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California Divided by Six |   Splitter Tim Draper, a Silicon Valley VC, pushes for a smaller state.

Starting with the first attempt to split California into three states in 1854, there have been numerous unsuccessful attempts to divide the Golden State. In the 1940s, the state's far northern counties even staged a rebellion to secede to form Jefferson.Things didn't work out, but that hasn't stopped the splitters. The latest plan comes from Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper. He wants to see six separate states, including the aforementioned Jefferson in the far north; North California (a curious mix of Marin and the Sacramento Valley); Silicon Valley, which combines the Bay Area with the South Bay; the Central Valley; West California (LA and most of the Central Coast); and South California (Orange Country southward). What motivates Draper to get this before the voters?

Paul Kilduff: If you look at New England and all those little states, it's one region, but they're all split up. Is your idea inspired by that?

Tim Draper: Well, it's true that if Columbus had landed on Catalina Island, we would have many, many more states in this geographic location. I mean, to think that we're basically taking everything from, say, New York down to South Carolina and trying to make all that into one state. That's what we're doing, and it's not working. California is the 50th-best managed state in the union; so we are the worst-managed state in the union.

PK: Explain that.

TD: That was data collected by a group called 24/7, and it's been three years running we have been the worst-managed state. We pay the most for education, and we are 46th in education. Hell, we used to be the greatest state in the nation. We had the best education 40 years ago, and now we have the 46th best. And we used to have infrastructure spending of about 26 percent of the budget, and now we have 3 percent. And we used to have very low recidivism, and now we spend among the most for prisons, and we have one of the highest recidivism rates. We have high unemployment. And I think it's just because it's so many people; it's ungovernable. With six Californias, you will have better infrastructure, better education; you'll have a more-local government. You'll have better transparency in government; you'll have better accountability. Things will work better, because they will be closer; people will be closer to the government.

PK: I see Jefferson, North California, Central California, and South California. That's eight new senators, probably Republicans. Are you really just trying to have a Republican-controlled senate?

TD: That's so funny. There've been other who've people said, 'Look, I see six states, and they're all going to be Democrats.' I've become a "decline to state." I am no longer a Republican or a Democrat, because I am looking at it, and I'm saying it's the same kind of thing. The two parties have got some of the things right and some of the things wrong, and I'm not happy with either party. And it's sort of a duopoly itself. And you know, when you have a duopoly, you don't really have choice, and you need choice.

PK: How are, especially Democrats in the U.S. Senate and Congress, going to vote for this plan if it eliminates their advantage of electoral college votes in a presidential election?

TD: That is not necessarily true. They might end up with 10 more senators. I think it's going to be tough for Congress to say no. Thirty-eight million people all wanting to have six states instead of one? That's going to be a very difficult to argue against.

PK: Are there any academics lined up behind you on this?

TD: Yeah, they're plenty. We worked with many, many academics. We worked with experts in all fields coming up with this.

PK: Is there any prominent person?

TD: I want this to be a grass-roots effort. I'm not looking to create targets for people.

PK: Southern California wouldn't exist without Northern California's water, and the farmers in the proposed state of Central California want that water not to go to Los Angeles' lawns but to grow alfalfa. That's a huge problem.

TD: We have very old infrastructure. We lose at least 30 percent of our water due to poor infrastructure. We spend 3 percent on infrastructure. We used to spend 26 percent. I think these individual states will see the error of their way and improve their infrastructure, and there'll be much more water to go around.

PK: What do you mean? The aqueduct is falling apart?

TD: Yeah, we lose 30 percent of our water through infrastructure failure, and if they have a huge rain, we don't even have a way of capturing that water. I mean, you need fresh states. You need states to figure out what's the best way to handle it. Water, it's going to operate pretty much the same way it does now, except better, because water is always redistributed through state compacts. We have a compact with Colorado; we have compacts with plenty of other states. There is nothing new here.

PK: The residents of Central California use MediCal the most but put in the least money. If they had to support their own public health needs, how that does work?

TD: OK, so the most interest in six Californias is coming from Central California, so they are thinking their independence is worth way more than whatever it is that they seem to be getting in MediCal.

PK: I like most of these names, but Silicon Valley is a non-starter for me as someone who grew up in Oakland. How about the Bay Area? Wouldn't that be a better name?

TD: What's great is we are going to crowd-source all of that. So if people want the Bay Area, they can have the Bay Area. If they want to call it Oakland, they can call it Oakland. We're creating a new platform, and then we're going to crowd-source what the state bird is and what the state flag looks like and what the Constitution looks like and all that.

PK: Sounds like what you're saying is that the extreme diversity of interests in the state, which is very similar to the country's, doesn't work for governance. It doesn't work for trying to run a state, because you can't appeal to all these different interests.

TD: Maybe I can turn it around a little bit. I was on the State Board of Education, and we were in our ivory towers, and some people from Petaluma came to us and said, 'We'd like to use our milk money to build a gym.' And the discussion went on saying, 'Oh, we can't take milk out of childrens' mouths and whatever.' And then I said, 'Well, wait a second. I've been to Petaluma. There are more cows than people there. They're drowning in milk. They don't need milk money. They need money to build a gym. Let 'em build a gym.' It's a little like why are people somewhere distant trying to make decisions that really should be done locally? And if we had six Californias, we'd have a government that was much closer to the people, and they'd be able to know what Petaluma needed before they took a vote and decided they can't build a gym.

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Photo Photo courtesy Michael Soo on behalf of Draper Fisher Jurvetson.

 

TIM DRAPER Vital Stats

Age: 55.

Birthplace: "I've lived in California since age 1½."

Astrological sign: Gemini

Motto: "Anything is possible."

Book on nightstand: "I'm reading a lot about California."