Corrections & Clarifications: An earlier version of the map accompanying this report was updated to correct locations for Anaheim and Los Angeles.
LOS ANGELES — As much as it pains me to interrupt my non-stop tanning and surfing, it becomes necessary to take a moment to respond to a budding movement that would accomplish the previously unthinkable: break California up into six states.
This is serious stuff, or as at least as serious as things ever get in a state where washed-up actors become governor, the single nip of a swimmer by a juvenile shark at the Manhattan Beach pier attracts more attention than a statewide drought and average people boast of their Kim Kardashian sightings.
A Silicon Valley venture capitalist, Timothy Draper, says he has accumulated petitions with more than enough signatures to put the breakup proposition before the voters. The thought that a California tycoon would spend $4.9 million of his own money flogging what most would consider a harebrained long shot of an idea, rather than use that dough to feed the hungry, preserve the redwoods or restock his wine cellar, pretty much confirms long-held stereotypes about Californians.
I am a native Californian, born and raised in Long Beach, qualifying me to comment. We few natives never honk. We refer to freeways by name, not number. We know calling it "Frisco," rather than San Francisco or The City, risks a fate worse than a week in Flyover Country.
Californians are receptive to new ideas, so we recognize the notion of breaking up the state shouldn't be dismissed out of hand. Draper says on his Six Californias website that the Golden State "needs a reboot."
He points to the numbers, which are basically dismal. "Our public schools have gone from the top in the nation to 47th. We are ranked 50th out of 50 for the worst business climate in the United States. We have high unemployment and the percentage of people living below the poverty line is steadily increasing."
All may be true, but the sun still melts into the Pacific every evening, Dodger Stadium never runs out of Dodger Dogs and optimism flows like the gushing waters of the aqueduct that feeds the Los Angeles metropolis, drought be damned.
Most Americans would be shocked to discover a ballot proposition to break up their state. Not Californians. Distrustful of their own Legislature, voters here routinely weigh in on measures with far-reaching implications after little or no research. Via proposition, Californians led the nation in rolling back property taxes and approving medical marijuana. In 2008, voters gave rights to chickens, approving a measure to outlaw small cages, while taking them away from gays, banning gay marriage.
If a measure to break up California hits the ballot, its fate probably won't hinge on massive costs associated with creating state governments, building capitols, hiring legions of bureaucrats and causing general chaos. Rather, it will be all about the names.
What Draper calls "Silicon Valley" becomes its own state, stretching from coastal San Francisco to central California. That's one big valley, and we Angelenos know about those because we once had a TV show called The Big Valley. The upper third of California is tagged "Jefferson." If Oregon will change its name to Adams, America's great Northwest will honor our first three presidents, even if most Californians could never name the trio.
Los Angeles Times cartoonist David Horsey drew his own map, coming up with names such as "Weed" for the northern dope-growing region and "iState," home to Silicon Valley nerds. Perhaps most appropriate is the one he picked for greater Los Angeles County: "Bling."
Makes sense, and a washed-up Kim Kardashian as governor of Bling won't be far behind.
Woodyard is USA TODAY's Los Angeles bureau chief.