Producer Charlie Deist recently sat down with Tom Reed, a leader of the New California movement, in his home in Hopland, California, to discuss the feasibility of creating a new state out of the rural counties in California. The following is an edited transcript of Tom’s remarks:
Tom Reed: We’re going to be declaring independence from Old California on January 15th, and then each week after that, for the next forty weeks, we will be declaring our grievances.
I was born in New Jersey, moved to Petaluma in 1971. I’ve been working my way north ever since. We had a house in Healdsburg for 10 years, and sold that and bought the property up here and built this house back when I was 22 in 1982. I moved back to DC and lived there for a couple of years and then moved back. I got a job as a manufacturer’s rep back there for high vacuum equipment — used in semiconductors, used in building fusion reactors, and for a high-end electronics like gallium arsenide, that kind of stuff. You can build faster electronics on gallium arsenide then you can on silicon. This was back in the eighties into places like the Naval Weapons Station and National Bureau of Standards.
It was a fascinating, fascinating job where I was so, so, so far over my head as a 22-year-old young man, just knocking on doors, and meeting these people that were just doing research right out there at the very edge of what’s known. But I was selling the hardware, the nuts and bolts, the pipe fittings, the pumps.
I ran for state assembly in 2006 as libertarian — something I’d kinda thought about for awhile — but basically, business was slow and I got a call from the Libertarian Party, saying, “Hey, want to run for office?”
I said, “Well, I’ve thought about this, so yeah, I’ll run for office.”
I looked at as kind of a sticking my little toe in the water to find out what the process is; how it works. I told my wife that if I ever run for office again, the next time will be to win. At the time, it was the First Assembly District, which went all the way from the airport in Santa Rosa to the Oregon border.
That kind of segues into part of what’s wrong with California, because right now if somebody like myself wants to run (it’s now the Second Assembly District), the Second Assembly District includes the northern part of Sonoma County, Mendocino County, Humboldt County, Del Norte, and part of Trinity County.
Just to get a candidate’s statement on the ballot in all those counties, is $2,500 dollars a ballot. So, if you’re wanting to run for office and you’re not heavily financed, that’s six counties you have to pay to put your ballot on.
Now, if you’re running in Los Angeles County, your whole district is in one county, and they have a 32 assembly districts just in Los Angeles County alone. There’s a whole a discrepancy for people that want to run in the rural districts. It’s very difficult to run effectively. And then, just the distance. It’s a six to eight hour drive to get from one end of the district to the other.
California has had 40 senators and 80 assembly people since the original California Constitution, written in 1848. That’s the way it’s been, and it’s never been changed. The rural counties have really gotten the shaft. In particularly, in 1964 in a lawsuit called Reynolds v. Sims.
Reynolds v. Sims - Wikipedia
Reynolds v. Sims , 377 U.S. 533 (1964) was a United States Supreme Court case that ruled that unlike in the election of…
Before 1964, the structure of the California legislature was similar to the Federal legislature — Federal legislature has two senators for every state. Every state gets represented evenly in the Senate, and the Congress is by population, andwe have 435 spread evenly by population around the country. That’s in essence how California was, with the caveat that 40 senators were spread around as evenly as they could be over 58 counties. So, for example, before 1964, we had a state Senator for Mendocino and Lake County — us two counties shared one Senator, so that Senator represented us. And then the assembly was apportioned by population.
Reynolds v. Sims was an attempt by the Warren Court to implement the “one person, one vote” concept. They forced both houses of California legislature to be apportioned by population. Now we have a state Senator that represents from Marin County all the way to the Oregon border. And we have an assemblyman that represents from northern Sonoma County all the way to the Oregon border. Mendocino County itself gets about zero representation because all of the major population centers are south of us. That’s one of the things we’re really looking to address in a new state.
