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51st state? Small step forward for "South California" plan

posted 7/14/2011 8:22:53 AM |
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A Republican member of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors wants his county and 12 others to secede from California and form the 51st state. His colleagues gave him an unenthusiastic go ahead Tuesday to explore the idea.

.....An effort to turn 13 southern California counties into the nation's 51st state took a small step forward Tuesday but remains an extremely long shot, say experts.

Four members of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors agreed Tuesday to allow a fifth member to convene a statewide meeting on the subject in the fall. Each of the four supervisors stated their objections to the secession idea, but went ahead and approved the idea of at least talking about it when Supervisor Jeff Stone said he would “personally see to it” that private funding, not public money, would be used to hold the meeting.

Since the days of the gold rush, more than 220 campaigns to split California into halves or thirds have been tossed around. Mr. Stone's vision involves persuading 13 counties to secede from the state, which he says raids local coffers to plug budget gaps.

Stone's idea has some merit, some analysts say. It addresses the problematic balance of power between Sacramento and California localities, as well as the political reality that the 13 counties in Stone's secession drive are far more conservative than the rest of the state. But the vision remains legally and politically unrealistic, many add, and is perhaps not the best solution to the problems it seeks address.

“Even if everyone in the 13 counties approved of partition, it would still require the approval of the California Legislature. Though theoretically possible, such approval is practically impossible,” says Jack Pitney, professor of government at Claremont McKenna College.

Nothing like Stone's plan has happened since West Virginia broke off from Virginia during the Civil War – and then “only because a rump legislature approved after the regular legislature joined the Confederacy,” says Professor Pitney.

Stone's South California would not include Los Angeles. In addition to Riverside County, the counties targeted for secession would be Fresno, Imperial, Inyo, Kern, Kings, Madera, Mariposa, Mono, Orange, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Tulare, which include about 13 million people total.

Republicans account for the majority of registered voters in all but two of the 13 counties – San Bernardino and Imperial. For that reason, the idea has merit, says Robert Stern, president of the Center for Governmental Studies.

He says the real division would not one between northern and southern California, but internal and coastal California. "This would divide the state in a way that makes political sense: liberals in coastal California and conservatives in east California," he adds. "It would allow the liberals to increase taxes to pay for those services they want, and the conservatives to reduce regulations and taxes in their state.”

Others are not so convinced that the division would be a good thing.

“Secession would be like a divorce, which typically leaves both spouses worse off economically. And like a divorce, it would be bad for the kids,” says Pitney. “The new state would now be responsible for services that California provides, such as regional centers for the disabled. And both sides would have to work out difficult issues, such as ‘custody’ of the University of California at Riverside and other state facilities.”

The plan did not receive enthusiastic approval at the public board meeting, either. Several of about a dozen, three-minute comments from local residents agreed with Stone’s comments that California is extremely hard to govern and needs some kind of overhaul. But some called him names and said they hoped his idea would flop. Some of the supervisors agreed to Stone’s motion to hold a meeting only because he agreed not to use public monies or staff time to convene it, and because the discussions would include other reforms.

Splitting the state is the wrong answer to the right issue, says James Mayer, executive director of California Forward, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization working to bring government closer to the people.

“Indeed, California is too big, too diverse and too complex to be micromanaged by a dysfunctional legislature in the capital,” he says via e-mail.

But the answer, he adds, is to get the state to devolve more of its authority to localities, not to secede. His organization has spent the past two years holding gatherings all over the state to explore ways to give community-level government more authority and responsibility so they can tailor public programs to be responsive and effective in their communities.

“The governor and the Legislature – mostly motivated out of a desire to resolve the state's structural fiscal crisis – has started the process of shifting responsibilities to counties," he adds. "This evolution will take time, and much more needs to happen if it is going to deliver better results.”

In the meantime, Stone's secession bid could lead to useful conversation on the subject of what makes California so difficult to govern.

“In this case, even if secession does not occur – which is highly likely will not – it is worth talking about the reasons the idea is being floated at all,” says Jessica Levinson, director of political reform for the Center for Governmental Studies. “Is California too big to govern? Should we change the way we govern ourselves? Should we have more legislators, who are hopefully, more responsive to their constituents' needs? Should we have at-large elections? Proportional representation? Should we get rid of term limits so people get to know their legislators better?”

I say to the 13 counties.....GO FOR IT!!!

What's your opinion of South California becoming a 51st state?

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post a comment!


Jul 14 @ 8:32AM  
In all honesty....I see it as politicians being childish and spiteful.

btw....the Upper Peninsula here in Michigan has tried that a few times and it never happened.

Jul 14 @ 8:44AM  
I'm not sure about anyone in California, getting two more seats in the Senate.
Much less the Federal limitations and legalities.....who in the Beltway would
voluntarily let two potential new seats, possibly go to Republicans.

That would open a whole new can of worms. When Texas joined the Union in
1845, there was a stipulation that later on, if Texans wanted, it could be 'cut'
up into 5 states. Could you imagine the look on 'Dingy Harrys' face, if
there were to be 8 more potential Republicans in the Senate?

How many other states or protectorates, would then attempt to follow suit? Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, U.S. Virgin Islands.....who would be next for Statehood?
Not a good idea, IMHO.

Jul 14 @ 8:44AM  
Hey... that's a great idea! Then rename the Southern portion: Calipornia and concentrate the porn industry there!


Jul 14 @ 8:46AM  
Secession would be like a divorce, which typically leaves both spouses worse off economically. And like a divorce, it would be bad for the kids,”
Typical liberal thinking to where everything has to fall in line with a "nanny state" way of life.

Jul 14 @ 8:52AM  
Oh yeah forgot... all politicians must reside in Calipornia too- since they're adept at fucking us citizens in the ass anyway, I figure that would be appropriate!


Jul 14 @ 9:26AM  
Hey... that's a great idea! Then rename the Southern portion: Calipornia and concentrate the porn industry there!

If that be the case, San Fernando would be the capital. It will be interesting to see whapper weigh in.

This idea is really nothing new. It has come up a few times over the last 40 years. I recall one plan involved dividing the state into thirds. I believe it was in the seventies where there was debate about splitting Texas into five states.

Jul 14 @ 11:48AM  
Not going to happen. Seems to me more of a publicity stunt probably at the state tax payers expense. Those are fairly wealthy counties so maybe it is more of the haves not wanting to be part of the same state as the have nots.

Jul 14 @ 6:03PM  
it sounds like one very interesting idea to solve the huge problems facing that great state.i dont think that it will happen but we all will have to wait and see how things
play out.

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51st state? Small step forward for "South California" plan