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Photo: Proposed Chaparral County, shown in green

By Libby Belle

Why rural East County communities should secede from San Diego County

February 14, 2014 (San Diego’s East County) – In more ways than I can count, San Diego Supervisors have shown disdain for the people of East County, the environment, and the character of our communities.  Supervisor Dianne Jacob is a notable exception, fighting to protect us from fire hazards and destructive energy projects. But time and time again, she’s outvoted by four Supervisors who don’t live in East County, and don’t care if they destroy what makes our region special.

So why should we continue to give them our tax dollars?

Let me list just a few of the ways that the County has abdicated its responsibilities to East County residents:

Fire safety:   A media investigation revealed a fire station in Boulevard was closed for two months during fire season.  Stations in Jacumba and Campo also had many dark days. Now the County is forcing a takeover of rural fire districts, getting rid of loyal volunteers who know our back roads and care about our communities. They want to put Cal Fire in charge, but a court just fined Cal Fire $32 million for "corrupt and tainted" actions. Is that the ethical standard we want for the folks in charge of protecting our lives?  Now if we refuse to dissolve our fire districts, the County will take away funding. Yet the County refuses to put firefighting services as a guarantee in the County charter—even though they got out of the firefighting business once before, returning only after a devastating firestorm.  Why should we blindly trust our lives to a county that’s failed to live up to its promises in the past? 

“Greed” energy:  The board majority rammed through a county wind ordinance to allow industrial-scale energy projects in rural, scenic and wilderness areas.  They refused to oppose Sunrise Powerlink, which the Environmental Impact Report described as a severe fire hazard that couldn’t be mitigated.  They gutted Boulevard’s community plan over residents’ objections. They approved a substation that used three times more water than predicted—and now they’re pushing for more industrial energy projects that hydrology experts warn could drain our groundwater and turn our wetlands into deserts. That’s not “green” energy – that’s “greed” energy!

Public safety:  Why are response times for the Sheriff several times longer in our rural towns than in coastal communities?   It can take an hour or more to get a deputy out—even for reports of violent assaults in progress.  Don’t our lives matter?  This is absolutely unacceptable.  

Rural poverty:  Poverty rates are high among our rural residents, but the county has done nothing to create jobs, focusing on already-wealthy areas like Poway and Sorrento Mesa to attract biotech companies instead. Resident groups seeking to revitalize our backcountry to promote eco-tourism, wine tasting, the arts and more hit roadblocks in San Diego, which only cares about attracting tourists to the beach areas.  East County has beautiful mountains, lakes and deserts, quaint rural towns, historic scenic highways, quaint bed and breakfast inns, farms, parks, river trails, Native American reservations and historic Old West attractions that deserve support, too, to  give our backcountry a vital economy.,

Access to public services:  Why does rural East County have no hospital? No medical clinic? No county veterans’ services?  No access to social services?  No animal shelter?  No higher education?  No attention arts or culture? Virtually non-existent public transportation?  We pay taxes, too, and we deserve equal access to services that other communities in our county take for granted.

Enough is enough.  It’s time for rural East County and inland region residents to band together and form a new County centered around our beautiful environment, agricultural and eco-tourism, the arts,  and preserving our historical heritage--plus protecting our communities against fire hazards, predatory energy companies, and ecological disasters foisted upon us by short-sighted urban and coastal supervisors.

Outsiders who don’t live in our rural areas shouldn’t be allowed to make decisions that destroy our communities, our water supplies, our forests, wilderness and wetlands!

East County Magazine ran a series recently called the Chaparral Rebellion about rural residents fighting off the county takeover of local fire departments. Hence I propose a ballot initiative to form a new and independent Chaparral County. 

We can run a slate of new supervisors to represent us -- people who have stood up to these abuses and proven their integrity. I invite local tribes to join us too, if they're tired of county officials paving over their ancestors and disrespecting tribal sovereignty.  We can make preserving sacred sites part of our charter, along with preserving the natural beauty, groundwater resources, wildlife and rural character that all of us should cherish.

