To split or not to split?
A recent article asked the rhetorical question of why there haven’t been any viable candidates for president of the United States from California since Ronald Reagan. The reasons given were many and various. Too liberal, too rich, too polarized.
Perhaps it boils down to the fact that we’re too big. We are third largest in area next to Alaska and Texas, have about 12 percent of the entire country’s population, and were ranked the fifth largest economy in the world. However, being big is not necessarily better.
Perhaps the time has come to get serious about splitting the state. Perhaps in thirds, but at least in half.
It’s been tried several times in the past. The reasons have always been the same: The concerns of the north state are about environment, ecology and water. The south is concerned with creating jobs, manufacturing and growth. And the Bay Area is concerned with itself.
Consider this: By 2050, the population is expected to be more than 50 million and possibly more. Our present growth has created problems so complex and unmanageable that the present structure of government is unable to cope. We are run by a weak state government in Sacramento that acts as a regulator to pay for schools, prisons and various federal mandates. The real power is 3,000 miles away in Washington.
The way our federal government is set up, and because of the diversity of our state, California doesn’t have as much power in Washington as its population deserves. It is appalling how under-represented California is in Congress. It would take 22 of America’s states to match the present population of California. Those 22 states have 44 U.S. senators; California has just two. We deserve more political power because of our huge population and tremendous tax base. No matter how big we get, we will only have two senators.
We will gain U.S. representatives as our population expands. However, our state’s congressional delegation doesn’t work together because each has his or her own agenda. California government has gotten so big and out of touch with its people that it has become the playground of the super-rich superstars and their Hollywood-style campaigns. Grass roots is what state and local governments should be all about.
The differences in California are regional, not just ethnic and geographic. Do you suppose the residents of Nevada City are as concerned with the illegal “tourists” that rush the border at San Ysidro on a daily basis as they are with the tourists that come every weekend for dinner? Have the residents of Fontana given much thought to the impact the spotted owl has had on the timber industry in Ferndale or Fortuna? When the rice farmers of Chico are told by the EPA that they can no longer burn the stubble of their fields, do the residents of Calexico really care?
But when Southern California wants something badly enough, guess who has the votes in Sacramento? We in Northern California are at a terrible disadvantage. What makes the state more difficult to govern are the booby traps built into its financial system, such as Proposition 98, which gives a fixed amount of revenue to one government program – schools – at the expense of everything else.
The budget battles of the last few years will only worsen, and we are seeing a decrease in those who provide the bulk of tax revenues. With the state split into thirds, each state could focus on the problems that affect it. A new department of Fish and Game, Caltrans and DMV, to name a few, are definite possibilities.
Last but not least is the water issue. California’s water laws are archaic. They were put in place more than 100 years ago to assist the agribusiness that was beginning to emerge into what would become California’s foremost economy. Before World War II, agriculture flourished in the San Fernando Valley. Well, that’s all gone now, and in its place are millions of people and houses and a powerful thirst. And those millions of people have representatives in Sacramento who have voted to send our water to all those millions of houses and people. With new states, we could write new water laws.
We started this by asking why there is no presidential candidate from California. Perhaps if California were divided into smaller states, a statesman worthy of the name could be found who would inspire the electorate and once again send a favorite son to the White House.
Don C. Loux is semiretired, lives in the southern part of county and considers himself a “gentleman homesteader.” He is a political news junkie and a classic car aficionado. Anyone interested in a grass roots effort to split the state may contact him at email@example.com
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