transit system.

Your hill stations and towns on your southern border, including San Bernardino itself, could become more prosperous by joining Riverside County, which has been more economically successful than you for the past two generations.

You can forward your empty desert areas – all the way north of Interstate 40 – to Inyo or Kern counties, who know how to deal with empty spaces. And, to increase your housing supply, you could turn over your border land to Clark County, Nevada, which could build even more Las Vegas suburbs there.

Some might call it the end of your county, but it would actually be a new beginning. Your communities would be left with new possibilities. And you’d save yourself the indignities of being a California county or a US state.

Joe Mathews writes the Connecting California column for Zócalo Public Square.