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Downsizing the California dream

Is splitting the state into several smaller states the only way to save California?


The state of California is broken. It doesnt work. Nothing from Sacramento means anything or does any good.

We all know this because its true. Just look at the mess were in today.

We also know that one of the best ways to fix something thats broken is to take it apart and repair the busted parts, then put it all back together. Thats exactly what we should do with Californiaexcept for putting it back together. If we want to restore this dreary hunk of real estate formerly known as the Golden State, its time to bust it up, permanently.

There are lots of reasons why California is out of kilter. In the first place, its too big. If we were on the East Coast, our state would stretch from Manhattan to Miami. There are 10 states between those two very distinct parts of the nation. The people who live there have 20 senators to represent them in Congress. We have two.

California is too crowded to be governed the way it has for the past 150 years. We've got almost 34 million people governed by state and local government system designed in the 1840s when there were about 250,000 people in the state. California is ungovernable under our antiquated government structure.

Its time to restore the luster to the Golden State. Its time for California to split.

Lets break this behemoth called California into a federation of seven distinct, independent regions. Then lets have these seven regions secede from the Old California state government and demand to become separate states unto themselves.

There shouldnt be any constitutional problems with this. After all, the new states wouldnt be seceding from the Union. And since these seven states of the New California region are already part of the Union, their intentions arrive without suspicion, their motives clear. After all, the newcomer states are Americans who just want add some extra stars to Old Gloryand what could be more patriotic than that?

Heres how the regions of California might be configured as new states of the United States:

The State of Southern CaliforniaSan Diego, Orange, and Imperial counties, including Disneyland.

The State of Los AngelesLos Angeles, San Bernardino, and Riverside counties, a.k.a. the Smog Belt.

The State of Gold CoastVentura, Santa Barbara, SLO, and Monterey counties. Maybe it could be called the State of Nirvana, or the State of Bliss, or maybe just the State of Denial.

The State of San Franciscoall of the Bay Area, although the Peoples Republic of Berkeley may want to opt out.

The State of Northern Californiathe North Coast, including Humboldt, Del Norte, Trinity, and the remaining counties that encompass the Hemp Belt. This also might be called the state of Eureka. The State of Bong isnt bad, either.

The State of San Joaquinfrom Redding south through Sacramento, Fresno, Bakersfield and all of the San Joaquin Valley between the Santa Lucia and Sierra Nevada ranges, a.k.a. the Big Tomato.

The State of Sierra Nevadawhich has everything to do with the mountains of eastern California, and very little to do with the beer.

Then, following a newly minted Declaration of Interdependence for the New California region, each of these seven new states would have its own government and would be allowed to form its own brand of local government.

For example, here in the State of Gold Coast, we could do away with county government by dismantling the bureaucracy. Its dismembered parts would then be blended into either city governments or the smaller, streamlined state government. This eliminates duplication and waste and removes a layer of government designed a century and a half ago thats no longer necessary.

Maybe we could also mandate part-time Legislatures peopled by gainfully employed citizen politicians, eliminating the elite, professional elected class that caused the decline and destruction of the once-grand Old California.

Statewide agencies that serve specific purposes, such as the California Coastal Commission, would be dismantled and reassembled under cooperative interdependency agreements between those states whose legislatures opt into a new Coastal Protection Alliance. Thus, if the state of Northern California doesnt want to be party to an agency dominated by other parts of New California, its legislature could opt out of the Coastal Protection Alliance.

The good parts of the old California could be salvaged, restored, and preservedthe New California Correctional Facility Alliance, the New California State University Alliance, the University of New California, etc.

There are many benefits to decentralizing our massive state government and eliminating the ossified, venal elected class in todays Sacramento. Local property taxes would no longer be Shop-Vacced and squandered by incompetents who cant balance a checkbook. Taxes would be kept within the smaller boundaries of the new states where they are collected.

Thus, local school districts would have a better chance of protecting their programs and budgets, and have more direct access to their legislatures and governors to vent their grievances. Similarly, gas taxes collected in, say, Paso Robles would be spent in the state of Gold Coast, rather than sent to L.A. or the Bay Area for road work there, as is common today.

The insidious cycle of scandal and corruption bred by special interests and expensive election campaigns would be broken. Statewide office seekers would have smaller areas to cover and need to spend less on media to reach voters, meaning theyd have to raise less money.

Each New California state would have its own governor, its own legislature with a size of its own choosing, and each would have its own members of the U.S. House of Representatives, according to its population, just like today. The result would be a New California that has the same number of House members, due to proportional representation, with the political heft of 14 senators instead of the measly two we have now.

This would help balance the power in the U.S. Senate, which is dominated by Southern and smaller Eastern states such as Rhode Island, which have fewer House members but disproportionate power in the Senate relative to their size and economic clout.

California has 20 percent of the House membership; the newly created states in the New California region would have 20 percent of the Senate seats. This would be the equivalent of a large Western state taking political steroids, something the Pacific Coast has needed for years.

The steroid treatment would include having seven presidential primaries as opposed to one. If serialized properlywith the state of Gold Coasts presidential primary a week ahead of New Hampshire, and the state of Los Angeles primary a week before the first major party conventionpresidential campaigns would be forced to spend the entire election season in the region of New California.

This would enable the Pacific Coast to dominate the presidential selection process from beginning to end. And remember, there would be seven governors from the region of New California to add to the list of potential presidential contenders.

Injecting more political philosophy and social thought from the Pacific Coast into the Congress and the presidential selection process would go a long way toward bringing to the West some measure of long-overdue political power relative to its population, economic contributions, and military significance to the nation.

If nothing else, New Californias seven states would not provide an immediate antidote for the budding fascism that seems to be poking its nose under our nations tent, but it might spark a move toward changing the decades-old political dynamic that allows Southern states to spawn the likes of George W on the one hand and Bill Clinton on the other. They wouldnt dominate our national political process.

California is broken. Its golden legacy is in flames. From its ashes can come a political renaissance of historic proportions. Its worth a moment or two of thought.

Then, lets do it. Æ

Tom Fulks has yet to break apart.

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