When I hear the word “California,” my mind is instantly filled with images of Disneyland, palm trees, beaches on Santa Monica, Google’s headquarters, and the windy, careening paths of San Francisco. Yes, California, as sung by Katy Perry, is a place where “the grass is really greener.” While our nation is formed by fifty states, only one of them is truly Golden.
Well, tell that to Tim Draper, a Silicon Valley venture capitalist who is working to make six of them. No, Draper’s plan includes not cloning or geographic mitosis, but a political initiative that, if passed, would cut the sunny shores of California like a pie, leaving six separate states in its place.
Now, I’m hardly an expert on California. As a lifelong resident of Connecticut‒a state so small that it only takes an hour and a half to drive from one end to another‒the only thing that could possibly be slashed for us New Englanders are our taxes. But Draper’s proposal‒which was proposed last December and now has enough signatures to qualify for the 2016 ballot‒is something that not even the grand prairies of Texas could dream up. Though I am fairly certain that California will stay just the way it is, does the mere thought of splicing California into CaliSIXnia‒which would consist of Jefferson, Silicon Valley, West California, North California, Central California and South California‒open the doors for a new method of economic mobility? Tim Draper is saying yes.
According to Draper, the most central point of the proposal concerns the political and financial representation of California’s citizens. “The people down south are very concerned with things like immigration law and the people ways up north are frustrated by taxation without representation. And the people in coastal California are frustrated because of water rights,” Draper told TIME in February.“Each region has its own interest, and I think California is ungovernable because [we] can’t balance all those interests.”
Indeed, while Draper’s goal of establishing a cooperative and compatible state government for thirty eight million people is nothing short of ambitious, I question whether it could truly function to the degree that Draper is praying for. For one, it will be an extremely costly and lengthy process to identify state records, assets, and liability and distribute them in manners that can be considered equal. Economically, while it would be nice to distribute California’s debt of $778 billion based on population, I question whether the system is as conducive on the individual level. For example, while the per capita income of the proposed state of Silicon Valley is $63,288, the highest in the nation, Jefferson’s is just over half of that with a per capita income of $36,147, ranking it the 42nd most wealthy state in the nation should it be created. While I do agree that the splitting of California may benefit local businesses and give rise to social unity, I find it difficult to believe that Jefferson would be able to “take care of its own problems” as well as supporters of Draper are claiming it can, especially since most of California’s educational and economic resources lie elsewhere. While Silicon Valley can easily stay afloat thanks to its empire of technology, I cannot help but feel that Jefferson could become consumed by the treacherous fault lines of the state.
Of course, Jefferson is not the sole of the six states that could be negatively impacted by the split. Los Angeles, contained in West California, could experience an even greater gap between the rich and poor, a problem that has been plaguing the city for over a decade. South California, home to Disneyland, could survive on tourism alone to keep its head above water.
Central California, on the other hand, is home to neither Mickey Mouse nor SeaWorld, and with a per capita income of $33,510‒placing it in last place of all (56?) states‒it can only sneer at Silicon Valley with disgust. Despite being one of the world’s most prosperous agricultural region, the unemployment rate of the area is over ten percent. All of a sudden these problems, along with a population that is in dire need of welfare, could fall upon the shoulders of a farming state that is ill-equipped to support itself.
While California’s citizens will have to wait two years for the chance to vote on the issue, I hope that legislators will give the proposal another good look to account for the drawbacks of the division. It will take some time to digest the new idea of six Californias. Suddenly, we will be faced with six times the fun, six times the politics, six times the lawyers and, potentially, six times the disaster.
Marinucci, Carla, and John Wildermuth. “Is California dreaming of a 6-way split-up?” Www.sfgate.com. San Francisco Gate, n.d. Web. 23 July 2014. <http://www.sfgate.com/politics/article/Is-California-dreaming-of-a-6-way-split-up-5633276.php#page-1>.
Steinmetz, Katy. “Q&A: The Man Who Wants To Split California Into 6 States.” Www,time.com. TIME Magazine, 21 Feb. 2014. Web. 23 July 2014. <http://time.com/9410/tim-draper-six-californias-proposal-qa/>.
Vives, Ruben. “Breaking California into six states? L.A. not sold on idea.” Www.latimes.com. Los Angeles Times, 16 July 2014. Web. 23 July 2014. <http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-california-six-states-reaction-20140716-story.html>.