Although on opposite sides of a contentious issue, Aaron Funk and Kevin Hendrick were friendly and even cracked jokes as they debated the pros and cons of Jefferson state Tuesday.
But despite the civility, each stuck to their arguments on why Del Norte County should vote yes or no on Measure A.
"Perhaps surprisingly, I don't want to leave the state of California, but they've left me," said Funk, county coordinator for the Del Norte County State of Jefferson Declaration Committee.
Funk urged voters to approve Measure A, saying it is an important step in a process that ensures better political representation of Del Norte and other Northern California counties. "Without representation I have no other option than to leave because it's just a matter of time before California collapses and takes us all with it," he said.
At a forum hosted by the Del Norte Tea Party Patriots on Tuesday, Funk and Hendrick, director of the Keep It California-No On Measure A campaign, made their statements and were allowed to offer rebuttals to the opposing viewpoint. Hendrick and Funk were also given the opportunity to respond to their opponent's rebuttal.
Each campaign had tables at the forum with the Keep It California campaign handing out state flags and the Del Norte County State of Jefferson Declaration Committee offering brochures and other literature.
During Hendrick's statement, he asked Keep It California supporters to wave their flags. Funk, acknowledging the California supporters, said instead of flags, he brought 1,500 signatures to the forum.
Measure A, which will appear on the June 3 primary ballot, asks Del Norte County voters if the Board of Supervisors should support a proposal to separate from California and form the state of Jefferson.
During his statement, Hendrick said he and others urging voters to vote no on Measure A are dismayed at the lack of details Jefferson state supporters are offering on how separating from California would affect the local community. He cited financial information county officials presented at a Feb. 27 workshop of the Board of Supervisors that Del Norte receives $34 million in state funding annually.
Hendrick also pointed to numbers provided by Del Norte County Superintendent of Schools Don Olson, who said local schools receive approximately $32 million from California.
"If the state of Jefferson was a start-up business, no smart investor would ever risk money on such a speculative venture," he said. "The proposed configuration of the state of Jefferson forms a cluster of the poorest rural counties in California. Reorganizing these counties into one state will not reduce poverty or unemployment. We will continue to face the same challenges, but we will no longer be subsidized by the state of California."
In his statement, Funk said answers to questions about Jefferson's financial impacts to the local community won't be answered until its boundaries have been determined. He pointed out that a yes vote on Measure A and the Board of Supervisors' approval of a declaration to withdraw from California doesn't form the state of Jefferson.
Voting yes on Measure A ensures Del Norte County continues to be involved in the process of forming a new state, Funk said.
Funk illustrated the disparity between the number of state senators in California's urban areas and in the northern rural part of the state. He also disputed the financial information provided by the county and the Del Norte County Office of Education. Funk encouraged voters to ask the Keep It California campaign to provide statistics to back up its "fear-mongering allegations" and added that despite what the opponents say, no one is rushing into things.
"There's going to be compromise," he said. "Where there's compromise there's process. Where there's process there's progress. But you don't get there until you get there. If we vote down Measure A we don't get there. Our heads are going to be in the sand, actually in the quicksand, and we're not going to know what we have in front of us."
Hendrick reiterated the difficulty of finding any details about what would happen. He re-stated Funk's comment about "not being able to make intelligent decisions" until Jefferson proponents know which counties will be part of the new state.
"I don't know about you, but I like to make intelligent decisions," Hendrick said to the audience. "And I like to have the information before I vote, so I feel uncomfortable with that. The fact there is such a small amount of information should make you uncomfortable as well."
Del Norte County is one of approximately 20 counties that have Jefferson declaration committees, according to Funk. So far, Yuba, Siskiyou, Modoc and Glenn counties have approved declarations to withdraw from California. Tehama County in February approved an advisory measure that left the new state's name ambiguous.
Advocates hope to collect enough declaration resolutions and submit them to California lawmakers for approval. A simple majority vote in both state houses would be needed to move the proposal to U.S. Congress where majority approval would also be required.
The Del Norte County State of Jefferson Declaration Committee is sponsoring a town hall meeting on Saturday with Siskiyou and Shasta County advocates Mark Baird, Terry Rapoza, Kayla Brown and Robert Smith. Baird, a Yreka pilot, took up the most recent Jefferson effort last summer.
The town hall meeting will take place at 6 p.m. Saturday at the Del Norte County Fairgrounds.
Reach Jessica Cejnar at firstname.lastname@example.org.