Tag Archives: draper

“Third world” corruption or judicial prudence? California supreme court ices Cal3 initiative

by Steve Blum • , , ,

The plan to split California into three new states won’t be on the November ballot. The California supreme court put the Cal3 initiative on hold Wednesday, while it decides whether or not the proposition meets spec under the California constitution. Opponents claim it is a constitutional “revision”, which needs the concurrence of two-thirds of the California legislature, rather than an “amendment”, which can be put on the ballot by initiative alone.

Arguably, it’s neither. It substitutes a popular vote for the decision making authority of the legislature, as the initiative process is intended to do, and triggers a request to the U.S. congress to create the new states, as the federal constitution allows.

Whether that amounts to a revision of the California constitution is the question before state supreme court justices, who unanimously decided they needed more time

Because significant questions have been raised regarding the proposition’s validity, and because we conclude that the potential harm in permitting the measure to remain on the ballot outweighs the potential harm in delaying the proposition to a future election, respondent Alex Padilla, as Secretary of State of the State of California, is directed to refrain from placing Proposition 9 on the November 6, 2018, ballot.

The initiative’s primary backer, Silicon Valley financier Tim Draper, was outraged, according to the Los Angeles Times

“Whether you agree or not with this initiative, this is not the way democracies are supposed to work,” he said in an email. “This kind of corruption is what happens in Third World countries.”

He said the state’s “insiders” were “in cahoots.”

The Cal3 initiative poses an existential threat to California’s political establishment, which includes supreme court justices: they are political appointees who must periodically face voters. There’s no doubt that the initiative would have landed in their laps if voters approved it, which is how it usually goes. It’s uncommon for them to block a vote.

If they let it proceed, the next window of opportunity is the November 2020 general election, when it and everything else will likely be overshadowed by Donald Trump’s reelection campaign. That would be a shame. Whether it’s a good idea or not, it’s a priceless opportunity to have a consequential debate over how California should be governed.

We need that.

Debate California’s future, don’t dismiss it

by Steve Blum • , , ,

The plan for dividing California into three states – dubbed Cal 3 by its proponents – qualified for the November general election this week. Reaction from the political establishment of both major parties generally ranged from I don’t think so to yawn. One exception was state senator Joel Anderson (R – San Diego County) who, according to the San Francisco Chronicle, said he will vote for it and called it “a barometer of the potential unhappiness of the state”.

On the other hand, lieutenant governor Gavin Newsom, who is the odds on favorite to win the governorship on the same ballot scorched the idea, while simultaneously downplaying it, according to the Los Angeles Times

“California’s success is being a cohesive state, particularly at a time of Trump and Trumpism,” Newsom said. “We’re now the fifth largest economy in the world. Why would we cede that to splitting the state up into three?”

Newsom said the breakup proposal would lead to “litigation, consternation, north versus south, all kinds of constitutional issues,” but he added he is not spending a lot of time dwelling on the proposal.

So far, all his opponent, republican John Cox, has offered is “no comment”.

Labelling it a protest vote or dismissing it as a time consuming distraction are equally wrong. I haven’t made up my mind whether to vote yes or no on it, but I do think it’s an opportunity for Californians to have an adult discussion about how our state is run, and who really runs it.

A spokeswoman for the Cal 3 campaign, Peggy Grande, framed the core question in a press release “the reality is that for an overmatched, overstretched and overwrought state government structure, [California] is too big to succeed”. Her premise is correct: California’s government is increasingly dysfunctional, at both the political and administrative level.

Cal 3’s conclusion, that the only solution is breaking up the state, is eminently debatable, though. Candidates for state offices should address the issue and offer their own solutions, not dismiss the initiative or turn it into an equally meaningless protest.

That might be too much to hope for.

Three Californias initiative qualifies for November ballot

by Steve Blum • , , ,

Californians will vote on whether to break up our state into three new ones this November. An petition drive led by Silicon Valley investor Tim Draper gathered enough valid signatures to qualify for the general election ballot, according to the latest count released by the California secretary of state’s office. Draper needed 402,000 valid signatures to automatically qualify on the basis of random sample checking and, so far, 419,000 proved out. A handful of counties still have to report, but it’ll just be icing on the cake.

