'Six Californias' campaign: Plan to carve Golden State into smaller regions has enough support to be included on election ballot
The split would instantly create America's wealthiest state in Silicon Valley, and its poorest in Central California
Tim Walker is The Independent’s Los Angeles correspondent, covering entertainment and other concerns from the West Coast of the US. He was previously a features writer and the editor of the paper’s diary column. His first novel, Completion, is being published in January 2014.
Tuesday 15 July 2014
A radical plan to carve up California into six separate states has enough support to be put to a public vote, campaigners say. A petition backing the proposal, which was originally conceived by Silicon Valley investor Tim Draper, has collected the 808,000 signatures necessary to be included on the election ballot in November 2016. The non-profit “Six Californias” campaign announced via Twitter that it would submit the petition in the state capital, Sacramento, today.
California is the most populous state in the US, home to 38 million people and one of the world's top 10 economies. Mr Draper, the founder of venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson - known for its investments in Hotmail, Twitter, Tesla and Skype - claims the state is so large and diverse as to be “ungovernable”. He first proposed a six-way split last December, and has spent almost $5m of his own money to promote the idea.
In a February interview with Time, Mr Draper said, “The strongest argument for Six Californias is that we are not well represented… Each region has its own interest, and I think California is ungovernable because they can't balance all those interests. I'm looking at Six Californias as a way of giving California a refresh and allowing those states to both cooperate and compete with each other.”
Mr Draper's redrawn map of California would include a new state called Silicon Valley, taking in San Francisco and many of the world's most successful tech firms, such as Apple and Google. The new mini-state would also include Draper's home in Atherton, which Forbes has ranked as the most expensive postcode in the US.
San Diego and Orange County would become part of South California. Los Angeles would become the capital of West California. The abundant farmland surrounding the cities of Bakersfield, Fresno and Stockton would be known as Central California, while North California would encompass Sacramento and the nearby wine lands. The region in the far north of the state, abutting Oregon, would be renamed Jefferson.
According to the Legislative Analyst's Office, the state's non-partisan policy advisor, the split would instantly create America's wealthiest state in Silicon Valley, and its poorest in Central California. The scheme is likely to win support from local officials in Siskiyou, Modoc and Glenn counties, three of the state's northernmost counties, which have all previously voted in favour of seceding to form a 51st state named after Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the US.
However, political experts and the proposal's critics say Six Californias has almost no chance of succeeding. The Golden State has already weathered several attempts to split it into smaller pieces since its founding in 1850, and the Democratic majority in Sacramento is vehemently opposed to Mr Draper's plan. A Field poll conducted in February also found that 59 per cent of Californians were against the idea.
Tim Draper is known for investing in various web firms (Reuters)
Even if voters did back the proposal, it would then have to be approved by the US Congress. Given that each state in the Union has two senators, the plan would necessitate the election of 10 new California senators in Washington DC. Steven Maviglio, a Democrat strategist and co-founder of the rival campaign group OneCalifornia, told Reuters: “This is a colossal and divisive waste of time, energy, and money that will hurt the California brand… It has zero chance of passage.”
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