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Rural County Wants To Secede From California

Friday, September 6, 2013

Copyright 2018 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Siskiyou County wants to break free of California and its high taxes. It wants to form its own state. Steve Inskeep talks to Michael Kobseff, a member of the county Board of Supervisors that passed a declaration this week to do just that.



Let's talk next with a man who wants to secede from his state. The Board of Supervisors of a northern California county voted this week to take their county out of California. Michael Kobseff is one of the supervisors who voted yes in Siskiyou County with an eye to joining other counties in northern California, as well as southern Oregon, to form their own state. He's on the line. Welcome to the program, sir.


INSKEEP: So your idea is if it came to fruition and we looked at a map of the United States, somewhere in the vicinity of that line between California and Oregon, there would be an entire new state there on the Pacific Coast.

KOBSEFF: That's correct.


KOBSEFF: Well, in California the state legislature continues to ignore the voice of rural counties. The regulation that's coming through for our ag industry for just doing business in California is becoming so burdensome that most are just throwing in the towel and leaving the state or giving up the family business that they've had for decades or, some of them, even 150 years.

INSKEEP: So you don't like the regulation. Anything else?

KOBSEFF: Well, that's enough in itself. This started back in the 1940s, the original concept, and was sidetracked by World War II. And we've had a local grassroots group called the Jefferson Declaration Committee that came before the Board of Supervisors with the idea that they wanted to reinvigorate the cause for the state of Jefferson.

INSKEEP: The state of Jefferson.

KOBSEFF: Yes. There is a state of Jefferson flag. And, again, the concept has been out there for well over 70 years.

INSKEEP: Now, I should mention that the Democratic governor's office in California has responded to this as if it's a political stunt. There's an aide to Governor Jerry Brown who said, "If you want to live in a Republican state with very conservative right wing laws, then there's a place called Arizona." That's a quote. Let me just put the question to you so that you can answer it. Is this just a partisan complaint because you're unhappy that Democrats run the state?

KOBSEFF: Absolutely not. And quite frankly, if Arizona wants to take Siskiyou County into its state, we'll go. The whole problem is we're getting, across the board - not - this isn't a partisan issue. Across the board, young and old, any party, 40 to one are the ratio that I'm getting in responses in support of the state of Jefferson. The regulation is burdensome.

It's taxing people out of business. It's bankrupting people. Why do we have to be regulated the same way as the urban areas in California? It's not one size fits all.

INSKEEP: Let me ask about another aspect of this. Suppose you were able to join together with other counties in northern California and southern Oregon and formed the state of Jefferson. You would then have a collection of rural counties that, as you mentioned, many of them are economically stressed and no major city, no major engine of growth. Would you be in trouble?

KOBSEFF: We don't think so. Most of us are natural resource counties or agricultural industry counties and if we had the ability to determine our own destiny, we think that we can make it. We're not here to get rich; we just want to be able to survive and provide for our families.

INSKEEP: Now, I have to point out what you're trying to do is a long shot. It has to be approved by the state and federal governments before it could ever happen. And, of course, you'd have to get other counties to go along with you in a couple of states. But are you hoping that in the shorter term it has some political effect? That people pay attention?

KOBSEFF: I would hope it raises the flag of distress that rural counties are facing.

INSKEEP: Michael Kobseff is a supervisor in Siskiyou County, California. Or so we call it now, although the county has voted to begin the process of seeking to secede. Thanks very much.

KOBSEFF: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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