2016: the year Californians declared their independence from each other.
What in the heck am I talking about? There's a proposition, apparently headed for the ballot in 2016, that would do just that: Split the state into six new states -- Jefferson, North California, Silicon Valley, Central California, West California, and South California. It's the scheme of venture capitalist Tim Draper, who has sunk $1.3 million into getting the necessary signatures. But even if the measure passes (59 percent of polled voters are against the idea), the state and federal legislatures would have to sign off.
In other words, it's never going to happen. But should it?
None of Us Care About Each Other
Here's the interesting thing about California: It's probably the most diverse state in the country -- politically, geographically, and environmentally.
Draper's proposal would basically carve up the state along these lines: Jefferson is Chico-ish and upward (all rural, tree-filled), North California is wine country (North Bay Area) to Tahoe (including Sacramento), Silicon Valley is the rest of the Bay Area down to Monterey, Central California is farm country and desert land, West California is all the liberal parts of SoCal, and South California is the red counties (Orange County, San Diego, and everything eastward).
- The San Francisco Chronicle has a map of the proposed states by county lines.
- GeoCurrents has more maps, including maps by political affiliation in the last two presidential elections.
The proposal's brilliance lies in the fact that Los Angeles doesn't give a damn about Fresno folks' water needs, nor does Chico care about San Francisco's need for social services for its massive homeless population. These are all distinct chunks of the state with their own problems, and should be empowered to handle them as they see fit.
And an extra 10 senators in Congress wouldn't hurt either.
Draper points out that the Golden State has become too big to govern and is often locked in partisan politics. In an interview with Venture Beat, he points out that our state is 50th out of 50 in education, has 20 percent of its population living under the poverty line, and only spends 3 percent of its budget on maintaining infrastructure. All of this, despite high taxes that push businesses out of state.
And Then There Was Central California...
Why is this a terrible idea? Let's look at Central California: It'd be broke, dry, and basically screwed. The per capita income of C-Cal residents would be $33,510 annually, compared to Silicon Valley's $63,288. Anyone think they can wrangle up enough tax revenue out of the 4.2 million residents of the proposed state of Central California to pay for its water needs, decent schools, and other social services?
And then there's Jefferson: It has nine people and a pine tree. (OK, 950,000 people, actually, making it the smallest state by far of the New Californias.) It'd be the sixth-smallest state in the country by population, right behind Delaware. We'd give 'em 15 minutes before Oregon marched down and annexed it.
Snark aside, if you want to see what the other effects of "Six Californias" might be, the state's Legislative Affairs Office released an analysis of the proposal earlier this year.
All we hope for is this: There'd better be reciprocity among the six new state bars.
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