'Six Californias' plan not finding favor with Bakersfield folks

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KBAK/KBFX) Californians are closer to voting on whether to split up into six separate states.

A Silicon Valley venture capitalist is promoting the idea, which would put Kern County in the new state of "Central California."

Eyewitness News went out to test the water Friday and heard a lot of criticism of the proposal.

"Generally, I think it's a pretty bad idea," Linda Potts said. "It's just too much."

She's from an area near Sacramento, and she's heard previous ideas to split California into two states. She doesn't like the sound of two states, and thinks six would be worse.

"I don't know why they'd want to do something like that," Bakersfield resident Darren Williams observed Friday morning.

Tech investor Tim Draper is the driving force behind the six state proposal. This week, he got the go-ahead to start collecting signatures for an initiative.

Draper argues California is the most populous state, has the third-largest geography, and includes areas of very different economies - from farming, to energy, to entertainment.

"As a consequence of these and other socio-economic factors, political representation of California's diverse population and economies has rendered the state nearly ungovernable," the initiative reads.

But, Anne Staley thinks it's a bad idea to separate California's voters.

"They become separate states like voting blocks," she said. "We don't need any more chaos. That's what I think."

Under the plan, there would be "South California," which would take Imperial, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties. "West California" would run along the coast from Los Angeles to San Luis Obispo.

Kern would be part of the new state of "Central California," along with 13 other counties stretching from Alpine to Mono counties.

The state of "Silicon Valley" would include the Bay Area. "North California" would take in Sacramento, and include areas like Yuba, Napa and Marin Counties.

Far to the north, would be the new state of "Jefferson" along the Oregon border.

"They're already calling themselves the state of Jefferson," Georgia Bailey told Eyewitness News. She's seen signs like that when traveling up north. Bailey admits each area can have different needs and desires, but she still disagrees with the idea of six separate states.

"You lose infrastructure that's already set up within the state," Bailey said. "And, I don't think people realize how much that's going to cost them."

Supporters of the plan, however, urge the state's break-up, saying different areas of California have different economies.

That's exactly what worries Amber Gibbons. She said some places with lower-level incomes would suffer, and only those with higher socio-economic profiles will benefit.

"They're going to be getting all the tax revenue," Gibbons said. "And some of the other areas, like the farming counties and the northern parts, may not be able to benefit from the state taxes."

Backers of the six-state proposal have to get more than 807,000 signatures by mid-July to get the initiative on the November ballot. A spokeswoman for Draper told Eyewitness News that he plans to hold a press conference on Monday about the plan.

Can it pass?

"I don't know," Darren Williams mused. "The way things are right now, it could be possible."

Another man said he'd give it a 30 percent chance.

Even if California voters back it, the proposal would still require Congressional approval.

California State University, Bakersfield political science professor Mark Martinez said that would result in a "mess of epic proportions." He said splitting up California would create different bureaucracies, and be costly on many different levels. Then, there's the hurdle of adding 10 more U.S. senators.

Don Sheldon admits California can improve, but he's not in favor of making it into six states.

"I believe the strength of California lies in all these different areas, and it has for a long time," he told Eyewitness News. "I think we can learn to do better with what we have."

"I don't see any benefit from separating them at all," Brittany Arriola said. "I believe as California we do work well as a unit. So, separating would just disturb our balance."