It is no secret to Californians that the residents in the far north of the state have long been displeased with feeling as though they are ignored in Sacramento. The politically conservative and mostly agrarian and rural northern counties have dreamed of creating their own state for well over a hundred years. On June 3, the 91,000 residents of two counties, Tehama and Del Norte, will be voting on an advisory measure. The measure is essentially an invitation to the counties’ board of supervisors to unite with four other counties in their efforts to re-form Northern California into the state of Jefferson, the 51st state in the union.
Yuba, Modoc, Glenn and Siskiyou counties’ elected officials have already done their voting and they are ready to band together for this movement. Butte County supervisors will be voting on June 10. Some other northern counties are waiting to see the results of the June 3rd vote and then make their decision on whether or not to move ahead. Siskiyou County will also be voting on whether to rename the county the Republic of Jefferson.
Aaron Funk, a resident of Crescent City in Del Norte County, pointed out that the metropolitan area of Los Angeles has 20 state senators, and there are 10 who represent the San Francisco Bay Area. Meanwhile, one state senator is shared amongst 11 counties in Northern California. The residents of those counties do not feel that they have the representation they deserve.
At this point, the secession efforts are at an advisory level. The idea is ripe for further studies to be conducted by local officials. It is important to have everyone on board, as the process is quite involved. Once the counties come to a consensus on the issue and decide to move forward, the state Legislature must approve, followed by Congress.
There are potentially 16 counties that could join the new union. Though the combined counties make up only a small percentage of the state’s population, they are a full 25 percent of California’s land mass. When combined, the seven counties that have either voted, or are about to, are twice the geographical size of the state of New Hampshire. The population totals 467,000 residents.
Much of California’s impressive coastal scenery is in the northern part of the state. Redwood National Park and Mount Shasta are also part of the terrain. There are plenty of valleys that are primarily dominated by agricultural endeavors. The proposed state of Jefferson would also include Humboldt County, famous for its cultivation of marijuana.
Residents in the far northern counties of California are primarily Caucasian and some are amongst the poorest in the state. The exact map of Jefferson is as yet unknown, so it is difficult to measure the likely impact on the economy of the region. Those who oppose the secession cite the potential loss of millions of dollars for schools and infrastructure. $32 million would be gone from the Del Norte County School District alone. That money represents 90 percent of their funding. The county’s Board of Education opposes the initiative, called Measure A.
Leading the opposition in Del Norte County is Kevin Hendrick. He is worried that years will be spent on the efforts to learn how to create this new state, while problems like fixing a failing highway get put on the back burner. According to Hendrick, there are plenty of broad promises being handed out regarding improved representation. He said that “the more they talk, the less clear it becomes about how that’s actually going to happen.”
Questions regarding how the state of Jefferson would pay for mandated federal programs like, health care, education and social welfare have been asked. In response, supporters have said that by doing away with unnecessary state agencies and regulations, the leaders of Jefferson would be free to not only attract more business but spend how they want to spend.
Funk, a proponent of the secession, claims that because the far northern counties have minerals, timber, water, forests and agricultural land that has not been spoiled, the state of Jefferson would be a wealthy state, given that it is able to use those natural resources themselves. What would not change is that a lot of the land in those counties is owned by the federal government. That means with all the in-fighting that is already going on, there could be battles with the feds as well. By forming Jefferson, the counties of northern California will get the representation they desire–and all the headaches that come with governing a state.
By Stacy Lamy