Let’s take back our property tax dollars from self-centered coastal NIMBYs --and take back our rights to control our own destiny!

If you share these concerns, post your comments below.

The opinions in this editorial reflect the views of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of East County Magazine. To submit an editorial for consideration, contact


I have been reading this with interest.

And I should add some points as to why this is not realistic The cost of services. Assuming this border is the new county, a whole new Sherif's Office will have to be formed. These are the things this new office needs Academy: These days every police officer in training in the county attends the police academy at Miramar College. I doubt they will open it to Chaparral County recruits. And while some of your initial officers will be lateral transfers from SDSO I doubt all will want to risk a career in this new venture. Dispatch center, these days they are not just a couple phone lines a radio and a notepad. The national standard is computer aided dispatch, which implies gps installed in every patrol vehicle. By the way, this is a rugged area, 4x4 which are more expensive from the get go. Since you got both computers and vehicles, you need both mechanics and IT people. (I know it sounds like a jobs program) Don't forget a county jail. Civilian support staff such as secretarial staff Did I mention it takes about 100k to train a recruit? 250K over the first five years? If the pay is low, you will get dishonest cops or turnover from hell. Fire department, given the comments in the OP I am assuming you all will want your own FD. No, the era of volunteer run departments in California died a while ago. So you will have to get gear. Some could come from CFA fire units, far from enough. Repeat all I said about the Sheriff's Office on the fire side. You will need an academy, mechanics, dispatch center and all that. Waffle and pancake sales are hardly enough to run one. Oh and since Chaparral is no longer part of the county, the county does not have to send hazmat teams, and SDFD has no need to send either the hazmat truck or the bomb squad. So the FD will have to form it's own specialized hazmat and either the FD or the SO will have to form a bomb squad. Then there is the problem of confined space rescue, a whole different specialty in the Fire Service. These days both San Diego and Chula provide those with mutual aid Health department Among other things your health department does is have a medical director for your emergency medical service program. Which reminds me you need a training center for your EMTs and Paramedics, since their San Diego Certification is no longer good. So at the very least you need a doctor to set up policies and procedures, and staff to train and test them. You also need epidemiologist to track things like disease, and inspectors to make sure restaurants are clean, and vehicles for these people. Department of public works: I guess the only savings short term will be the no longer needed snow removal equipment. After that the new department needs road repair equipment and the rest that goes with it. I could go on. The point is the tax base is not there to fund much of this as proposed. With larger populations such as Santee and El Cajon it is questionable. Now another criticism from the writer, that the county promotes the coasts but not the east county. Half right. The coasts are promoted by the cities themselves. For example both Chula Vista and San Diego have actual, honest to goodness tourism offices. Should the county be told we need one of these to promote the East County? Yes, what would be the attractions you want to promote? It might be easier for citizens to do this themselves, but the county should. Now as to SDG&E and these projects. First thing people have a serious problem getting, is that like oil, electricity is quite fungible. Meaning it can and does go every where it enters the market. But the company is now a private enterprise. It used not to be. When it did not have to answer to stock holders, it was a far more progressive, mind you cheaper too, utility. The talk is in the air to get electricity from local collectives and the County does not get some of it, or all I have to read this again, from San Diego gas. Jacob has even suggested forming those collectives, and so has mayor Voepel, and Filner, with all his problems, pushed that hard in the city of San Diego. We need roof top solar to be mandatory on every rooftop in the county, and every city as well. Our lovely utility knows that is a direct attack at it's model. Anybody care to lay odds? But here is where the best chance is right now, because that is in the air. Now I was thinking, split the East County into two or three districts, but...supervisor Jacob represents as many citizens as any of the other four and redistricting happens every ten years. So assuming it is done, it would be more seats, and the ratio will likely not change. These are some of the things that just strike me as far from realistic. Organize yes, but find a way to get the county to listen to your needs. And tourism might have to be you and not wait for the county. Oh and I would advocate for returning San Diego Gas and Electric into a public entity. Believe it or not, coastal residents are not happy with them either.