Get ready to vote on breaking California up into three states

by Steve Blum • , , ,

An initiative that calls for California to be split into three new states appears to have enough signatures to qualify for the November general election. County clerks are reviewing the petitions collected for Tim Draper’s Division of California into Three States initiative and, one by one, reporting back to the secretary of state’s office.

So far, random signature checks are complete in 48 of California’s 58 counties, with a validation rate of 76% – of the 472,000 signatures reviewed, 358,000 passed the random test. In theory, Draper only needs 366,000 valid signatures, but if this initial screening shows that at least 402,000 signatures (110% of the minimum) are good, then the measure automatically qualifies for the ballot. No further checking is necessary.

To reach the 110% threshold, of the remaining 133,000 signatures, only 44,000 need to prove out. That’s a 33% validation rate, less than half the average so far. It appears that Draper has solved the quality control problem that scuttled his initial attempt to break up California into six new states.

This new effort creates three new states – California, Northern California and Southern California – with roughly equal population, but varying income levels. Median household incomes drop from $63,000 a year in Northern California to $53,000 in the L.A.-anchored coastal strip nominally called California, to $45,000 in the new Southern California.

Even if voters approve, though, the U.S. congress has to agree and that’s a very long shot. Particularly if California’s political ruling class digs in to fight it, as they certainly will. Disruption might be a wonderful thing in Silicon Valley, where Draper calls home, but in Sacramento it means losing power, perks and privileges, which no one there wants.

The ten remaining counties have until Wednesday to complete the job, so we should know soon whether we’ll be voting to break up California, or not, in November.

Voters might get the chance to split one “nearly ungovernable” California into three

by Steve Blum • , , ,

We’re one step away from voting on whether to break California up into three states. All that’s standing between the ballot box and Tim Draper’s second try at disrupting California’s comfortable, and largely unaccountable, political class is signature verification by the secretary of state’s office. Earlier this week, he announced that he’s collected twice the number of signatures needed to get it on the ballot.

He’s been here before, collecting 1.3 million signatures for his Six Californias initiative in 2014, only to have too many of them rejected by the secretary of state. Draper seems to have learned something about crafting policy from that failure. (N.B. failure is considered a badge of honor in the Silicon Valley world where Draper earned his fortune, so long as one learns from the experience).

This time around, it’s a much simpler proposition – he’s not trying to micromanage the split up, which is only half as complicated as it was before. It’s reasonable to think he’s also figured out his quality control problem with paid signature gatherers.

Draper’s current plan is to carve California into three pieces with roughly similar population counts, but significantly different levels of wealth. One of the new states would be made up of coastal counties, running from Los Angeles County north through Monterey and San Benito counties. A line running from the eastern edge of San Benito County and across the northern borders of Fresno, Madera and Mono counties would divide the other two states.

Income levels drop steeply as you move from Northern California, where Draper says median annual household income is $63,000, through the L.A. coast strip (tagged California) where it’s $53,000, to Southern California where the average household makes $45,000 a year.

If voters approve, then the next move will be up to the U.S. congress – all Californians can do is ask politely to be broken up. Politely or not, congress and the U.S. president are then entitled to ignore us. Given that the political class – Californian or federal – puts self preservation above all else, that’s the way to bet.

Draper launches second effort to split California, this time into three states

by Steve Blum • , , ,

What do you do when the public isn’t buying your product? You slap a 50% discount on it, of course. That’s what Tim Draper has done with his Six Californias campaign. In his latest filing with the California attorney general, Draper describes California as “nearly ungovernable” and outlines his new vision for breaking the state up into three parts (h/t to Fred Pilot at the Eldo Telecom blog for the pointer).

His plan splits off a strip of coastal counties, running from Los Angeles County north through Monterey and San Benito counties, and naming it – wait for it – California. The remainder will be divided into two new states – Northern and Southern California – along a line that runs along the northern borders of Mono, Madera and Fresno counties.

So far, all he’s done is file the paperwork to begin collecting the 600,000 valid signatures he needs to get it on next year’s general election ballot. It describes what he proposes to do, but not why he wants to do it this particular way. Just from eyeballing it, the three states would have roughly comparable population counts, but I’m hoping there’s more to it.

