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

21 September 2014 by Steve Blum
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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.