Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Six Californias

by Pa Rock
Citizen Journalist

Back in the summer of 2010 while driving through northern California along Highway 5, I came across the semi-infamous "Jefferson Barn," a large structure used for hay storage with an enormous banner across the roof reading "State of Jefferson."  A bit of basic research that night at a motel led to information about a proposed state made up of eleven counties in northern California and seven in southern Oregon -  a pot grower's nirvana that has been dreamed about and enthusiastically promoted by residents of the area at least as far back as the early 1940's - with little more to show for it than big sign on a barn roof.

(These rugged individualist types idealize Jefferson because of his staunch defense of liberty - never mind that he owned slaves - and regard him as a symbol of the little man's fight against the tyranny of big government.)

Now a California "venture capitalist" has taken up the cause of dismantling the superstate of California - a project which will, if it can make its way through a maze of constitutional obstacles (both state and national), create six states out of California, including the much dreamed about and discussed State of Jefferson in northern California.  (Sorry, Oregon, but you would have to keep your malcontents.  The "Six Californias" plan stops at the border.)

Timothy Draper, the California businessman who began circulating petitions last February to get the proposal for splitting California into six individual states, yesterday submitted his petitions with more than 1.3 million signatures to the California Secretary of State's office.  The necessary number of valid signatures needed to get the initiative onto the state ballot is 808,000.  If enough of Draper's signatures prove to be valid, Californians will get a chance to vote on his plan in the 2016 general election.

Draper's argument for splitting the state into smaller entities is that California is so large and diverse as to almost be ungovernable.  He sees smaller states as being better able to focus on the needs of their residents and identify with the local issues.  Democrats seem to be in opposition to the plan, sensing that it is an effort to move more electoral votes into the Republican column - as well as more Republicans into the U.S. Senate.  Republicans are polling as indecisive, liking the idea of smaller government, while knowing that lots and lots of expensive services would have to be duplicated if the plan were to be enacted.

If Californians approve the measure, it would still have to pass a vote in the state legislature as well as a vote in Congress.  The procedure is outlined in Article IV, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution:

"New states may be admitted by the Congress into this Union;  but no new States shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State;  nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress."

There have been two precedents of existing states being split into multiple states:  Maine was spun off from Massachusetts in 1820, and West Virginia was created out of Virginia in 1863.

The proposed "Six Californias" would be:

  • Jefferson:  Fourteen counties immediately south of Oregon including the cities of Eureka, Redding, and Chico;
  • North California:  Thirteen counties south of Jefferson and stretching from the Pacific Ocean to Nevada, with the principal city being Sacramento;
  • Silicon Valley:  Eight counties along the Pacific coast from San Francisco to Monterrey;
  • Central California:  Fourteen counties between Silicon Valley and Nevada, including Bakersfield and Fresno;
  • West California:  Four counties in and around Los Angeles;  and
  • South California:  Five counties taking in San Diego, Riverside, and Irvine.
If this proposal were to become enacted, the emergent states would have a complex set of needs which had formerly been met by the single state government.  One major disparity would be in the area of individual wealth with Silicon Valley suddenly having the highest per-capita income of any state in the entire nation, and Central California having the lowest.   Critics have also noted that there are no branches of California's expansive state university system in the area that would become the state of Jefferson, and most of the current prisons are situated in rural areas. 

The needs would be many, the solutions complex, and the ultimate price tag astronomical.  

But it is a long journey from petition to statehood, and California is likely to be saved from itself - if not by it voters, then surely by our do-nothing Congress!

1 comment:

Xobekim said...

The tax revenues being generated by the new states of Weed and iState, I mean Jefferson and Silicon, are probably sufficient to keep the other regions of the state unified against this proposition. We don't sell the geese that lay the golden eggs; not even in the Golden State.