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A six-way split: The late, great state of California?

Photo: Andy Dean

Santa Rosa – bustling, metropolitan capital of the Great State of North California.

It’s possible. Santa Rosa could be the capital of a new state of North California under an initiative that splinters California into six different states.

The new state of North California, population 3.8 million, would be a band running west to east bounded by the northern edges of Sonoma, Napa, Yolo, Sutter, Yuba and Sierra counties and the southern borders of Marin, Solano, Sacramento, Amador and El Dorado counties along with Nevada and Placer counties.

Santa Rosa, the second most populous city in the new state, might have to duke it out with Sacramento, the biggest city, for the right to be North California’s capital. No doubt Sacramento would argue that it’s the cheapest choice for taxpayers given it’s pre-existing Capitol with plenty of room since it was built to be the center of government for one big California.

Although who knows? Maybe six new states will mean new membership on the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, a relaxation of its tough development rules and a capital of North California at Homewood or along South Shore.

Is there ever going to be a North California, South California, West California, Central California, Silicon Valley and Jefferson where today there’s only the Golden State?

The odds are significantly longer than six to one. The plan must qualify for the ballot, which requires 807,615 valid voter signatures collected by July 18, pass muster with voters at a statewide election, and then be forwarded to Congress and the President for their OK.

A February 22 analysis of the plan by the Washington Post finds North California, Silicon Valley and West California solidly Democratic with Jefferson and Central California leaning GOP and South California up for grabs. – and two of the remaining states leaning Republican

Regardless of the chances of there ever being 55-star Old Glories, this latest chapter in California’s century-and-a-half infatuation with cutting itself is generating plenty of attention.

“At best, the (current) system seems to be on a spiral down. At worst it’s a monopoly and in a monopoly, they can charge whatever they want and provide whatever service they want.”

“Splitting California isn’t new by any means. There’ve been something like 220 attempts to divide California, starting before it was even a state,” says Stan Statham, a former northern California Assemblyman who carried legislation in the 1990s to split California first in half and, later, in thirds.

“The reason is simple, California’s too big. It’s like Gov. (Jerry) Brown’s slogan back when he was first governor in the 1970s: ‘Small is beautiful.’ Besides being beautiful, small is also easier to manage.”

Menlo Park venture Capitalist Tim Draper, the architect of “Six Californias,” believes two Californias – even three – isn’t enough to accomplish one of his goals, which is more responsive, more cost-effective government services.

“Choice is good. More choices (are) better,” Draper told Capitol Weekly. “We have choice in food, in clothing, in houses, in apps, in news. But if we live in California, we have one choice in government. That choice is to be a part of the worst run state in the union.”

“The idea has been in the making for decades,” he added. “I worked with (former GOP state Senator) Becky Morgan when she was looking into breaking the state into three. And as you know I have worked hard to allow choice in education in California. There is nothing new here.”

As a goad to even more competition, Draper would allow counties to abandon their initial state and join a neighboring one. After a vote of the people, naturally.

Under Draper’s plan, Central California and it agriculture-centered counties including Fresno, Kern, San Joaquin and Tulare would have the nation’s lowest per capita personal income — $33,510 — $150 less than Mississippi.

For example, Marin might decide that too many of its tax dollars are flowing to Santa Rosa (or Sacramento or Homewood) and too few returning to fill its Point Reyes highway potholes. So it seeks voter approval to join Draper’s home state of Silicon Valley, which is composed of Alameda, Contra Costa, Sam Benito, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and Monterey.

If Marin makes the move it would boost Silicon Valley’s $63,288 per capita personal income level – already the highest in the 55 states — by an additional $1,000.

North California, which up until Marin’s defection had the second highest per capita personal income level of the six new Californias at $48,048, would sink below West California’s $44,900 level.

Today’s monolithic California has a per capita personal income of $46,477, 12th out of the 50 states.

Under Draper’s plan, Central California and it agriculture-centered counties including Fresno, Kern, San Joaquin and Tulare would have the nation’s lowest per capita personal income — $33,510 — $150 less than Mississippi.

Then there are issues of water. And higher education costs. Do residents of the new state of Jefferson near California’s Oregon border whose residents would pay higher out-of-state rates if their kids go to a University of California campus since their state has none?

Would groceries bought by Sea Ranch residents in Gualala be subject to the Interstate Commerce Act?”

That would leave the people of North California to pay off at least 10 percent of the state’s outstanding general fund bond debt, a little more than $7.5 billion.

How are the state’s current assets – everything from dams and parks to snow ploughs and smartphones – divided fairly?

Draper proposes a 24-member commission, 12 members appointed by the Legislature. If they can’t get it done in within two years, state debts – and assets – are divvied up on a per capita basis.

That would leave the people of North California to pay off at least 10 percent of the state’s outstanding general fund bond debt, a little more than $7.5 billion.

Past moves to break up California have stemmed from largely the same fear or perception: Heavily populated metropolitan centers will dictate political decisions at the expense of the state’s less populous rural areas.

In the mid-19th Century, Southern California with its large Spanish land grants and sparse population feared the yoke of the North. More recently, California’s far north and pockets of the inland Empire want out.

There were skirmishes in Congress during the debate over California’s admission to the Union including attempts to slice off Southern California and create a “pro” slavery territory.

In 1853, pro-slavery Democrats, calling themselves the “Chivalry,” sought to break Southern California off into a separate territory that would allow slavery.

Then Gov. John Bigler, seeking a second-term, and David C. Broderick, state senator from San Francisco, opposed the split and narrowly defeated the move.

When John Weller, an Ohio native with Southern leanings, became governor in 1858, he signed the Pico Act, introduced by Assemblyman Andres Pico, a Californio who previously served as acting governor of Alta California in 1847.

The bill proposed to create a new federally administered territory of “Colorado” comprised of Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, San Bernardino, San Diego and San Luis Obispo counties.

This time, lawmakers approved the plan. Voters in the new territory approved the move by over 70 percent.

But when sent to Washington for congressional ratification, other sectarian issues – not the least being the impending Civil War — kept the proposal from ever coming to a vote.

Ed’s Note: Subs 13th-15th grafs to provide comment from Draper in interview with Capitol Weekly. Greg Lucas is the contributing of Capitol Weekly and the publisher of California’s Capitol.


  • None OF Your Business

    the simple truth from some one who lives in the state of Jefferson, i want the split i have had enough of the provable criminal abuse of Authority going on across the entire bureaucratic establishment , and returning to a more local control & reseting the laws would address that, i have had enough of the economic oppression being pushed and supported by people who have no clue what so ever how people live or want to live here, worry for you own economic stability without all the the theft from the north such as the illegal fire tax you’d have to pay for your own services,
    the fact is given a chance to reset the oppressive tyrannical laws being shoved down our the throats the economy would boom and thats what the liberals fear the most, while their polices lead our country to slavery to the state and special interests they’ve sold the people too freedom brings opportunities

    Either you believe in what built this country The free Enterprise system or you don’t We he do , http://youtu.be/M-ORFLD7R8I

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