Governor Newsom resorts to extortion tactics to punish Orange County cities

The next grassroots movement should be to re-empower cities to fight back against the state of California.

Logan Zeppieri, Opinions Editor

Despite California Governor Gavin Newsom’s criticism over President Donald Trump’s threats to pull funding from California, Newsom has attacked California cities in the same fashion.

While conservatives are often well-versed in the debate between state rights and federal rights, few are aware of the debate between city rights and state rights. In the wake of Newsom’s attack against cities across California, and especially in Orange County areas such as Huntington Beach, it is time for conservatives to push back by re-empowering city rights.


Agree or disagree with either Newsom’s policies or Trump’s threats, one must appreciate the creativity of the fight. Since Newsom has taken office, Trump has threatened to pull funding from California’s failed high-speed rail project, FEMA funding because of poor forest management, federal research funding from college unless they promise to promote free inquiry, funding for military projects and closed the Title X family planning loopholes that have been abused.    

Newsom’s response, though often underwhelming, has nonetheless been clear. He has threatened to take Trump to court because he believes Trump’s actions are “political retribution,” withdrew California’s national guard from the border and firmly denied returning any of the high-speed rail funding back to the federal government.

It is not surprising that this political battle has continued to escalate. However, it is nothing short of hypocrisy to up the ante by using Trump’s tactics against California’s cities. Shortly after his inauguration, Newsom declared he would withhold transportation funding—funding promised from the newly passed gas tax—from cities who disagreed with his idea for affordable housing.

Huntington Beach, the largest city declared “out of compliance” by Newsom, has already exchanged 3 lawsuits with the state. The legal disagreement concerns California’s constitution, which provides greater authority for chartered cities than general law cities concerning municipal affairs—which includes local zoning laws.  


According to Section XI of California’s Constitution, there are two types of cities: general and chartered. There are a series of legal differences between the two, but what is most poignant is that charter cities have much more legal teeth for controlling their municipal affairs. Of course, the debate centers around the question, “What is the definition of ‘municipal affairs’?” In legal language, “The home rule provision of the California Constitution authorizes a charter city to exercise plenary authority over municipal affairs, free from any constraint imposed by the general law and subject only to constitutional limitations.”

Put in much simpler language, a charter city is defended by the home rule in situations where the general law comes into conflict with California’s constitution or runs into conflicts that are properly understood as “concerning the state.”

This is an important legal distinction because becoming a charter city would provide, under California’s constitution, more legal authority for a city to self-govern. In response to the wild and abusive hostilities from Newsom, this would mean more legal authority given to the cities to be defended through either legal action or, as I would suggest, collective action among other charter cities.

For example, Newport Beach, an Orange County charter city, won the legal battle that exempted all charter cities from California’s sanctuary state law, allowing it to continue to work alongside federal immigration officials without state interference.

While it is a massive uphill battle to fight against the governor Newsom’s policies at the state level, the first step to substantial change is to begin rechartering general law cities, providing stronger legal defenses against Newsom’s abusive policies and any future policies from California’s state government.

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