More great points! Again, I

More great points! Again, I am not espousing creating a new county as, you are correct, there are many issues to consider including sufficient tax base but I must admit, it is pretty attractive given how our current Supervisors treat us (Except for Dianne Jacob whom we would not want to give up!). I too believe Solar panels should be on every roof (we have them on our home)and I have seen small vertical windmills [a friend has one] that are bird sensitive and that can also be installed in backyards to supplement the solar panel output. And, by the way, Tourism has always been our responsibility and we actively pursue and promote it. You can visit to see what Jacumba & Boulevard are doing as partners and to see what Jacumba is doing to attract tourists for our Centennial. Finally, we publish a monthly newsletter that goes out to nearly 500 people including San Diegan's. I have to believe that the other communities on Libby's list have their own tourism promoting groups as well.

Start thinking of that promotion

At an East County Level, and how to reach not 500 people, but thousands of people. This is where the County needs to step in, just as the City of San Diego has an office to promote the city. The County needs the equivalent. :-)

More secession comments, posted on our Facebook page:

Claudia Millerbragg There is now County Veterans Services once a month. I am with this writer - lets secede!

Chris Schuyler We have to stop electing those that don't live here.

Claudia Millerbragg There are a few of us ready to secede. How do we begin?

Fred Jones, Connie Beck, Lisa-Jeannine Smith Rutherford and 5 others like this. Kat Wolfdancer It's been comin' for years andis past due. >^,,^<

Milton Cyphert I took a CPE class lately where one of the participants was a young HVAC technician from Boulevard. Once we were into the electrical portion of the class, he asked the rest of us what would cause people to be getting shocked from their tap water. ...Once we were into the electrical portion of the class, he asked the rest of us what would cause people to be getting shocked from their tap water. The consensus between myself and the packed room of other seasoned electrical/mechanical technicians was that there must be some kind of improper grounding of the home wiring. Then he mentioned that it did not start until the wind turbine field was started up just 300 yards from their homes. We all agreed at that time that the wind generators must be inducing a current because of the copper plumbing cutting through the magnetic field of the generators. I gave him a solution to keep him and his family from being shocked by telling him to shunt his home's plumbing to ground which will drain the voltage. But eventually, all the plumbing in the house will need to be replaced because of electrolysis. This is the stuff that needs investigated. I have suffered some pretty major shocks in my career due to induced current. Heck, that is how AC voltage is produced. I feel for the little children who wake up in the middle of the night for a drink of water and get shocked from something they should have been able to count upon to trust that would just be safe.

And on the other side of the secession issue....

We got this email today: Hmmmm… I have a problem with that idea. First off, I am about to launch a campaign for completion of the San Diego River Trail Bikeway in conjunction with the San Diego County Bicycle Coalition which will run from Lakeside through Old Town along the entire river out to Ocean Beach. For now we need FULL co-operation from all of our current San Diego County Supervisors, Mayor Randy Voepel of Santee, the City of El Cajon and the entire San Diego City Council as a joint effort to complete this very important undertaking. It is important that no animosity happens in order for this venture to become successful. Splitting away from the current system will become detrimental to the taxpayers, commuters and pleasure cyclists. Simply put, Los Angeles “Rush Hour” traffic is now down to 11 mph ! They operate in gridlock and will for decades to come. The cost of land acquisition for more freeway and rail systems has now become prohibitive. If one only projects out another 10 years they will see the same situation happening right here in our own America’s Finest City. The cost of a top knotch bikeway is cheap compared to streets, freeways, rail systems and with (battery) motorized bicycles moving into the scene with a steady 24 mph speed one will be able to commute from Lakeside, Santee or El Cajon to downtown San Diego faster on a bicycle than in a car in the next decade or two. The man hours wasted sitting on ‘gridlocked’ freeways has run into the hundreds of billions of dollars ! We the taxpayers need more for our money and lower income people need a low cost form of transportation for theirs. It’s a win win situation ! Why not with the beautiful weather Southern California offers ! The future is here now…. More on this later, as I am yours truly, Bob Groff Heartland Lions

