Mike Dunbar: Don’t be too hasty to dismiss idea of splitting up our Golden State

07/26/2014 12:00 AM

07/26/2014 7:35 PM

Let’s not laugh off this “Six Californias” nonsense too quickly.

Sure, everyone living in Los Angeles will hate the idea of splitting California into six very unequal parts; they’d be cut off from virtually any water that isn’t salty, so they’d have to get serious about desalination. People in Sacramento might hate it, too, because they’re too important for such a small sliver of the state. Who knows how San Francisco and San Diego will react; but they already live in a detached state of mind, so they probably won’t even care.

But here in Central California – the arbitrarily assigned name from venture capitalist Tim Draper, who has paid to put his six-state scheme on the ballot in 2016 – the idea might grow some roots.

Why?

Well, in a nutshell (choose almond or walnut), what have we got to lose?

The rest of the state already ignores us. How else to explain poverty so extreme that if we do become a separate state we will immediately be one of the three poorest in the nation (tucked between Mississippi and New Mexico)? It’s not as if the rest of our current fellow citizens don’t know we’re poor. Every once in a great while they show up, wring their hands over terrible conditions – such as entire cities with no potable water – then fade into the sunset to have a glass of nice Valley wine.

We’ve long suspected the only reason they want to build the bullet train is so that they can race through our Valley without having to stare too long at our sad, sweaty faces.

That’s not to say they haven’t given us a growth industry. The state has built 15 prisons in Central California; no other “new state” would have more than five. Clearly, we’re a dumping ground for things the current state doesn’t want.

Yes, we did finally get a University of California (one of four state campuses in Central California). But how long did we have to wait for it to be built? The answer is too long.

Maybe that’s because money talks, and we usually just listen. We’ve been listening for the sound of that promised economic rebound for the past six years and we’re still listening. The difference between median incomes on the coast and median incomes around here is startling – we’re 70 miles away, but their incomes are 56 percent higher.

Splitting up the state wouldn’t solve any of these problems; it might even make them worse. Except for one thing.

Water.

As a separate state, we’d have the San Joaquin River and its delta mostly to ourselves. We’d have to share a little with Los Angeles and a little more with San Francisco through federal contracts, but those mega-farms west of Fresno would be entitled to a lot of the Sacramento River’s flow from the federally built Shasta Dam. And most of the water from the Tuolumne, Stanislaus and Merced rivers would stay right here. That’s because we built most of the dams ourselves.

That’s a lot of sweet, sweet water.

Wonder how much some of that would be worth to folks in Beverly Hills or Tiburon or Menlo Park?

This isn’t to say we accept Draper’s map. Central California is the only state without a coastline (thanks a lot, Tim). But we could fix that. Folks in Salinas, Paso Robles and Lompoc have more in common with us than they do with Silly-con Valley and Lost Angeles. Central California should extend over the mountains, through the valleys and to the coast. With all our fresh water, we think most everyone farming in those communities would rather be part of us than be afterthoughts to all those thirsty urbanites.

Finally, we don’t have to accept what Draper named us, either. New state, new name.

My vote: Water World. It pays to advertise.

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