Written by Christopher Shay
September 26, 2013
Along Interstate 5 near Yreka, a Northern California town of about 8,000 people, the roof of an old hayinforms drivers in bold, black letters they have entered the “State of Jefferson.”
For over 70 years, a group of citizens in Northern California and Southern Oregon have pushed to unite their rural counties and secede from their respective states, creating a new state following the small-government ideals allegedly professed by Thomas Jefferson.
On Tuesday, a second California county joined the growing movement. Modoc County supervisors voted 4-0 in favor of secession, following in the footsteps of neighboring Siskiyou County that made a similar decision earlier this month.
Modoc County Board Chairwoman Geri Byrne told Al Jazeera that public sentiment was strongly in favor of passing the resolution. In a packed public meeting of about 40 people, Byrne said only two people spoke against secession.
Her constituents, Byrne said, are “frustrated,” because rural counties have “no voice in the state of California.”
Supporters of secession say that urban California holds sway in the halls of Sacramento, where both legislative houses are elected proportionally. Since California’s 33 rural counties make up only 9 percent of the total population, rural residents simply are not represented, Byrne said.
“People in LA have no clue what we face,” Byrne said. “We don’t tell people in Los Angeles how to manage crime, so why should they tell us how to farm potatoes?”
Liz Bowen, a member of the Jefferson Declaration Committee, said it takes six hours to drive through her state senator’s district. Senate District 1, which includes Modoc and Siskiyou counties, covers 10 counties. In contrast, Los Angeles metro area has 18 Senate districts. Without influence in Sacramento, she said, “So many laws, rules and regulations have been placed on us that our freedom has been eroded.”
Over the years, many rural residents have been frustrated by federal environmental laws restricting logging and other forestry activities. Byrne said becoming a state would finally allow them to push the federal government to alter the onerous restrictions on government-owned land.