Next up at the ballot box: Undreaming California

SAN FRANCISCO Mon Jun 2, 2014 2:48pm EDT

The California state flag flies above City Hall in Santa Monica, California, in this February 6, 2009 file photo.  REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson/Files

The California state flag flies above City Hall in Santa Monica, California, in this February 6, 2009 file photo.

Credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson/Files

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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 ballot initiatives.

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 republic.

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.

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 country.

"Most of their issues revolve around a government that is not in touch with their needs," said Draper in an email about the aspiring citizens of Jefferson. "If they are freed to self- govern, they might have a state that becomes more successful economically."

Scholars of constitutional law 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.

(Reporting by Sarah McBride and Prudence Crowther; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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Comments (28)
ExDemocrat wrote:
The logical alternative to having to live with the heavy taxes and pervasive anti-business regulations in California, is to move. There are lots of other places in the U.S. where you can live happily and also be successful.

Jun 02, 2014 5:24am EDT  --  Report as abuse
taggert wrote:
Yes, they could certainly move to a red state where the education, health care, social service, and pretty much very other government function is on par with a third world country, all while the state leeches off blue states because of the completely inept government republicans have fostered in these states, and where the taxes on the middle class are even higher than they are elsewhere because, after all, those fortune 500 companies need that extra tax break.

Society promotes a lot of benefits over being anti-social knuckle dragging apes…. it also comes with responsibilities, something conservatives for the past 30+ years have refused to live up to with their me-first-and-only dementia.

These people need to grow up and tart acting like adults.

Jun 02, 2014 5:51am EDT  --  Report as abuse
sabrefencer wrote:
ive lived in calif since 1970….it still never amazes me with what they come up with…after all, the state that gave us Pelosi, is capable of giving us anything out there..they don’t call us the lala state for nothing…good luck on that separation…lets see if you can get free everything, somewhere else….

Jun 02, 2014 6:08am EDT  --  Report as abuse
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