Wednesday, February 26, 2014

he that breaks a thing to find out what it is has left the path of wisdom

Some clown named Tim Draper wants to break apart California. He's preparing to gather signatures for a ballot initiative to separate it into not two, but six states. His own website has nothing but a crude map and contact info, but people have undertaken to analyze and to critique the proposal, both of them getting his map wrong. (See the video at the end of the second article for getting the map wrong differently.)

While I wouldn't be opposed to the idea of splitting California into two states, which the legislature actually passed around 1860 and Congress failed to act on because it was distracted by some war, six is too many. Politically it would balkanize the region as the East Coast is. I ran the proposal against the 2010 US census and got these figures, with a note on what each state's population ranking would be among the 55 states:
West California (LA and central coast): 11,335,455 (7th)
South California (San Diego and inland empire): 10,504,924 (8th)
Silicon Valley (SF and Monterey bays): 6,597,332 (15th)
Central California (San Joaquin Valley, south Sierras, Owens Valley): 4,124,776 (29th)
North California (north bay, Sacramento, central Sierras, Tahoe): 3,763,648 (31st)
Jefferson (far north): 927,821 (49th)
The two most populous would be mid-level powerhouses politically, between Ohio and Michigan in population, Silicon Valley would be between Washington and Massachusetts, the next two would bracket Kentucky, Oregon, and Oklahoma, and the state of Jefferson would be a vacant hole with only one member of Congress, with a population between Montana's and Delaware's, far less than any other state west of Wyoming. The proposal would produce a lot more senators, but not much else.

The poverty of the Central and Jefferson states, described in the first article, and their lack of infrastructure (only one UC campus, and that small and new, between them, and just two state university campuses in Jefferson, for instance, both very much at odds with what the political ethos of the state would be) are other issues.

I want to focus on two other things:

1. The boundaries are stupid.
I give four examples.
First, "North California" makes no sense as a separate political entity. It wanders from a coastal region, containing a full 20% of the state's population with only three one-lane winding highways connecting it to its interior, to disparate urban valley and mountainous regions, each of the three far more akin to areas immediately outside its boundaries than to each other.
Second, putting the Owens Valley in Central California instead of in South, where the rest of the state's desert goes. Really the Owens Valley would be happier in Nevada, but south is the only other direction in California it can conveniently reach. During the winter, the direct passes over the Sierras are closed, and you'd have to go around, almost out of the state, to reach its population centers.
Third, splitting the LA urban area right down the middle between West and South. Wherever in the US there's a major urban area split between two states, it's a headache. Why create another one?
Fourth, same thing goes with running a border down San Francisco Bay. That'd make five (not four, five) toll bridges interstate, and it's already enough of a nuisance with them crossing county lines.

2. Most of the names are stupid.
"North California" isn't in the north. "West California" mostly isn't in the west. "North California" and "South California" have the same initials as North and South Carolina. "West California" has the initials W.C. "Silicon Valley" as a name for the entire region is stupid beyond belief. Both ends of the state would revolt against this fetishization of one aspect of part of its center. Call it Baylands, if you must, as it's focused on two big bays.

If the signature-gatherers find me, I'm not signing this one, and I'm not voting for it, either.

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