The state of South California is no longer 3rd District Supervisor Jeff Stone’s highest priority. Although he will spearhead a private effort to bring all 58 of California’s counties and all cities to a confab in Riverside County this fall, the primary objective will be to change California, not divide it.

Last Tuesday, July 12, Stone presented his proposal to the Board of Supervisors, but he modified it and eliminated the call for 13 counties to consider secession from the rest of state. Instead, he is trying to bring together officials from throughout the state to ponder ways to improve elected officials’ ability to govern the country’s largest and most diverse state.

His primary goal is to fix the state. “I want to make the Golden State golden again,” Stone told his colleagues.

He hopes the discussions at the summit will either revolve around how to call a constitutional convention or to evaluate the use of the initiative process to improve how the state is being governed.

“[California] is proving itself to be ungovernable,” he proclaimed.

In order to gain the concurrence of his board colleagues, Stone agreed to find private funds to pay for the summit, not use any county resources, including his staff, and limit discussion of secession to a last resort.

“The level of frustration well justifies the exploring of alternatives,” commented 4th District Supervisor John J. Benoit.

“The idea is resonating. I don’t think we should discourage Supervisor Stone, but we shouldn’t be spending county resources to put this meeting together,” said 5th District Supervisor Marion Ashley.

The board voted unanimously to support Stone’s quest. Supervisor John Tavaglione (1st District) was absent, but he earlier had urged the board to support the four county cities that had lost supplemental vehicle license fee (VLF) funding.

It was this state action that galvanized Stone to take on Sacramento.

Members of the Temecula and Murrieta city councils attended the meeting and urged the board to support the summit.

Jeff Commerchero, Temecula councilman, read his “Southern California Declaration of Self-governance” to the board.

Several others, including former Democratic Assembly candidate Robert Melsh, now a political science professor at Mt. San Jacinto College, were opposed to the secession idea and especially Stone’s reasons for seeking change.

Interestingly, Stephen Rush, a descendant of the Declaration of Independence signatory Benjamin Rush, spoke against secession but supported the idea of constitutional convention for opportunities to air true grievances, such as possible bankruptcy of the local cities that lost VLF monies.

Emails from throughout the state have poured into Stone’s office. He said 450 support his idea, nine opposed it and 20 were neutral but encouraged the conversation.