Taxation Without Representation
The perspective of the urban areas is “Oh, well, those are the welfare areas. We have to send aid to them.” Well, in part we are — there’s some truth to that, because the logging industry has been shut down; the mining industry has been shut down. They’ve taxed business to such an extent that [while] there might be some benefits to being on the fringes of an urban area with a large industrial facility, when you’re out here in the hinterlands and you’ve got the additional transportation costs, you might as well go to Nevada, Oregon, Arizona or Texas where most people have gone.
They made the rural areas economically unviable. As a testament to this, in this little town of Hopland, when I moved here in 2008, we had a hardware store — closed. We had a supermarket. It’s been closed. We had an elementary school. It’s been closed. There’s been some rumblings about possibly closing the fire department. Just in this one little town, it’s gone quite a bit downhill due to economic depression.
There’s lots of things that can be done here. We’ve got all sorts of resources but it’s not managed to make it a feasible to do. You’ve got domination by the major urban areas, and so the solutions and programs they come up with fit and work for those areas, but the rural areas are not really well represented within those solutions.
What we’re getting in essence is taxation without representation.
Why 220 Attempts to Split California Failed, but New California Could Succeed
The northern part of California was known as Alta, even when this was Mexico. At the time California was split, it was discussed forming two or three separate states, but we had just had gold discovered, and we were heading into the Civil War. So the people involved at that time in bringing California in from an independent republic into the United States, said, “Well, let’s deal with splitting California up later because — yeah — it is too big. It should be split. Let’s deal with it later.” Since then, in 1849, there have been roughly 220 attempts to split California. Right at the moment there’s Tim Draper’s plan to split into three Californias; there’s the Jefferson plan to split basically Northern California off as Jefferson; and there’s the New California plan that I’m involved with, which wants to take basically a rural band of counties from Oregon to Mexico and build a new state out of that.
If you look at political demographics of the state, the Republican/Democrat is kind of a false dichotomy. In essence, if you look at the state, it’s a couple of large blue areas in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and a bunch of red. So, in essence, the red areas interfere with the blue areas doing what they want to do and the blue areas interfere with what the red areas want to do. I would think it would be better for everybody to say, “Alright, you guys can go run your section of the state the way you want to run it and we’ll run the sections of the state the way we want to run it, and we’ll see which one works best.”
The conundrum that Reynolds v. Sims put us in is not being able to implement the Federal model, like the United States, *within* a state. Before that, California worked reasonably well. Even though there were still lots of attempts to split the state, at least the rural counties — if they didn’t like something that was going on — could stop that legislation in the Senate. Now they can’t. Basically, we have a bunch of rural counties that haven’t had a say in the politics of California in decades. Dividing the state up into smaller pieces with a more homogeneous population would resolve that situation and allow people to have their political expressions that fit their ideologies.
The last states where it occurred was West Virginia from Virginia, and that occurred during the civil war. Before that, we had three other state splits: Maine split from Massachusetts and Kentucky and Tennessee split from Virginia.
Our Constitution is designed to accommodate state splits, and in order to legally effect a state split, what’s required is an approval of the majority of the state legislature and the majority of Congress.
One of the people we’re working with on forming a New California is, a fellow named Stephen Pidgeon. Stephen is originally from Ukiah, and he’d like to come back to California as long as it’s not California. In 2012, he was the candidate for attorney general in Washington State. He’s a constitutional attorney, and he’s volunteered to help us through this process. Now, Stephen has some background in state splits, because there’s been a desire forever to split the area around Spokane and eastern Washington off, and form a new State of Liberty. So Stephen came down about six months ago, and addressed our council and said there’s a reason why the State of Liberty will not happen in Washington, and that is because the other areas of Washington State don’t trust each other, and they won’t work with each other.
Within the New California movement, we’ve allied with the people in the south, so we have a large group of people. In essence, we’ll probably have about 15 million people versus about 20,000,000 people in Old California. Now, at the legislative level, we have a lot more clout. We have legislators who have a constituency that say, “We want to split.”
