State of the Union
By Alex Distefano
When the California budget passed last month, people thought the tumultuous financial fiasco would finally be over. But, it was only the beginning. Recently a debate about succession was thrown into the media and public discourse after Riverside County Board of Supervisor Jeff Stone proposed to split California into two states.
“There is only one solution [to, according to Stone, a ‘state Legislature that has gone wild’]: A serious secession from the liberal arm of the state of California. I know the state of California can do better,” he declared June 30 as reported by The Press-Enterprise.
But at the recent Board of Supervisors meeting, Stone’s plan (which was ripped apart by The P-E’s July 5 editorial and described as “political grandstanding”), while not axed, was essentially replaced with a statewide forum designed to focus on how to tackle California’s broken economy, government waste and decline in education and poor business climate. Stone, who named 13 counties (including San Bernardino and Riverside) in his proposed 51st state, told the Weekly he was dead serious about his plan.
The board Tuesday voted to approve Stone’s statewide forum idea on the condition that no county funds be used.
But don’t think that Stone’s giving up on his 51st state idea. It remains a possibility.
“I’m quite serious about this,” Stone said just prior to the supervisors meeting. “My intention is to take this as far as it will go.”
While Stone’s vision of “South California”—which was proposed to also include Imperial, Orange, San Diego, Kern, Tulare, Inyo, Kings, Fresno, Madera, Mono and Mariposa counties—doesn’t appear to be on the front-burner anymore, the issues he and others raised ended up garnering a lot of media attention, both at the local and even national levels. Stone made appearances on Fox News, CNN and KFI AM 640, L.A.’s major talk radio station.
Stone insists that California is in a brutal economic downturn, and that unemployment is increasing at a scary rate.
“Because of the anti-business friendly climate in our state, we’ve lost so many jobs in so many industries,” Stone says. “The high-tech firms in the North are the last big industries left; many big businesses are leaving due to our hostile business laws. Unfortunately, if we don’t fix all of this, we will create a Third World economy in what was once the fourth [largest economy] in the world.”
“For one, our state pension system is out of control, it’s grown unmanageable and brought us into all this debt,” says Stone. “The worse part about it—and why we wanted to separate ourselves from Sacramento politics—is our state government refuses to address this issue.”
Stone insists he’s got ideas for how to spur an economic recovery in the Golden State. Adopting a part-time legislature would save the state money and help to keep government free of special interests, he says.
Oddly, Stone’s proposal seems to be guided by a “special interest” of his own; the proposed divided state appears to be split along Republican-Democratic lines.
For example, something noticeable about “South California” was the exclusion of Los Angeles County (isn’t this county in the south?), long the target of praise and criticism by pundits and critics from the right and left. Those on the left claimed the exclusion was based purely on political reasons, while those on the right (and even Stone himself makes no bones about it) insist that Los Angeles County is aligned with the “liberal” agenda in Sacramento he had sought to secede from.
“The people in Sacramento have their heads in the sand, we’re all in a very dire situation and meanwhile it’s just the same talking points with no solutions in sight.”