A Silicon Valley venture capitalist today submitted what he claims are enough petition signatures to get his initiative, to split California into six states, on the 2016 statewide ballot.
And no, this is not a joke.
Menlo Park billionaire Tim Draper is hell-bent on slicing California up into bite-sized pieces. The nation's largest state, he argues, is too massive to be effectively governed as a single body. He contends that dividing it into smaller states would yield more representative governments that could better meet the needs of a diverse population.
Since announcing his campaign in February, the Menlo Park billionaire has sunk more than a million dollars into collecting the 807,615 signatures needed to get the measure on the ballot. The Six Californias campaign, as it's known, failed to meet the deadline for this November, but has more than enough signatures to qualify for 2016, Draper claims. But even if given the green light by election officials, and eventually approved by voters in 2016, the measure -- a constitutional amendment -- would still require congressional approval to take effect. And that's a serious long-shot, to say the least.
Critics are quick to argue that this is just the latest profligate push in a perennial effort by wealthy communities to redistribute tax revenue locally to avoid subsidizing the state's lower income regions.
It's not the first attempt to slice up the largest state in the country: periodic efforts have been made since California gained statehood in 1850, including an ongoing push by some residents in far northern California to create a state called Jefferson that would include a few counties in southern Oregon. Like previous secessionist efforts, Draper's campaign is a long shot, to say the least, and it poses an array of feasibility problems, including a vast reorganization of water and energy delivery systems, Congressional approval and the inevitable onslaught of fierce litigation. But the proposed borders are, nevertheless, worth taking a look at, as they highlight some of California's extreme economic disparities as well as its uneven population distribution.
The gaps are underscored in California's non-partisan Legislative Analyst's analysis of the proposal. According to the report, the new state of Silicon Valley, which would encompass most of the Bay Area, Santa Clara County and parts of the Central Coast, would have the highest per capita income in the nation, out-ranking Connecticut (funny coincidence that Draper happens to reside here). Meanwhile, the neighboring state of Central California, encompassing mostly poor agricultural counties in the Central Valley, would be at the very bottom in per capita income, behind Mississippi.