Bob Pinzler

On Local Government: The Six States of California

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Tim Draper has a lot of money. As a leading venture capitalist in the world of Silicon Valley, he has plenty of spare cash to throw after any idea he might have.

The latest one is an Initiative proposal to split California into six states. The one he would live in would include the coastal area from the San Francisco Bay Area to Monterey. We would be living in a state that included Los Angeles, Ventura, Santa Barbara and Kern Counties.

The idea of splitting up California has been around nearly as long as the Initiative, which was incorporated into the state constitution in the early 1900’s. It has never gotten very far.

The thinking behind the proposal isn’t completely lame-brained. California is a very diverse state in many ways, especially politically. All one needs to do is drive on the I-5 in the Central Valley to see the issue expressed in signs claiming an apocalyptic dust bowl caused by Congress members Nancy Pelosi and Jim Costa. The issue is about water use, as are most serious “conversations” in the state.

As Mark Twain is purported to have said, “Whiskey is for drinking. Water is for fightin’ over.”

There are important, but fatal, aspects to the six state plan. We would have twelve US Senators instead of two. According to the registration figures, most of these would be Democrats. This alone will be its death knell, since, no matter what Californians decide, statehood is granted by Congress, where the votes of at least a few Republicans would be required.

In addition, since Congressional district lines cannot cross state borders, this would likely create more Representatives from the six states than from the original one. Since the number of members of Congress is capped, the other states would lose out.

These protectors of power will never vote to see their influence diluted.

Despite its obvious flaws, the fact of the initiative should generate questions about what the cause of the desire to separate is. Clearly, as such a large state, there will always be those who believe they are getting “lost in the weeds.” The impending “majority minority” ethnic status indicates that the “old line” power structure needs to embrace the change, not find every way they can to undermine it.

Draper’s concern, most likely, is that the state is too large to manage. On the contrary, over the past few years, it has been managed extremely well, with all the negative publicity from the Schwarzenegger days being overwhelmed by the positive press over Jerry Brown’s centrist conversion, including turning deficits into surpluses.

Of course, there are things we all would like to change. But, California has developed a different “social contract” than most other states. Part of it is due to our history and ethnic diversity. Some of it is from most of our residents having roots elsewhere, engendering creative rather than “tribal” thoughts.

Maybe this proposal is one of those dynamic political shifts we are known for. Even if it is so, it is probably not yet “ready for prime time.”