YREKA, Calif. — Though he has joked about being the new state’s would-be governor, the freshman U.S. congressman who represents California’s Siskiyou County will apparently watch the county’s latest secession effort from the sidelines.
Republican Rep. Doug LaMalfa sympathizes with the sentiment behind a Siskiyou Board of Supervisors vote on Sept. 3 to split from the rest of California, said his spokesman, Kevin Eastman.
But LaMalfa has taken no official position on the latest movement to create a state of Jefferson, Eastman told the Capital Press.
“He can certainly appreciate the frustration that Siskiyou and other rural counties have in living with the legislation coming out of Sacramento that is authored by big-city, urban Democrats,” the spokesman said.
LaMalfa, a former state assemblyman and senator, has been a vocal advocate for landowners in Siskiyou County in recent years, siding with them in their battles with the state Department of Fish and Wildlife over special permits that were required for water diversions from the Scott and Shasta rivers.
As a state senator in April 2011, LaMalfa quipped about running for governor of the state of Jefferson during a town hall meeting here to discuss California sediment and temperature controls on the Scott River, for which exemptions for certain agricultural activities were set to expire.
References to the state of Jefferson have been popular here since the early 1940s, 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, but the effort was shelved after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
The movement resurfaced last month, as residents of the majority-Republican Siskiyou County lobbied the board to consider secession, The Associated Press reported. The board’s resolution cites a lack of representation for rural and frontier counties, aggressive regulation and reinterpretation of long-established laws, the Siskiyou Daily News reported.
Further, the measure complains that California is unmanageable in its present state and notes that there were 45 historical efforts to divide the state by 1998, according to the newspaper.
A standing-room-only audience mostly applauded the board’s 4-1 vote, as board Chairman Ed Valenzuela dissented. Valenzuela said he took an oath to uphold the state Constitution and was elected to solve problems within the existing system, the AP reported.
The supervisors’ action has drawn national attention, as it was featured on the Drudge Report and Fox News and trumpeted on conservative talk radio shows.
The resolution “could help draw attention to a lot of the issues that rural counties are facing, including ranching, timber and fire issues,” Eastman said. “Drawing attention to those problems is important.”
Among the issues that have irked rural residents in Siskiyou County and elsewhere was a $150-per-structure annual fire prevention fee that was approved by the Legislature in 2011 to offset the costs of providing fire service to people who live far from services. LaMalfa has led efforts to repeal the fees, which affect more than 825,000 landowners throughout California.
Still, LaMalfa appears determined to leave the latest secession push to local residents rather than become involved. Similar measures are expected to be presented in other area counties, including Modoc and Del Norte, in the coming months.
Rep. Doug LaMalfa: http://lamalfa.house.gov
Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors: http://www.co.siskiyou.ca.us/BOS/BOS.aspx