Decision to put question on ballot possible by month's end

Del Norte County supervisors on Tuesday debated procedure and argued the pros and cons of placing an advisory measure regarding the state of Jefferson on a June ballot.

But even though three supervisors defeated a motion to table the issue until after the Board's workshop on Jefferson, currently slated for Feb. 27, a motion to put the measure to a vote in the primary election was delayed.

County Administrative Officer Jay Sarina said he and county staff will prepare a legal and fiscal analysis regarding the Jefferson measure.

Staff will report back to the Board of Supervisors with that information by its Feb. 25 meeting, Sarina said. Supervisors may vote on the measure at the workshop two days later, he said.

If supervisors place a measure before voters they would be taking the same action as Tehama County, Sarina said. The measure asks voters if the Board of Supervisors should support a declaration to withdraw from the State of California.

"The issues before us right now are to deal with the financial implications at the county level," he said, adding that Tehama County officials estimated it would cost about $30,000 to do a fiscal analysis. "There's a lot of assumptions at this point, and we're trying to track down as much of the information through any of the state agencies that we can obtain."

During the discussion, Board Chair David Finigan and District 2 Supervisor Martha McClure advocated tabling the issue until after the workshop.

Rather than the Board creating an advisory measure, members of the Del Norte State of Jefferson Committee should follow the protocol of getting a citizen-led initiative on the ballot, McClure said. She argued that she has no way of verifying that the signatures the committee collected are from Del Norte County voters.

"It needs to be fully vetted, and one of the first steps in vetting that is to make sure the electorate have signed on on a validated process that we have adopted since California became a state," McClure said. "We have a process of how things get on a ballot. I believe we should ask the proponents of this to put it on a ballot through a process of application of signatures."

Finigan, who proposed placing a state of Jefferson advisory measure on the agenda, said he supported putting the issue to a vote of the people because it would allow enough time for research and drafting a neutral analysis. The state's new boundaries and population haven't been determined yet, he said, and more information is needed.

Finigan also mentioned a report released by the Legislative Analyst's Office on Jan. 31 that analyzed a Silicon Valley-based initiative to split California into six states. According to that report, Jefferson state would have a population of about 950,000.

Supervisors Roger Gitlin, Gerry Hemmingsen and Mike Sullivan balked at postponing a vote on an advisory measure.

Sullivan said he received about 200 letters supporting Jefferson state, while Hemmingsen received more than 150.

Gitlin argued that people want to vote on the issue and they should be able to without making the declaration committee "jump through a bunch of hoops."

"Just because something is difficult doesn't mean it's impossible to do," he said. "I don't see this as a rush to judgement. I see this as a process of government, which is open and transparent. People are wanting this matter heard and this is a wonderful opportunity to do that."

The Board's discussion drew a mixed response from the public. Some like Victoria Dickey wanted the advisory measure to be placed on the ballot in June.

"I think you're cautious people, and I respect that; however, if you can't vote yes today, do whatever it takes to get it on the soonest ballot possible," she said. "I think if you vote on it today and it turns out to be a boondoggle, February's workshop will tell."

Norma Williams, president of the Del Norte County Employees Association, came out against Jefferson state and asked the Board to defer action on the advisory measure until March. She also asked them to take into consideration how Jefferson state could affect public sector employees.

"Where I work in Health and Human Services we provide services in mental health and public health, some of which involve children, which I know, Supervisor Finigan, is very close to your heart," Williams said, adding that she would be concerned if workers were laid off as a result of Jefferson state. "What would happen in the state of Jefferson? What would happen to those children? What would happen to citizens in this community as you have a mad rush to do away with government and the very agencies and safety nets we have in place to help our citizens who are in want and need?"

So far, Siskiyou, Modoc and Glenn counties have approved a declaration to withdraw from the state of California. To create a new state separate from California, approval would be needed from the California Legislature and U.S. Congress.

Reach Jessica Cejnar at