California governors, from Ronald Reagan on, have glowed over the idea that if the state were a separate country it would have the seventh- or eighth-largest economy in the world. Perhaps Silicon Valley millionaire venture capitalist Tim Draper thought that if one California was that good, six Californias would be better.
Last December he set out to qualify an initiative for the state ballot that set the wheels in motion to carve up the state accordingly. He spent $4.9 million of his own money to gather the 807,615 signatures required to qualify.
Successful ballot-qualifying campaigns in California are almost always carried out by paid signature gatherers. This requires deep pockets. Draper found no compatriots to share the cost. Nor could he find any endorsers among leading public figures in the state. In fact, those who did comment concluded that it was hopelessly impractical.
They gave such examples as the 10-campus University of California system and the 23-campus State University of California system. Would students on various campuses who suddenly found themselves enrolled in a state in which they didn’t live be subject to high out-of-state tuition charges?
What of water? Most of it comes from the north and much is sent south, which is largely arid. There is now a statewide system, after much tug-and-pull over many years. What if two or three southern Californias had to negotiate with three or four northern ones for water rights?
And what of public debt? The state’s unfunded pension liability is on the order of $500 billion. How would that be divided? Ditto California’s bonded indebtedness?
Who would enforce payment by all the new states?
Draper’s Six Californias plan would result in one very prosperous state to be called “Silicon Valley” (his home area) and several with weak economies, such as “Jefferson” in the rural north and “Central California” in the Central Valley, where unemployment is especially high and water shortages have resulted in thousands of agricultural acres being taken out of production.
Filled with optimism, Draper sent his signature gatherers into the field and said his plan, once approved by voters, would “refresh” California after what he claimed were forty years of decline. He argued that the new, smaller states would put voters closer to their government. He ignored that fact that most rural counties, which often complain about not having a big enough voice in Sacramento, receive back more money from the state each year than they pay in.
Former Assembly Speaker Fabian Nunez summed up what many elected officials of both parties thought about the Draper plan. He called it “…a solution in search of a problem.”
Many voters seem to have agreed. When the deadline came to turn in and count signatures, the Draper team came up short. The Secretary of State’s office said only 752,685 signatures among the 1.3 million turned in were valid — 54,930 short.
According to online publication Inquisitr, many county officials “were finding an unusually high number of bad signatures, many of them duplicates or from people not listed on local voter rolls.”
Draper has called the state’s signature verification rules “archaic.” Whether — or how — he would file a protest remains to be seen. He might file a lawsuit, but does he really want good millions to chase after bad?
His plan got plenty of attention for several months. Now, its fate seems to be Deep Six for Six Californias.