|Strictly Business Magazine|
|Strictly Business Magazine
A division of S&S Enterprises, a Floyd Snyder Production.
Santa Maria, California.
|The Last Days of the Late, Great State of California
Note: This story originally appeared in the Santa Maria Sun http://www.santamariasun.com/index.html
In 1968, Curt Gentry wrote a book with the same title, suggesting that after
electing Ronald Wilson Reagan (the actor) as governor, California certainly
would fall into the Pacific Ocean.
His book reveled in the past greatness and truly trend setting history of
the Golden State--up until its predicted demise. Gentry's story built on a
prognostication of the end of California. The prognosticator, Edgar Cayce
(1877-1945) reportedly said, "Los Angeles, San Francisco, most all of these
will be among those that will be destroyed before New York even." The
original prediction was given as a generally vague date range between 1958
and 1998 and never said "fall into the ocean." Gentry's earthshaking
storyline, however, fit neatly into his political analysis about the
unpredictable sequence of events that lead to Reagan's gubernatorial victory
Ultimately, California gave an actor turned governor his political
springboard into the White House, serving the country as its 40th President,
from 1981 to 1989.
Should these be the last days of the late, great State of California?
According to Census 2000, California now has 34 million people. The Golden
State leads the nation in social and economic trends because it has 12% of
the nation's population. California has 55 electoral votes--21 more than
Texas (#2, with 34). California's $1.3 trillion economy, which falls
somewhere between the 5th and 7th largest in the world, would make this
state an economic world leader if it were a nation unto itself. This state,
filled with opportunities and so many dynamic leaders of business and
industry, should be a driving force in leading the United States of America.
Politically, California is a sadly different story.
Since 1986, the legislature of the "Great State of California" failed to
pass a budget within statutory "deadlines." We faced an energy crisis square
in the eye and fell asleep, scrapping a $10 billion budget surplus and now
puts us $24-35 billion deep into debt. Beneath today's budget crisis, we
have iceberg-like problems in providing public education (at all levels),
generating affordable housing, and fixing the public health and welfare
systems. Inaction in these areas shows the rest of the country that
California is not something they should want to follow.
Look closely. Add it all up. Today's California is too big and too clumsy
for its own good. We have national problems with state powers. Our Senators
in the Congress suffer from still being only two votes, the same as every
other State in these United States. Our state government is ineffective, if
not outright dysfunctional, and too passive to lead themselves past their
California politicians can't agree on any course of action because of our
very diverse communities of interest are unclear. Diverse public interests
counteract any one idea from being effectively implemented. We muddle from
one crisis to another . . . replacing, rather than solving, the
crisis-du-jour. With great political ineffectiveness-we undermine each other
for political ends rather than goal-driven, purposeful leadership.
Looking back in Gentry's book, he points out that California accomplished
its greatest feats while it had a part-time legislature, which ironically
served part-time until Ronald Reagan became governor (1966). The State
leaders had direction and drive to accomplish the tasks that needed to be
Apparently, the Late, Great State of California did not fall into the ocean
by electing an actor governor; it started to self-destruct by electing
full-time legislators - those are the politicians who have been (and are
still) play-acting like a legislature.
Is now the time to say adios to The Late, Great State of California?
Is it time to reshape the state along geographical and political lines that
better reflect our diverse interests? Is it time to turn back the clock and
get half the government that we pay for? Maybe the time has come to discuss
returning our nearly bankrupt State government back to the people.
"California Counts," a demographic journal produced by the Public Policy
Institute of California www.ppic.org recently published an issue looking at
the diverse regions of California. Using these communities of interest, the
State could be split into more than the old school "North California" and
"South California." According to the Public Policy Institute of California
publication, nine distinct regions were identified
Constitutional issues aside, the most entertaining part of any proposal to
split California seems to be talking about the new state geography, new
state names, capitols, flags, birds, trees, flowers, amphibians, postal
abbreviations, and the like. Technical questions about state names and
postal abbreviations all have answers.
These suggestions are starting points for discussion. Here, I suggest using
the X in the postal abbreviation to indicate a "split," because there are
too few C, N, and S postal abbreviations left to make sense. I also drew up
fewer than 9 states-combining several regions into six possible states that
might be viably considered.
Six "new" states might look something like this:
Cal Norte (XN)- Mendicino, Lake, Colusa, Sutter, Yuba, Nevada counties and
points north to the Oregon border. If made a state of the union, "Northern
California" would rank 29th in area, about the same size as Pennsylvania,
and 43rd in population (out of 55). It would have 3 representatives in the
House serving about 1,650,000 people. With about 48,100 square miles, Cal
Norte would contain about 31% of the present state land area.
