File this one under “why not?” Venture capitalist Tim Draper, now known in these parts for his burgeoning “University of Heroes” in downtown San Mateo, has said he actually is serious about his plan to divide California into six states. His initiative has entered circulation and he needs more than 800,000 signatures by the middle of July to qualify for the November ballot.
For those who haven’t heard, Draper’s plan would separate the state into the new state of Jefferson to the very north (and a couple of counties have already expressed interest), North California, South California, Central California, West California (including Los Angeles) and our neck of the woods — Silicon Valley.
The arguments have been made in the past that the interests of the state are already divided. The Central Valley with its flat lands, farms and tract homes already seems like another country for some. People from Los Angeles tend to like the Lakers and the Dodgers — but not including L.A. in South California seems ripe for confusion. And then there’s the fact that North California is not the northernmost state in this new configuration. That one would be Jefferson. And who is that named for? Thomas Jefferson? I know he dispatched Lewis and Clark, but is that enough reason to name the new state after him? The names, of course, I’m guessing will be up for debate. As they should. The idea of naming our state Silicon Valley is borderline offensive (I mean, not really, so don’t get all up in arms about that adjective). I know the tech industry is a very big deal, but I would suggest it does not define the Bay Area, known for its diversity of people, businesses and interests. Naming a state after a nickname for an industry center is akin to the Golden State Warriors — doesn’t make a lot of sense if you think about it. How about something Spanish and cool? I might suggest Yerba Buena, the original name of San Francisco. It has an old vibe to it, which could also make it trendy since old things tend to always come back (home canning anyone? Mustache wax?) And it’s an alternative phrase for the Spanish Hierba Buena, meaning “Good Herb.” Which might make some sense since that’s what detractors to Draper’s idea may be saying he was smoking when he thought of it.
And what’s with the detractors? I’m fairly certain I would not sign the initiative or vote for this idea if it made it on the ballot, but what’s wrong with a little out-of-the-box thinking? Draper is notorious for such activity and a magnet for new ideas big and small. The underlying commentary could be that there is something wrong with our current system and it needs to be fixed. You’d be hard-pressed to find any rational person to say otherwise. Is this the solution? Probably not. Think of the infrastructure, the water delivery systems, the economies of scale provided by a large state government, the stationary!
Besides, Draper is simply exercising his right in our citizen initiative system of proposing something, gathering signatures and seeing if enough people like the idea. So far, the Secretary of State’s Office has a wide range of initiatives in circulation from limiting hospital administrator compensation, re-establishing redevelopment agencies, stopping high-speed rail, raising the wages for in-home health care workers and limiting the terms for county assessors, district attorneys and sheriffs. Some will make it on the ballot, some won’t. Some will be approved by voters, some won’t.
But you have to hand it to Draper, Six Californias is definitely getting some attention.
Jon Mays is the editor in chief of the Daily Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow Jon on Twitter @jonmays.