When Draper formulated his Six Californias plan, he based the boundaries of the new states on a tall stack of demographic research. That alone made the effort worthwhile. He identified distinct economic and social characteristics, and generated a pattern of sharp regional divisions that keeps repeating itself in all kinds of unrelated data sets, including broadband availability. If his second round of number crunching produces similar insights, the effort won’t be wasted.

His chances of getting it on the ballot are pretty good. He came close last time and the reason for failure – poor quality control by paid signature gatherers – is fixable. But even if voters approve, the odds of it going any further are very poor. A new federal law would have to be passed by the U.S. congress and signed by the president, whoever that might be at the time. Increasing California’s representation from two U.S. senators to six, with at least four guaranteed to be democrats, won’t appeal to republicans, and the disruption of political power bases and the spectre of rule by popular vote won’t appeal to professional politicians of either major party.

Six Californias initiative makes a roaring comeback

by Steve Blum • ,

We’re giving the Six Californias initiative a boost. Kicking it in the pants and getting it moving again. Tim Draper’s original plan to break up California had one fatal flaw: stupid names for the new states. I’ve fixed that…

Jefferson – the one name of the original six that made any sense. It channels the head rush of the budding secession movement in the north, respects the fragrant history from which it stems and seeds the hopes of a mellower mañana. Only change needed is an option to roll in the southern Oregon counties of historical Jefferson.

Boomerstan – as you drive east from Point Reyes through the Napa Valley and on up to Lake Tahoe, you’ll see laagers of Volvos ferociously guarding drought resistant and organically maintained gardens. United by the screeching battle cry of I’ve got mine!, these thin (but preternaturally smooth) skinned warriors of social security will defeat any attempt to encroach upon their tranquility or prune their forests of entitlements. No problem paying for it. They’ll contract out tax collection to Whole Foods; that’s where their pay checks go anyway.

Muskogeethe Bakersfield Sound, California’s only significant contribution to musicology, laid the foundation for the anti-establishment movements of the Seventies: punk rock, outlaw country and artisanal meth labs. Championed by Buck Owens and nurtured by Leonard Sipes, the genre’s apotheosis came with Merle Haggard’s Okie from Muskogee. The song’s adoption as a redneck anthem still has the locals pissing themselves laughing.

Montezuma – in our southernmost reaches you’ll find deep and abiding affection for both our motherland of Mexico and the conquering Marines who took California away from her. Let the politically correct stew in their own menudo. As a 20th century immigrant to California said, the test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.

Monroe – those who crave the tongue of the English queen may reckon the name to be a tribute to their fifth president but, as with gentlemen, Californians prefer blondes. We bow to our own royalty and there’s none more noble or iconic than native daughter Marilyn. Any state that includes Hollywood needs a stage name.

DiMaggio – Our Californian love story wouldn’t be complete without a loyal and loving spouse alongside. Although born across the bay in Martinez – also the birthplace of the martini – Joe personified San Francisco’s self image of grace and humility. You can tell true San Franciscans by our ability to hold three opposing ideas in mind: Willie Mays was the greatest in history, Lefty O’Doul was the greatest of our Pacific Coast League Seals, but Joe DiMaggio was the greatest baseball player ever to wear the San Francisco uniform.

We have until the end of the month to put it on the November ballot. We’re counting on you – yes, you – to do it. The rest of us are going to the beach.

Six Californias, six challenges drawn by broadband adoption map

by Steve Blum • , , ,

Overall, California’s broadband adoption rate isn’t bad, compared to much of the U.S. or other countries. That’s one of the many pieces of good news in a study released last week in conjunction with the announcement of a federal pilot program aimed at increasing broadband access in public housing. The map above shows the pattern, with dark green coastal areas doing best and the red south poorly.

One thing that struck me about the map, though, was that it also does a fair, if rough, job of outlining the six proto-states proposed last year by Silicon Valley entrepreneur Tim Draper in his failed quest to break up California. Whatever you think of his Six Californias initiative drive (or the silly names proposed for the new states), you have to give him credit for identifying critical economic gaps between regions.

The differences in broadband adoption rates highlight those gaps. If you’re on the coast, or near it, and between San Francisco and Los Angeles, you’re probably doing okay. You and your neighbors are more likely than most to be connected to the Internet and, more importantly, to the Internet economy. Those would have been the new states of Silicon Valley and West California (even though it’s east of most of the others).

