YREKA, Calif. – Supervisors in a far Northern California county where residents are fed up with what they see as a lack of representation at the state capitol and overregulation have voted in favor of separating from the state.
The Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 on Tuesday for a declaration of secession, the Record Searchlight of Redding reported. The vote appears mostly symbolic since secession would require approval from the state Legislature and the U.S. Congress, but supporters say it would restore local control over decision making. They want other rural counties in Northern California and Southern Oregon to join them in the creation of a new state called the State of Jefferson.
"Many proposed laws are unconstitutional and deny us our God-given rights," Gabe Garrison of Happy Camp said at the meeting. "We need our own state so we can make laws that fit our way of life."
Garrison was among more than 100 people who attended the meeting, and most were in support of the declaration, according to the Record Searchlight.
The declaration does not launch any type of formal process toward secession, but only reflects the county's support, said Tom Odom, the county's administrative officer.
The idea to create the separate state of Jefferson goes back decades. It gained momentum in 1941, when the mayor of a southern Oregon town called on counties in the region and their neighbors in California to form a new state. The goal was to raise attention to the region's poor roads.
The movement became popular, especially in Siskiyou County, where residents have long felt that their concerns are overshadowed by more populated parts of California. It was shelved after the attack at Pearl Harbor, though its spirit lives on today.
Another proposal that came up two years ago in Riverside County called on more than a dozen mostly conservative counties to break off and form the state of South California.
Residents of the majority-Republican Siskiyou County lobbied the board in August to consider secession, according to the Record Searchlight. In addition to a lack of representation in Sacramento, they cited concerns about water rights and a rural fire prevention fee.
The $150 annual fee was approved by the Legislature in 2011 to offset the costs of providing fire service to people who live far from services. It affects more than 825,000 homeowners who were billed for the first time between August and December of last year.
"I haven't had one contact in regard to this issue that's in opposition," Supervisor Michael Kobseff said about the secession declaration.
The lone vote in opposition was cast by Board Chair Ed Valenzuela. Valenzuela said he took an oath to uphold the state Constitution and was elected to solve problems within the existing system.
Voters in some Colorado counties are also considering secession. The issue is on the ballot in at least three counties.