Wednesday, July 13, 2011

New secession move by California counties reflects rural-urban tensions

A story in today's New York Times discusses the latest effort by a cluster of counties--these in southern and eastern California--to form a new state: South California. Jennifer Medina's report, prompted by a vote by the Riverside County Board of Supervisors last night to endorse planning "a conference for California municipal leaders to discuss ways to fix state government or consider secession — although they said they would make sure that no county money or personnel were used to plan such an event."

Medina attributes the frustration that many in the state's so-called Inland Empire feel about state politics, which they see as dominated by coastal liberals, partly to rural-urban difference:
Outside the biggest cities, the landscape is dotted with orange groves instead of palm trees and deserts instead of coastlines, an environment that is generally more rural than urban. The population tends to be poorer and more socially and politically conservative — Republicans outnumber Democrats in all but three of the counties in [the]proposed new state, which includes San Diego.
Medina also provides historical perspective by referencing the 1941 effort of various northern California counties to secede and form a new State of Jefferson, along with several southern Oregon counties.
At the time, the counties said they did not have enough roads and created a “Proclamation of Independence” for the 49th state — Alaska and Hawaii had not yet joined the union.

But just as the movement was gaining traction, Pearl Harbor was attacked, and residents put aside their dreams for a new state to work on the war effort.

Finally, she references similar secession efforts in other states, all driven by a sense that "one part of the state believes it is getting the short shrift from the capital." Not surprisingly, those disgruntled parts are often rural in one sense or another.

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