Up At The Ballot Box: Undreaming California
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[June 02, 2014]
By Sarah McBride
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Creating the
state of California took a revolt that led to the short-lived Bear
Republic, a war with Mexico, and various international treaties. Now,
some northern natives hope to take it apart, starting with a couple of
Tuesday, voters in Del Norte and Tehama Counties will consider a
measure calling for separation from California and the formation of
a new state. Supporters are hoping to generate momentum for pulling
together portions of northern California and southern Oregon into an
entity to be called Jefferson. Thomas Jefferson once imagined that
part of western North America might develop into a freestanding
Local vexations with state government were cited by Aaron Funk, an
aptly named organizer of the movement: “lack of representation, lack
of infrastructure, inability to use a lot of our resources.”
Heavy winter rains often wash out U.S. 101, a major artery in the
region. That really rankles him. So do restrictions on timber
harvesting. Most of all, Funk loathes the region's paltry
representation in California's senate, with its population-based
allocation. Just 28,000 people call Del Norte County home, compared
to 38 million for the state overall.
Business owners are doubly confounded, he said, and face “mounds of
paperwork, red tape.” Funk owns and lives in a recreational vehicle
park in the coastal town of Klamath.
Opponents of the measure say it sounds an economic death knell for
the area, given its poverty and high unemployment.
“We will continue to face the same challenges,” wrote Del Norte
County officials in their formal argument against the measure.
“Except we will no longer be subsidized by the State.”
Efforts to chop up California boast a long history. Disgruntled
residents first proposed a state of Jefferson, also comprising
counties in nearby southern Oregon, in the 1940s.
In 1993, after voters in 27 counties approved, the state Assembly
agreed to a nonbinding statewide vote on whether to divide
California into three. But the measure never made it into the state
Senate, and the referendum was never held.
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More recently, venture capitalist Tim Draper suggested splitting
California into six separate states, while fellow venture capitalist
Balaji Srinivasan proposed that Silicon Valley secede from the
Good luck to any of these measures, say scholars of
constitutional law, who point out that such separations require
approval of the state legislature and the U.S. Congress.
“There is no incentive,” said Ethan Rarick, director of the Robert
T. Matsui Center for Politics and Public Service at the University
of California, Berkeley. “If you’re one of 100 senators," he
reasoned, "you don’t want to become one of 102.”
Supporters of the latest separation initiative say it has a better
chance of passing in Tehama County than Del Norte County, where
opposition has been well organized.
But advocates like Funk say they must try, at least to publicize
“It puts us at the table,” he said.
(Reporting by Sarah McBride and Prudence Crowther)
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