Triplicate Staff

What's the rush?

If Del Norte County supporters of a breakaway state of Jefferson are serious about their proposal, why wouldn't they want it to be thoroughly examined, as the county Board of Supervisors has suggested?

True, the concept is not new. And neither is the North Coast's widespread dissatisfaction with state government. It's not a news flash that the local electorate is out of step with the more populated portions of California.

The allure of a brand new state, less-restrictive and more tailored to our rural, wide-open expanse of natural paradise, is understandable.

To many Jeff-state proponents, the need for change is so obvous, so overdue, that pleas for patience are about as welcome as fingernails scraping across a chalkboard. And they aren't going to be swayed by opponents who observe that Sacramento sends more our way than we send its way. If we want independence, we have to be prepared to wean ourselves from government handouts, the Jeffersonians argue.

Easy as it may be to get caught up in such a crusade, we still have to make sure what we do is in the best interests of ourselves and our children.

In a county where plenty of people are on the state payroll and plenty more are on state assistance, it does behoove us to study the possible ramifications - positive and negative - of such a drastic move, does it not?

And let's face it, there's another reason we might as well take it slow. Carving a new state out of what is now California requires the approval of the state Legislature and the U.S. Congress. Realistically, there is little chance of that happening until Republicans regain majorities at both levels.

Why? Because the creation of the state of Jefferson would almost certainly mean the addition of two politically conservative members to the U.S. Senate. Democrats aren't going to allow that without a fight, in Washington, D.C., where they currently hold a majority in the Senate, or in Sacramento, where they overwhelmingly control both houses.

That would seem to leave only one reason to push for an immediate up or down vote by the county supervisors. Some people may want to make support for the state of Jefferson a litmus test for local officials.

Two supervisors, Michael Sullivan and Gerry Hemmingsen, have said they'll run for re-election in June. The candidate filing period runs from Feb. 10 to March 7. If the supervisors don't vote on the proposal for a new state until after that, it'd be too late for a pro-Jefferson candidate to challenge them.

Indeed, the state of Jefferson proposal is likely to come up in every local race this year, including those for a Superior Court judgeship, district attorney and sheriff.

Here's an early plea to voters to make this just one of the issues to judge local candidates on. The Jefferson movement is not likely to go away anytime soon, and it's pretty much guaranteed not to succeed anytime soon.

Let's also hear what judge and DA candidates say about the state of justice in Del Norte. Let's look at what sheriff hopefuls say about law enforcement resources and priorities. And let's make incumbent supervisors run on their records and ask challengers how they'd improve county government - within the California system, at least for now.

Would Del Norters be better served by a new state? That's an important question that merits serious consideration. And it just so happens that we have the time to do it, whether we like it or not.