Same story if you’re in the strip of counties that run from the Marin coast, east through Sacramento and on up into Mother Lode country. Draper wanted to call it North California; I think Boomerstan would have been more apt.

South California – San Diego and the Inland Empire – looks almost as good, both in terms of broadband use and the general economy (although the economic gap is probably bigger than the broadband picture would lead you to think).

The two relative failures are, as Draper drew it, Central California (the San Joaquin Valley and the east side of the Sierra) and Jefferson – the far north of the state (and the only name with any sense or sense of history behind it)).

California is still whole, but the whole is made up of distinct pieces. Improving broadband availability is important where ever you are, but it’s a different problem, with different solutions – and urgency – depending on which region you call home.

Six Californias initiative on ice, but Draper hasn’t conceded yet

by Steve Blum • , ,

California’s secretary of state, Debra Bowen, says that a petition drive aimed at splitting California into six new states didn’t qualify for the November 2016 ballot – not enough of the 1.3 million signatures gathered were valid. It’s dead, but the principal backer of the initiative, Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper, could spend a few million dollars more to try to resurrect it, either by challenging Bowen’s decision or starting a second signature gathering campaign.

In an interview on VentureBeat’s What to Think podcast on Thursday, Draper said they were first going to count the signatures themselves to see if Bowen’s decision was right…

This is a real blow if their count is accurate. But it’s just another example of why California is operating as though it was in the 1940s. In order to get a signature, we need people to sign a 14 by 17 sheet of paper with certain fonts, and it has to be handwritten. It’s a system that is so far gone, I mean, the idea that we don’t accept digital signatures for this kind of petition is sort of ludicrous.

He didn’t say what his second step might be, but Draper is not letting go of the problems with Californian government that he wants to fix…

Our infrastructure is falling apart. We have problems with water, problems with traffic. All of these problems because infrastructure spending has gone from forty years ago when it was 26% of our budget to now 3% of our budget. We have a real problem. We have in effect a monopoly provider that provides whatever service they feel they need to for as high a price as they can justify.

California is simply too big, Draper believes. Actions taken on a statewide basis wash out local concerns. He pointed to the decision by Tesla – a company he invested in – to build a battery plant in Nevada…

Those jobs that went to Nevada from Tesla almost certainly would have ended up in central California if central California had self government. There’s no way that California was looking out for the best of interest of central Californians when they decided to go ahead and let that Tesla factory go.

However, they were looking out for the best interests of all Californians, and so what may have been better for all Californians was not as good for the people of central California. And there’s huge unemployment in central California. They would have loved to have a Tesla plant in Fresno.

Draper wants to solve important problems. Whether or not breaking up the state is the right way to do it – FWIW, I don’t think so – is beside the point. If we want to find the solution, we need to start talking about it. I hope Draper pushes on.

Six Californias are really one conversation piece

by Steve Blum • ,

The Six Californias campaign had some good news and some bad news for its supporters. The good news is that it gathered 1.3 million signatures in its petition drive – half a million more than the number necessary to get it on the ballot. The bad news is that the proposal to split our state six ways won’t go to a vote in November. Instead, the initiative’s backers intentionally slipped the 26 June deadline for filing the petitions – the advice they gave to circulators was to mail signatures back by 7 July.

Assuming that there wasn’t massive fraud or illegible handwriting involved – and of course, the professionally aggrieved have already filed complaints to that effect – Californians will have a chance to vote on the plan in November 2016. Which means we’ll have more than two years to talk about it.

That’s the main purpose – I believe – behind the drive. The proposal is not going anywhere, even if voters approve – the measure is riddled with suicide pills. But it will be healthy for Californians to have an existential debate. Contrary to what the petition claims, our state is not ungovernable. Execution isn’t exactly optimal, but the mechanism of Californian governance is functional. The problems with the actual operation of it – starting with the trump card of campaign cash – are likelier to be multiplied by six than subtracted from the equation if we split apart. And California isn’t exactly an aberration in that regard.

North or south, east or west – we have common interests as Californians. Let’s not miss this opportunity to discover it.