Instead of just a few counties — and with Jefferson it would be six legislators in Sacramento — you’d have basically 40 legislators who have constituents in these [districts] that say, “We want to separate.” That gives a whole lot more clout to the movement within the California assembly.
The California Compromise
When Maine split from Massachusetts, the people of what is now Maine said multiple times, “We want to split. We want to split, we want to split.” The southern portion in the cities said, “Nah, we don’t think so. Too bad. So sad. You can’t split.”
So what happened is, during 1820 (I believe was the year) we had Missouri, which was a territory, wanting to become a state. Missouri was a slave state, so we had a dilemma: if Congress brings in Missouri in as a new state, it shifts the balance of free versus slave state senators in the senate. The solution to that, which is known as the Missouri Compromise was, “Alright, well, we’ll bring in a slave state and we’ll bring in a free state.”
The best candidate for our free state was Maine. So basically the Federal Government went to the legislature of Massachusetts and said, “Well, why don’t you let those guys free up there? We need a new state.” And, of course, the Federal legislature has some purse strings that we, the citizens, don’t have. So the legislature of Massachusetts said, “Well, OK — we’ll do that.”
That’s how, in a nutshell, Maine became its own state.
Again, if we get support through the congress that will be elected in 2018, and then we get some push back onto California. We have a similar situation that’s presented itself to us with the desire of Puerto Rico to become a state. Last June, for the first time in a public referendum, Puerto Rico voted “Yes;” they want to become a full-fledged state in the United States and not just a territory.
That sets up the scenario of — and Congressman McClintock explained this to me — a possibility to split California when Puerto Rico is accepted as a new state into the United States. It’s anticipated that they will be a Democratic state, so they would want to bring in a Republican state to kind of counterbalance that. That has historical precedent in that when Hawaii and Alaska were brought in — we brought in the two states at the same time — and strangely enough, at the time, Hawaii was Republican and Alaska was democratic. So they brought them in to maintain that balance, and now they kind of switched sides. I don’t put a lot of emphasis on the Republican/Democrat side of things, but the people that are involved in that dichotomy are very much cognizant of [the fact] that it would appear to be unfair if you bring in a state that’s likely to be of one political persuasion, and tilt the balance at the Senate in your favor or against you.
Calexit: The Faulty Plan To Jump Ship
There’s two petitions by Calexit that have been approved for gathering signatures for the 2018 ballot as propositions on the ballot. One in essence encourages the governor of California to seek more autonomy — just kind of moving in that direction. And the other one seeks to modify the California Constitution to remove the section of it that says that California is an inseparable part of the United States.
Even with the water shortages we faced in 2014, California's 76,400 farms produced $54 billion that year - a more than…
So they’re not going for the Whole Enchilada, if you will, in these Calexit plans, but they’re administratively putting the pieces in place to form the separation. My personal belief is that this might be a demonstration of how far in debt [California] is, and that [seceding] would repudiate the debts, or if it didn’t repudiate the debts, it would at least give the new country of California the ability to “print its way out of debt,” because the state can’t print money, but a new countries certainly can. That I see as evidence of the fiscal stress in California. They are acknowledging that we’re not going to be able to deal with this legitimately as a state.
The Federalist Society is having a push where if a state declares bankruptcy, they have demonstrated that they’re not entitled to their sovereignty. We’re kind of starting to test this in Illinois, because Illinois has gone over the edge and defaulted on bonds. But what the Federalist Society is pushing for is that if a state defaults, they lose their sovereignty, and they get put into receivership. You would revert to being a territory, and would have a territorial governor appointed by Congress.
The purpose of the territorial Governor is to bring you back into solvency so you can become a state again. Now, if we’re looking at what’s happened in Puerto Rico, they’re sort of going through that kind of a process now as a territory to get into a fiscal situation where they’re sound enough to be brought in as a new state. So, again, there’s another aspect of the stresses and strains that are not being acknowledged in the media.
