Jefferson plan gets a hearing at forum

By Jessica Cejnar, The Triplicate February 04, 2014 02:56 pm

On the eve of a town hall meeting about the proposed state of Jefferson, one county supervisor was ready to vote for the plan, while two others have said they support the movement’s concept, but need more information before they’re ready to vote.

Supervisor Roger Gitlin has made two recent unsuccessful attempts to get his colleagues to vote on the issue.

Supervisor Gerry Hemmingsen said Monday he leans toward supporting a State of Jefferson declaration, but he needs more information before he’s sure.

“I have a few questions about the economics of it,” Hemmingsen said. “I want to see what they plan on doing for education, how they plan on funding that. And I have some (questions) about roads issues. Last Chance Grade is on my mind, I’d like to see what kind of issues we might have there.”

Both supervisors will be at a town hall meeting tonight hosted by the Del Norte County Jefferson Declaration Committee. Yreka pilot Mark Baird, founder of the latest effort to break away from California, will be the keynote speaker. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. at the Del Norte County Fairgrounds.

At the Board’s Jan. 14 meeting, Supervisor Mike Sullivan said he supports the concept of Jefferson state, but it would be premature to vote on the issue.

“Due diligence needs to be done by this Board before the Board would actually vote on the issue,” he said then. He could not be reached for comment Monday.

Sullivan had invited Baird to speak before the Board of Supervisors today, but Supervisor and current Board Chairman David Finigan said he would not be able to attend and asked to re-schedule the workshop. The Board’s workshop is currently scheduled for Feb. 27.

It’s inappropriate for the Board to vote on a state of Jefferson resolution until the issue has been fully vetted, Finigan said. He added that he would support voting on an advisory referendum to be placed on the next available ballot for residents to weigh in on the issue. An advisory referendum would result in neutral information being disseminated to voters, Finigan said.

“My job as chair is not to tell other supervisors how to vote, it’s to facilitate the discussion and make sure the information is there at the time that an action is called for,” he said. “When there’s a major policy change or anything that has to do with resources and economics there has to be that kind of information brought forward before it’s an action item. It’s just good government.”

County staff is currently in the preliminary stages of determining the financial costs and benefits of forming a new state, said Administrative Officer Jay Sarina. Using information from its own budget, county officials will determine how much revenue it receives from the state and federal governments, as well as look at any other research other counties have done, he said.

Sarina said the county may also use information the Legislative Analyst’s Office released on Friday about a Silicon Valley-based proposal to split California into six states, including a state of Jefferson.

According to the proposal, spearheaded by investor Tim Draper, Jefferson would include all the counties north of Sonoma, Napa, Yolo, Sutter, Yuba and Sierra. With 949,409 residents it would be the least populated of the six proposed states, with Redding, Chico and Eureka being its largest cities.

Of the six proposed states, Jefferson would have the second-lowest per-capita income of $36,147 according to the Legislative Analyst’s Office. Only Central California, which includes Fresno, Bakersfield and Stockton, would be lower.

Jefferson State would have the lowest income and sales tax base of the six proposed states, according to the LAO. Jefferson’s property tax base would be the-second lowest.

For more information on the “Six Californias” analysis, visit

Gitlin said he thinks Del Norte County residents overwhelmingly support the state of Jefferson. He noted that 1,100 signatures in support were collected by the local declaration committee 

“It matters that we are responsive to people’s needs,” Gitlin said. “And if four out of every five voters want the Board to weigh in, I’m not one to put a pin in this balloon and say do you have any idea how difficult this is. Sacramento has been deaf, dumb and blind to the needs of Northern California and to Del Norte County.”

Supervisor Martha McClure could not be reached for comment Monday.

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