May 29, 2014 by gregrabidoux2013
If you live in California and love it, or if you just love California (even if you don’t live there) you may want to close your eyes for a moment. Now, if you are like most of the rest of us who aren’t necessarily enthralled with La-La Land, Super highways that go nowhere or smog that Californians pretend is mist coming off the bay and sing songs about it, then keep your eyes open, wide open (apologies to Stanley Kubrick) and let’s serve up a bit of realism with our Chinatown noodles.
The fact is California has been a governance disaster for decades. And the challenge is far more vast than just its never-ending battle over water access (though Chinatown with Jack Nicholson and water rights subterfuge is still one of the all-time greats).
No, even under its early glory days under Spanish rule when what we now know as California was divided into roughly two states, Baja (lower) and Alta (upper) California, Spanish officials were concerned about things like: water shortages and access, remote areas and desolate rural areas, overcrowding in populated areas near port cities, corruption of local officials, the unpopularity of taxes on local communities and the difficulty of uniting an expansive population. Sound familiar?
And this is even before it had to deal with El Zorro (though not the Antonio Banderas/Anthony Hopkins version, I mean, really?) stirring up the locals into revolution frenzy.
It really never got better. Sure there was the Gold Rush but there was also the Yonatek massacre, the Bloody Island massacre, the disparagement of Okies and the ousting of Chinese laborers working the railroad construction (all serious history majors who need chronological orderliness feel free to yelp a bit.) But you get my point. California has often magnified all that is great and horrific in our nation as a whole. Opportunity and Gold beyond what many could dream of, poverty and desolation beyond belief.
And thoughts of splitting this one big, massive state into several more palatable and governable pieces is not new either. Upton Sinclair in his campaign for Governor in 1934 ran as head of the EPIC (End Poverty in California). Though he lost in a, shall we say, epic failure, he did ring the alarm on some of the eternal issues Californians continue to face today. One of which is incredible bureaucratic inefficiency. Large swaths of the state feel (and with good reason) that Sacramento (state capital) has absolutely no concern or ability to address their needs and that depending on where you live (Northern or Alta CA or Baja or Lower CA or Silicon Valley and Facebook and Apple Land) you may as well reside in at least three or more different states. And the actual Chinatown (nearly as large as several of our states) is for the most part, its own “state” already.
But Californians are nothing if not resilient dreamers. And one silicon valley venture capitalist named Tim Draper thinks it’s about time Californians took destiny in their own hands before you know, the San Andreas fault line does, and put an end once and for all to the “myth” that is the united republic of California.
And he may just succeed. He needs to garner a little over 800,000 signatures from his fellow Californians to put the issue on the ballot for a public voter referendum. Basically, do you support splitting California into 6 states? yes or no? If it passes that hurdle then it’s on to Congress for ratification.
Now 800,000 or so signatures seems like a lot and it is. But let’s put the current population of California into perspective. Despite it not having a decent pizza (California Pizza Kitchen, please, folks) and requiring its Alta citizens of San Francisco to ride in cable cars that make Six Flags “Roller Coaster of Death” seem tame and that chunks of its state continue to rattle and roll from earthquakes, there are a lot of folks who live in the state. And astonishingly, more that seem to want to move there. Its population is over 38 million at the moment (and it still couldn’t get Al Gore over the electoral college hump, dang Floridians).
Perspective you say.
Well, California’s population is as big as: WY, VT, DC, ND, MD, SD, DE, MT, RI, NH, ME, HI, ID, WV, NE, NM, NV, KS, UT, AK and MS combined.
Gee, maybe 6 states is being far too timid.
Under Draper’s proposal which just passed the Secretary of State’s approval to move forward, the state would be chopped into: Northern, Southern, Eastern, Western, Central and Silicon Valley.
Okay, Mr. Draper’s creativity does not quite match his optimism but still California under his plan would be a whole lot orderly than perhaps at any time since it became a state in 1850. (me, I still like the Spanish approach, Baja and Alta, but again there’s the El Zorro issue).
Current revenues, assets and any dividends would be divided and distributed across the 6 new states. Each state would, per our US Constitution, be represented in the US Congress by 2 Senators. US House of Representatives would be based on population within these six states which under Draper’s plan would be more equitably divided.
Sure the current in-state rivalries between the Alta SF Giants and the Baja LA Dodgers would suffer but then we’d maybe appreciate the Oakland teams more than we do so for us non-left coasters it would be a wash.
Look, I don’t know if splitting CA into 6 states is just a bit of “California Dreaming” but the incredible bureaucratic and governance debacle that is California is sure not going away anytime soon. Arguably, genuine and effective representative government has and continues to fail in California as we know it today.
Reform may be as daunting a task as commuting on the Santa Monica Boulevard at rush hour but maybe the time is right for a true EPIC success.
It’s so Cali-Crazy a plan that it just might work.
Coming soon to a ballot near you.