Friday, June 30, 2023






        The idea of splitting California into two states is nothing new. Noplace as large as California, with its almost 170,000 square miles and its largest in the nation population of 39.2 million – even after losing 600,000 residents in the last few years – will ever be immune from people who believe smaller is better, as ex-Gov. Jerry Brown loudly proclaimed in the 1970s.


        As early as the 1940s, some in California’s most northern reaches began seeking a divorce from the rest of the state. Their proposal has never earned a legislative or popular vote above the county level.


        Since then, other splitting proposals have attempted to carve the state into seven parts, or three, or cut it in two along vertical north-south lines that would separate coastal counties from those a little bit inland.


        But until recently, all such plans called for large new states – smaller than California, but nothing like Wyoming or Alaska, whose areas are large, but support populations of 700,000 or less.


        Now, though, some folks in two counties that feel neglected want out. Last fall, voters in San Bernardino County – with the largest acreage of any American county – voted by a 50.6 percent majority to study separating from California to form a one-county state. Half a year later, that study has yet to begin in earnest.


        More recently, a separatist movement has arisen in El Dorado County, best known for containing part of the gorgeous Lake Tahoe. The El Dorado portion includes what many consider Lake Tahoe’s prettiest area, Emerald Bay, and its rocky Fannette Island, whose permanent population has never exceeded one. That was a sometime 19th Century English sea captain who built his own tomb and chapel on the peaked islet he considered a paradise.


        El Dorado County’s population is somewhat larger than that at 193,000, but South Lake Tahoe remains its biggest city, with 21,350 residents. The county seat of Placerville has half as many folks, while other towns like Grizzly Flats, Pollock Pines and Camino are far smaller.


        But that doesn’t matter to some residents of the county, who now support statehood for their large, mostly mountainous and wooded county.


        “We all know that our problem is representation,” complained one statehood supporter. “We don’t have a voice. We don’t have on representative in state or federal government that lives in El Dorado County.”


        Her sentiment echoed feelings in many Northern California counties, some of whose people have tried for decades to create a new 21-county State of Jefferson, which would putatively include everything from the Oregon state line south to the Sacramento and San Francisco Bay areas. The state capitol would be in Redding, largest city in the area and the Shasta County seat.


        Statehood activists in those counties long sought to ally with rural Oregon counties to make a somewhat larger state. But rural Oregon now appears more bent on trying the “Greater Idaho” concept, seeking to move the Idaho state line west to take in virtually all of Oregon east of the Cascade mountain range. Because that, like Jefferson, would probably take a statewide “yes” vote, it’s highly unlikely, but still a fun fantasy for a lot of folks.


        That’s also pretty much the situation in both San Bernardino and El Dorado counties, which lack many resources needed to sustain a state.


        Such realism, though, never dents enthusiasm for independence. That’s how it is in El Dorado, where statehood supporter Sharon Durst, 84, believes the county could appeal directly to Congress to separate it from California, even though some western parts of the county are effectively rural bedroom suburbs of the state capital of Sacramento.


        “We think we have grounds to stand on (with) the fact that El Dorado was actually a county before California was a state,” she wrote in an online essay. “It is impossible to believe that the men who wrote the Declaration of Independence would be of a mind to hold a people hostage of an oppressive state any more than an oppressive king.” 


        Much of that could also have been said by Jefferson advocates and those behind all the other 40-odd state splitting plans that have been proposed for California.


        So chances are El Dorado and San Bernardino county enthusiasts won’t get any farther than their predecessors. But these days, few things are absolutely certain.



  Elias is author of the current book “The Burzynski Breakthrough: The Most Promising Cancer Treatment and the Government's Campaign to Squelch It,” now available in an updated third edition. His email address is

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