The Hotel California would still be in California. Palm Springs would be in Southern California. And San Francisco? It would be in Northern California if a proposition to split the state into three pieces is approved by voters in November.
The proposal is the brainchild of Timothy Draper, a venture capitalist who has set up Cal3 to get the measure on the ballot and drum up voter support. Draper thinks the three Californias would have more influence nationally and provide better representation than the current monolith that is by far the nation’s most populous state and, by some measures, the fifth largest economy in the world.
Instead of having just two senators, for example, the three states would have six, thus tripling California’s clout in Congress and, at least for the short term, guaranteeing a Democratic majority in the upper house. Draper also argues that the three smaller states would do a better job of providing services to their residents.
Noting California’s population of nearly 40 million people, many of them packed into densely populated coastal areas, Draper says the state has become “nearly ungovernable.” He claims that “vast parts of California are poorly served by a representative government dominated by a large number of elected representatives from a small part of our state, both geographically and economically.”
Not a new idea
Draper’s not the first person to propose splitting up California. The idea has been around for more than 100 years and, as Draper notes, the state’s residents actually voted to split California into two pieces back in 1859. But Congress was then preoccupied by the Civil War and failed to act on the request.
It is, of course, hard to imagine that today’s GOP-controlled Congress would be any quicker to act but that is something Draper apparently plans to deal with down the road, perhaps anticipating that the much-ballyhooed “Blue Wave” will wash across the nation in November.
Under Draper’s plan, Palm Springs would be in “Southern California,” along with 12 Inland Empire counties: Fresno, Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mono, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Tulare, with a population of about 13.9 million.
The Los Angeles area would become “California,” consisting of Los Angeles, Monterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties, with 12.3 million people.
“Northern California” would consist of 40 counties: Alameda, Alpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Contra Costa, Del Norte, El Dorado, Glenn, Humboldt, Lake, Lassen, Marin, Mariposa, Mendocino, Merced, Modoc, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, Siskiyou, Shasta, Tehama, Trinity, Tuolumne, Sacramento, San Joaquin, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Sierra, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Sutter, Yolo and Yuba, with 13.3 million people.
The idea is not unique to California. There’s always talk about redrawing state boundaries. Currently, there’s a movement in Illinois to split Chicago away from downstate. A few years ago, a band of malcontents in Northern Colorado wanted to dump Denver. And in the Washington, D.C., area, there is a long tradition of grumbling. Residents of the District of Columbia would like to be a full-fledged state or perhaps be “adopted” by Maryland.
Virginia is one of the few states that has actually lost pieces of itself in modern times. During the Civil War it took back a small chunk of real estate it had contributed to D.C. and lost a huge portion of its western region when — what else — West Virginia was formed by Union loyalists. Virginia seems none the worse for the experience. It is gaining population and has a robust economy while rebellious West Virginia is seen as something of a laggard, at least economically.
But in Illinois, Virginia, Colorado and other states where there’s been talk of secession, there is a long tradition of deep-seated enmity between northern and southern or urban and rural regions. California has its problems but while Bay Area residents may not be enamored of the Southland, and vice versa, it’s not clear they are sufficiently steamed to stage a state-level Brexit.
But be that as it may, Draper’s group has amassed the more than 402,000 signatures needed to put the measure on the ballot so we’ll know in November whether a majority of Californian voters share Draper’s conviction that three is better than one.