Locals weigh in on effort to create 51st state
Ruth Haring and Tom Kozik are disenchanted. In their estimation, the Golden State has lost its luster, due to an accumulation of policy decisions from Sacramento, and the concentration of political power in urban areas that leaves rural regions such as the North State underrepresented, with little recourse.
“When I moved here in 1988, California was magic; everything about it was magic,” Kozik told the CN&R. “That’s gone. I’ve reached an age  where I want future generations to have what I had.”
A new state—a new California, if you will—strikes them as the solution.
The Chico couple looked into the State of Jefferson movement, a push to revive the 1940s effort at statehood combining a swath of Northern California and southern Oregon. That group (soj51.org) remains active.
Others seek to split the state, too, including billionaire Tom Draper, who’s morphed his failed “Six Californias” proposal into a ballot initiative he hopes to qualify this year, for three Californias.
Haring and Kozik found affinity with another venture. This one seeks to establish a new state, which the organization is calling New California, among counties interested in joining it. They stress their movement is not secessionist, but rather follows a process that adheres both to the U.S. and California constitutions.
At a meeting Sunday evening (Jan. 21) at the Chico branch of the Butte County Library, Haring laid out the what, how and why of New California, with the occasional interjection from Kozik and Joanne Alden. All three belong to the organization’s Butte County Committee, of which Haring is chair.
Haring also serves as chair of the statewide Council of County Representatives, which meets monthly in Marysville. Talk radio host Paul Preston is vice chair. Kozik, known locally as a Chico Airport Commissioner and founder of the conservative political action committee Butte County Awareness and Accountability, is a voting alternate.
The most recent meeting of the council was Saturday, at which seven county committees—including those of Glenn and Tehama—joined the group, raising the total to 29. That’s precisely half of California’s 58 counties, and it’s not only small ones: Los Angeles, Orange, San Francisco and Sacramento have county committees.
Though it may seem counterintuitive to welcome metro counties into a campaign framed as “rural versus urban,” Haring explained to Sunday’s 11 attendees that in order for the new state to materialize, “we need to convince everybody in California—anybody who wants to come in[to the movement], we’ll probably let in.”
What do New Californians have against California? In her presentation, Haring listed taxes, school performance, pension liabilities, legal jeopardy over the 2016 Democratic primary, and challenging the federal government on immigration. She also discussed homelessness, playing a video of a Fox News segment on the topic that was part of a commentary by Laura Ingraham saying California has been “brutalized by decades of liberal policies.”
Rural counties, which are generally more conservative, comprise roughly 18 million of the state’s 40 million population, Haring explained. The New California map features 42 counties, excluding the coastal stretch from Sonoma to L.A. State of Jefferson territory, by contrast, encompasses less than 2 million Californians.
Numbers give New California negotiating power with Sacramento, she continued. So, too, do the value of natural resources.
Again, counterintuitively, organizers argue that the richness of rural counties works in their favor.
California is approaching “technical insolvency,” said Kozik—unable to cover its contractual commitments. At that point, the Legislature would be willing, by necessity, to let New California buy its way to statehood in exchange for a bailout. Farmers and others could monetize their holdings (i.e., as collateral for loans).
The group, which formed last year, issued its Declaration of Independence last Monday (Jan. 15) and received national attention via TV, newspaper and social media reports.
“We don’t know the timetable,” Haring said. “We just want to be ready.”