We're researching the secession issues;

We've asked County Counsel what is required for citizens to do this. There was an effort a few years ago to split Santa Barbara County that made it into a ballot but was defeated. Interestingly that registrar reported results both countywide and for the area that was proposed to secede.

Careful What You Wish For

Is there a large enough tax base to fund everything the County does that you aren't complaining about? You'll need public works (roads, etc.), public health and social services, general government (a board of supervisors, accounting, etc.), parks & rec, and a lot of other stuff. The City of SD considered becoming a City-County like San Francisco because they thought it was going to be less expensive than being a part of the county. That whole thing died in about a month because of the above named services, and more, that a city - or rural community enjoys but does not provide. Organize is right on but is this the only solution? How about a couple more seats on the BoS to even out the voting? Ms. Jacob could surely use the help and it would be a bunch easier than this proposal.

Comment on Careful What You Wish for

I am not advocating secession, only saying that Libby Belle makes some good points. By the way, here in Jacumba, we have our own community Park (not County)our own water company( we get water from the aquifers here-which will probably dry up if the Soitec project goes through), we have NO health Care now, we had NO fire protection (even though promised) until Supervisor Jacob stepped in. We have inadequate bus service (once a week).We share law enforcement with other communities and response time can be 45 minutes and so on. I do not know if the tax base is large enough in the areas Libby touted but what I DO know is that if our ecosystem is ruined, our property values trashed, our water dried up, our meager jobs lost because of the loss of ranches, farming and tourism caused by these projects (not to mention the destruction of our quality of life); what benefits could we possibly "Enjoy" that the county that did this to us "generously" provides??

Think Cox, Horn, and (both)

Think Cox, Horn, and (both) Roberts would be as cavalier about putting wind and solar farms in their own districts?

Not Such a Crazy Idea?

What a timely piece. I was at a social gathering the other day when some individuals started talking about the latest abomination (proposed Soitec Solar Project). One of the men said, what can we do and someone shouted we, (meaning Boulevard and Jacumba) should secede from #@@ San Diego County and form our own! I laughed at the time, but Libby quite possibly has struck a nerve! I am sure that we could pay for our own road repair, fire and sheriff services with the tax dollars that are currently going to San Diego County but that would instead come to Chaparral County. We certainly wouldn't do worse than we have now. I am sitting at my desk watching the bird feeders in my back yard. There are fewer now than when I first moved here which was during the installation of the Sunrise Powerlink. Since then, the bats that used to be bountiful here in Jacumba are gone. I have also noticed the disappearance of the night hawks. I do not think this is merely a coincidence. My friends who own an organic farm nearby are panicking. Their wells are not producing as they used to and with the drought on, they cannot understand how the County Supervisors can allow such a major new project in here that will be sucking massive amounts of water from the aquifer they depend on. They employ locals (unlike the "green" projects out here that hire union workers from Arizona and other places). These locals will have to be let go if the farm fails. America seceded from British when our forefathers were tired of taxation without representation (fire fees?), sick of being treated as second class citizens and mad when all their resources were plundered without their permission for a far away land. Hmm. maybe Liberty Belle is on to something.

Great Idea!!

East County has these reasons and more to secede from San Diego County!! Coastal folks do not know, care, or have concern for our future!!! They only care about what they can take from our wild lands without paying for the damage they do!!! Thank you Libby Belle for telling it like it is!!!! Let's not agonize over this. Instead, let's ORGANIZE!!