A ballot initiative to carve California into three states reminds us of another idea that surfaced three years ago in eastern Oregon and Washington. It would make those largely rural regions a part of Idaho, whose state government is more agriculture-friendly.
Idaho leaders have staked the state’s future on agriculture, while many Washington and Oregon leaders appear to be more interested in other more urbane pursuits. When they do take note of agriculture, they tend to focus only on certain segments instead of the overall industry.
The proposals to redraw the borders of California, Oregon, Washington and Idaho are efforts to gain more recognition from statewide office holders.
In California, a state with nearly 40 million people, the urban areas have the lion’s share of political clout in Sacramento. Farmers and ranchers find themselves ignored or treated as second-class Californians. Issues important to them often take a backseat to urban concerns.
While politicians are expected to represent their districts, they also have a duty to learn about and represent the state as a whole. What’s good for Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego is important, but not to the detriment of the other parts of the state, and vice versa. A statewide perspective means keeping the interests of all Californians in mind.
Residents of eastern Oregon and Washington, both rural areas dependent on farming, ranching and timber, also say they are under represented in Salem and Olympia. The fact that the Cascade Range splits the states makes the problem even worse. Westside politicians rarely make the trek over the mountains to the eastside — unless they are campaigning for office. If they win, eastside interests will usually take a backseat to westside priorities.
Proponents say splitting California or adding eastern Washington and Oregon to Idaho would provide a bigger voice for all in the new states.
We doubt it.
Drawing more lines on a map isn’t needed. What’s needed is politicians who take the time to learn about the rural areas of their states and look out for the interests of all citizens, not just those in their home districts with big wallets.
They need to consider the welfare of their whole states.