California votes could form a new state

California votes could form a new state

The California state flag flies above City Hall in Santa Monica, California. Photo: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson/Files

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 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.

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 their frustrations.

“It puts us at the table,” he said.

Recent Headlines

in Sports

No. 2 Alabama claims SEC West with win over Auburn

Alabama head coach Nick Saban seems frustrated during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Auburn in Auburn, Ala., Saturday, Nov. 30, 2013.

Derrick Henry ran 46 times for 271 yards and Adam Griffith kicked five field goals to propel No. 2 Alabama to the SEC West title with a 29-13 victory over rival Auburn on Saturday.

in Sports

Michigan State takes division with rout of Penn State

Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio walks with his team before the first half of an NCAA college football game against Ohio State in East Lansing, Mich., Saturday, Nov. 8, 2014.

Connor Cook threw three touchdown passes in his return from a shoulder injury, and No. 6 Michigan State wrapped up a spot in the Big Ten championship game with a 55-16 rout of Penn State on Saturday.

in Sports

USC rolls past No. 22 UCLA 40-21, takes Pac-12 South title


Cody Kessler threw two touchdown passes and ran for another score, and Southern California clinched the Pac-12 South title with a 40-21 victory over No. 22 UCLA on Saturday in the 85th edition of their crosstown showdown.

in Entertainment

Anne Hathaway expecting first child


The Oscar winner is expecting her first child, according to reports.

in Sports

Police: Puig gets swollen eye during encounter with bouncer

Los Angeles Dodgers' Yasiel Puig batting in the seventh inning of the opening game of Major League baseball in the United States Sunday, March 30, 2014, in San Diego.

Miami police spokesman Major Delrish Moss says the injuries happened Wednesday night as the Cuban player was leaving the Blue Martini bar at bouncers' request following an argument with his sister.

Bellingham Traffic