But if you’re reading between the lines, well, there’s a reason why this movement’s happening over here, and there’s a reason why this movement’s over happening over there — they both seem to point to the acknowledgement that, yes, we are in extreme fiscal stress here in California. They’re looking for outs.
Let Many New Californias Bloom
New California would have things that Texas, Arizona, Oregon, and Nevada don’t have. We have gorgeous weather. People want to live here. They want to come here. Companies would want to put their corporate headquarters and their manufacturing facilities here under functional economic conditions. They would choose to locate here, and we’ve had discussions from various industries. They said, “Yeah, we’d like to come back but not not under the regulatory scheme that we’re working under there. That’s not acceptable. So just having a functional regulatory scheme where we have fair taxes, and are more inviting to industry in areas where we want the industry. That segues into a whole other aspect of the thumb that’s been put on the county structure of California. I think if I recall the numbers properly, there’s seven charter counties in California.
The only reason I know about it is because this last election, it was on our ballot here in Mendocino County to become a charter county under Dillon’s Rule.
John Forrest Dillon - Wikipedia
John Forrest Dillon (December 25, 1831 - May 6, 1914) was an American jurist who served on federal and Iowa state…
It was a 1849 Supreme Court decision that created Dillon’s Rule, and it says, in essence, that counties are the creation of the state and that the state can create, abolish, and modify and do whatever it wants with the counties. Basically, under Dillon’s Rule, there is no fundamental rights for a county or its representation. Dillon’s Rule was enabled in part by Reynolds v. Sims and Baker v. Carr, and other rulings that led up to that. It’s a State’s choice whether they want to be under Dillon’s Rule. In New California, we would not be a Dillon’s Rule state. That would mean we would build the state from the bottom up, so the counties would be the building blocks of the state.
That’s why you hear a lot of county discussion within this. I’ve been asked to run for county supervisor here, and I’m not really attracted to that, because I would be functioning under Dillon’s Rule, which in essence says that I can only do as a County Supervisor what the state says I can do. If I get elected to that position, I cannot represent the people that elected me. I have to represent the state, or I’m breaking the law, which completely loses the motivation of talented people to want to become County Supervisors and completely limits the counties in what they can do.
So, that’s a whole other oppressive regime that’s placed on top of counties that prevents dynamic, innovative leaders from wanting to come in and be elected to these positions. In essence, you have to agree with everything the state’s doing, because you’re not going to stick your head up and get pounded down by lawsuits because you’re not happy with how the state wants to run things. That’s why, to a large extent, I think we’re seeing a lack of leadership from within the rural counties in California. A lot of the political strategy that’s been put upon us is to frustrate us and make us apathetic. That’s been quite effective. There’s a lot of apathy out there.
I know — I’m out there doing fair booths and talking to the public all the time. Most people are apathetic. There’s a whole second segment of people who are ready to fight. And there’s people like us that are in the middle that. We need to try everything we can to resolve this in a legal, forthright manner and exhaust every possibility before fighting become even a discussion item on the table.
I would like to see us unite and work together to just separate and form a new state. Then that new state could decide right after it’s formed to split into two or three pieces, so we could then function as smaller states with a little more homogeneous populations within those different areas. That’s one of the things I see as a possibility. So that would allow us to make a Jefferson here in northern California. The Jefferson name could come back around — I’m personally not that enamored with the Jefferson name — I’d like to see it called Trinity up here in Northern California.
New California’s Potential as an SEZ Industrial Hub
There are funding opportunities for industries that are somewhat autonomous. For example, here in Mendocino County, we have a world-renowned manufacturer of titanium processing equipment. The reason we have it here is the man who was the brainchild of it lives here and started the business here, and we have people coming in from all over the world — shipping these systems that are built here to places like Kazakhstan. At one time, it was the largest employer in Mendocino County. But again, they’ve sold to a Polish company and the Polish company is moving manufacturing over there, and they’re building a factory in China. So manufacturing is being diversified out of Mendocino County one little step at a time.