Cal Neauveaux (XX)- The hip I-80 corridor between the San Francisco Bay and
Nevada, including the old California "wine country" and Silicon Valley,
constitutes "New California." This part of California would rank 44th in
area--about the size of Vermont, Delaware, and Rhode Island, combined and
rank 9th in population. "New California" would have the second largest
population of "the Californias" with 8,780,000. Like New Jersey, New
California would have 13 representatives in the House of Representatives.
Cal Sierra Joaquin (XJ) - The San Joaquin Valley and the three National
Parks in the Sierra Nevada mountains form the Sierra-Central Valley
territory. The central section of the state would rank 40th in area and 32nd
in population. Having about 32,700 square miles and over 3,000,000 people,
it would be about the same physical size as Maine, with over twice Maine's
population. The Sierra Joaquin area would have 5 representatives in the
Cal Coast (XC)- The Central Coast (Santa Cruz/San Benito Counties to Ventura
County), if made a state of the union, would rank 45th in area (just behind
"New California") and 38th in population--just ahead of Nevada. Three
members of the House would represent Cal Coast. Many might suggest that
this state would be more "viable" if combined with Sierra Joaquin; if
combined that way, that's about as many people as Maryland in an area about
the size of Pennsylvania, which would be 22nd in population and 34th in
Cal Hollywood (XH) - LA and Orange Counties consist of almost a city-state
in itself. If made a state of the union, LAOC would rank 53rd in area and
4th in population. Slightly larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined,
LAOC would have 20 of the 53 members of the House of Representatives
apportioned to "Old California." The 12.7 million people living in about
3,600 square miles makes LAOC about 3 times denser than New Jersey.
Cal Sur Este (XS) - Inyo County to San Diego. If made a state of the union,
"South California" would rank 32nd in area and 14th in population. The 6.5
million people would have 10 representatives in the House, like
Massachusetts, in an area slightly smaller than the State of New York.
In this configuration, "the Californias" would still be the same 33,930,798
people counted in Census 2000 and the same 154,665 square miles. The same 53
members in the House of Representatives, after reapportionment, will be
seated to represent the new states at a rate of about 1:650,000. However,
"the Californias" could have 10 more Senators. Each of the new states would
be broadly configured with "like-minded" populations, sharing common issues,
and (presumably) better able to address those issues without too much
opposition to the legislative processes. Like the post World War II
California legislature, the fresh goal-oriented leadership could overcome
many of the new challenges that we are unable to face today.
Our situation at the Federal level would not change much, except our
senators would be more accessible and more "representative" of the
constituency that they serve.
How might "the Californias" work?
As a starting point, set up each new "State" with a transitional unicameral
(one house--like Nebraska's) legislature, each with 20 members (that's the
40 member State Senate and 80 member State Assembly added together and
divided by the six new states). Each new state would be initially formed
with the "Late, Great State of California's" Constitution and laws in effect
at the time the Golden State is dismantled. After that transitional time,
each new state would govern itself, rewriting a constitution that builds on
the lessons learned over the past 160 years of statehood.
Regional governance agreements, dealing with water, air basins, public
utilities, retirement and health care programs and the like, would need to
be thought out and made part of the legislation-not a small task for a state
that can't pass a budget on time or solve a blindly created energy crisis
of it's own making. Things like old State facilities would become part of
the new states' responsibilities. The new states would inherit the
university professors and prison guards and Caltrans workers already
assigned to their geography.
There would need to be reciprocity between the "new" states until all the
technical issues get ironed out over a period of maybe 2-25 years. Some sort
of arbitration council(s), to resolve interstate conflicts between the new
states need to be established too. Lawsuits would dog the process from start
to finish. It would be a dreadfully painful process. There would be
difficult times of transition and there would be times when we ask ourselves
why we attempted to attack this mammoth grizzly bear . . . and then we
realize that our government really could represent our communities of
interest where common values could result in common sense leadership. We
can be free . . .
Suddenly I awaken and remember that, under the US Constitution, this split
would have to be passed by the State Legislature and ratified by Congress.
(Article IV. Section 3 of the Constitution). Not only would it have to get
past the California legislature . . . but the really "good" politicians in
Washington DC would take turns hitting "the Californias" proposal like a
piņata . . . talk about a snowball's chance in Death Valley . . . "As if it
could happen," I think, pausing from tapping out my newest "Survivor XX"
screenplay on an HP Pentium IV laptop with the bootlegged Napster MP3 copy
of 'California Dreamin' playing in the background while I schedule a well
deserved San Diego getaway vacation on travelocity.com via my fiber optic
DSL Yahoo portal and take alternating bites of tri-tip BBQ, Thompson
seedless grapes, Monterey Jack cheese on San Fransisco sourdough bread, sips
of B.V. Merlot, and hits from . . . umm . . . my own prescription "Northern