This November, San Bernardino County voters can weigh in on whether they believe their communities are getting their fair share of tax dollars. I’ve had the privilege of representing San Bernardino County at the local, state, and federal levels for more than 20 years, and it’s clear to me that we’ve long been an afterthought to Sacramento. For decades we’ve lost out on tax dollars to coastal counties like Los Angeles and San Francisco, while state policies increasingly clash with the needs of San Bernardino County residents.
San Bernardino is the largest county in the nation and has a population greater than 15 states. In a county this large transportation is always a critical challenge, and Sacramento has been failing us on this front for years.
Over the past year, I’ve asked Caltrans, the state transportation agency, for information on their emergency plans in the event of a natural disaster that closes the Cajon Pass. I repeat this question at meeting after meeting, and they’ve yet to produce a plan.
At this point, it’s clear that the State does not care enough to find an alternative route for a corridor that connects thousands of residents to their homes and allows for goods to be transported across the state.
Additionally, wealthy environmentalists in coastal cities set transportation policies for the state, making it virtually impossible to expand our freeways significantly. As housing prices soar and people are forced to live farther from work, our roads can’t expand to keep up with the traffic. What should be a 30-45 minute commute from the High Desert to the inland valley regularly takes as long as two hours each way. These so-called “green” policies from Sacramento designed to avert a possible crisis years or decades in the future are creating a crisis on roads in our county now.
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Similarly, state policies that emphasized shutting down schools and remote learning during COVID did tremendous harm to our children. Many rural San Bernardino communities lack access to the high-speed internet that this form of learning requires, and many of our schools lacked the education dollars and infrastructure to implement it.
No policy area more starkly illustrates the differences between San Bernardino County and Sacramento than law enforcement. While the state has moved forward with dangerous policies such as the gradual legalization of dangerous drugs and reducing (or even eliminating) prison sentences for many criminals, San Bernardino County residents have experienced a crime wave.
One of our biggest challenges is illegal marijuana cultivation. These grows, many of which are run by cartels, have become a deadly danger to our residents and law enforcement. Just this year, our local Assemblyman, Thurston “Smitty” Smith, ran a bill that would increase the penalties on these grows, but the State Senate killed it, feeling that this wasn’t an important priority.
The media has done a bad job of reporting on this initiative and has framed it as secession. This is inaccurate; it asks our residents whether we should use every strategy available to fight for our fair share of state revenue. I don’t support secession, nor do I think there is a viable legal or political path that would ever allow it to occur.
However, I’m fully in support of standing up to Sacramento by demanding our fair share and opposing the policies that have ruined our roads, harmed our students, and put law-abiding citizens at risk. That is what the Fair Share Initiative is about and is why I supported putting it on the ballot this November.
Paul Cook is a member of the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors. He represents the first district, which includes Victorville.