California is no stranger to partition movements. The first plan to divide the state, the most populous in the US and No. 3 in overall size, was initiated in 1850, which, ironically, also happened to be the same year it joined the Union.
But today, with nearly 40 million residents spread over more than 163,000 square miles – you could fit nearly 135 states the size of Rhode Island inside California – the movement to divide the Golden State appears to gaining steam.
Among plans being put forward is one that would split it into six individual states, including one that would be called Silicon Valley and would encompass the high-tech region around the San Francisco Bay Area, and another that would be known as West California and include the Los Angeles area.
“No other state contains within it such contradictory interests, cultures, economic and political geography,” according to Keith Naughton at PublicCEO, a website that covers state and local California issues. “It has become impossible to even remotely reconcile the array of opposing forces. The only way to get anything done is to shove laws and regulations down a lot of unwilling throats.”
One of the drivers behind the six-state initiative is venture capitalist Tim Draper.
With tens of millions of people spread over an area 250 miles wide and 770 miles long, Draper believes that a single monolithic California has become ungovernable.
The state’s population is more than six times as large as the average of the other 49 states, and too many Californians feel estranged from a state government in Sacramento that doesn’t understand them or reflect their interests, according to Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe.
“The citizens of the whole state would be better served by six smaller states governments while preserving the historical boundaries of the various counties, cities and towns,” according to the Six Californias Proposal.
Draper’s concept to create a half-dozen states where one exists now would seem a longshot as it’s been more than 150 years since a US state was carved from an existing state.
West Virginia’s decision to break from Virginia in 1863 amid the chaos of the War Between the States was aided by a Federal government eager to divide the Confederacy through whatever means at hand, and the issue wasn’t formally settled until a Supreme Court decision in 1870.
However the move to partition the Golden State gained a bit more momentum last month when California’s secretary of state gave proposal backers approval to begin collecting the necessary petition signatures to put the “Six Californias Proposal” on the ballot.
If a little more than 800,000 signatures are submitted by July 14, the measure could go to voters in November.
The plan calls for California to be divided into the following states, from north to south: Jefferson, North California, Central California, Silicon Valley, West California and South California.
Working against Draper and other pro-partition supporters is the fact that legislators are nearly always reluctant to sign away money and power.
The governor of North California, which would be home to the current state capital of Sacramento, would have substantially less clout as one of six states than as the chief of an entity that, were it a separate country would have the ninth-largest economy in the world.
With the loss of status that would be inherent in partition would also come a drastic drop in tax revenue, and politicians hate having to cut back on doling out other people’s money as much as they hate losing power.
Anyone who’s lived in California for any length of time likely understands the state has reached a point where it’s time to give serious consideration to doing things differently, very differently. Whether the powers that be let that happen is another question.