But it’s interesting. I just gave a presentation at our last council meeting on special economic zones. Within that, we took a look at special economic zones around the world — what works and what doesn’t work. Within our organization, we had a wonderful discussion of whether we should make all of New California a Special Economic Zone? And the reality is, no, because some counties, like Lassen or the county that Yosemite’s in, may not want any industrialization whatsoever. It’s up to them. We want to have the counties be the building blocks of the state, and not the state pushing its agenda down on the counties. The counties would be like states within the United States.
They would have a lot of autonomy and they’d be able to do, to a large extent, what they want to do within their own county. Each county’s populous has a greater say over what they want to do. I personally have drifted from hard-line libertarianism. I would classify myself as a small-l libertarian. I don’t support all the points of the Libertarian Party, but I believe in libertarian principles, and there’s the fundamental concept of freedom and property rights.
If we respect those, we see that in the Special Economic Zones, where people are allowed to do what they want to do, and express their entrepreneurial spirit, things blossom; businesses thrive; people want to flock to it, and be part of it.
There are just certain experiments with governance that we can look at around the world, and we can look at what works and what doesn’t, and take those and build up a state that works within the United States Constitution, and blossoms.
Designing a Responsive Constitutional Republic
I liked the way Reagan put it, “A rising tide lifts boats.” And while it will be wonderful to have equal income among all people, unfortunately it requires equal perspiration. Also, equal effort, and equal talent. And, unfortunately, not all of us are as talented as everyone else, and not all of us are willing to work as hard as everyone else. But in a thriving society, there are more opportunities for all different sorts of expression in all different sorts of, shall we say, economic levels, to get along with each other.
I feel we need to eliminate a lot of the class envy, and we need to wish each other well. And if you’ve got the ability to make 10 times more than me, congratulations, go for it. None of us gets out of here with it, so it’s all going to be recycled in back in one way or another. If we look at history, some entrepreneur will form some huge business dynasty, and when they’re dead and gone, their kids take over and their kids squander it. So that recycles all that wealth and over time it all balances out.
There’s a similar thing that I see along the lines with our Constitution. We had the Whiskey Rebellion before the ink was dry on the Bill of Rights, and we had Alexander Hamilton going in and basically trying to put all the small distillers out of business before the ink was dry.
I’m a computer designer and a systems designer, and what we have right now with our Constitution is what I would call an open loop system — there’s no feedback. In other words, if you’re a politician and you disregard the Constitution and your oath of office, there’s very few consequences, unless people can really remember it at the time that you’re going to run for office again. I would like to see a system put in place where if you are a legislator and you vote for any piece of legislation that is subsequently deemed by the courts to be unconstitutional, you are ineligible to be on the ballot. Now there’s an extreme motivation for every legislator to look at that Constitution, to take it into every single decision that they make, and be right as close to the middle of what the Constitution says as possible.
That’s an initiative that we could actually implement now on the county level, just by going out and petitioning our county, registering our voters, and through the California initiative system, we can instruct at the county level, not to put people on if they’ve been adjudicated. It’s also not a subjective thing. It’s actually been decided in the court, so you don’t have these same people coming back time and time again saying, “Oh, well that violated the Constitution. Let’s just see if we can word it just a little bit differently this way, or rename it that, and see if we can ram it through again,” or attaching a rider to a bill, or doing some other sort of legislative shenanigans to try and sneak something through.
We’re going to be declaring independence from Old California on January 15, and then each week after that, for the next 40 weeks, we will be declaring our grievances. This is a part of the long American tradition — even beyond American — the manifesto to gain independence. We’ve been working a lot with Paul Preston of Agenda 21 radio, and his particular plan to do this. So we’ll be meeting on the 13th, and I’m one of the delegates from Mendocino County to go put together our actual Declaration of Independence. So we’ll be having a convention and building our Declaration by consensus, and going forth with it. All the counties that are involved — we’re up to 17 counties involved with the process now — will be involved with assembling their grievances and presenting them over the next 40 weeks.