Editorials

Please, state Supreme Court. Save us from this ridiculous ‘Three Californias’ plan

Venture capitalist Tim Draper points to a computer screen at his offices in San Mateo on June 18 showing that an initiative to split California into three states qualified for the ballot.
Venture capitalist Tim Draper points to a computer screen at his offices in San Mateo on June 18 showing that an initiative to split California into three states qualified for the ballot. AP

The state Supreme Court can and should do all of us a huge favor and kick the “Three Californias” measure off the November ballot.

It is a destructive proposal that has an infinitesimally small chance of becoming reality. But if it passes, Cal 3, as its backers call it, will cause years of confusion and upheaval, a distraction from our very real problems. And it will further inflame our political divisions, which is the last thing we need.

When the Supreme Court justices weigh in as soon as Wednesday, they have legitimate legal reasons to pull Proposition 9 from the Nov. 6 ballot, however politically sensitive the decision might be.

An environmental group argues that breaking up the state is such a sweeping change to the California constitution that it goes beyond voters’ direct power – and that it should take a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to make it to the ballot.

The committee promoting the measure says the political establishment wants to prevent voters from having their say. Its main funder, billionaire venture capitalist Tim Draper, tweeted that “the special interests are showing their desperation to cling to power.”

That may well be true, but they also happen to be right that dividing California is a terrible idea. It would be immensely complicated to parcel out the government, including schools, prisons and the water supply. It also would be incredibly risky to split the finances of the world’s fifth largest economy.

Politically, it’s also highly unlikely. Both houses of Congress and the president would have to approve, and Republicans are not going to add four Democratic senators from two more blue states.

Draper, however, is stubborn and wealthy enough to keep pushing his schemes to split California into smaller states. In 2014, he spent more than $5 million on a “Six Californias” plan, but it failed to qualify for the ballot.

So far, he has put $1.7 million into the Cal 3 campaign. In his latest plan, there would be three states: “Northern California,” covering all areas from Santa Cruz northward to the Oregon border, including the Sacramento region; “Southern California,” running north from San Diego and Orange County to include Fresno County; and “California,” covering from Los Angeles north along the coast to Monterey.

Whether it’s six Californias or three, Draper has never made a convincing case that splitting the state will somehow make it more likely that officials will fix poorly performing schools, crumbling infrastructure and ditch a political system controlled by powerful special interests.

He has argued that 120 legislators to represent nearly 40 million Californians isn’t a true democracy. So why not increase the number of legislative districts and lawmakers instead, as some have proposed? Instead of chasing this fantasy, why not use his energy, money and smarts to improve the state we do have?

Since Draper won’t stand down, state Supreme Court justices need to step up and save California from one billionaire’s obsession.

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