Hot temperatures didn’t dissuade a crowd of more than 100 people from gathering Saturday for a presentation in Penn Valley concerning efforts to establish the 51st state of Jefferson.
Mark Baird, Terry Rapoza and Robert “Red” Smith, spokesmen for the Jefferson Declaration Committee, were the guest speakers for the town hall meeting. The movement largely revolves around the idea that rural areas in Northern California aren’t receiving proper representation.
“This is about representation. Our goal is to form a state where each county (in the proposed state of Jefferson) has a state senator or two state senators, whatever our Constitutional convention decides is best for the people of this state. Then, the assembly would still be elected by popular vote, just as it is now,” Baird explained.
Baird mentions a 1964 United States Supreme Court case, Reynolds v. Sims, as the singular event that turned what he considered a “bright, vibrant” California into the state he now hopes to separate from. The ruling, handed down by Chief Justice Earl Warren, was that the seats in both houses of a state legislature must be apportioned on a population basis.
“Earl Warren made up the principle of one man, one vote. It does not exist in English common law, it did not exist in Colonial law, and does not exist in Constitutional law,” Baird said. “The northern 13 counties of California have a total of four or five state representatives, depending upon how and where you draw the boundaries. The city of Los Angeles alone has 35 state representatives. The city of San Francisco has 25. The city of Sacramento has 21. So between those three cities, they have the majority in both houses in the state of California. We’re saying that that doesn’t work for us as people. We can’t get the simplest things done to save our lives because we don’t have representation. They’re not bad people, they just don’t understand.”
Baird also pointed out that any notion of the move to establish the Jefferson state as being a stunt is wrong. For him and others who passionately believe in separating from California, there is a strong belief that their plan will succeed.
“We have Democrats, we have Libertarians, we have Republicans, we have Tea Party members. It doesn’t matter what your issue is, you’re not going to be heard in the current system in Sacramento,” Smith said during his speech to the crowd, which was well-received by the majority of his audience. “Is that the legacy I’m going to leave my kids? Absolutely not, I’m going to fight it tooth and nail.”
Some audience members agreed.
“I feel that this is right on, that it’s about time that we the people actually got the gumption to do something about our liberties that are being squelched,” said Claudia Taylor, one of those in attendance. “It’s all legal, it’s been well-researched, we’re not trying to do some renegade thing. I say go for it, and I’m going to get as many people on board with me as I possibly can.”
Questions have arisen over whether or not it’s viable to establish the state of Jefferson, especially during a time in which a separate motion from Tim Draper to divide California into six states is facing similar critiques. The two ideas aren’t synonymous, according to Baird, who points to the different channels the two groups are using to illustrate why the Jefferson Declaration Committee will succeed where Draper will fail.
“(Draper’s) heart is in the right place, but he’s wrong. First of all, to separate a state by the initiative process is not constitutional. Article Four, Section Three of the United States Constitution is very clear. ‘Nor shall any state be formed from the territory within a state or two adjoining states unless the state legislature agrees and Congress agrees.’ You can’t do it by initiative,” Baird said. “The Founding Fathers must have foreseen the need to add new states to the Union or form states from the territory of existing states for either political or economic reasons. That’s the section of the Constitution we’re utilizing in order to form a state where people have adequate and direct representation.”
Some, like Wade Freedle — whose wife is a member of the committee — don’t see the plan succeeding.
“I personally think it’s more important as a symbol, rather than a viable initiative because there are just too many … opposing viewpoints stacked against it. Legally, legislatively, and population wise,” Freedle said. “Southern California is not about to allow Northern California to become a separate state and negotiate the cost of water because, right now, water is probably the hottest button issue in the state of California.”
Eddie Garcia, one of the organizers of the Nevada County chapter of the Jefferson initiative, was more optimistic.
“I thought the presentation was fabulous. I was a little disappointed we didn’t get more people, but with a day like today as hot as it was, I think it was difficult for people to come. But I was encouraged. We just started this committee five weeks ago,” he said. “I think the main result of this, hopefully, is that people will step up and gather signatures. We’ll keep fighting until we get it.”
Spencer Kellar is an intern with The Union. He can be reached at NCPCIntern3@theunion.com.